Ultraviolent Rodentia!

I saw the first rodent droppings on the counter in my kitchen the other day. Rodents are foul beasts that you typically find living in sewers and under houses. I had no intention of sharing my home with one. I asked, “How did a mouse get in my house and on my kitchen counter?”

“It must have made it past the snakes in the yard. Perhaps there is a small hole in the foundation. Mice are great climbers. Perhaps he wedged his body up between the stove and the fridge.”

I nodded. “What of the cat? Surely he will catch the mouse in my house.”

“You best buy some traps–knowing that cat.”

I journeyed to the store and found the most vicious of snapping traps. I armed them and carefully set them on the counter baited with cheese. The next morning the traps were all sprung, but there was no mouse.

“Get a pointy stick, and kill the mouse yourself.”

I nodded. I went to the garage and looked for a dowel rod. I got out the sander, set it on the workbench, and proceeded to sharpen the stick to a fine point.

I went on the hunt. I pulled the fridge out from its enclosure and flashed my flashlight back there with the pointy stick in my right. I found an ancient snack cake still in its wrapper, but no mouse. I got down on my knees and opened all the cabinets down there poking around with the flashlight and the stick. I stood up and shrugged. I didn’t really consider myself a mouse hunter.

Then I saw the little monster dart from behind the toaster to the microwave. He was quick!

I pulled the microwave out from the cabinet ever so slowly, so I wouldn’t startle the poor thing. The creature showed off his fangs and hissed at me. I stabbed at it with my stick, but it dodged out of the way and leapt off the kitchen counter only to land behind the fridge on the ancient snack cake. I stepped forward after him and tried to stab at him again while he recovered from his fall. He dodged into a hole in the side of the cabinet below the sink.

“You’ve got to be quicker!”

I growled back, “He’s so fast!”

“You’re faster. You just have to focus!”

I said, “I’m trying!”

Just then the wee creature jumped back out of the hole in the cabinet with something in its hands. I stared in awe as he flipped it back and forth and from left to right. Two sticks of wood or possibly metal attached to each other with a chain: nun-chucks. The little furry rodent had a pair of nun-chucks and was flipping them around like a Chinese Kung-Fu master. I aimed my pointy stick for his heart and thrust it forward.

The mouse dodged out of the way whacking my stick with the nun-chucks at the same time. I felt the vibration from the hit carry all the way from the end of my stick to my hand. Not to be discouraged, I stabbed forward with the stick aiming for his midsection. He dodged to his left and hit my stick twice in quick succession with his tiny little nun-chucks. The vibration growing in the dowel rod was even stronger than the last time. I snarled and lunged forward with the stick again. The mouse hit the point of my stick with the nun-chucks and knocked the point off target.

I wanted to scream, “Bloody murder!” yet I stopped to collect my thoughts instead. One, I thought to myself, mice shouldn’t be allowed to have nun-chucks. Two, mice are strong, but this mouse was as strong as a man.

“Kill it!”

The mouse sat staring at me as if waiting for my next move. I quickly stabbed at it again with my pointy stick, and it did a summersault out of the way. I pulled back and stabbed forward again. The mouse hit my stick; then he hit it again; then he hit it a third time. I felt this weird vibration in the rod, different from the last two vibrations, and then the rod splintered into a million tooth pick sized pieces.

The mouse laughed like the sound of a chirping bag-pipe and ran back into the cabinet below the sink.

“Get the gun!”

I howled, “I’m not shooting the gun in the house!”

“Get the gun, and kill it.”

I went and unlocked my pistol from the safe. I loaded it. I paused wondering if there might be a better solution.

“Kill it!”

I went back to the kitchen and the evil mouse sat on the counter by the toaster oven. He looked like he was smiling. I lined up the iron sights on my gun to its chest, and it scurried behind the toaster. I growled and aimed for the toaster. I waited.

I heard the faintest of metallic clicks. The mouse stepped from behind the toaster brandishing a tiny machine gun. He started squeezing off rounds, and I felt tiny needles pierce my knuckles. I took aim and squeezed off three rounds in quick succession, but all three missed. The mouse paused to reload, and I looked at my pained, bleeding knuckles. I fired again while he dodged left and fired. This time he was aiming for my face and the bullets stung. I tried to shield my face with my left hand while shooting with my right.

Finally the mouse ran out of ammo and scurried behind the deep fryer. I touched my face and could feel blood. My knuckles were bleeding on both hands, and my left palm was bleeding. There were at least eight holes riddling the walls from my gun.

“Stop missing!”

“I didn’t mean to,” I said. “He’s like lightning fast!”

“How can you miss so much?”

I glared. “I won’t miss this time!”

The mouse stepped back out from behind the deep fryer carrying a tube of some sort almost as big as a used up toilet paper roll. Except it wasn’t cardboard but steel, and it wasn’t hollow all the way through. The mouse lifted the tube on to his shoulder, and I realized it was a BAZOOKA. He aimed it for my face, and I put up my left hand to shield it. The mouse squeezed the trigger and a missile launched out of the bazooka. It hit the palm of my hand, exploded, and blew my hand clean off at the wrist. I howled in pain. The mouse started to do this stupid, happy dance, and I shot him in the chest!

I looked at my wrist. The explosion cauterized my blood vessels, so I wasn’t bleeding, but it hurt like you wouldn’t believe. I could still feel my hand, and it burned.

“Call an ambulance!”

I put the gun in a kitchen drawer and called 911. I grabbed my keys and locked up the house. I sat down on the bench in the front yard and waited in pain for the ambulance. Sirens whistled in the distance after just a few minutes.

The first paramedic looked at me and said, “Dear god!”

“It hurts worse than it looks!” I said.

A second paramedic started wrapping gauze around my bloody stump of a left hand and asked, “How did this happen?”

“LIE!”

I paused and then said, “It was a cooking accident. I was boiling water. I put a lid on the pan, and it created a perfect seal. The pressure built up, and the pan exploded.”

“I’ll bet,” the first paramedic said. “I’ll bet you were cooking something, maybe drugs or maybe explosives, and things went wrong.”

I smiled meekly. “In truth a mouse shot me with a bazooka.”

“Idiot. You didn’t want to tell him that!”

The second paramedic smiled. “Well, there’s a nice quiet place down at the hospital for you either way…”

“Please don’t take me to the funny farm,” I said.

“You don’t have a good, solid reason for why you’re missing a hand. I think you need to go to the quiet ward…”

The voice in my head howled, “Not again!”

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Moondance

John marked the day on the calendar with a black x: the day after his 83rd birthday. Weary old hands, he thought. His hands were of note because they were marked with wrinkles and age spots. In fact, his whole body bore the marks, but he always promised himself not to regret days spent, even if spent idly. He climbed out of bed and counted his extremities to make sure he still had everything he was born with. The aches were bad in the morning for him, but he took his Aleve and wandered to the bathroom. He had only been up twice in the night to pee anyhow. He climbed in the shower careful to hold the handrails. John summoned his will and forced his hands to scrub soap all over his body, careful to only brush against the few open sores he had.

He dressed, not in completely fresh clothes, but only worn once or twice since being washed. He grabbed his four legged cane in his good hand, and began the brisk walk to the dinning hall. Years ago, they offered to deliver his food directly to his room, but he said, no. Oatmeal, toast, and a single turkey sausage link waited on him in the eatery. They allowed him a quarter teaspoon of brown sugar in his oatmeal since he never acquired any form of diabetes. He eyed the room as he ate.

Miss Taylor, the recreations officer, walked briskly into the room and stapled a pink piece of paper to the bulletin board. Only John called her the recreations officer. Years ago he reverted to the mentality he possessed as a young man serving the world in World War II. John returned his empty tray to the bins unlike so many of his aged mates, and he rubbed his chin as he walked up to the bulletin board.

The pink flyer quite simply advertised an evening of comraderie. It said there would be live music and dancing. Three different old folks homes were chipping in and renting a hall. Miss Taylor noticed his interest and smiled at him. He glanced at her. She stood up and approached him.

“Will there be liquor?” John asked.

Miss Taylor tilted her head to the side. “What?”

“If there is going to be live music and dancing, there should be liquor.”

“John, there will be beer from America, and ale from Ireland. I expect they will have whiskey and vodka and every manner of mixable concoction you could imagine.”

John sighed. “No booze?”

Miss Taylor shook her head. “You don’t need booze to have a good time, and didn’t you quit drinking twenty years ago?”

“I drink on and off. Sure, I haven’t touched the stuff in 23 years, but sometimes I get the urge.”

Miss Taylor smiled. “Are you going to dance?”

John winked. “With you? Certainly.”

Miss Taylor glared with wicked pinheads for eyes. “We’re shipping women in from all over town to keep you company, and you want to dance with somebody half your age.”

“Once you reach thirty,” John said, “the goal is always to dance with a girl half your age.”

“So, you’ll attend?”

“What kind of band is it going to be?”

“We got a metal thrasher band. They call themselves Cyclops.”

John glared in turn. “If I wanted to hear lies, I’d watch the television!”

Miss Taylor nodded and smiled. “We got a good band. We spent thousands to rent a hall and have special food prepared. We’re paying them. You’re going to attend. The buses leave at 3pm on the Saturday before Easter.”

* * *

Marianne climbed out of the tub. She almost slipped on the cold floor, but she caught herself with her arm. She put on a fresh clean dress and fixed her strands of grey hair into a bow. She asked herself, makeup? Then her stomach growled and she whispered, “Breakfast.” She walked down the hallway. She grabbed her tray of food and sat at a table with her friends. They had given her half an orange, and she savored every last juicy bite of the fruit.

Jessica, the only black haired woman in the room, and why she dyed it nobody knew, opened her mouth and whispered, “You know Bill Jenkins had another stroke.”

Samantha nodded. “That man has a stroke every week.”

Marianne simply finished off her cereal. She stared off in the distance wondering if her son would visit her soon. Her son seemed content to visit at random and wait patiently for her to die. Well, in her mind, at 84, she wasn’t due to be dying anytime soon.

Jen spoke very slowly and with a slight stutter, “I had a stroke.”

Marianne patted her on the hand and whispered the Lord’s Prayer.

“You know the fools who run this place plan a dance, on the day before Easter, no less,” Jessica said.

“Dance?” Marianne asked.

“They’re renting a hall and getting a live band. The idiots.”

“I look around this place, and I don’t see any men worth dancing with,” Samantha said.

“No,” Marianne said, “there aren’t any good ones here.”

Jessica pointed towards the outside. “They’re shipping people in from Northbrook Assisted Care and Willow Hospice.”

Samantha shrugged. “There aren’t going to be any good men from those places either. They need to go to the local college and round up some young men for us.”

Marianne smiled. “I wouldn’t know what to do with a college student. I might hurt the poor thing.”

“I know exactly what I’d do with a college student,” Jessica said. “I’ve got hand cuffs that I’ve been saving for years.”

Marianne laughed.

* * *

Easter weekend quickly approached. John’s arthritis kept doing a number on his legs, but Miss Taylor convinced him to go out to socialize. He climbed with a grimace into the bus. His hands shook, and he had to remind himself all the women at the dance would be ancient and haggard. They arrived at the hall, and John leaned heavily on his crutch as he wandered the course of the buffet line. A woman caught his eyes for a fleeting moment. She had grey hair and spiderweb wrinkles around her eyes. John’s eyes wandered down to her torso, and she still had breasts. He sat down to eat while the musicians began hauling instruments to the stage.

John ate his roast beef and smiled. The horseradish sauce was nearly perfect. He looked over the crowd of aged and infirm. His eyes stopped on the ancient woman with spiderwebs around her eyes. Her eyes were green and shined with vigor darting about from person to person and place to place. They fell on John’s eyes and stayed there. Out of nowhere, she winked at him, and he looked away.

The band finished their setup, and the singer tapped his microphone, “Evening ladies and gents!” he spoke. “We’re here to entertain you. I hope at least a few of you have the get up and go to dance! We’ll start with something nice and slow.”

The piano began to play a slow dark tune. The drums whispered along with the melody. A guitar chimed as if from far away. John looked around. For the third time, his eyes fell on the ancient hag with the bright eyes and tangible breasts. She met his eyes, and after a few moments, her eyes narrowed into a grimace, and she frowned.

John sighed. The band played its dire tune. The singer didn’t sing. He simply stood their tapping his feet. The tune’s melody picked up a little bit, and the singer began to slowly chant, “Dance. Dance. Dance.”

No one danced. John remembered the woman’s wink and forgot her frown. He leaned his cane against the table and pushed himself to his feet. He walked over to her table. The women all stared wide eyed. John held out his hand and asked, “May I have this dance, my lady?”

“Do you fancy yourself a gentleman?” Marianne asked.

“I’d rather be a horny teen.” John smiled. “But alas, I think perhaps I am a gentleman.”

Marianne nodded.

John reached his hand closer to her. “Will you dance?”

“I have an artificial hip.”

“I promise I won’t drop you.”

The woman next to Marianne said, “Go and dance, Marianne.”

John straightened up his body and puffed out his chest like a piece of rock. “Now I know your name, my dear. In the past, I’ve always found that’s half the battle.”

“Are you a warrior?”

“I’m simply tired, and tonight may be my last opportunity to dance with a beautiful woman in this lifetime.”

“So, you expect there’ll be dancing in the next life?”

“I say my prayers.”

The song master on the stage said, “We’re going to be playing for hours. Dance.”

Marianne pushed herself up and approached John. He took her hand in his and kissed it. She said, “I’m too old for this.”

“If it kills us, so be it,” John said. “I’ve waited long enough for death. If I must die in the hands of a woman, than that would be as good a way as any.”

Marianne smiled. They walked out alone onto the dance floor. The band began to play another slow methodical tune etched with dark notes like a deep red wine. John held Marianne close with a touch of familiarity as if they were old comrades in arms. They stepped in time to the beat of the music as pain wracked their bodies in their joints and muscles. Marianne smiled.

She felt his strong hands on her body and asked, “Were you ever married?”

“What?” John asked.

“It’s a simple question, or are you hard of hearing?”

“No. I never married.”

“That’s ok,” Marianne said. “Marriage isn’t always a good thing.”

“I always hoped to marry, but the girls always said no.”

She squeezed him. He said, “Don’t do that.”

“Squeeze you?”

“Yes, I could break.”

“You said you were ready to die.”

John laughed. The music stopped. The singer looked over the room. He spoke quietly, “How about something with a beat?”

The crowd laughed.

The music began to play a fiery thumping tune with high notes strung along like links in a chain. Marianne and John stepped up their pace following the beat and both pretending it was 1945. Pain shot through their bodies, but they ignored it and pushed themselves as hard as their frail flesh would allow and then some.

“You dance beautifully,” Marianne said.

“My dear, you’re a beauty like no other.”

Marianne smiled. “Are you trying to get in my pants?”

“If I had to, I could find some Viagra.”

Marianne laughed. “Dear lord, I don’t even know your name.”

“It’s Johnathon Hickle.”

“Can I call you John?”

“Everybody does.”

“I always liked that name.”

“Thank you. Every seventeenth person is named John.”

Marianne laughed so hard she worried about her spleen.

They danced in time to the quick beat of the music, and when it died down, Marianne pushed John away. He closed the distance between them and grabbed her by the waist.

The singer called out, “Any requests?”

“I’m done dancing,” Marianne said. “These tired bones ache and my legs pulse with spikes of pain.”

“It may be our last chance to dance, my dear. If you fall over dead, will it not be worth it?”

Marianne shouted to the stage, “Play Van Morrison’s Moondance.”

The singer smiled wide. The band members began to play. John and Marianne danced. Slowly, the pains began to edge away. The swelling in their joints began to shrink. Their skin began to grow smooth. The marks of age on their bodies evaporated like dew under the heat of a bright sun. Her hair began to bleed blonde until no grey showed. His hair began in spots to turn black. Slowly, as they danced to the beat, they became young again.

The music stopped, and the crowds broke out in applause and howls. John stared into her wrinkleless eyes and kissed her smooth lips. Men and women put their canes and walkers aside and stood up from their tables and approached each other to dance.

Bane Warrior

The Soul Harvester had been at work for at least three weeks, and the body count kept rising. Some friends in the department kept me posted on the situation. I waited for the fateful call from Barrister that they set the bounty. When I get the call, I go to work. The bounty would be big: this Harvester had taken down three cops already. He tore them to pieces. I assumed the Harvester was a male: good odds.

My name is Derek Sawyer, and I used to be a cop. Now I’m known as a Bane Warrior. For all dark magic there is a bane, some are simple, some require a magic spell. There are banes for light magic as well, but the Order does a much better job of keeping those banes secret. The Red Hand, an organized crime syndicate, ancient as recorded history, claims to have dark magic that has no banes. I had yet to see any of it, and the Red Hand sent assassins to take me out twice.

The phone rang, and I smiled. The caller ID showed the prosecutor’s office. That will be my bounty, I thought greedily. I pushed the answer button on the phone and asked, “Barrister?”

“No. Assistant D.A. Brown. There’s a Harvester.”

“Yes, I read the paper, Mr. Brown.”

“We’ve set a bounty. How soon can you bring him in?”

“What’s the bounty?” I asked.

“Fifty grand, alive. How soon?”

Fifty grand would keep me in booze and cigarettes for another year, not that I drank. “I need access to a fresh crime scene: half hour or forty-five minutes within the kill. He’s been hitting mostly public places? Seems to like bars on the south-side?”

“That wasn’t released to the papers.”

“I do more than read the paper, Brown. Why fifty? Usually they’re twenty-five.”

“He took down one of our Bane Warriors this morning. Wasn’t much left of the detective–scraped up as much as we could to bury.”

“Who was it?”

“Jericho.”

“Damn, the fifty grand is for the harvester alive. How much if I kill him?”

“None if you kill him, Sawyer.”

I take some pride in bringing them in alive, but Jericho was my friend. Still, I won’t know until the very end if I need to kill.

Brown interrupted my silence. “It says in your file you spent six years with the Order, and most people that stay that long never leave. Why did you, Sawyer?”

“The Order refuses to take sides. I like to stand and fight.” On that note, I pushed the end call button on the phone and started to mentally prepare a list of all the banes I’d need to lug around. Jericho had been one of the best. I needed to pack the heavy guns. I had a rather expensive custom coat with extra pockets and loops for various rods. Most magic users had something to carry their components with, either a coat, or a satchel with lots of pockets.

Once I had everything stashed in my coat, I locked up the office and headed to my car. I would tell you about the car, but likely you would be jealous. I had a hangout on the south side, a sushi-bar-coffee-house. They had lost their liquor license years ago, but they catered to smokers, and I could drink coffee and snack on wasabi piled high on sushi. I didn’t speed on my way there, no need to. I took a parking spot right in front of the joint and walked inside, taking my usual booth by the door.

A tired old Japanese lady came up to me. “Coffee? California rolls?”

“Yes, both please.”

She nodded and wandered off. I set my cell phone on the table and waited for my coffee and rolls. I wasn’t big on raw fish most of the time, so I went for the California rolls. I just liked having something to pile wasabi and soy sauce on and eat. After a while the old Japanese lady brought me eight rolls and hazelnut coffee, and I proceeded to snack. I lit up a cigarette and tried to relax. This Soul Harvester would be a tough takedown. An hour passed, and another, the sun set in its usual, casual way.

As I went to open a fresh pack of cigarettes, my phone rang. I snaked it up and answered it, “Where?”

“Joe’s Pub, on Wayne, you know the place?”

“I’ll be right there.”

I disconnected and threw a twenty down on the table and darted out to my car. Sixteen blocks or so, made in record time. When I had a bounty, I had a license to speed from the city. I hopped out of the car and sprinted into Joe’s Pub; the police at the door waved me on through. They had cleared the bar of civilians. A police Sergeant, named Dawson, saw me and said, “In the men’s room.”

I turned towards the wall with the restrooms and went in. An overweight, white male lay sprawled on the floor in a pool of blood with his throat cut, but with a smile on his face. He had been in bliss; he had been charmed before the Harvester finished him off. I looked around, detectives filled the room: collecting and looking for evidence. I cleared my throat, then, “Leave, all of you.”

I needed a bead on the killer’s aura and having a half dozen humans in the room with me would mean trying to sort them all out. The room emptied, and I started to chant TrueSight, a simple spell for auras and the like. A blue and green mist-like aura filled the room, odd I thought as Soul Harvesters are almost always red and black aura. This guy had once been with the Order. I pulled an inch diameter pearl out of my left pocket and focused on the aura. In my mind’s eye, I could see the killer walking casually down the street about eight blocks away carrying a large bag. I walked out of the bathroom and nodded to the waiting detectives.

I stepped out of the bar and hopped in my car. I punched the accelerator down heading towards the Harvester. After a few blocks, I pulled up next to him and growled, “Hey, you there!”

He turned. A short, pudgy, pale-skinned magic-user, he pointed at himself with his right index finger, as if asking, “Me?”

“Yeah, you.” I slammed the car in park and jumped out of it. The killer looked around himself as if checking to see if he was surrounded.

He smiled and said, “Watch the pretty lights…”

Just then a spiral of flashing lights emanated from the magic-users eyes, a simple charm spell. I am highly immune to charms. I raised my right hand, palm outward, as if to say, “Talk to the hand,” and projected blackness into his eyes.

The killer realized his charm wasn’t going to work, and he turned and bolted down an alleyway. I ran after, shouting, “You don’t want to make me run!”

I am a fast runner. I know how to push my muscles with the aid of magical strength, and I soon caught up to the killer and grabbed him from behind. He howled. He turned and faced me tossing four rocks to the ground and starting a chant. I reached inside my coat and pulled out a silver rod with a rubber grip and started focusing magical energy.

As the Harvester chanted, the rocks grew into humanoid shapes—Rock Demons. They snarled and hissed as they took shape and charged me. I aimed at the left-most one and whacked it on the leg with the silver rod. It created a resonating frequency vibration shattering the Rock Demon. I focused great strength into my hit and swung backhanded at the right one catching it on the head. The head and shoulders shattered, and the body crumbled. A third one came at me in the center, and I brought the rod down on his right shoulder, rending it into two big pieces.

The fourth Demon loomed taller than me and had a look of sheer determination on its gnarled face. I focused my magic and aimed for its knee, but it didn’t shatter. The Demon smiled and reached out for me. I pulled in arcane power from around me and aimed for the midsection, two quick shots, “Whack! Whack!” And the beast turned to pebbles and jagged stones. Simple matter of the second hit the rod still had a resonating frequency, and hitting with a vibrating object creates a significantly stronger vibration.

The Harvester took off in a run again. This time I chased after him and pushed him down to the ground. I growled, “You’re coming with me.”

He rolled over and pulled something out of his pocket, a cigarette lighter. He struck fire with it and started a chant to summon a Lava Demon. I snaked my hand into one of my pockets and pulled out a vial of simple water, pulled the plug, and poured it on the ground while simultaneously calling out, “Jacqueline!”

The water from the vial stopped in midair and fine mists started swishing past me from all around towards the water. Jacqueline is a friendly Elemental I knew from when she was still human. She started to take shape as a humanoid statue of water while the Lava Demon rose to its whole height of lava and fire. Jacqueline smiled and said, “He’s mine!”

She walked closer to the Demon and put her water hands out in front of her and projected a water stream from them at the Demon. Jacqueline sucked in all the water from the air for blocks around, and it became like a strong wind. The water threw up debris of stone and steam off the Lava Demon. I started to approach the Harvester with one intent: getting close enough to cast a Frost spell on him. Then I could get the choker on him and bind his hands.

The Harvester drew a ninja sword and hissed. “Come and get me, Bane Warrior.”

“Come along quietly, and maybe I can talk them into a life sentence.”

The Harvester charged me, and I pulled a bit of pulverized salt out of my pocket and blew it in his direction while imagining a snowflake and focusing on cold. The Harvester stopped dead in his tracks. I walked up to him and connected a collar to his throat, so he couldn’t incant any more spells. Then I bound his hands behind his back. I looked to Jacqueline and the Lava Demon. Jacqueline had clearly won, and she stood there grinning.

I pulled out my cell-phone and rang headquarters, letting them know I had the Harvester.

Jacqueline walked up to me and put one of her water hands on my cheek. “Still doing good deeds for a living, eh, Derek?”

“This one took out Jericho.”

“And you let him live?”

“I wouldn’t get paid if I killed him.”

“When are you going to find the one who murdered me?” She asked.

“It was the Red Hand, you know that, and I can’t fight an army.”

“You could, Derek, you could.”

Potato Vengeance

I never cooked a potato before. I lived at home until I was 19, and I got a place with my oldest friend, Ben. He was a year older than me and promised we’d make great roomies. My mom loved to prepare meals, but she refused to teach me anything, swearing I’d marry and not have to cook.

Here I was 19, broke, and hungry. Ben had some potatoes in a bag on top of the fridge, and I was bent on cooking one. We had no Internet back then because we were too poor. I grabbed one of the potatoes and put it in a frying pan. Nothing happened. I knew how to make cold cereal with milk, so I did that instead.

Ben came into the kitchen. “Why is there a whole potato in a frying pan?”

“I was going to cook it,” I said.

“Maybe rooming together was a bad idea. You’re eating my cereal, and you’ve threatened one of my potatoes.”

“I need to eat!”

He pointed at the potato in the frying pan. “Step 1: Wash the potato. Slice the–”

“Wait! Let me get a notepad.”

“You don’t need a notepad. Slice up the thing, add some oil to the pan, and turn the heat on.”

I nodded and eyed the plant with dire intent. Was a potato a plant? It was a root for sure. I wish I could look it up. I wanted to know what the potato was called, scientifically speaking.

Washing the potato, I started to hum a bit. The potato started to hum with me, but I couldn’t be that far gone. I sliced into the potato, and it let out this tiny little scream. It may have been the sweetest sound I ever heard. I finished the cut. Then I cut it again. A small scream like an angel in anguish followed. I danced, heel-toe, heel-toe. I knew right then I’d be a master chef.

I put the pan on the burner and poured in a little oil. I felt the heat with my hand, and it seemed hot enough. I threw the twenty or so pieces of sliced root into the oil, and twenty or so howls of horror followed. I found my true calling, finally. Nineteen years on this planet and I knew my place.

The screams died down, and I put the taters on a plate. I added a bit of salt and feasted. My feet dragged me to the local library, and the researching of potato recipes began.

Baked potatoes seemed easy. Stabbing into the potato with a fork to create tiny vents caused the greatest wailing of pain you could ever imagine. I stabbed it over and over, all the while reveling in its cries of no and stop. I put it in the oven without preheating. I turned the oven up to 150. The potato begged. Finish me, it cried out in this glorious voice. This went on for some time. I showed it mercy. I turned the heat up to 350.

Butter and salt went on my victim. It was good. Mom should have taught me how to cook. She taught me things like how to butcher a common house cat, but not how to prepare a meal.

I went to work, but my mind wasn’t there. Customers would ask for a half pound of sliced ham, and all I could think about was the precious screams that came from a potato as it’s diced.

Ben and I ran into each other when I got home. “I see you like potatoes,” he said.

“I love to hear them scream.”

“Huh?”

I did a little shrug thing and wondered when I’d get a chance to cook again. We were out of potatoes though. I tried cutting up an apple, and the thing just laughed and laughed with every cut, like it enjoyed it. I went to the store and got two 20 lb bags of baking potatoes. The first potato out of the bag I cut in strips, and that was pleasing. I heated up about a half inch of oil in my favorite marble coated pan and dropped the strips in one at a time. Each piece screamed. Each one warmed my heart.

They tasted good, and I added a little cayenne pepper to them.

I went to sleep for a while. I’m not sure how long. I felt like I hadn’t seen the sun in ages, and it was creeping through my window. Damn having a window facing east. Ben was sitting at our kitchen table eating cereal.

“Do you have work today?” He asked.

“No.”

“I was going to suggest cooking some sweet potatoes and a ham, but we have enough baking potatoes to last for a month.”

“Sweet potatoes?” I asked.

He drank the leftover milk out of the cereal bowl. “They’re very tasty, and they’re healthy.”

“Do they scream?”

Ben closed his eyes and shook his head. Within three days we were preparing sweet potatoes. They had these deep voices and got very threatening when stabbed with a fork. It was no fun at all. The higher pitched cries of terror from the baking potatoes were better.

“I don’t like sweet potatoes,” I said.

We weren’t even done cooking, and Ben, being pretty smart, noticed this. “You haven’t even tried them yet.”

“They don’t scream.”

“I’m worried about you,” he said.

Don’t worry about me. We ate the food. Taste wise sweet potatoes and ham was a nice meal. Would have been better with some dinner rolls though. I began to wonder about Ben. I wondered what would happen if I cut him? Would he scream? I bet he would.

I went and got my hand cuffs and taser. I shot him with the taser, and oh did he scream. He was worried about me? I cuffed him.

“What are you doing?” He yelled.

I started cutting on him. He screamed even better than the potatoes.

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Snakes & Gypsies

This story was written for an Ed Davis writing class.

My new friend, Jessica, wanted to go to a Gypsy camp and have our fortunes read. I agreed, largely because I wanted Jessica to transform beyond just a friend, so I’d pretty much do anything she’d want us to do, other than genitalia piercings. None of that for me.

The Gypsy camp was located on a farm just outside of town. Tents, buses, pickup trucks, and minivans littered the fields. Jessica seemed to know where she was going as she led us to a tent with a gold moon painted on it. She stepped inside, and I followed. An ancient woman, with gray hair down to her hips and a toothless grin, sat in a well worn leather chair. A coal fire burned on a round platform in the center of the tent. Animal skulls were hung about strategically. The old hag tossed some sickly sweet incense into the fire, and a hazy, bluish smoke filled the tent.

Jessica said, “Our fortunes, please.”

I shrugged.

The old woman reached behind her and pulled out a copper bowl. “Twenty dollars each.”

“WHAT!?” I howled.

Jessica rapped her knuckles across my temple real hard. Yes, I’ve learned more than once how hard Jessica can hit. She claimed she studied Ninjitsu, and it’s all about hitting other people’s soft spots with your hard spots. All I knew was it worked. Still, she had this brown and blonde hair cut real short, plus the nicest breasts I’ve ever seen.

Jessica and I each put $20 in the bowl, and the old hag stashed it in a rusty iron chest. She said, “My name is Myra. Let me see the girl’s hand first.”

Jessica held out her right hand, and Myra began to caress the lines in her palm. Myra spoke in a soft voice. “You’ll live well into your eighties, but your health will start to fail in your sixties. You’ll have two children, but not by the man you’re with.”

I whispered, “Drat!”

The Gypsy woman released Jessica’s hand and reached out for mine.

I provided my hand, and Myra traced along the lines of my palms and fingers. It sent a kind of shiver up and down my spine. Myra whispered something, closed my hand, and pushed it away.

“What?” I asked. And yes, for the record, what is my favorite word.

She closed her eyes and leaned back in her chair. “Your future forks too many times to be sure of anything.”

“What a waste of $20!” I said.

Myra’s eyes opened wide. “You want me to lie? Do you want me to tell you about every possible fork and where it leads? I could spend a year talking about all the different forks in your future, and there’s no telling on any one which way you’ll turn.”

“I want my $20 back!”

Myra glared. “No refunds!”

“This is a sham.”

Myra smiled. “You really want your money back?”

“Of course.”

Myra fumbled around in the iron chest. She pulled out a sack of something and the twenty. She dumped the sack onto the fire, and it filled the room with a noxious cloud of yellow smoke. She said a little chant in a language I’d never heard and handed me my twenty.

Jessica and I ran out of the smoke filled tent. I drove her home. I leaned over to kiss her. She pulled back and whispered, “No, we’re done.”

“We’re just getting started, baby-doll.”

“No. Myra said we’d never have kids together. Why go any further.”

I tried to nuzzle in close to kiss her and my kiss landed on her shoulder. “Gypsies have been wrong before.”

Jessica opened the door and climbed out. “She put a curse on you, stupid fool.”

She slammed the door shut. I drove home. Curse, my ass.

A few days passed while I hunted for a new woman. You know, going to parks watching for women with big dogs, going to the grocery store at odd hours not buying anything in particular. I would go to bars, but alcohol is poison. Except Long Island Iced Teas, those are mostly iced tea anyhow.

I came home from work one day, and in the space separating my screen door and main door, there was a snake.

It was about two to three feet long, brown with tan diamonds running down its back. I ran. Well, in truth, I screamed, then I jumped, then I ran. I made it back to my car and drove to a payphone. One of my friends kept snakes as pets, so I figured I’d call him first. He didn’t answer. So, I had to call another friend. He came over with his camera and six-year-old daughter in tow. The snake was gone when he opened the door though. The child said, “I had to get up from my nap, and there’s no snake.”

Yeah. A snake. And my friend didn’t get any pictures. I’m sure it was the poisonous variety too.

Another week passed, while I stalked different parks and grocery stores. I was on my way to the kitchen for a nice cold beverage, and the faintest of hissing caught my ear. Another snake, this one well over three feet long and solid black, was just chilling on my countertop. I started to back away. It started to move towards me. I ran out of the house. Brilliantly, I forgot my keys but remembered to lock the door. I didn’t even have my wallet on me. Luckily, I’m old friends with a locksmith, and I called him from a neighbor’s house. I’m on good terms with my neighbors. Very important.

My locksmith friend, George, showed up in good time with his toolbox. George said, “There’s a snake inside?”

I nodded.

“I’ll unlock the door,” George said. “But the snake is all you, man.”

“What!”

“Grab a brick, and brain the stupid thing, or are you afraid of a little snake?”

“Of course I’m afraid of a snake! Snakes kill to eat!”

“You said it was black, right?” George pulled a simple little gun-shaped tool out of his toolbox and inserted it into my door lock. He clicked it a couple of times and twisted it. “You’re unlocked. The only black snakes we get around these parts are constrictors. It’s not poisonous.”

“It’s huge!”

“All the more reason you have to deal with it and not me. Call animal control if you’re that much of a pussy,” George said.

“Thanks for unlocking the door. Got any plans on Saturday?”

“Saturday, hmmm…”

“There’s that new zombie movie. I haven’t seen it yet.”

“I’ve seen it, but I’ll see it again, if you want,” he said. “Matinee on Saturday?”

“Yeah, I’ll call you.”

George winked at me. “Are you going to kill the snake?”

“I’m calling animal control.”

“HAHAHA!”

George left, and I went back to the neighbor’s house to call animal control. They arrived pretty quickly.

Two of them stepped out of the van. One said, “What’s the problem?”

I wondered which one was the comedian. “There’s a big-ass snake in my house.”

“How many feet is a big ass snake? What color is it?” The second man said.

“It’s at least eight feet long, a foot around in the middle, and it sits up like a spitting cobra.”

Both men laughed.

“It’s maybe three feet long. It’s solid black,” I said. “It’s in the kitchen. Ignore the pot plants in the back bedroom.”

Both men glared. One hissed out the words, “If we find pot plants, we’re calling the sheriff.”

“The stuff is entirely medicinal.”

The first one howled, “It’s still illegal in this state.”

“Oh, well, we’re real close to the border with Canada.”

Both men glared at me again. I think they practiced that. “Please get the snake. You won’t find any pot plants.”

One said, “We had better not.”

They bagged the snake then drove off with it.

I didn’t sleep well that night.

In the morning, I ate my typical breakfast of Greek yogurt and cereal. I had work, but not for another hour. I poked around on the internet reading the news. A very low hissing sound grated against my ears. I turned. In the doorway to my den, a slender green snake with red eyes perhaps two feet long lay in the entryway.

I pondered my options while the snake inched its way into the room. I was still barefooted, but I chose flight. As I ran past the snake, it bit me on the foot. I stumbled and fell. The pain was unbelievable. I mean, I could describe it, but you wouldn’t believe me. Honestly though, I don’t have a very high pain threshold.

I crawled to the phone and dialed 911. The snake was coming after me for another nibble, and I bashed on it with the fireplace poker until it stopped moving. It felt good. I put the carcass in a brown paper sack and went outside to wait for the medics. The ambulance came and took me to the hospital. The doctor wanted to know what kind of snake it was, and I said, “The mean kind!”

“No, what color, did it have any markings.”

I smiled. “I have it with me. It’s in this paper sack.”

The doctor looked in the bag. Then he started punching up websites on the internet. “These aren’t native to this region. Not even to this continent. It’s a Willow Asp, native to India. Relatively poisonous. You could lose your foot or your life, if we don’t treat it.”

“So give me an anti-venom and send me home.”

The doctor shook his head. “We don’t stock this anti-venom at this hospital. I’m going to have to start calling other hospitals.”

He started making calls. The pain was bad, so I whimpered a lot.

The doctor finally said, “Good, Good. We’ll CareFlight him to you.”

The doctor turned to me. “Ever ride in a helicopter before?”

“No.”

“You’re going to love it!”

They wheeled me to the helicopter, and strapped me in. A paramedic rode with me in the back. We took off. The paramedic said, “Willow Asp? Native to India?”

I said, “Apparently.”

“You know India is the ancestral home of Gypsies.”

“What do you know of Gypsies?”

“I have a little Gypsy blood in me,” the paramedic said. “My great grandfather was a Gypsy.”

“What do you know about their curses?”

The paramedic’s face darkened a notch. “You don’t want a Gypsy curse on you.”

“Yes, I’m beginning to understand that.”

“Just have it taken off.”

“How?”

The paramedic pointed at my swollen foot. “It’s all so simple. Find a Gypsy camp, find a seer, and pay a modest fee.”

“How much of a fee?”

“Most will do it for a few hundred bucks.”

“Ha! Screw that. I think I’ll pick up snake hunting as a hobby instead.”

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Long Day, Long Night

Long Day, Long Night

I originally wrote this for a writing class with Ed Davis.

I’m not crazy. The snake was huge. I answered a knock on my door at 10:13 am, and the snake stood there with a malicious grin on its scaly face. It had a laptop belted around its midsection, and it held a club upright in the end of its tail. I answered the creature’s questions of debt solvency and promised to make further payments. It claimed it needed a blood sample, and before I could protest, it bit me on the arm. The beast slithered off, and I crawled back into bed.

I couldn’t sleep. I watched the picture of friendly wildflowers on the wall as it seemed to flow in and out with the wind. The colors sparkled in the bright rays of the sun. The wildflowers appeared to grow and bloom and then wither. Slowly, in tiny little clicks, it hit me there was no picture of wildflowers on the wall. Centurian is at it again, slipping hallucinogens into the water. I pushed myself out of bed and started to pace the halls. I thought I killed Centurian last time, but my nemesis must have escaped.

The hallways seemed infinite, but in truth they simply turned right over and over until I reached the door to my room again. There were a few open spaces with chairs and TVs, but mostly the hallways were lined with doors. Doors that were either locked or led to private rooms like mine.

I started watching the news for any clue to what might be happening. Nothing. My eyes started to lose focus as I viewed the television, and I had to avert my gaze. The floor shifted under my weight to the left and right as if I was on a small boat or raft. I tried to ignore the unsafe conditions while making my way through the passageways again, hoping some exit door would be unlocked.

A spider easily an inch big, crawling up the wall, grabbed my attention. Slowly, as I watched, it began to grow bigger and bigger until it was nearly a foot across. Then it popped like a balloon, and the shattered shell of a corpse dropped to the ground. I went to the phone and placed my palm on the reader. A sign above the phone read, “Federal Asylum #12, ext. 205.” A voice chirped, “Good morning, George.”

I said, “Speed dial one.”

The phone dialed, and soon enough my diligent sister appeared in the video. I said, “Centurian is at it again!”

My sister, Bethany, nodded. “Mmmmhmmm.”

“Boot my computer and feed a water sample into the analyzer.”

Bethany said, “Sure, George, sure.”

A man caught up in a swirl of twisting tobacco smoke looked at me and smiled. “Centurian?”

“Yes!”

The man, drifting in and out of his cloud of noxious fumes, laughed.

“Do you want a sub or pizza this Sunday when we visit?” Bethany said on the video phone.

“Damn it! Are you going to turn the computer on and feed the sample into the analyzer, so that the machine will start crunching on an antidote?”

“Yes, George, I will. Pizza or sub?”

I stopped to think. I had a sub last time. “Pizza.”

The lunch bell sounded, and I hung up the phone. I went to the eating area and palmed the dispenser. A tray of food ejected out of a slot. The food was as bland and tasteless as any food could be, but I had a hard time stomaching it as I kept seeing tiny motions out of the corner of my eye when there was nothing there. The fruit punch dripped with sweetness and sugar, and I had to wonder how healthy such a concoction was. A ferret, easily four feet tall with frazzled, wild hair, approached my table. The ferret wore a tight fitting white lab coat and high heels. It held out a cupful of pills, and I sighed. “Centurian is loose.”

The ferret smiled. “You know the doors are locked.”

“Yes.”

The ferret pushed the cup of pills under my nose. “Take your medicine.”

I took the offered pills and began pacing the halls plotting my next move. In truth, the doors in this place were locked all the time. Still, there had to be a way out. Something I had forgotten. I paced and paced.

I noticed a sea turtle, and I knew enough to know he was in charge.

The sea turtle had a name tag, “Dr. Naples.” The beast waved at me with one appendage.

I shouted, “Centurian is loose!”

The sea turtle smiled. “Let’s sit down, George.”

The turtle’s reptilian shell shifted under the fluorescent lighting. The individual pieces of his carapace seemed to move and slide along its back as if it were sorting out some puzzle. I sat on a bench. He pointed at me with what I thought was his arm. “You’ve been coming along very well over these last few months.”

I howled, “I never should have retired!”

The turtle nodded.

“You need to release me,” I said with my right fist clenched.

“Oh, not until your treatment is finished, dear boy. As long as you suffer from delusions, your place is here.”

“They aren’t delusions! Centurian is putting hallucinogens in the water supply. I’ve stopped him before.”

The turtle pulled his head partway back into his shell. “Centurian is a myth.”

I snarled. “He’s as real as you or me.”

“Some philosophers would say only one of us is real, young man.”

“I need to get out of this place.”

“In time. I expect over the next few months, if you continue to progress, you’ll be a free man.”

“We don’t have a few months!”

The turtle stood up and took a few steps away. “I have other patients and piles of paperwork I must see to. Has talking with me helped?”

My lips curled into a frown. “No.”

“That’s good.”

I began pacing the halls once again.

William stood in one corner of the room flipping the channels on the television. He lit up a cigarette and smiled at me. He wore a red sweatshirt and navy blue sweatpants. The end of the cigarette seemed to singe the very air with an unholy glow of burning metals.

William said, “Centurian?”

“Bad news always travels fastest.”

“Is your remote working?”

A streak of brilliance like a wicked thought crossed through my mind, and I spoke aloud in error, “Yes, my remote. I forgot about it altogether.”

I ran for my room. Typing a keycode into my locker, I withdrew my precious remote. I pointed the device at the closed door in my room and pushed play. Nothing happened. I locked the remote back up and lay down drifting off into a rigidly vivid dreamscape plagued by unkillable foes and assassins.

The dinner bell woke me, and I ate with the patience of a man plotting his escape path. I paced the halls trying every door leading to a new level or outside. All remained perfectly secured. I lay down for a while, sliding in and out of a sleep riddled with tales of viruses and chemical agents.

I went for yet another walk. This fine looking young woman who easily resembled a walrus sat at a table reading a book.

Sitting down across from her, I tried to get her attention. She picked at one of her tusks with her fingernail. I shivered the words out slowly, “Centurian is back at it.”

The walrus woman nodded her head.

I said, “My remote is broken!”

The walrus shook her head and put her book down.

“You’re one man,” the walrus whispered.

My eyes turned into a steely cold glare, and I whispered, “I’m the best.”

The walrus reached in her pocket and withdrew two AA batteries. Rolling them across the table at me, she grinned wide. Snatching up the batteries, I took off in a run towards my room.

I made sure the door was closed behind me and punched the keycode into my locker. I pulled the battery cover off my remote and tossed the old batteries into the trash can. Feeding the remote the new batteries, I twitched a little bit. Pushing the play button on the remote resulted in the most beautiful metallic click sound one would ever hear. I locked the remote back up. The door opened.

Stepping gingerly into the closet, I climbed onto the rungs in the back wall. The floor in there wasn’t to be trusted. I typed another keycode into a keypad on the wall, and the floor dropped out. I climbed down, and cool air came from below. I reached a landing and touched around for a light switch. The hallway was narrow and poorly lit, yet I made my best possible time.

I pushed one final door open, and the outside air hit me in the face. I took off in a run towards my base. My legs pushed against the ground, and my pulse thumped. I reached a large, multi-story house surrounded by a well groomed lawn complete with shrubs dotted with tiny red berries. The door was locked, and my hand found its way to the buzzer.

My sister answered, and I stepped inside.

She held out a bottle of aspirin. “George! Your computer said take two aspirin to counter the effects of the hallucinogen in the water supply. It’s been all over the news, too.”

I nodded, walking past her towards the stairs. She reached out and grabbed my arm. “Take the aspirin.”

I popped two aspirin in my mouth and pounded up the stairs to the top floor. I reached a simple door and opened it. Linen closet. I started grabbing shelves and removing them, discarding their contents into the hallway. Once the closet was empty, I stepped inside and closed the door. Tiny green lights illuminated the space.

Speaking quietly, I said, “My name is George.”

White light filled the closet, and the floor started pushing me upwards to my base. I started noticing the distinct lack of hallucinations. Praying a silent thank you, I stepped through the doorway into my lair. I went to the computer and started tapping into the imagery satellites. I looked at every access point for the water supply. Each one looked untouched. I started to wonder. A quick analysis of the operating system onboard the satellite showed a Trojan process. I tried to clean it, but it was quite malignant. I uploaded a newer version of the satellite operating system and waited.

I had imagery. The computer beeped a warning. Apparently, the Trojan reported that it was active across the network. My mind snarled as I realized I didn’t have much time. I sorted through the imagery until I found Centurian. He had three cronies with him, and they were dumping drums into the water pipeline at a water tower.

After I donned my fiber armor, my hands instinctively reached for my clubs. The oaken clubs attached at a belt loop and possessed a magnet in the end to keep them steadily attached to my thigh, so I could move freely. I sported four of the 16 inch long, 42 oz clubs, and my eyes wandered to the stairs leading to my transport. I shook my head and whispered, “I am the one.”

Climbing upwards, I reached the transport on the roof. I twisted the throttle all the way up and turned the wheel in the direction of Centurian. The satellite imagery showed on my console. The cronies were waiting at the base of the water tower, and Centurian was doing something on top of the tower. I pulled to a stop and jumped out.

I howled, “Arrroooo!” A club materialized in my hand as if by a will of its own. I charged the first of the cronies. My club worked its magic, and the man went down. The second man pulled a gun, but my armor casually deflected the projectile. I clubbed the shooter good.

The third man fell to his knees and shed tears. “Please, mister,” he said. “Don’t hurt me!”

The club flashed three times in the night air, and the man crumpled into a ball on the ground.

Centurian, dressed in royal purple robes and black shoes, smiled at me. “George! I’m ready for you this time!”

Counting how many steps away he stood, my eyes narrowed.

He reached in his robes and withdrew a Mark IV Death Ray. “This weapon will cut through your armor and–

I knew that thing took four seconds to charge, and I whipped my club at the device. The death ray went flying. Centurian’s face bent all out of shape. “You win, George, again. I’ll go along quietly. Call the authorities.”

I advanced on him and beat him some. Not enough for him to suffer any permanent damage, but enough that he was out cold.

I pressed the call button in my armor. Within moments, there were police transports and hospital evac units on the scene.

A Doberman and a German Sheppard approached me from one of the police transports. The Doberman said, “Time to go back, George.”

“No!” I shouted.

The German Sheppard sighed. “You must go back. You have an extremely violent personality, and society must be protected from you.”

“I do not have a violent personality!”

“You just beat four men half to death,” the Doberman said.

“They deserved it! I barely injured them.”

A typical housecat with yellow stripes and a white lab coat approached from one of the medical units.

The Doberman looked at the housecat. “He doesn’t want to go back.”

My grip tightened on my club.

The cat smiled and shook her head. “But, you know, George, they’re having biscuits and gravy for breakfast this morning.”

I chirped, “Biscuits and gravy!”

The Doberman smiled. “With fresh pineapple!”

I tossed my club to the side and jumped into one of the medical transports. “Come on, let’s go, let’s go!”

The cats and dogs smiled. The transport took off, and soon enough we were back at the medical compound. They led me through hallways until we reached the secure double door into my ward. I stepped through the first door, and the walrus, who gave me batteries, stood there smiling. I said, “We’re really having biscuits and gravy?”

The walrus smiled. “Oh, yes, and fresh pineapple.”

I jumped up and clapped my hands. The first security door locked, and the second security door went click. I ran for the kitchen. I put my hand on the tray dispenser. My eyes narrowed as I cataloged the items on my tray. Oatmeal. An orange that had bruises from being kept in a freezer. A plain bagel with no sign of butter or cream cheese. I stuck my finger in the oatmeal: lumpy and lukewarm. I let out a little whimper.

William approached, and he laughed. “What did they promise you this time? French toast with thick cut, hickory bacon?”

“No.”

He said, “What then?”

“Biscuits and gravy with fresh pineapple.”

William grabbed up his tray. “You know we only have that on Christmas.”

I sat down to eat my food. William sat with me. He spoke between bites, “What about your remote?”

My food fell to my tray as I raced to my room. My locker opened easily enough. I pulled out the remote and tried it. Nothing happened. I opened the remote to look at the batteries. They were gone. I closed my eyes.

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The Slight Army

The Slight Army

This story was originally published by Print Static Movement.

The spiders have been like an invasion of late. There is one that setup camp by my driveway along a wall and a support post. He has his web and a little web cave that he scurries into when he hears a noise. He is black and furry and most likely of the deadly variety. The other day I saw a larger one of apparently the same type nearly an inch long scooting down the inside frame of my front door. I just saw one climb down the string controlling the blinds in the window.

I live fairly close to wooded areas, and often, I will find small snakes in my yard or on my porch. The spiders I don’t mind as much as the snakes. Snakes carry far more venom in their bite, and they are not so easily squashed. The snakes are good though because as small as they are they eat the spiders.

The spiders were becoming quite numerous, so I started killing them one by one. I would smash them either with my foot or a book or anything handy and then leave the carcass as a warning sign to the other spiders. This worked for a while, but soon there were dead spiders in almost every room of my house.

And the cat is no help. He watches the spiders and acts as if he will pounce upon them, but he never pounces. He just watches. Perhaps I need a new cat. I wonder if there are special breeds for hunting spiders. But, I digress.

Killing the spiders seems to work. Less and less spiders show themselves on an almost daily basis. Still, I kill the ones that do invade my sanctuary. Slowly I began to notice a change in the spiders, not so much in the spiders themselves for there was still a wide variety, but in their behavior. They would seem to stop when they saw me and then duck for cover before I could squash them. Soon I took to carrying a shoe with me, so I would have a projectile weapon to use against them.

The most prominent species grew to about a half inch long and was covered in black fur with a white diamond on their back although the white diamond could have been light glinting off their many eyes. The next most prominent species was of the daddy-long-legs variety with a bulbous body attached to eight thin, long legs. These grew to at least an inch long from toe to toe. I felt safe around this type because I was fairly certain they weren’t poisonous.

The last kind was the most fearsome, growing as much as an inch and a half long with black and red bodies with red legs. This kind would sometimes rush at me when I went to crush them, but luckily I was skilled by now at crushing spiders, so they never sunk their fangs in me. I was thankful for this because surely those fangs were dipped in some fatal neurotoxin.

I have a few friends, and one came by my abode the other day. She shrieked on reaching my computer room. I asked, “Yes?”

“All the dead spiders!”

“Yes. I leave them as warning to the other spiders not to come around.”

“Clean them up!”

I nodded. “They’re doing a good job keeping the other spiders away.”

“If you say so, Ash.”

I smiled. We opened up our lab work on the computers and started plugging away at the numbers. I offered to make tea, and she said, “Please.”

I went in the kitchen, and a brown spider appeared running across the counter. I didn’t have my shoe with me, so I crushed it with the tea cup, sending it straight to hell where it belonged. As the tea finished, I shouted down the hallway, “Sugar? Honey? Lemon? Milk?”

She shouted, “Honey!”

I squeezed a dollop of honey in both cups of tea and went back to the computer room. In the hallway on the way, a daddy-long-legs inched along the floor, and my foot happened to flatten it.

I handed over the tea. She smiled and took it. “I’ve got the lab worked out, I’m getting 1.0 for the first dataset and the expected .5 and .25 for the second and third datasets…”

I smiled. “Show me.”

She showed me the calibrations on the computer. “My work here is done.”

“OK, Samantha, I’ll walk you out.”

“I can find my way, Ash, so long as the spiders don’t get me.”

My head bobbed up and down. “They seem to get more aggressive all the time.”

“You shouldn’t kill them. They prey on other insects.”

I shrieked, “Some of them are poisonous!”

“Poisonous spiders are very rare…”

“If you say so… I’m killing them.”

Samantha downed the last of her tea and grabbed her books. She fled the scene without even another glance at the hordes of dead spiders splattered here and there on the wood floors.

As she stepped onto my porch, a rather handsomely large spider of the red-legged variety inched its way directly in her path. She said, “Don’t kill it, Ash. They eat other insects. You’ll be up to your ears in mites, beetles, and flies if you murder all the spiders.”

I smiled at her as she left and then jumped up and down on the likely poisonous red-legged monster.

I went to the computer and did my write-up for the lab when I noticed a slight bite on my ankle. I looked down, and there was one of the rodents injecting me with something. It died under my cruel fist. I looked, and as I watched, tendrils of poison spread out along my leg. It started to swell up. My first thought was emergency room, but then I realized my second thought, no health insurance.

The wound in total was no bigger than a quarter, so I soaked it in hot water and lanced it. With a squeeze, pus came out of it for a while, more pus than I would have believed possible. The pain subsided afterwards. I made myself a ham salad sandwich and grabbed an apple.

I fell asleep after lunch, and when I woke up, I examined my ankle. The swelling had subsided, and the flesh was back to its original color. I rubbed it a little, and it didn’t hurt, so I decided not to be bothered by it. I ordered Chinese delivery and ate it in front of the television.

A spider, an especially furry one, inched into my view on the floor of the living room. I moved to squash the creature, and it darted under the television. Cursing at the little demon-spawn, my fist shook in anger. The leftover Chinese went in the fridge, and my hand grabbed up a spatula from a drawer. I went to the television and tried to get the spider with the spatula. The spider was nowhere to be found. I did find some loose change under the television, which I pocketed.

I was tired for some reason and looked down again at the spider bite on my ankle. There was barely a mark. I went into my bedroom and lay down, thinking I would take a short nap. Sleep hit me with an iron mallet in an instant.

A few hours passed, how could I tell how many, I was asleep. Then I noticed difficulty breathing, and I opened my eyes in fright. I could barely see. White silky webs had been stretched across my eyes. I tried to wipe them off, but I couldn’t move my arm. I looked down at myself, and through the web, I could see more webbing all across my body.

I flipped into a berserker rage. My vision narrowed, and my stomach tied itself into a knot. Strength pulsed through my body like a gift from an ancient ancestor. I wrenched my right arm free and scraped at the webbing on my face allowing my eyes to work and letting fresh air in my lungs. Spiders were all over my bed: the pesky little black furred kind. I kicked at them and lashed out with my arms scattering them to the floor.

I looked at the ground, and the spiders had formed up into ranks and rows: ten spiders across a row and five deep in perfect formation. In between each brigade of the red-legged bastards was a good sized spider of a variety I hadn’t seen before. Huge eyes dotted its face. Black and yellow hair ran in lines across its carapace body. It had pincers the size of needles, and they dripped with venom.

I howled a mighty war cry, “Aarrroooo!” and leapt out of bed at the phalanxes of spiders.

The yellow haired variety jumped at me as I stomped on spider formations one at a time, laughing maniacally. I batted the yellow haired monsters out of the air as they got near me.

A tiny drum beat echoed, and en masse the whole of the spider horde turned their butts at me and shot silk. Hundreds, nay thousands of strands of silk hit me at once, and I was engulfed. Then one of the yellow haired spiders jumped below my reach and got a good bite of my leg. I cried out in pain and squashed the spider under my palm. But, it was too late. The venom worked its natural wonder, and I fell to my knees. Then I collapsed on the floor, and the faintest of cheering filled the room…

I went into convulsions and lay there twitching for a solid fifteen minutes. When my body calmed down, I found I couldn’t move, but the spiders were still there watching me. A thousand tiny voices spoke in unison, “Now, after those two bites, you can hear us. You have slaughtered many of our kind, and that needs to stop.”

Paralyzed with fear and poison, I tried to nod. The tiny voices spoke again, “We are intelligent, and we believe we possess souls. We do not want mankind to know because we do not want to be subject to their scientific process. You will stop killing our kind.”

I whimpered, “You’re invading my home…”

“Only to hunt. Not to lay eggs. If we laid eggs in here, there would be thousands of our young everywhere. If you don’t change your ways, then you will see a green spider with black stripes down its body and black legs. When you see this spider know that you are doomed!”

I whimpered some more and lay there in my paralysis. The army of spiders dispersed to parts unknown. A few hours later I was able to move.

Check out Evelyn’s Book, a precursor to Winter’s Line. In truth a comedy about magic and witches and old boyfriends.