Sunday, December 31, 2006

Watching The Clock On Old Year's Night

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Unbelievable. Just a year ago he was a fat and sassy little baby, shaking it for all to see in nothing but a white sash and a suntan. Now here he stood, hunched over his cane, bald head aglow above the comet-like tail of his long white beard. He looked again at the clock. Not much time left. This must have been how Saddam felt just a couple of days ago. When that big bloody ball descended mere hours from now it would be like watching the executioner's switch thrown in an unbearable slow motion.

What a screw job. It hadn't even been much of a year. Damned elections. Between the attack ads, the debates, the pundits and election day coverage itself, he'd missed out on days of quality television time. He wasn't a political animal. 1968 had enjoyed politics. Now he'd had a good life. All 2006 had wanted was new episodes of Married With Children and there wasn't a chance of that happening.

At least he had half an Olympics. If they hadn't switched their crazy little system around, he wouldn't have had that.

2006 hoped there was such a thing as reincarnation. Imagine coming back as 4017! He bet that would be a cool year. Maybe they'd have world peace by then. No, No! A leap year! What could be better than being a leap year? To have your life artificially extended by .274 percent. Man, that would be sweet. What would he do with an extra day if he had it? Catch some more of the Twilight Zone marathon, he supposed. Eat a whole bag of Doritos. He really liked the Twilight Zone. And Doritos.

But of course, all that extra life would have been stolen from three other years that had their lives cut short by six hours each. He didn't think he could live with the guilt of those poor suckers' hours on his hands.

Wait a minute! He was one of those poor suckers! Who was it? Was it 2004 that stole his time? Or would it be 2008? He wanted revenge on one or both of them suddenly, more than he wanted anything else in life. But those years weren't here to face him like men. His eyes filled with water until the clock on the wall blurred.

"Stop it, stop it, old man," he told himself. He wiped his face. "This is the hand you were dealt. Make the most of it. Seize the day."

He checked the clock again, with a clearer head. He turned on the TV. Cheers would be on soon. It was one with Diane. He liked Diane.

2007, Here We Come

Well, gang, it’s resolution time. And this year, my resolution affects you, my occasionally loyal readers. You see, after many misfires, I’ve decided that 2007 will be the Year of the Novel. I’m resolving to finish a novel and send it out the door in 2007. I’ve been tinkering with a little something for years now, a trilogy of short stories featuring the same characters, and I’ve decided to weld them together into a novel. I’ve got about 31,000 words down and I figure about 45,000 more would make a decent sized book. At first, my goal was to get the first draft done by the end of March, but then I realized once I reached that goal, I’d probably just let the first draft sit there for many more years. So, I expanded the goal.

“How does this affect me,” you ask? Certain things have to take a back seat to the goal. Not that I’m quitting anything, but my daily work on the novel takes first priority from here on out. I want to lose about twenty more pounds (I’ve lost seventeen since Halloween) and build some muscle up so I don’t look like a flabby-skinned stickboy, but if at the end of the day, I only have time for one thing, the novel comes before the exercise. So, I have no idea what kind of impact this is going to have on the daily blog story. Perhaps you won’t notice a difference, perhaps there won’t be another story for a year. The reality will probably be somewhere between these two extremes. I’m preparing you now.

I still haven’t thought up a story for today, but I’ve still got nearly five hours to go.

I posted this bulletin on MySpace a couple hours back:

I want to wish all of you a 2007 that will shake your soul and show you meaning through the
simple act of doing that which you haven't done before.

Tell those people you love that you love them. Go outside and take a deep breath and feel it in
your lungs. Relive what your heartbeat feels like when you're doing something so exciting or
terrifying that the experience will stay with you forever.

And for once, stop listening to those people.

Soylent Green: It Isn’t Just People

For some reason the subject of cannibalism seems to come up a lot more often at my house than (I can only assume) at most other people’s houses. My wife, Bianca, made an astute observation on the subject yesterday. “The thing about Soylent Green is it isn’t just people,” she said. “It’s old people.”

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Doing The Thing

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Slappy wanted fame, wanted fortune, wanted love. For decades he had nothing, including talent. On his forty-second-and-a-half birthday he had an epiphany: The lowest common denominator was a concept he could actually put to good use. He wrote his book within minutes.

It wasn't a novel. It was too short for that. But it did come in book form. And it became the best selling book of all time. It's title? "The Covenant".

It's content? As follows:

A person did a thing.

And that was it. A more universal message could not be found. Once he hit the New York Times bestseller list, people hounded Slappy wherever he went.

"Hey, I did a thing! Just like the person in the book!"

"Your book really spoke to me!"

"Finally, a character with whom I can identify."

"What's up with that title?"

"I just thought it sounded cool," Slappy admitted.

Slappy got his fame, Slappy got his fortune. Slappy had yet to get his love. There was one woman who caught his eye. Dara Klyburn. Once Slappy's book went big, Dara jumped on the bandwagon with imitation after imitation. Her book, "The Elms of Yesterday" went like this:

Some people did some things.

But who the hell wanted to read a book like that?

She to boil down Slappy's message even further with "The River Karma":

Person thinging.


"Frowning in the Elderberries" went:


But everyone thought it was about someone else.

"The Mortician Doesn't Ring at All":


But everyone thought it was Dara's autobiography, and a bit thin at that.

If imitation was the sincerest form of flattery, then Slappy was flattered beyond belief. He had to have this woman.

He wrote a book for her, a one copy press run called: "Alkali." The text read: A woman did a thing. It reduced Dara to tears.

"It's about me!" she cried. "It's so detailed!"

"Marry me, Dara," Slappy said. And she was helpless before him.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Everybody Loves Ramen

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Poor Bjorn. As the only elf-repellent salesperson in a land of elf lovers and respecters he lived on the cheap in a big, big way. He couldn't afford an apartment or a car. About the only thing he could afford was ramen noodles. But Bjorn was a resourceful young man. He built himself a house and a car out of noodles (uncooked, of course). However, he found himself constantly ridiculed by the townsfolk he loved. They called him things like "Noodle Man" and "Soupy" which were pretty lame, but hurt him nonetheless. He constantly received fines and tickets from the authorities for his unsafe construction, but he was at the end of his financial rope anyway. Jail was an improvement.

As Bjorn sat in prison, the mother of all blizzards swept across the country. They lost power and the roads were blocked for weeks and famine set in.

"I can help!" Bjorn said. "If you just let me out!"

"You'd like that, wouldn't you, Noodle Man?" his captors said. "You're just itching to get free so you can build a ramen airplane or something and kill yourself. You just sit there and think about what you've done."

But days after the last can of sardines was finished, Bjorn squeezed his skinny self through the bars and ran home.

"Everyone follow me!" he shouted on the way. Bjorn pushed his car into the volcanic hot spring in the center of town. The people feasted on noodles and when those ran out they threw his house into the spring. Everyone was saved. Bjorn was their hero. Until the snows melted.

"Hey, can I get a lift back to jail?" Bjorn asked everyone.

"Screw you, freeloading Noodle Man!" they said. And Bjorn sank into obscurity once more.

That is, until the elves attacked.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Jerry And The Monsters

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Jerry kept his clothes piled on top of the bed. There were so many monsters in the closet, he couldn't fit anything else in there. His parents scolded him for the mess on his bed. They opened the closet door to show him that there were no monsters in the closet. The monsters ate them.

Jerry didn't leave. He had no where else to go. He wasn't afraid of the monsters, he just wanted them gone. They took up too much room. And they had eaten his parents. That was supposed to be bad too.

He tried starving them out, but that didn't work. There were too many nosy friends, social workers, and police officers looking in the closet for that too happen. If anything, the monsters were getting fat and taking up even more room. Too make things worse, Jerry's room stank of monster poo.

When he'd had enough, he went to the closet. He planned to drag them out if he had to. Jerry opened the door and lunged for the nearest lump of prickly fur. It shrank back, even in those tight quarters. He reached for a green and glossy hoof which pulled back startled like a doe's. There was a reason the monsters stayed in the closet. They were afraid of him.

Jerry closed the door again, left his hand on the big metal knob until the coldness left it. He got boards and nails from the shed and sealed the closet permanently. After one more look at his childhood, he closed his bedroom as well and slept in his parents room after that, on the other side of the house where he couldn't hear the low moans of the sad, dying things.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Man Of The Worlds, Part IX (Conclusion)

Farwir charged down the passage screaming, with his short sword held straight out. Suddenly the gladius disappeared and Farwir's arms were caught in the beast's mouth. The Blue Man heard a sickening grinding sound as he tried to pull out the arms of the screaming Farwir. Had the man been wearing any sort of protection on his arms he probably could have escaped with them intact, albeit crushed. As it was, this looked as though it would be a mortal wound.

Unable to pull the young man to safety, the Blue Man yelled at the young Anamather in an imitation of its parent enraged.

"Trelest poui heig marayt!"

He was answered with a coughing flood of something that was supposed to pass for speech from the not yet fully developed Anamather. Farwir was pulled back to the steps of the entrance as soon as the creature had opened its mouth. The Blue Man screamed for the barrage of metal from above to stop, and handed the people above the moaning figure of their would-be hero.

The flame on the tip of his staff had once again gone out and it now lay in the dirt below, wisps of smoke rising in the stale air. The Journeyman Exterminator called for iron spikes and began to hammer the odd pieces of armor and silver to the walls, wedging the spikes beneath the stones that made up the wall, oblivious to the screams of the Anamather trapped at the far end. When most of the walls and ceiling were covered, the Blue Man held his staff so that one end was above ground in the sunlight. Once again, he called upon the sun, though in a different manner this time. From the top of the staff the rays of the sun shot out, reflecting from the polished metal thousands upon thousands of times, and filling the space with a brilliant yellow-white light. Now the Anamather's screams turned from frustration to unimaginable pain. Instinctively, it teleported from the passage to the back of the cellar, covering its eyes. The Blue Man was upon it almost at once. He was no longer concerned with the light, for he was certain that the monster's eyes were damaged beyond repair. Throwing his voice, he swatted the Anamather with his staff while scolding the beast in its mother's voice. Then something inside of him made him stop. The pathetic mound of malformed flesh lay at his feet sobbing and choking up thick liquids. It was hardly in a position to harm anyone now.

He stood over it for a short time letting the pain sink into his murderous side. This would be an intelligent creature someday.

It could just as well have been Ithcyer a hundred years ago. He knelt down to stroke the thing softly, full of pity, and spoke in Moragadriel's voice for the last time.
"My baby, please come home."
The young Anamather disappeared.

The Blue Man's heart welled up with guilt for misleading the young one with a tone of voice that it would never actually hear from its parent. Anamathers cared so little for their offspring it was a wonder the species was able to perpetuate itself. But he had spared its life, among other reasons, in the hope that it would live long enough to feel a change, in the individual sense and in its species.

He dropped to the cool dirt, exhausted from the day's work. Though two families had been preserved, he had originally only worked for the preservation of one. His motives now struck him as questionable and he felt shamefully burdened by the title 'Exterminator'.

When he rose into the afternoon sun he was met with the cheers of the crowd. Old Soot ran to him.

"We thought you had been killed, Journeyman Exterminator. Did you destroy it?"

"Your home is now safe, Soot. It is gone. And I would ask that you no longer refer to me by that title."

"Of course, sir. What would you have?"

"Perhaps, you could call me . . . A Student of the Worlds."

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Man Of The Worlds, Part VIII

The man directly in front of him jumped backwards as well as he could, being surrounded by people, and let out a startled yelp upon the return of the Journeyman Exterminator.

"He's back! The Exterminator is back!"

A few others grabbed him and tried to lead him back towards the cellar entrance. He couldn't be moved until finally he decided to walk on to the front of the screaming crowd and see if someone else's ear had been eaten. At the trap door he was grabbed and mauled, while at least seven people vied for his attention. All that could be understood was that something was happening beneath Soot's home.

Concentrating, he chanted and gesticulated and finally pointed to the sky with one hand while passing the other in front of the never-closing mouths of those about him. One by one they fell silent, though their mouths kept moving. Their voices were projected hundreds of feet in the air above them, and some passers-by took the skittish reaction of overhead birds as an ill omen.

Soon there was quiet about the Blue Man save for the chicken farmer. The exterminator reached through the mass of bodies and pulled the excited young man to him. The farmer also fell silent, realizing that he was the only person who hadn't lost the ability to speak.

In a calm monotone, the Journeyman Exterminator asked him to explain what had happened.

"Younger Farwir, Exterminator. He's gone down to slay the beast and impress the ladies."

"Listen to me, carefully. Get all the polished armor and silver your people can get together and throw it down into the cellar."

The Blue Man said no more but created another flame, and broke the spell of voices. He pushed through to the door and went below, staff firmly in hand.

"Die, you filthy, livestock-propositioning bastard!", yelled the man at the bottom of the steps, drawing back arrow after arrow and plunging each into the tough hide of the screaming Anamather which was now wedged between the crumbling cellar walls. "You smelly, fat-headed, dung eating, rancid, . . . thing, you!"

The Blue Man held back for a moment. He couldn't deny that Young Farwir' tactics weren't all that bad. Perhaps it was time to invest in a bow. However, the arrows seemed to infuriate the young Anamather more than harm it. Soon Farwir's quiver was spent, and the fervor of the upper hand possessed the man to take up his gladius, raising it until it hit the low ceiling. The Blue Man grabbed his arm but lost his grip as a large silver teapot bounced off of his unprotected skull from above.

(To Be Concluded)

Monday, December 25, 2006

Sorry Santa

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

It was late, two nights before Christmas. Strangely, there weren't any kids in the mall that night and Santa sat, silent and contemplative, the elves having wandered off to price cell phones. There was no one else around, no one looking. A man in a uniform with the name "Ted" embroidered on the chest snuck over to Santa.

"Hey," he said.

"Merry Christmas," Santa said.

"I gotta talk to someone."

"You want something for Christmas?"

"Yeah, I guess I do."

Santa looked around for a moment, giggled, and patted his lap. "Take a seat."

Ted did.

"So, what can Santa do for you, young man?"

"I'm in love with my mother-in-law," Ted said. "She's all I think about. I know it's wrong, but I can't help myself. This thing could ruin my marriage, I could lose my kids, everything."

"Uhh . . . " Santa said.

"I want you to take it away from me. Take away the desire so I can be happy again."

"I can't --"

"I'll just wait over here until you're done."

Before Santa could say another word, a small woman plopped into his lap. She wore a hideous orange plaid overcoat, green cords, and worn out sneakers. Her long hair was graying and her face haunted.

"Make it so my baby never died," she said.

"Jesus, lady."

"Yes, Jesus," she said. You've got an in with Jesus. He can bring my baby back."

A second woman fell to her knees at Santa's feet.

"Ask him to make it so the war never happened," she begged.

More people came to him.

"Make it so my father stops hitting my mother," a woman said.

"I need my car to hold out for one more year so I can keep a job."

"My kid needs medicine bad."

"Hold on a minute!" Santa said. But his voice was drowned by more requests.

"I need a man who doesn't drink."

"I want my wife to trust me again. To love me."

"Make me stop burning for morphine."

"We can't afford to keep the baby."

"Christ, people!" Santa shouted, struggling to his feet. "I'm just a guy who works at a mall! I can't help you. You people have real problems. I'm just a mall employee." No one else spoke. Santa had tears in his eyes as did the orange plaid woman he'd dumped to the floor. He took her hand and helped her up.

"I'm sorry," he told her quietly.

"No, we're sorry, Santa," she said. "We didn't mean to lay everything on you lie that. We just needed to believe again for a few minutes." She hugged him hard. "We needed to believe there was someone who could make it all better again."

"Sorry, Santa."

"We're sorry, Santa."

They all gathered in a huge, sniffling hug and stayed that way for a few minutes until mall security told them the place was closing. They peeled away reluctantly and said their goodbyes.

"Have a nice Christmas, Santa."

"Merry Christmas, Santa."

"Merry Christmas," Santa said.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Man Of The Worlds, Part VII

"Most of my people have never seen an adult Anamather."

"That is true. Then they must deem us a horrible species considering what they have seen."

The World Walker decided not to respond to that. "Do you have any idea to whom this child belongs?"

"Would you allow one of my thought reapers to collect your experiences of the young one?"

This thought put the Blue Man ill at ease. "Would I still have the experience or would it be wiped away? Also can I have your word that your reaper won't look for more than that single experience?"

"You will retain absolutely everything. And I can assure you that our creatures are well trained and hold their lives more dearly than we do."

"Then you may proceed."

A tall, gangly creature appeared between the two beds. The World Walker had trouble picking out the details of the reaper's body in the dim light.

"Bend toward me, please," Ithcyer requested in a soft voice.

The Blue Man did as asked and closed his eyes. In time, he felt the touch of several thin, greasy appendages about his head and squirming beneath his damaged armor to rest on his back. He felt a ticklish sensation and then a burning as the worm-like sensors burrowed into his flesh. His body twitched and his thoughts raced as Ithcyer tried to put him at ease: "You're his first human. He's just getting the feel of things. It will be over in just a moment."

And it was. He rose to see the stalks writhing from the thought reaper's head as they found their ways into the pre- existing holes of Ithcyer's belly\head.

"Ah, my creature knows of this one. I shall alert the parent of your coming."

The reaper disappeared. After an exchange of farewells, the Blue Man found himself in the cave of one Moragadriel. He was offered no bed.

"Ithcyer's pet has told me that you were unfortunate enough to feel the presence of my child, World Walker. In answer to your next, most logical question, yes, you may slay it."

"I thank you, Moragadriel, although I am not sure I am able to. My only option may be to try to drive it out. Would you be receptive to it?"

"Not enthusiastically, but I shall not turn it away. My child left of its own accord, as many of them do, though few have found your master's world. It was an accident, I'll warrant, but perhaps there is some hope for the monster."

The Blue Man bowed. "I appreciate your time and hope that my business is swift. I have but one more request."
"0f course."

The World Walker found himself blinded by a bright light and wiped the mask from his eyes to break the spell. He was back on the property of old Soot, in the midst of an almost riotous mob.

(To Be Continued)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Man Of The Worlds, Part VI

After dunking the fowl in yet another of his many concoctions, the Blue Man whispered to the chicken and sent it on its way, scrambling and cackling to the west. They all waited.

"Don't the rest of you have something better to do with your time?" asked the Journeyman Exterminator.

An old woman in a tattered frock said, "Harvest was over days ago and the animals've all been fed. 'Sides you're the only thing around here worth interest till next spring. We gotta have somethin' to talk on, don't we?"

"Say, am I gonna get my chicken back?" asked the farmer.

"Bill it to Soot." He sighed and sat down on the hard ground, studying the door to the cellar.

An hour passed and still he sat. A few spectators had wandered off and the Blue Man was hopeful that the crowd would disperse, until they returned with food and drink for the others who were now sitting comfortably.

"Disappear already!" one boy yelled. The group mumbled its support.

The Blue Man yelled back, "Look, it usually doesn't take this long. If I had a dove, rather than that scrawny hen, I would have been gone long ago. The bloody thing has to get over the horizon. And anyway, who asked-"

He disappeared, missing the smattering of applause that followed his departure.

"-you to stay . . . " His sentence trailed off as he noticed the change in surroundings. He was in a cave, or rather a bubble of space deep within a world of rock, for there was no visible exit. A low voice welcomed him from a phlegm filled throat.

"It is pleasant to see you once again, World Walker. Please rise. I have summoned a bed for you."

He made out the figure of Ithcyer against the far wall. Even through the magic of the mask which enhanced the light of the glowing wall lichen, he doubted that he would be able to tell his friend from any other Anamather without prior knowledge of his destination.

"Thank you for welcoming me into your home, Ithcyer," he said in his host's tongue. "I was not sure you would respond to my message considering its form." He sat on the low slab covered with fat-filled mattresses that made up an Anamather bed.

As his eyes adjusted to the light, the World Walker was able to study his host. The only major physical differences between Ithcyer and the younger thing in the cellar were their sizes (Ithcyer wouldn't have been able to fit in the cellar), and their legs. Ithcyer had no legs, as they fall off during the early stages of adulthood.

"Yes," Ithcyer remarked, "I found it strange but I believe it will digest just as well. Please drink with me as we discuss your business. I have called for some of your native wine."

"Once more, I thank you, Ithcyer." A chalice appeared at his feet as another appeared in the hand of his host. "To get right to the point, one of your young has been discovered on my master's world. I request permission to return it if it is lost or slay it if it is not."

Ithcyer bobbed its left arm slowly. It was the Anamather equivalent of a nod. "They are absolutely beastly at that age. It must amaze your people that we're part of the same race."

(To Be Continued)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Man Of The Worlds, Part V

A man would not have lasted this long if the thing had grown to adulthood. He had known, of course, that this was a child when Soot's boy said the creature was just a little bigger than he was. A thought struck him. It was bigger. Keeping his head down, he crawled back into the passage. The thing was too angry and senseless to grab him. It simply dropped more blows because that was all it knew how to do.

The Blue Man slithered on one elbow from the rain of huge fists. He had slipped from danger, as the passage was too small for the creature to enter. His lungs struggled for air as he hit the cold dirt floor. Lying there in the darkness, he listened to the unceasing screams and mindless flailings just a few feet away.


Soot, his family and some friends from nearby placed themselves at what they thought was a safe distance from the outside door to the cellar with pitchforks at the ready. The bravest of them was covered with sweat on this temperate day as they listened to the unholy wailing from below. Soot let out a weak sound when the door was raised.

From the depths rose the Journeyman Exterminator, looking like he had spent a day in the cellar rather than a just a few minutes. "It is time for a new plan," He shouted to the onlookers.

Some laughed, but Soot's spirits sank when he saw the bug armor shattered like a mirror. The Blue Man walked toward them with obvious fatigue. "I'm going to try something else. If all goes well, I may disappear suddenly. Don't worry."

He went to his mount and reached into a saddle bag, pulling out a small clay pot filled with muddy, black paint. Dipping in two other fingers, he applied it across his eyes until it seemed he was wearing a mask. The pot was returned to its place and the ropes tying down the lizard's snout were loosened. The reptile's master then whispered something into its ear hole. It responded with a hiss and worked its jaws slowly while the Blue Man went back to the gathering crowd.

He looked around the back of the house, screaming to nobody in particular:

"Are there any doves in the area? I need a white bird called a dove."

The people looked at each other mumbling, until finally a young farmer said, "I got a white chicken."

"No," he said patiently. "I need a dove. A small, white bird." He cupped the air to indicate its size. "In many lands it is the symbol of purity or peace. A dove. A sort of pigeon, I suppose, but I need one that's pure white."

The crowd quietly stared at him with a host of blank expressions. Looking at the ground beneath his feet in frustration, he finally said, "Let me see the chicken."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Man Of The Worlds, Part IV

Soot called to them and soon three women of various ages came out to stand with them.

"Where is the door to the cellar, Soot?", asked the Blue Man.

"There's one just inside the kitchen. We built some fires around it so nothing's coming out that way. The other one's behind the house. There'll be a short passage before you get into the actual cellar and I imagine you'll have to stoop."

The Blue Man cringed inwardly as he thought about all the cellars he had been in. He always had to stoop.

Dipping two clean fingers into a packet on his belt, he pulled them out, covered with a thick, brown sauce. The staff was then planted into the ground and the upper six inches was covered with the sauce. The Soots looked on with not a little bit of interest. The Exterminator held the top of the staff with one hand while reaching to the sun with the other. A few mysterious and guttural words later, the top of his staff as well as his hand was on fire. This drew some cries of concern but he quickly beat his hand out on the ground. He smiled to the Soots reassuringly. "I've done this before. It doesn't hurt anymore."

The family stepped aside as the Journeyman Exterminator went to the back of the house. "Bite his ear off!", encouraged the old man. Now on the other side of the house the Blue Man heard the young boy scream, "He ain't got no ears to bite!"

I know, the Exterminator thought. He came to the wooden door set into the ground. Lifting it, he descended, taking care to keep the flame ahead of him.

The passage was indeed small and he was forced to walk sideways while in a split-legged crouch just to fit through. The walls felt cool and alive with vermin; He could feel the worms burrowing between the stones. It stank as, he supposed, the entire cellar did, of excrement, dampness, and fear.

Finally arriving at the mouth of the passage, the Blue Man found himself hoping the creature was what he expected it to be, but deep within he dreaded even that.

The scream started slowly in the far end of the open room and it built up with ferocity on top of ferocity, with terror and pain, fear and aloneness, and at its very core was an empty chasm that could only be called Hunger. A large shape charged the Blue Man with shriek after shriek of coldness and hate. He instinctively lowered the staff to impale the beast with the flaming tip. And with this a different cry of agony was born from the creature's throat as it swatted wildly, knocking the Exterminator to his knees.

They were in darkness now. The fire had been extinguished as it ground deeply into the darkthing's belly/head. The Exterminator cursed himself, for he knew the fire and the light to be poisonous to the thing but he had only brought enough to anger it. Now he was unable to see, without his primary weapon, and his opponent definitely had the upper hand. He felt and heard the insectoid exoskeleton of which his armor was composed cracking under the repeated blows of two club-like arms and knew that his spine would soon follow.

(To Be Continued)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Man Of The Worlds, Part III

"Is that bad?" asked Soot.

"It could be. Who is this boy?"

"Why, my son. My only son."

"You told me you only had one son, Soot."

The old man opened his arms toward the boy. "And here he is."

"You told me your only son had been eaten, Soot."

"Look here then," said the old man and he proceeded to take off the bandages, during which time the Journeyman Exterminator's mood grew exceedingly dark.

"There," said Soot, turning the boy^s head so that its left side faced the Blue Man. There was a large scabby clot where the child's ear used to be.
"You told me he had been eaten!"

"Well, not entirely!", he said, as if it should have been obvious. "Do you think I'd have let my whole family stay in that house if some monster had come along and swallowed up my son as simple as that?"

The Blue Man turned back to his mount and called, "Good-bye, Soot. "

"Wait! Just a minute!" called Soot. "You can't deny that thing is dangerous. You just said yourself that it could be a nasty situation. "

The Blue Man turned back. Soot was right and in his anger he almost let himself forget. Yet Mariah still tried to convince him:

"Look, I'm still paying the same amount as I was last week, whatever that is. It's still the same job. Oh, so an old man exaggerates. Are you going to let this beast terrorize the countryside because of that? Are you going to let it bring humankind to its knees because you only exterminate the lethal variety of monsters?"

Soot's voice was harsh, but there was pleading in his eyes. "It came this close to biting his whole head off." Soot held his hands apart the width of the boys head.

"Save your breath, Soot. I'll do it. Get your family out of there now."

"Thank you, sir. Thank you. It will be my pleasure, Journeyman Exterminator."

(To Be Continued)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Man Of The Worlds, Part II

Man Of The Worlds, Part II
by Matthew Sanborn Smith

"It is of no matter," he assured Soot. "After today you'll require my services no longer and I shall be gone. Tell me, have you seen it?"

"The creature?"


"I have not seen it myself, sir, but I assure you something is down there." He folded his hands, the picture of compliance.

"I believe you, certainly, old Soot. I only ask in the case that you might provide a description. I may have encountered such a creature before."

"Ah, yes!" said the old man. He yelled toward the house and a moment later a boy ran out to them. His head was bandaged rather shoddily and he tripped and fell twice, for his sight was obviously hindered.

"Hurry up, hurry up!", the old man cried.

Soot stooped into the boy's face and yelled, "This is the man who is going to kill the thing in the cellar." The boy's half-covered eyes blinked to shield him from the spit that flew from the old man's mouth. "Tell him what you saw," Soot continued, "So that he may be better prepared for the killing."

The boy nodded and turned his entire body with a jerk to face the huge man.

"It was big!" the little boy yelled, raising his hands to the sky. "A little bigger than you. A real big head with arms and sorta chicken legs comin' out. And the skin was like you and me . . . Well like me, anyway, except it was melted all over him. Like candle wax."

The old man stooped and yelled, "Tell him about the teeth!"

"Big, fat, stubby teeth!" the boy yelled.

"Oh, no," the Blue Man said softly.

(To Be Continued)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Man Of The Worlds, Part I

I was completely prepared to chuck it and say no story today. I could have come up with something, I just didn't feel like it. But I decided to take this story, break it up and post it in installments. This is the third story I ever completed with the intent to publish. It was written back in 1991, my first attempt at a fantasy story.

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Soot had slept little these last few weeks, what with the thing that had ravaged his son still in the cellar. But now outdoors in the daylight, with the imminent arrival of the blue mercenary at hand, he dozed standing up.

In the haze of a dream he heard the quick swish-thump, swish-thump of a forgotten nightmare and suddenly he was awake. I know that noise, he thought. What in Soozham is it? His stomach felt icy and tight as the memories filtered back into his conscious mind. Thrort! That is how the natives had referred to the monstrous six-legged lizards that roamed the Pers Mountains on the far continent. It was a word that was barked rather than spoken. And through the entire Pers campaign that bark heralded fear and often violent death. Soot called to his family inside the cottage, but cut himself short. For now it had come into view and he saw that atop the gigantic reptile rode the Blue Man, his beautiful, faerie-like face greeting Soot from beneath a head of long black hair. A wave of relief swept over him, followed by an extreme confidence in the man who had harnessed this monster.

"Sub-Master Builder," he cried, "I see that you have had experience with life-threatening creatures!" He used the polite lawyer's voice that he had rarely needed since his retirement from the army as the Captain's counselor.

"That I have, good sir. But, please, you may call me Journeyman Exterminator. At least for today."

He dismounted and tied the thrort's head and tail to the dry ground. Soot saw that he was equal to the monster's shoulder. Six and a half feet if he's an inch, he thought. The old man felt an even greater bolstering of his spirit as he saw the irregular curvature of the Journeyman Exterminator's armor. It was Bug armor, ripped from the back of one of the giant insects who own the great jungles of the south. The crusader rose up inside of him and he was almost willing to follow the Blue Man into the cellar, but not quite.

The Blue Man called, "You have not given me your name, old one."

"Oh, yes. It's Mariah Soot," he proclaimed proudly. "And yours is . . . ?"

"I told you," said the Blue Man, looking at Soot a little strangely. "Journeyman Exterminator. At least for today."

Mariah nodded slowly, returning the look. "Yes, of course. How in the world could I have forgotten so soon?"

It then occurred to the Blue Man that Soot's age had probably taken its toll on his memory.

(To Be Continued)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Deal: Gone Sour

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

They liked to sit in the old sleigh with the broken runner, snow frosting the farm and the countryside beyond, and listen to Don Ho songs. Richard held Marta's mitten in his and made a silent deal with death: that if the reaper wanted to take him right this very moment, he wouldn't struggle. These moments, when everything was perfect, were the only times he would go willingly.

Old Red, their Irish Setter came out from behind the barn. He stopped right in front of them, hunched over with his rear end pointed in their direction and experienced one of the most supreme bowel movements of his thirteen year old life. The results lay steaming in the snow, marring the entire Currier and Ives landscape.

Now, a hooded black shroud seemed to hold itself empty and upright off to his left. Its great, billowing sleeves wrapped themselves about the very scythe that usually hung from the barn's rafters with the other antique tools they'd collected over the years. Richard strained his aching knees until he stood upright in the sleigh, shucked off his mittens and rolled up his sleeves.

"Sixty seconds earlier," he said, shaking his head, "And you wouldn't have had this ass-kicking to worry about."

Thursday, December 14, 2006


by Matthew Sanborn Smith

We stayed up all night drinking our five-foot beers and eating the new Walnut M&Ms. They were the size of fucking tennis balls, they were! Between vomit breaks we watched the old mechanical bull that escaped Phil's country-themed bar last year getting it on with Ivan's mechanical cow, Jenny. Jenny supplied half the neighborhood with mechanical milk and I couldn't help wondering if a year's supply of synthetic bull jizz wouldn't sour it or whatever. I decided I was going to make the switch to electric water then and there. Right after this beer.

"The C.I.A. is run by squirrels!" Pol declared. I didn't feel I could argue with him.

"You think Kelly loves me?" I asked him.

"No," he said.

"You think anybody loves me?" I asked.

"I love you, but not in that way," he said. "If Jenny falls to pieces, that bull over there will love you in a very different way. Still, not in the way I think you want."

"You, uh . . . you think a calf'll come outta that union over there?"

"Hadn't thought of that," Pol said, huffing a can of artificial Malaysian body odor. It was the only thing that got him high, but Christ, what it did to his breath! "God, I hope so. Never had mechanical veal before."

"I had digital veal once," I said.

"How was it?"

"Little tough."

"It's that binary, my friend. You go to them ritzy places out in Vegas, what have you, they got it mononary. All zeroes. Tender as a baby's bottom."

I imagined chewing on a baby's bottom. I vomited again.

"That makes twelve for you," Pol said. "Twenty-seven for me." We stepped out of our own filth yet again that night. Pol had to take off his pants, revealing a disturbing erection, considering the wildly bucking bull before us.

"That makes thirteen for you," Pol said a moment later.

"I think I'm going in," I said. I looked back just before turning the corner and caught Pol edging closer to the enraptured couple(ing).

"I am definitely never drinking that milk again," I said to myself.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

New Tricks

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

I was only twenty when I reached the height of my career. I was the guy who figured out the thing with dogs and fences. You're young, so you probably take it for granted that dogs can build fences, but it wasn't always so. We'd known for, who knows how long (millennia?), that dogs could be trained to attack, to guard things, sit up, roll over, all that stuff. We figured we'd reached the extent of their abilities. But I found out we hadn't. While a young dog trainer, my dogs watched with fascination as I built a fence around my yard. Before I could finish, I received a call and went inside. When I came back I found my dogs eagerly continuing my work and doing a damned good job. Who knew? Play dead, shake hands, build a fence.

I got a lot of work after that, at first from fence builders who wanted free labor, but soon everyone wanted to teach their dog the new trick. It was all picket by the way. The dogs hated wire, especially electric and barbed. I became rich, I became famous, but there's one other thing I became: a one-trick pony. How do you follow an act like that?

I'm sixty-five years old now, a legend and a has-been all in one. I've spent the last four decades searching for the next big trick and breaking records for piling up failures. Just so you don't waste your time, here's a few things dogs definitely can't do:

1. Your taxes
2. Make a decent pasta salad
3. Disembowel a burro with a mechanical pencil
4. Tell a joke in mixed company
5. Spread jam on a broken television set

They still hold some secrets, the wily bastards, you can see it in their eyes. I leave it to you, the future generations, to continue my work if I should die before discovering the next new trick. And don't any of you try taking credit for the diet cola formula they seem to all know innately. The aftertaste is like ass.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Pissin' feels so great
That I can hardly wait
To drain my six-inch vein*
Of that which causes my bladder such pain.

I love to fill the toilet,
But I never miss, cause that would spoil it.
With colors of brilliant liquid gold
I paint the inside of that bowl.

Now quite relieved, my legs collapse.
But I'll strike again, tomorrow perhaps!
I love my urine and it loves me,
but there's nothing I like better than a nice, long pee.

*(I wrote this poem as a teenager (like you couldn't tell) and the second half of this line originally read, "eleven-inch vein." Years later I got real and changed it. I'm willing to fess up. Are you?)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Climbing Trees

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

It wasn't all tea and crackers. No sir, not by a mile. We all laughed when we first heard the reports of trees climbing people. I mean, that's funny stuff, is it not? Then it started happening to us. With the saplings it was innocent enough, we'd take photos of little trees on our shoulders and shoot them around the net. Good fun. But when the mature trees climbed a person, what you were left with was people juice, and lots of it. Mashed, people were rich in nutrients and so even this was good for the trees. My own grandmother was soaked up by the thirsty roots of a great weeping willow.

Once the trees knew they had the upper hand, they really threw their weight around. The little ones made people houses up around our chests and heads. Then there were the Christmas people. The trees would hang decorations all over us and light us up. We couldn't run away because there were presents all around our ankles. I'd always thought trees were pagans but it turns out that cross Jesus got crucified on? It used to be a tree.

We tried fighting back, but try and start a forest fire when the forest can just get up and walk away. Soon their destructive ways caught up with them, however. As the human population dwindled, the oxygen levels in the atmosphere went up, carbon dioxide emissions fell drastically. Global cooling set in and those trees choked themselves with their own program of rampant environmental destruction.

Hah! Stupid trees!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Fixer

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

We had ourselves a desert planet at last. However, Dune was much more fun than this. For one thing just about everything that wasn't dead before was very dead now.

When the Uelp discovered Earth, they found it much too wet a world for their liking. They stuck the planet inside a gigantic clothes dryer and tumbled Earth to its destruction. It cost them trillions of dollars in quarters and the ghosts of old Earth got their revenge when the Uelp had to clean the lint trap. Man, was that gross. The aliens left and never returned.

A few of us were off world at the time, but watched the whole thing on vid feed. We couldn't spare a lot of people so they sent me to fix everything. Probably because I was the only guy with a plan. When I got to Earth, I plugged in my little humidifier, kicked back, and waited for the world to come back to life.

After a while I got something to drink.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Porn 2.0

PORN 2.0
by Matthew Sanborn Smith

When people didn't want the same things, when people weren't even people anymore, what was a purveyor of sexy goodness to do? Since they unlocked the secret in 2034, what was once humanity had broken into thousands of new species, if you could call them species. Many of them refused to reproduce in the old fashioned way, that is, the way which had kept Tommy Jarvis and his family in business for decades: plain ole gettin' it on.

The porn industry was largely dead. The once multi-billion dollar industry knew exactly what its audience had wanted until they hadn't wanted it any longer. What was left fought over the scraps of fundamentalist mankind, but Tommy, sweet Tommy had vowed to rise again. He knew the essence of good porn and knew that sex was nothing but a format. Pornography was defined simply as whatever was privately desired and socially forbidden.

The aquatics liked looking at eggs. Not chicken, the fishy kind, you know. Millions and millions of eggs, the more the better, all shiny and translucent, oh man, they're probably getting hot just reading this.

The cyborgs dug robots, but the robots got into efficiency. Show the robots a program that was so efficient, some law of physics would have to be broken to pull it off and you, my friend, would have a mess to clean up.

Rudy, the Species of One, only needed a mirror. The men of wax enjoyed having hot nipples poured on them. There was a thriving market among some asexual perverts in watching films of two separate cells joining together to form one larger cell (you'd have to run the video backwards, but Tommy would always tell them they were watching the real thing as it happened). Hive minds enjoyed watching free-thinking individuals engage in auto-eroticism. Tommy rooted out every kink in the post-Homo sapiens society. He became a very rich man, not only by giving beings what they wanted, but by keeping it quiet as well.

The sentient gas giants? Well, you'd never hear this from Tommy, but word was they found old Alka-Seltzer ads highly erotic.

Day Late And A Dollar Short

Sorry folks, I blew it. I thought I'd be able to post the story for the 8th just before midnight but problems arose at the job and you know what they say about mice and men. Now just because I disappointed you, don't go expecting two stories today. These are free, after all. Count yourself lucky to get one.

Go to your room.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Pressing The Button

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

The three of us floated in our spacesuits. The three of us floated in an endless grey void that used to be the universe. Nothing else existed save for the machine in the middle of our little group. Roughly cubicle, it was about eighteen inches to a side. I couldn't remember who my companions were or even who I was. All I knew was that the machine would bring back everything. I thought myself a manufactured being, programmed for this one vitally important task. Three of us floated. The machine had only one button, large enough to fit three fingers. We all pushed together.

Everything happened at once. The whole universe happened at once. Every color, every sound, every happening. There was no Bang from a single point. Chaos came evenly distributed and instant. Needless to say, I went insane. What happened next, I'll never know. That is the whole of my existence: two minutes. Floating in space, going insane. I don't replay it over and over. It just is and always is. Reinforces my belief that I'm manufactured, perhaps an AI in a program that froze when my companions and I tried to populate our vast machine with a reality.

Floating. Insanity. That is all there is.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Truck Stop

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

"No, see this is a truck stop. Lit'rally," said Frank. He scratched his big belly, beneath the flannel.

Ted scrunched up his face from up in the driver's seat. "What do you mean, 'literally?'"

"I mean, you come here, we stop your truck."

"What'd you do, take out the spark plugs or something?"

"No, sir, this is a diesel, like every other truck," Frank said. He spat on the cracked, grey tarmac.

"How do I get it going again?"

"Welp, there's a truck start, bout five miles down the interstate."

"A truck start."


"You're fucking kidding me."

"No, sir."

"Look, Frank,"Ted said, "I'm not a regular driver, I know. But I'm not stupid. The whole reason I'm on this haul is for my sociology thesis. I'm not some rube you can bullshit."

"No, sir."

Ted got on his cellphone, to call for a tow. No service.

"No service," Ted said, holding his phone up.

"No, sir."

"Gotta phone I could use?"

"No, sir," the two of them said together. This explained everything. Great service, low prices, not one other truck at the stop. Ted was caught in some hillbilly Twilight Zone episode.

"What do most people do in this situation?"

"They walk down to the truck start and call for a tow."

Ted considered for a second or two. "Wait. Wouldn't the tow truck stall once it got here?"

"Yep. Lotta folks don't get that right away. You are a college boy."

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Proposal

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

They talked all night on her new couch about her new couch and about seventy-three other topics that didn't really matter and it was a good thing too. He couldn't have handled deep thought in his state. Seeing her relaxed for the first time, shorts and a tanktop and curled up in one corner while an endless list of bands he'd never heard of before cycled from her hard drive's whim, he thought that maybe now they'd pushed past the curtains that keep people from one another. They could show parts of the real selves they were, intimate in a way more rare than just sex. Bodies were so easy to bare. Souls? That's when the defenses came down. How many people did you see in this state in a lifetime?

"I want to be your friend forever," he said. "Friend or companion or whatever it is you need of me over the next seventy or so years." It was late and he was afraid all of this would be forgotten soon, chalked up to fatigue.

She giggled a little and smiled. "I need someone to clean my toilet for the next seventy years, are you going to do that?"

"I'm there, baby, but I've got to know."

"Know what?" she asked.

"What the fuck did you do in there that's going to require seventy years of cleanup? Should I bring my truck?"

"I like a good bowl of chili now and again," she said. In that moment he realized this night, just out of reach of the one that had driven him nuts for five years, was the best night he'd ever spent with a woman in his life.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Life Story

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Hervé only lived a month for every word in this story. And you'll say, "Well, that's not very long." And you will be right, because by the time you're done reading this sentence, three years will have already passed. Hervé pissed through his words like they grew on trees. We all do when we're kids. That's not to say he didn't love life. He had his kicks. But when you don't know what they're worth, it's not unusual to really, really, really waste your words in activities that amount to nothing nothing nothing. He began to see people all around him running out of words and there wasn't a lot of epic poetry in the paper they left behind. No novels. A lot of job applications and flyers.

Here he was, just turning eleven when the realization hit him. Life wasn't to be squandered. But what to do? He had no idea, so he pitched in with the dishes. He recycled, visited the elderly. He'd no great vision, instead choosing to help and use every word as wisely as he could. So many throughout history had made their mark young; that was the reality. No screwing around because you'd be lucky if you ever saw forty. At seventeen, Hervé's life was nearly over but he had no way of knowing. He lived like it was, not hiding under a bed, but talking to people, letting them in on the one secret he'd found: Every Word Is Precious.

Two-hundred and sixty words: twenty-one years or so. It went fast didn't it?

Friday, December 01, 2006

A Plague Of Strolling Chinchillas

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Vampires, zombies, the undead in general, it was all a load of hooey and any mention of it would get you laughed off even the most ratings-desperate talk-show. We're talking humans, of course. Chinchillas . . . now that was another matter.

We'd narrowed down the source of the problem to an unknown Haitian Voodoo priest we referred to as Doctor Rodent. It made sense, I suppose, a member of the poorest nation in the world, turning the luxuries of the richest against them. We just called him a terrorist to make it easy.

It started in New York, Palm Beach, L.A., bastions of real fur love. Chinchilla coats, wraps, muffs, what have you, peeled themselves into their constituent parts and wandered off into the closest thing to their living forms as possible. No minks were affected, no foxes or rabbits. Just chinchillas.

People freaked of course. It was all over the news for days. The animal rights people thought it was justice, pure and simple. The awful part was that it wasn't just their furs. Bones started crawling from landfills. Some muscle tissue crawled out of people's stomach's (That was pretty gross. I had no idea that was happening.) Chinchilla parts rose from the dead all across the country and the parts met up with each other once more, to make, if not entire chinchillas, then as reasonable a facsimile as they were then capable.

The worst part was the way they moved. They didn't run. Nor did they shamble. They strolled. You could hit them with a shovel or blast them with a shotgun but still they strolled. And if you've ever seen a strolling zombie chinchilla, you know that it's beyond chilling. It's chinchilling.

Most of the hysteria died down once people realized the chinchillas weren't out to kill them. They just wanted what the rest of us want: to eat sleep and get laid. In fact, that simple and well chronicled lifestyle caught on even more so with the rest of us. If there had to be a choice between wearing furs or getting more action, I'd have to say that someone up there, or over there (Haiti) made the right decision.

Terrorist Schmerrorist.