October 2015

I roll to my feet, giddy with dehydration and dizzy wth sickness. The pharmacy’s worth of meds coursting through my veins is the only thing allowing me to get even that far. My objective: the computer screen across the room.

“Oh come on now,” grunts my creative muse. He sprawls out over the couch that I had occupied until a moment ago in wifebeater and boxers, beer in hand. As always, his metaphysical appearance is a direct invitation to litigation from Stephen King’s On Writing that only my obscurity prevents from making it to Maine Superior Court.

“Come on what?” I say, rolling a pair of kleenex pills and jamming them in my nose to dam up the flow.

“You’re stick with the Bug that Will Not Die,” my muse cries. “Every time you think you’ve licked it you wake up with a headache measured on the Richter scale and more goo than a Jell-O factory gumming up your various ducts.”

“Yeah,” I croak. “So?”

“So how do you expect to write, much less finish, a book under those conditions?” my muse cries. “Especially when it’s the most nebulous idea yo’ve had in years?”

“I’m working on getting it nailed down,” I reply, slumping into my chair. “It’s gonna have themes, more complex themes than a John Williams concert. You’ll see.”

My muse snorts. “Or it’ll be more wishy-washy than a drive-thru no-touch,” he says.

“Hey,” I snap, inasmuch as my gooey passages allow such sharpness. “I finished a book for Camp Naonowrimo this year already!”

“Yeah, and it was a flabby, rushed piece of…stuff,” my muse says. “You wrote it under ideal conditions, too, with nothing going on at work and even less at home. How do you expect to jam a full book into the time you have this month, especially if you want to get all of those so-called themes in there?”

“I’ll find a way,” I say. “I always do.”

“We’ll see,” grunts my muse. “Oh, we’ll see about that. Aim for the stars with science fiction and burn up in the atmosphere. Wouldn’t be the first time, won’t be the last.”

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“Who…who said that?” cried the halfling.

“Down here!”

Looking down, the halfling gasped and backed away. A rat was speaking to her, a rat that was short even by the generous standards of rats. But it was also speaking in a squeaky but confident voice.

“Behold! Where if your god Jovan now? If vermin may speak, then tremble for all is lost!”

Wailing, the halfling cast down her crossbow and fled sobbing. The rat climbed up to the arrow slit she had been guarding, and motioned to the rest of her party with one tiny paw.

“Tinuviel,” said Adenan. “You should be nice to her. She’s just brainwashed. Aunty told us to rescue her friends, not to scare them to death.”

Tinuviwl the rat harrumphed. “If I’m going to be the one that gets hit with a polymorph trap, I might as well have some fun with it,” she squeaked.

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The veil is thinner this month
Shades of the departed dance
The was and the never-were laugh
Strange noises against dark velvet

The veil is thinner this month
Not because of the spirits
Not because of the moon
Not because of the spheres

The veil is thinner this month
Because people believe it is so
The veil is their perception
And it thins when they will it

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The revelation that the Republic of Mashriq had quietly accepted arms and aid from Israel to defeat the Sharaqa rebels was effectively the end of the government.

President Tariq claimed for the rest of his life that there was no evidence other than slander and rumor and that he had been framed. Indeed, what evidence did surface–primarily in the form of Israel-made weapons in government stores–was circumstantial especially since it was publicized long after his death. Some have said that the Sharaqa deliberately planted the evidence, although in the chaos that followed the truth was most likely lost.

What happened next, though, is not in dispute. The Mashriqi army disintegrated, going over en masse to the Sharaqa, and the front against the rebels collapsed overnight. In the face of massive protests and violence, their forces entered the capital unopposed. The turnabout was so swift that President Tariq’s brother, the Minister of the Interior, was caught and killed in his own home.

The next 4 months of the Sharaqa in power would become known as “the 133 days.”

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The police found the tire tracks. That was easy enough; the area was still crunchy with fresh-strewn snow, and the perp had skidded all over the place in his haste to get away.

They found the spot where the car had idled for a while, melting the snow beneath it and leaving a quartet of tire impressions in the night’s heavy snowfall.

That was the easy part. And it was easy to see that they hadn’t missed anything. There were no tracks leading away, no footprints, and no trace of the $5000 stashed in a garbage bag from the holdup.

The problems arose when they had to ask where, exactly, the truck and its occupant had gone.

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I cut tiny hearts
Into the leaves
Falling quietly
In my backyard
It is the only way
I can think of
To show this place
How it cut itself
Into my own

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“The music’s good, anyway,” Beverly said. “At least, it’s not making me feel nauseated.”

Chelsea rubbed her hands together uneasily. “Yeah, about that. Are you sure it’s not…you know, too soon? For going out to a bar?”

“I’m practically healed, Chelsea,” said Beverly. She had to go in for a biopsy on the ‘other lump’ in a week and stick to eating stuff that her body wasn’t going to violently reject from both ends thanks to the chemo. But Dr. Jaipur hadn’t said anything about not drinking, and he said a lot about not doing other stuff.

“Well, yeah, I suppose,” Chelsea said, nodding. “But just because you’re okay physically doesn’t mean you’re okay mentally. I mean…you’re twenty-two with a fresh hysterectomy. I can’t even imagine what that must be like, how you must feel, not being able to have kids…”

Beverly’s eyes flashed. “Even though I never wanted any kids to begin with?” She’d told Chelsea before that she was just too messed up to bring a kid into this world–a world that, she might add, didn’t need any more humans, thank you very much. That conversation had been years ago.”

“Well, you never know when someone might change their mind,” Chelsea said. “And, I mean, to have that door closed for you so early, to lose even the potential of ever having kids…”

“Goddammit, Chelsea, stop that,” Beverly tossed back her drink and tapped the bar for a refill. God, Chelsea was just like everyone else! It wasn’t that Beverly’s life has been turned upside down, or the chance that the cancer was eating her away from the inside, or the fact that the hysterectomy hurt like hell and she’d always have the scar, or how the operation had hurt her chances of ever having a normal college student life. No, everybody felt sad for Beverly strictly because of the fact she couldn’t have kids anymore.

“Beverly, I-”

“I don’t want to talk about it anymore,” Beverly said. Her drink was refilled and she took a fresh swig of it. Considering it was served in stemware, a swig was about all there was to it. “You don’t have to cling to me like some kind of chaperone, Chelsea. I’ll get a cab home.” She’d come there to get plenty drunk, not wallow in sympathy for not being a person factory anymore.

Rachel seemed about to say something, but instead she gathered her things. “I’m a phone call away if you need me,” she said.

“Thanks, but I won’t. Good night, and don’t wait up.”

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Out the back window
Likely night shadows playing
Gun drawn just in case

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When I saw the home
In an old and worn-out book
It led me to a dead end
In the town of Shady Nook

My blog was brimming over
With debunked haunting tales
I expected nothing scarier
Than a few pale windy wails

My heart did not start pounding
When the walls were closing in
Or when a voice rebuked me
For an old and festering sin

I didn’t quail or quiver
When my nose began to bleed
Even as my eardrums rang
With unearthly roars to heed

There was no thought of fleeing
When palm-shaped bruises on my chest
Appeared as all around me
Ashen urns howled from their rest

I calmly kept my head on
Even when the doors were barred
I didn’t curl up shivering
When the grounds ate up my car

Chased up by blood-red mists
Leaping from the tower high
I woke up in a hospital
Being told I’d nearly died

It was then house did break me
When a detective at my bed
Said it was torn down years ago
Where had I been, instead?

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Indeed, the very term “Munchkin” has been controversial. It was popularized by early explorers who corrupted the Quadling term muenchner kindl or “blue children.” Many Munchkins, especially during the political awakening of the 1960s and 1970s, began insisting on the term Lollipoppian instead. A rough English approximation of the term Munchkins use for themselves, Lollipoppian comes from the term loli poppu aru, or “gentlemen who fancy sweets.”

However, since “lollipop” is also an English loanword for a type of traditional Munchkin sweet, many have instead insisted on “reclaiming” the term. The federal government recognizes the Munchkin nation in much the same way as it does the Quadling, Gillikin, and Winkie nations, but the Munchkins remain unique in that they will not accept any members that are over 5’0″ no matter how much Munckin ancestry they may have. Furthermore, any native-born Munchkins who grow taller than that are expelled from the nation.

This has led many anxious Munchkins to invest in growth-stunting drugs, and even some with Munchkin ancestry have attempted to limit their height in order to claim a piece of the nation’s lucrative and unregulated candy trade.

“We Munchkins are a proud nation, ancient and indivisible, and it is we who must reserve for ourselves the right to determine who is Munchkin and who is not,” said Boopsie Aru, current leader of the Lollipop Guild and de facto spiritual leader of the greater Munchkin nation. “We reject any and all externally imposed definitions of who and what Munchkins are.”

On the other hand, activist Pipi Aru insists that the height distinction is meaningless and externally imposed. “When our lands were settled by outsiders, they called every tall person a Quadling and every short person a Munchkin,” says she. “By internalizing this, we have done more damage to our culture than disease or invaders could ever have oped to inflict.”

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