“There’s a ribbon of solid ground here. Follow the mushrooms. They need something solid to grow on, since they’re eating burrow-things that died.” The words were transmitted directly to Peixoto’s mind; the bone familiar that the magician had constructed remained perched silently on his shoulder.

It was useful advice, very astute, and at the homunculus’s urging Peixoto picked his way through the swamp, with only one wet boot from a missed step where he’d mistaken a plucked and floating mushroom for solid ground.

“How did you know that?” said Peixoto.

The bone golem hopped from one foot to the other. “It is how my flesh was taken, and I remember it well.”

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“What we didn’t realize was that the waste products, which are normally toxic but rather inert, had actually been mixing together in the sluice pile, accidentally accumulating in a pool.”

“Wait. You’re telling me that the runoff from the world’s most advanced and experimental bioreactor was being stored in a pool?”

“It seems that the elbow of one of the runoff pipes was improperly fabricated, an engineering problem really. The liquid didn’t escape the facility, it just wound up in a pool of water where a lot of detritus winds up.”

“What kinds of detritus?”

“Mostly stuff from the mess that gets accidentally shunted through pipes. Silverware and the like.”

“That sounds dangerous and negligent, but hardly the ‘watery discovery’ your email mentioned.”

“Ah. Well, as it turns out, the introduction of the commingled waste products into a space with water and kitchen detritus resulted in some rather…exotic…results.”

“How exotic are we talking?”

“We discovered the first spoon creature eighteen hours ago.”

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“What have you got to be so prickly about?” I said.

The skeleton had no eyes, but it rolled its head in such a way that I felt like it was looking at me with arched brows (which it also did not have). “Oy. Maybe ya ‘aven’t noticed, guv, but bein’ dead ‘as a way of givin’ ya a grim outlook, ya ken? If the dyin’ doesn’t do it, then the rotting away will. Cor, maybe the bindin’ of yer old bones wif ancient runes o’ power just as you was gettin’ comfy will be the kicker, eh?”

“Sorry!” I cried. “Geez. Sorry I asked.”

“Oy, I bet you is, guv. Point bein’, way I see it is, I gots every right to be prickly as a bleedin’ cactus, ya ken?”

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“Cor, you don’ say? Oy! Boys, ‘ave a butcher’s at this ripe slice, eh? I’s real scared at yer mean words, mate. I’s quakin’ in my boots. Now ‘ow about you back ‘em up with some actions, mm? Otherwise, me an’ my mates is gonna ‘ave to proceed under th’ theory that you’s fulla shite.”

“Oh, of course,” said Sam. “What’s that you called me? A real ripe slice?”

“On account of ’ow good you’ll taste if you give us any trouble, mate.” The leader of the toughs smiled, revealing bleeding gums and black teeth. “Don’t fret it though, love. We’s ‘ad us a right good meal already today, so we’s just takin’ everyfing o’ value…if you behave.”

Sam raised an arm, flexed his fingers. He could see the threads again, down to the molecular bonds. Just like before. It was a bit more difficult to whisper to the bonds when they were quick and not dead, but it was manageable.

The toughs’ leader had his hand out, pointing at Sam. A moment later, the arm simply sloughed off, leaving just a stump of cauterized flesh behind.

“There’s your ripe slice right there,” Sam said. “Bon appetit.”

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The umpire had seen a lot of dirty dealing in the 1919 pennant game, from spitballs to stolen bases. But the last thing he expected to come across the plate was a live hand grenade.

Until then, there was nothing in the rules saying it was illegal, after all.

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A thousand shaggy acorns
Driven into soggy ground
A few catch the fancy
Others are crushed beneath
Ground into the mud
Never to grow, drowned
Which are you then
The one taken as a fancy
The one ground down forever
Or the lucky one that sprouts

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Orson has devoted his life to photography, but his career has been haunted by a single photograph he accidentally took in 1992. People think they saw Bigfoot in the image, and his “serious” work has been overshadowed ever since, with Orson forced to rely on freelance Bigfoot enthusiasts and talking-head interviews to survive. The latest one seems to be the worst of all, remote KSQH in Minnesota. Arriving before a storm for a local news story, Orson finds himself trapped in the studio by the storm. Strange shapes are moving outside though, and the newscasters and crew seem to be getting hairier by the moment, despite their insistence that everything is all right. As it turns out, KSQH is an elaborate ruse meant to lure Orson there. His photograph, it turns out, is the last authentic Bigfoot evidence ever gathered, and the sasquatches are intent on silencing him forever—by making him one of them.

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