What You Most Want

Concealed in the branches of a tree, the small elf watched a human village. “What a strange people,” she thought. “They begin their lives helpless, but soon become very wise, spending their days in play and constant exploration.” She moved closer to watch the human children kicking a ball, secure in her footing even as the bough danced beneath her tread. “They’re so like us. And the big ones gratify the human’s every wish, just as the gnomes labor to satisfy our needs so we may ponder philosophy and play and enjoy nature’s beauty.”

She skipped away from tree to tree by outstretched branch. “And then they become the big ones.” She spoke aloud as she traveled. “It’s absurd. Like an elf choosing to become a gnome instead of a tree, or a cloud, or the sun. Why be anything but what you most want to be?”

The net wrapped around her like an excited ogre’s hug and bore her to the ground. “Because some of us don’t get a choice.” The rough-voiced human crouched over her before slinging the net over her shoulder. “Let’s go,” she called. “If we get this to market by nightfall, we might eat tonight.”

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Political Double Dactyl

Gillity willity

Stephen K Bannon is

Tearing America

Up into parts


Building his power base


Facing resistance from

Those who have hearts

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The Beautiful Witch

Once lived a beautiful witch named John. He brought blessings on his community and interceded with the spirits on behalf of his people. Those who knew him loved him well.

A great warchief, on his way to war, spotted John and coveted him. He approached him, though the witch was happily bound to another.

“Come away with me,” said the general. “Every town I conquer, every army I defeat, will be in your name.”

“You bring death wherever you go. I will not share that burden.”

“If I cannot glorify you with blood, I will remember you with yours.” The warchief raised his axe.

“My death will always haunt you,” John said, and the general struck him dead.

John’s cloak fell empty to the ground, and a dozen black birds flew into the sky. The thirteenth stayed with the witch’s grieving lover. The rest followed the general. Feeding on the corpses he left behind, they grew into a great flock. The general never forgot the beautiful witch, to the day he died on his own battlefield. That day, the birds picked his bones clean.

That is why crows follow battlefields, and why a group of crows is called a murder.

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The Last Thanksgiving

Janine slammed the door shut and threw the bolt. “And that is why you don’t read from mysterious books of necromancy in a supermarket the day before Thanksgiving!” Another half-thawed turkey corpse hurled itself into the window of the store she and Mark had found to hide in. The pane cracked.

“I know, I know,” Mark shouted back, flipping through the book’s pages of questionably-sourced parchment. “Just keep ’em back ’til I find something that can help us.”

“Like hell,” Janine shouted. “Fighting fire with fire just gets you more fire.”

“What about firebreaks?” He kept flipping.

“The analogy fails when you’re actively animating more turkeys to stop the rest from spreading, and you better fucking not be. In fact…” Mark fell back on his ass as the head of her fire axe bit deep into the open book. Janine stomped the book off her axe and chopped into again, and again, until it was little more than ragged strips of ugly leather. Another headless turkey slammed into the glass, widening the crack.

“Great,” Mark said, “now some kinda counter-spell’s not an option. What’s your plan, fearless leader?”

“Um. Destroying the book was my plan.” They turned to the window.

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A Real Good Model

“That’s a real good model house you’re building.” Dad’s voice was soft. Soft meant dangerous. “Looks just like ours.”

“S’posed to.” I didn’t look at him.

“Speak up when you talk to me.” Dad squatted down to my level in the doorway of my room. “How long’d that take you?” I was quiet. “How long?” His voice leapt to a roar. It felt like his yell shook the house, but I barely flinched. I saved flinching for worse.

“All weekend.” I still didn’t look at him.

His voice went soft again. “All weekend? That why the kitchen isn’t clean?” The floor creaked as he rose to looming height. “Why the lawn isn’t mowed?” His heavy footfalls made the floor tremble. “Why the hamper’s still full?” Was his anger shaking the floor, or was it my fear? “Wasting your time on this?” He kicked the model across the room.

The house lurched. Being mid-kick, Dad fell hard. I only swayed. As Dad got up and felt for the blood running from his head, I moved to sit by the model again. I gave it a little shove, the house shifted, and Dad fell down again. “Time for things to change, Dad.”

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The Strongest Man in the World

The androgynous individual brushed an imaginary speck off its lapel. “If you drink this potion, you’ll become the strongest man in the world. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?” Dim lights and lots of shadows, common in the after hours locker room, made the offer seem even more sinister.

“Um. Maybe?” Alex finished tying her shoes and looked at… him? “Are you the devil?”

“There’s no such thing.” It smiled. “And if there were, I wouldn’t do business with it.”

“Okay. So, what do you take in return?” She lowered an eyebrow and inspected her guest. Slim, wearing a suit that screamed custom fit even to her sartorially-ignorant eye, and with a smirk of detached amusement.

It shrugged. “Nothing. You can have the potion if you want it.” It shook the potion, a brightly-colored can that looked like nothing so much as an energy drink. The name MAN-POWER splashed across the can.

“I just become a man, and the strongest one.” It nodded. “So, like, how strongest? Like, Magnus Magnusson, or like Superman?”

“The former, plus a little.”

“Straight man, or do I still like guys?”

“No guarantees.”

She reached for the can and opened it. “Here’s to privilege.” She downed it.

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Finding Kindling

Bart swept into the cabin from the rain. “All right, a fire! I thought you couldn’t find any kindling.”

When Lee finally spoke, he sounded tired. “I found some.”

“Tolja so. About time, too.” Bart crouched and held his hands out to the fire.

“What are we doing here, Bart? This isn’t—”

“Our car broke down! We were stranded! In the rain!” Bart waved off their breaking and entering.

“You said you’d get the car checked last week.”

“So I forgot. We have shelter, heat, beds. We’ll find a neighbor or something in the morning.”

“I don’t want to do this anymore, Bart.”

“What, hog the fire?”

“Clean up after you. I’ve been doing it since we were kids, and we’re really not kids anymore.”

“So what? You’re careful, I’m exciting. Who got you that date with Cindy Barcroft?”

“In seventh grade.”

“She kissed you, didn’t she? Hey, what’s this?” Bart peered close at a glimpse of color on the edge of the fire. “Is that me?” It was, a photo half burned away.

“Like I said, I found something I could stand to burn.” He left the spot in front of the fire, and for once Bart was speechless.

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In and Out of Disarray

She had asked him to join their expedition. Gone for at least a week, she said, going deep to find tombs that hadn’t been looted yet. Garth turned her down after one look. Her armor was dirty, her weapons burred, her gear in disarray. He wouldn’t trust his life to someone like that.

Garth sat in the cold dust of the empty hall. He’d shuttered his lantern nearly all the way, and the only sound was the whetstone’s rasp on his blade. Even in the dim light, his sword gleamed.

She hadn’t cared, had said it was his loss. When he heard she’d gone up, he followed at a distance. He wanted to show them what it meant to approach life—and death—with meticulous care.

Putting away his whetstone, Garth tested his edge. He breathed a single, surprised laugh when the blade drew a drop of blood from his pale finger, then slept.

He opened his eyes again on brightness, her lantern filling the hall with light. His gear was all orderly. Hers was not. With great tenderness, she helped him out of the puddle of his blood.

“Doesn’t have to be pretty if it works, right? C’mon. Let’s go home.”

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On Stealing Souls

“You’re always fiddling with your camera.” Lydia lay on her back, tossing a ball into the air and catching it. “Pay me some attention.”

Uma cracked a small smile but didn’t look over. “I’m playing with my new lens,” she said. “Let me have my fun.” The shutter snapped, and Lydia looked over and found the deep, unblinking eye of the camera looking at her.

“Stealing my soul? You already have my heart.” Lydia’s eye twinkled.

“You know, there’s something to that.” Uma rubbed her upper lip. “If the soul is the core of a person, and people are in constant states of change, the photograph captures a moment of time. It kind of… freezes a person. Since that is the opposite of change, you could call that stealing a little bit of their soul.”

Lydia’s eyes widened. “I don’t want to change, I like myself just the way I am!” Grabbing Uma’s camera, she set it to take photos every second and then focused it on her spot on the couch. “I’m freezing my soul! I’m gonna be like this forever!”

“I think you’re taking the wrong lesson from my philosophical musing,” Uma said. Lydia didn’t seem to hear.

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A Different World than This

Catelina was always a strange girl. Her imaginary friends were many, but she never grew out of the habit. She spoke to them in company, at least until her parents’ embarrassment reacher her soul. Only her older sister Madeleine supported her. She said, “Don’t worry about them. It’s always been true that Cats can see into more worlds than this.” Madeleine died while Catelina was still young, but Cat never stopped talking to her.

At sixteen, Cat swelled with child. She defied her parents by refusing the procedure and again by concealing the father. With proprietous anger, her parents nearly disowned her. Only concern for their grandchild’s welfare stood them back from that precipice.

It was a hard labor, forty hours and great, screaming agony. When it was done, the doctor escorted in her mother instead of bringing Cat her child. “I’m so sorry, Cat,” her mother said. “She was stillborn.”

Cat shook her head and smiled. “No, Josephine was only born into a different world than this.”

Mourning, her parents overlooked her indiscretions and madness. She raised a daughter no one else could see, and spoke with her daughter no matter the company. She lived long, with great joy.

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