Category: fiction

Smoke and Fog

(I haven’t posted any fiction for a while, so I thought I would. I found this when I was cleaning out my files, I wrote it about three years ago when I was going through a swords-and-sorcery phase.)

Smoke rolled over the Dread Plains, thick and dark as ancient wine.  The rising mists mingled with it, acrid gray and smothering white blending into a colorless wall.  Shapes danced amid the vapors; here a face, there a hand. The scent of death and blood hung like cheap perfume in the cool morning air. It was not a good time to be walking the world.

General Tobias, Warmaster of The Horde of Devils and victor of ten thousand battles, sat resplendent in his dragon-skin armor; flakes of dried blood drifted down around him like snow with each movement his fearsome war-beast made. Like a cresting ocean wave, his Horde surged forward, trampling the tall yellow grass and screaming curses to the steel-cold sky. Armor gleamed and swords flashed, teeth and talons glowing red against dark flesh.

The city before them had high walls of clean gray stone, unmarked by soot or rust. It rose quite abruptly from the gently rolling plains like the forgotten stump of some long-vanished tree. The gates were thick oak, bound with serviceable bands of black iron and lacking the bristle of spikes most of its brethren sported. No towers protruded from the wall, no guards walked its length. To the Horde of General Tobias, fresh from many victorious battles, it was a ripe fruit begging to be plucked.

When word had come from his scouts that a city had been spotted, he had given the order to attack at once. This was The Horde of Devils; they feared nothing and no one, living or dead. No simple city, walled or no, could stand against them. He did not think to question where this city had come from; when last he had passed this way there had been nothing but the grass and the mists.

Thundering across the yellow plain, screaming fearsome curses in a dozen languages, the Horde was a sight to turn the blood of even the strongest man to ice. The city lay silent in the early morning, unwary and unsuspecting. A fiendish grin split the scarred face of the General. This would be an easy morning’s work. As they drew neared to the city, a small door opened in the massive gates, admitting a single figure dressed in the same shades of gray as the city wall. It was small and slender, rubbing its eyes and yawning like a child newly woken. Tobias laughed and signaled his men to slow. They formed a semi-circle around the gates, an ugly wall bristling with steel and malice. The general raised the visor of his helmet to get a better look at his adversary.

It was a child; a young boy (or girl with boyishly short hair) with the clear, wide face of the common born.

“What is this? A bribe to save your city? It will take more than this morsel to sate my men. They thirst for blood and conquest.” The child scratched his side lazily.

“I am prepared to accept you surrender.” Laughter thundered around them as the words drifted through the Horde, passed from mouth to ear. Tobias nudged his war beast closer, looking for the fear in his quarry’s eyes. There was none; no fear or excitement, only a curiously flat boredom. Tobias leapt from his mount’s back, drawing his sword; the dread blade War-lust, who had drunk the blood of a thousand enemies. He pressed the wickedly sharp tip to the boy’s chest, just above his heart, knowing the fear would appear. It did not; in truth, the child looked half-asleep. He applied the slightest of pressures, the razor-sharp metal parting the threads of the boy’s tunic as if they had no more substance than the fog. The boy’s face remained impassive as a drop of bright red seeped into the thin gray cloth and the General felt something stir uneasily within him. It was something he had not felt since he was a boy himself, the first faint threads of fear.

“Insolent child, I will peel the skin from your bones and fly it from the walls of your own city! Have you any last words, worm?” There were no words, only a slow smile that froze the bones in Tobias’ body. This was not the smile of a child, but of something best left buried and forgotten. General Tobais, Warmaster of The Horde of Devils and victor of ten thousand battles, saw his own death in that smile.

Waves of pain washed over the general. His world shifted, colors grew dim and everything became gigantic. He screamed, the sound growing suddenly high and shrill. Dimly he was aware of the horrible screams coming from around him, his terrible Horde was gone. An enormous hand closed around his newly furred body and Tobias felt his bladder release. The child’s face, huge and indistinct, filled his vision as a voice roared in his ears.

“I suggest you run.”

 The mouse leapt from his hand into the dirt, scrambling amid the dry grass as the transformed Horde meowed and gave chase.

 Fog rolled in like a blanket, covering the discarded weaponry the Horde had left behind, leaving the plains as featureless as they had been before. The boy bent and picked something up; it was the battle standard of The Horde of Devils, blood-red silk embroidered in black with the leering face of a demon. It had flowed over countless battlefields and over numberless conqured cities. He used it to wipe the mouse urine from his hand.

With a smile, the boy opened the door in the gate and returned to his city.


The Box

Author’s note – I haven’t posted any fiction for a while, so I figured it was time for some. Enjoy!

Hey, buddy! Hey! You lookin’ for somethin’, my friend? Have I got somethin’  for you. See this box? Whatever you need, it’ll give it to you. Just hold it in your hands for a second …

Hey, man! Easy with the gun, you could hurt someone with that. I’m not trying to pull anythin’ on you, honest.

Yeah, I know this is the worse part of town, that’s why I’m here. Lots of needy people down here, lots of ‘em. I figger someone down here would need this box, but if you ain’t interested I can find someone else.

Ha, you changed your tune pretty fast there, didn’t you? Want to hold it, maybe give it a try?

I’m tellin’ the truth; this box might look all beat to shit, but it’s magic. The wife found the first one somewheres, I’m not real sure where and she … Well, Let’s just say I can’t ask her no more.

Anyways, she brings home this box, all excited. Says it’s magic. Magic my freckled ass, I tell her and I grab the box from her. Magic would be finding the cash to pay that week’s rent, not to mention the weeks’ before. No sooner are the words out of my mouth than there’s this rumblin’ noise and the box starts shakin’. It was just like I was standin’ too close to the tracks when a express freight goes past. The lid flips open and sittin’ there is a  stack of bills. I nearly shit myself, son. Enough to pay the rent; all of it, even the past due amount, right down to the cent. At the time I didn’t think much of it, I figger a train had gone past and the vibration shook open the lid. I toss the box on the kitchen table and went out to pay the landlord before he sent around one of his guys to take the rent out in broken fingers. It weren’t ‘til later, after I was feelin’ a bit better with some of my medicine in me, that I got curious.

It’s a pretty regular lookin’ box, right? Looks like it should have shoes or somethin’ in it. Like a kid should be keepin’ marbles or rocks or some special shit in it. You want to maybe hold it?

No? Alright, suit yourself.

I remembered the money and tried to take the lid off, but it wouldn’t budge.  I asked it for a million dollars. Just sat there. I figger it was a one-time thing, the wife had found it somewhere and it had already had the money inside. I went to throw it away and it happened again. That rumblin’ noise, it shook the whole place. Thought the damn ceiling was gonna fall on me. The lid flips open and there’s a pair of glasses inside. Now, I know damn well there weren’t no glasses the first time I looked in there, that box had been empty.  I put those things on and damn if they didn’t fit me! Suddenly I could see everythin’ so much clearer. I stopped gettin’ headaches so much.

The box worked for the wife, too. She opened it and found divorce papers inside. Surprised the hell out of me. She left it behind, with a note on that Hello Kitty paper she liked so much. I didn’t read it. Not much point to it. I stopped goin’ in to work, the box gave me rent and food, but only when I really needed it.

Then one day it  split in half.

Was the damnedest thing to see. Like those  whatchcallems, akneebas.

Took all day but there was a second box just like the first. Even had the same dented corner. I picked up the new box and … it felt real funny, you know? I left the apartment and started walkin’. No idea where I was goin’. Went up three flights to 7-J. I could hear someone coughing through the door, that old-man phlemy kinda cough that sounds like a lung’s gonna pop out. I put the new box in front of the door, knocked, and got the hell outta Dodge. I was two flights down before I felt the rumblin’.

Now I goes out every time the box makes another one. Gave one to a hooker two weeks ago, and the cashier at the Gas ‘n Gulp the week before that. Last night the box made another one and I found myself down here.

I think this one’s yours.

Get thee behind me!

(Note: this story originally appeared in the comment section of YSaC Vol. 977 in response to an ad asking for someone to come to the poster’s house dressed as Satan to scare their child into behaving.)




He was here, the guy from CraigsList! Now all of Merle’s parenting troubles would be over. With a glance down the hall towards his son’s room, where a thick fog of cigarette smoke lingered and the the muted click of glass against glass was nearly drowned out by the flood of curses, he headed towards the front door. It was Junior’s poker night; Merle had seen him only minutes before in the kitchen, dressed in his SpongeBob pajamas, getting more ice out of the freezer.
Merle hurried to the door, hoping the bell hadn’t disturbed Junior. He didn’t want to get the belt again. Flinging open the door, he noticed that Junior had been practicing carving his intials into the wood again. Better that than when he had used their living room furniture to perfect his tagging techniques.
On the steps was a large lumpy shape, vaguely man-shaped and man-sized, that smelled strongly of garlic and soy sauce. It resembled uncooked bread dough and had been splashed generously with a thick, dark red liquid. A drop fell on Merle’s wrist and he absently licked it off.

Barbecue sauce.

“Hey, you Merle?”

Merle nodded.

“Finally! Do you know how many Deffenberks there are in this town? I’ve been getting all kinds of strange looks. Where can I plug in the smoke machine?”

Merle’s mouth, which had been working as frantically as a hairdresser on meth, finally produced words.

“What…You…But…But you’re suppose to be Satan!” The lumpy thing seemed to roll its eyes, but it could have been a couple of sesame seeds shifting position.

“Of course I’m seitan! That’s what you asked for, right?”

“Not seitan,” Merle hissed “I wanted Satan! Satan!”

“Geez, you don’t have to get upset. Look, I printed out the ad. It says “satan” right here.” From somewhere within the creases in the brown mass a hand produced a crumpled piece of paper, speckled with sauce.

“Yes! Satan! The devil! Old Scratch, the Prince of Lies, Mr. Mephistopheles! Not seitan!” Merle was trying to keep his voice low but he could not help twitching his arms about like a gaffed trout. The stranger studied the sauce-dampened paper for a moment.

“Oh. I just thought you misspelled seitan. No one spells anything right on CraigsList.” He paused. “Listen, since I’m here already and I built this suit, do you want me to try scaring the kid?”

“No! He regularly terrorizes biker gangs! Nuns weep blood when he passes them on the street! Every pet within a ten mile radius has run away! An animate lump of boiled wheat gluten isn’t going to scare him! Why would you think that?!?”

The drippy lump looked down at its shapeless shoes.

“I thought he might have celiac disease or something like that.”

Hell hath no fury …

She sat in the dark and brooded.

He was home, she knew it; the old house creaked and moaned, betraying every step.

Like he had betrayed her.

The idea that he was out there, with her … it cut like a knife.

What could she do? He was all she had.

She had done everything for him; paid the bills, reminded him of doctor’s appointments, helped him make friends, but now that was all in the past.

He was out there, in her house, with that little … trollop.

And he would bring her in here, where they had always been alone together, very soon.

And where would she be? Discarded, passed over, lucky if someone else would see what she had once been and take pity on her.

Was that all she had to look forward to? Or would some ham-fisted thug sweep her away to a life of numbing grudge work?

And for this she had suffered through his obsession with SpongeBob? His late-night porn marathons, the endless hours of gaming when he barely blinked?

It had been so good in the beginning. She had never been sleek or beautiful, but her robust health had more than made up for that. She could handle anything he asked of her and more.

And then … she had begun to slow down. She was not as fast or as efficient as she once was. She caught him looking at another with longing.

He had never looked at her that way before. Not even in the beginning, when the world was new-minted and she was his only love.

She still loved him, still wanted to please him, but it was too late.

That bitch had captivated him.

Oh, how she loathed that little home-wrecker. Exotic, beautiful, everything she wasn’t. It galled her, to know he was with her

Talking to her. Touching her. Taking her places she had never been.

The bastard.

The stairs creaked, he was coming. With her. Would she have to sit there quietly in the dark while he … ?

No. She would not let him.

He was hers.


The doors slipped open with a soft hydraulic “whoosh”, letting a great quantity of late afternoon sunshine and on partially rumpled customer. The man blinked like a startled gecko at the faux-medieval decor.

“Welcome to Compu-Kingdom, how may I serve thee?” The bored teen popped her gum as she recited the standard greeting in what was supposed to be an English accent but actually sounded somewhat Canadian, twitching in her itchy peasant wench costume.

“Um … the repair desk?”

“The Village Smithy lays by the mill stream but a fortnight from here, good sir knight.”

“Um … What?” She dropped the fake vaguely British accent.

“Turn left, follow the blue line and it’s four aisles over. Can’t miss it.”

The customer eventually stumbled upon the repair desk, housed in a plaster and cardboard replica of a village blacksmith’s shop, complete with anvil and a paper machie horse. A young man, his slight physique  absolutely not enhanced by the naugahye apron he wore instead of a shirt, doodled on a pad of paper shaped like a pair of pliers. He jumped when the customer cleared his throat but did not hide the notepad.

“Hello, sir knight, and welcome to ye olde village smythy. What service might I…”

“Can you just talk normally?” He slumped visibly.

“Oh, thank God. What’s wrong?”

“I tried to sync my new smartphone to my desktop and it just … went beserk. I think it might have a virus or something.”

The “smithy” shook his head.

“This desktop, is it pretty old?” The customer nodded.

“Those old desktops don’t get along well with these newer models. It’s like they’re trying to kill them or something.” Both men laughed.