All posts for the month January, 2016


Marion glared at the surface of the tablet. The screen was filled with letters and words that ultimately formed a sonnet, but he was utterly unsatisfied with the result. He highlighted the entire entry. His finger hovered over the delete switch. A part of him wanted to stand and fling the device into the lake.

“You all right, man?” asked a voice. He looked up. Hot pink shorts over some kind of skintight spandex suit thing. Well-worn shoes. Long dirty blonde hair tied back in a ponytail. Shining eyes and a friendly smile. She had a wireless speaker setup connected to her left ear. Soft strains of Billie Holliday drifted from it.

“What?” he asked. He shook his head as if clearing a fog. “Oh, yeah. I’m just… I’m trying to write this sonnet and nothing seems to be coming out right.”

“Write it wrong, then,” she said with an arch of one delicate eyebrow. “You’re not an astronaut. It’s not like writing it wrong for the content and fixing the patterns later is gonna crash a spaceship.”

He sat staring at her for a moment, unable to form words. He was reminded of standing on stage with his friend when she suggested he try karaoke. After half the song had gone by and he was unable to speak, he had simply handed the microphone back and walked away. There was no microphone today.

“Sorry, pal,” she said a moment later. “I’ll leave you alone.”

“Wait,” he called as she turned to jog away.

“I… Look, I’m not used to, you know, like, having someone to, I don’t know, help me and stuff.”

“Is that code for ‘stop offering your opinion, Amanda’?”

He chuckled. “No. More like, ‘he don’t get out much.’ I’m Marion, by the way. Marion Devilbiss.”

Her eyes widened. “The guy that wrote the book about the cheese?”

“Everybody remembers that one,” he said with a chuckle. “Stories about sentient Gouda have a way of sticking with you.”

“Dude, no way. Glitter sticks with you. That book is a dozen times more. I’ve got three copies and they’re all so dog-eared it isn’t funny. I’ve read that, like, a hundred times.”

“One day you should let me give you a new one. I’ll even sign it.”

She smiled and pointed up the trail. “There’s a coffee shop up there. You bring the book, and I’ll buy the coffee.”

He cocked his head to the right by a few degrees, looking at her with an expression of curiosity until it suddenly dawned on him what she was suggesting.

“Oh! Oh. Umm… Tomorrow, then? Say, at three?”

“Three is good.”

Elements: sonnet, astronaut, cheese, glitter, karaoke

Carver had hands big enough to wrap around the neck of a bear, and that’s why I chose him to go with me to meet with Drixxical. Oh, my mistake. Let me rephrase that: ‘Lord Drixxical the Golden, He of the Mighty Gaze’.

Not sure what in the Hells a ‘mighty gaze’ is, but this idiot claimed it was part of his name. Pretty mild name for a wizard, but whatever. All I wanted him to be was ‘Rich Drixxical of the Overflowing Purse’. Fat monkey owes us for a load of loot, and if anyone can collect the due, it’s me and Carver.

So I handed the sack to Carver, and he tied it to his belt like it was his purse.

“Don’t lose that,” I warned him. Looking up at his scruffy face makes my neck feel like it’s gonna seize up.

“It’s the head bag?” he asked. Gotta give him points: he’s not usually that observant.

“Yep. And the tail thing too.”

He grinned past broken teeth the size of flagstones and batted at the bag like a cat with a toy.

“And don’t break it!” I said, poking at his iron-hard skin with a finger. “There’s glass in there.”

Of course, if the glass bulb breaks we’re screwed anyway, what with it containing the baby ochre jelly. That one cost us Kincannon. Mommy Jel ate him smooth up. Still, his distraction bought us the time we needed to snatch up the babe, so I’ll raise a glass to him later.

I don’t expect much of a fight, but I make sure Carver has his knife (or as I call it, “that bloody big sword”) and I’ve got the axes. He’s wearing the piecemeal leather jack we’ve put together (Give us a break – it’s tough to find armor to fit a half-giant!) and I’ve got the wyvern-scale coat that’s seen me through all the stupidity of the last four years. Between us, we should be able to handle anything that magic-boy wants to hand us.

Unless he’s got that stupid dancing spell ready again. I swear, next time that one comes out, I’m shanking him and just taking what I want from his corpse.


Elements: mild, ochre, bulb, tail, scale

“The full moon is tomorrow,” Andrea said.

“I’ll be ready,” came the reply. His hands were busy working at the project he had been occupied with for the past month.

“Are you sure?”

“It was ready three days ago. I’m just polishing and making it all pretty. The more I put into it, the more I get out of it.”

She nodded and turned to leave the confines of the little building. Constructed from a garden shed kit they had found on sale, it had become Keith’s workshop. On the table was the suit he had begun last month, and she had to admit it looked good. By the time they began the dance tomorrow, Keith would look the part of the Horned One, from the furred chaps all the way to the antlers attached to the ornate headpiece.


Elements: garden shed, moon, antlers

There are crows in the tree outside my kitchen window. There must be a dozen of them there. I can hear them there, talking to one another in a cacophony that I try to tune out.

I am reminded that a gathering of crows is called a murder. Makes me wonder who decided that was a cool name for a sleek black beast that looks at you like it can see through your soul. Whoever he was, dude was an asshole.

All I wanted was a glass of milk, and yet when I look out the window, there are black eyes staring toward me. They’re still talking. I kind of think it’s about me. I can imagine what they’re saying, and with my imagination, that’s not a good thing. Those cawing sounds are declarations of malicious intent. They’re plotting how best to kill me, and I fear the day they discover how to create fire. My house is not exactly flame-retardant. One little fire and I’ll be out there, throwing wet sheets on the flames while being dive-bombed by feathered assassins bent on reducing me to little more than a dinner treat in fuzzy slippers.

Stop looking at me, crows. Just stop. I don’t know what your natural enemy is, but I bet I can go on the internet and buy a bobcat or cougar or something, and then convince it that crow is like some kind of feline happy meal. That’ll show you. Creepy-ass talking birds.


Elements: wet sheets, fire, corvids, milk

They had picked up a tail. Kirby spotted it at the corner of Eagle and Tenth.

“Red Hyundai. Three back and left side,” he said in a casual tone.

“Got it,” Davis replied, glancing out of the corner of his eye into the mirror. He pressed a little more firmly on the gas, edging the Buick out and around an elderly man in a hat driving a gleaming Cadillac.

“I’ll let him know,” Kirby said.

“I’ll lose this monkey.”

“No. You know the rule.”

Kirby flicked out his phone and his thumbs worked like mad assembling a text.

>Klingon in the Gamma Quadrant< he typed. He nibbled the corner of a nail for a moment until the response popped up with a chime.


>Bird of Prey< Kirby replied. This was a hunter that had found them. If it had been one of the big vans used by SWAT he would have already panicked.

>Rendezvous in Sector Seven. Escort ship awaits.<

>Aye, Captain<

“There’s an escort waiting for us outside the Walmart in Sector Seven,” Kirby said.

“Second unit.”


“Brown Ford. Obvious Fed behind the wheel. Bitch drives like he’s straight outta Quantico.”

“Damn,” Kirby said. He sent another text.

>Federation reinforcements.<

>Make for the Romulan border. Dispatching Scorpion craft.<


“Change of plans. Percival has bikers waiting. Cut up through Midtown and lead these assholes straight into Chrome Lord territory.”

Davis chuckled. This would be fun.

They drove for a while, Davis checking occasionally to see if their tails were still present. He muttered something under his breath as they broke to the north on Flagler.

“What?” asked Kirby.

“They switched out. I can’t tell who is back there now unless we get really messy.”

Kirby thought about the contents of the trunk for less than a second. “Keep to the plan. They’re back there and the Chrome Lords can deal with them.”

>Klingon has cloak< he typed.

>No visuals?<

>Sensors are blind<

Percival wasted no time questioning whether his men had seen what they said they had seen. No courier of his would react without cause.

>Maintain sweeps in stealth mode.<

>Not liking this< Kirby replied. The phone showed a symbol indicating Percival was forming a response for nearly a full minute. At last it chimed and Kirby looked down.

>Like one, that on a lonesome road doth walk in fear and dread, and having once turned round walks on, and turns no more his head; Because he knows, a frightful fiend doth close behind him tread.<

“He’s doing the poetry bullshit again,” Kirby said. Davis spat into the floorboard and wished he was holding a MAC-10.

“When all this is over,” he said, braking and turning them toward the line of leather-clad riders on rumbling iron steeds, “I’m going back to work for folks who actually do the job and don’t spend their days watching science fiction and reading. I miss old school mobsters.”




Elements: contains a line from 18th century poetry

Excerpt taken from “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” – Samuel Coleridge

Jedidiah Ellery flicked the butt of his cigarette into the gutter as he left his car on the street, parked beside the three squad cars and the black SUV marked for the Medical Examiner’s office. He hissed out a breath as he saw the identifier number on the SUV. With a tired nod to the uniform on perimeter duty, he signed his name on the entry log and slipped under the yellow tape. There was another one standing at the door. New to the turf, he started to hold out his hand until Ellery flashed his creds.

Two flights of stairs later and he was met by the third officer, who directed him down the hallway to the open door.

“Only other one on the floor is an elderly lady in apartment B,” the cop said. “She’s been told to stay inside if she can. On the plus side, she brings out coffee now and then.”

“Thanks, Ryan,” Ellery said, slapping a gloved hand onto the strong shoulder of the officer.

“And it’s weird in there,” Ryan warned. Ellery felt a grin spread across his face.

“They wouldn’t call me if it wasn’t.”

He rounded the jamb of the open door, letting the interior of the room wash over him.

Dozens of canvases stood on easels, hung at random intervals on the walls, and stood in haphazard stacks leaned against any vertical surface. Ellery was confronted with nearly a hundred images, and he had to look twice to verify what he was seeing.

“Capes?” he muttered, left eyebrow arching.

“Looks like,” replied a deep feminine voice. Ellery smiled.

“Detective Brown,” he said. “Always a pleasure to find you at a scene.”

“If you call me Detective one more time…”

He smoothly swiveled on his heels to see her deep green eyes staring at him. They seemed to be appraising him, taking in every element of his rumpled, just-rolled-out-of-bed appearance.

“How you been, Anne?”

She shrugged in a minuscule shift of her shoulders. “Get called to weirdness like this, but I guess it could be worse.”

“These pictures. They’re all…”

“Self-portraits, I guess,” she replied. “Portrait of the artist as a meta, or some shit.”

“Where’s the flop?”

She jerked her thumb over a shoulder. “Past all the paintings. And Jedi? Marlene’s the investigator.”

“Saw her truck outside,” he said with a nod.

“Need me to come with?”

“I can deal,” he said. The shuddering breath he took in almost belied his confidence.

He slithered his way through the easels, careful not to touch any of them. A minute later, he was standing in the doorway of what had been a kitchen. There was an obese man in the middle of the floor. A glance showed at least seven entry wounds on the man’s torso. Heavy pistol, Ellery surmised, his guess supported by the shell casings he could see on the floor.

“Jedi,” Marlene said. Her voice was carefully neutral. He looked up from the body. He fell in love with her all over again, as he did every time he saw her.

“Hey, Mar.”

“Why’d they bring you in?”

Ellery pointed to the corpse. “James Leach. Governor’s favorite artist. This guy has five originals hanging in the Capitol, you know.”

“Ah. Friends in high places.”

“And they have my number.”

“You wanna do your thing?” she asked.

“Only if you’re finished with –“

“Just do it,” she said. “I’ll finish the science when you’re gone.”

He sucked at a tooth. “Your call,” he said.

He stepped carefully around the body until he got to the head and knelt beside it, uncaring that he had just placed the knee of his faded jeans into a puddle of blood. He steepled his fingers for a second, then intertwined them and pushed out, cracking all the joints in a staccato barrage. Wiggling the digits like a pair of angry spiders facing off against one another, he leaned down and laid the tips of his fingers gingerly along the jawline and his thumbs onto the temples of the corpse.

For a short time, nothing happened, but he started getting flashes of images. Paint on canvas, forming pictures. A pot of tea. A shadow in the door. Bright flares of gunfire. Searing pain in his chest. He fought past the pain and forced the images to roll back until he got a glimpse of the face, illuminated from below by the muzzle blast.

“I know who it is,” he said as he disengaged his touch from the body.



Elements: Portrait of the artist as _______________

A root beer float.

Remember those? Cold and creamy, one of those ultimate summer treat kind of things. I can see it still: two scoops of vanilla ice cream in the mug, tendrils of vapor wafting off them in the heat. Icy cold root beer straight from the depths of the fridge, slowly added in a gentle cascade of brown liquid.

It always tasted so good. It tasted like…

And just like that, I can’t remember it any more. Gone. One second I hold a memory pure and crisp in my mind, and the next it’s vanished. Words and images breathed into the universe and then snatched away. Left grasping at the faintest echoes, like the sounds of the sea in a conch shell, and knowing it will never be enough.

Memory is what makes us who we are. A series of events, held in the mind, describing our lives in sequences. When we are robbed of them, we cease to be who we were.

I look into the mirror and I do not recognize the shell of a man who stares back at me, in his threadbare robe and brown slippers. I was him once, or he was me, or something. There was a memory. It had root beer in it somewhere. My brain is struggling. Pending failure.

Was there ice cream?


Elements: conch shell, a memory, pending failure, root beer.

I could hear the words drift through the thin door of Shelly’s room. Based on the talk, it was her useless git of a boyfriend.

Git. I like that word. Stole it from one of those wizard kid book things.

“Mom and dad are setting up some kind of family vacation,” she was muttering. You could hear in her voice how much she didn’t like the idea. I didn’t know it bothered her that much.

Note to self: encourage more family vacations.

“I know, right?” she said, her voice rising on the last note. “Like I wanna be stuck in a car with them all that long.”

Stuck with us? So says the girl who refuses to use deodorant because she thinks it’s a corporate plot. Besides, it’s not like we’re driving to Mars or some shit. It’s Florida, to Mouse-Ville.

“Of course, he’ll be there. He’s my brother.”

And now I made the cut. Just what I wanted to be: a topic of their conversation.

“He’ll be annoying, that’s what he’ll be. I can’t talk to him about anything! No! Nothing in common at all!”

Except for you stealing my weed.

“I don’t think he’s even been kissed yet!”

Are you kidding me? My first kiss was two damned years before yours, and last week at the football game while you were out there waving your pom-poms I was nailing your best friend Autumn under the bleachers.

“Well, I didn’t know! I wanted to spend the day with you!”

Of course you did.

“I could sneak you in through the window,” she said, her tone lowering. “You know the way here.”

Yeah, he does. After all these times coming over, it’s not like he needs to leave a trail of bread crumbs, right? If he did, he’s stolen enough of your underwear to do it. That would be a sight to see, wouldn’t it? Ben the speckle-faced idiot following a trail of Victoria’s secret specials.

It’s all good. When you’re not looking I’ll super glue your window shut. Have fun with that.

Elements: first kiss, a planet, a type of plant, bread crumbs

Harper had decided that happiness was out of his reach. Everything in life was darkness. No matter how much he tried to see the lighter side, when he closed his eyes for sleep — or even just for a second of peace – he was back there again. Feet slipping in the puddles, each dark as beet root and smelling of old copper. Walls spattered. Bits of matter he recognized, but wished he could not, stuck to the screen of the television. That fucking cartoon playing, with the annoying theme song he could never escape. It came to him on his drive to work, tortured his thoughts in the shower. He could see the corkboard still, faded and stained Polaroids held up by rusty tacks, each bearing the image of the angels that now lay slaughtered on the floor. It was a picture he did not want in his head any longer, and he knew, as he stepped onto the chair and reached out for the noose, that it would soon be gone.



Elements: happiness, beet root, angels, tacks, noose

Koslov slammed his fist on the table, causing those within the room to jump. Two of the soldiers who stood around the perimeter of the room jerked as well, hands flinching toward the interior of their suit jackets. The stares of their compatriots were enough to shame them into immobility.

“This is unacceptable!” he shouted. His accent was enough to mangle the pronunciation of the words.

“You have an objection?” Yuri asked from his position at the head of the table.

“These, these vorovskiye zmei,” he sputtered, one blunt finger stabbing toward the trio of Chinese men who sat grinning at him from across the table. “They –“

“English,” Yuri reminded him. It was one of his few rules for summits and discussions.

Koslov took a breath. “They are –“

“All of it,” Yuri cut him off again, his eyes glittering.

“All of it?”

“You called this delegation a name. Repeat it.”

“I was just –“

“Repeat it,” Yuri ordered, his voice like steel. Few people had seen the narrowing of his gaze before, but those who had swallowed at the look he turned on Koslov.

“I called them thieving snakes,” Koslov said, placing his hands on the table and glaring at the Asians. His expression dared them to reply. He was not disappointed.

“We have come here in good faith,” said Sung, staring directly at Koslov although his words were directed to Yuri. “We did not come to be insulted and spat upon.”

“Your men shot up my nightclub!”

“We had no one involved there,” Sung defended, not raising his voice at all.

“Do you have proof?” Yuri asked. Koslov shot him a look.

“We all know they did it.”

“You see? He has nothing,” Lau said with a wide spread of his hands. “My soldiers are innocent of this charge.”

“Your desire for vengeance has you accusing without proof,” Yuri said. He shook his head at Koslov, who slumped back in his chair, but could offer no words to defend himself. Yuri turned back to the Asian delegation.

“If you will excuse us, gentlemen,” he began. “I have some… Let us call them disciplinary matters, that I need to discuss with Mister Koslov. These are not things that should be discussed in present company. I will send a messenger to retrieve you in a few moments. Please, I am most sorry for this intrusion, but I cannot abide disrespect among my soldiers, no matter their current rank.”

The emphasis on the word ‘current’ did not go unnoticed, and as the three Chinese stood from the table, Lau gave Koslov a knowing grin. The trio, escorted by their four bodyguards, stepped from the room, and Yuri rounded on Koslov with fire in his eyes.


Elements: Things that shouldn’t be discussed in present company