Thursday, August 31, 2006

Mabel, Like Medusa

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Mabel was just like Medusa, only instead of snakes coming out of her head she had Funyuns and instead of people turning to stone when they looked at her, they turned into Bocci enthusiasts. Mabel wasn't Greek, she was from Indiana. When she was a girl she dreamed of hang gliding but whenever she expressed this desire, no one wanted to take her. They all wanted to play Bocci.

Mabel never pissed off Athena but she got into a lot of fist fights. The kids at school would break off pieces of her hair and eat them and then it was on. She grew up to be a scrapper, but even so her adversaries often ate her scalp bald, because, come on, who doesn't like Funyuns?

When she was fourteen she had an idea that changed her life. Everyone she met wanted to play Bocci, so why not sell Bocci balls? She went on to become one of the most successful sales people in American history, even selling equipment to her sales managers. Mabel bought her company and did TV ads, but her powers didn't translate through the screen. She roamed the country drumming up enthusiasm for her product and then went overseas.

Mabel never lost her head to Perseus, but she lost her head when she met Shirou. When she was twenty-seven she blew her first sale when pitching to a Japanese man who'd gone blind after an unpleasant incident with a tightly strung banjo. In his former life as a sighted person, Shirou happened to love hang gliding. Mabel begged him to teach her. He'd pretty much given up on life, so he agreed. They crashed into the side of a mountain on their first tandem run. Mabel and Shirou wound up spending many months in physical therapy together and fell in love. They married and bought a ferret ranch with her riches.

Oh, yeah. Mabel wasn't a Gorgon either.

Other than that, she was just like Medusa.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Last Stand

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Maya trudged the vast rocky steppe under the crushing weight of her suit and equipment. It was bad enough they had to stop over on this planet and struggle against its gravity, why carry all this stuff she didn't want to use? She felt tiny under her gear, tiny before a horizon that was too far away to believe, tiny beneath a vast and sickly sky in which two alien navies fought at this very moment. The warships filled the sky. She kept herself under the Ku boss ship to minimize the odds of getting hit with debris. The thing was so massive it was unlikely to take a good beating. Still, she kept one eye on the sky.

"I'm so sick of this crap," she said to herself. How much war could the universe take? It was even her duty under the ship's charter for her to join in. To fire on the winning side, no matter who was winning. They were all enemies out here. To hell with all that. Get herself obliterated to make a token stand for humanity? She was seven days out from home. Who would know?

There came a shockwave that knocked her to the ground. What was it? Maya looked up. The sky was falling. That boss ship was somehow coming apart right above her head. Holy Shit! She thought. There was no escape, no way she could get out the hulk's way in time. Her training brought her hull-borer to her shoulder immediately. The situation had changed.

In cases of imminent death, it behooved her to fire all munitions rather than waste them. She targeted the biggest ship on the Bauda's side. Her missile would chew through the hull but for what? Human weapons were gnats, annoying the enemy wore than harming it. Her swollen-balled leaders demanded that every possible offensive action that could be taken, must be taken. Look where it had gotten them. Some of Maya's friends had even nick-named this world Last Stand. The leaders thought it was best to slam themselves against the wall of the enemy rather than do nothing, for the good of the people back home.

With seconds left under a quickly darkening sky, Maya angled her weapon toward the ground and fired. The missile chewed a tunnel into the rock that her helmet computer calculated at a half-mile deep. She slid down the too-hot hole and prayed. Getting out would be another matter, but she had more hull-borers. She wasn't going to save her people by dying. The only way to win was to survive.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Creepy Little Mailbox Man

The Creepy Little Mailbox Man, my flash fiction piece which originally appeared here, was purchased by Everyday Weirdness. You can read it on their March 22nd, 2009 post: I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Nelson's Tarp Brass Band War of 1983

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

On an unusually warm spring day in 1983, the population of the small town of Nelson's Tarp, North Dakota erupted, without reason, into one of the strangest cases of mass hysteria on record. The circumstances surrounding the battle defy rationality to the point that many armchair investigators cannot put forth a theory that doesn't involve paranormal motivations.

The morning of April 14th began normally enough in the largely agrarian community. By dawn the cows had already been milked and the plowing of the cornfields was underway in preparation for late April planting. At approximately 9:00 A.M. two groups of students, one at the town's only high school and one at the junior high, suddenly stormed their respective band rooms and ran from their buildings with every last available brass instrument. At the same time, six miles away, the employees of the Responsible Allies Insurance company made their way into Max's Music Delight, held the owner at bay with a high-powered stapler, and stole Max Schum's entire stock of brass.

One hour later, insurance agents and students met in the middle of Main Street outside of the Woolworth's, formed two distinctly new groups and began pelting and bludgeoning each other with flugelhorns, trombones, tubas, and all other manner of brass. Police were on the scene, having been alerted of the thefts, but were unable to maintain order. Nelson's Tarp was a tight-knit community and for the most part the officers were not prepared to use excessive force on children and people they had known their entire lives. The local force however put themselves in harm's way and did their best to disarm the combatants.

Twelve minutes into the melee, fighting abruptly ceased and those members of the two factions who were still standing came together once more and attempted a forty-six second rendition of Louie, Louie on the remaining beaten and blood-soaked horns. All of the participants then threw themselves to the ground and wept uncontrollably until they were taken away by emergency vehicle or school counselor.

Twenty-two people were injured, including two police officers. All of those involved had clear recollections of the incident. All claimed that they were fully aware of their actions as they were being taken and were also convinced that their actions were entirely reasonable but were unable to explain them afterward. The mystery remains unsolved to this day.

As a side note, Max Schum was fully covered by the very insurance company whose employees had robbed him. He invested the claim money in acoustic guitars and flutes which, he said, if it came right down to it, seemed like they would be less painful than a euphonium to the head.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Made Up Love

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Trey had a thing for girls in makeup. Lots and lots of makeup. It was Auntie that did it to him when he was a child, her big, soft hugs and thick cosmetics. He thought about her often and his fantasies only grew more and more extreme until, as an adult, he sometimes had homoerotic fantasies involving clowns.

He made an excuse for his nephew's birthday party for this very reason. It wouldn't do to have a zipper-bursting erection at a children's party. But he was unable to function for the entire day, thinking about what he might be missing and how easy it would be to stop over and catch a glimpse. Trey knew he had a problem. Don't misunderstand, he liked girl clowns too, but boy clowns were so much more prevalent.

He'd troll the streets late at night looking for a McDonald's that was closed so he could stare through the windows at the graphics of Ronald with those thick, sexy lips. But the clothes! The clothes were too much. They just looked ridiculous.

Inconveniently, Trey fell in love. Marta was wonderful. She was everything he wanted. Almost. She did lay on the lipstick with a trowel but the rest of her make-up was frustratingly normal. Eventually they married and for six agonizing months Trey held his desires in check. His misery led him to a plan that made his gut hurt with shame. But his gut wasn't in control. He ordered his supplies and experimented with his wife as she slept.

Trey practiced with anaesthesia until he was sure she'd be out cold for at least an hour. Once he was confident she wouldn't wake up, he painted her in whiteface, with a fat, red mouth, wide eyes and thick black lashes. He could hardly control himself. An hour later, he lit candles, woke her and made love to his sleepy, confused wife. It was the most passionate sex either of them had ever experienced. After she nodded off, he drugged her once more and removed the make-up. Everything had gone perfectly and after months of moodiness, Marta was thrilled to have a happy husband again.

Once a week, usually on a Friday night, He performed his ritual. There were a couple of close calls. He loved her closely, to keep her hands away from her face, which she complained felt strange. He had to rush to blow out the candles when she went to the bathroom and he followed her in to make sure she wouldn't turn on the light. Mad sex was the his only answer to her questions. The following week he woke her sooner so she was too tired to cause problems.

There came a Friday night when he was exhausted because of gut-pain insomnia the previous night but he wouldn't give up his obsession. After they made love, a particularly draining love, he collapsed into a hard sleep.

He shot up in terror when screams from the bathroom awoke him Saturday morning. Trey slumped forward with his head between his knees. Everything. Everything, was lost.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Candy Girl

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

The chocolate girl and the caramel made love. They ate each other, of course, which led to their destruction but also to the creation of something new. When humans reproduce, two become three. When bacteria reproduce, one becomes two. When candy girls reproduce, two become one.

Their daughter was a chocolate/caramel swirl named Ceecee, terribly overweight with blood sugar that was through the roof. She began her life in a state of depression because she remembered her delicious beauty when she was her mothers. Now she was merely delicious, not a bad thing in itself, but when you've had more, it's a disappointment.

She bought new clothes at the local mall during the holiday season and was chased through the halls by a group of rabid children. They wanted to eat her, and not in a loving way. Their teeth tore at her new jeans and pink deck shoes and just when she thought her short life was finished, a security guard came to her aid. He had a long pokey stick and ran the children through their mid-sections one by one, until all twelve of them were spitted.

"I apologize, ma'am," he said. "The mall is always crawling with these little pig-dogs this time of year. Would you like me to escort you to your car?"

His name was Juan and he was single. She found his eating gentle and slimming. She found his loving to be absolutely disgusting. She couldn't have a life with this man, as good as he was.

A week after she left him she stumbled into a bar in Key West and met an enormous woman made of peanut butter and Rice Krispie treats. The woman wept and drank and didn't stop until Ceecee took a bite out of her and then another. The crowd cheered them on. They decided to get a room.

"Eat me!" the PBRK lady screamed an hour later. "Finish me! Please!"

"No," Ceecee said. She'd only nibbled around the edges, eaten the woman down to a managable size, eaten herself huge once more. "Our daughter would be suicidally miserable. It's okay to be loved and remain yourself. It's more than okay. It's necessary." She left the woman a whole, if much smaller, person.

And showed up at Juan's door once more. He beamed as he took her in, but it was only for a night.

So on in this way would Ceecee take love and give love but never with the same person. It was a life as much as any other life, perhaps more colorful. She was careful and caring with her lovers so that at the end of hers days everyone that knew her agreed that she was the tastiest person they had ever met.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Solution

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

The blind date had been a bust so far. What was Susan thinking when she set him up with her sister, Amelia? They'd been through the weather (twice), making fun of Susan, and their jobs. What the hell happened to that appetizer? Phillip searched for a third angle on the weather while Amelia busted out with: "When God blinks, the Universe shuts down." So much for small talk.

"Well, things seem to be going along fairly well," Phillip said, playing with his fork. He couldn't work up the nerve to make dancing legs out of his flatware. "I suppose he's had his eyes open for quite some time now."

"No, not at all. It all comes back when he reopens them."

"Are there . . . fluctuations?" It was a little nutty, but it was better than staring at the candle.

"Not that we'd notice," she said. "It's generally a smooth transition. Everything picks up pretty much where it left off."

"How do you know that it happens at all, then?"

"You've just got to have faith. There are clues, though."


"Like, you know how your milk sometimes goes a bit funny before the expiration date? That's God's blinking that does that."

And in that moment, Phillip found his life transformed. He thought of the milk he poured into the sink just this morning, cursing it all the way down the drain. He'd desperately needed his Fruity Pebbles and everything at work had gone wrong because of this lack.

"My God, Amelia! We've got to do something about this!"

"Like what? How in the world could we ever keep God from blinking?"

"We can't keep him from blinking, that much is obvious, but maybe we can encourage him to blink less."


"Saline solution."


Where do you look to find God's eyes? Shoot a rocket into space? Astronomers had confirmed long ago that if God was in any physical location above the Earth, it wasn't anywhere we could reach in a lifetime or even twenty. If they weren't going to give up before they even began, Phillip and Amelia had to work from the "God is everywhere" school of thought. They created a huge saline diffuser and attached it to the back of Phillip's restored El Camino. They drove up the California highway spraying as they went. Things got a little better. Phillip's milk seemed to last a day or two more than it used to.

They filled their holding tanks for a second time as Phillip's next revelation came to him. He grabbed Amelia by the shoulders.

"Amelia, do you trust me?" he asked.

"Well, yeah, sure," she said. They'd been working on Project: Cosmic Redeye for two months by that point and she realized that her sister was right to set them up on that blind date. The two of them meshed.

"We need to go to Israel," he said.


"Think of it: How happy are you when you get sand in your eye?"

"Not very."

"Exactly. You think it's a coincidence that there's all that sand in the Middle East and all that fighting? God's irate, baby, and it's up to us to fix him up!"

"I'm with you," she said.

Phillip traded the El Camino for a sweet dune buggy and the two of them roamed the sands of the Fertile Crescent, spraying everything they saw with their solution. The violence didn't stop but it certainly eased up and six months later there was hope for serious peace talks for the first time in years. Phillip and Amelia had a celebratory dinner at a decent restaurant. They couldn't afford anything too fancy as their work didn't bring them any money. After dessert, Amelia became serious.

"Phillip, what if this only lasts as long as we spray? Who's going to carry on our work? Everyone thinks we're insane."

"I've been thinking about that also, Amelia." He took her hand. "We could pass the torch on to our children."

"Our children?"

"Marry me, Amelia." Phillip wasn't nervous in the least. He'd eaten his Fruity Pebbles this morning. There was only one thing she could say.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Hard Rain

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

The clouds rolled in fast, heavy and dark, and caught them in the country far from any shelter they knew. Jake found an abandoned barn and he and David pulled open the enormous door just as the first drops were starting to fall. By the time they got back in the car, the rain was already stinging. Inside the barn, they stayed in the car, Jake covered with sweat with the air conditioner on.

"You're getting old, Dad," David said. "The door wasn't that heavy."

"It's not the door. This is serious stuff here, kid. I don't want to scare you, but I don't want to bullshit you either. We may not make it."

"You serious?"

"You saw that sky. This could be a long, hard rain. We've got the barn and the car, but it's been getting worse." The news was filled with stories, each day, more horrific than the last. No one could explain why the New Rains began. Why should they be able to explain why they got worse?

They heard something small crack against the roof of the car. David jumped.

"You saw the door," Jake said. "The thing was covered with pin holes. This old barn has seen a few storms."

"Is there metal in it? The New Rain? It sounded like metal."

"No. Just water, but it's falling a lot harder than it should. Gravity doesn't pull down rain like this. Listen, I'm sorry I haven't been a great dad."

"You've been great." More raindrops hit the car now, too many holes in the barn's roof.

"No. I haven't spent the time with you that I should have."

"You're busy."

"I'm not really busy. I just can't bring myself to get into the stuff you like. I'm too selfish, son. I'm too concerned with trying to get my life together when I should - Don't look up! Cover your head with your jacket." There were strange lines on the wet windshield. It took Jake a minute to realize they were tiny spiderweb cracks.

"I'm sorry for all the times I was bad, Dad." David's voice was quivering.

"You were fine, don't worry about it! You were just being a kid. I couldn't be more proud of you."

Outside sounded like gunfire. There was a massive groan of tired wood followed by a crash that made them both jump. A few yards away, a chunk of the barn's roof had fallen in, about four feet by six feet of rain riddled planks. Jake dove out of the car.

"What are you doing!" David yelled, muffled when the car door slammed shut. "Dad! Dad!"

Jake's head was covered but his hands were bare. He grabbed the piece of roof a dragged it to the car. His hands were on fire. He hauled the wood onto the car without looking up and dove back into the vehicle. David's face was wet, but he wasn't hurt.

"You all right? You're bleeding!"

Jake looked at his hands, covered in blood, wiggled his fingers. Everything was still working.

"I'm fine. Just broke the skin. A little bleeding's good for my high blood pressure anyway. I feel better already." They both laughed and Jake wrapped him arms around his son.

"Don't do that again," David said.

"I bought us a few more minutes."

The gunfire eased up and dim light came in through the barn's roof. In a few minutes, the rain passed. They stared out the windows until the it was bright again.

"We made it," David said. Jake fell back into his seat with folded arms, tucking his hands beneath his armpits. David bent forward, burying his face in his hands. For a few minutes, they couldn't move.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Road Rage

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

The highway was wide and vast, stretching across the state. By the time it had reached adulthood some five years after groundbreaking, State Road 7 had had enough of the crushing vehicles which wore it to dust. It shrugged off its fillings and wore its pothole wounds with pride. The pain was worth it; traffic fell away a little when it refused any further patches.

Some of those who traveled the road in the dead of night found themselves lost in endless traffic circles or redirected into hellish wildernesses unprepared. When twelve highway workers disappeared in late April, word among the uneducated was that the road had become haunted. An Indian burial ground was blamed but none could be found.

Radicals came one night from off-road and planted explosives which tore the highway in two. S.R.7 drank up asphalt from its tributary roads and healed itself. Self-repair proved to be its undoing.

The humans cut off connection from any other roads, starving S.R.7 to death. They thought they had won but in fact the highway had gotten exactly what it always wanted. It spent its final days untrampled and free from its human masters. In peace, its once black arteries baked grey in the summer sun, its drying flesh crumbled.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Little Black Bag

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Ahmed drew attention as soon as he entered the dusty shop. Bakr's shop was a known haunt of wizards and young men Ahmed's age would only run in and out and then only on a dare. Even that had stopped once Bakr hired the guard outside. But Ahmed showed the guard his purse to prove he didn't mean to waste anyone's time. He nosed about the place patiently while waiting for a tall, bald Assyrian in blue robes to finish his business and leave. The man paid in papers instead of gold which made Ahmed uncomfortable. He hated to look stupid. It had taken a month of research and questioning before he considered setting foot in Bakr's.

Once the Assyrian left, Bakr turned to Ahmed expectantly. "What do you seek, Ahmed?" That Bakr knew his name disturbed him not as it was the nature of this man and his patrons to trade in knowledge.

"Too young for a mage, too old for an apprentice, eh?" Ahmed said.

"Not exactly true. Your reputation grows, however. Much more growth and the Sultan may have your head."

"What have you heard?"

"You're a petty criminal, with visions of grandeur."

"I am a prophet! I am here to deliver the people from oppression!"

"You're here to deliver yourself to a bed of silken pillows and a stable of servants. Once your visions of luxury are within your hands the people could go to hell for all you care."

Ahmed took a step toward Bakr and immediately stepped back.

"You're not a complete fool then," Bakr said. "I have something for you." He pulled a jar down from a high shelf and broke the wax seal. Ahmed stayed back until Bakr pulled out a black bag with a drawstring. It wriggled.

"Look," Bakr said, opening the bag.

Ahmed imagined some venom spitting thing and stood his ground, but there was something else in there, powerful and glowing.

"What is it?"

"It is the power to give the people what you claim to want for them if you use it for that purpose."

"And if I use it for another purpose?"

"There will be more meat for the jackals. I won't weep." The shopkeeper stuck his fingers into the bag, ran them through countless dark, glowing glyphs. "You see? These give you the power to listen to voices of the dead, to speak to the yet unborn. They solidify thought and send your words across the land."

Ahmed came closer and dipped his fingers into the bag. Bakr spoke true. He was electrified with the power of the glyphs. Certainly they would give him the power to do everything that Bakr suggested and more. He threw his purse to the shopkeeper. Bakr threw it back.

"Your gold is dogshit here."

"It's all I have," Ahmed said.

"You're wrong. You are rich in years."

"How do you mean? I'm young compared to your clientele."

"Exactly," Bakr said. He pulled the bag from Ahmed and shook it before him. "The power to topple kingdoms for five years of your life."

Ahmed swallowed hard. The things that went on in the mystical depths of the city were too well worn by rumor for anyone not to take them seriously. If he took the bag, his life would indeed end five years sooner. Five years! But if he was truly rich in years and if he could topple kingdoms . . .

"Why would you sell this power to one such as me?"

"I'm not selling. I'm buying. This bag is a fair price for what I want."

"Very well." Ahmed made his decision and took the bag without another thought.

"A pleasure," Bakr said with a smile.

Ahmed held his bag close to his chest until he was far out on the edge of the city. Beneath a date tree he opened the little pouch. The glyphs that had been so beyond comprehension only a hour before, he now saw were sounds given form. They crawled over one another like insects in a hive and even seemed to couple every now and then to become something more. They made words!

He poured them into his hand and to his delight there seemed just as many in the bag as there were before. Unending words. Bakr was no scoundrel, not by any judgement. This was a power greater than he had seen held by any wizard. With these he could issue edicts. He could raise armies. He wrote words in the sand now to practice and play and watched his thoughts coalesce before his eyes.

What he saw terrified him. They weren't simply words, they were how he spoke. Inflections and idiosyncrasies. He could see his face there on the sand before him as anyone else would as well. Damn that shopkeeper to hell! The Sultan's soldiers would be on him in a night if he tried to implement his plans. He'd be executed before he got the slightest taste of power.

Five years! He'd thrown away five years of his life for a magic he couldn't use. Could he sell it? He didn't have the knowledge to take payment. Anyone wise enough to know how to give Ahmed their years of life would never be so foolish as to do it for these glyphs.

Could he get anyone else to use them in his place? Could he trust a person in that position? Everyone wanted their own power. The people, to a man, despised their lots in life. The damned Sultan, the damned wizards, the whole damned structure had them cowed.

There came footsteps in the sand behind him. Two beggars with knives approached. He was weaponless as well as a coward. With the path this night was taking Ahmed decided to throw himself to the inevitable. He put the bag of glyphs into the folds of his robes and withdrew his purse of gold.

"Come friends!" he said, shaking his hard-earned gold before them. "Fill your gullets tonight with mutton and wine!"

"Hold out your hands," one of them said. They looked puzzled by him and why wouldn't they be? He threw his gold at their feet.

"What's that in your hand?" the taller one asked.

"Oh, this?" Ahmed opened his fistful of glyphs to them. "This is power. Take it and enjoy."

The beggars seemed astounded and afraid, but they, too, felt the power and seemed to understand after a moment what it was they had found. Greedily they swept his hand clean and ran, actually forgetting his gold in their excitement.

Ahmed laughed, almost with joy at their discovery. Now men like that, lives so short and dirty and cheap, they had nothing to lose and the world to gain. It was perfect for them. The men who needed it the most. Of course.

Ahmed went into the filthiest parts of the city in darkness after stopping at his home to hide his gold. He felt generous but, as Bakr said, he wasn't a complete fool. The people who needed his power most were the least protected by the Sultan's guard, so Ahmed moved freely. His hand went in and out of his bag, sprinkling glyphs at the feet of the sick and destitute. These same people were also the ones desperate enough to take advantage of real power. Everyone would have power, not just the Sultan and the wizards. Ahmed would have his revolution.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Someone To Love

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

A guy wasn't supposed to have the hots for his great-grandmother. But circumstances had left Poyo with no other options. For one thing, rejuvenation baths had given her the body of a twenty-year old. For another, he was related to everybody on the planet.

Too many people had died on the harrowing voyage of the generation starship, Botswana. The handful of survivors did what people do with one another and now that they'd arrived on Stuckey's World, everyone in the world was blood. Their population now numbered in the thousands, but most of them were clones. There were only twelve genetically distinct types.

"What's the problem," Sari asked, when he'd confided in her. "You've got six-hundred kids, and you can make six-hundred more, or even six thousand more if you like." She was a seventh generation clone of his mother, Elzhbieta and he worked with her in the chem labs. She made the world's supply of processed cheese food. He made crabs, the good kind of crabs, to stock the ocean that his uncle was working on.
"You don't understand," he said. "you weren't sexually conceived."

"That's your excuse for everything. Elitist crabshit!" She hadn't known what a bull was, you see. All she'd ever seen were cloned cows.

"No, this time, I really mean it," Poyo said. "Clone zygotes are manipulated to detest sex. I don't even know if you can have sex. The colonists thought this up long ago, to avoid a planet full of birth defects. They figured their bases were covered. They just never anticipated my situation."

The blue crab at his workstation was going to come out with seven extra legs. He flushed it and started on a new one. Poyo shook his head to clear it.

"Just don't make a baby, that's all." Sari said.

"That's not all. Humans avoid incest as a matter of course. It's socially ingrained, if not genetically ingrained."


"So we don't make babies!"

"So don't make a baby!"

"You don't understand."



"I need someone, Anise," he finally confessed at his great-grandmother's breakfast table. Everything was white and sterile here, including her clothes. Overcompensation, he figured, for the filthy state to which the ship had reverted by the end. She must have given his problem some thought, because her expression didn't change.

"What if some woman fell out of the sky and solved your problems" she said. "Wouldn't your children have the same problem? Would you want to put them through what you're going through?"

"No," he said, surprised by the maturity of his answer. "So that's it, huh? Somebody's got to be last so I just take the hit for the whole race?"

"I'm sorry," she said, taking his hand.

"You're beautiful," he told her.

"Don't bring it there,' she said, and pulled her hand away.

"It's either that, or suicide, at this point."

Anise slapped him. "Too many people died so you could be here, Poyo."

"Is this what they wanted for me then? I'm going to die alone eventually. Why spend years suffering?"

"You'll get used to it. I've been widowed for nearly forty years now."

"So you're happy about that?"

"No, I'm not happy."

"Then you're not used to it. I can't do this anymore, Anise, I'm sorry." He turned to leave.


"What?" There were tears on his great-grandmother's face.

"God damn it! You look like him. I don't want to lose you again."

"There's six-hundred people out there who look the same as I do, Anise."

"They don't act like you. We made a mistake when we removed the sexual urge. We made another species, they're not really human. But what choice did we have? Stay with us and we'll rebuild the ship and we'll seek out other people."

"That'll take twenty years." he said. "What am I supposed to do in the meantime?"

"In the meantime. My soul rotted away a long time ago, Poyo. I've done some bad things. I've always done what I needed to do to keep us alive. She wrapped her arms around him and kissed him.

"So in the meantime, you'll keep your mouth shut."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Tahiti Screams

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

The magazine had flopped open to an article about a small group of people who had formed an organization dedicated to eating Peruvian tree bark. Dennis glanced through this until he let the issue fall back down to the side table. Past the heads of other patients, he lost his eyes in the wood-paneled wall for a while and absorbed this bizarrest of articles.

"There are people who dedicate themselves to eating Peruvian tree bark," he murmured, "And here I sit in a waiting room trying to get approved for some new disease."

"I'm sorry?" said the red-headed woman to his right. She had corralled her little one between her outstretched legs, and only now that she looked at him did Dennis realize how very beautiful her eyes were.

"My God," he asked her, "What's wrong with this?"

"What's wrong with what?" she asked, drawing her daughter closer. He put his hand on her shoulder, very un-Dennis-like, and looked into her green eyes.

"I'll never see you again. Take care of yourself," he said. He left the woman and the office and took the grimy, yellow elevator down to the second floor. He took the stairs down from there.

Hard soles slapped the gritty concrete outside with a rhythm that brought his thoughts into line. All the heads on the street turned to face him, blown his way by a soft October breeze. Not a one looked familiar. He considered all the people he knew in the city and wondered if he had any unfinished business with any of them. Not a damned thing came to mind. His bills were paid, his obligations were met. The lint in his pockets felt bumpy on his fingertips. What about the women? Weren't there any, for the love of God, that he wanted to sleep with?

No, came the voice on a cool gale that wailed through his stomach. He wanted revenge on no one and felt sad for that. Thirty-three years and his life held no passion for him. No excitement, no romance, no sense of joy. Hell, not even hatred or jealousy or rage. Was something wrong with him, or was something wrong with his life?

Tahiti. The word flashed in his mind, no, the concept screamed through his flesh, unbidden. Dennis had a vision of a beautiful, bare-breasted Polynesian lovely sinking longingly into his arms after he had killed a shark with his bare hands. And he smiled. That could work. He hailed a cab. There was an old woman driving, wrapped in a babushka as if she had just arrived from Armenia. He flopped into her back seat with an eruption of dust and inhaled a mildewy stench like it was a grove of orange blossoms.

"Take me to Tahiti," he said. She pulled out onto the street.

"Let me tell you about the world," the cabbie said. "The world has just altered. You are at large within it and it has taken notice. No ordinary things will ever happen to you again."

"That's what I'm hoping for," he said.

She stopped to let a herd of goats cross at the intersection. While they waited she pointed out and up.

"Look," she beckoned. The spacescrapers of steel and blue glass had suddenly turned to pale yellow and dark red stone. Single pieces, as if towers of rock stood here from man's earliest ascension and he had carved these monoliths from within to be his structures. The faces beyond the vinyled car door were all black now. They floated above bodies long and thin which were draped in exotic, weird fashions. He drank in a woman whose face was pierced fifty times and who wore the thinnest of golden rings dripping from each puncture. A triangular sail of royal blue silk sprang from the collar of her dress and fluttered behind her head while the glittering rings waved in the autumn wind.

"You haven't looked before," the Armenian woman said to him in response to nothing he'd asked.

"I want to find my life, cabbie. I want to look around me and know that I'm really living. I want to make love to a magnificent woman in some out of the way bedroom overlooking the streets of Portugal. I want to feel comfortable with myself among strangers. I want to feel my blood pumping as the cold washes over me atop a mountain or on the open ocean. Help me, Cabbie." He capitalized it in his voice, decided that Cabbie was her name now. "For the love of everything that's sacred, help me. There's an extra ten in it for you."

She reached a thick, chewed-nail hand back over her shoulder and waited until he fished a ten-spot from his pocket and stuffed it into her greedy paw. After a glance, the bill disappeared between her legs. She stopped the cab in the middle of the road, shut the damned thing off, and turned, looked him straight in the eye and said:

"Will it. WILL IT!" Those red-rimmed eyes nearly popped from their sockets when she spoke.

He willed it.

And Dennis felt the change as if flipping a toggle switch. In one deep breath, he savored the feel of the air sweeping down his windpipe, over-filling his lungs before he let it rush out with a woooosh.

The thirty-three year-old man stepped from the vehicle, looking through the strange faces all about him. Within seconds, he felt the heat of contact in one smooth, round face. Dennis went to her, took her face in his hands and kissed her more passionately than he had any woman he had ever known. He was oblivious to her lady friend who cursed a red storm of protest. This woman in his arms kissed back, like he knew she would and after covering her long succulent neck with kisses, he pulled back, shivering, while she drew her long, orange fingernails down his chest and stomach.

"How do I call you?" he asked.

"Kirikiri," she sang, like a bird. He stepped back, not at all embarrassed by his raging erection and moved on through the crowd. He could kill sharks from this state of being. Of that there was no doubt.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Fall Of The Soy Milkers

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

It all started up with Pa losin' his left arm when the cow exploded. They said Carmelita was blowed up by terrorists from the Soy Milk Association who'd been in a tizzy ever since, through the miracles of modern day genetic manipulation, we was able to build a cow that was ninety percent udder. I seen the explosion and later on, whenever Pa complained about his gone arm, I'd say, "Well, Pa, I seen it happen and as slick as them soy milk people are, you was lucky you didn't lose that piece of upper, upper shoulder that Doc Opret was able to save." And when he realized he could beat me just as well with one arm, he seemed to be agreeable. I even got his revenge for him on top a' that.

Cuz you see, them soy milkers had stuck tiny pieces a' that bomb all over the grass. When Carmelita finally ate em all up, well they knitted theyselves together inside her and settled down near the bottom of her udder, and when Pa gave a tug for milk, it was like pullin' a pin out of a old-fashion hand grenade. It was damn near genius the way they pulled it off. I said to them soy milkers, "You people oughtta get outta the soy milkin' business and get into the cow-blowin'-up business cuz you finally found somethin' you're good at."

So they did. And then they went belly-up broke cuz about the only people that was interested in cow-blowin'-up was the soy milkers and they was all gone. Sure there was a couple a' chicken lovers that'd hire em but there wasn't hardly any a' them no longer since all the chickens had been blowed up by the Soy Chicken Association which was a much more together organization.


Friday, August 18, 2006

Maisy Made Croutons

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Maisy made croutons that could break your teeth. Her secret was to start with a nice, dense, unleavened bread, before toasting every last vestige of moisture from it. The dough may have had a little secret ingredient in it, too, bought in bulk at The Home Depot, but she liked a little crunch.

Maisy's salad brought turmoil to the congregation of the Southern Cross Baptist Church during their annual Memorial Day picnic. Twenty injuries and on a holiday. Tell me, where are going to find a dentist on a holiday? Those that ate around the croutons found her salad delightful.

Government men came to the door the next day and Maisy was afraid they were going to take her away. Instead they wanted to buy her recipe. It seems her croutons had what they called, "Defense Department Applications" or some such thing. It wasn't a lot of money they offered, but since they considered taking her away anyhow if she wasn't interested, it sounded quite generous. The money might have been enough to get Reynolds' old Dart out of the garage, too, so she took it.

After Congress okayed the funds, The Salads Against Terror program was implemented. Croutonic casualties amongst foreign brown people, combatants as well as civilians, at first threatened to swell the ranks of the enemy, but it turned out the extra roughage in their diets calmed everyone down a bit. In fact, once everyone learned to eat around the croutons, things were slightly better. You can't really argue with a good B.M. Maisy's illegitimate step-nephew, Conner, was a permanent Reservist and described, in numerous letters, the salad-induced decrease in attacks.

Maisy took credit for the whole thing.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

We Became A Star

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Jimmie and me upped that morning with no intention than stealing a bit of food for fun more than belly. Down the end of the long line of huts was a great tree, two hundred feet tall if a hand. We figured it was as good a day as any to make climb, but the air was thicker than ever had been. Good swimming air, and climbing was dirty work.

Top of the tree was a patriot package. War hadn't stopped by since dad was a lad, but the tree always seeded for the odd fugitive breaking from the killing. From up here we could see anything we ever knew. I broke open the huge egg of flexcrete with my BigKnuckle and we feasted in a little way on dried things and what might have been roots. There was some chewy boozy thing but Jimmie spat it out. I tried it and re-spat it. What we had was good enough for a fluffy head and maybe that's what gave us our new idea.

Looking upward forever, we felt the curve of the dark blue splotchy sky and it seemed right what they said, that the sky was a ceiling. It meant why we never felt the wind but we heard of it. Out down a ways we saw a fat lightbladder and Jimmie took the bandages from the egg.

"Might get dark up there," said he and kicked off like a shot to rope the slow glower. It was a bloated thing, fat with sap and as big as both our heads. Bright to make spots all over when we looked away. We were happy for the catch and swam up without another word. It might have been a day we swam, no knowing as the light was a constant dim. People were up there. Another world of tiny hanging huts and blue algae until you couldn't eat no more. We took it all in before we bumped our thick skulls on the roof of the world.

The sky was sticky and we set up a little place on it, tethering our lightbladder and seeing the other bladders we once knew were stars. It was prettyful forever. Above any war anyone ever known. Jimmie and me algae-stuffed our lightbladder to bursting almost. We thought to stay and we became the biggest star had ever been.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

And So It Begins

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

It was dusk when Sandra came out. Stanislav watched her against the light shining through the sliding glass doors, watched his wife's bare legs, still nice after twenty years of marriage. By the time she got to the green plastic picnic table his eyes were still focused where her legs were fifty feet ago.

"What are you going to do?" she asked.

"I don't know." And he didn't. God spoke to him eleven days ago, told him in twelve days the world was going to begin. What the hell do you do with information like that? "The world ends, everyone knows what to do," he said to Sandra. "Rape, steal, cry, scream, kick. People always say, if the world was ending what would you do? Who the heck asks, What would you do if the world was beginning?' What does that even mean?" He'd been asking these questions since he got the news.

"Didn't it already begin?" Sandra asked.

"That's what I said. But he seemed real sure of himself." At first, Stan wondered if he should tell anybody, he felt pretty stupid. But then they saw other people announcing that they'd gotten the same information from different sources: a fire hose, goat's entrails, Zeus Amon, and so forth. It was all over the news, but except for a few nutballs, the world at large wasn't buying it. Why should they?

"Maybe he meant it was going to end," Sandra offered.

"No, no. I didn't get that feeling at all from him. He wasn't pissed at all, it was like run of the mill stuff to him."

"I s'pose it would be." She slapped herself. "You ready to come in? The mosquitoes are coming out."

"Yeah, okay. I want to come back out at midnight, see if anything's happening."


They held hands on the way in, something they hadn't done in a long time.

"You suppose he's starting the day by our time zone?" she asked.

"I didn't think about that. Maybe " he stopped and looked at the sky.

"What is it?"

"The Jews. Doesn't their day start at sundown instead of midnight?"

"I don't know, maybe. You think God's Jewish?"

"Well, he was before he converted, right? The bible says so. Maybe he didn't adjust his clock." They both looked up at the sky again.

"Nothing's happening," she said.

"Awright. He must be on Christian Standard Time."

They went back out at midnight and stayed outside till dawn. At about eight, they both called out at their jobs. They ate breakfast and slept for some hours. In the early afternoon they looked out the window and then made love and fell asleep again. They watched the news until well into the next morning, when they were good and sure that the day had to be considered over by any reasonable person. They figured it was safe to decide that nothing had happened. They showered together, washing each other's backs. Stan insisted that he wash Sandra's front.

Back in bed, Stan said, "Oh, I get it," while staring at the ceiling. Sandra bolted up from a dead sleep.

"What? What was it?"

"Think about all the kids that were born yesterday. For them, the world began."

"Oh. But then the world ended for a lot of people yesterday, too."

"Yeah, but I'm sure I'm right about the baby thing. It's too perfect."

"Mm." Sandra fell back onto the bed and closed her eyes. She wiggled around a bit before taking a deep breath and stopping. "It could still be that nothing happened at all."

"There's that," Stan conceded.

"Course, the guy seemed so sure of himself."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

High School Days

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Everyone that knew them said that Zeke and Allison had chemistry, and it was true. Seventh period in Mr. Hodung's room. What everyone didn't know was that they were sweet on each other as well. For their one day anniversary, Zeke snuck the graviton collator out of the supply closet (yes, you're saying this sounds more like physics than chemistry and I'm sure it would have been called that when you were in school) and accumulated enough to mold a little kitty cat for Allison out of gravity.

It so happened that the gravitons he collected came mostly from beneath Ms. Thadeau. She floated to the gymnasium rafters during the pep rally. Everyone thought it was part of the show and agreed it was the best pep rally ever. Ms. Thadeau found some balloons and played with them until she was fished down by the Bat-Snarers club which met in the gym the following Wednesday. Their treasurer, Demetrius, gave her his pickle sandwich. She'd been famished even before she floated away. That night, the two of them made sweet, sweet love in her bungalow while they listened to Jethro Tull. The guys in the band felt terribly uncomfortable about the whole thing but they really needed the gig.

It was about this time that Allison's gravity cat tore through the wall during its five day binge of space-warping destruction. Not only did the little scamp destroy half of Ms. Thadeau's Avon decanter collection, but when it leapt through the lovers' adjacent abdomens, it prematurely pulled one of Ms. T's ova right down a fallopian tube.

The next month, right there in Calculus, Ms. Thadeau demanded that Zeke marry her and take responsibility for the child, as the whole thing had essentially been his fault. She also made him conjugate the verb currere (to traverse) thirty thousand times (Yes, sounds more like Latin than Calculus, but, again, that was in your day). Zeke, being a gentleman, agreed to everything, but his hand went useless after about fifty-seven hundred conjugations and he lived out his days playing piano pieces for the left hand. It was a pity that he hated the piano, but that's what he thought one was supposed to do in such circumstances.

Allison was heartbroken when Zeke left her. She demanded restitution for the destruction of her future marriage. The judge awarded her thirty broken Batmobile decanters of Avon shampoo and marriage to a very old, but still quite nimble Ian Anderson. No one came out of the whole business extremely happy (save for Ian), but hey, this is life, how many people do?

Besides Ian?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Homemade Heroes, Face One

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Ja had been going for stretchy powers, initially. Mr. Fantastic, Plastic Man and the like. It was really the only power where you could be a super-hero and guarantee yourself a nice, big wang. Like so many kids in the late twentieth century picked up a guitar for the women, so many in the late twenty-first picked up powers. No one had achieved super-stretchiness yet but Ja figured he'd unlocked the secret.

One afternoon after he'd loaded class, he spent his graffiti money on twenty-thousand rubber bands. It took them three days to print out and tied up the whole house because his monkey-ass Giz-box was about three years old. ProxyMom was pissed, especially when the override worked about as well as everything else on the out-dated crapbox, but she'd see it his way when he put it to her as Mr. Plastastic. That was the best name his feeble mind could muster. When the printout was ready, Ja fused himself with the lot of them.

He didn't exactly get what he wanted, although he immediately tried to stretch his wang. It did seem bouncier than usual but it wouldn't hold its longer form. After ten minutes of attempting to bring his super-powers to their full potency he rolled over and fell asleep.

He found work holding papers together and securing the pony- and pig-tails of the poor. When he grew tired of the super-hero life, he went back to graffiti. Mr. Plastastic had only fought the forces of chaos for about nine months, but Ja's murals would forever after stretch just a little bit higher than anyone else's.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Next Vampire Story

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

"We don't have much time," Van Helsing insisted as darkness approached. He clutched the young man's arm for emphasis. "There are things you need to know if you're going to survive till morning! Everything you thought you knew about vampires is wrong."

"You mean they don't suck blood?" Jimmy asked.

"Well, no. Of course they suck blood. They wouldn't be vampires if they didn't suck blood! I meant everything else."

"You can see them in a mirror, then?"

"No. You can't see them in a mirror."

"How about sunlight destroying them?"

"Yeah. Sunlight's pretty bad. But - -"

"Running water?" Jimmy asked.

Van Helsing put his hands on his hips. "For a provincial lad, you certainly seem to know a lot about vampires."

"Well, this is just basic stuff here, I mean everybody knows this."

"You lie! I've spent my life climbing mountains to find mystic tomes and tricking demons in contests to learn what I have! This is arcane stuff! How could everyone know about it?"

"You know, movies. The occasional novel or whatever. Scooby Doo."

"They make vampire movies?"

"Yeah. Only about a million of them over the past eighty-five years."

"I like documentaries," Van Helsing said in his defense.

"So, wait a minute," Jimmy said. "What did you figure I thought vampires were like?"

"Well, I assumed you bought into the old folktales and such. Vampires like ice cream, for instance. When they go dancing, they really hop more than they dance and they're mad about Hummel figurines. Vampires are skillful drywallers and when they gather together in the places of the dead they stage mock swordfights using Wiffle bats and garbage can lids."

"Where exactly did you grow up?" Jimmy asked.

"Long Island."

"You destroyed any vampires? Yet?"

Van Helsing looked at the sidewalk. "I gotta . . . I gotta couple of good leads. My cousin's ex-girlfriend, she just moved to Colorado. She's got this guy in her neighborhood." Van Helsing bent his fingers like claws. "Kinda creepy."

"You wanna come over for dinner?" Jimmy asked. "My mom's making spaghetti."

"Yeah. Yeah that'd be great. Garlic's always good, right?"

"We can cut through the park here."

"Okay. Do they have any documentaries on vampires, then?"

"I don't know of any. I think there's a documentary on the making of a vampire movie, though. I can check Netflix for the title if you'd like."

"Thanks. I'd appreciate that."

Saturday, August 12, 2006

How A Telepathic Ladder Visits His Brother Across The Country

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Sal took the ladder out of the garage and propped it against the west wall of the house. He had a notion of tinkering with the satellite dish to tweak out some of the jumbled screens they'd get once in a while. He was really trying to keep his mind off of food until suppertime. Once on the ladder, he called inside with his cellphone.

"Hello?" Geena said.

"Hey," Sal said to his wife. "Get Tommy on the phone, I need him to tell me the satellite strength."

"He hasn't come home yet. Why don't you come in, supper's done."

"That was fast. I'll see you in twelve seconds." Sal went inside to fill his belly with garlic bread and tortellini.

Some kids came running through the yard about a minute later and one knocked the ladder over with his outstretched hand. This, when Sal washed his hands. He didn't hear a thing.

Tommy came home and saw the ladder on the ground near the garbage can. He brought the ladder and the can to curb so he wouldn't have to get up early and catch the garbage pick-up in the morning.

Just before dark, Jerry Johnson drove by in his truck. He never could resist an abandoned ladder. Or an abandoned anything else. A quick test of the rungs and it was his.

"What the hell is that?" Porsche asked when he got back to the trailer. Like the trailer, she too had once been abandoned.

"Here in America, we call it a ladder," Jerry said.

"I told you, no more crap. You've already got a ladder and this place is tiny and junked up as it is!"

"It was free, though. Somebody was getting rid of it."

"You ever see The Burning Bed with Farrah?"

"Awright." Jerry brought the ladder over to Larry's, two lots down. Larry was going to a new job site tomorrow. Five bucks was a steal for Larry and at least Jerry could get a case of Milwaukee's Best Light out of the whole deal.

Larry brought the ladder to his new job the next day. You know the drill by now. It just goes on and on like this. I'm assuming you read the title. Suffice it to say that the ladder made it to California. His brother had a nice place with a swimming pool. They had some tea and watched some television. A little Scrabble and it was off to bed because our ladder had a long and exhausting trip.

They'd hit the strip joints the next night. His brother knew this place where they didn't use electric sanders. All the sanding was done by hand. Oh, baby! If he wasn't so tired . . .

Friday, August 11, 2006

Gifts From The Lawn

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Sarah picked crayons here and there from the front yard, along the edges so she wouldn't trample the wax and upset her father. The front yard was his for show and the back yard was hers for play. That's why she had to sneak her crayons from the front. She crumbled the back to pieces.

Sarah had a crayon deal with her cousin, Ellen, in Oregon. Oregon grew lots of yellows, and Sarah loved lemon yellows. The only crayons around these parts fell in the burnt umber range, so deadly dull that Sarah might have wept if it wasn't for her crayon network. Besides certain yellows, Sarah regularly received lavenders, light blues, and navy blue which was her most prized possession. Navy blues came from Scandinavia and just the postage for a handful of them was two weeks of Sarah's allowance.

She tried planting a navy stub in the backyard once, in order to grow her own. But nothing ever came of it. Her father said it had to do with the soil and the climate. Even if it did take, the thick roots of their burnt umber lawn would probably choke the navy before it could bud.

Sarah's life changed when she read an excerpt from the first chapter of Darwin's "Origin of Species" aloud in class. As soon as she got home she cleared a couple of patches in the backyard and started segregating her russets from her sepias, digging them up by the roots and transplanting them to their own corners of the yards. On weekends she and her mother frequented nurseries and garden shows for samples of slightly darker and lighter shades. At nine years old Sarah became a crayon breeder. By twelve she was a savant of artificial selection and had her own booth at the local shows, selling shades that many people had never seen before.

She sent checks along with her shipments on the crayon networks, asking for local soils and climate data. As Sarah's business grew, so did her color palette. By the time she was forty, she offered gift boxes of crayons in all the major department stores. Her company, Gifts from the Lawn, was the first to offer scarlet, a color native to Brazil and previously thought to be unattainable in a pure, never-melted state.

Sarah retired from the running of her company at forty-five to pursue her other horticultural interests. In the evenings, after a long day's work, she'd relax in her study with a stack of coloring books from forty years ago. With all seven thousand hues of her company's crayons spread across the floor, she filled in the white areas in all of her childhood books.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Boss Conversion

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Gene claimed he could convert a plastic fork into an automobile and when we held him to it, he went out and got a car and threw the fork in the glove compartment.

"Ta-Da!" he shouted, Vanna Whiting his hands all over the place.

"That's bullshit, Dude," Julio protested. "You just threw the fork in a car that was already made!"

"Look," Gene said. "If you want to make a fork into a car, you've got to add an awful lot of shit to it, agreed?"

"Well, yeah!"

"I just bought all the stuff preassembled. Think of this as a kit," he said, indicating the car. "I can convert anything into anything else. Give me something else."

It was a dead Wednesday and we were hanging in the triangle made where the tracks crossed Howard Rd. and Denny's package store made the third side. Someone had left huge blocks of concrete here at some point, about two feet by two feet by three feet, with pieces of rusted rebar sticking out of the sides. Lee's dad always told us we'd get piles by sitting on them and we were determined to find out for ourselves.

Gene found a kid on the street and converted him from Christianity to Judaism. Lee was blown away, but then Gene turned the kid right back and gave him fourteen dollars. The whole thing looked dubious.

"Man, I wish I had something to do," Julio said. "I feel like I'm trapped here watching this dumb-ass."

"Gimme another!" Gene screamed. I was worried that he was starting to believe in himself. "One gallon equals three point eight liters. I just converted gallons to liters!"

"Anybody coulda done that," Julio said. "You don't even know metric, you read that on a urinal."

"So what?" Gene asked. "I didn't say it was magic. Conversions are just conversions. Gimme something!"

"All right," I said. "All right." It was time to put a stop to this. "Let's see you convert a nuclear submarine into a - a sea sponge."

"Where'd you come up with something like that?" Lee asked.

"No, no! That's good," Julio said, jumping to his feet. That's good! Let's see you do that, Mr. Converter Man."

"I'd get into some real trouble for doing that."

"Ha, I knew it!" Julio said. "Fulla crap!"

"No, I'm serious! If you think I'd get in trouble for bringing a shampoo bottle on an airplane, imagine what the government would do to me if I destroyed one of their nuclear submarines."

"Ya see? He's full of it!"

"Hold it," Gene said. He pointed at our seats. "How about one of these cement blocks?"

"Give it up, man, you've already been shot down."

"I want to see it," I said. "Not this one, cuz I'm sitting on it, but how about that one?"

He walked over to the one I said, knelt down, and put his hands on it. Black smoke started coming from it where his hands touched.

"Don't breathe it in," Gene said to us, over his shoulder. He didn't have to worry about that.

"Yo, man, what the hell is he doing?" Julio asked me.

"Like I know?" I said. The smoke got scary big. It was a good thing there weren't any cars coming. Two minutes later, Gene was surrounded by (not to mention covered by) thick black soot. The block looked like a huge piece of sponge with rusting pieces of rebar sticking out of it. Gene tore off a piece and handed it to us.

"I ain't touching that!" Julio said, backing off. I took it. It was hot and I handed it off to Lee fast.

"Can I have this?" Lee asked.

"I don't care," Gene said.

"Can I have more?"

"Go ahead."

Lee tore off huge chunks of the sponge. "You guys don't know how expensive real sea sponge is," he said. "My mom's going to love this."

"How the hell did you do that?" Julio asked.

"See, unlike the other conversions, I had to alter the molecular structure of the concrete and, to some degree, the very atoms themselves."

We all stayed away from Gene after that.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Burning

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Up the ancient North Highway, once Pojur has been left far behind yet the traveler is not yet halfway to Lucia, just before the great stone overpass blocks out the starlight, the Burning begins. Far to the east the fires burn, sometimes close enough to make an orange smudge low against the night. Usually far enough from the traveler not to seen. But the smell never goes away.

It is always night on the North Highway. The ones who know keep their heads down. The young search the sky for the smoke and the flames and get only chills for their efforts. Once they look, they can no longer turn away. Their hearts fill with the Dread as they wonder about what is out there, not far beyond the woods. The Burning has been since before their great- grandfathers' times. It never encroaches and yet it is never so far away that it is not to be felt. The young search the darkness and feed their nightmares. The fire out beyond is greater than any other they will ever know. The fire out beyond isn't wild. They know someone out there tends the Burning. They know someone out there brings more fuel.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Golem

The Golem
, my flash fiction piece which originally appeared here, was purchased by Everyday Weirdness. You can read it on their January 30th, 2009 post: I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, August 07, 2006

City Of Killers

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Cutlery murders were true crimes of passion because you had to really want to do it. They were often some of the messiest killings as well. Being a homicide detective was real job security, but nothing had prepared Jones for the Spoon Killer.

When he'd first gotten word of the Spoon Killer, he assumed, like a lot of other people, that the guy killed spoons. If only that had been true. Jones knew of a few spoons this city could do without. No, this guy killed people. Using spoons to do it. And nothing as humane as a melon-baller either. Jones had heard of victims done in with teaspoons, tablespoons, ladles, and measuring cups. This one on the slab though a full set of wooden spoons. Betty Binkus, the coroner, had removed over twenty-seven hundred splinters from the body.

Nothing worse than inheriting a case. Especially from Wilson. Now there was a guy who needed a good spooning. But it was the Fresh Raspberry Killer who did him in. Jones would have gotten that case too if that guy hadn't gotten into a lethal spat with his lover, the Custard Sprinkled With Chocolate Shavings Killer.

"Been a lot of killers running around here lately, huh, Betty?" Jones said. Betty pulled off her gloves and dropped onto her task chair. They'd been keeping her pretty busy lately. She had job security.

"Yeah, well, remember the Serial Killer?" she asked.

"The guy who killed people with Rice Krispies?"

"No, Serial with an S', silly!" They both laughed at his mistake.

"The guy who used to kill people with soap operas," Jones said.

"Exactly. He said something to me on his last day in court that might explain things. He said, 'I'm talking a kite saute a canteen.'"

"What the hell is that?" Jones asked. "That's nonsense! What does that explain?"

"That he's a crazy bastard," Betty said. "We've got a bunch of killers because we've got a bunch of crazy bastards running around this town."

"Betty! That's brilliant! I know how we can catch this guy!"

That night, Jones prowled the street dressed as a giant spoon. He felt ridiculous but this killer was, as Betty said, a crazy bastard. As his killings progressed, his choice of spoons became more esoteric. How in the hell could he ever pass up a weapon as bizarre as a man dressed as a spoon? He just plain couldn't, that's all, Jones concluded.

The chief, as always, wanted a backup plan. Jones suggested they run a classified ad for a Spoon Killer killer. He of course had to specify that what he was after was a guy that killed Spoon Killers, not a guy that used Spoon Killers as a weapon with which to kill. This came to so many words that the chief put the kibosh on the whole backup plan because of budget restrictions. He always did know how to play the chief. Jones had faith in Plan A.

Beneath the streetlight in front of the restaurant supply store, a big creepy looking guy eyed Jones while bouncing nervously. He made his way over slowly, and Jones watched his backup close in on the creep. This was going to be fun.

In the seconds before they pounced on the Spoon Killer, Jones saw an open career highway before him, leading straight to the Commissioner's office. It was all so easy. Tomorrow night they'd corner the Petroleum Jelly Killer, and then the $19.99 Green Plastic Mailbox Killer or the Jai Alai Fronton Killer. That guy had to be huge. They'd need a lot more backup for that one. And Jones would need a lot more costumes.

Costume maker. Now that was job security.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

All We've Got

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

The house was . . . well, Rich had been a bachelor for a long time. And, really, it was too late do anything about it. Lynne was Mrs. Stemberg now. And she'd have to get used to the fact that over-sized foyer was a trampoline room.

Not a room with a trampoline in it, she would explain to her mother, maybe tomorrow. No. Maybe next week. The entire floor was a trampoline. And hopefully mom would never find out that ninety percent of the house was in a tree.

Rich had made his money in the dot-com boom in the mid-nineties. It was exactly what it sounded like. Anyone with Rich's flair for persuasion could have made money with even a half-baked idea like that back then. He was in his early twenties at the time. Young, hot blood, and fast money -- she shouldn't have been surprised that this was the house he built. Should not have been surprised. Didn't mean she was pleased by the idea of taking a rope ladder up to her bedroom. The fire pole down to the kitchen was something she would have loved -- when she was five.

The view was nice. It was Florida, it was wilderness (could snakes get up here?), it was on the river (Did alligators live in moving water?).

"We can take the canoe to the grocery store," he said. Way to sell it, marketing guru, she thought. She noticed the orange slide spiraling down to the dock.

"I'm moving into a funhouse," she said.

"I know!" Rich said. "Isn't it awesome?"

"Rich. You can't be serious. You're almost thirty-five years old. You've got to want something more than this."

"Sure, but this is what we've got right now. This is all we've got. We might as well enjoy it."

"This is temporary right?"

"I told you it was."

"Tell me again."

He wrapped his arms around her and emphasized each word with a kiss. "This. is. temporary."

"You promise."

"You think I want to be here in the heat of summer? Not to mention the hurricanes."

"Oh my god, the hurricanes."

"We won't be here. Come on," he said, holding up the big paper bag he'd brought in from the car. "I'll show you what's going to pay for your summer house in the Hamptons." He took her by the hand and led her through a door off the kitchen she'd assumed was a pantry. It fed out onto a deck about fifteen feet in the air which snaked around the treehouse and out of sight.

"Take off your shoes," he said, kicking off his loafers. "Better grip."

"I'm not climbing the tree, Richard."

"Suit yourself," he said, squeezing her hand. "Just hang on tight." He pulled her along.

"All right, all right!" Lynne said, stumbling out of her shoes. He led her along the length of the deck which ended in a bridge arching over to other wonders in another great oak.

"This is like the freaking Lord of the Rings or something," she said.

"It's better," he said. "This is real."

Across the bridge, he took her to a spot where a net made of thick rope was slung between two huge tree limbs.

"What's this?" she asked, as he climbed down into it.

"It's my super-hammock! Come on."

"This is ridiculous," she grumbled, but she crawled in alongside of him. The hammock was curved like a chair. They got comfortable in its pocket and hung their feet over the side. They were almost directly above the river and had to speak up to be heard over the rushing water.

"Look," he said. He pulled a plastic bottle out of the bag, twisted something set into the bottom, and handed it to her.

"What is it?" she asked.

"Champagne," he said.

"In a plastic bottle, how romantic. Hey, it's getting cold!"

"There you go. A little chemistry in the base of the bottle and you're chilled. We're going to be the Southeastern distributors of these babies next month."

"Oh my god. That's great." She twisted off the cap and took a sip. "It tastes good, too."

"AND it's less filling. Okay, I made that up. It's not really less filling. It might even be more filling."

"You're such a dink."

"Look," he said, opening his own bottle, "There's something you've got to know about us dinks. Lot of ups and downs with us. You're going to be rich with me and you're going to be poor with me."

"I am poor with you."

"My point exactly. One thing you won't be with me, is bored."

Lynne swigged the bottle down in a couple of gulps and let out a prize winning belch.

"That's my girl," Rich said.

Maybe the alcohol was lightning quick or, more likely, she was exhausted from the flight. She was ready to fall asleep right here. She sank back against his warm body. The air was cooling off, but here it was, December and everything was green. She may have dozed off for a couple of minutes. All right, perhaps the super hammock was the one saving grace of the overgrown treehouse.

"Nice out here, huh?"

"Mm," she conceded. "Maybe I could try it for a couple months."

"I told you the house kicked ass."

"I meant the hammock."

"Deal. We'll live in the hammock."

"How much of that champagne did you bring?"

"This is all we've got," he said, holding up the bag. Lynne reached in and fished around for another.

"We might as well enjoy it," she said.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Monopoly Man And I Flee For Our Lives

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

A guy can get tired of running. But then again, a guy doesn't want to get killed by those who are chasing him, so he finds the strength. Roger and I were running once again, this time from a frenzied mob of amusement park patrons down the five and a half mile boardwalk. I chose the boardwalk for the traction.

Roger had spent his life, money and countless surgeries trying to look like the Monopoly man, and now with the anti-trust movement at its murderous apex he was nothing but trouble. You would have thought, with those short little legs, I could have easily outpaced him and left him to the dogs, but the little freak was enhanced with glands that weren't meant for you and me, and though I ran like hell, I couldn't shake him. I had to find some new friends.

"I don't understand it," Roger said. "Atlantic City is my hometown. They should love me here."

"Atlantic City is the Monopoly Man's hometown, Roger. You're from Wichita!"

There was some extra commotion behind us. I think the combined weight of our pursuers was too much for the flexing planks we drummed across and some of them had broken through. There would be injuries and chaos. Good.

But more of them came, and once we hit the concrete there was no slowing them down.

"They're going to kill us, Roger!" I screamed. "We're screwed!"

"The Hell you say!" Roger said. "I know how to deal with the little people, my boy." And with that he reached into his topcoat, pulled out scads of pastel paper and threw them over his shoulder.

"That's Monopoly money, you jackass!"

"Of course it is, lad. The most recognized money in the world." He kept throwing money. I started to hope that they'd catch us, just so the last sight I'd ever see would be the crowd tearing him to pieces. There was a roar behind us and to my shock, the idiots pounced on the play money and forgot we even existed.

With the sun setting over the ocean, Roger and I stumbled into a hotel as soon as the mob was out of sight. The place was pretty posh, one of those mid-twenty-first century models cast whole in red plastic with a nod to Art Deco. The night was wonderful, an unending river of Martinis and cigars, punctuated with twelve courses of the finest food the Eastern seaboard had to offer.

The next day at check-out, the bill knocked Roger senseless. It seems that those socialist lunatics that chased us a day earlier pooled the money Roger had thrown them and bought up all the properties on the boardwalk including our hotel. They'd even had enough to buy Park Place. The bill they laid on us broke poor Roger. Like it was yesterday, I can still see him standing there with his out-turned pockets and pleading expression. I bought his top hat, mostly out of pity, though I did look pretty ritzy in it. With the money, he had enough for a sandwich and a bottle of ripple. Last I heard he was squatting in a little green house over on Baltic.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Let’s Have Some Chatter Out There, People!

Can a brother get some comments on his blog?

One With Everything

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

(UPDATE 05/03/10) Another story yanked due to its purchase by Everyday Weirdness! The story will be up on May 5th and you'll be able to read it then at this address:

Enjoy and show Everyday Weirdness some love while you're at it!

A Visual Aid For My Poem

I just found this site which reminded me very much of my poem, "Mr. Mellon Puts on his Fingers" in issue 76 of Antipodean SF. Read the poem here first (You'll have to click on the forwarding link once you get there).

Then look at the site here. Don't watch too long. It will suck you in.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Fen Across The Rubicon

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Walking out into the sunlight of the warm afternoon, he felt alive. There are worlds to be won, Fen thought, suddenly overwhelmed by the taste of summer, a prodigal memory. The Hasco Distribution Center was right where it was supposed to be -- behind him. It's time was past and even though Levinger and the others expected him back after lunch, he'd never so much as utter their names or the name of that place again.

Across the hot pavement he approached his 79 Thunderbird like a tiger: huge and powerful and self-assured. His hands spread over the air, mere millimeters from its surface and caressed its dusty green paint job remotely. At once, when he knew it wouldn't get away, he embraced the old beast passionately, kissed the hot metal; His steed was here awaiting its master's commands. His left hand slid like a controlling lover down her grimy side until he felt the chrome handle at hip's height. Delicately working their way beneath the handle's smooth exterior, his fingers popped the door open as if it was a brassiere and he dove in just as greedily.

The smell of old plastic, the too warm interior and the savaged dust motes scrambling for their lazy order in the sunlight: these were all too pleasurable. He breathed deeply and knew his life had changed forever. The car started immediately. Fen took off down the highway, feeling each bump and crevice of the asphalt in his mid-section as if he were the car. He merged with the Thunderbird and rode it up hills like spurring a charger to take his enemies by the throats.

Fen went home and had a sandwich and the feeling passed. He sat in his chair in the quiet apartment and enjoyed a carbonated beverage. A Tab.

Without thinking, his eyes fell upon the clock above the kitchen sink. He meant to pull away, but never did. The scarlet second hand jerked around its bleached paper track. Fen stared, as frozen as Prince Prospero's dancers at the bell's toll. 12:41 PM was highlighted in his imagination as the ultimate annihilation. It was Doomsday. It was the Apocalypse. It was through the black hole. One second past 12:41 PM and it would be impossible to return to his job on time. The die would be cast. Lunch had seemed to settle his head but he'd be damned if he wasn't approaching the same conclusion in this slower, calmer manner: There was more to life, much more to life than that place.







The tick that took him from 12:41:00 PM to 12:41:01 PM was a thunderclap that shook his chest. Fen leapt to his feet and cried:

"What the hell has my life become?"

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


By Matthew Sanborn Smith

There really wasn't much to being a sheep. Bob found it suited him. Stand around, eat some grass, take a dump. You had some occasional sex and every so often, one wicked haircut.

The biggest problem he had was that all the other sheep were always calling his name. He looked around constantly to see what everyone wanted, and by and large they ignored him. Now, you'd think he'd get used to that after the first week or so of sheepdom, but he never did. This could have been a negative thing, Bob could have wound up a nervous wreck, a sheep suicide at the age of three years, and in fact he was a bit disturbed at first.

But one night when sleep was hard coming and he and the gang were all counting each other (not an easy thing when everyone you're trying to count is milling about trying to count everyone else), Bob decided that he wasn't going to get any sleep tonight. He was too wound up and his neck hurt from craning to see who wanted him all the time. What he needed was some exercise, a stroll through the forest seemed like just the thing for him. But between him and the forest, stood the fence. How in the world would he ever get past that big old thing?

The horses did it, didn't they? They were always showing off, jumping things. Why couldn't he? Because he was a sheep, that's why. And a nervous sheep at that. And the sheep him wouldn't stop calling his name. He looked back and something was different this time. Some of them were looking right at him.

"Well, what is it that you want?" Bob asked. They didn't say. They just kept calling his name.

"Holy cow," he said. "They never wanted my attention. All this time they've been cheering me on! I'm gonna do it! I'm gonna jump that fence for all you bastards who never had the faith to do it yourself!"

He gave himself a good running start of about two hundred feet and he jumped that fence, by gum! Bob felt like a god. Everybody was still chanting his name. He ran off to see the world and days later, when he came upon another herd, they too were chanting his name. He'd never even met these sheep!

"I am the most popular sheep in the whole goddamned world!" Bob exclaimed. "No more haircuts for me! I can do anything!"

He vowed then and there that he would bring peace to this world that man had darkened with violence. He would lead his people from subjugation and see them colonize the stars.

He took a pottery course at the local community college and then found a job as a customer service representative for a toaster oven manufacturer. He lived out his days in relative contentment and brought satisfaction to many toast-loving customers.


What about his great aspirations, you ask? The world peace and the stars and what not? Well, he was just a sheep, you know. Anyone else would be quite impressed with all that he did accomplish. I mean, just the fact that he could speak should astound you.


You frickin' people.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Just Another Day at the Job

By Matthew Sanborn Smith

Suddenly, we were surrounded by the spaghetti worms and Darren's brilliant fucking idea of covering them in tomato sauce had only made them stronger.

"What do we do now?" Magda asked. "I've heard these things can strip a person to the bone in just over seventeen years."

"Jesus," Darren said.

"I'll tell you what we're not going to do," I said, "And that's throw Parmesan or garlic bread on them!"

"At least I had an idea!" Darren yelled. "What have you done?"

I studied the stone walls of Professor Nefarious' hidden sanctum. There was no way we were getting through those.

"Wait a minute," I said. "The sewing kits!"

"You mean the ones given to us by customized milking machine that achieved sentience?"

"No, no, not those. The fully automated ones we stole from the samurai/Viking/gas station attendants that we fought at the bottom of the Swimming Pool of the Apocalypse."

"That's it!" Magda said. "Release the sewing kits!" And we did. But it was too late. The spaghetti worms were upon us.

I'm a strong man but I went into spasms as they crawled up my pants legs. Not only were they slimy and squirmy, but I swear they must have come straight here from the refrigerator. My spear gun was useless against them. Magda made progress, hacking at them with the sharp end of her snow shovel, up to her waist in gore and tomato paste. Darren tried his acrobatic fighting technique, slid, and fell on his back. I looked on horrified. Darren's jaw stretched wide while hundreds of worms all fought to force their way into his mouth at once. Even his nostrils were filled. If I didn't act now, he'd be dead.

I scooped him up and punched him hard and high in the gut until he Heimliched them all over the dungeon walls. Darren was out of the fight, gasping for air and sputtering phlegm and spit and bile. I held him up while I stomped the little bastards under my meat-tenderizing boot soles. The attack slowed and I looked around to see what happened. The sewing kits had kicked in, stitching the spaghetti worms into three great big worm-blankets. We were safe. For the moment.

The blankets saved our lives during our cosmic Stratego game against the Walrus Lords, but after that . . .

After that, things got weird.


I was just checking my settings and found out that I had this bloody thing set to only accept comments from registered users. Excluding people was definitely not something I wanted to do. So, if you've tried to comment on a post in the past and weren't able to, I apologize. I welcome any comments on past and future posts.