Thursday, January 31, 2013


A small interlude story I wrote for my WIP Leylined, just to add to the world at large. Kailith isn't even a side character at the moment, but her life is the same as many others in this world. Enjoy!

Ah, still here today? Kailith thought, looking at the quartet of square metal rods that angled solidly from the surface of the gently breaking sea. The sun was bright overhead, and the water was clear enough that you could actually see the rods continue deep into the depths, spreading into a massive, bigger than could be really believed -- actually island sized shadow far in the murky depths below. The real island was just a few leagues behind her, a rolling green bump that stretched to a blackened, smoldering peak. Hinara was only occasionally truly active, but she routinely oozed lava off her northern slopes, slowly extending the size of the isle. The bringer and destroyer of life, aren’t you? She thought kindly.
The volcano was a living goddess, a real power that both gave and took, and they worshipped her as was right. But the thing, the Ancient thing that was the giant, square-cut rods and the massive bulk they led to was some fallen demon, a lost power better sealed beneath the waves. But as Hinara had risen, so had the demon, the rods inching higher and higher each year, as if they were ancient lovers who could not bear to part.
The elders spoke of the birth of the demon, the first time it had risen above the waves. Hinara had been smaller then, the island little more than a league across. The time of their forefathers, the great times eight predecessors to their tribe. So told, the story said that Hinara gave a massive roar and the entire mountain leaped upwards, furiously expelling her rage into the air and sea, almost killing the entire tribe. The survivors had fled on their canoes and rafts into the churning, acid sea and saw their island rising before them, growing as if pushed by the living earth herself.
As they fled, they were greeted by an even more terrible sight -- the four-armed claw of the demon sprouting from the ocean’s skin. As soon as the demon broke the surface, Hinara’s rage quieted, her rumbling fury ceased and though ash fell for nearly a twin, the tribe survived, and the island life rebounded tenfold. At first, the demon’s claws had sprouted some twenty canoes in length from the sea -- the same as was discovered Hinara had grown. Each year, they found their villages farther from the shore, and the Demon higher in the sea. Now, some hundred migrations after it had first appeared, the demon’s grasp stretched over a hundred canoes, longer than the longest whale.
How tall will you grow? She spoke to both, her goddess and the demon. Surely you cannot grow forever. You must stop sometime. She knew her thoughts were prayers at best. The demon and the mountain would rise, and continue rising until Hinara’s endless rage was spent, or the demon truly broke free. For now, the few traders that came to their land saw the demon as an idle curiosity, its secrets locked too deep below the waves to be of any use. But every year it rose. Every year that shadowy mass, so indistinct grew larger, more pronounced. It was still hard to actually see the body of the demon, far below the waves, but once you saw how gigantic it truly was, you could never unsee it. The demon truly was clawing his way from his watery prison. And their goddess was helping it.
Why? Kailith looked down through the clear green waves, watching the creatures of the deep flit through the waters above the demon’s bulk. Why, Lady, must you bring this evil back to us? When the demon finally rose, there would be no denying the onslaught of pirates, looters, buccaneers or whatever treasure-hunting adventurers tried to avoid looking like these days. Explorers had come before, claiming to be interested in the demon, but not for financial gain, but she had seen the glint in their eyes all the same as the others. They told them all the same. ‘The demon lies under so much waves for a reason. Risk its rewards and bring down its wrath.’
Whether or not that was true was a whole other matter for debate. Kailith had little belief in the idea that the demon itself was inherently evil, or that it was a demon at all, but the fact was that without the demon, there would be no interest in their tiny isle. They could remain at peace, free from interference from machismo-laden Guilds, Empires and Republics. Pirates and the lot included as well, but they accepted reality, knew they had no possible manner in which to reach the demon’s true frame. The rest, those governments and their armies and enterprises all thought they could manage some the impossible task, using everything from huge glass balls to strange, fiery tubes that did little more than hasten their wearer’s drowning after they blasted them too deep underwater for them to hope to ever return. Yet still too far from the body of demon to be of any use.
The men from the so-called Explorer’s guild had been the most persistent, using elaborate steam-belching contraptions and unholy relics stolen from other demons to lower themselves down into the darkened depths. They had remained for half a dozen turnings of the twins, extending cables and building thicker shells for their ceramic underwater boats, but in the end, they too had left. But they would return. They all would. Whether it would be with this year’s passing of the trilowhales or a hundred more migrations from now, when the demon’s hulk rose above the waves, the result would be the same. The destruction of her people.
Sink, she prayed to the dark hulk. If you have any mercy left within you, demon, return to the depths from which you came. Forget our goddess. Do not chase her, rising to the sky as she does. Leave us.
There was no answer to her prayers. No hint the demon heard her. From what the Explorers had said, she wasn’t very surprised. They had scoffed at the story of the demon, and told her it was more likely a machine. A machine made by the Ancients, for travelling the stars. She had scoffed back. Now, as she looked at the threatening, ever growing shadow beneath the waves, she wished it was true. She hoped it was, and that when it rose, that would be all it would do. Return to the stars, never to bother them again.
Kailith sighed as she plunged her paddle into the sea, turning her small outrigger canoe back towards not-too distant shore.
I’ll see you tomorrow.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wow. I just heard about Misha Gericke's amazing Word Master's Challenge. This month's challenge is


To quote: "In less than 300 words, I want to see your idea of the WORST beginning you can possibly write. The funnier and more creative you are, the better."

How could I possibly pass that up????

So, without further ado, here is my terrible, terrible entry.

* * * * *

Bradley looked at the giant explosion racing towards him and thought about how he'd gotten here. Simultaneously, his mind-linked twin with whom he shared all physical sensations, was getting wet and wild with a hooker from Puerto Rico.

Bradley didn't know which would happen first; his death from the explosion or the shame of ejaculating in his pants during an epic battle scene. Either way, it would be an embarrassing end to the ex-cop cum superhero. He'd thought that getting injected with that serum he'd found from that UFO no one had seen crash but him would have made him invincible forever, but it turned out that apparently it only lasted for about a week.

Boy, the reporters sure are gonna be pissed. He thought especially of his ex Rebecca, and how happy she would be when she heard that he had died embarrassing himself. She had been really mad when he showed up flaunting the fact hat he could fly. Now she'd be thrilled, knowing that he had failed to stop the North Koreans from nuking St. Louis, just as the Rams were about to win the Superbowl.

Well, he thought, at least my brother's night will be ruined.

At that very moment, Bradley's brother Van Helsing was getting his kicks with this week's sidekick, some girl who's name he had already forgotten. Whatever, he'd just drop her the next time he was out fighting vampires. Most of them never lasted more than one mission anyways. He'd probably never need to call her by her real name-

"Say my name, Helsing!" the girl cried out in heavily accented English.

Oh crap. "Uhh..."

Suddenly the window to the room shattered and he saw three vampires jump through, baring blood-dripping fangs.

Whew, he thought. That's a relief.

* * * * *

Well that's awful. Hopefully awful enough to win! Thanks for reading, and sorry for having you read!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Robot Suicide

“You can’t tell me it managed to kill itself with this,” said Detective Unit 47A.
“Well, you look at it and tell me it’s functional,” said Patrol Unit 88Z, waving a manipulator at the corpse.
“I just...” 47A shook its head, a relic from the time when human body language was a requirement. Now doing so was simply a matter of fashion. It was “Retro.” 47A hated retro things. It had been on the force a long time, long enough that it’d thought it’d been long enough that nothing would surprise it anymore. Apparently, it’d been wrong. “We don’t even have necks! What the hell did it break with this?” It held up the rope noose, a relic of human westerns and jihadist propaganda.
“Maybe it’s some sort of joke,” said Detective Unit 107C, shrugging its perfectly sculpted shoulders. 47A hated those shoulders, and all the modern manufacturing they represented. After a hundred years on the force, it still hadn’t been transferred to a body with shoulders. All it had were rotators. 47A’s arms spun around like the plastic arms of an old human child’s toy.
“I don’t find it very funny,” said 47A.
“Well, I mean, what if this loser just uploaded a virus and shut itself down and hung itself in the noose just to play with our emotions? Get us all riled up?”
“If that’s what it meant to do, it’s working.”
“Well, it sure aint.” 88Z laughed.
“It’s a figure of speech, you deranged microwave,” 47A spat, looking down at the now defunct automaton. Heat death of the universe, how am I gonna explain this one? Robots don’t commit suicide. At least, they never used to. And if they did, they definitely didn’t hang themselves with rope.
“Maybe it was murdered?” 88Z offered, perhaps in a lame attempt to make up for its joke.
“Robots don’t murder,” said 47A. “We investigate accidents. There hasn’t been a murder in over a hundred years. Or a suicide, unless you count that one ape in the zoo.”
“Meh.” 107C shrugged its magnificent shoulders again, and 47A repressed a surge of jealousy.
“Well, I hate to tell you, Detective, but this weren’t no accident. So it’s either a murder, or a suicide.”
Damnit. 47A thought. 88Z was right; there was no way around that. They’d thought they were better than man, above his psychological foibles. For a hundred years, they’d been right, but it appeared now that at least one of their number was not. One of their number was flawed.
47A just wondered how many more were, and whether it might be, too.

(This story also appeared on io9 as part of a concept art writing prompt)


Art by Alejandro Burdisio at
You’re on an island, tropical and wild. Jungle life surrounds you, great palms and crying monkeys and birds. The sand is white and pure, and the waters around you are filled with corals whose colors span the rainbow. Salts stings your nostrils as a cool breeze wafts over the sands, carrying the clean ocean spray, and the moon begins to rise over the dark, cloudless sky.
A figure approaches you, dark and alluring, clad in nothing but the ocean spray and flecks of sand that cling to a perfect frame. The figure reaches out, and strokes your cheek, and invites you-
God damnit, Miller thought. She’d been sure that this was a real dream and not one of the projected ads. The companies claimed that they only induced dreams when you wouldn’t otherwise have one, but she swore that she had fewer of her own dreams nowadays.
The sound of a voice from the real world crackling over the station radio shocked her to life and she flailed wildly to her feet, succeeding only in tipping over her chair and falling to the floor, landing painfully on her side.
“Uhhh...” She rolled onto her back, moaning and feeling the heavy vibration of the station’s engines through the dirty, ash-stained floor. She sat forward, blinking and rubbing her side.
Well, at least now I’m awake, she thought.
“Miller!” The radio crackled again, and she groaned. Not who she wanted to talk to. Especially not who she wanted to have catch her sleeping again. She pushed herself to her feet, wiped some marijuana ash from her hands and clothes, and clicked the radio on.
“I’m here Boris, cool your jets.”
“My jets are going to be far worse than cool if you don’t get me some god-damn fuel!” The Soviet accent dripped vitrol even through the hazy radio static. “What, were you sleeping again? Can’t even be bothered to turn on the auto-attendant?”
“Auto’s broken.” She said, swinging over to the control panel with its arcade-style control sticks. She moved one of the sticks with practiced ease, and outside the station, the manoeuvring rockets on the fuel arm piped to life, moving the boom out towards Boris’ bus. “We’ve put in an order with the Xr for some new parts but we’re pretty far down the waitlist.”
Dust sifted from the rafters as boom connected solidly with the bus and started pumping. “You need learn to bribe better,” Boris said over the radio.
“I’m not sure what I can bribe the Xr with.” Miller snorted. “We already gave ‘em the planet, what else could they want?”
“Dad, da, this is problem - now we have nothing to bribe them with. We already give biggest bribe. Perhaps you find Xr who enjoys human sex, you bribe with body. Always work for my sister when she need extra rations.”
Miller imagined those long, cold claws on her skin, those segmented mandibles kissing her, and gagged. “No thank you. I think we’ll do well enough without the auto attendant for now. I don’t think there’s anything that I would need desperately enough to fuck a Xr.”
“Bah! You just wait until your primary repulsor goes and you fall out of sky. Then you will have wished to listen to Boris and find some Xr to fuck and give you best things!”
The boom rattled again and a button lit up on her panel. “Alright Boris, you’re all full. Did you want a crate of churros before you left?”
“Bah, these things give me indigestion.”
Tell me about it, she thought. The station shook again as she retracted the boom from the beaten up bus. “Alright, we’ll see you next week.”
“Farewell, capitalist pig!”
As Miller watched Boris fly away, smoke pouring from the alien repulsors tacked underneath the human-made school bus, she wondered what had become of their world. Miles below, the earth swarmed with aliens from another world, while humanity puttered through the sky on borrowed wings.
It was a poignant and profoundly depressing thought.
Like Icarus, or some shit, she thought. Somewhere, there had to be a Greek myth that perfectly foretold this situation.
A Citroen lifted up to the station, repulsors burning blue, and honked three times.
Well, at least someone wants churros.

(this story also appeared on io9 as part of a writing prompt)