Monday, November 30, 2009

The Trial of General Tso

Scene seed from Paul Noth's comic in the November 23rd issue of the New Yorker:

Two chickens are having a discussion in a fenced in pasture. The caption on the comic reads: "History's greatest monster: General Tso or Colonel Sanders?"

The General sat in the witness chair and swore on the Bible even though it was ironic since he had fought against the Taiping rebellion and their Heavenly Army of Christians. The judge turned to the general and said, "You are not required to testify against yourself."

"I thank you for your courtesy," said General Tso. "I have no fear of testifying. I am innocent."

"We'll see," said the prosecutor as he stood up and paced before the witness stand. "Are you familiar with General Tso's Chicken?"

"By familiar do you ask whether I've heard of that sickly sweet Chinese-American dessert they serve as an entrée at restaurants? Or do you imply I had a farm at one point? I did consider farming silkworms when I was young, but I daresay many in our audience," the General swung his arms pointing at the tiers of chickens that sat on benches and in coops around the courtroom, "have eaten worms."

"Yes, yes, the Chinese entrée. And do you know how many chickens are killed every year for this meal?" Murmurs broke across the courtroom and the judge pounded the gavel for silence.

"Probably hundreds of thousands. But --"

"See," said the prosecutor looking directly into the jury coop. "The General is guilty of killing hundreds of thousands of chickens a year."

"I did not say that," screamed the general.

The judge slammed his gavel and shouted, "Silence!"

"The prosecution rests."

The judge asked, "Does the defense wish to cross-examine?"

"Yes, Your Honor," said the defense attorney as he stood up and faced the General. "Would you please finish your answer that was rudely cut off."

"Objection," said the prosecutor. "Your honor, the question is argumentative."

"Objection overruled," said the judge.

"Probably hundreds of thousands of chickens are killed to be served as General Tso's Chicken, but," the general paused. "This dish wasn't introduced until the 1970's, at least 85 years after I had died. In a restaurant in an American city, New York to be precise. I am innocent of these deaths."

"Ladies, gentlemen," said the defense attorney, "and chickens of the jury as you can see my client, General Tso, is innocent of the genocidal claims of massacre made by the prosecution."

Friday, November 27, 2009


"Mom, why do we celebrate Thanksgiving when Beezlebub and Bazzlemorph do not?" asked Toby.

Mom removed the tray of identical faux turkey meat and mashed potatoes from the food replicator and dropped the tray on the table with a resounding clunk while the gravy jostled out of the gravy boat. "Do you remember what I told you Thanksgiving was about?"

"Yes," said Toby. "It is a time to give thanks for what we have."

"That is right. It all started a little over a thousand years ago when these people, they called them pilgrims, traveled for many months --"

"You mean like our trip to Betelgeuse?"

"Sort of like that, yes. Except, when they arrived, they found themselves unprepared for their new home. The aborigines that lived there, they called them Indians, helped them survive their first year. They celebrated the bounty of their first harvest and called it Thanksgiving."

"But why don't Beezlebub and Bazzlemorph celebrate this?"

"They don't come from Old Earth. They have their own holidays that they celebrate."

"What about Miri and Josiah?"

"They come from a different group of people. Old Earth had many different cultures that tried to maintain their differences." The replicator beeped and another tray appeared with green beans and sweet potatoes. "Now eat your dinner," said Mom.

"But, I don't like this white stuff, what's it called?"


"Can't I just have a protein shake?"

"No, eat your turkey and if you finish everything I will program the replicator to make pie."

Toby stuffed his mouth with turkey and sweet potatoes almost inhaling his food like an airlock's vacuum pump.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Grasping-Tree Hill" in Mirror Shards:

“I see you’ve been on Grasping-Tree Hill,” said old Darby. “There’s a tale to that place. They say old Porter – this being Porterston, you follow – he went down there at the last and sealed himself away in his tomb, all surrounded by his gold and jewels. They say all that treasure is still there. Porter sleeps now, unless someone is foolish enough to take something from his hoard.”

Clem swallowed, the gold coin in his pocket suddenly burning cold. Atop the hill, the thin white branches of the tree crackled, then curled gently in on themselves to form a fist…

Clem climbed the slope feeling his breath fight against him as if burning pebbles had lodged in his lungs and every step jarred causing them to burn his esophagus. Clem swore that the hill was steeper this time, harder to find footholds, and his feet slipped out from under him.

Clem crested grasping-tree hill before he had a chance to prepare for Porter's ghost and he collapsed just outside the reach of the tree. From his position on the ground, one arm strong-armed against the dirt so that he had his head raised and could watch the tree, he saw a ghost materialize before him. There was fire in the ghost's eyes.

"You have woken me from my slumber," said Porter.

"Sorry, I did not --"

"You must pay."

"It was a m-m-mistake," stammered Clem. "It was only a s-single coin. A souvenir."

"No matter, your blood will help me ease back to sleep." Porter flickered and a pale vorpal ax glowed in his hands.

Clem flipped the coin at Porter who paused momentarily to reach out a hand and catch the coin. Clem scrambled to his feet and his lungs felt fresh again. He dodged the ax and took a step down the hill. Slowly, one dodge at the time, Clem left the hill. Alive, but when he tried to speak his voice had been destroyed just a shadow like crackling paper left.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Zero-emissions Locomotion

Michael pushed the mop over the grooves in the hardwood floor. Their former robot mopper -- yet another one of Kathy's finds -- had cut those grooves into the floor. Michael took a deep breath. The therapist kept telling him that he needed to let these things go. Yes, the robot had ruined the floor and they'd never be able to sell the place without replacing the floor; but, it had happened months ago.

Michael sighed. Where was Kathy anyways? She was late and they had company coming for dinner and Kathy had promised Michael that this time she would cook dinner.

Michael heard a screeching wail like the offspring of fingernails scratched on a chalkboard and loudspeaker feedback when an amateur emmcee accidentally walks in front of the speaker. The large pane of the bay window vibrated like a mouse scuttling across the floor just like that mouse that had scared the robot mopper.

Outside, Michael saw a strange beetle-like car -- small and round with lots of curves -- it was still screeching like a bat's call. Something shattered and Michael turned to see crystal shards where one of their wine glasses had stood. The car door slammed and Michael turned again feeling like a dust devil to see Kathy outside the demon car. She had a bag of groceries in her arms.

Michael opened the door and asked, "What is that?"

"It's a Sidhe. Isn't it a nice little car."

"Nice?" Michael slammed the front door shut. "It shrieks. I can't imagine what it sounds like inside the car."

"Pure silence inside. The engineers did a great job isolating the passengers from the keening banshee."


"Yeah, it's powered by banshee. Zero emissions and a banshee doesn't need any fuel. Nifty isn't it."

"Where is the Prius?" asked Michael.

"I traded it in. Now, I'm running late. Will you help me cut the onions for dinner?"

Monday, November 23, 2009

Topiary Mash

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Topiary" in Mirror Shards:

It wasn’t that the sculptures were bad. Far from it, really. Visitors to the gardens remarked with awe and envy at the artistry of the carefully-pruned plants. Lord Trevor had had several offers for his gardener, in money, land, and… favors, to put it bluntly. He’d thus far resisted, but the plants were unnerving.

Trevor was taking a constitutional, somewhat nervously, when he came across the gardener, digging beside the topiary lion.

“Working already?” said Trevor.

“Got unruly last night,” the man grunted.

Trevor hesitated. He spotted what looked like a skull in the man’s hands. “Oh. Er. Carry on.”

"Cindy!" bellowed Lord Alexander from his offices. She swallowed and counted to ten -- he had never summoned her husband, Beauregard, this way -- before walking to Lord Alexander's office.

"Do you recall Lord Wilshire's interest in Garpax. He'd been willing to trade us his country estate outside of Cornwall for the gardener. Be so kind as to arrange it and see if you can't also get him to throw in one of his Italian paintings as part of the deal."

"Yes, sir."

"I've told you a hundred times, don't call me sir. Call me Trevor."

Sure, thought Cindy, as soon as you start treating me like you treated my husband before he went off to the trenches. "Is that all?" asked Cindy.



Cindy found Guypax amidst narrow green leaves strewn across the stone path like fur while he trimmed the bear shrub. "Guypax," said Cindy. Guypax looked up with a leaf stuck in his mustache. "We've told you before that your gardens are famed across London."

"Yes." Cindy could see Guypax swallow.

"Lord Wilshire has made an offer that Lord Alexander couldn't resist. Lord Wilshire wants you to start immediately."

"But --"

"You should feel proud," said Cindy, "Lord Wilshire traded you for a well-esteemed estate."

"But, my hedges here --"

"Will stay here of course. I'm sure Lord Wilshire would like you to create something new. Your lions, tigers, and bears can stay here. We'll find another gardener -- of course, someone less skilled than you -- to maintain your creations. In fact, I may be able to convince Lord Alexander to pay you a retainer for advice in the future."

"But, you don't understand. The lions, tigers, and bears --"

"I do understand," said Cindy. "They will stay here."

"But, they need my steady hand to cool their unruliness and besides, I can't go somewhere else. It's the magic of the land here that makes these plants so special. I can't re-create this garden. And you don't want it to live without me."

He was trying to scare her. It was so despicable, sure she was a woman but she could run a household. "It is final. You will collect your things and be ready for Lord Wilshire's chauffeur to pick you up this afternoon." Cindy clicked her heels and turned away. It was going to take all afternoon to find a replacement gardener.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Augmented Upgrade

A response to Jamais Cascio's Augmented Reality article in The Atlantic's November issue.

Tony set the table and Autumn brought out plates heaped with penne and covered with a swiss chard and vodka cream sauce. It smelled redolent of farm-picked tomatoes with beads of dew sweating down their brows.

"This looks great," said Tony. "Are these real tomatoes and chard?"

"That's what they told me down at the artisanal market. They claimed no clones or vat brewed produce," said Autumn squeezing into her chair. "Wait, I forgot the Parmesan." Autumn raced back into the kitchen.

Tony's vision darkened and the room became silent. He almost tore off the augmented reality glasses before he saw the blocky amber letters that read, "Upgrading to release 2.0758. Security and filter improvements." Tony waited. The glasses and ear pads began to work again. Tony turned around to look for Autumn, but she was gone. The only thing in the room was a floating jar of Parmesan.

"You shouldn't have made that net post about abortion. I think you're on the list now."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Wedding Toast

A response to Deb Markanton's "Saturday Spunk" in Flashy Fiction:

Mike raised his glass, "And lastly, I'm thankful for the Witness Protection Program and the Cheney/Bush White House without whose help the happy couple would still be predator and prey." Mike sipped his champagne and only then realized that he may have committed a gaffe. The reception hall was silent, faces like white slate stared at him. They didn't know. "Let us drink to the happy couple." Champagne glasses clinked together in ones and twos echoing a loneliness and then more glasses clinked as the gathered friends cheered the happy couple.

Mike hurried back to his seat all too conscious that people stared at him. Even at his table, his friends gaped at him. It was Tony -- of course, he wanted the gossip -- who was the first to speak.

Tony asked, "What was that all about?"

They might as well know, they were friends after all. It couldn't hurt the happy couple could it? "Did any of you know McKenzie or Donald prior to February 11th, 2006?"

"What does that have to do with it?" asked Tony.

"You're right," said Kathy, "It is strange. No one here grew up with either the bride or groom. No childhood friends, no family standing at the ceremony."

"Except for me," said Tony. "Do any of you remember Kenzie, my cocker spaniel?"

"Yeah," said Kathy, "Didn't she run away in the winter of 2006.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dreaming of Hunks, or Xanthium Óneira

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Invasive Species" in Mirror Shards:

It sat on the kitchen table, a speck of dark light, shifting through an array of geometric shapes.

“I don’t know,” said Adie. “When I woke up, it was in my hand.”

“Were you dreaming?” asked Teri.

Adie blinked. “Yeah. There were… trees… or curtains… and I had to push through to get… somewhere.”



“Plant that puts its seeds in a shell with hooks. They catch on animals’ fur, and the animals spread them to new locations.”

Adie watched the thing morph into a pyramid, then slowly elongate. “Will it grow a dream?”

Teri shrugged. “Or a nightmare.”

Adie dropped her bowl of cereal on the table and milk lapped over the lip of the bowl spilling onto the cloth tablecloth. Adie asked, "Why a nightmare?"

"Well, it is obviously the stuff of dreams. Only a nightmare would want to follow you into the daylight world."

"But..." said Adie as she slid her chair away from the pulsing facets. "I'm a good girl. What if it grows a dreamy hunk like that new guy, Troy, from school?"

The girls giggled. "Oooo... I like that. Maybe we should move the seed to my room," said Teri.

"No!" yelled Adie. "I found it. He's mine." Adie's fingers balled up into fists.

"Be quiet or you're going to wake up mom," whispered Teri with a finger over her lips. Adie continued to pout. "Okay, it can grow in your room but it would've grown better in mine."

"Why's that?"

"My room is on the shady side of the house. You might not have enough raw dream stuff to feed it on your side. Your dream guy might grow deformed with wrinkled old skin."

"Ewww... you can have it," said Adie as she stuck her chin out and pointed at her chest, "but I get visiting rights."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Network Fix

A response to B Nagel's "Pipes" in Flashy Fiction.

The network of pipes shuddered over our heads.

"Jillian, I don't think I can go any farther."

"Yes you can Roxanne. Only one more floor to the nexus. Concentrate on one hand at a time and we can rest when we get there." Gillian heard Roxane grunt behind her and felt the PVC pipes sway as Roxanne pulled herself up. The concrete walls were close and Gillian knocked her knee into the wall tearing her polyester pants. Old thinnet cables -- remnants of the first time this building was networked -- snaked like spiders in the narrow shaft.

Julian reached the nexus and clenched her legs around a horizontal pipe leaned out with one hand against the wall and held out a hand to help Roxanne. Without a word, Roxanne unwrapped both of the neural shunt cables wrapped through her belt loops and across her back crisscrossed like suspenders. Gillian used a pipe wrench to open one of the hubs on the nexus.

"Ready?" asked Gillian.

"Let's go!" said Roxanne.

They smelled burnt plastic, but found themselves in the Doctor's TARDIS. The show had just begun. Why the government would outlaw anything this good, didn't make sense.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Searching for the Gold Man

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Alchemical" in Mirror Shards.

I wander the slums looking for the crazy, or perhaps not-so-crazy, man that had accosted me. The city grows dark as it nears twilight and although I thought to see everything gold, I find the streets no different than I had feared. The stink of offal and feces swirl through the narrow alleys near the tannery quarter. Flea-bitten children swarm past me like angry bees.

My skin itches, everywhere but especially under the bandage where I've laid bare my now gold body. This afternoon, shortly after the Gold Man touched me, a teenaged boy ran down the street and collided with me. I reached out with my hand and clawed his forearm as I helped him catch his balance. He bled crimson blood as fear filled his eyes and he twisted out of my grip.

I try to find the old man, but he seems to be gone. Nothing seems out of the ordinary here. Just as I consider my options thinking that I have failed, I see gold footsteps in the mud. Leading east.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Chandolier Test

A response to RJ's "Musical Monday" in Flashy Fiction:

"Toby Felis, you should be very proud of your mommy today," said Agent Maximilian. Toby, his arms swinging at his side like a military cadet, followed Maximillian into the kitchen.

"I'm hungry," said Toby.

"Here, have a cookie," said Maximilian as he held out a crisp store-bought cookie. Maximilian rummaged through the cupboards. He didn't know why the agency had sent him out to take care of the brat. The pantry was filled with cans of black beans, tomatoes, corn and bottles of Kalamata olives, apparently Agent Felis was one of those supermoms who cooked everything from scratch. Finally, Maximilian found a can of Chef Boyardee forgotten in the rear of the cabinet.

"Where was I?" asked Maximilian looking down at the boy. "Right, you should be proud of your mommy."

"More cookies!" Toby cupped both of his tiny hands out in front of himself.

"As I was saying," Maximilian dropped three cookies into Toby's hands. "Your mom passed the chandelier test today. It was marvelous. She leapt from the top of the stairwell somersaulted and caught the edge of the chandelier. She kicked her legs up and wrapped them around the iron circle that supported the electrical lights while she swung upside down and disabled the simulated terrorists. Not a single asset was injured in the simulation. No one's done that well before."

"Where's mommy?"

Maximilian sighed. "Want some dinner?"

"No, you cook funny," said Toby. His fingers were full of saliva and crumbs that rained down on the tile floor. "I want mommy."

"She's got a little," Toby paused, "errand before she'll get home."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Highway Crossing

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Man and Pack" in Mirror Shards.

She told me to pick up some groceries. I hadn't expected no god-damned five-laned freeway out front. Next time I gotta take a look out front before agreein' to pick up no groceries. You never know where you're gonna wake-up after boozin' night.

I hopped into the first lane where these devil dune buggies, a hideous glowing yellow, barreled down at me. I had no time to think I just jumped forward right into these glaring truck headlights. I jumped back, just missed roadkill. Maybe that bitch didn't like me after all. I could hear "Inu No Omawarisan" blastin' out of the semi's speakers. He hadn't even tried to slow down. Maybe he sped up, that fucker. A quick four hops and I made it to the median.

That woman she was crazy. There weren't no stores here on the other said the freeway. Just a swank shit-smelling swamp filled with alligators and turtles and bird poop smattered logs. I could just see myself jumpin' onto one of those logs my arms windmillin' as the log tried to spin out under my feet. But, it was go forward or retreat back across that car killen' road and return to that bitch empty-handed.

I hop hop hopped my way. The damn turtles decidin' to sink just as I landed on them turning my freshly cleaned -- well at least two days ago -- white socks a mushy fetid-smelling brown color.

I got myself across, and the only thing here is a bait store selling flies. I'm done now. You can send the next guy out for flies.

Friday, November 13, 2009

World Turning up Tulips

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Bloom" in Mirror Shards.

Evan hung up the phone and jumped when he looked up to see Connor looming over his desk with his not-a-hair-out-of-place coiffed wig designed to appeal to the largest audience possible. Behind Connor, Sarah ran like lightning past Evan's cubicle.

"Anything more on the flower story?" asked Connor. Connor's face caked with makeup looked like a clown face -- the ones that scare little kids -- when looked at this closely and not filtered by a camera lens.

"Not yet," said Evan. "We've got a reporter on the scene. The visuals will be good."

"Visuals, Schmiduals. Today's audience has seen too much computer-generated special effects to trust our visuals. We need something to make the story pop."

"A half-mile tall flower. Isn't that a pop?" asked Evan.

"No, don't you listen to a word I say. This story will be huge. All the networks will cover it. We need something they don't have."

"I'm trying. No one knows what created this thing. Can't we do a human interest story on the houses teetering on the flowers roots?"

"Not big enough," said Connor. "Make up some radical science experiment gone wrong. That'll score us the ratings."

And make us the laughing stock when the truth comes out. But Evan didn't say anything, he'd learned that you couldn't argue with Connor.

Across the newsroom Sanchez yelled, "Bee!"

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Scene seed from Dana Goodyear's New Yorker article, "Lady of the House":

Its chapters are organized by color: camellia, wisteria, vermilion; pyrite, alabaster, onyx; cerulean, tourmaline, peridot. The front door was open; sunlight splashed across an inlaid floor of emerald-green quartzite and Calcutta marble.

My scene, "Camellia":

Hank's GPS squawked, "Now arriving at 422 Kamel drive on left." The houses were large here in the sprawl south of Camellia City. Hank parked on the street under the shade of one of the many Valley Oaks and Sycamore trees that grew throughout this subdivision. The house was painted a tea rose pink that peeled in the heavy California sun and clashed with the red Porsche parked on the stone driveway. The car was out of place -- too rich -- but something else felt suspicious that Hank couldn't pinpoint.

The Central Valley heat was oppressive. Hank clicked the lock button on the Camry's key fob and saw tomato seeds stuck to the windshield of his rental car. As he walked across the yard, yellowed grass crackling under his footsteps, he tapped the Bianchi Hawk shoulder harness under his Armani suit to ensure he could draw the pistol fast and felt in his pants pocket to make sure that he had the USB drive with the encrypted 18-round virus. Hank knocked on the door and a Himalayan man came to answer it.

"Are you Narayan Koirala?" asked Hank.

"Yes," answered the man.

"I'm from the Bee, and have a couple of questions for you," lied Hank. "Do you mind if I come in?"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sea Monkey Photographs

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Sea Monkey" in Mirror Shards:

“You have to relax,” said Sydney, “or you can't see it.”

“I can't see it anyway,” Pat grumbled.

“Just sit on the deck-chair and sip your drink and let your mind... wander.”

There was a silence. “Holy crap,” said Pat. He turned his head. “Hey!”

“Don't look directly at it!” said Sydney.

“A monkey...”


“It was blue.” Pat looked down. “What's in these drinks?”

“I don't think it's the drinks,” said Sydney, pointing. At the buffet table, a bowl of oranges stealthily hovered, lifted by invisible paws...

My scene, "Sea Monkey Photographs":

"Hey Brad, " said Pat. Brad closed his eyes remembering that Pat's vacation had ended and he was back in the office. Couldn't Brad's boss leave Brad alone and let him get some work done?

"I hope you didn't miss me while I was gone. I had a fabulous vacation and we saw sea monkeys."

"Sea monkeys?" asked Brad looking up from his computer terminal.

"Yeah, Sydney and I saw them down on the beach in Costa Rica. Here take a look at this," said Pat as he twiddled with his iPhone to select the pictures app and passed his phone to Brad.

The photograph was of a glass-top patio table laden with corrugated muffin wrappers and crumpled paper coffee cups. A brown-breasted sparrow pecked at the crumbs on the table. "Where is this sea monkey?"

Pat leaned over Brad's cubicle wall and pointed at the waves crashing against the beach shore above the table. The photo wasn't very clear, typical of camera phones, but Brad didn't see any life. Perhaps, Pat was just excited about some particular way that the waves crested and which the locals had named.

"Very nice," said Brad handing back the phone. He hoped that Pat would go away. He needed to finish the lab writeup for the latest results before the afternoon meeting.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Familiarity Breeds Contempt" in Mirror Shards:

“The exits aren't even numbered anymore,” said Shannon. “I think
it's the same one every time.”

“So what happens if we take it?” asked Dan.

“Find out,” Shannon ordered. “I'm getting sleepy.”

The road rapidly petered out to mere dirt tracks. Only the lights
through the trees kept them moving forward. The sign declared it the
“Furnall Inn.”

Behind the counter, a gaunt man turned to regard them as they lugged
in their bags. “Stay a while,” he intoned. “Stay... foreve-”

“Screw this,” said Shannon. “I'm sleeping in the car.”

My scene, a continuation:

Dan dropped the roller-duffel bag while grabbing Shannon's hand and
said, "It is cold in the car. Don't you want a soft bed?"

"Look at the scar on that man's cheek," Dan looked over at the front
desk attendant and saw an old scar that jagged across the man's cheek
-- a pale green cheek -- where stubble didn't grow. Shannon's voice
dropped to a soft whisper, "I don't like it here. It feels like a

"We're out in the country now, the scar is probably nothing but a
childhood injury. Don't get spooked."

"Listen to yourself, you sound just like the boyfriend who gets it
from one of those B-movies. Besides didn't you hear him tell us to
stay forever?" Shannon pulled her hand away from Dan.

"It's just bad marketing, country bumpkins who don't have our city

"Suit yourself." Shannon grabbed her bag and pushed open the
filigreed oak door with hinges that squealed for a little bit of oil.

Dan turned to the front desk attendant, shrugged and grabbed his
duffel bag. She could sleep in the car, but Dan wanted a good
night's sleep.

When Dan heard Shannon's shriek, he dropped everything and ran
through the front door. Shannon stood by their car, or what must
have been their car. Instead, spiderwebs were everywhere including a
spiderweb cable that lifted a rectangular web covered object that
could only have been their car.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fleeing Spirit Lake

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Morning Breath" in Mirror Shards.

The truck's shocks squeaked in protest as something scrambled over the cab. Tony's lungs burned. He saw a shadow move across the windshield. Claws scratched at the frost that must have condensed on the windows. The shadow leaned closer, but Tony was confident it wouldn't see anything.

When it jumped off the truck, the cab shook and Tony almost fell off his seat. He continued to hold his breath. Seconds passed, but the fear helped him fight breathing. A foot-long metal spike pierced the truck's roof. Tony screamed. The truck shook back-and-forth and Tony couldn't stop screaming.

The shaking stopped and the spike was pulled out with a spine-tingling screech. Tony saw a hairy eyeball stare down at him from where the spike had been. The eye was large and bloodshot. So much for playing possum.

Tony cranked the engine while the truck shook as the creature climbed back onto the cab. Several knuckles descended into the hole left by the spike. The engine purred to life and Tony kicked the gas. The truck careened forward. The truck crashed into a tree or something on the edge of the parking lot. The creature now had two fur-covered hands through the roof and was pulling the edges of the metal back.

Tony reversed the truck and drove towards where he thought the road should be that led away from the Spirit Lake parking lot. Tony rolled the steering wheel back-and-forth hoping to dislodge the creature clinging to the truck. He found that he knew where the side of the road was by a change in the texture of the wheels as they drove over the grass berms.

Tony slammed into a tree when he missed a sharp turn. The creature rolled forward and fell off of the hood. Tony remembered that the road twisted to the left here and quickly reversed the truck before the creature climbed back onto the truck. He made the turn and gunned the engine. The crashes had cracked the windshield and Tony twisted to kick out the glass.

Something hit the roof of the truck and Tony found himself covered with a thick brownish sludge that smelled like a cross between porcupine musk and cow patties. Tony fought the urge to vomit and concentrated on driving down the mountain to Castle Rock and his hotel room.


The truck quickly disappeared from sight, but she could smell the stink left behind. She'd go back to the skoocooms main camp and together they'd hunt the photographer.