“I need to scare the hell out of them,” Rachel thought. “It’s the only way to make them stop. Hopefully they’re still young enough to believe Mom’s old delusions.” She led Zach and Erin to the bathroom and watched them brush their teeth. It was annoying to have to watch them go through their bedtime routine every night, but the seven-year-old twins couldn’t be trusted to do it on their own.

Rachel had spent the whole summer picking up piles of her siblings’ dirty clothes and doing their laundry. Back in June, their father had fallen in love with a new woman and gotten rid of Mom. His girlfriend didn’t do any cooking or cleaning, so Rachel had ended up with a load of new chores. It really wasn’t fair.

Dad’s girlfriend didn’t tell stories, either. When her parents first got together, Dad thought Mom’s weird stories were a charming quirk. But later on, her fantasies grew wilder and she drifted farther and farther from reality. So he replaced her with someone who didn’t have any fantasies at all.

As the twins spat out their toothpaste, Rachel took a seat on the toilet. “Guys, after I picked you up from soccer, you left your dirty uniforms on the bathroom floor. Again.”

“We know, we know!” Zach grumbled, retrieving a toy submarine he had left in the tub earlier. Rolling his eyes, he did a falsetto impression of his big sister. “When Dad goes out of town, I’m your babysitter, not your maid.

Erin smacked her brother on the shoulder. His misbehaving had a way of getting them both in trouble. She shoved her hands in the pockets of her robe and did her best to look guilty and apologetic. “We’re sorry. We don’t mean to be brats. We just forgot.”

Rachel sighed. “Picking up after you guys is annoying, but that’s not why you shouldn’t leave clothes on the floor. Did I ever tell you about voiders?”

Zach furrowed his brow, searching his memory to see if this was another story he had been told while he was only half listening. “I don’t think so. What’s a voider?” Read more…

Grandma Edith’s Last Laugh

Amy Lowell grinned brightly. Grandma had managed to pull off one last prank. “Edith’s last request,” the priest said with a sigh, “was that we begin the service with her favorite song …the Funky Booty Shake.” He pressed play on a tiny remote control. As the raunchy disco tune filled the air, the members of the Lowell family glanced around the tiny chapel, unsure how to react.

Amy’s boyfriend, Hank, had to bite his cheek to keep from laughing. “Your grandma had a fun sense of humor,” he whispered.

“She sure did,” Amy said quietly. “Sometimes when I was visiting, she would go for a walk at night and not come back until the next morning. If I asked where she went, she would say she had a guest spot at a strip club.”

“That’s hilarious. Did she ever tell you what she was really doing?” Read more…

The Doom Tapes

Midnight. The sky was streaked with green. Doctor McFadden limped across the Seacoast College campus, his silver-tipped cane tapping on the sidewalk. His other hand clutched a crumpled flyer torn from a bulletin board. “Northern Lights Party! Drink, Dance, And Watch The Sky!” Damn kids had no idea what was really happening. Surrounded by knowledge and still so ignorant.

Conversation and laughter spilled down the hill between the men’s and women’s dorms. A dozen students were sprawled on blankets in the grass, drinking cans of cheap beer and seeing who could throw their empties in the recycling bag from the farthest away. A portable grill shaped like a hubcap filled the air with the smell of charred hot dogs. A few members of the campus AV club were filming the strangeness in the sky with a video drone, a tiny handheld camera, and the history department’s ancient VHS camcorder.

A dreadlocked woman in an Army surplus jacket pointed at the strange, green glow. “This is so cool! I didn’t even know you could see the northern lights in San Francisco!”

“This is a geomagnetic storm!” McFadden called out. The students turned to see a white-haired man in a cardigan jabbing a cane at the sky. “An energy field from space is interacting with the earth’s magnetosphere. Usually, we can see them coming, warn people, give them a chance to get ready in case it knocks out telecommunications satellites. But this came out of nowhere.” Read more…

The Beach

When Paul arrived, he found David in the middle of another staring contest with his computer. David’s brow furrowed in focused concentration, but the monitor’s cold, white eye simply refused to blink. “Updating your website?” Paul said finally.

David jolted and turned in his chair. “Oh! It’s you… No, I haven’t updated my website in months. I certainly want to.” He shook his hand at the blank screen before him. “I’ve been trying to write all day. But every time my fingers touch the keyboard, I think… what’s the point? I’m never going to sell one of my stories. I’ll be lucky if they even get read.”

Paul looked down at his friend and smiled. “Let me tell you a story for a change… Read more…

William and the Clockwork Devil

Something in the dark was breathing. William opened his eyes. Two figures stood at the foot of his bed. Long, thin faces like white knives. The rustle of heavy cloth as black hands reached down for his face. His screams echoed through the house, but there was no one there to hear him. He was alone and helpless.

The figures vanished. Somewhere in the dark, a door opened and slammed shut. The streetlight shone through his window, illuminating an empty room. He climbed out of bed slowly, cautiously, lest a hand reached out from the closet or under the bed. But there was nothing. He flipped the switch on the wall and the lights came on, shining behind their pointed, white shades.

“Just a nightmare. Nothing more… nothing more.”

The morning marked two weeks since his mother’s death. William had completely run out of space in the refrigerator. For some reason, any time a friend or family member heard the news, their first reaction was to bring over food.

“Sorry your mom died. Here’s a casserole.”

“I know it’s hard being nineteen and all alone in the world. Here’s some banana bread.”

“Must have been horrifying to find her swinging from the rafters in the attic. Have some scalloped potatoes.” Read more…

Captain Whistler Goes Down

Loreley had survived storms, fires, and even being shot by cannons, but a bomb was more than she could take. Captain Marshall Whistler pulled ropes until he found the one that unfurled her sails. He rushed to the helm, wrestling with the wheel. The cargo hold was taking on water rapidly, but for the moment, the ice blue clipper ship was still afloat.

Other than the cabin boy, Alex, Marshall was sailing the ship alone. The young lad was brave, and good with a pistol, but he was a newcomer to sailing. There was little he could do to help, so he simply waited, watching silently. Despite his bulky, gray sweater, he was shivering.

“There is an island about a hundred yards to the west,” Marshall called. “Our only chance is to run her aground.” The wind rose and carried the ship across the water. “At least, I think we have a chance,” he thought. “I wish I knew for sure. …I wish I knew much of anything about sailing, really.”

As the island rapidly approached, they knew they were in for a rough landing. Alex wrapped his arms around the mast and closed his eyes.
Read more…

The “No Wizards” Rule

“Let me guess,” Greg said, looking at the petite blonde girl who had just walked into his shop, “a butterfly on your lower back. Am I right?” He was tall, in his early thirties, slightly paunchy but with some muscle left over from his college football days. Like most tattoo shop owners, he was heavily illustrated. From the neck down, he was covered in intricate black and gray artwork, much of it drawn by his own hand.

“I told her you were a nice guy,” Ricky said. “Don’t make me a liar.” Ricky was Greg’s apprentice, and about ten years his junior. Greg’s tattoos were subdued and elegant, like poetry, but Ricky’s work was flamboyant and garish, like poetry shouted through a bullhorn. Ricky’s hair was just as showy, dyed neon colors and moussed into spikes, like electrocuted cotton candy.

Rachel let out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. “No butterflies,” she said. “And no dolphins or roses or other girly shit like that. I want a tree down my left side… I brought a photo… It was outside my window while I was growing up. Whenever my parents grounded me, which was a lot, I would just climb down the branches and go wherever I wanted. That tree was my freedom, you know?”

“Oh, you’re the tree girl!” Greg said, slapping his forehead. “I remember now. Yeah, Ricky emailed me your photo. I’ve been looking forward to doing this one. I worked up a design I think you’ll like…” Read more…

Sudo Shutdown Everything

“So, what did you do this weekend?” Frank asked, unwrapping a blueberry muffin.

“I destroyed the universe,” Johnathan said. He pulled off his leather jacket and tossed it over the back of the chair.

Frank checked the coffee shop window – the parking lot, trees, and sky were all there as usual. “Well, I’m sorry to say, but you seem to have done a mighty poor job of it. If I was a super villain and hired someone to destroy the universe, and this was the quality of work they did, I would demand my money back.”

Johnathan sighed. “I should probably start at the beginning.” He tore open half a dozen sugar packets and dumped them all into his espresso, his third that morning.

“Sure, let’s hear it.” Read more…

Color All Your Days


he UFO extruded a long, mechanical arm and yanked a confused cow from the field below. On board the spaceship, a green-skinned man in an apron lit a charcoal grill, his antennas waving excitedly.

Sighing, Greg turned his sketchpad around so his customer could see the drawing. “Something like this?”

The man laughed. “That’s great, bro! But make my apron say something funny.”

“Fine, whatever.” Greg wrote “Something Funny” on the apron and handed the man the caricature. “That’ll be twenty dollars. And if you’re interested, I also have some actual art for sale.” He gestured to a large, wooden screen covered with watercolor portraits and nature scenes.

“Nah, bro.” The man folded the caricature in quarters and shoved it in his jacket pocket.

“Somehow, I didn’t think so.” As the man walked away, Greg stood up, stretched his legs, and wiped the dust off his paintings. “I might not be selling any art, but on the plus side, I haven’t had to buy paint for over a year.”

The beach had been chilly and windy all morning. The boardwalk was mostly empty, but he had managed to make just enough money to cover gas and lunch. On warmer days, the area attracted hundreds of beach goers and tourists, but even then, they weren’t exactly in the market for fine art.

His section of boardwalk was between a retired couple who made turquoise jewelry and a homeless surfer who sold seashells. Of course, the beach was covered in thousands of seashells, but these were special. They had plastic googly eyes glued to them. On the other side of the boardwalk, about twenty feet away, stood a long row of candy machines, soda machines, souvenir penny makers, and other mechanical money-wasters.

Two women walked quickly up the boardwalk, high heels clacking on the wooden planks. The first looked to be in her early forties. She was wearing a waitress’s uniform and a dingy sweater missing most of its buttons. Her friend was ten or fifteen years her junior. She had on tights under her dress and a scarf around her shoulders, but was still shivering in the cold.

“What’s that?” the waitress asked, pointing at a glass booth. It looked something like a cross between a ticket counter and a vending machine. Inside the booth stood a mannequin dressed like a gypsy woman in an old horror movie. The mannequin was staring down at a large crystal ball surrounded by tarot carts. Its lips were parted slightly, as if it were just about to speak. Read more…

Roscoe and the Anti-Television


ne night, in the middle of an October thunderstorm, a raindrop ripped a hole in the sky. This raindrop was different, as big as a freight train and made of silver. It dropped through the hole and fell without a sound. At one thousand feet, it froze, hanging in the air. Far below it stood a ramshackle farm house, broken shingles and cracked windows barely keeping out the rain.

From its pointed tip came a beam of blue light. The light pierced one bedroom window, then the other. The raindrop turned and sent another beam of light to the far side of the farm. The light vanished and the hole in the sky sealed shut. The raindrop hid behind a cloud, waiting. Read more…