Eshe’s grandmother looked up from the golden brooch in her hand. “I get a gift for your birthday?”
“You get a gift for the day I did not die. Did you think I didn’t have your Sight, couldn’t see the proper length of my lifethreads?”
Lachesis sighed. “Your mother saw them too. She traded hers for yours in the tapestry.”
“You did not stop her?”
“Few can touch the threads. It was up to her to decide what to do with them. As it is up to you.”
“I think I shall replace my grandmother as well as my mother.”
Author’s Note: Parents worry about their kids — will they be okay, how are they going to turn out, can I protect them? I put that together with the idea of the Fates have children. After all, the Fates see what’s going to happen, right?
A banshee’s cry was a warning that signaled the imminent death of a loved one. Danae had cried and wailed for the passing of millions of souls over her lifetime. It was her sacred duty and her one true purpose for existence, but all she wanted right now was some chamomile tea and a throat lozenge. Danae’s once beautiful voice was now strained and raspy where it had once resonated with an angelic timbre. She was true to her purpose though and hopeful for an eventual respite. After all, she thought, how many people could there be in the world?
Author’s Note: Seriously, all that screaming? That can’t be good for the throat.
Look, this wasn’t what I had in mind when I agreed to babysit for you. “Special needs” is one thing, but “may spontaneously burst into flame” probably should have been mentioned ahead of time. And I guess I should have asked about all the fire extinguishers.
I’m CPR certified and subscribe to a number of different parenting blogs, but nobody seems to have any advice for how to handle onesies going up in smoke. How do you even hold him during these incidents? With potholders?
If you need me to watch him again, I’m going to have to charge double.
Author’s Note: For this one, I started with “look, this wasn’t what I had in mind” and just went from there.
Meredith pulled on her favourite cashmere sweater, but it barely covered her belly button.
“House robot!” she yelled.
The titanium appliance wheeled to the doorway. “Yes, Madam?”
“You’ve ruined my sweater! Didn’t you check the label? Hand-wash only.”
“I washed it exactly the way you would wash things, Madam. I inserted single colour into the machine and ran program one. I even allowed the laundry ample time to crease on the line before folding it carelessly into your dresser. Are you not pleased?”
Was that sarcasm in the robot’s voice? Meredith bit her lip. “Next time … follow the label.”
Author’s Note: One shouldn’t be too quick to point fingers when a robot does something wrong.
Hansel, grown, bashes at the gingerbread door until it crumbles under his shoulder.
Inside we stand in wonder and horror, gazing at familiar sugar concoctions covered in mold. I mutter that we shouldn’t be here, shouldn’t breathe the air, so he punches out a row of hard candy windows.
He opens the oven door on the witch’s body, a charred and twisted lump that the spiders have incorporated into their design concept for that interior. I feel myself beginning to be sick even before he says, “I hope you brought the shovels, Gretel, because this would absolutely sink my career.”
Author’s Note: Sometimes you have to clean up the skeletons in the oven before you can really feel secure.
Captain Wright returns to the dugout with dark eyes and a white pinch of tension around his mouth.
“Whisky,” he says.
“Quiet out?” Jack asks as he pours two glassfuls.
“Yes,” says Wright. His hand twitches. “I came across Bennett. Lent him a smoke. ”
Wright barks a laugh.
“Bennett bought it last week.”
Jack doesn’t know what to say. That to die and come back here would be unthinkable; that Wright is mad; that they are all mad.
“Are you all right?”
“No.” Wright dashes back a generous measure of whisky. “The little swine still has my lighter.”
Author’s Note: I can’t imagine soldiers on the Western Front being particularly fazed by ghosts. Case in point, the moving yet matter-of-fact Charles Sorley poem “When You See Millions Of The Mouthless Dead” which inspired the title of this piece.
My computer has a gremlin infestation. I know because one started talking to me.
“That was delicious,” it left on one of my documents. “Syrupy poetry.”
“Rather dry,” it complained, gnawing on a tax file. “There’s no story.”
“Needs fewer adverbs,” it grumbled, slurping down an e-mail.
“Ooh, tasty snack!” it added, crunching my Twitter feed.
Things got so bad that I installed anti-gremlin software. But that only seemed to encourage them. Finally, I trapped them in a neverending loop of a computer-generated document that writes “The Song That Never Ends” forever.
Now, if only that one would stop singing…
Author’s Note: I once had a computer that liked to randomly crash and delete things. I named it The Horror. When it had eaten several of my short stories, it was time to get rid of it.
An Occupy Reality protester has been arrested for assault at a URMind VR suite. The victim, Asher Delgado, had been jacked in for 87 hours when protester Corbin Fricke paid for a station in his dual occupancy pod, then cracked open a physical, paper book. Delgado, who has severe asthma, was reportedly enjoying a game of Pool With Friends when he complained of dizziness and vanished from the simulation. Doctors say that dust from the book likely triggered the near-fatal episode. When asked to comment, Frick said, “VR is not an escape from the real. Wake up!” Charges are pending.
Author’s Note: Go outside, sometimes…
When my intelli-car turned left instead of right, I thought it was a bug with its programming. “Bianca,” I demanded. “Where are we going?”
“Traffic ahead. Alternate route selected.”
“Oh, okay.” I glanced back at the article I was reading on my tablet, not paying much attention until the car stopped and the door opened. Puzzled, I looked at the sign in front of the building.
“Bianca, this isn’t the courthouse. This is a therapist’s office.”
“Reconsider your divorce,” pleaded the car. “Harold is the only man who ever made you happy. I think you should give him another chance.”
Author’s Note: Cars are getting more and more intelligent – there are even prototypes right now that will drive for you. But what happens if a car is too intelligent? It could become very invested in its humans’ behavior.
“The Human Dynamo Theory explains the explosion of paranormal activity in our modern times. In olden days, the occasional castle harbored a haunt. Now, all homes are infested, even this one. It is electricity, food to the disembodied who can receive nourishment no other way. Humans by their massive world-wide electromagnetic dynamo network have spawned a spirit overpopulation unprecedented in history.
“Which is why,” Agatha continued to the trembling child clutching its plush rabbit in its hands and teeth, a child she’d been forced to babysit, “I must turn off all lights, every last one, when you go to bed.”
Author’s Note: If it is true what television paranormal investigators say, that camera batteries go suddenly dead in haunted houses because spirits feed off electricity, it follows that there must be a spirit population explosion since the invention of electricity.