Blue sky from corporate to the car. Texting his wife, Mr. Kedder didn’t notice the mosfugito alight on his back — purple, corpulent, cellophane wings, with a proboscis that pushed discretely into Kedder’s time. Then the world heaved. Kedder spun ahead to his house, to bed, to morning with its toothpaste and groans. Years, suckled in seconds, flung children into college, into careers. Wrinkles wriggled across Kedder’s face. “Please…” A gray hair, a wife’s funeral, pills in a white cup. “Please… stop…” And as if in answer, the mosfugito tore from Kedder’s back, engorged on a gray husk bound to wheelchair.
A story in exactly 100 words.
Jim scratched his groin, itching fierce since last week’s romp at Ophelia’s. With a squint particular to these plains, he muttered, “I’m telling ya, that there’s a wyvern.”
Turner pulled from her scope, rested the rifle on the blue ridge of the roof. “It’s a dragon. Release the flare.”
Jim spat. “Wyvern! See the tail? Got a stinger there. That two-wings couldn’t burn down a barn.”
That two-wings released a hot beam of fire that took out Ophelia’s Place. The critter swooped overhead, a stingerless tail whistling by.
“One of them fire-breathing wyverns,” Jim muttered stubbornly, reaching for the flare.
A story in exactly 100 words.
Mother put down baby, avoiding kicking legs, all twelve of them. She wrapped a diaper around baby’s waist, whispering gently. Baby giggled, his mandibles clacking. Mother smiled. “He’s putting on weight. The diapers are getting tighter.”
Underwear secure, baby scurried up the wall.
Father was releasing torrents into the sink. “Another bite?” she asked. Father groaned, hurled, didn’t reply, raised an arm. Gauze barely hid where baby had bit freely. Mother came to the kitchen to hold her husband, to let the sense of wrong invade her, before the fog returned, before she pulled baby back down from the ceiling.
The Were-Traveler published my speculative mystery fiction, “Carnaval de la Coccinelle.” For a long time I’ve wanted to write a locked-box style of detective fiction, specifically a story where the central mystery revolves around a cipher.
Meanwhile, the backdrop is the same universe as “Water Bees,” an alternate history where the world is populated by men and a menagerie of bugs. There are no squirrels, whales, or seagulls, and man is theorized to be some evolved form of worm.
“Carnaval” also follows the same protagonist as “Water Bees,” the gruff police inspector Henri Moreau, and the setting is yet again Arles, France, at the turn-of-the-19th-century.
The Were-Traveler is a fiction eZine that publishes speculative fiction in themed anthologies (my piece was published in a whacky carnival-&-circus anthology called SuperFreak: Freakpunk #2). The magazine is run by the delightful author, publisher, and editor, Maria (M.X. or Reo) Kelly.
Few people know that I grew up in Indonesia. As a writing exercise, I decided to reflect on some of my experiences in the jungles of Sumatra, specifically on my first encounter with a local lizard species.
Chevron put an oil camp in the center of a village previously unspoiled by Western advances except for Disney Princess shirts and dirty motorcycles. There they placed us, protected from friendly brown-skinned neighbors by fences and barbed wire and border guards armed with clubs and slingshots until the Bali Bombing when they upgraded to rifles.
It was always raining except the days they burned trash. Then the misted air filled with the green acids of plastic. Sometimes when it rained I would let out the cats. There was a gray sidewalk that wound around the house, kept dry by an extension of the roof and gutter. The cats, mewing softly, would scour the perimeter for shelter-seeking beetles. We didn’t have to watch them; the rain made an excellent cage.
At night, the windows went chak chak chak. Mom thought the villagers were tapping sticks against the glass.
My room takes some explaining. Our house was a one-story American imitation, but it had a porch that made an L across two sides, and this porch was enclosed, sealed by walls and long windows with metal bars that made a lattice instead of stripes. My room was created by partitioning some of the porch.
There were three doors in this room—one to the porch, one into the house, and the last led to the cement path and green furry grass. I had a strip of glass that peered outside and a strip of glass that looked into the living room. At night, I could look through the window at my parents watching television, like a forgotten child peering into a house, seeing how happy everyone is without them.
I made the discovery in the middle of the night. Lying in bed, two cats forming a ying-yang on the covers, woken by the purple-white call of lightning, I heard beyond the tah tah tah of rain the relentless sound of chak chak chak.
You have a reckless spirit when you are young with a theory and animal companions (even if they are selfish little cats). I crept to the window and peered into the wine-dark. Finding no one, I unlocked the door to the outer elements and pushed until the wood-rust cracked and the door swung open.
My impressions of this moment include the: wetslick air, the cascading wall of water, the creep of feet and paws, meows emitted by cats (meong meong in Bahasa), no one in sight but me, and still the sound of sticks.
I paused, the cats padding softly around me, and looked to the window. There, a thin, brown lizard emitted the sound: chak chak chak.
The lizard noticed us and leaped away, was caught by the cats, squirmed out its tail to distract them, and, dignity lost, escaped into the grass. Relieved, I closed the door, and as I fell into slumber, I return from the backwaters of memory to my home in Texas – a place far-flung from the fantasy of the jungle, but no stranger to mystery and the hug of humidity.
Author’s Note (For Context): This is a ficción, inside joke, eulogy, parody, and testament to the translator and writer Jorge Borges, in imitation of his excellent “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.”
I owe the discovery of a Borgesian doppelganger to the conjunction of a mirror site and an entry on Wikipedia. The mirror troubled the depths of my thoughts in my suburban home in Sugar Land, Texas; the Wiki-page was devoted to an author with a similar name, another Borges. My friend had been explaining the utility of a mirror site, a website replica created to divert network traffic, when, in jest, he said that mirrors and copulation were abominable, since they both multiply the numbers of men. The phrasing seemed too eloquent for his invention, and I asked who had said it. Jorge Borges, was the reply. A strange sense of unreality set in, and I asked if he had any relation to the Argentine writer of the same name, to which my friend said – I don’t think so.
We set about to search for this Borges on the Internet, but could find nothing, only webpages saying Page Not Found, since my Wifi wasn’t working. To save face, he searched again on his phone, but could only find the other Borges – the magical realist from South America. Again, he distanced the quote’s origin and this literary master, arguing that they were separate persons. I finally decided this had been a fruitless fiction derived from my friend’s pride and insecurity in claiming the passage for his own. Surely, if there had been two Borgeses, I would have heard of this anomaly, this controversy?
Years later, I would find a book by this alt-author in a used book store on 99. The work was titled The Garden of Forking Paths, and contained a slew of stories, all strange and wonderful and infinitesimally complex. I was leaving the store when in the Spanish aisle I saw the name Borges in bold print. It was on the cover of El jardin de senderos que se bifurcan – clearly, the work of the Original Author. I bought both works and brought them to my home for careful examination, or to use a word discounted by high school teachers, to peruse. What I found was astonishing. The two texts, by two authors of the same name, were completely unrelated in regards to content. In fact, one was incomprehensible, written in a language divergent from ours: Spanish. Yet the structures were identical, or nearly so, for both had Tables of Contents, chapter headings, a body of pages, a foreword and index. And the stories corresponded; their paragraphs and even their punctuation were terribly homogenous. I felt as if I’d found some otherworldly Rosetta Stone, some fragment of twin dimensions.
The pictures of the authors in the book jackets looked related, although one was much older, shrewder, with a drooping eye. They could have been twins, if it weren’t for the gap in years, or duplicates, as if God had multiplied Soul and Body – some error in creation buried beneath the continuities.
My final discovery was on the bookshelf of a woman I was wooing. She was a graduate student renting her professor’s small one-bedroom apartment while he was on sabbatical. There was an erotic nature to our connection, accentuated by strange phallic images the professor had put up on the walls. African tribal spears, bolo knives, and near-nude women with large breasts in Picasso-like frontality. On her shelf, or rather, the professor’s shelf, was a copy of Borges’ Forking Paths. One night, I brought my own copy from home (possibly by the same author, possibly by the Other) and compared the two. What I found led to my utter distress and subsequent destruction of the books. The works were the same and not the same, as if the two writers had plagiarized the same source, some ur-text, or precursor. In one book, the words read, “I have known that thing the Greeks knew not – uncertainty.” The other: “I have known uncertainty: a state unknown to the Greeks.” Both, despite distance, derivation, offered a glimpse into the unrealness of my world – its labyrinths, its mirrors.
I struck a match which burned like the sun above me, and put it to the books. For a moment, I thought there were twin suns crackling in the afternoon heat, before the bookfire rescinded, leaving behind its ashy droppings, a clutter of black fragments belonging to the libraries of Hell.
365 Tomorrow published my scifi microfiction “Birdu Vanilla.” The story is a reflection on senseless gaming but don’t confuse me for a ‘video games make you hurt people’ right-winger ignoring the rightful causes of gun violence. I’m more of a flightless bird who’s too fat to fly. You’ll notice the comments are more forgiving than my last piece on 365.
365 Tomorrows is an online journal that publishes speculative fiction every single fething day. The site is an excellent complement to your morning bowl of cereal and glass of Moloko Plus.
The doctor’s office was the only place Fizz Ease could kick his feet around like a kid. It was odd sitting without touching the ground. Kind of like how accustomed he’d become to going into the restroom and looking straight in the mirror, not needing to stand on tiptoes and peer above the counter.
Dr. Sudarshan was looking at a chart. He flipped a few pages roughly, making them crinkle.
“Looks like you have eleven tender spots today,” he said finally. “That’s four more since our last check-up. How are your sleeping habits?”
Fizz repeated the usual stories, each anecdote underlying the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Sleep-heavy nights, moody mornings, fatigue at work.
“During the day, the door remains unlocked—the lights flicked on by a sleepy department head and flicked off by a custodian whose back vac makes her a ghostbuster.”
“Mrs. Whittaker paused from grading papers to appreciate the room. The kids were engaged in what’s called Flexible Learning, working in what is called Flexible Groups, to accomplish Flexible Goals, based on a Flexible Curriculum.”
“When I wake, the cats are at the door—they want to slip into bed and lie in my warm vacancy.”
“I open the year with a joke. ‘My name is Mr. White, like the color of my [the students look expectantly toward my skin] walls.’ Cue enough laughter to sustain the joke next period.”
“Today, I had a rather innocent and ill-informed student inspect an atlas on the wall (one with only the boundaries of countries but no printed names), point to Cambodia, and say, ‘I think that’s South Koran.'”
“My classroom is a block like those you stack in first-grade.”