Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category

I am a sick and twisted cookie.

Written for Chuck Wendig’s blog, a flash fiction challenge on the literal “War on Christmas.”

I present – Peter’s Pains

“Scream Frosty, scream.”

The animated snowman screamed, sounding just like a whiskey soaked old man being jammed with hot pokers.  Those hot pokers were pencil thin, and the sounds of his screams didn’t completely cover the hiss of steam as heated metal plunged into compacted snow.

Black Peter watched, eyes alight as his victim writhed with little stick arms strapped to the table.  A huge black beard, singed from countless half lit chimneys, made Peter look like a pirate gone mad.  His skin was cracked like a miner’s, and stained with coal dust that no amount of bathing would entirely wash away.  Huge, callused hands held the thin, heated rods with an almost delicate care as he decided where to plunge the implements next.  Dozens of small holes already leaked water onto the floor, crystallized ice around the wounds looking very much like glittering scabs.

“You will tell me where that fat bastard is hiding himself,” Peter said.  His voice was rough from coal dust, and very sure of itself.  It was only a matter of time.

The snowman hacked, small bits of ice dribbling from his lips.  Eyes that were far more alive than two lumps of coal had a right to be narrowed defiantly.  Twig fingers clenched in pained rage.

“Never!  Not in a thousand Christmases!”

All around the two, Peter’s minions worked on other captives.  The few survivors of the Army of Nick were wishing they had died with their comrades.  The Pole had fallen, after a month’s siege.

Two grinches, their green fur matted with sweat and dried sugar, held down a gingerbread man.  A third pressed a cloth over the confection’s frosting mouth and poured milk over the rag.   “Milkboarding” had already dissolved most of the cookie’s brothers, eating them away from the inside out.   Their remains littered the floor, gumdrop buttons crushed under grinch feet.

The Krampus was instructing several miniature versions of himself on the finer points of torture.   The Claus had never allowed his demon-slave to breed before, but under Black Peter’s rule Krampus had already sired a dozen imps.  Children were in short supply in the Pole, so they had to make do with elves for their lessons.  The Krampus smiled proudly as imp giggles mingled with elven sobs.

“I have his sleigh,” Peter said to his snowy victim.  “The fat bastard couldn’t have gotten far without it.”

Steam hissed and Frosty tried to hold back the sounds of his agony.  He wished for his old corncob pipe to bite down on.  Tears dribbled from coal eyes, leaving dark streaks on his face.

“You think Old Nick needs the sleigh to travel?  That’s just to carry the toyYYyS!”  Frostry shrieked the last word as Peter ground a hot piece of metal into his eye.  The smell of charcoal was deeply satisfying to the villain.

“You will tell me.   My vengeance will not be complete until the fat man begs at my feet.”

“You fool.  You will never be anything more than sorrow and regret.  You can not kill the spirit of  Christmassss-“

The hiss of steam mingled with the hiss of pain, as Peter became impatient and shoved his implements into the snowman’s mouth.

After the pain subsided, Frosty gave him a torn, half melted grin.   Triumph filled the North’s greatest general even as his tongue and lips dribbled down his chin.  Now he could never succumb and betray his master.

Peter threw his tools down in disgust.  Furious with himself and the obscene, twisted smile of his captive.  For a second he just stood and stared, as impotently enraged as a child who had just opened a lovely wrapped box of tube socks.  The moment passed quickly, and he signaled to a ferocious looking yeti who lurked nearby.

“Take it away, and burn it’s old top hat,” Peter said.  “Then… bring me the reindeer.”


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It’s been a while since I did one of these, but Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com put up a delicious flash fiction challenge that I had to give a go.  A random ass one, where you rolled a d20 and were given by mad luck your style, conflict, and one element to include.  With a thousand words to work on and blind chaos, I did what I could with Hard Boiled – Heist Gone Wrong- with Poisonous Snakes.
Yeah…. I’m calling this one Balloon Animals – 992 Words Long

Balloon Animals

Never work for a clown, even a sexy one.

That’s not a metaphor.  We all work for clowns in the end, from bosses to politicians. I mean the actual circus type clown. She wasn’t wearing the make-up when she came to my office, but she had been working a plaid skirt so short it was probably the circus midget of its kind.  Her legs had been distracting enough and the job simple enough I had agreed without much hesitation. She just wanted me to dig up dirt on her husband for her upcoming divorce proceedings, though she claimed he was holding important papers ransom. Probably just a pre-nup, but breaking and entering and a little petty theft were all part of the P.I. gig.

Mr. Ricardo was staying in the kind of cheap motel that I spend far too much of my time in. He wasn’t the only one form the circus there.  Jugglers practiced by the pool and what had to be a seal was playing ball with three small children.  A group of clowns watched me pass with painted smiles and dead, tired eyes.  No one seemed to notice as I went up to the third floor and jimmied my way into his room.

The room looked just like you’d expect, dingy and banal, with lights dim enough that you couldn’t see just how bad the paint was fading and peeling.  Three honest to god steamer trunks seemed to contain the whole of Mr. Ricardo’s possessions.  I really hoped the whip was part of his act, not his social life. I didn’t see any of the papers I was supposed there to steal back.

I heard footsteps approaching the door.  There wasn’t a closet to duck into so I slipped into the bathroom instead.  A woman giggled and a man murmured something low and presumably enticing to her.  I shut the door to the bathroom with equal parts speed and stealth.

A hiss and a high pitched rattle quickly distracted me from the voices in the other room.

The room was hot and wet, like the inside of an infected wound.  Bright fluorescents mixed with an odd red lamp someone had rigged over the bathtub.  The cheap tile floors smelled of bleach and an odd, dry musk.  Something slithered behind me, brushing my heels.

I jumped forward, a pure involuntary motion, and felt a sharp pain in my calf, hot and quick.  For a moment I thought I had been cut by broken glass, and I looked around for it.  I didn’t see any glass.   Just snakes.

Like a bad dream they now seemed to fill the bathroom.  The tub, bathed in red from the heat lamp, writhed like the pits of Hell.  Long, limbless bodies squirmed along white tiles with deceptive speed.  Behind me the one who bit me rattled in a way that could never be mistaken with a child’s toy.  I swear the bastard was grinning at me as it flicked its tongue.

If it hadn’t been for him I’d have gone right back out the door.  I’d have made my apologies to the man and whatever woman other than his wife he was sleeping with, and make my way to the nearest hospital.  As it was, I was wondering if I could draw and fire before he got in another bite.  My leg was starting to burn.

There was a window on the other side of the room, just big enough.  Of course we were two stories up, but if I could make it past the room full of scaled death I was willing to jump it.  A broken leg couldn’t be worse than a poisoned one. I started to edge, slow and careful, across the treacherous terrain of this festering bathroom.  A face appeared in the window, and I was startled enough I almost fell into the tub.  My client, white faced and crying for me, like a mourning angel.  Only after I recovered my balance did I realize the white face was mime makeup, and the tears were painted on.

“Hurry,” my not-quite angel beckoned, reaching through the second story window as if she hovered on unseen wings.

I was in no position to argue, but complying wasn’t a simple thing.  My leg was really cramping now.  I hobbled, and the motion seemed to attract the snakes too me.  In exactly the reverse reaction they had to Saint Patrick, the snakes flocked to me.  One hissed, and I kicked it just as hard as I could, my leg screaming with agony even as the pest hit the wall with a satisfying wet, crunchy sound.

I got to the window and grabbed the hands offered to me.  It took some work to swing my leg through the small opening, and a moment of vertigo made me reel.  The ground was too far, the sky too close, and my client’s magnificent legs stretched forever.  Too far really, all the way to the ground.

She gripped me, stronger than I’d have figured, and swung me down and between the pair of stilts she was perched on.  I hit the ground in a roll, managing despite my pain to land on my ass and not my face.  The group of clowns were there, having followed my client I imagine.  They silently considered me, then raised their fingers like judge’s score cards.  The jerks only gave me a six.

I looked back up at my client and savior.  She was leaning into the window, shouting at the top of her voice.  I could just hear the voices inside the hotel room, her husband and his mistress.  I could have stayed but I knew how those fights went, and I had an appointment at the emergency room to get to.

I had to admit as she leaned in to shout louder, working out on two story stilts gave a girl a magnificent ass.

Or maybe that was the cytotoxin talking.




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Okay, so last post I announced my new jewelry store, Dual Seed Studios http://www.etsy.com/shop/DualSeedStudios/about/  and you all should check it out.  I’ll probably have to do a post on just what “Dual Seed” means to me and why I chose it, no it’s not as dirty as you might think.  But this isn’t time for that, this is a time for myth and folklore and things that go bump in the night.  Or things that go bump in the bedroom.  In honor of my own obsessive endeavors, let’s look at two different sources of inspiration.  The muses and the leanan-sidhe.

Muses are so popular that I didn’t want to do a full post just on them, because much of it you might already know.  Nine women, born of Zeus, who represent all the arts and sciences of the ancient world.   Traditionally, they inspire artists and creators within their fields.

… Or do they.  First of all, since I’m focusing on things that people might not have heard about the muses, originally there were only three of them, and they had nothing at all to do with Zeus.  Some said they were born of Uranus, the sky, and Gaia, the earth.  Others made them out to be more like water nymphs, born from springs and occasionally man made fountains.  We’ve already talked about nymphs and their semi-divine nature, and the connection between muses and fountains stays in the background long after the three become nine.

Also, originally they were sources of inspiration, but they didn’t have specific areas or arts to personify.  They sort of leaked inspiration like a leaky faucet, giving it to whoever they were closest too.  This included lovers of course, but in some darker tales it didn’t necessarily need to be willing lovers.  That’s right, some people took inspiration from muses, along with anything else they wanted, and do we really expect a ditzy hyper-nymph to be able to put up much of a fight?  Maybe the pantheon of muses expanded when more generations of Muses were born, and maybe they started hanging out with Zeus and Apollo and such for a bit of protection.  Not that you could trust those two infamous womanizers around anyone with a bit of curves. Even calling Zeus ‘daddy’ is likely just to turn the nasty horndog on more.

Then, in another part of the world but maybe just as old a concept, there is the leanan sidhe (no, that was not an awkward segue, shut up!)  One of the Irish (sometimes Scottish) fey, she is a beautiful and powerful creature who grants inspiration to her lovers.  Willing lovers only this time, anyone who tried to force himself on a leanan sighe is going to lose more than his balls.

Even when the leanan sighe has a new beau, the artist  in question is doomed to suffer.  The leanan sidhe is absolutely the worst of girlfriends.  She demands all your love and attention even as she insists you work on your art.  And even when you are a dutiful lover, she quite often drives you into complete madness.  The candle that burns brightest slips a bloody cog, to mix a metaphor.  Literally, almost all of the lovers, read victims, of the leanan sidhe live brilliant, and short, lives.  Usually ending with them gibbering in madness, overwhelmed either by faerie glamour or forced inspiration.  Uncontrolled ideas bubbling up through the brain pan can be just as dangerous as supernatural sex, probably more so.

Later mythologies have the leanan sidhe as kind of a vampire who feeds on her lovers’ life forces. She probably gets more of a boost from their love.  She doesn’t need to drain her little pets, but I bet she gets a giggle out of the self destructive path the little mad bastards cut through their lives.  There are always more desperate artists to fill her bed.

Now I talk about the leanan-sidhe as a singular figure, and to be honest the older myths have it as a type of fey, with lots of the ‘barrow lovers’ as the name loosely translates too, running about and causing brilliant but short lives.  More recently, in popular media especially, she is becoming a singular figure, and I’m kind of waiting to see if that happens more and more with the other old fey.  I’m wondering if the human story will condense several old myths together, much like they’ve done with various pantheons, until we have the Redcap, the Dionne Sidhe (singular), instead of a bunch of the buggers running around.

It’s also fascinating the connection between sex, inspiration, and water.   Those three things get combined far more than just these two examples.  The apsara of India are supernatural dancers who seduce and inspire gods and men alike, often causing at least trouble in their marriage beds.  They follow music wherever it is, and are connected with waters and clouds.  Saraswati, godess of knowledge and arts, gets linked to flowing water and pure water sources as well.  Of course the Roman goddesses of fountains are poor knock off copies of the muses (like everything else in Rome), but how many seers, male and female, scry through water for their inspirations throughout history?

On a personal note, though the original three muses were mostly focused on poetry and song, I always liked the idea of nine muses who covered art, history, and science.  There is a huge gap in modern times between art and science that really just doesn’t need to exist.  Both require inspiration, dedication, and a bit of bloody luck.  Why not search for that luck in the form of a beautiful nymph?  Men have found inspiration in far worse things.

Okay, insert obligatory joke of muses being all ‘wet’ here, goodnight folks.


Writing Prompts

Two thousand years in the future, what ‘arts and sciences’ exist and what muses have provenance?

Women’s lib, a muse goes into business for herself.  Maybe using an artist as a tool and ghost writer.

Modern psychological drugs versus leanan sidhe madness magic, who wins?  Certainly not the poor bipolar artist stuck in between.

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For those of you who missed yesterday’s post, I’m starting a new novel.  Anyone who wants to read a rough first chapter should definitely check out the post.  It involves a federal organization that delivers and protects dreams, like the post office only much, much more fun.  With that on my mind, I thought I’d do a quick but appropriate post on one of my favorite little dream related creatures.
Now most cultures have a variety of creatures that cause nighttime distress, manipulate or deliver bad dreams, or just like to snack on sleeping people.  We discussed one of those not too long ago, the alp of German folklore.  (Hmm, wonder why I’m mentioning him again.  Really, go read yesterday’s post for a giggle.)   However, there are only a handful of standard creatures that help alleviate bad dreams.  Most traditional remedies involve chasing off or killing the creature causing your problems, or getting a friendly healer or shaman to prepare you an amulet for protection and good dreams.   The dreamcatcher concept is common in more than just the Native American cultures.
Surely though, if there are beasties and ghoulies that bring nightmares, there must be something out there that does the opposite?  Most supernatural critters exist in some form of whacky ecosystem, with predators and prey, checks and balances.  Well my favorite has always been the baku, both for it’s effectiveness and it’s outright ferocious adorableness.
The baku started as a Chinese beastie, but for reasons we’ll see has become almost wholly associated with Japan over the centuries.  There are some reports of them keeping pestilence and general evil at bay, but their most consistent trait is the ability to eat nightmares and even sometimes good dreams.   It gobbles them up whole cloth, plucking them from the sleeper’s mind and going about on their way.
And that’s it.   No other special abilities.  No shapeshifting, wish granting, or even the ability to speak.  It’s just a beastie that slurps down your subconcious neurosis.  However it has been a mainstay of Japanese culture for hundreds of years, and Chinese even longer.  Like many Asian beasts, it is described as ‘chimerical’ by folklorists of the west.  Mostly because every beast in those cultures is, or more importantly their descriptions are always hodgepodge.  Even when describing their dragons, most oriental cultures try to liken the features to the nearest regular animal they know.  So a dragon has the head of a camel, the scales of a fish, the talons of an eagle.  Ect.   It isn’t really a chimera like we think, those are just handy descriptions.
The baku is described as having the trunk of an elephant, the paws of a tiger, an ox tail and often small horns or tusks.  It’s a small little guy though.  Maybe half the height of a man, and that elephant trunk is more than adept at rooting out your nasty dreams for it’s breakfast.
Which brings us to the odd/interesting moment.  For the last thirty years, thanks to some innovative anime, the baku has become directly associated with the tapir.  To the point that the tapir is often called baku, and baku is often called tapir.  The guys with their wee trunks and snuffling behavior have hit a huge popularity level now that they have been linked to the mythology.
And I want to stress, before the story changes, that this is a brand new phenomena.  Tapir were just not linked to baku originally.  Not till later, when tapir where named mo and mahk in China because of the beasts resemblance to the myth.   For gods sake, one of the anime that helped make this happen was the magna based off Pokemon. The drowsy, a tapir like mud-dwelling critter, is also a dream-eater.  This wasn’t the first link between tapir and the more traditional, more ferocious, tiger-pawed baku, but it is one of the most prevalent. (Yes, I know these sad facts, I also know the turtles in Mario Bros. were based on kappa, and that’s where King Koopa comes from.  Mythology is Everywhere!)
So, much like the changes in the tengu, we are going to see a major paradigm shift in both popularity, and origin stories of the baku in the next fifty to a hundred years.  Which may only fascinate me, but it fascinates me wholly.  Yes yes, I know I’m crazy, but hey it’s my bizarre perspective that is supposed to make these blogs fun.  I give it five years before a tapir logo ends up on some kind of sleep aid drug.   Since the buggers are Not suited to being raised as pets, even by those wealthy enough to afford some eccentric help with their bad night’s sleep.

Writing Prompts
Baku rental agency.  The things look like vacuum cleaners already, might as well have door-to-door salesmen.
Dream plagues. What happens if a certain bad dream spreads from more than one mind?  Is a single baku enough for a village?
Chimerical practice.  Try and describe a regular animal in chimerical terms.  For instance the elephant, with a nose like a snake and huge floppy ears like a great dog.  It can be real fun to see how confusion quickly sets in when you rely on poor analogy.

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So, it’s that time again.  Time to start writing a new book while trying to find a home for the last one.  This is my pattern, always be working on one thing while selling the last, and the one before that?  Well, it goes in the trunk for awhile.

Part of my process when choosing a new project is to write several first chapters from various ideas.  First chapters flow for me like hot butter down a gorgeous woman’s thighs… and no, I won’t tell you how I know how hot butter flows in that situation.   Anyway, I’m leaning to this project, and would love some input.  Anyone have time to read a first chapter?   Please, give me the worst and best criticism you can.
Working Title – Sandmen!

The widow McGonaghey didn’t remember the dream that woke her, but she remembered the certainty that the dream had not been her own.
She managed to get her bleary eyes half open, and was rewarded with the fleeting glimpse of a small figure in a ridiculous bowler hat.   Her hand was already blundering about the nightstand for the phone.  She had put the number she needed on speed-dial the last time she had needed to call.
A pre-recorded message was annoying enough to help chase the remnants of sleep from her mind as she shrugged a robe on.  Ms. McGonaghey managed to get her feet into soft pink slippers and to creak up to standing as she jabbed at the zero button repeatedly, forcing through the menu options as quick as she could manage.  Meanwhile, she shoved an old silk handkerchief into the keyhole of her bedroom door and was bending down and struggling to push a throw rug up against the doorjamb when she finally got through to a bored sounding operator.
“Federal Dream Services, Mary speaking.  Please be informed that this call may be recorded for quality control and training purposes.  How may I assist you?”
“Account 44506,” the widow grumbled as she struggled with the rug.  “That damn alp is back!”
“Just a moment,” there were a few quick keystrokes on the other side of the phone, “yes I see.  Ms. McGonaghey?  And this would be the third disturbance in ten days?”
“Yes yes, that’s the case.  Now send someone out here!”
“I will put in a request for service Mam, but there may be some delay.  In the meantime would it be all right to run through a few quick procedures?”
“Saints you people have been going to the tech support conferences again haven’t you?  All right, but I’m telling you, I’ve tried everything.”
“Yes Mam, as I said our service men will be on their way as soon as possible.  In the meantime, have you tried putting lemon zest on your windows?”
“And a whole one under my pillow.”
“Hmm, how about bent nails?”
“Of course, who doesn’t have a few bent nails in the corners of their house?”
“But most nails aren’t made of iron anymore, did you buy them from a conventional hardware store?”
“Do you think I’m an idiot?  I’ve iron nails passed down from my mother’s mother’s mother.  Really, you people.  I’ve half a mind to-”
“Excuse me Mam, I am just following the checklist, and you declined to give us any pertinent information during your last few calls.”
“As if I had time to chit chat. I was trying to snatch the thing’s hat!  If  I hadn’t plugged up the door already I wouldn’t be wasting the time now.”
“Yes Mam, I understand.  And that checks off the next few items about containment and magical garment procurement.  Are you by any chance a new mother?”
“Do I sound like a new mother?”
“You could be an old, new mother.  We try not to make assumptions in this modern age.”
“That is coming very close to cheek young lady.  No, I am not a new mother.”
“Are you sure? Because usually when an alp makes such a regular appearance it’s because he has found a source of br-”
“I know very well what those nasty little perverts are usually after!  However, I assure you my children are all grown.  Now are you done being useless yet?  Where are those service men?”
“I’m sorry, but there was a mara outbreak earlier this evening. Some new sleeping drug with unfortunate side effects.  They should be in your area in twenty minutes or so.”
“Fine fine, I’ll just wait.”
“In the meantime, perhaps you should try to see and communicate with the alp.  If you would please turn your clothes inside out.”
“What?  With the invisible wee bugger watching?”
Ms. McGonaghey could swear she heard the receptionist’s smile as she answered.
“If you’ll pardon the ‘cheek’ Mam, if you were asleep for several minutes with the alp atop you, then he has already seen everything you’ve got.”
Ms. McGonaghey hung up the phone with as much vengeance as she could put into a thumb mashing into a button.  She missed proper cradles, something she could really slam a phone into. She had to settle for tossing the phone onto the bed, and turned her back to the door to wait for assistance.
After five minutes of waiting in absolute silence, she cursed and started to fumble with the belt of her robe.

Despite the operator’s assurance of twenty minutes, it was closer to fifty before Mitch and his new assistant made the scene.  Mitch told the kid to wait in the van, and more strictly told him not to touch anything, especially the large containment jars holding half a dozen screaming mara.  Then he hiked up the hood on his department issued robe, calmly slipped through the walls of the apartment building, and made his way upstairs.
The robes that all FDS agents wore contained a variety of useful enchantments, but they were also damned robes. Milt had long ago given up getting any functionality out of them beyond the ability to walk through walls and the avoidance charm that kept most people from focusing on him.  No, he tucked the bulk of the thin robe under a much more serviceable pair of coveralls and a heavy tool belt.
Milt was a professional with over fifty years on the job.  He’d started during the great insomnia of 58‘, had dealt with the Dream Walkers of the Sixties, and Lotus Eaters of the late Seventies.  He’d even put up with the political correctness hoopla that had rebranded the organization from the Federal Department of Sandmen to the Federal Dream Services. That one had been messy, office politics always were scarier than merely trivial things like sudden death and dream madness.
Yep, he’d seen it all, much of it filtered by the third eye that gleamed a dark purple on his forehead.   That feature was all natural, and among other things let him see through solid objects with absolute clarity. A very handy advantage in a job where you went through walls far more often than you did doors..  So he wasn’t phased by an elderly woman in an inside-out bathrobe exchanging profanity with a two-foot tall man in a bowler hat.  The fact that her cursing was pure American mixed with just a charming bit of Irish colloquialism and the little man’s was pure German, and Hoch Deutsch at that, just made the scene more entertaining.  After wrestling with maras all night, Milt needed some entertainment.
He knocked politely, the sound jarring the two inside the room, and slipped calmly inside.  The old woman squinted at him, but the old ‘turncoat’ charm of turning her clothes inside out didn’t penetrate his robe’s charms much.  It was far more effective on fey glamour and minor demons, and alps of course.  Milt pulled his hood back so that he’d appear more clearly and gave his most professional smile, a well practiced turn of his lips that meant absolutely nothing.  The deep violet eye on his forehead flashed once.
“Evening Ms. McGonaghey?  I”m with FDS.  I understand this imp has been giving you problems?”
“Imp,” the alp said. “Dumpfbacke!”
The alp growled and picked up a book.  It tossed it with little accuracy, and Milt tilted his head to one side to avoid it.  The creature looked like nothing more than a small, elderly man, its nose and eyes a bit larger than natural, dressed in a neat little suit and bowler hat.  Its diminutive form was perched on the top of the bookshelf, with plenty of ammo at easy reach.
“Aye, that bastard has been sitting on my chest half a dozen times!  He’ll be the death of me!”
Milt shook his head.
“Alps don’t usually kill there victims, they just feed on sweat, blood, or…. other fluids.  Was it giving you good dreams or nightmares while it fed?”
“Damned if I remember, I haven’t remembered a dream in twenty years.”
“Huh that’s- Hey stop it!” Mitch jerked to the side as a more well aimed book clipped his shoulder.
The alp chortled atop his shelf and said something insulting involving frozen fish.  Milt kept half an eye on him while continuing trying to talk to his client.
“Usually once you get past an alp’s invisibility a cordial approach is better than yelling at it,” he said, “but in this case I can see why you wouldn’t want to invite it to breakfast.”
“Like I’m wasting my good coffee on that little turd!  Get rid of it already.”
“I would very much like to see him try,” the alp said in heavily accented English.
Then the little old man vanished and in its place was a huge, white cobra.  It hissed from atop the shelf and flared a great hood.  Long fangs extended and dripped with thick, viscous venom.   Even the bowler hat, shrunken to fit the snakes head, didn’t diminish from the menace of the creature… much.
It spat, aiming at the slower prey of Ms. McGonaghey.  Milt tackled her, moving with surprising speed considering the overalls  and the beginnings of a beer gut.  He tried not to hurt her, but was more worried about getting her out of the way of the glob of venomous spit.  It hit the door behind her, and hissed more like acid then poison against the wood.
The alp/cobra laughed, and the combination of hiss and chortle made the Milt’s skin crawl.  He quickly shoved his hand into his tool belt and stood, standing protectively over the woman crouched on the floor.  She was screaming, no real words to it, just fury, and he tried to do his best to ignore her.   He jerked out a spray bottle, a clunky little plastic bottle with handle and trigger, just like one would use for misting plants.  He squirted it in the alp’s direction just as the cobra prepared another toxic loogie.
The mist hit the alp in the face and its attack turned into a scream.  Its scales blistered and smoke curled from its face.  The cobra vanished and a huge, hairy tarantula skittered away and up the wall, bowler hat clinging to its multi-eyed head.   Milt stepped forward, spritzing and misting heavily in front of him to try and herd the alp into the corner.
“Lemon cleaner bitch,” Milt said with great satisfaction.  “You’d be amazed how much use I get from this stuff.”
The spider chittered angry and loud, glaring down with all its eyes.  Milt switched the spray bottle to his left hand, holding it with all the intensity of a man with a gun, and slid his right into his overalls.  It was time to finish the job.
Or it would have been if his new assistant hadn’t blundered in just at the wrong moment.
Lacking Milt’s natural third aye, Louise had to make do with a temporary sigil drawn on by the tech department.   It was enough to sense life-forms through walls, to know roughly where people were and to sense if they were awake or asleep.  This would have been enough if he was in sand deployment or in dream maintenence.   It wasn’t enough to clue him into Ms. McGonagey, who was still screaming as she reached for the natural weapon to deal with a huge spider, an old broom.
“Milt, you forgot the containment jar,” Louise said, or started to say.
He came through the door, hood up and long ends of robe dangling around his legs, just as the old woman was dragging the broom to her.  His ankles hit the broom, his robes tangled around his feet, and McGonagey screamed louder.   With his hood up, Louise was little more than a blur to the old woman.  A suddenly appearing blur that might have been grabbing her only weapon away.  As Louise stumbled, trying not to fall, McGonaghey hit him over his blurry head with the broom, and kept hitting and hitting as he went down.
Professional or not, Milt was distracted by the conflagration.  He took his eyes off the alp for just a second, spray bottle wavering in his grip.  That was all the alp needed.  The spider form changed to that of a great grizzly, the bear dropping from the  ceiling hard enough to crack the floorboards beneath it.  A huge paw smacked the bottle away from Milt, and he had to dive away before a second swipe got his head.
The grizzly roared, huge mouth stretching to reveal deadly teeth. The fur on one side of its face was still burned from the lemon spray. Its claws dug great gouges into the floor, and it seemed impossibly big in the small apartment bedroom.
Ms. McGonaghey hit it with the broom.
For a second, the alp just stared at her.  Its grizzly head didn’t move a bit as the bristles smacked into it.  With a low, chuckling growl, it swiped at the woman, purposefully missing. She shrieked and jerk back. Only to trip over Louise, who was just about to get back on his feet.  The two tumbled together on the floor, the confused woman bursting into tears and smacking at him with her fists as hard as she was able.
Milt, being a professional, did not do several things at this point.   He did not go to the others to help.   He did not go diving for the fallen spray bottle, a movement that would surely attract attention back his way.  He certainly did not shout at the bear, to taunt it or distract it, as so many movie and television heroes would undoubtedly do.  He couldn’t believe the number of times some action star would shout “hey!” before hitting the monster.  As if making him jerk your way would make your hit more affective.
What Milt did do was pull a small tennis ball out of his overalls, finally getting his hand on the right weapon for the situation.   Then, with practiced precision, knocked the bowler hat right off the bear’s head.
Louise, from his vantage point under the screaming, pummeling widow, saw the bear’s eyes widen in surprise.  Then those eyes grew rounder, wider, and the whole bear seemed to shrink towards it’s face.   The whole thing collapsed like a sponge being squeezed, and for just a moment the alp hovered in the air at bear-head height.  Then the thing fell on its ass.  It was barely a foot high, and half of that was head, with huge features and no more magic hat.
Milt walked over to the three, widow, assistant, and alp.   The bowler, sized to fit the alp’s head, dangled from one hand. The alp looked up at him, but didn’t so much as drop another insult.  Its big eyes started to well up with tears as Milt reached down and picked it up by the scruff of its shirt.
Ms. McGonaghey had lost a lot of her violence when she saw the alp shrink down.  She held a handfull of Louise’s hair, other hand poised to strike again, but now that his hood had fallen back she saw the young man she had been assaulting.   She hastily struggled away and onto her feet.
Milt looked down at his assistant, and at the large containment jar that the lad had been so hasty to bring up.  He shook his head tiredly.
“You don’t use containment jars for alps.  Just got to get their tarnekappe away, then toss em in a sack.” Milt said, letting that sink in for a moment before adding, “And next time I tell you to stay in the van… stay!”

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Got a suggestion/request so since I’m messing with my schedule I might as well aim to please.  This week’s rearranged post takes us to the frozen North… well actually more like the frozen middle.  Let’s skip over to Nepal and Tibet and take a crack at the yeti.  Careful, they crack back.

So, the yeti… okay lets get past the basics that everyone knows about already.  The yeti is a large humanoid or ape like critter that lives high in the Himalayas.  It is usually depicted at about seven feet tall, standing on two legs, and covered with white or grey hair.

Well, except when you talk to the locals.  Since most of the actual legends seem to have them described as bear-like, not apeish.  With brown hair.  Oh and tools, in the earliest depictions they were a tool users.  Famous for a big club that whistled through the air as it struck.  In fact, in the oldest stories, you never heard the yeti.  They were silent predators.  You heard a whistle, and then someone’s head went smoosh.  This practice got it dubbed the abominable snowman (many centuries later), an appellation that should irritate yetis and snowmen alike.  Poor Frosty would never be so beloved if he wore a fur coat instead of a top hat.

Now, I know what you are thinking, sounds like the frozen popsicle version of big foot, and you might be right, but not for the reasons you think.  See, there is one very big problem when it comes to collecting information on the mythology behind the yeti.  Almost everything we know comes from the exaggerated traveler’s tales of rich white folk.   The most obnoxious of all species and the worst scourge to folklorists since the book eating pencil dragon outbreak of ’06.

Sure enough, there is damn little recorded by the locals on the yeti, because there is damn little recorded by the locals of that region period.  Huge verbal traditions from many a shifting cultures and tribes that intermingled and split off and did the genetic hokey pokey all up and down those damn mountains.  To this day, you can find pockets of languages in the Himalayas that seem to have no connection to any other living language.  All because those connections died out generations ago, but one little village will keep it alive for a few generations till it finally dies into obscurity.

From what little we know, the yeti is a part of several group’s traditions.  They are less monster, and more the mountain folk or wild men up in the snow. Who are larger and fiercer than any human, but still mostly human in their manner.  They attack when provoked or threatened, but one can avoid them easily and one tends not to be bothered as long as one is quiet near their territory.  Myths of wild men are global, and just like the Picts many of them can be linked to older civilizations that have dwindled and faded into the background.  Or sometimes it’s just a group of Neanderthals who slipped through the wrong time tunnel and are waiting for their bus back home.  Shit happens, you deal with it.

Until some damned explorer comes along.

The early Yeti stories in Western culture started out like the traditional mythology.  There were wild men in the mountains, often referred to as bear men, and certain local rites were said to require the blood of these figures.  Peculiar hunting rituals would pay tribute to and/or attack the wild men depending on the group doing the ritual.  At least, that’s what a guy named H. Siiger claimed when he got back from his exploring expedition and started telling tales.   These probably had some basis in the local folklore of the place.  The bear was a much fiercer predator in that region than any monkey or ape, and a man-bear fits the Wildman concept fairly well.

Then comes the 19th century, and several expeditions to Mount Everest bring back a host of stories of brown furred creatures.  Some laugh at the repots, and a few of the great minds insist that if anything they are sightings of out of place orangutans.  Showing you the breadth of the Victorian scientific mind. Others become fascinated.  Soon, everyone is more interested in hunting a yeti then they are climbing the mountain.  Which makes sense because climbing a mountain is damned hard work, whereas finding orangutans in Tibet should be a piece of cake.  Footprint casts are made, hair samples collected, locals make a mint renting out dubious sherpas and wondering why the hell anyone would want a plaster cast of a wild man’s footprint. The abominable snowman nickname doesn’t even get picked up till sometime in the 1920s, and by then the whole big foot of the mountains idea is so firmly rooted in the popular culture that it will never be shook free.

Which is probably the only real connection to the Bigfoot myths.  Like Bigfoot, it’s not hard to understand native myths and dealings with more primitive men or even big hairy ape things in the wood.  But locals don’t get all hyped up about this shit like the tourists do.  To the tribes of the Pacific Northwest or the cultures in the mountains of Nepal, the bear-men are simply something to be accepted and avoided.  They don’t sit around obsessing about them any more than the average citizen of Chicago worries about the fact that there are packs of feral dogs out there in the city.  They certainly don’t go hunting for them without a purpose, or even spend much time building up the legends about them.

The hunt for the yeti goes on to this day.  Poor misunderstood bastards. Modern scientific thought is that yeti sightings are actually sightings of various bears that live in the region, so at least the bear part of the myth is leaking back into the group consciousness.  The good news is, if any of the cyptid hunters out there actually stumbled across a tribe of old school yet, they would probably be so far from their preconceived notions that they wouldn’t make the connection.  Hey, I wonder how many yeti have shaved off some of their extra hair and made a dollar or two playing sherpa.   “No, you don’t want that cave, no Yeti in there.  Here, I show you good cave, that will be 1200 rupee please.”
Writing Prompts

Yeti tour guides.

Yeti legends about the strange white skinned rats that make odd cast of every dimple and footprint in the snow.

Forget up in the mountains, what do you think is deep under ground in that region of the world?  Dwarves? Dragons? Howard Hughes and his famous sexatorium?  You decide.

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I got around to this one a little later than I had planned.  Another flash fiction challenge for Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com .  This week he gave people a list of paint colours, all of which had amusing names.   Whichever colour we picked, that was the title of our piece.

I picked Bone China, enjoy.


Mila sipped her tea, contemplating the cup and saucer.  She hardly tasted the tea, not without adding far more sugar than was healthy.  She tried to savor instead the feel of the fine porcelain in her hand, the light pearlescent of the mother of pearl finish.  She tried not to look at the wall beyond beyond.  She could no longer tell if the lilac wall paper had faded with time, or if her cataracts had simply grown thicker.  She kept her eyes on the near distance, cup and saucer.

Harold had been a good husband.

It had been a shame when he had gotten himself killed.  A silly accident, but then he had been prone to silliness.  Why he thought teasing that orca with a stuffed seal had been hilarious she would never know.  She hadn’t had enough left of him to make a full tea set.  She had only the single cup and saucer.  Guests had to make do with regular china.

Not that she had many guests any more.  Not since her eighth husband, George.  He had been a regular socialite, bringing all sorts of wonderful color into her home.  Twitchy men with sweaty money in their fists, looking for things that they could not buy legally.  Large, powerful men in fine suits who had talked very quietly, but everyone strained to listen.  Their ladies, all gussied up like birds of paradise or wrapped up in thick furs.

Rather like baby seals, she thought to herself now, and laughed quietly looking at the little porcelain knickknacks on the hearth.  She could just make them out, fine little figures of gangsters and molls.  George’s bones had been enough for practically an entire speakeasy, though she had kept just a bit of him aside.  She thought it appropriate that a touch of him would forever be a little fine powder in a little baggie, just like the ones he used to sell.

She got up, her arthritis creaking her terribly, and smoothed the buttercup dress down around her bony knees.   Slowly, carefully, she walked through her home, savoring her memories along with her mementos.  The light blue vase had been made out of Steve, who always gave her yellow tulips and now would always be filled with them.  The silly little grey ashtray she made out of Phillip.  Three packs a day he had smoked, and he was surprised when his heart gave out during the New York marathon.   At least he had been considerate enough not to stick her with the hospital bills of lung cancer.

Eleven husbands in all, and she had loved everyone. Did love everyone, now that she thought about it.  Just because she let new men into her heart didn’t push the old ones out.  She loved being surrounded by what was left of their remains, sculpted into beauty even for those who had lived ugly lives.

Now it was just her, and her aching knees and fading eyesight.  She hated to be alone, it was one of the reasons she married.  Perhaps it wasn’t too late.  Perhaps it was time to find husband number twelve.  After all, she couldn’t outlive another, could she?

Well, if she did then maybe it would be time to get some tea cups made for company, and perhaps a small pot.


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