Posts Tagged ‘blog: fiction’.

Strivey’s Last Day


Modeling a lovely Survival Kit bag! Photo by Carly Monardo.

Thank you to everyone who came out to the Emerald City con in Seattle! We had fun at the TopatoCo Castle and especially at the TMH Live pre-party. I’m very much looking forward to sharing the video of the event with you, as soon as it’s ready!

I also wanted to give a special thank-you to Shari for this wonderful sketch:

You may remember Shari’s spirited prequel to this comic. These are the sorts of things that arise when I livestream the comic-makin’ process! We get to chatting while I’m putting the comics together, and every little piece that goes into the work gets an elaborate backstory. Shari’s piece made me wonder just how Strivey got himself into that pickle in the first place…


It was an ordinary day for Strivey. He’d heard there might be some lettuce underneath the back porch of the big blue house, so he took a wide, ambling stroll around the side of the building, finding sure footing in the grass as the sun paced him. He liked to time his walks with the sun this way, keeping steadily in that pleasing light, and he fancied himself an escort for that old yellow friend, showing him the way across the old footbridge over the course of an afternoon, or around a large tree, or behind a big blue house.

But today, as they walked slowly and carefully together, the sun managed to tangle itself behind a stand of scraggly branches, and no amount of Strivey’s coaxing could urge it back out. It happened this way often, to Strivey’s chagrin and despite all his urging, and usually it took all night for the big lunkhead to free himself and meet Strivey sheepishly back in the morning. Strivey would shake his small, wrinkled head, and the sun would start to shine brighter and brighter as if saying “I know, I know,” and then they would go on a long walk again.

Today was no different. So by the time Strivey reached the deck behind the big blue house, it was dim; and even though the dimness of evening is never the best time to look for lettuce that might be hiding, he’d come this far, and he was hungry. He peered about in the deck’s corners and crevices, and when nothing was evident beneath the deck he managed to make his way on top of it, and then from there into the house itself, and from there down a long hallway and into a room which was emitting a bright glow as if the sun had beat him there. “That crafty devil managed to sneak in ahead of me,” thought Strivey, as he nosed his way through the doorway.

The sun was smaller in person, a tiny glass figure shouting fiercely at a woman’s leering face. Immediately Strivey knew something was wrong — for his friend’s light, though bright, was not warm, having been trapped within this bulb of glass like a genie captured in a bottle, and the woman was the trapper.

Strivey tried to turn back and flee, but he was, after all, a tortoise, and a sprint back toward the hall took him about twenty minutes.

Next up: Comicpalooza in Houston, TX, March 26-28!

What happened that day

A hundred birds leapt at once from the shaking earth. A leaf fell; the first of many, as the pounding grew stronger, more violent, more energetic. A slight burning smell tickled the nose of a dog, trotting across a field. At the next deep, crackling slam, the dog turned and ran the opposite direction.

First to break the surface was a finger. It looked like a potato being rejected by the world, jutting suddenly forth from the ground like a coin had been dropped in some slot: “Potatoes – 10¢.” Someone must have dropped a dollar in, because nine more soon followed, pop-pop-pop. They flexed and the caked brown dirt fell off at the cracks and seams. Beneath was red — burning red, the red of a body in a sauna, the burning of a soul sent back, to finish up.

The hands spread the earth away on both sides like a swimmer surfacing, a smooth, easy motion that swept up great mounds of field, rolling right over trees, trucks, squirrels, the lot. Hills now existed in these places, and behind them, canyons. The arms broke the ground, the sleeves steaming but whole, hanging heavily like great bags of rope. The hands found the crust of the planet and pushed against it — and then the hat crested. And then the head was through.

When its face touched air it drew a ragged breath, and with that sharp intake came power: it breathed again, and again, and then it rose. It stood and sought out the sky. It sought out the land on either side. Then it sought out a tree. It stared at the tree, steadily, until the leaves withered and began to burn.

By now the road was crowded with cars, with trucks, with shouts and the jangle of telephones. As the distractions drew the man’s attention, a line of bright hot flame sped across the road, exactly following his gaze. The first car his eyes washed over began to burn. Shouts turned to cries, but these sounds were far-off. The man did not notice. He lifted his feet and set them down. He walked away.

The flame spat itself out in a long line toward the horizon, before petering out as the man’s gaze extended into the distance. Buildings stood there. He made for them, leaving behind the cars, the people, and the deep, hot tunnel he had climbed. For weeks he had climbed; for months he had fought his way through the earth. Today, the day with the air, was a good day. It was the start of something beautiful.

This day — the climbing from the pit — had been anticipated by many. Some waited for him in Springfield, at the tomb; others favored the memorial in Washington. A few even camped out near Hodgenville and the old log cabin. For many years there had been whispers that he was returning. Everybody had gotten ready for him; everyone expected him to welcome them, to praise them, and for him to take up their burdens.

They were wrong. He did not know those people. Their constant wails were brambles in his ears; their prayers were caterwauling bleats, one litany of sobs after another.

So when the day came that his eyes flashed awake, he fled, kicking away from that sound, into the heat and the liquid and the blessed, blessed silence.

By the time the first flames began to lick the buildings of Perth, everyone knew what was happening. It’s just that no one had expected him to take the long way up.

The new shirt is printed on American Apparel Organic Edition in the very lovely Galaxy color!

The Adventures of Jack Bulletproof

The Cop Who Plays By All The Rules

The night pecked spotty rain against Officer Jack “Bulletproof” Bulletproof’s patrol-car windshield. Through the dappled glass, a Jeep sat idling on the highway shoulder, its blinker still flashing at the black cornfield beyond. In the seat next to Bulletproof, Officer Daytona Follies frowned at the cruiser’s computer. “Looks bad, Jack,” she said, glancing up at the Jeep. “One prior, time served, for petty theft. Could be a runner.”

Bulletproof eased his door handle open, taking in the situation. “Let’s proceed,” he finally said. “With caution.”

Follies nodded. Affixing his cap smartly, Bulletproof stepped out into the sprinkling night, his flashlight tracing a line through the Jeep’s side windows, illuminating a mound of blankets, a couple fast-food bags, a book. When the light reached the driver, Bulletproof tensed — the man was a scarecrow, folded behind the wheel like a coat hanger in a shoebox, his limbs lean and ropy. Still, best to take it by the book. “License and registration,” Bulletproof said, and the man complied.

The license told them nothing they didn’t know, and the tags were in order. Bulletproof handed the cards back to the driver (one Wenslow Ramplewaithe of 418 Oakwood), who squinted in the glare of Bulletproof’s Maglite. “Do you know why I pulled you over?” Bulletproof asked, careful not to let his tone betray any irritation. The man was a human being, after all, and it wasn’t his fault it had been a long shift for the cops.

“Dunno,” Ramplewaithe mumbled. Then his eyes lit — “Oh, if it’s that headlight, I’ve got a fix-it ticket already. I’m planning on getting it sorted tomorrow morning first thing.”

“You were going twenty-five miles per hour,” Bulletproof said. “On the highway.”

“The rain makes me nervous,” Ramplewaithe said, as Bulletproof watched a bead of sweat roll down his jawbone and disappear into his collar.

Bulletproof narrowed his eyes. “Step out of the car, please,” he said, as nicely as he could.

Ramplewaithe’s gaze darted from Bulletproof to Follies, standing by the passenger’s door with a hand on her gun, and back. Bulletproof could almost see the man’s brain tick through his possible options, and settle on the only logical one. He pried himself out of the Jeep.

Follies rounded the front of the car and leaned close to Bulletproof. “I don’t like this, Jack,” she murmured. “I say we take him downtown.”

“He hasn’t done anything,” Bulletproof whispered back. “He’s innocent until proven guilty.”

Follies spat on the ground. “He’s nervous,” she sneered. “Something’s up. I say we torture him. He must have done something.”

“Now, now,” Bulletproof said. “Let’s see where this goes.”

Ramplewaithe took off running, headed for the inky darkness of the cornfield.

“I got him, Jack!” Follies shouted, bolting after the man and whipping her Taser from its holster. “He’s coming down!”

“No!” Bulletproof called out, lunging into a sprint and grabbing Follies’ extended arm. The Taser fired into the ground, its prongs bouncing harmlessly against asphalt. Bulletproof reached the edge of the road as Ramplewaithe began sliding down the incline toward the field.

“Jack, are you crazy?” Follies cried, running up behind Bulletproof while struggling to fit another cartridge into her Taser. “I had him!”

“He wasn’t threatening lethal force,” Bulletproof said, squinting at the retreating form, gauging the distance. He plucked his baton from his belt and weighed it gently in his hand. “At his body weight, the shock might have killed him.”

“Well, if you’re not going to shoot him, you might as well run after him!” Follies shrieked, sliding partway down the incline, stumbling for her footing on the muddy slope. Bulletproof cocked his head into the wind.

Ramplewaithe reached the bottom of the slope, only a few short yards from the swaying, shadowed cornstalks. Bulletproof counted to three, hurled the baton, and pegged Ramplewaithe right between the shoulder blades. The man crumpled like a bag of baseball bats.

Follies slid to a stop. “Nice shot,” she said, and whistled appreciatively.

“The Department mandates we attend elective extracurricular training seminars twice a month,” Bulletproof shrugged. “I’ve been to the Baton Hurling one thirty times. It’s my favorite.”

Follies reached Ramplewaithe and turned the man onto his back. “Now listen here, you lowlife,” she growled. “Do we need to get rough here? I can dance all night.”

“Go to heck, copper,” Ramplewaithe spat.

“No! Ramplewaithe!” Bulletproof shouted, making his way down the slippery incline. “You have the right to remain silent! Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law! You have the right to an attorney! If you cannot afford one, one will be provided!”

Ramplewaithe parted his cracked lips to curse, then closed them again. “You’re right,” he breathed. “It’s over. Lissen. In the Jeep. Behind the back seat. Fifteen, thirty-two, ten.”

“Jack!” Follies cried. “Jeep! Back seat!”

“I’m not leaving your sight until he’s handcuffed,” Bulletproof said, reaching the bottom of the slope, picking up his baton and sliding it back into his belt. Ramplewaithe offered up no resistance, considering how easily he could be overpowered by the both of them.

They dragged the cuffed Ramplewaithe back and set him stiffly into the patrol car, Bulletproof directing the man’s head safely past the doorframe. The perp contained, they turned to the Jeep.

Behind the back seat, beneath all the blankets, was a safe. “Fifteen, thirty-two, ten,” Follies said. Bulletproof quickly turned the dial.

Inside was little Sarah Waterbury, reported missing the day before and the subject of a statewide Amber Alert. Gasping for air, she tumbled into the Jeep’s cargo compartment on hands and knees. Follies scooped up the girl, who seemed to be all right, save for a scare.

“If I’d Tased him, and he’d died or passed out — I don’t know what we would have done, Jack,” Follies said sheepishly. “This little girl could have died in there.”

“Ah, ah — save it for the statement,” Bulletproof smiled, reaching for his radio to call in the paramedics. “We’ll be up all night doing paperwork for this one.”

The AUTOMATED Fiction Generator Mark-II

Insert one thrupenny bit.

Behold the next step in Fiction-Generating technology! I was frankly astonished at the speed and felicity with which Marksmen wrote me this morning with programmed versions of the Fiction Generator 2000. Many thanks to Dean R., Nicholas N., Dan, Rod V., Terry L., and Jonathan G. who sent me a Python file.

But I must give top honors to Liam Cooke’s version! This is, as copywriters would say a century ago, “An IMPROVED Model—Frees operator from labor and ensures consistent results FAR SUPERIOR to those hand-wrought. (Circulars sent free.)”

Tremendous thanks to all who undertook this of their own volition — and to those who’ve written about posters, watch for an announcement hopefully later this week.

Genre microfiction

I was talking with a friend about a Twitter-based fiction contest that he’d seen, and he mentioned that this contest had stipulated genre requirements. So, of course, the conversation turned to how short a story could possibly be and still have some recognizable genre. I postulated that it wouldn’t take much at all:

“A final tear dripped down her dying cheek. Cancer! On our wedding day!” [Drama/romance]

“A final tear dripped down her dying cheek. Tuberculosis! On our wedding day!” [Period romance]

“A final tear dripped down her dying cheek. Nanobots! On our wedding day!” [Sci-fi]

“A final acidic tear dripped down her dying, scaly cheek. Dragon cancer! On our wedding day!” [Fantasy]

“A sultry bead of sweat dripped down her heaving bosom. Lust! On our wedding day!” [Erotica]

“A bloody tear dripped down her already-rotting cheek. Zombies! On our wedding day!” [Horror]

“A final tear dripped down her bullet-riddled cheek. Mobsters! On our court date!” [Crime]

“A final tear dripped down her dying cheek. Cancer! On our gay wedding day!” [Gay/lesbian]

“A final tear dripped down her goggles to her sprocket-laden corset. Brass poisoning! On our wedding day!” [Steampunk]

In fact, I bet between all of us we could write microfiction in every conceivable genre. Leave a comment and let’s prove it.