March 2016


The man lay dead on the floor of his apartment, lovingly polished brass in his hands. “Look at this,” said the responding officer, Detective Mullins. He pointed at the cause of death, a bullet that had shattered the mouthpiece of the instrument before entering the man’s skull. “Shot him right through the sax organ.”

“Yeah, hell of a way to go,” said his backup, Grabowski. “From the pose and everything, it looks like he was in the middle of sax when he died.”

“Is it a sax crime?” said Mullins. “Should we get forensics in here to sweep for sax fluids?”

“Well, from what I see in the database, he was a registered sax offender. Played loudly after midnight despite repeated complaints.” Officer Grabowski shook his head.

“Don’t they send you to jail if you get back into sax with mirrors?” said Mullins, looking at the full-length mirror before which the dead sax offender had been playing. “That sort of thing makes me sick.”

“You thinking what I’m thinking?” said Grabowski. “Maybe this sax maniac had it coming? Maybe we just look the other way at another scumbag sax offender.”

Mullins frowned. “You’re sure this won’t come back to bite us?” he said. “It seems pretty clear that the people upstairs got tired of all the noisy sax.”

“Well, if he had been put away for sax crimes years ago, maybe,” said Grabowski. “Time was they’d call you a sax offender just for being horn-o-saxual. But this guy, with his rap sheet, and his sax with mirrors? No, the world is better off without his kind.”

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A horrified squeal arose from the assemblage of dentists. For there, on the hill, silhouetted by the setting sun, were the Four Horsemen of the Pocked Lips. Straining at reins of floss and digging in spurs of shattered mirrors, they rode into the midst of their enemies with unleashed fury.

Plaque, weilding his calcified club that sticks fast to all things.

Decay, whose touch rots enamel into viscous and foul-smelling goo.

Halitosis, who leaves stench and the portent of death in its wake.

Stain, whose dark marks will never be removed, even with bleach.

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And then Man said to Tree “But trees have not culture and they build not cities. A tree leaves nothing when it dies.”

Tree responded to Man: “Culture has in every instance led to death and misery, its achievements dwarfed by its toll. In no sense have trees culture, and for us that means we fell not our fellows.”

But then Man said: “What about the stranglers, the figs who creep and grow upon other trees, being parasites who kill?”

Replied Tree: “You speak of the process of intertwining another, of enveloping them as you grow together, and eventually, when they die, finding that they have left a hollow inside you? We count that as love, not murder.”

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The man, not even a petty king or duke but a farmer, approached the altar and asked for one thing: a point from which to begin, to strike out from strength, as he tried to protect his home and his family from the depredations of the world.

In response, a single mote of dust degan to fall in front of his home, only to stop an inch or so off the ground. No force could move it, even the swing of a pickaxe.

The farmer was not a smart man, but he was a shrewd man. He began, mote by mote, to build upon the foundation that had been franted him. In time, he was able to construct a cone welling up from the immovable point, and upon that build a small home. Over time, as more material was added, the plot grew. The land beneath was carved away, and by the latter days what had once been a mote of dust now supported a vast fortress, impregnible, ruling over the land.

Impenetrable, that is, until the youngster arrived one day whose special gift it was to move the immovable.

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The goblin cackled through cracked lips. “The Dead Hand…five long lakes, five thin lakes, but no real water in them. To drink is to die, but one must drink to pass.”

“It is true,” said Tinain. “The fingers of the Dead Hand are saltier than the sea, and there is no fresh water outside of rainstorms, which are so violent as to sweep all before them.”

“It is…barren as a salt cracker,” croaked the goblin. “The Gob Legion carries its water with it, water rightly won in battle and borne by our own willing porters…where will you find such?”

Myn sneered. “If we move fast enough, we won’t need water.”

“I hope so…for your sake, ctonb. But it matters not. When the Gob Legion reaches the Palm of the Dead Hand, what we seek shall be ours.”

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She entered the office with a swagger, chocolate gams on full display despite the comparatively bitter cold outside. She wore sunglasses against the glare of Alaska’s winter.

The detective looked up from his newspaper, pale and delicate behind dark glasses. “I’m closed,” he said, taking the full measure of his prospective client’s dark smooth skin and sweet smell.

But clients were hard to come by in Fairbanks, so he made no further attempts to eject her.

“I need your help,” she said. “I’m being stalked.”

“Stalked by who?” the detective said. “An ex?”

“Cadbury. NestlĂ©. Mars. All the major candymakers have a man in town looking for me.”

“Hmph,” snorted the detective. “You’re not that sweet, I can tell.”

The woman swept off her glasses. Eyes, eyelids, eyelashes…everything was the same chocolate shade as her long legs. She was a woman literally made of milky chocolate, and only cool temperatures and strategic clothing made it possible for her to walk about unchallenged. “They want the secret of my creation,” she said. “To make chocolates that dance, chocolate pets, a whole world of enslaved sentient treats. I don’t suppose you understand that, or believe me.”

The detecttive swept off his own glasses, revealing marshmallow peepers of his own. “Try me,” he said.

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I’ll be gone a sec, my rhymes on pause
Sneaking like quiet cats with claws
Now I’m back, my needs fulfilled
By a slice of meat that’s grilled

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[swipe]

Smoker? Ew no.

[swipe]

That tattoo looks like it was done in prison. By a blind man. And he misspelled the “little” in “My Little Pony.”

[swipe]

Oh God, not another goblin.

[swipe]

Nicely built elf, love those ears…could do without the duckface but whatever. Wait, what’s that on his shirt? Kinky Boots?

Gay.

[swipe]

Ugh, no sword pics.

[swipe]

God, another goblin.

[swipe]

Oh, what’s this? Well-built, handsome, half-orc but with style. Might be something there! But than again…those teeth…

[swipe]

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This is the story of the island of the sparrows.

In the middle of the Greatest Water, over which only the greatest of the great fliers can soar, a land once arose. Completely new to the World Beneath, it was not connected to any other land, and it was too far for any strider or any llew, any predator, to reach. And it was a bountiful land, full of food and good nesting.

Only those with wings could make the trip. So came the segmented scuttlers, the insects; so came the furry gliders, the night-mice; and so too came the sparrows. Though the scuttlers and the night-mice were clever and grew large, the sparrows were far cleverer and grew far larger.

In fact, the nesting and the food was so good that the sparrows grew powerful, almost as large and powerful as the ones who had once upset the Great One. But, knowing as they did the story, they did not make the same mistakes. Instead, they made different ones.

With so many years having passed since llew had feasted upon them, the sparrows grew fat and complacent. They lost their ability to spot llew, to run from llew, to hide from llew, and in direst need to fight llew. So when the striders learned of the great island of birds and swum to it…there was nothing the sparrows there could do.

The striders and the llew they brought killed all but the smallest sparrows on the island of birds and wore their feathers upon their bodies as trophies.

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I think that ours is a society meant for 25-year-olds.

Everyone who is younger than 25 races to get there as fast as they can, impatiently tapping their foot as the clock crawls forward.

Everyone who is older than 25 looks back at it with regret, grasping with greedy fingers at the treasure they once posessed.

And the 25-year-olds themselves? The blissful ignorant, unaware of how golden is their hour even as it slips through their grasp.

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