Straps hold him in bed. “So you won’t wander,” the nurse says, soothingly. They must contain—what’s that mineral?—or he could snap them as easily as he used to lift locomotives.
Couldn’t he do that once? Long ago?
Screams. Smoke. “Get out, Nurse!” somebody shrieks. “Now! Let the firefighters rescue them!”
The sirens are too far away.
Flames break through the wall like a huge flower: the straps melt. Freed, he goes to rescue the other residents. Four have died: the rest he saves.
He ignores the cheering crowd, flies up, up into space. Back toward his birth world.
Author’s note: Old age is everybody’s Kryptonite.
“One more round of skipping? Pleeeease, Daddy?”
“Okay, one more.” I’d promised Jane that morning that Amanda would play outdoors like a normal eight-year-old, not stay inside all day reading my university math textbooks.
Padma and Lucas turned the rope while Amanda skipped. The words they chanted made me smile:
“Archimedes studied math,
Left his trousers in the bath.
When the neighbors asked him why,
Told them he’d invented pi.”
Amanda, sola: “Three, point, one, four, one, five, nine, two…”
It’s getting dark. Amanda’s still going.
She’d better be in bed by the time Jane gets home from her meeting.
Author’s Note: Kids these days…
The knock came at midnight. Bert opened the door.
“We’d been worried about you, Miss Wentworth,” Bert said. “’Tisn’t safe out on the fens. Not when the Black Dog walks.”
“Oh, I’ve heard tales.”
“It’s no tale, woman! To meet Old Shuck is death within the year.”
What was that shadow behind her, huge, with glowing red eyes? Bert shuddered and snatched for the door handle; Miss Wentworth blocked him.
“Nonsense. All any dog needs is firmness and affection. Shuck! Come!”
The monstrous hound, pony-sized, trotted in on muddy paws.
Bert sighed. It was going to be a long week.
Author’s note: Around Bungay, Suffolk, the black dog “Old Shuck” is said to haunt the fens – and inspired Conan Doyle’s “Hound of the Baskervilles.”
“I don’t like this, Lanceton.” Dr. James tried to look away from the grotesque statue, but the recently discovered crypt under the ruins of Mortwood Abbey was otherwise empty. His eye, finding no resting place in the Stygian gloom, was drawn back to the dreadful thing.
“No. Just prudent.”
“Hmmph! Say, you’re the classicist. Be a good chap and translate that inscription?”
“CUM INSCII CENTUM FABULAS CENTUM VERBORUM SCRIBERINT REDEBO.” James hardly hesitated. “I shall return when the unknowing have written a hundred hundred-word stories.”
“Madness! Whoever heard of hundred-word stories?”
There was a grating, scraping sound behind them.
Author’s note: This story is a not-too-serious tribute to M.R. James, doyen of the antiquarian ghost story.
WHITER TEETH! Try This One Weird Trick That Dentists Hate, Discovered By A Local Mom!
They’re all over the Internet now. Ever clicked to see what the trick is?
Ronald was curious, and sick of Gail bitching about his cigarette-stained teeth. Within ten minutes a text message arrived, inviting him to drop over. The address was only five blocks away.
She was waiting by the front door; she smiled, and asked him to come inside. Her husband was out, she said; the baby was napping. She was slim and glamorous. And eager.
And her teeth were very white and sharp.
Author’s Note: We all know better than to click on those links, don’t we? After all, who needs malware?
Leigha hated online shopping.
She preferred the mall’s bustling reality. But Marysandra’s birthday was tomorrow, and that cute sweater wasn’t in any local store.
There it was! Click! Checkout time… Apprehensively, she entered her credit number and password. Then:
Just to prove you’re a real person, please type this!
She stared at the swirls. Did some people really see letters? Suppressed memories flooded back: Leigha knew exactly why she loathed online shopping, and what she was programmed to do next.
“Technical support? Leigha here. I’ve realized once again that I’m an android. Can you book me for rebooting this afternoon?”
Author’s Note: Ever come across a website where you just plain couldn’t make the CAPTCHA work? Or is it just me?
Fotini had worked for years, fruitlessly, to develop a matter transporter, and was haggard from overwork. Worried friends rented canoes, mock-kidnapped her from her laboratory, and drove three days northward to a national park larger than many countries.
Two weeks later, fit, tanned, and fifty kilometers from anywhere, Fotini took her smuggled notebook – old-fashioned paper – from her pack, and began to scribble.
At the evening campfire, she announced: “Once this device is built, anybody will be able to travel anywhere, instantly!”
From the lake came the unearthly call of a loon.
Wordlessly, she dropped the notebook into the flames.
Author’s note: Be careful what you work for… you might get it!
“Want to come for a drive, son?” Paul entered the security code: the car hummed into life.
“But Dad! Brad’s coming over to play, remember? You said it was okay.”
“Darn, so I did. Then I can’t go either; I’ll have to send the car on its own.” He spoke to the audio pickup. “Destination: 3427 Pacific Road. No passengers.”
“Is that the mechanic’s, Dad?”
Tires squealed; the car sprang out of the driveway. Paul turned, only to see it vanish in the wrong direction.
“You know we don’t use that word when the car’s listening!” he said.
Author’s note: Self-driving cars. What could possibly go wrong?