Windsurfers

“Oh, that’s not good.”

            The insistent beeping didn’t stop. In fact, it increased its pace beeping like an annoying wake-up alarm. The view outside the view port remained a majestic view of the Earth floating serenely complete with fluffy white clouds. It was oblivious to the danger. Ryan Sharpton ruffled his dark hair and glanced down at the scanner. The asteroids were coming in hot. He may have been generous in saying it wasn’t good. This was fantastically, terrifically awful! The Earth was doomed in…

            “Four minutes,” Felicia shouted from the corridor, “what’s taking so long? I thought you said you could rig up a shield generator in your sleep?”

            “I can, I did!” Ryan waved his hands at the jerry-rigged shield generator. He’d even slapped an eco-friendly power core on to it. It was fantastic! Made from a hologram projector, a digital camera, a sat nav, and a wireless router. It would utilize the solar sails on the space ship and the hundreds of satellites orbiting the earth to create a temporary barrier.  Only it wasn’t working! The programming was perfect. He’s made it stupidly idiot proof. It was basically supped up Linux. It had started to boot then the power had cut out. If he didn’t fix it, North America was going to be one giant smoking crater. He ripped open the panel on the side of his lash-up and shoved his hand in up to his elbow. “Something must be loose or maybe too tight?” He jiggled a few wires. Lights flickered weakly on the panel before dying out again.

            “Ryan, the guards aren’t going to stay unconscious forever,” Felicia shouted. “Shit, three minutes! This is a helluva first date!”

            Letting out a shaky laugh, he resisted the urge to kick the entire setup. Felicia was so right. This was not exactly how he wanted to spend his weekend. He should have never taken Felicia to see that observatory in Mauna Kei, Hawaii. They could have gone windsurfing. She had even suggested it. Ryan was the moron who wanted to see the best view of space in town. They could have been sipping mai tai’s after an evening of close, very close sailing.

            The evening had started off pleasantly enough with a luau in a lovely pink hotel near the white sandy beach. Ryan had just finished up a conference for the Amateur Astronomical Society of North America. He was a founding member and the only one with a degree in astrophysics and a PhD in physics. He had cornered a few professionals into doing a panel since the group was mostly day players and older retirees, hence the conference being set in Hawaii this year. The Luau sported the traditional roasted pig in the center of some lovely fruit and poi. Felicia had been tweaking pieces of pork and drinking. She was slim and petite, dressed in a lovely white sundress decorated in little planets. Blonde with dark roots and a generous mouth, she was gorgeous. Catching his eye, she had saluted him with her fruity drink in a traditional half coconut.

            “I don’t know you,” he had said brilliantly.

            “You don’t,” she agreed, giggling, “do you want to get to know me?”

            He wanted to face palm, grimacing at his awkwardness.

            “Yeah, think I might erm,” Ryan trailed off his face was 6000 degrees Kelvin.

            Luckily for Ryan, Felicia had been just the right amount of drunk to find his lack of cool amusing. She had suggested windsurfing. He had countered with the observatory.

            The low atmosphere shuttle bus had dropped them off at the base of the observatory. Giggling and drinking out of her hip flask, they had shared stories on the way to the top of the mountain. Felicia was an amateur astronomer and a professional astrologer.

            “I’m all about the stars, Ryan,” she teased and asked if he was a Leo. He was an Aries.

            Once inside, he had shown his credentials to a bored woman in a blue jumpsuit named Sandy. She’d waved them into the telescope room. “No idea why anyone wants to come in here tonight,” Sandy said as she unlocked the doors. “I’m not strictly supposed to let anyone in here. It’s against the rules. But I don’t think it will matter much after tonight.”

            “Are you quitting?” Felicia asked.

            Sandy shrugged. “Let’s just see how this night plays out.”

            “She seems…nice,” Ryan muttered as Felicia arched a brow at him.

            “I think this is the worst first date, I‘ve ever been on, or the greatest, I can’t tell yet,” Felicia said stepping into the room. Ryan was too busy trying to save their asses to classify the date. Felicia was hot and hadn’t run off when he was being him, so, meh. The impending doom wasn’t great. She continued, “We tied up the guards. I couldn’t explain the situation to them fast enough, so Sandy knocked them out with a moon rock! She smashed a case with a broom handle and brandished that rock like a well, like a rock. Sandy is brilliant! Three minutes, by the way.”

            “Windsurfing would have been wetter,” he remarked and sighed. He was destined to never say anything clever or cool in front of Felicia.

            “Yeah, it would have been,” she said, kneeling down next to the generator, her sundress torn at the edges. She winked at him. “Still…end of the world.”

            “Right.”

            They had spotted the space station first. The telescope was strong enough to see the astronauts inside. “We could wave,” Felicia said practically purring into his ear.

            “That station is full of soldiers, training for the next alien invasion,” Ryan remarked. “We wave and they see us, they might shoot. Let’s look at Mars instead, much safer.”

            “The Mars colony sees us and they might shoot. I heard they were thinking of breaking away from Earth. I had a cousin who went. She sends video messages twice a month. Everything looks a bit dusty.” Felicia nodded at the night sky. “I almost went but I wasn’t sure how to do astrology without being able to tell when Mars was in retrograde.”

            Ryan snorted. “Yeah, that might be a problem. Isn’t that how we know if everyone’s about to go crazy?” He asked calibrated the telescope by entering the parameters for the area of sky he wanted to scan. He’d done this once or twice back in New York at One World. It was easy if you were comfortable with star maps. “Next year, they’re supposed to be building a shield to protect the Earth from… uh oh.”

            Felicia glanced up at the viewscreen. “Is that what I think it is?”

            “If you think that’s a massive amount of asteroids that couldn’t possibly have gotten this close to Earth without us noticing, you are unfortunately, correct. This is so bad.” His fingers flew over the keys. “And weird.” Scan after scan appeared on the screen. “These are the scans of the same area for the last month. Notice anything?”

            “No asteroids.” Felicia frowned. “How’s that possible? And how has no one noticed?”

            “It’s insane. Our group should have noticed… Any of the amateur groups could have seen this if they had the right telescope. It’s not a hologram… For a month this place saw nothing. And on the viewscreen?”

            “Loads of deadly asteroids,” Felicia muttered. “Wow, did I pick the wrong guy to hit on at the luau. What do we do, call the government?”

            “You hit on me? No, I… Nah, there’s only about twenty minutes left before we all die, I wouldn’t want to wake them,” Ryan said. “Honestly, they’re not going to believe us if the other observatories are still showing clear skies. There’s not time. It’s gotta be us and we’ve gotta get up there.”

            He rushed out of the main room and over to the bored woman in the jumpsuit. “Do they have a transmit here in the observatory? I know they’re new tech but it’s an emergency. Look alive, Sandy. We’ve got a situation.”

            “Those things aren’t safe,” Sandy said, dismissing him. “Take a shuttle bus. They can get you anywhere you need to go on the island.”

            “We need to get to the space station,” Felicia told her, “Don’t think the shuttle bus can handle space travel. The new said they were much safer now. People are using them up to the moon base. Surely it can get us to the space station without pulping us?”

                      “We do have a transmat,” Sandy said, perking up, “I’m not supposed to use it. It turned one of the astronomers into soup last week. The odds are probably in our favor now.”

            “Yeah, I am feeling lucky,” Ryan said, giving Felicia a smile. “What do you think?”

            Felicia kissed him, shocking the hell out of him. Several seconds in, he caught on and pulled her up against him. They broke apart to breath. “What was that for?” he gasped.

            “For luck…” she said, as if he was an idiot. She patted his chest.

            “Two minutes,” Felicia hissed.

            “Not helping,” Ryan insisted as he pulled several strands of wires out and switched them around. “Negative to positive… not like hot wiring a car, or is it? Why won’t you turn on?”

            “Hey, Ryan, where would you be without us?  Sandy and I got you up here and held those idiots off. I’d say we are helping!”

            “Yes, sorry, stressed. Did Sandy get the canon working?”

            There was a rumble and the lights dimmed. Felicia made a face. “Yes?”

            “Good, great,” Ryan grumbled, throwing the cables down. “Those asteroids will bounce off my shield like super balls if only the stupid thing would TURN ON!”

            Felicia frowned. “Kick it.”

            “You can’t be serious,” he growled.

            “Just do it!”

            He kicked the generator. The lights came on green. “Oh shit, that worked! I can’t believe that worked!”

            The space station lights flickered as power was diverted from the solar sails to power the force field. One by one the satellites contributed to the shield. Ryan let out a bark of laughter as the blue haze of the force field snapped into place.

            “We did it!” Felicia jumped into his arms. He spun her around in a circle laughing.

            Sandy appeared in the corridor looking disappointed. “The guns stopped working! I was shooting things! It was awesome!”

            “Yeah, Felicia said kick the shield generator and that worked!” Ryan pulled Felicia against him.

            “It always works on TV,” Felicia said. “Besides, Aries love to kick things.”

            Sandy’s eyes lit up. “That’s amazing! This is the most exciting thing I’ve ever done, ever. Wow, I’m so glad I hacked all the observatories to keep them from noticing the asteroids. I mean, I was looking forward to a huge apocalypse but this is so much better!” Sandy put her hands on her hips and let out a loud whistle.

            Ryan just sputtered, “Wait, what?”

            “Oh, yeah, I was looking forward to watching the world burn. All this technology and life had gotten a bit boring. Thought I’d spice things up with a mass extinction,” Sandy said, eyes glittering. “Dibs on using the transmat first on the way down. I am shocked we didn’t turn inside out. Last guy who used it, Eric, he was a meat puddle…He twitched for a bit.” Sandy made a face. “I’m so glad I took that correspondence course on the dark web.” She walked off down the hall.

            Ryan stared after her. “I’m going let the guards loose on her if she doesn’t get pulped by the transmat. I can’t believe it. She’s got to be a genius.”

            “No, she’d have to be a super genius. There are four major space observatories and hundreds of smaller ones. The amount of planning and programming…” Felicia sounded impressed.

            “She’s insane!”

            “No, we are. This never happens when you’re windsurfing,” Felicia said.

            “Or seeing sea turtles in a submarine,” he offered.

            “Yep. Let’s untie the guards and see if they have a shuttle we can use. I don’t want to be soup.”

            “You’d make a lovely soup,” Ryan said and face palmed. “I have no idea why you hit on me.”

            “Let’s talk about it on our second date.”

            The end.

Notes: I wrote this for a client. It wasn’t what they were looking for at the time. I did love the story because it was fun. I expanded it a bit from the original and I hope you enjoy it.

Take a Deep Breath

DeShaun reluctantly climbed into the raft. He unnecessarily tightened the straps on his life jacket as he settled into his seat. He hooked his feet under the seat in front of him and grit his teeth. A skinny white guy in long black Bermudas, black long sleeve tee, black aviators and a black life jack hopped in next to him. He flashed DeShaun a smile. “Wow, we are like total opposites,” the kid said waving between them awkwardly, “What with your skin tone and your white clothing. Like you’re a photograph and I’m your negative.” The kid chuckled.

“Yeah, not with your hair,” he argued and touched his gravity-defying natural hair.

The kid looked away and self consciously ruffled his dark brown hair to make it poofier. “Well, yeah this isn’t a photograph anyhow, this is real life. And, real life has real consequences.” He pointed a bony thumb at the people loading into the raft behind them. “For them. Not you. You’ll be alright. Just when it happens, take a deep breath. Okay, DeShaun? Big breath.”

The kid mimed several deep breaths. DeShaun rolled his eyes even as a cold shiver ran down his spine. The idea to get off the raft and go home was growing. Not that he could, Talia Elkin had suggested the white water rafting trip. He couldn’t let her see he was nervous. He offered her his best smile. She caught his gaze and winked. A spray of water hit her. Everyone laughed, except the goth kid. He just stared at DeShaun. His eyes could barely be seen behind his sunglasses and DeShaun was glad of it. Kid was weird.

Goth kid leaned back and said, “Hey guys, why don’t we skip the class five rapids today? I ate a big lunch. Might puke.”

Giggles erupted. A chorus of ‘no’s escaped the group.

“I tried,” Goth kid said with a shrug, “Remember that…after, yeah?”

DeShaun thought he might puke.

The guide ran through safety measures. “Grip with your feet. We are going to hit some gnarly rapids. If you are thrown out of the boat, get into the ‘down river swimmer’s position.’”

“Hey man, you should pay attention,” the Goth kid said as he put on his helmet.

The guide explained the commands. DeShaun found himself intently listening. The guide said the waters were rough but not terrible. He schooled them in how to hold the paddles. The kids behind him, Talia, Ram, and Alison were shoving each other and knocking helmets. The Goth kid ignored them, gripping his paddle.

And they were off. Paddles dropped with hard smacks into the water. The water was calm-ish. The sun was shining. The air smelled like water, plastic, and sunscreen with a hint of fish. DeShaun began to relax. The Goth kid was whistling merrily as he paddled. It sounded like a pirate song DeShaun had heard in a video online. Ten minutes in, and he had relaxed enough to enjoy himself. The water spray kept him cold. He looked cool in front of Talia. The weird kid was keeping his weird to himself. It was all good. He was one with Nature or some crap.

“We’re going to his some class two rapids. Should be a little bumpy. Nothing to worry about,” the guide shouted. “Remember to listen to me.”

The Goth kid sang out, “Fight, flee or surrender!”

Talia tittered.

“Dude, shut up.” DeShaun hissed.

“Defeat you can’t deny,” he warbled, “Better give up in the first place…”

“Sing it, Goth kid,” Talia shouted.

DeShaun’s eyes flipped to the guide as the boat hit the rapids. It was bouncy but bearable. He gritted his teeth against the spray. He choked on it, half blinded. The boat started to list then tip heavily to the left.

“High-side!” the guide shouted.

DeShaun through his weight right. The Goth kid didn’t. He reached out to grab him but the movement knocked the aviators off his face. His black eyes glowed red. DeShaun recoiled. The guide shouted instructions. The raft dissolved into chaos. The kids behind them were screaming.

“Or drown in the blink of an eye,” the Goth kid sang calmly as the boat capsized.

DeShaun took a deep breath.

 

The End.

Lyrics from Running Wild – Pirate Song

Honey, I’m Home

I used to have pets. They were good company but one by one they died and I didn’t have the heart to replace them. I had been single for a decade. Still youngish at 40 I wasn’t worried about it. I was lonely sure, and nights were a bit cold in my drafty apartment but I managed. I even got in the cute habit of yelling out, “Hey honey, I’m home,” every night as I tossed my laptop bag onto the hall table and my keys into the bowl.

It was a silly thing to do. It wasn’t hurting anyone and for a fleeting moment it made me feel like I was in a 50’s sitcom and my significant other would be waiting in the living room, maybe not in a dress wearing pearls with a martini but maybe with a pizza and some mixed drinks. And if they weren’t there in real life, online ordering apps handled the pizza end of it.

Friday, I opened the door after a long day of being called an idiot and all I really wanted to do was skip right to the drinks. I opened my mouth to greet my imaginary partner and sighed. What was the point? Shrugging, I ignored my black mood and called out, “Honey, I’m home! Did you miss me?”

“I did, darling,” a voice called back.

I dropped the laptop bag on the floor. The tantalizing scent of pineapple and ham pizza drifted to me in the foyer. I walked down the hall to the living room. Curled up on my sofa was a petite brunette with a pixie cute in silky striped pajamas, holding two drinks. “I made you a seven and seven. We’re out of rum,” she said and made a face. “It’s gross but it gets the job done.” she took a sip to prove her point and grimaced. “I am sooooo um, well drunk. Work was traumatic. You?”

“I-ah, it was also traumatic,” I replied wondering if I had had a stroke.

She waved for me to come closer. I did, magnetically pulled to the sofa. I collapsed next to her and she handed me the drink. I sipped it, coughing. “Gah, this is revolting.”

“Mm,” she agreed.

I gave her a sidelong glance. Her eyes were so brown they were black. Her skin was a nice medium tone like a natural tan and a hint of cleavage could be seen where she had misbuttoned the top two buttons on her pajama top. Shapely legs were pulled up under her and she had one hell of a wicked smile.

“You are my dream girl,” I told her.

Her cheeks flamed red and a giggle escaped her. “You’re in a mood,” she commented, flipping the pizza box open. “Get a slice in you before you puke up all that whiskey.”

I ate a slice. It tasted fine, not like LSD or any other hallucinogens. Not that I would know. Listen, it tasted like ham, and pineapple and lovely mozzarella.  My drink tasted like suffering which is what whiskey always tasted like to me, so it wasn’t the food.

“How long have we been together?” I asked.

Her smile faltered, “Janie, don’t ask questions like that. It makes me think you don’t want me here. Don’t you want me here?”

Something in her eyes glowed oddly. I blinked and it was gone. My dream girl smiled and grabbed my free hand. Her nails were manicured in a matte black giving me the illusion of a wolf’s claws. Her skin was warm and the scent of pizza, whiskey and something wild hit me. Her smile was wistful.

“I do want you here,” I replied. “I must have hit my head or something at work today, honey. I’m sorry.”

That pleased her and she squeezed my fingers. The black in her eyes started to fade to a root beer. She tugged on my hand until we were half in a cuddle. The shock to my system was instant. I couldn’t remember the last time anyone had wanted to touch me, let alone huddle up on the sofa together. Her warmth seeped into me.

“Am I dreaming?”

She frowned. “Janie please.”

“I’m just… happy you’re with me,” I said when her breath hitched, eyes flashing black again. Whatever she was, she wanted to be with me and as she placed a gentle kiss on my cheek, I realized I wanted her to be with me too. “I can’t remember your name.”

“Janie,” she warned.

“Fine,” I said. I wasn’t allowed to ask or know who or what or where she came from if I wanted to keep her. Was I that lonely? Had I been fooling myself with my little game? Had I called something into existence? Someone? Was she a demon? Did I care?

She slid her free hand up my thigh.

No.

I did not care.

“Do you want me to stay,” she asked, a hint of points showing in her smile.

“Yeah,” I said, “Stay with me.”

Her smile was brilliant.

Honey, I am home.

End.

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Better than a Seance

“Come on, somebody has to want to use this thing,” I called out.

The party was in full swing around me. People dressed as pop culture icons milled around with the staples. A sexy witch offered a sexy marshmallow (I shit you not) a can of beer before walking over to a sexy dead girl to talk about a guy in a state trooper uniform. I slumped down against the sofa. My costume was a classic. I was a wolfman. Not that I had the head on, it had been hot and I had taken it off a long time ago.

I called out again, trying to get someone to notice the ouija board on the coffee table. The thing was ancient, the varnish chipped and the letters fading a bit. Some mobster had dropped an empty can of beer on it like it was an elaborate coaster. If I didn’t move fast, others would follow and no one would even notice it was a cool thing to talk to ghosts on Halloween Night.

Standing up, I slinked over to a couple and whispered in his ear, “Hey, why not have a seance.”

When his response was to shove his tongue farther into the girl’s mouth, I whispered in her ear, “How scary would it be if we contacted a ghost?”

She shivered.

To be honest, I think it was because of that guy’s tongue and not my neat idea. I wandered away, rolling my eyes. The music kicked up a notch. It was all thump, thump, thumping with electric instruments. Lights flickered along with it and people flickered, slowing and speeding up in the flashes. The partiers got into it and the living room became an impromptu dance floor.

Huffing, I went outside to get a breath of fresh air. I slumped down on the steps next to a girl in all black. Her conical hat was off to the left and her fishnet stockings were artfully torn. “Ah, a sexy witch,” I muttered, thoroughly over it.

“Thanks,” the girl answered brightly. “I wasn’t going for sexy though, I was going for authentic. Because I am. Authentic that is, not sexy generally. Thanks for that.”

I opened and closed my mouth a few times. “Ah, um, well, you are and you are welcome.”

She giggled. Her bright gray eyes sparkled in the moonlight. She leaned back and I got to see just how long her legs were through a split in her not-meant-to-be-sexy black dress. She caught me ogling and snorted. I rolled my eyes.

“Hey, you want to get a seance going?” I asked.

“Why? I don’t need one to talk to you.”

I huffed. “It’s not about talking. I want to possess one of those dumbasses for the night.”

The witch’s eyebrows went up. “You’re Kevin.”

I nodded, beaming at her. She was not only a sexy witch, she was a smart one too.

“You’ve been dead for like-”

“Ten years, yeah,” I interrupted. “You weren’t lying about being an authentic witch. Is that why you can see me?”

She nodded and gave me a once-over, flattering.

“Should I help you move on or something?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I agreed, widening my eyes at her, “you can help me into that guy over there.”

I pointed to a guy who looked a bit like me. He was thin, tall, and dressed as a mummy. “Then I can buy you a drink.”

“The drinks here are free,” she remarked and glanced over at the guy, “What happens to him?”

“I get to be him for a night,” I answered. “I get to hang out at the party. I get to drink and have fun. He gets the hangover. Come on, help a spirit out.”

“Do you know who that is?”

“Random guy, who might be me for a night? No, I don’t care. I want to eat chips and pizza. They ordered from my favorite place. Come on, please? I only get until dawn. Don’t make me beg.”

“No, shut up. I’m telling you that’s Carter Greene.”

“So?”

This was exasperating! Why wouldn’t a witch want to help me possess someone? I am proof of the supernatural and no one ever got hurt. It was just one day to them and it meant the whole year to me. One night of life to get me through death…

“He killed my cat,” she said her voice dropping low and dangerous.

“Do you want me to contact your cat on the other side or something? I can do that for you,” I offered. “I hang out with my neighbor’s dog. He was cool in life and he is super creepy in death.”

“This is your lucky night Kevin,” she said tone sultry.

I perked up. “Is it? I hope it is. Why is it?”

“Because I know a spell.”

“You’re a witch,” I replied, “aren’t you supposed to know a lot of spells?”

She laughed. “I like you.”

I flashed her a grin. She was great, really great and it looked like I was getting my wish. I could already taste the cheese and sauce. “I like you too.”

“Great, because after tonight, you’re going to owe me one.”

“Okay,” I agreed easily. I was a ghost. There wasn’t much I could offer. Company? Might be nice to have someone new to talk to after Halloween. Of course, she’d have to come here to the O’Briens. It was where I haunted after all. “Sure. One favor.”

“Let’s go.”

Inside the dance party had broken up into small groups of hard drinkers. My witch led me into the kitchen where she mixed two rum and cokes. She drew a symbol on one with runic swirls or something and whispered into it. The cup glowed green. I didn’t get it, was the spell to make whoever drank it want to start a seance? She gave me a wink and walked into the party on the hunt for Carter.

He was smashing a beer can against his forehead. We rolled our eyes at him. Squaring her shoulders, my witch stalked over to him and turned up the charm by acting sloshed. Bumping into him, she slurred, “You’ve got to help me, Carter.”

“With what, Brin?” he asked, steadying her.

“Mandy made me two drinks,” my witch said, holding up her cup and then the enchanted one. “I’m so gone. Can’t waste it.”

Carter’s smile was predatory. “What do I get for helping you?”

Brin leaned in and whispered in his ear. Carter took the cup she offered and downed it. Done, he crushed the red cup and chucked it at a girl in a unicorn onesie. The girl ran from the room and Carter laughed darkly. He reached for Brin and pulled her close. The urge to punch him flitted through my form as he sealed his mouth over my new friend as if he were a vacuum hose. Brin slipped an arm around him, holding him upright as a blurry image of Carter fell out of his body and crashed to the carpet, looking hazy and indistinct.

Brin’s finger crooked at me.

I looked at Carter. I looked at Carter’s body. Oh, ho, no way! Brin’s expression became strained and she crooked her finger again and indicated the body. I didn’t need to be told a third time. I flitted forward and slipped into Carter’s skin. It was like sinking into a dirty bathtub. It was slimy and gross with leftover dark thoughts. I filled up the dark corners with my spirit until I clicked into place and took over the kiss.

My arms tightened around Brin. I gentled the pressure on her mouth from bruising to gentle and she reached up to touch my face. We separated by inches, smirking at each other. I glanced to the floor to see Carter fading away.

“Brin,” I whispered, “What did you do?”

“Uh uh, you owe me a drink and a favor,” she said and placed a finger over my lips.

“Is this…”

“Permanent? Yeah, come on,” Brin’s grin was brilliant as she took my hand and led me into my new life.

end.

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The Apple Thief’s Friend

The deer was not majestic.

Behind the chain link fence, the deer had his tongue out in a blep. He was scrawny and undignified. Lane eyeballed him and he stuck his tongue out at her before blinking. Lane, dressed in deer patterned leggings and an oversized sweater, held her white bucket tightly. It was loaded to the brim with gala apples.

“No,” she told him.

The deer tilted his head and licked the fence. Lane rolled her eyes at the deer. She pointed to the ‘no deer in the orchard sign.’ He was unimpressed and stomped a delicate hoofprint into the wet ground. Nose twitching, he tilted his head toward the gate.

Lane’s sister approached her with her own bucket brimming with Granny Smiths. “I’m going to make a pie and some turnovers before I let Mom turn the rest into apple butter or oooo jam! Whatcha doing?”

“Talking to this deer,” Lane told her sister.

Allison was in black leggings but her sweater was a smaller version of the one her sister wore. She did her hair in the same braids as Lane even though hers was cornsilk to Lane’s fawn-colored hair. They had the same green eyes but Allison was not one to talk to deer.

“Deer don’t have vocal cords,” she remarked.

It was just like Ally to be literal and factual and scientific. Lane ignored all of it and pointed to the deer who was still scrawny, still undignified, and still offering her an unobstructed view of his tongue. Lane huffed.

“He wants to get into the orchard,” Lane remarked as the deer bobbed his head as if in agreement. “I’ve told him deer aren’t allowed by indicating the sign.”

“Deer can’t read,” Allison countered.

“It’s a pictogram,” Lane argued. “See,” Lane said to the deer as she pointed to the cartoon version on the sign, “This is you, and this is no. Savvy?”

The deer stared. Blinked twice.

Allison shook her head. “I’m going to get some Winesaps too. You coming?”

“In a minute, I’m in the middle of something here,” Lane said.

Allison bounded away with her bucket of apples. Lane stared at the deer. The deer stared back.

“I’m not letting you in,” she told him.

He blepped.

“Seriously, you can’t come into the orchard, it’s not allowed,” Lane insisted.

The deer’s eyes went from hers to the gate and back again.

“No.”

The deer’s eyes went from hers to the gate and back again.

“No, stop.”

The deer’s eyes went from hers to the gate, paused, he pawed the ground, and looked back again.

Lane looked to the heavens. When she looked back, the deer was still there. The deer was still staring. He was still poking his tongue out at her adorably with his scrawny undignified person. Lane opened the gate, stepping back out of his way. He bowed.

“Yeah, you’re welcome. If anyone asks, I was never here.”

The deer slipped into the orchard and disappeared into the trees.

The End.

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Uniquely Alone

Kahlen had heard the rumor in the bathroom from a siren who was telling a Fae girl with mossy hair. A thrill had run through her. Being undead wasn’t as exciting as the movies made it out to be and tonight was supposed to change that. She was going to embrace the weirdness, and get a piercing, or a tattoo or dance with a stranger. She bounced around in the drink line. She was also going to get a drink, an alcoholic drink, for the first time.

“There’s a unicorn her tonight,” Kahlen told the tall brown haired man next to her, excited.

He had the bright sheen to his pale skin that indicated he was either Fae or Incubi. He had been shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip with her for the last five minutes as they jostled for position at the bar. His warmth had seeped into her cold skin, making her feel a bit connected to him in a way she was forgetting after her time undead. His blood would be amazing if she could convince him to donate some. Not that blood donation was the reason he was here. It was a piercing/tattooing event for the Others, the ones that couldn’t go to a human place because of blood colors, skin tones or otherworldly features. It was also a massive party, complete with open bar, loud music, and flashing lights.

“Pfft, that’s ridiculous,” he said and turned to face her. “What are you new?” he asked.

Kahlen would have blushed if her heart still pumped. “Yeah, this is my first supernatural anything.”

Grinning brightly he ordered for both of them, politely asking her preferred blood type. He ordered a drink for sylvans. He tipped the satyr and handed her a glass. Bold, he took her by the elbow. She let him lead her away from the bar and back to one of the corner booths. The music was loud and electronic. Once they slid into the booth, it was tolerable. He lifted his glass and they clinked. Kahlen watched him take a sip of the syrupy looking green drink. It was probably light on the alcohol and heavy on the chlorophyll. He definitely had to be Fae. His eyes were a rich walnut instead of the normal grassy green but she hadn’t met many wood nymphs or Fae or anything before tonight.

“How long since?” he asked and waved at her.

“A year,” Kahlen responded. “Woke up on the football field.”

Grimacing in sympathy, he took another sip and explained why he asked. It was considered rude to ask a vampire how they died. Kahlen had learned that the hard way when she had come across her first old vampire. Her wrist still hurt from the break. “Everyone here knows about unicorn blood,” he murmured, leaning in close in case anyone was close enough to listen. “I didn’t want you to embarrass yourself.”

Kahlen reached out a hand to shake his formally. He gripped her hand with his warm one and let loose with a toothy grin. “Kahlen Jenson,” she introduced herself.

“Kahlen! Great name! Very modern,” he enthused. He didn’t give her a name in return. That was very Fae. Names had power. She grimaced. She shouldn’t have given him her name. He noticed and winked. “It’s just hard to pronounce,” he remarked and elaborated when she blinked, “My name, it’s difficult to… You can call me…hmm. What name do you like?”

She rolled her eyes. Tilting her head to exam his bright eyes, straight nose, and silly grin, she thought she’d tease him a bit. “How about Fareed?

The humor drained out of him. “Oh, you might be a bit of a seer, Kahlen. Fine, but shorten it to Reed, alright?”

Kahlen placed her hand over his. “I didn’t mean to offend you.”

His smile re-appeared and he said arrogantly, “I am unique, that’s true enough. But I’m not alone right now, am I?”

“No,” she replied and giggled as he downed his drink. His eyes seemed to glow silver for a second before fading back to the same walnut brown. “So, unicorn blood?”

“Right, oh, forgotten that already,” he murmured and looked offended when she giggled again. “Yes, right okay. Can’t bleed in public.” He waved his hand around the dance floor where werewolves, Fae, sprites, and vampires were dancing under the undulating lights. “Smells fantastic, amazingly, wonderfully fantastic, and any number of these would rip one apart to get a taste. You can’t have unicorn blood without the unicorn’s permission. It does bad, very bad things to you.”

“What sort of things?” Kahlen asked.

He rolled his eyes and reiterated, “Bad things. Can’t get piercings or tattoos.”

“Because they would bleed,” Kahlen said, puzzling it out.

“Yup and the poor unicorn would get torn apart,” he agreed. “Let’s dance!”

Her strange new friend had pulled her onto the dance floor before she could protest. He didn’t get too close to her. He kept a hold of one of her hands always as if he was afraid she would disappear if he let go. Kahlen had never been to a human rave before she was murdered. She was forever eighteen and she had been sheltered. The press of bodies around them was exciting as heat radiated off of the live things. A few vampires nodded in her direction. Most of them were islands, dotted around the ocean of people, in the water, but not a part of it. She let herself move with Reed. She grabbed his other hand when he was in danger of being pulled away by an aggressive weregirl. He slipped into her arms gratefully, hugging her.

A rich fresh scent assaulted her. It was like a hot fudge sundae, and chips, and pizza, and she felt her mouth start to water. An image of ripping into his throat flashed across her mind’s eye. She jerked back, but he held tight to her. He whispered in her ear. “So what did you come here for? Tattoo? Piercing?”

Kahlen shivered as his breath brought more of his scent to her and warmed her skin. She missed being warm. Wherever he touched, he left a glorious trail of it. Her fangs descended and he spun her out and back. She blinked, pulling back on the need to feed. Reed watched her with a rueful expression. She fought the urge to apologize. She was trying to make a friend, not kill him. Bloodlust wasn’t something she had ever gotten used to in the last year. It always freaked her out and made her buzz with guilt.

“Piercing,” she replied, resisting the urge to inhale.

He let go and disappeared into the crowd. Kahlen searched for him as he bounced away. Left on her own, she became her own island as the crowd continued to dance around her. Had she offended Reed? Maybe. She had been flashing fang and entertaining the idea of having him for dinner. She bit into her lip in frustration. She didn’t have any supernatural friends yet. She had barely had any live ones left after being turned. She saw a Fae disappear into the back booths as a were came out with a large silver hoop in his ear.

She slipped through the crowd like a shark. If Reed wasn’t coming back, she may as well get the piercing she had wanted. Her mother had never let her pierce her ears. Now she was beholden to none, as sires rarely stuck around after turning someone. It would make her look more grown up. It would at least make her fit better into this crowd.

A bored Fae gave her a once over. “Vampires can’t tattoo. Piercing? Let me guess earrings?”

“Yeah,” Kahlen said, affecting the same bored tone as the pretty Fae with her long pink hair in complicated braids.

“Second booth,” the Fae gave her a light shove but sniffed her as she went.

Kahlen frowned, walking backwards to see the Fae leaning toward her, inhaling again. Slipping into the curtained booth backward, she spun to face a tall elegant vampire dressed in royal purple from head to toe. He even had purple latex gloves at his station.

“Ears please,” Kahlen said, unsure what she needed to do.

He sniffed disdainfully as he approached. The vampire sniffed again in earnest. In a blink, Kahlen was pinned to the table under his powerful right hand. Fangs descended and eyes glowing brilliant scarlet, the vampire sniffed again. “You smell…”

“Thanks?”

“Delicious,” he finished.

Uh oh, Kahlen struggled against the steel grip of the bigger and considerably older vampire above her. Did vampires kill and eat younger vampires? Eyes wide, she kicked out, knocking the older vampire off balance. He was back in an instant, claws slashing into her leg as she scrambled off the piercer’s table. The scent of her own blood, bubbling up thick and dark, terrified her. Kahlen tossed the table of surgical instruments into the vampire’s face.

The privacy curtain was ripped open. Reed stood there gasping. “My fault!”

The tall purple vampire spun to face him.

“Me, not her,” he said. “I’m the one you want.”

“You smell,” the vampire said, eyes red but glazed over. “I have to taste you. I have to-”

Reed glowed a brilliant silvery blue. Kahlen watched that light explode out of him and knock the piercer across the room. He collapsed in a heap. Reed knelt down next to her, radiating the scent of pepperoni pizza and a chocolate milkshake. Kahlen’s fangs descended. She hadn’t had anything to drink but blood in a year.

“You’re hurt,” he cried reaching out to her.

“You’re the unicorn,” she said, fighting to keep still.

“The one and only,” he said. “I only came out tonight because I was lonely. I’m the last one. I’ve been the last one for decades.”

Losing a lot of her blood was helping slow her down but her hunger, her hunger was growing. Hissing, she curled in on herself as the pangs in her stomach made thinking harder and harder to do.

Reed touched her arm. She flinched away. He gripped her arm. “Kahlen, I went to get a drink for you, so you wouldn’t be so focused on me, on my blood. You were gone when I got back. I was stupid. My scent was all over you. I masked it, but I touched you, hugged you…

“I-I don’t want to kill you,” Kahlen hissed, trying to block out the tantalizing scent of roast turkey and mashed potatoes that he was sporting now. “So hungry. You smell like Thanksgiving.”

“Oh, well that’s one on me, Thanksgiving? Really?” he asked, eyes glowing silver.

Kahlen nodded, squeezing her eyes shut to fight harder against her own body. “Now leave before…”

“No. It’s fine, I can heal you. My blood can heal you,” Reed said as he snatched a dropped needle off the floor.

“Bad things,” Kahlen grunted.

“Only if I don’t want you to do it. I give you permission, okay? But it might have side effects,” he said as he stabbed his arm multiple times to get his bright pearlescent blood to rise to the surface. “We’ll worry about that after. Trust me…Oh, okay, you be careful.”

Kahlen latched onto his arm and her fangs sank into his skin, popping it and blood sluiced into her mouth. Reed grunted but let her hold on. The blood, oh it tasted exactly like Thanksgiving, mixed with hot chocolate, and mint chocolate ice cream, and every other food she had been craving for ever a year. It was all sliding down into her stomach and filling her body with so much warmth.

“Stop now,” Reed told her.

Kahlen couldn’t. She needed more. She growled in protest.

“Now Kahlen,” he begged.

She tried, she really tried. Her fangs felt like they were hooked, locked into place. A sharp pain lanced through her and finally, she released, sliding bonelessly to the cement floor and into unconsciousness.

“Probably shouldn’t have done that,” Reed’s voice was worried, and weak near her left ear. “I was trying to heal the leg wound, not get myself killed. How would that help us? Hm? Think you drank too much though.”

She opened her eyes. They weren’t in the underground rave anymore. She rolled her shoulders. Kahlen was on a bed, a soft bed. Reed lying next to her stretched out alongside. His hand was in hers. He grinned when her eyes met his.

“Hello!” he exclaimed.

“Hello,” she muttered, her voice dry and scratchy.

“Here,” he sat up and turned away from her. In a second he was back with a cup. It had a bendy straw in it. “Drink, you had a rough night.”

Kahlen sipped. The taste that exploded on her tongue was not blood. The urge to gag rose for an instant but vanished. It was water. It was plain water. Kahlen pushed the cup away. “I can’t drink water!”

“Think you can,” Reed argued, “think you just did. Side effects, remember?”

Kahlen glared at him before scanning the room. She turned away from him and saw the open window. She was sitting in a bright room full of sunshine. She hissed and held up her arm. No smoke, no pain… “What?”

Patiently, Reed grabbed her arm and moved it into a sunbeam. He had a bandage on where she had savaged his arm. Her skin was warming in the light, but not burning. He took the same hand and placed over her chest. Kahlen felt a beat. It was sluggish, but it was a heartbeat.

“Side effects?”  she asked. “What sort of side effects?”

“Healed you,” Reed said smugly.

“Healed?” Kahlen glanced down at her leg, the skin was smooth, if a bit pale and a little shinier like a Fae.

Reed was embarrassed. “I ah, um, gave you permission. My blood has healing properties. I’m not prejudiced. My blood, it ah, it just seems to see vampirism as a disease. So, it cured it. I’m sorry. You’re sort of human again.”

Amazed, Kahlen put both her hands into the sunlight. When it wasn’t enough, she slid off the bed and put her head out the window to stare up at the sun. Clouds obscured it a bit but even they were lovely, all puffy and white in the bright blue summer sky. “You healed me. I’m human.”

“Sort of human,” Reed reiterated. “Close to human, almost human, mostly, almost human.”

Kahlen bounced back onto the bed next to him, giddy. “Fine. I’ll take it, if you promise me I can eat chips again, oh and candy, and ice cream, and a hot fudge sundae with nuts…”

“Sure, but you’ll get a stomach ache. I mean, that’s an awful lot of sugar,” he replied then grinned. “You’re really okay with it? I was sort of afraid you liked being a vampire and I ruined it. Well, I tried to stop you before you drank too much, but you were insistent. Had to hit you with a tray.”

Kahlen grabbed for his bandaged arm. “I’m so sorry! I couldn’t control it. I don’t mind. I wasn’t getting the hang of the ‘creature of the night’ thing anyhow. But what do I do now? My family thinks I’m dead. I was dead. Do I go back to school? Wait, did you say mostly, almost human?”

“Might be a teensy bit unicorn now,” Reed said and held up his fingers to measure out a pinch. “I could help you with that if you want. Show you some stuff, some magic stuff. Only if you want me to do it.”

Kahlen grinned. “Friends?” she asked.

“Yeah, okay,” Reed said, sitting up straight, looking pleased. “I’ve never had a friend before. What do um, friends do?”

“They get pizza.”

“I love pizza,” he told her. “What about your ears? Did you still want to get them pierced?”

“Eventually, think I’m traumatized. Maybe I’ll just get clip-on’s for now.”

“I’m pretty good with a needle,” Reed told her. “Saved you with one, didn’t I?”

“Not a chance,” Kahlen told him.

The End.

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Fudge Pop

Death sat on a rock in the middle of the Delaware River. Inky black robes shed in favor of a black tee, blacker swim trunks and bare feet the color of slightly spoiled milk. Running a hand through his shaggy gray locks, he put a foot in the water and frowned when a school of fish bobbed to the surface, going belly up just for him. He huffed and removed his foot.

A pretty Living Girl sat on the rock beside him. She hadn’t noticed him yet. She was too busy changing the playlist on her phone to something summery and light much like the camisole and short jean shorts she had chosen for the summer heat. Once the light pop sounds matched her tapping toes, she leaned back on her elbows and noticed him. He smiled, showing straight white teeth. She raised dark eyebrows and cautiously smiled back.

Death mimicked the girl’s pose, careful to keep his feet free of the water. He didn’t want to kill everything that lived in the water, drank it, or flew over it by accident. That would be rude. It was frustrating however because it was a nice day with a soft breeze bringing a little relief from the heat but not as much as the cold water would do. Still, a day off was a day off, even if it wasn’t strictly allowed.

Glancing back at his company, he saw the girl holding up a fudge pop. He blinked. She mimed tossing it to him. Nodding eagerly, he reached out his elegantly long and decidedly not too skeletal hands to catch the confection and frowned when he accidentally touched a bird. The bird, a bluejay, dropped stone dead into the water. Distracted, he missed the softball lob and the fudge pop plopped into the water and drifted away lazily in the current. He huffed.

When he turned back to the girl, her eyes were sad. She pulled an earbud loose and called out, “Sorry, that was my last one. Bad luck with that bird. That was weird, right?” she asked.

“Not really,” he murmured and when she frowns he said, “I mean, thanks for trying and all but my life isn’t exactly made for fudge pops if you get my meaning.” He frowned. That was the longest sentence he has ever said to a Living Being.

“I do have a few cookies? Want one? They’re not cold but they are chocolate. I could even hop on over there. Your rock is big enough for two to sunbathe.”

“No!” he shouted. Visions of her warm body turning cold and dropping into the water because she accidentally bumped him, rushed through him, chilling him more effectively than the river could. But now he’s done it because her big eyes flashed with hurt. “No,” he said softly. “I mean that’s fine. I’m fine. Thank you for being kind,” he told her and gave her a brittle smile.

She turned her back and he vanished. It was a stupid idea anyhow. He pulled his list and headed up to Manayunk to take out a few musicians who thought it would be a great idea to play a set in a thunderstorm. Moody, he didn’t bother to loom or menace, he just clapped slowly when one by one the electrocuted idiots dropped to the tarmac, splashing down forever. It was fine. Their music was derivative.

Work continued unabated for twenty years. He didn’t try to take another sunny day off. His milky skin had no melanin to tan and he wasn’t human so he got no benefits from extra vitamin D, and it wasn’t exactly a beneficial thing to do. Still, killing day in and day out got to him. Especially when he had to take out a young kid, or an old dog. Those were the bad ones. Today he had a twofer; Four-year-old boy chasing a fourteen-year-old dog into oncoming traffic. Bummer.

He turned up at Grant and Academy. It was one of the best spots to die in the United States. There were forests in other countries and huge icy patches where he picked off loads of people and sometimes this big ol’ intersection seemed so mundane but it was no less deadly.

He spotted the dog first. It was a Siberian husky with one bright blue eye. His leash was an expandable number that Death was incredibly familiar with and it rubbed on an old wooden telephone pole. The snap startled the dog into the street. Death sighed. Now would come the boy, right on time. The scamp was in jeans and a rainbow tee. Behind the child, came the mother.

Death grimaced and huffed. This was not going to be a fun day. The light changed. The dog barked. The kid yelled. The mother shouted and Death whipped around to see the mother, really see her. He waved a hand and everything froze. Lifting his thick heavy robes up, he approached her.

He unfroze the woman and she stumbled forward. Death did not steady her. She glanced up at him.

“What kind of an idiot gets an extendable leash?” Death shouted.

She raced into the street and tried to grab her frozen scion. Death snorted.

“Everything is frozen. I’ve stopped time.”

“To call me an idiot?” the woman asked.

“No,” he told her firmly.

Something like hope crossed her face. “Are you going to save my Jamie? And Tanner?”

“No,” he repeated. “I’m Death. I can’t just stop killing people because you tried to give me a fudge pop once. That’s not how this works.”

“I gave you-” the woman stared hard at him. “You’re the ‘cute goth’ kid from the river?” she asked and glanced off into the past. “Wait, the ‘cute goth kid from the river’ is DEATH? I don’t believe this.”

Death sputtered and if he had blood in his veins instead of murder, he might have blushed. “Goth? Cute?”

The mother sat down in the street with her child and hugged the frozen thing. Death sighed and went as close as he could without killing her too. She reached out a hand to him. “Do it. I want to die with them.”

“So run out into the street with them,” Death said, indignant, crossing his arms over his chest.

She stares at him with her wide, sad eyes, and he remembers how her smile had felt when directed at him. No one ever loved Death. She hadn’t either, not really, but she had offered him normal human affection. Glancing up at the sky, he lets out a breath and scans the street. There are too many cars for the child to avoid death without intervention, not to mention the dog because if he was saving one the other had to live too, he supposed.

“Please,” the mother said, begging for her own death, unaware that for the moment she had it. That woman had Death as her own. “Please.”

“Fine, but when this is over, I get my fudge pop,” Death grumbled. “And you never, ever, never, ever, ever, tell a single living soul about this.”

“Deal? I’d shake your hand-” she began.

He rolled his eyes. “-and you would drop stone dead,” he reminded her.

Death stretched, cracked his neck, his knuckles, and his back as he surveyed the glowing souls all around him. He would have to trade one for one for the child but the dog…well he could fudge the records on the dog and find some roadkill to make up the deficit.

“Get out of the street,” he advised the mother. She hesitated, of course, she did and he tried not to regret this before he was even done doing it. “Seriously, get out of the street. I’m not going back on our deal.”

She climbed out of the street and stood beside him, careful not to touch. He waved his hand and time moved. The child ran forward after the dog. He closed his eyes and controlled the souls. A biker went left instead of right. A sedan slammed on its brakes just in time to become a barricade as the kid made it to the median where a brave uncontrolled soul stopped the dog and grabbed the kid around the waist. One last thing to do, the swap. Death sighed, reached out and tossed a rock. The rock smashed into the hood of a Kia Soul and that car hopped onto the median and killed a man in a suit, Jericho Sampson who had murdered his first wife. He was probably accidentally saving the second wife but since she wasn’t on today’s list, he wasn’t bothered.

The entire nightmare was over in less than ten seconds. He stepped to the side to avoid any accidental hugs by the grateful mother. But she was clever and had just dropped to the ground in a dead faint. He huffed and vanished.

Twenty-five years later, he approached a grandmother at an ice cream truck. Death tapped her on the shoulder. As her aneurysm burst, he caught the fudge pop before it hit the ground. He grinned down at his friend from the river and winked.

Fin.

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