Griselda built the cabin of logs and twisting branches. Moss crept in to plug the cracks. She put in a black-iron stove and a fireplace: when you’re nine hundred and thirty-five, you get cold easily.
The squirrels filled her pantry with nuts, and the Queen Bee’s guard brought honey. A white-pelted wolf left rabbits at her door.
Snow fell. Winter was a good time to die.
Then the woman showed up at her doorstep, heavily pregnant.
The babe was a girl.
Her laugh lit up the room.
Griselda bounced the baby up and down.
“Welcome to Grandma’s house,” she said.
Author’s Note: You start to think about stuff like this at a certain age.
The librarian walks the forest, her skin space-dark, shot with stars. Sonnets brush her feet as she stops to smooth out a white bloom that contains legends of the Mandare people.
An ancient tree contains every encyclopedia known to sentient beings. She runs her hand along its rough bark. Definitions stick under her fingernails.
The novels beckon, ripe fruit on hanging vines. She picks one, blue-green and spiky. Words burst on her tongue.
When she is finished, she cracks the slimy seedpods and slips the seeds into her pouch.
She wanders on.
Dry leaves rustle like paper at her feet.
Author’s Note: Turns out that you can store data in the DNA of plants. All the knowledge in the world could hypothetically be stored in a boxful of seeds.
The starwhale floated past the ship, its silver fins spread to catch the solar wind.
Jin gaped, speechless for once.
Their guide smiled. “The computer translates its song into frequencies humans can hear. ”
Eerie, low sounds drifted from the speakers.
“We call this one Cassandra. She always comes back. There’s something wrong with the pitch of her voice, you see. The others can’t hear her.”
“Can’t the computer translate for them, too?” Jin asked.
“Can we try?”
After a few hours, a strange, new song burst forth.
Together, the two starwhales disappeared into the nebula.
Author’s Note: According to NASA, there is sound in outer space. Humans just can’t hear it.
Jonathan met the indigo-haired lady scientist at an anatomy lecture. She sat in the front row and scribbled furious notes into her worn leather journal with a silver fountain pen.
When he asked her to dinner, she accepted and suggested a restaurant.
The beef was rare and the brandy strong. Jonathan fell asleep in the hansom cab, head against her shoulder. She smelled of formaldehyde and rust.
He woke up on her surgical table, strapped in tightly. Brains in jars lined the wall.
She only liked me for my mind, he thought as she smiled and cut into his scalp.
Author’s Note: Be wary of strange ladies you meet at anatomy lectures.
Fog swirled around Jenny’s boots as she walked, and skeletal branches grabbed at her hair. Moonlight filtered through the dark, damp leaves, and the ancient trees whispered and swayed.
It was a night for haunts and ghasts and goblins.
Something slithered a laugh in the bushes.
Jenny was quicker; she snatched the ghoul out of the air and snapped its neck.
Sighing, she slipped off the tiresome human skin, stretched her claws towards the starry sky, and bared her fangs.
The ghoul’s blood, salty and sweet, ran down her chin.
It was good to be home.
Author’s Note: Maybe monsters like coming home, too?
“You really want me to do this? I can barely see,” Laura asked. Macular degeneration had stolen most of her central vision.
“Yes.” The client’s voice was strange and slithery, like her hair.
When Laura shampooed her hair, the client hissed.
The curling iron was worse. Something bit her finger.
“What was that? Did you see?”
Laura twisted stray strands around the bun. It took a lot of hairspray to make them stay put. Her arm felt hard as stone.
The client got up. “Thanks. Sorry about the arm.”
She heard a hissing laugh as the client left.
Author’s Note: Even Gorgons need hairdressers.
“Did you get the phoenix?” Skullin asked, sharpening his knives.
The necromancer grinned. “Of course I did.”
“Well, let’s get to work.”
Skullin let the skinning knife fall. “No?”
The necromancer whipped the phoenix out of the folds of his robes. It blinked at the light and squawked.
“We can’t skin him, he’s so fluffy. I think I’ll call him Boo-Boo. And you know what the best thing is?”
Skullin shook his head.
The necromancer pulled off his glove and stroked the bird. It dropped dead in his hand. Soon, the feathers began to smoke.
“He always comes back!”
Author’s Note: Everybody needs a pet, even necromancers.
A three-headed ice-cream cone with fangs broke the idyllic forest scene with its rabid, creamy roar, and Figgy jolted awake.
Something was wrong; she had handpicked the dream off the assembly line. A good dream, relaxing.
She checked the conveyor belt. The clear, iridescent dreams flowed past as usual.
The dream bulged, swirling with the inky taint of nightmare. Three more like it fell into the delivery sacs.
She glanced up. Somehow, the nightmares had backed up and begun dribbling down on the glittering dreams.
Figgy winced and hit the emergency stop button.
She was so fired.
Author’s Note: Do you ever wonder where those really bizarre dreams come from?
The Achilles burst from the void, her engines straining.
Captain Yeang blinked the sweat from his eyes. A risky move, entering the wormhole, but it had paid off. They were home, after twenty years.
Was the war over?
“Captain, detecting three hundred and thirty-four ships ahead. Human and Rak’Tashi.”
“Bring her about, Mr. Roth. Fire at will.”
A Rak’Tashi ship exploded in a satisfying nova of blues and greens.
“Captain, we’re being hailed.”
A man’s face appeared, flushed and angry.
Captain Yeang gaped.
“What are you doing, bringing hard ammo to a reenactment?”
Author’s Note: Historical reenactments are fun (until someone loses an eye).
Amelia’s airship crashed on the deserted island, almost on top of the automaton. She wound up his clockwork springs, and he stuttered to life.
“Will you help fix my ship?” Amelia asked.
The automaton nodded. His heart beat only for her.
He handed her strange instruments as she worked.
He wrestled a shark for her spyglass.
He retrieved the broken rudder from the Roc-bird’s nest.
The ship was almost ready.
“We need something to power the engine,” Amelia said.
The automaton screwed open his chestplate.
An oily tear rolled down his brass cheek as Amelia flew off with his heart.
Author’s Note: Love at first sight is a dangerous thing.