I’ve gotten a few queries from people asking about my fiction. I’ve put up drafts and exercises before, but here are a some ahort pieces from the past few years that I thought I had put up here but, clearly, did not:
1) “The Wonders”
She lay there on the ground, breathing deeply, sifting the soft alien sand through her fingers.
Why doesn’t this atmosphere hurry up and kill me, she thought, taking another deep, rattling breath.
The shuttle had crashed into a dune with colorful featherlettes waving cheerfully from its crest. No dust had been kicked up by the sudden impact; rather, little fey motes had streaked away from it in terror, and now they clustered on the crumpled landing gear, sparkling and chirping in the waning light of this world’s day.
She gasped; her lungs were about to seize up. About time.
She was tired of it; tired of all the wonders. Her eightieth exploratory landing (ninth crash), her twelfth planet discovered on the tip of the Spiral Arm. And still her bones were tired, and she couldn’t get laid, and her dog had died a hundred years ago, so far away that the light from this world’s star would not reach his little gravestone until she was a memory of dust. If this world had dust. . . .
Racing light was for suckers. Fuck the wonders! C’mon already, oblivion!
“What is this. . . oblivion?” something whispered in her ear.
“Buddha wept in a cantina!” she shouted. She leapt to her feet, coughed, and her knees buckled. Dammit, just some chlorine in the air, this would all be over. . . .
There was nothing but a voice, a reverberation in the air. Hallucinogens in the atmo; great! Now she could sink into delusion before she died; that should make dying easier. . . .
“You will not transition,” the voice said carefully, as if language was something new and delicate to manipulate. “You cannot achieve unearned discorporation here.”
Hell I can’t. Her lungs were blazing and her pulse fluttering. It sure felt like dying. . . .
“No, our world will adapt to you momentarily. Your form will not release your essence.” A pause, and then, an invocation. “It is so.”
With one last rattle, her breathing cleared; something surged through her bloodstream. The sky went from weak squid-ink to a faint, faint blue. The featherlettes danced in a sudden light breeze, and the fey motes shifted in their swarming and their sparks dimmed.
Crap. She took a deep breath, and it was sweet and restorative. “Please,” she said to the planet, “ I would just like to die.”
She felt a presence mimic the equivalent of shaking its head. “I am apologetic, but no. You must earn your end here.”
She felt the presence fade. The sun shone brightly, and off to her left, the featherlettes wilted, and something like an apple tree began to spring up. Shoots of many colors began to rise and uncurl from the earth, and somewhere in the distance something like a bird began to sing.
Fuck the wonders, she thought, watching the tree begin to grow branches. Maybe I can hang myself from it in a couple of days.
2) STORY EXERCISE: “The Woman Who Was Worried That She Was Half-Chimpmunk: A Tale of Woe”
So today on twitter an acquaintance tweeted the following:
“I woke up with a swollen face-I look like half a chimpmunk!! That’s it. I’m going back to bed.”
We then had a joking exchange about a story title I made up based on the tweet (the one in the title above). It was amusing, but I could not get it out of my head. I decided that it might make a good seed for a writing exercise, so I set one up and the result is below.
The rules I made were: write for 40 minutes twice (it was originally 45 minutes but my daughter woke up a little early from her nap), then edit for 15 minutes. That’s it. Nothing amazing emerged but it was a great loosening-up exercise. I ended up using some pretty traditional tropes, but it was enjoyable to write something quickly that did not have a lot of expectations hovering over it. The result is below:
She looked in the mirror again. It was the eighth time she had examined her face since she had gotten home. The pain had subsided. . . well, the physical pain had. Now she had to deal with this:
The reflection of her left profile was her: lustrous skin over high cheekbones, sparkling green eyes, and burgeoning, supple lips. Well, OK, the lips were a bit thin and the sparkle was contacts, but still, it was her. No question.
The right profile was completely different: puffed-out, reddened cheek; a squinty, dull eye; lips almost completely gone, enfolded by the fleshiness around them. And for the love of all the holiest things, her left incisor seemed to be poking out! As she looked at the reflection the eye twitched, and her nose, also a bit puffed-up, did the same.
And . . . was that a small, dark hair, under her nose, starting to poke out?
She shook her head; no, that was ridiculous. It was just a bit more root-canal swelling than usual. She resolved to stop worrying and get on with the day.
Until she came downstairs and her husband, returning home early from a meeting, burst into laughter upon seeing her. She snarled at him, and then immediately wondered why that had come out of her mouth rather than the snappy reply she had intended. He did his best to control his mirth, and opined that, perhaps, spending the rest of the day in bed was a good idea.
She shrugged; that had been her thought anyway. She glared at him as she went back upstairs, and stifled an irritated chitter when he chuckled again.
The next morning she awoke and looked at the clock with surprise: she had slept for almost 18 hours. She still felt exhausted as she got out of bed. Her husband was still asleep, but she decided not to wake him yet. She went into the bathroom to check on the swelling.
The right side had changed overnight, but in a way that contracted her stomach. The cheeks were not just puffy; the skin’s texture had changed, and was that . . . fuzz appearing on her face? The little hairs under her nose were now numerous, longer, and black. They felt strange, as if she could taste the air with them or something. Her nose was darker too, and the teeth. . . she shook her head. No, the incisor couldn’t be longer. . . .
She turned on her heel and marched out of the bathroom. Now she was worried; at the very least the swelling should have gone down, but it looked as if that side of her face was more than just puffy. It was different.
It was changing.
She shook her head again; no, she was just too anxious about the puffiness. That had to be it.
“Oh, that’s not looking better,” her husband said, sitting up in bed.
She stopped, cocked her head, and twitched her whiskers at him. “What do you mean?”
He yawned.”Still puffy, and there’s something over your lip.” He put his index finger under his nose to emphasize his point.
“That’s it?” she asked, trying to not bounce on her feet.
He shrugged, and squinted at her. “Your makeup looks awful.”
She made sure to flip him the finger twice as she went out the door, once before and once after putting on the hoodie.
The dentist’s office had just opened, and there were no patients when she arrived. It was five shades of taupe and suffused with hammered dulcimer music clearly playing off of a cassette. She had not realized how boring and old it felt.
The receptionist smiled up at her when she came in. “Can I help you?”
Her speech was bit funny with the odd-sized teeth, and her tone was guttural. “I want to see the doctor, please.”
“OK. Do you have an appointment?”
She was about to answer when a door opened down the hall and out came the dentist. He was short, wiry, and moved with. . . she could only call it a sinister grace. How had she not seen that yesterday?
“So, what time is. . .” he stopped speaking and walking when she saw her, still hooded, but a bit of light glinting off the incisor. “Ah, good morning.” There was silence for a good ten seconds. “Mrs. Yuen, please tell my 8:30 that I have an emergency patient.” He gestured for her to follow and headed into a room on his right.
She narrowed her eyes; something smelled wrong about this. But she went down the corridor and went into the open doorway. As the door was slammed behind her, the tang of something bad hit her whiskers, and she turned and grabbed the descending arm of the dentist, which held a creepy-looking hypodermic needle with. . . fins? She squeezed with her right hand, and he squealed and dropped the needle, which shattered when it hit the floor. She spun him around and slammed him into the cabinets behind him.
“What have you done to me?”
“What, what, what are you talking about?” he said, with absolutely no sincerity.
“If you don’t tell me, the last thing you will see before you lose consciousness is the room spinning as I slam you into a wall and turn your clavicle into a jigsaw puzzle!” She ooked at him to drive the point home.
He stood up straighter and tried to surrender with dignity. “Well, seeing as you’re so upset, and incredibly buff, I’ll tell you.” He dramatically closed his lab coat; she flexed her left eyebrow and he quivered. “OK, fine. I gave you an experimental genetic growth hormone.”
You . . .WHAT?!?!?”
He tried to smile, but her combination of human and simian rage was unnerving him. “A new medication, designed to encourage rapid healing and dental health.” He again tried to recover his composure. “I mean, it was approved by the FDA . . .”
She took a step towards him and he shrank back. “This . . . is . . . CANADA, you idiot!”
“Oh, right,” he smiled again, and the light reflected strangely off of his glasses. Were they fake?
In a flash, she leaped at him and grabbed the collar of his lab coat. “WHO ARE YOU?” she chitter-roared.
“I’m. . . I’m. . . “his voice started to rise, get weirdly squeakier, “I’m just a dentist. I was born in Montreal, Calgary!”
With a bellow that would have done Mighty Joe Young proud she lifted him off the floor by his lapels. As she started to shake him, he undid the remaining button on the coat and fell out of it. As he hit the floor he went onto all fours and scampered, quite ferret-like, for the door, glasses and wig falling from his head as he zipped out of the door.
She threw the coat to the floor and gave chase, but by the time she got to the lobby, he was gone. The receptionist had stood up and looked at her in terror. She turned to the receptionist and showed her some teeth. “So, what’s your story?”
* * * * *
The story was that the receptionist had been hired the week before, that the dentist had very few patients, and that when the cops were called they looked at her funny and said that she should sue. They filled out a report and escorted her out of the building. When she called the next day the phone was disconnected, and a trip over to the office found it completely cleaned out. A few days later she noticed the swelling and other aberrations abating. By then she had been checked out by three doctors who shrugged and called it, in order: an allergic reaction, a random mutation, and obviously some kind of weird experiment gone awry. And then she looked fine, and her tests came back with no problems, and that was that.
Until exactly 26 days later.
She decided to take a walk in the cool night air, which didn’t seem to bother her much anymore. The only thing that really annoyed her was that the incisor never completely grew down. She had a permanent scowl, but it proved useful sometimes. So what was she? Child of the night? Alien experiment? Victim of a global humanimal conspiracy? She shrugged at the sky, looking at the moon, not yet full. Whatever it was, in a few days it would give her a good excuse to stay in bed.
The ending is abrupt due to time constraints; next time I should spend a few more minutes on getting to the end and see if I can improve it. As I said, a lot of recognizable tropes. It puts me in my of some recent writing advice I read that said you should discard the first three things you think of in a story, to get the the better, deeper ideas. I might try this again, with the same title, and take it in a different direction, and see if that notion bears fruit. Hopefully it’s enjoyable to read, raw as it is. Comments are encouraged.
3) Some Nanofiction:
“But darling. . . .”
She gave him the finger.
“Look, sweetheart, I know you’re mad. . . .”
She did it again.
Sigh. “Baby, can’t we just. . . .”
Finger, blue-polished nail. In his face.
His jaw hardened. “C’mon, you have to listen. . . .”
Finger, an inch from his nose, waggling.
Exaperated sneer. He gave her the finger.
She smiled. “Now we’re communicating.”
“It’s a unicorn horn,” the young man said.
“It’s a dildo,” the old man said.
The young man traced its growth swirls. “Horn. Unicorn.”
The old man tapped the worn, rounded tip. “Horn. Pleasure.”
Youthful sigh. “Found in woods.” Old grumble: “No dead horse.”
The woman smiled. “Why not both?”
The faeries giggled knowingly.
C: “Where to Place Your Anger”
“The kitten peed. On the bed.”
He looked up from Candide, smirking. “Quite the social commentator,” he smarmed.
She cursed him, Mandarin-style, and stormed out.
He smiled, kept reading. You would think he could hear a mattress dragging his way, but it wasn’t until it struck, wet side down, that he knew what was up.
D: “Truth and Power”
“This spell will make me a god!”
“Of what worth is that?” the old man queried, undistracted from his leathern tome.
Quizzical wrinkles pinched the boy’s face. “Worth?! I will rule all!”
A smile shifted twinkling spectacles. “What god rules all? And how much responsibility is theirs?”
Pause. “Gods are still cool. . . ” the boy moped.