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April 30, 2008



At first I thought I’d start this by describing him as a sort of mad Colonel Kurtz, in reverse, a poet warrior, walking out of the jungle of Papua New Guinea to the four corners of Japan, into his own personal heart of light.

But that wouldn’t do. Nor would any cryptic reference or word puzzle made up of his Haiku. As much as this would please him.

And then I thought, maybe I’d begin with an image, of the man behind the glass window, screaming, screaming, for people to hear, yet they are walking on by, oblivious to the workings of his mind, the strings of words stitched together from his heart.

I am one of them. A fool who mistook the etchings on the glass, the panes fogging with midnight breath, for the workings of a genius, bored with the conventions of conventional prose.

“Love ignition overdrive,” he reads to the crowd.

The words come alive in my mind. And I am enlightened to the mysteries of his zodiac.

We study and teach and plot in his garden hideaway. We drink wine and feast with friends in the shadow of the golden Buddha, knowing that this is but a moment. One of those moments, a wild convergence of so many lifelines that will never cross again. I see that mournful glint, ever present in his clear eyes. I deduce meanings and stories from the fragments of word filled papers he carries, relics of moments, stretching into the past. I marvel at the giant pirate chest full of words he has amassed.

And I think of him, walking. Into this future, a line stretching away from our intersected moments, strung from his treasury of words.

I thought I’d write about a man who walked and walked and transformed all he saw into immortal art in the pattern of the ancients. In this story he doesn’t stop. He keeps on walking. Through all of Japan. All of Asia. All the world. And up into space, rising in a swell of mystic rhythms and notes, free from the ipod full of acid jazz and punk rock tethering him to the ground.

He walks from planet to planet. Footsteps dissolving into sprays of cosmic dust. Every expression cosmically significant, yet meaning nothing at all.

His treasure chest, no longer needed, left earthbound.

- END-

April 29, 2008

Feast Night

A dozen crystal chandeliers hover above the Amazon rain forest, illuminating thirty square meters of greenery. A single parti-colored macaw bursts from the canopy, flinging itself across the sky into midnight darkness. A pair of dusky titi monkeys cling to each other, chittering softly.

The canopy of the forest smoothes itself, becoming more solid, more level. Branches climb here and there, twine themselves, become rough then more polished chairs and a great rectangular table.

Leaves widen, become cup-shaped and dish-shaped. They float up to the table. Guavas, acai berries, and mangoes give up their juices. Ten squealing tapirs rise above the canopy, their heads rip themselves from their bodies, and numinous fires roast the bodies.

The heads pile themselves on the table.

One moment the only sound is the faint plop of fat dripping from the carcasses. Then twelve chairs sink under the weight of unseen beings. The thirteenth chair remains unused.

Meat and juice disappear bite by bite, sip by sip. Bones fall through the forest's canopy. By the time the meal is over the cups and plates are sodden, decomposing. Holes appear in the table. The chandeliers dip one by one to plunge into the jungle. The chairs decay and crumble.

The thirteenth chair is left. Finally it too decays. When the last of it drops away it is as if a presence withdraws from the world. Night once more claims the jungle.

April 28, 2008

See Scenic Eavoa!

Towering colonnades, thickets of spires, mountainesque domes, quarter-mile-high statues -- the best way to see the city of Eavoa was from the air. And the best person to show it to you was Zaglevall Nunnin.

That was the gist of the posters Captain Nunnin had posted all over the dock district. He was behind the broadsheets that documented the troops of zombie macaques in the city’s upper reaches. Argive Flell -- who ran the observation towers which Nunnin’s broadsheets happened to mention were not entirely secure against zombie monkeys -- distributed his own broadsheets pointing out the sharpness of the beaks of pterodactyls and puncturability of zeppelins of Captain Nunnin’s fleet.

They tolerated each other’s excursions into the popular press, and wrote off their competing staffs of writers, typesetters and printers as the cost of doing business until a particularly lurid etching of a woman trying to wrest her baby from a foaming-mouthed macaque had tourists shuddering at the thought of the observation towers.

“This is outrageous!” bellowed Flell, after he’d burst into Nunnin’s office. “You know the zombie virus suppresses symptoms of all other diseases! A rabid zombie monkey is a medical impossibility!”

Nunnin shrugged. “The engraver’s hand slipped -- cramps from all that atmospheric cross-hatching.”

“Irresponsible!” shouted Flell, still winded after the ladder climb up to the aerostat that housed his rival’s office. “Libelous!”

“Your viewing platforms are still open-air?” said the captain.

“So? No monkey’s going to scale a thousand meters of electrified fencing to reach them.”

“But -- theoretically -- they could,” said Nunnin, tilting his chair back.

“And -- theoretically -- flocks of giant Quetzalcoatlus could start migrating from the plains,” said Argive. “A pterosaur bigger than one of your balloons -- that’ll make a lovely illustration...”

Nunnin was out of his seat. “They’d snap their wings in the outer colonnades! Anyway, our engines would scare them off, just like the small ones...”

Outside the window, a pterodactyl flew by with a macaque on its back. The monkey prodded the flying reptile with a gnawed shinbone.

“Isn’t one of your towers in that direction?” said Nunnin.

Argive nodded. “Did you see that monkey steer that ‘dactyl right over the engine end of one of your zeps?”

Nunnin was busy emptying his safe. “Need a lift out of town?”

“I believe I do,” said Argive.

Another pterodactyl flapped by with another macaque.

“I believe I do.”

April 25, 2008

Take them bowling

"Why not take them bowling?"

"What? Grant, why would they want to go bowling? They can barely stand!"

"Everybody I know likes bowling."

"Everybody you know, except me, is in your bowling league. Of course they like bowling." She kissed him and ruffled his hair.


The Kush looked like stereotypical representations of aliens from before Contact. Big heads, big eyes, little bodies. They came from a low-gravity planet. With new alien visitors arriving every week or two, escorting them had gone from enthralling to boring, and then to a chore avoided whenever possible. As the lowest on the totem pole at the Missouri Tourism Board, it was Melinda's job.


"Museums. Have seen."

"But there are all kinds of museums. Art museums, natural history museums, museums of antique cars..."

"All kinds. Have seen. What else?"

It turned out that her visitors had seen or had no interest in plays, 3D theatrical recordings, natural wonders, rivers, the Arch, shopping malls, performance art, and NASCAR. Melinda rolled her eyes.

"What about bowling?"


Samson tottered forward and dropped the ball. It rumbled slowly down the lane, veered to the right, and dropped into the gutter. The rest of the Kush cheered wildly, clapping and whistling. She realized why when the next alien struggled up to the lane, clinging to a motorized walker. Samson put a ball in its hands and it rolled the ball off the top of the walker. The ball rolled past the end of the gutter and into the next lane. The clapping and cheering was a little less vigorous this time. 60 minutes later, Samson was up for the last time. The Kush had yet to knock over a pin, but they really seemed to be enjoying themselves. They ate hotdogs and nachos, cheered themselves hoarse, and got high on Mountain Dew. They quieted down when Samson reached the lane. He took aim, slung his arm back, then forward, and released the ball. It rolled down the lane, dead center. Closer to the pins. Closer. It started turning to the right. It kissed the last pin as it disappeared over the lip. One, no, two pins were down. The crowd went wild.


The Kush signed the trade deal. A few weeks later Melinda got a package in the mail. Inside, a miniature gold bowling pin, a photo of two small Kush, and a note. "We enjoy native mating ritual."

the end

April 24, 2008


The younger typesetters told stories about Samuel: how he had once set the Canon of the Witches in one night, and how when the oil in the lamps had run out, he had gone on in the dark, with only his sure fingers to guide him. Or how when Gundrid of Maesbury lost her temper and turned the mayor into a field vole, then ordered tiny books to be printed for the poor woman by way of apology, Samuel had hired dormice to cast the type, but had composited every page himself, with tweezers and an immense magnifying glass.

Even so, Bridget warned him before she shut up shop. "Sir," she said, "hadn’t it better wait till tomorrow? I mean... when we are all here? So it's a bit—safer?"

The others thought she was brave to say that. He shook his head.

"It's wanted Frida’s Day," he said.

So he opened the book when all the locks were locked, and turned from page to page, both hands working on their own, pulling vowels and consonants, ligatures and punctuation from the case. Under his hands the words of the spell formed themselves in the formes. This job they would have to print blindfolded. But even if he set it in the dark, he still had to shape the words, taking care that they did not shape him. He recited verses from the Canon, interleaving them with the lines he set, like protective leading.

He’d left one window open to let the spring air in, the air of a perfect evening, just free of a soft rain, the cherry tree outside the window covered in blossoms so sweet they seemed to scent the moonlight.

I, H, A, V, E, B, E…

When the words took him he knew. They felt like the touch of his master on his shoulder. He almost expected to hear Old Jack's voice, saying, "Well done, Samuel." Then he knew it was too late. Fear bit him.

It will feel heavy as lead, he thought. Binding as a forme, oily as ink.

But it didn't. It felt light as the words in his mind, soft as the lead between his fingers. It felt fine and funny, like setting text for field voles.

I have become. Let my wings open. Let it always be spring, and I in it, he thought. I did my best.

April 23, 2008

We Come In Peace

Rat scuttled between metal legs, used to the robots getting in the way. Ever since they'd taken over and killed all the humans, they acted superior. Pretty uppity for man-made creatures, Rat thought.

Rat was unconcerned. Rat was a creature of God and his children's children would still be here long after the robots industrialized themselves into extinction. Same thing had happened to the dinosaurs and humans, after all. The only thing that bothered Rat was that robots didn't keep organic food around. He was positively famished. Life was better in the good old days when humans ruled the Earth.

Rat jumped over a couple metal toes, sniffing and searching for food, but stopped when he heard the robots talking.

"I hear there are some humans left up in the mountains," the grey robot said.

"That's stupid. We nuked 'em all. They can't live with radiation," the green one answered.

"Ah, but don't they evolve? Let me see... I'm sure I had a file on evolution somewhere."

"Dude, seriously. You've gotta learn to classify your chips..."

The conversation trailed off, but Rat sat, thinking. Humans meant food.

For the first time, he regretted not being a cat or a dog, an animal that humans would find cute and take in, no questions asked. But Rat had evolved too and the radiation had helped. He was no longer like the stupid rats humans used to kill. If he could make himself useful, maybe the humans would let him stay with them.

Finding the explosives wasn't hard; mixing and transporting them was. Rat enlisted all his friends and even a couple hamsters that were strolling by. Humans would dig the explosions, specially if they killed robots. Rat set the counters while his little army stole an old Blackberry from the Human Artifacts Museum.

"We are your Allies. We come in Peace," he typed into the rat-sized screen. Now, he only needed to find the humans and show them the message. He hoped the humans hadn't grown too stupid to understand that alliances were a give and take and that Rat and his friends expected to be paid. In food, preferably.


April 22, 2008

Water Bodies

Marcius watched the slow movements of condensed water on the window, and didn't know what to do.

Behind him, a dead woman lay on a bed. She lay as if asleep -- but too empty of life for that mistake to be made for long. "I see no marks of injury external or internal," Cimber said. "She'll have to be thoroughly scanned at a morgue. Most likely heart failure."

Not an improbable conclusion, given the white of her hair.

Except for the water on her window and the secret words it made. Marcius glanced between them and Cimber, torn. If he revealed the truth, he risked seeing another artist contained. In her condensation-words a trusted water interpreter might find a clue to the artist's identity -- and that would mean containment, imprisonment
of another man or woman who could help Marcius. But every case he
helped solve earned a reduction of his debt to Cimber.

As Cimber requested a pick-up for the body, his eyes moving across the screens embedded inside them, Marcius said, "That's not why she died."

Cimber looked directly at him.

"She bought a water body," Marcius continued, glancing at the window. "Those are her words on the window. She says that she was bored, and now she's leaving in her new body. Soon she'll be floating through the city, playing with the rain, the rooftops, the undersides of weather balloons."

He could not keep longing from his voice. Neither could he ignore the look of displeasure on Cimber's face.

Cimber had not approved of his little brother's decision. And when he realised that Marcius had left without repaying a debt, disapproval had turned to action.

Running down metal roof-tiles, along drainage pipes, gutters -- like slides at a child's amusement park. He remembered it with painful clarity.

Some people worried that too many citizens bought water bodies, and made the act illegal. Marcius worried that too many artists would be contained before he'd repaid his debt.

Later, outside the apartment, Cimber acknowledged the debt reduction. "Another forty-six cases to go," he said. "And I see you haven't changed your mind."

"I'd go back now, if I knew you wouldn't return me to a human body again and again."

Forty-six, he thought as Cimber began silently walking home, until I can be water, until I can play with the rain again.

He hoped that the artists taught their techniques faster than they were caught.

April 21, 2008

Parthenia Rook, Episode 7: The Gory Candlestick

The Bonobo King paced the marble floor of his bedroom in his crimson silk pajamas, unable to sleep again.

His spider monkey lover, Flamenca, stirred in the massive canopy bed. "Come to bed, darling," she said in a sleep-heavy voice. "Whatever it is, you can destroy it in the morning."

"That's exactly it," said the Bonobo King. "I haven't been able to destroy it. It ... her ... Parthenia Rook. I've tried every approach conceivable--an android toddler, zombie photographers, an opposite gender identical twin raised to evil, unbalancing her fruit ... if it weren't for my esophogeal implants, that last miscalcuation would have cost me my life!"

"Let me take your mind off it," said Flamenca, tracing a fold in the gold-embroidered coverlet with one slender toe. "You'll come up with another evil plan tomorrow."

"But if I do, it will come to ruin," said the Bonobo King. "My evil plans are much too fiendishly clever to fail this often. Someone or something is foiling them."

"But no one's smarter than you, darling. And no one could foil your plans unless he were as clever as you are."

The Bonobo King stopped short as an ugly realization came to him. Flamenca must have noticed, for her toe froze in place, and she said in a very careful tone, "What is it?"

"No one is smarter than I am, and only someone as clever as I am could foil my own plans," he said. "Ergo, I am my own nemesis. For some reason I cannot fathom, I am sabotaging my own evil schemes."

Flamenca gasped and the Bonobo King turned and leaped onto the bed, where he crouched over her tiny form. "What?" he said. "What did you think of just then?"

A tear trickled down her furry little cheek, and she shook her head, trembling.

"What is it?" he roared.

"You're ..." she whispered, "You're in love with her, aren't you?"

The Bonobo King screeched with fury and indignation. Snatching a heavy gold candlestick from beside the bed, he struck at Flamenca with it, smashing it down on her fragile body until she was little more than a smear of bloody fur.

Bits of brain stuck to the candlestick, and the Bonobo King threw it aside in disgust as he hopped calmly off the the bed. He resumed his pacing.

"Yes," he said pensively. "You may be right."

April 18, 2008

The Day Her Feet Became Buoyant

Mildred Fondren stomped her way across Europe. England, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Greece had been dealt with in three days each. Now it was Italy's turn. In Venice, Pompeii, and Rome she'd get off the bus, get her picture taken, buy a commemorative spoon, and embark for the next set of ruins.

Until her feet rebelled. On her way from the Vatican to the Coliseum they tingled. From the Coliseum to the Trevi Fountain she got pins-and-needles. And when she got back to the hotel they refused to carry her a step farther. They floated up to the ceiling of the bus, exposing her to ridicule, to indignation, to astonishment, and to the crosswind coming through the windows.

"Signora Fondren," said the tour guide. "You must come down this instant. It is not proper to stand on the roof."

"Now, Millie," chimed in Miss Arbogast, that suck-up. "Show a little decorum. That might be how folks in Akron behave, but when in Rome--"

"I'm trying--" said Mildred, making swimming motions with her hands. She floated down a few inches, but when her arms tired she floated back up again. Awkwardly pushing her dress up her legs, she walked to the door. And there she stopped.

"How am I going to go anywhere outdoors?" she said. "I'd just float away into the sky."

"Maybe some weights," suggested the tour guide, checking her watch. She spoke to the bus driver, who pulled a pair of heavy suitcases from storage under the bus. He frowned.

"They are his bags," said the guide. "He hopes you will let them go if you float away."

Mildred grabbed each handle as it was offered, and found herself pulled to bus's floor. She maneuvered her way out the door. Once on the ground, she walked the bags to the door of the hotel, both relieved and mortified that her dress had once more fallen over her face so she could not see the sky above her legs.

Doctors could find nothing physically wrong with Mildred. It was not as if all of her was lighter than air, only that her feet exerted a powerful upward force. At the first tentative suggestion of amputation she firmly shooed them out and made reservations to return early to Ohio.

And that is where she remains to this day. You could look her up.

April 17, 2008


Beneath Highway 5 and the thousands of cars speeding by, the insubstantial hatchling cracked out of its insubstantial egg and floated up. It rose through the cars and the oblivious humans driving them. And if they could see the hatchling they would think it looked like some sort of giant jellyfish.

The hatchling rose higher and at the cloud line rendezvoused with an elder.

“Welcome,” the elder said. “It is time to feed.”

The elder wrapped one of its tentacles around the hatchling and dipped it down into the steam of traffic. When it found a weak human, it grabbed its life force, ripping its energy out of the body which slumped over in the back seat.

The hatchling reveled in its first meal.

“All of this. All for us.”

“You must only take the weak. The dying,” the elder said.

“Why?” said the hatchling. “It is so easy. So potent.”

It dipped its tentacles into the flow of traffic.

“When you die the spirits of those you’ve taken will be waiting for you. Thus we only take the weak.”

“What a foolish notion,” the hatchling said and ripped the lives from a dozen drivers and gorged on them.

Cars screeched and crashed causing a chain reaction and pile up.

The hatchling rose into the air and the elder followed. It wrapped its tentacles around the young one, this time not in instruction.

“My time is almost over. But yours is finished. Soon we shall both know who was right.”

The elder squelched the life from the hatchling and followed it into death.

- END -

April 16, 2008

Zoli Finds His Anima

Zoli liked to hang around psychiatrists' waiting rooms to hit on the low self-esteem chicks. Neurosis was his game and he was good at it, but he hadn't counted on full-blown crazy.

"I'm telling you, I can't date you. I'm here to find my animus," the girl said. Her name was Padme? Pardoma? Ah, yes, Pandora.

Zoli wondered whether he should forsake Jungian practices altogether, but the paramythological interpretations were so convenient. Arguments could always be derailed away from his practical failings and into the terrain of the symbolic and abstract. Besides, sex with Freudians was kinkier than he cared for.

"I can be your animus, honey. For you, I can be anything you want," he said.

The girl chuckled, shaking her head. "The animus isn't a guy," she said. "It's the male aspect present in the collective subconscious of women"--she sounded like she was quoting something-- "You should get in contact with your anima, honey, you might become less of a jerk."

Zoli opened his mouth to proclaim himself innocent of jerkitude, but the woman scuttled closer on the bench and pressed his head against her chest. The proximity of the boob shocked him into silence.

"I'm opening your chakras," the girl announced, caressing Zoli's hair. "You have a beautiful anima, you simply need to let it out."

The door of the office opened and the girl stood up, stepped in and left Zoli alone in the waiting room.

As soon as Zoli stepped out of the office, he noticed something was different. He turned heads. The women who looked at him weren't prettier than the ones he usually attracted, but they seemed sharper, more together. Their eyes were everywhere. They held doors open for him.

The combination of gallantry and insult confused him.

He looked down at his body, fearing something drastic had happened to his sexual differentiation, but nothing had changed, as far as he could see. He was still a guy and he sighed with relief.

Suddenly, a knight appeared out of nowhere. Her hair flew in the wind, framing her face over her full-body armour. She shone like a diamond against the asphalt and skyscrapers. Without a word, she lifted Zoli up on her white horse and took him away.


April 15, 2008


To celebrate our first anniversary, each of us here at the Cabal has come up with a story beginning with a line kindly provided to us by the illustrious Jay Lake. Click the link at the bottom of the page to see how Alex, Dan, David, Edd, Kat, and Luc have handled the challenge, and check back tomorrow to see how Sara Genge winds up the series...

Zoli liked to hang around psychiatrists’ waiting rooms to hit on the low self-esteem chicks. It could take a couple days of hanging around, doing odd jobs, before she’d hit on an office where someone had brought in chicks, and not something useless like ducklings or a goat.

All the psychiatrists around the rim had the same group therapy rates: six hen chicks for general lack of affect, six rooster chicks for low self-esteem, four ducklings for anger management, a full grown chicken for alcohol abuse, a duck for drugs, a sheep or goat or dog for nightmares -- because everybody’s nightmares were the same, and brought up things even psychiatrists didn’t want to face.

Zoli couldn’t stand any of it, the lying and turning away. "Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder" -- as if that meant anything. As if the problem weren’t as obvious as the crater six-hunded miles wide and fifty deep. As obvious as all the people who didn’t exist anymore, all the craters they’d left in everyone’s lives.

The psychiatrists always had clothes to be darned, roofs to be shingled, water to be schlepped from the ration-well-- finding odd jobs was easy. Finding male chicks wasn’t -- self-esteem didn’t seem to be a popular problem anymore. And even the esteem chicks weren’t 100%, because most people weren’t any good at candling to tell which eggs were future roosters. It didn’t matter much to the farmers she competed with, but it mattered to Zoli.

She lived in a roofless warehouse within block of the edge where she’d emptied the ceiling-high shelves of high-def TVs, microwaves and robot vacuum cleaners and covered the sides with chicken wire to create multi-story coops.

The ammonia stink was so bad that her eyes watered and her nose ran constantly, and the coops were only half full. Every morning, she felt the crowing as something physical, a strong wind pushing against her. A few more months, and it would work. A few more months of hanging around waiting rooms with women whose every breath sounded like something ripping, men whose eyes never stopped moving, and she’d gather the generations she needed to complete the sound. Then the crowing would be a vast thing, and the world would shake like it had that day, and it would be enough. It would wake God, and then it would be over, and everything would be normal again.

April 14, 2008

Cinderella Runs Into Snow White After Therapy One Afternoon

To celebrate our first anniversary, each of us here at the Cabal has come up with a story beginning with a line kindly provided to us by the illustrious Jay Lake. Click the link at the bottom of the page to see how Alex, Dan, David, Edd, and Kat have handled the challenge, and tune in tomorrow to see what Rudi Dornemann comes up with...

Zoli liked to hang around psychiatrists' waiting rooms to hit on the low self-esteem chicks. It had been a slow afternoon, but he heard Dr. Rumplestiltskin's door open and readied an unsettling comment for the next one--a looker he'd just glimpsed on her way in, some kind of divorced royal.

"Man, up until now it was all pretty girls coming out of these appointments," said Zoli. Cinderella, roiling with thoughts about Charming and his perfect little dwarfess girlfriend, kicked Zoli solidly in the nuts. Zoli keeled over with a squeaking noise.

"Get some therapy of your own already," Cinderella said as she pushed open the door to the street.

The kick hadn't improved her mood; actually, she felt guilty. In her head, she hadn't been kicking Zoli: she'd been kicking Charming. She was inexpressibly angry at him, and yet she couldn't even kick him vicariously in the nuts and get any satisfaction out of it. What was wrong with her?

"Ella! Hey, girl!" someone shouted, and Cinderella looked up to spot Snow White hiking up her skirts and hustling toward her. There were at least 50 yards of empty cobblestone on every side; escape was not an option.

Catching up, Snow White linked arms with Cinderella and bent over to whisper in her ear. "Come to the farmer's market with me. There are a pair appleseller brothers there who'll take your breath away."

"You've got a perfectly good prince at home. Why are you ogling applesellers?" protested Cinderella.

"What, I'm supposed to close my eyes every time I buy an apple?" Snow White said, grinning. "So why do you look so down, anyway? Still moping about Charming? I don't know what you have to mope about, having that woodcutter all to yourself."

"I know," Cinderella said. "Hansel's wonderful. His family is wonderful."

"Well, you weren't satisfied with charming, and now you're not satisfied with wonderful. What do you want, abusive?"

"I guess perfect men don't make me happy," said Cinderella. "They should, though, shouldn't they?"

"Maybe you're one of those people who has to do something."

"I don't do things," said Cinderella. "I'm a princess, for God's sake."

"I'm just saying, maybe you have a greater purpose."

"Like what? What purpose could there possibly be for an aging beauty whose only skills are housework and animal relations?"

"Well, I guess that's the question," Snow White dropped her voice to a whisper. "This is the apple cart! Act nonchalant."

And as Snow White reached for an apple, Cinderella began to think that maybe she'd been angry about the wrong things.

April 11, 2008

Straight Out to Yurtville

To celebrate our first anniversary, each of us here at the Cabal has written a story beginning with a line kindly provided to us by Jay Lake. Click the link at the bottom of the page to see the stories Alex, Dan, David, and Edd have come up with, and check back Monday to see what Luc Reid does...

Zoli liked to hang around psychiatrists' waiting rooms to hit on the low self-esteem chicks. The waiting room on the Pacific zeppelin was the best, because every time the airship lurched the chick would fall into him and many pleasant sensations would result, usually up in her cabin after her session was over.

And then, landing in Tokyo, taking her cell number, and skipping town for Ulan Bator while the piece of paper with her number on it got washed down a gutter with the cherry blossoms in the Asakusa district. He always went to the temple before he left town. A couple of prayers to Her Holiness Kannon were a good idea: somebody had to have mercy on him, and the Goddess of Mercy was best qualified, right? Light a couple of incense sticks and head straight for Yurtville, the last place some clingy chick would look.

Zeppelin Freak Number 23 was pretty hot for a low self-esteem chick. She slouched like a professional, which made it easier to see down her shirt, although she had a face worth looking at too, an Ethiopian princess thing going on, even if she didn't take care of her skin--pockmarks on her chin and cheeks screamed "I hate me!" Perfect. Sarcastic and sad, even in bed. He found himself trying to cheer her up when he should've been getting off. She almost didn't give him her phone number.

"You won't call," she said.

"Yes I will," he lied, kissing her on the cheek.

Three incense sticks and two airships later, he settled into his guest yurt, thinking about Genghis Khan, who would never have screwed chicks who hated themselves. But old Genghis wouldn't have had a problem getting laid. Zoli drank too much airag and stayed up late playing dice with his landlord (also named Genghis).

In the night she stood over him, shoulders back this time, face like an Ethiopian queen this time, pockmarks royal instead of ugly, and she struck him about the face with the long sleeves of her kimono.

"You said you would call, and you didn't!" She roared in a voice meant for velvet compassion. He got a boner even in terror.

"And then you had the gall," she continued, leaning close, "the appalling gall, to light three sticks of incense at my shrine and pray to me for mercy? You're an idiot."

April 10, 2008

3 & Z

To celebrate our first anniversary, each of us here at the Cabal has come up with a story beginning with a line kindly provided to us by the illustrious Jay Lake. Click the link at the bottom of the page to see how Alex, Dan and have handled the challenge, and come back tomorrow to see what Kat Beyer comes up with...

Zoli liked to hang around psychiatrists' waiting rooms to hit on the low self-esteem chicks. Being a ghost, he rarely got a reply, but he lived for the few he got.

'Lived' being relative.

First was Lily. He hovered behind Doctor Frost, reading that Lily had been raised by a mother that wanted her to be a model. Lily could not be thin enough, graceful enough, blah blah blah. Zoli rolled his ectoplasmic eyes.

She came out to the waiting room and stepped up to the receptionist's window. Zoli made his move. He flew in front of her and said, "Hey, baby. Rub that lamp some more, because wish number one just came true!"

Lily screamed, clutched her chest, and fell, her soul flitting upward where Zoli could not follow. "Massive heart trauma," said the EMT. "Never seen a heart tear itself up that badly."

The next 312 women he hit on walked right through him.

Then came Dekanawida. Zoli poked his head through Doctor Yough's chest to peer at his notes. Awful handwriting. Something about sexual abuse from her father, something about multiple sex partners, something about sabotaging her own successes.

She walked out of the doctor's office to find Zoli waiting. "Hey sweetie," he said. "If you give me the time of day I'll give you the time of your life!"

Dekanawida stumbled back, tripped over a magazine stand, and cracked her skull open on a water cooler. DOA. Very DOA, maybe even VVDOA.

And Zoli got it. He totally understood. When a chick saw him, it meant she was about to croak. You'd almost think he was a jinx or something.

He couldn't keep away. Something about haunting psychiatrists seemed just so right. Another thousand or so women passed through him.

Third, and last to be honest, was Melissa. When Zoli first saw her, it was like a bolt of lightning stabbed him right through his impalpable heart. He'd mimed lov before, but he knew the real thing when it hit him. He stayed in Doctor TenDening's waiting room, suddenly not willing to intrude. He wanted to leave, he really ought to beat it, but he just couldn't.

When she emerged, there he was. "Um," he said. "Er, hello."

She didn't scream. She didn't jump away. Unfortunately, what she did do was turn around and walk back into the psychiatrist's office.

She committed herself to the asylum that very night. Zoli happily followed.

April 9, 2008

Zoli Lends Himself Trouble

To celebrate our first anniversary, each of us here at the Cabal has come up with a story beginning with a line kindly provided to us by Jay Lake. Click the link at the bottom of the page to see how Alex and Dan have dealt with this Zoli person, and come back tomorrow to see what Edd Vick does...

Zoli liked to hang around psychiatrists' waiting rooms to hit on the low self-esteem chicks. They would do just about anything for a little insincere praise. The only downside was that they bonded quickly and he was not interested in commitment. He got around that problem by dumping them in parallel worlds when they became tiresome.

Dr. Faro had a large waiting room. Zoli made eye contact with the brunette again over the top of his Field & Stream. She recrossed her legs, flashing an inviting view under her white cotton skirt. He got up, then slid into the seat next to her. "This seat taken?"

Everything was going fine until another brunette strode in the door.

"Hey baby, you got a sister?" he asked the one holding his hand.

"I'm not good enough for you?" She pulled away a little.

"Sure, but..."

The other woman (Brunette 2) stood in front of them, hands on her hips. "You! Here you are, picking up my twin in the waiting room, just like you did with me." She turned to the other woman. "Don't believe anything he says," she warned, "he showed me a great time for a few weeks until he got bored, then he dumped me in this universe. I guess he never thought his twin'd be running the same game over here." The woman sitting by Zoli (Brunette 1) took her hand out of his.

"Look baby, who you gonna believe? She's acting crazy, which is maybe okay because she's in a shrink's office, but you and me, we oughta go someplace else where we can be alone together." Brunette 1 stood up and took a step back. Zoli stood up too and held out an arm to plead with her. Then he dropped his arm. "You know what, that's okay. Plenty more girls out there, you know what I mean."

The door opened and two blondes came in. They looked like the doublemint girls. They made a beeline for Zoli, gave the two brunettes a once over, and then they grabbed his arms.

"You dumped my twin," one of them said, inclining her head at the other. "We've got a whole club going, and they want to meet you." Zoli gulped, and looked over at the brunettes.

"Can we join?" Brunette 1 asked.

The end

April 8, 2008


To celebrate our first anniversary, each of us here at the Cabal has come up with a story beginning with a line provided to us by the illustrious Jay Lake. Click the link at the bottom of the page to see how Alex Dally MacFarlane started us off yesterday, and tune in tomorrow to see what David Kopaska-Merkel comes up with...

Zoli liked to hang around psychiatrists’ waiting rooms to hit on the low self-esteem chicks. That’s what the case file said. Who the hell still said “chicks” and thought psychiatric help meant low self-esteem? Someone was gonna get smacked.

Patients reported feeling cold spots and someone pull their hair, when no one was there. So we knew we’d find Zoli there. We brought the EMP detector and FLIR heat sensor and the rest of our gear. I had a good idea we’d be able to contain him once we found him, but I couldn’t be sure. It hadn’t been written yet…


Jay Lake made me write this.

Three years ago I was stopped for a lay over at O’Hare waiting for a flight into Wisconsin when I saw his distinctive long hair and bright shirt, at the gate across from me.

I approached thinking of how to introduce myself and found him muttering.

“Luc, Sara, Kat,” he said.

“Huh,” I said.

“You know,” he said. “Cabalistas. Zoli. Zoli, Zoli…”

I stared blankly not wanting to offend.

“Oh,” he said. “You’re not going to meet Kat for another twelve hours and thirty six minutes.”

“Right, uh congratulations on Lake-Wu,” I said, and walked away looking at my boarding pass.

I didn’t know it then but I know it now. It was all part of Jay’s plan. Everything is.


The pattern is quite elegant, at least the parts I can get my mind around. It’s a matter of syncing up the 3rd letter of every word in the lettered edition of Lake-Wu, with the prime numbered pages of the Jacob’s Ladder screenplay, and then using that cipher to read Gibson’s rejected screenplay for Alien 3.

Its all here. I can show you. All roads lead to Jay Lake. The spaces in between the words, The implications they hint at. I’ll show you. I’m typing the cipher but its not showing up on my screen. Why are these words coming out on the screen? I’m not writing this…


Zoli liked to hang around Psychiatrists’ waiting rooms to hit on the low self-esteem chicks,” Zoli thought. Simultaneously, Jay Lake’s hands typed the words into an e mail.

Why did I write that, Jay thought. He hit send anyway, thinking those crazy Cabalistas would get a kick out of it.

Zoli tried to materialize the waiting room. A woman waiting there felt an odd tug on her hair. In the lobby, Dan Braum, with a back pack full of high-end electronics, was about to push through the door.

- END -

April 7, 2008

In Oranges

To celebrate our first anniversary, each of us here at the Cabal has come up with a story beginning with a line provided to us by the illustrious Jay Lake. Alex Dally MacFarlane starts us off with the tale below, and tomorrow Daniel Braum will take us somewhere else entirely...

“Zoli liked to hang around psychiatrists’ waiting rooms to hit on the low self-esteem chicks.”

The altered citrus sinensis’ comment barely made Roland pause. Even when it waggled a branch heavy with oranges near her face, she refused to look at it.

“He also liked to kick puppies.”

“Now you’re lying.” She planted a final passiflora edulis seedling in the flower bed, which was covered by a knee-high glass structure to protect the plants inside from the chilly nights. Hopefully these seedlings would not be as troublesome as the last batch. I hope the brothel-boys keep their windows closed at night, she thought, and couldn’t prevent a smirk. Passion fruits are passionate when allowed to express themselves. Why am I surprised?

Brushing soil from her fingers, Roland turned to the orange tree that grew in a nearby bed. Its flower-mouths moved in a way that looked rude, even if she couldn’t quite tell why.

“My brother was an opportunist. You act as if I didn’t know this. But I do know that he didn’t kick puppies. Or kittens, before you suggest that.”

“You act as if you knew him better than I did,” the citrus sinensis retorted, trying to mimic her voice.

Its words stung, a little.

“Then tell me why he went, if you knew him so well.” When the plant offered no reply, she shuffled along the wooden walkway between beds to another batch of seedlings that needed planting out. “You enjoy being smug. You don’t actually know anything, at least not anything important.”

“I’ll know when he dies,” it said curtly.

She wanted to ignore its games, its cruel streak--which had made her brother so fond of the plant, she knew. But this was new. “Oh?”

“He let me bite him,” the citrus sinensis said, smug-toned. “And now I have a part of him inside me. It will tell me when he dies.”

Glancing at it sideways, Roland murmured, “I didn’t know you could do that.”

And she lunged up, running and jumping for one of its branches before it could swing them away. It thrashed at her, shouting rage-filled nonsense. She plucked an orange and dropped to the ground. “An orange every now and then,” she told it, “and if you’re telling the truth, I will also know when the war kills Zolinder.”

“I won’t let you,” all the flower-mouths said, loud and shaking.

Laughing unpleasantly, Roland peeled aside the orange skin. “Even you sleep.”

She tasted bitterness, soil, sweat, pain. Life.

Tasting, also, anger at the tree for withholding this, she said, “You’ll grow more. And you’re a fool if you think I don’t care about my brother enough to hurt you.”

April 4, 2008


Talking seagull seeks mate. Not sure if I'm M or F, because sexing birds is tricky. I like long walks on the beach screaming at a companion, beautiful sunsets over garbage dumps, playing french fry tug-of-war, and freaking out the tourists by shouting warnings to them when they're not looking (then pretending I can't talk). No sandpipers, please.

* * *

SWF, 218 years old (but looks 190!), seeks SM, 210-300. I drank a secret elixir in 1814--maybe you did too? Seeking love, companionship, and someone who can really challenge me in the history and entertainment categories in Trivial Pursuit. Remember the Victorian era? Well, we're not in it any more: get ready for red-hot duocentenarian love!

* * *

SJM, 23, 6'7", seeks SF 4'10" or shorter, because it would look so funny, and people love to see things like that.

* * *

I SPY: February 11th, at 10:15 in the morning, on the bus route to Queens. You were the dark shadow of a cloud that fell over the street, plunging everything into a gloom for just the space of a breath. I was the iridescence of gasoline in a mud puddle, waiting to get splashed. I glimmered in you for a moment. Did you feel it too?

April 3, 2008

The Dragon's Greatest Treasure

The dragon caught up to Prince Ibis at the Wal*Mart store on the north side of town. The prince was buying toilet paper, aspirin, and hypoallergenic pillows for his castle three dimensions over. Peeling up the roof, the dragon quickly scanned the crowded store and singled out the prince, the only one not screaming or running.

"There you are," rumbled the dragon. "Return my treasure or die. No. Wait. Return my treasure and die."

"That doesn't leave me much choice," said the prince, wishing his dimension skipper wasn't outside in his Volvo.

The dragon squeezed through the minivan-sized hole in the roof. "Fine," he said. "It's fine with me if you want to do this the hard way."

"I don't want to do this at all." Prince Ibis rolled under a table of blue jeans as the dragon took a quick breath and puffed a ball of flame that set the entire section of DVDs ablaze.

I forgot what a horrendous aim he has, thought the prince. I wonder if he needs glasses.

The dragon glided down to a tall display showcasing baby strollers, which proved not to be as stable as his preferred mountain ledges. The shelving unit rocked, scattering strollers, then fell into the shoe racks. Slippers, moccasins, sneakers, and loafers flew in all directions.

While the dragon recovered, Prince Ibis jumped out of his nook and ran for the front of the store. He'd barely taken four steps before stumbling over an errant stroller that carried him into a display of two-liter Coca-Colas.

And there was the dragon, on him. Before he could move, one leathery wing knocked him down to be pinned by a heavy forepaw.

"Your treasure," the prince gasped. "I can take you to her."

The weight lessened slightly. "The princess?" said the dragon. "The princess with the golden hair?"

"Of course," he said. "She's here, waiting just outside." He gestured toward the exit.

The dragon picked him up and undulated on three legs to the doors. A crowd of people watched, and beyond them the prince saw approaching police cars. He didn't fancy being in the middle during a fight between bullets and balefire.

Then he saw it. "There she is," he yelled, pointing toward the women's clothing section. "There!"

The dragon turned and saw the mannequin. The blonde mannequin. Pouncing, he caught it up in his other forepaw. "At last, my beautiful princess," he crooned. His grip on the prince loosened.

Ibis wriggled, then dropped to the floor. He scooted to one side, then froze next to a pair of male mannequins sporting cableknit sweaters.

"Where did you go," asked the dragon. "I promised to kill you, you know."

The glass in the front of the store caved in under two dozen rifle butts. "Hold it right there," said an amplified voice.

"Oh bother," said the dragon.

April 2, 2008

Only For Today

I'm red pen-marks on three orange post-it notes, but only for today. Yesterday I was a yoghurt carton, discarded on a roadside and licked clean by foxes. Tomorrow I could be anything--your staple-remover, perhaps, or a cobweb in a farmer's barn.

I gave up trying to control the changes when I was seven. After two years of daily becoming something new, despite my concentration on the mental image of 'little girl, brown hair, brown eyes, brown skin,' I had to realise the truth.

It's been six years now. I've been more things than I remember.

I wish I hadn't sneaked a drink of one of my mum's potions. All those bright liquids, some of them polka-dotted or striped, lined up in jars along the wall of her study--they looked like sweeties. The stripy green and blue one tasted like liquorice and I went and sat outside, feeling light-headed, and thought I would like to be a balloon so I could float above the village and see it laid out like a map.

And I became a balloon, and I saw the village.

The next day, I was a button on a telephone. I haven't seen my village since.

I want to see my mum again. But I never shape-change into a painting in the living room, a cushion on her bed or a note written in lipstick across her bedroom wall.

Sometimes, though, I can pass on messages. Like today. I hope that someone will find one of these messages and take it to her, quickly, before I shape-change into something else, and she'll take one of her potions from the shelf and pour it over me and I'll be a girl again.

She lives at 3 Berrey Close, Windyham, W Sussex, England. Please hurry!

April 1, 2008

Doing Free Time

Will opened the letter from Stupendous Stories. He had just sent "Revenge of the Kudzu-Eaters" two days ago, and here was the reply. "Dear Mr. Stockton. It is with profound regret that I write to inform you..." A rejection! Well, he'd revise the story and send it to Daring Tales. He was pondering "which" vs "that", when the phone rang.


"Hi Will, want to go to the movies?"

"Aw, Mary Ann, I'm in the middle of a story..."

"But I didn't see you at all last weekend. What's the new story about?"

"I'm revising Kudzu-Eaters."

"SS didn't like it? That story was great!"

"Thank you. Look, I'll call you when I get done. Promise."

A new story. He did have an idea about a sequel to the classic "Mole Men" tale.

"The black needle ships descended in their thousands, disgorging the sinuous bodies of the Mustelid Marine. Ambush predators by nature, they made the ideal guerrilla warriors...."

He quit working on "Attack of the Space Weasels" when he got too hungry to think.

10:30. Too late to call Mary Ann now. He assembled a turkey sandwich. Then he made a second one.

In the morning, he kept his eye on the mailbox. As soon as the postman arrived, Will was out there to get the mail.

Not counting junk mail and bills there was a letter from Stupendous Stories and one from Daring Tales.

The envelope from Daring Tales contained "Kudzu-Eaters" – which he had only put in the mail that morning. Stupendous Stories had accepted "...Space Weasels." He looked over at the computer, where the unfinished story showed on the screen.

"I wonder how it ends," he thought.

He reached for the phone. "Mary Ann? I've got some time tonight; still want to see that movie?" Before they left he jotted down a note: "write something about an empire in an underground lake."

The next day he received $350 payment for "Empire of Darkness," and another $275 for the sequel.

Will quickly settled into the practice of coming up with story ideas and collecting checks for the unwritten stories.

Three months later he was arrested for the murder of his wife Mary Ann.

"I haven't even married her," he protested.

"You will," Sheriff Sims said grimly.

The end