Luc Reid writes about the psychology of habits at The Willpower Engine. His new eBook is Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories.

Jonathan Wood’s story “Notes on the Dissection of an Imaginary Beetle” from Electric Velocipede 15/16 is available online.

Edd Vick’s latest story, “The Corsair and the Lady” may be found in Talebones #37.

Ken Brady’s latest story, “Walkers of the Deep Blue Sea and Sky” appears in the Exquisite Corpuscle anthology, edited by Jay Lake and Frank Wu.

Sticks without Stones

by Trent Walters

This is not a sequel or prequel but pairs with the stand-alone, “Stones without Sticks.”

The stick was once known fondly by its parent as a limb… until a biped severed it from its parent, stripped it naked, and hobbled on the stick up the mountainside. Despite the biped’s initial cruelty, the stick grew fond of the biped as its palms wore groves into the stick’s flesh. Before being held in the sleeping embrace of the biped’s flabby yet warm limb, the stick had not experienced true love.

Sadly, the relationship was one-sided. In spite of enduring long hours of pressure and pain because of its devotion to the biped, the stick broke unexpectedly and was, without a teary goodbye, discarded for another. “Oh, I see,” said the stick, “love me and leave me, will you?” But the biped neither answered nor returned.

The stick lay quietly for many moons, too upset for words, until another biped stepped on the stick, and it snapped:

“Why don’t you watch where you put your oafish feet? You think you can traipse through this neck of the woods and not notice upon whom you’re stepping? You don’t see trees uproot themselves and stomp on your fingers.”

The biped pretended not to hear and strolled on through the stick’s home.

A stone came rolling along. The stick, still nettled by its busted-up life, yelled at the stone to help out a fellow inanimate object. It showed no interest in the stick’s plight. Burned again, the stick thought, by a stone this time; it doesn’t get any worse than this.

The sun came and went. Rains came and went. Snows came and went. The stick lay still, nursing its wounds, when a black ant showed interest. Finally, the stick hoped, it would be loved for itself.

But no, the ant was a termite and it hollowed out the stick and laid eggs in it that wiggled and lunched on the stick’s innards. The pain was as excruciating as it had heard the biped complain that kidney stones were, but the stick felt too hollow to be hurt again.

Or so it thought.

On the last day of its life, a biped spotted the stick, put it over its knee, and broke it in two, then, carrying it back to its lair, built an altar encircled by stone, and set the stick on fire. Perhaps the stick ought to have been bitter about the flames charring its flesh, but it couldn’t help noticing the biped’s worshipful and submissive posture.

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