Look Out Behind You

“Look behind you,” shouted Felicity. “Look out behind you!” The person didn’t seem to notice. “Stop what you’re doing! Stop and turn around! Look behind you! Look out!”

He looked over at Felicity. “What is that cat yowling about now?” he muttered, just as he got clubbed on the head.

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The Invisible Avenger

Invisible, Harry followed the gangsters into the warehouse, slipping through the door between two of them. He was so close between Tony Two-Toes and Stanley the Gooch he could feel their body heat. He held his breath until he could move away from them inside.

They were dangerous men, each with flash clothes, scars, grim looks, ill-concealed pistols, and hot tempers. Harry followed them past the legal goods cling-wrapped on the steel shelves and into the back office. Where the warehouse was concrete and steel and cold, dry air, the office was warm and natural, wood paneling and plush carpet, and a pleasant aroma of long-past cigar smoke. In the middle of it all, behind a desk polished a rich mahogany, sat Cutthroat Dan.

Dan cleared his throat—scarred ear to ear by an attempt on his life—and everyone quieted. “Listen. I know you’re all getting antsy. That’s good. It’s because you’re my best guys, and my best guys don’t take shit lying down.” The assembled gangsters murmured assent. “Well, you’re here ’cause it’s time—” A sound like a waterlogged outboard motor starting ripped through the plush office. The associated smell hit everyone’s nostrils a moment later.

Dan gritted his teeth. “It’s time for us to get—” Another long fart tore through his speech. “Okay, what wiseguy can’t keep his ass puckered long enough to listen to what I gotta say? Well?”

Confusion, blame, recriminations, and soon violence reigned. Harry, the invisible avenger, had already slipped away, his work there done.

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Worth the Trouble

Once the last person turned the corner, Alan whispered, “Now.” He parked his borrowed janitorial cart by the door as Janice pulled her kit out from under a thin layer of concealing garbage. In a moment, she had the keypad faceplate off and had buried her tools in the device’s guts.

Alan shifted, letting the cart cover her from one side of the plush office hall and trying to do the same on the other side. “How much longer?” he hissed.

“As long as it takes.” Her voice was dry as her tools tried thousands of keypad combinations. “We could’ve done this later, you know.”

“No. I can’t wait.” Alan shifted from one leg to the other, looking up and down the hall. “C’mon, I have to go!”

“You better be able to ho—done!” The keypad buzzed and the door lock chunked open. Alan shouldered through the door that moment and disappeared into the pristine, white-tiled room beyond. Janice held it open for a second and called in, “It better be worth all this trouble.”

She heard the sound of streaming water and a long sigh of relief. Alan called back, “It is. The executive washroom is just that good.”

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A Failure of Imagination

Susi’s footsteps echoed in the wide open, polished concrete space of the museum. By one wall, a group from somewhere in Spanish-speaking South America followed a disembodied voice in their ears around the display cases at the edge of the room. Otherwise, Susi had the place to herself.

The rocket loomed over her, its nose almost disappearing into the heights of the repurposed silo above her. This, she thought, this had the terrifying stature to kill cities, to poison a planet, to be the knife every nation once held to every others’ throats.

Not this. This thing the size of a medium-sized rubbish bin, steel clad, cold, indifferent. It looked more like a futuristic keg than a package once capable of ending millions of lives in less than a second. Susi tried to imagine a world where more than ten thousand of these tools of impossibly efficient murder had existed at once. Where people had lived in fear of dying without warning, or going blind from the flash, or dying in heaps of vomit and sloughed-off skin. Where they had practiced useless safety drills. Where they had forgotten the danger, then ignored it. She couldn’t.

She was glad she couldn’t.

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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

Nationalistically

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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