Plugs

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

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

Jason Erik Lundberg‘s fiction is forthcoming from Subterranean Magazine and Polyphony 7.

Angela Slatter’s story ‘Frozen’ will appear in the December 09 issue of Doorways Magazine, and ‘The Girl with No Hands’ will appear in the next issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet.

Shiftless, Hopeless

by Jason Erik Lundberg

At the mouth of the Cave of Endless Hamsters stood two squat dumpy smoke-colored creatures, each the shape of a bowling pin. The one on left was slightly taller, and it shook with mild internal tremors. Both creatures seemed to waver in and out of existence, as if simulataneously there and not there, and their eyes glowed redly. They held short wicked-looking spears.

“Toll,” said the shorter one on the right.

Anya slid down from the back of the Turtle (who had promptly fallen asleep after they had stopped moving), and her feline companion leapt down smoothly to land beside her feet.

“Toll for what?” Anya asked.

“Whatchu mean? For passage through the cave o’course.”

“Is this cave really so important that it merits a toll?”

“Um.” The shorter one scratched its head and the taller one shivered where it stood.

“Do you enjoy your job?”

“What? Why you ask that?”

“It seems to me,” Anya said, “standing at the mouth of a cave in the middle of a forest waiting for people to come by so you can extort them would be quite boring. Yes?”

“Being punished,” said the taller shivery creature.

“By whom?”

“The Green Empress. She’s still sore at us.”

“Why? What did you do?”

Neither creature answered, and their body postures indicated sheepishness.

“Look, my name’s Anya.” She motioned to the cat. “This is my reincarnated father. We’re just looking for a way to get home. If I can offer you payment, will you be our protectors?”

“What? Us?” The two creatures turned toward each other and appeared to communicate, whether subvocally or telepathically, Anya could not tell. After a moment they turned back and the shorter creature said, “What about the empress?”

“Let me deal with her.”

“What payment you got?”

Anya reached into the pocket on her jumper and pulled out the black tri-cornered tooth she had extracted from behind the ear of the Olifanz. Previously dull, it now glinted in the filtered light of the forest. The two creatures started forward, their forms abruptly shifting completely into reality, the tooth somehow solidifying their existence after exposure to the light.

She held the tooth behind her back and said, “Payment after we’ve found the way home. Deal?”

“Yes, yes, o’course,” the creatures said in unison.

“Great. So what are your names?”

“Mister Hopeless,” the shorter creature said. “He’s Mister Shiftless.”

“Right,” Anya said, scratching the Turtle underneath the chin to wake it up. “So, are you excited to see the Cave of Endless Hamsters?”

“Dunno,” said Mister Shiftless. “Never been in.”

“Well, now’s as good time as any, right?” And she led the motley group inside.

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Previously:
01: Mini Buddha Jump Over the Wall
02: The World, Under
03: Androcles Again
04: Look Into My Eyes, You’re Under

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