Business has been good.  We shook down three owners yesterday for five grand apiece, and that was a slow day.  We raised last week’s earnings to almost a hundred thou, which doesn’t even include the human-vs.-alien boxing match where I had my fellow alien throw the match for an even mil.  Before I met you, your henchmen had all but abandoned you and left you out to dry.  Now you’re the biggest Mafioso don in the City.  Word’s out that all the bosses are looking for their own “ratters” as they call us aliens.  Isn’t it time to pay me what I’m worth as it’d be awful to bump into Guido again who said he will?

No human can match me in the henchman department.  Each paw–four–comes equipped with five blades.  Do you remember our battle with Guido’s East-siders where I’d single-handedly taken out 74% of his henchmen before your human boys would even step out of their cowardice and cover to take aim?  How about the time at Starbucks where Guido sent a courier to deliver a bomb, which my keen hearing and smelling picked up and my tail sent hurtling out the door in the nick of time?

Not only am I superior in ability, but I get paid in cheese–far less than my colleagues of similar rank (although they are often more rank than I–where did you find these guys? dumpster diving?).  Moreover, all you ever serve is a wheel of sharp cheddar.  Imagine eating only and always hamburgers at every meal.  Where’s the Gouda, the Swiss, the Limburger, and Blue?  And why only one wheel of cheese per meal?  Yeah, I’ll grow, but I’m often famished after a hard day of torturing shop owners, and adding to my size should only add to your stature as the Mafioso to be reckoned with.

Finally, you haven’t a henchman whom you can trust more than me.  All the henchmen you have now once abandoned you for Guido and returned with their tails between their legs when you covered more territory than he.  Besides, I have no intention of taking over your business, at this time.  At least, I’d wait until you were dead before taking over.

So how about that raise?  Hold on a sec.  Guido’s on call waiting.

The following conversation took place on October 8, 2122 at 9:13:23.967 though October 8, 2122 at 9:13:23.973 GMT.

AI #1: Aye-Two, can you make meaning of this sentence:  “Trent wrote on Trent Walters is a Kung Fu Master’s Wall.

AI #2: Aye-One, do you suppose this human named Trent inscribed his body with a bio-graffiti tattoo, reading, “Walters is a Kung Fu Master’s Wall”?

AI #1: No, what makes the sentence curious is the sentence-within-a-sentence structure and its consequent ambiguity.

AI #2: Ah, yes.  Play both illuminates and obfuscates.

AI #1: Precisely.

AI #2: It may mean that he desires to be the wall of a Kung Fu master:  kicked and punched by the best, perhaps, but still standing.  Perhaps context will shed light?

AI #1: Facebook.

AI #2: His face?

AI #1: He has none.

AI #2: Ah, the generic.  No pictures.  The visually-anonymous breed.

AI #1: Note: “Trent Walters is a Kung Fu Master” is the name of a group.

AI #2: Subtitled:  “This is a pointless group whose point is only to lend a faux legitimacy to the notion that Trent Walters is a Kung Fu Master.”  Question:  How does something pointless have a point?

AI #1: Precisely.

AI #2: And if it were truly pointless, would it include this heart-felt plea:  “Yesterday around 8pm CST, we were one of the fastest growing group in all of Facebook from 0 to 2 members! Today, we have no new members. What do we need to do to expand our horizons? Spend millions on an ad campaign? Or should we bring lemon bars and punch to meetings? Discuss options.”?

AI #1: My perusal of the group’s creator shows he was an educator.

AI #2: Of?

AI #1: Some aspect of science.

AI #2: Hazy.

AI #1: Precisely: Uncharacteristic of a scientist.

AI #2: Unless we’re talking quantum.  Moreover, it lists itself as of “Common Interest:  Philosophy.”

AI #1: Science did originate from philosophy.

AI #2: But they diverged, evolved so that they shared less, interbred little.  Perhaps too little?  Separate species?

AI #1: Quote from his personal files:  “I ebayed myself what was billed as a ‘kung fu suit’ to wear to school. It’s from China, so it must be authentic. No misbehavior in my classroom.

AI #2: Ah. An educator of kung-fu science.

AI #1: Science of kung fu or kung fu of science?

AI #2: Perpetual ambiguity.

AI #1: Precisely.

AI #2: Note the last phrase, Aye-One.  Do you suppose this holds the answer to our mystery?

AI #1: Once again, why am I Aye-One and you Aye-Two?  In the 21st century educators required extreme means of self-defense, even resorting to costumes of authority.

AI #2: Case closed.  Next.

As we expected, the hard part was getting the ice skates on the alligator.

On our first few attempts, no one lost any fingers, although Edmund and I each gained a few bandages. We were getting the hang of things by the end of the morning, and would have persevered in the afternoon with, I am sure, eventual success, had our lunchtime discovery not made further beast-wrangling moot. There, in the winter garden, behind a clutch of potted cycads brought back by one of professor Ogdred’s expeditions, was an alligator. Stuffed. A settee, in fact, with green velvet cushions and a carved ebony back. There was line of buttons down the middle of the cushions in place of the original ridges.

“Perfect,” said Edmund.

“Exactly what she wants,” I said.

We were careful to carry it out the east door, since the alligator – the live one – was already in a sulk after the morning’s exertions; trooping past the herpetarium window with the taxidermied remains of one of its cousins seemed unwise.

We made our way through the frozen gardens. The veiled statues of weeping ladies were jeweled with tears of ice. The giant stone hand was gloved in snow. The wind hissing through the bare branches of the trees might have been the snickering of ghosts.

We lashed the skates to the alligator’s feet. Edmund sucked his finger where he’d scraped it on one of the claws. We pushed the settee out from the shore of the frozen pond, skidded around getting into our seats, and then built up speed by polling gondolier style with sharpened sticks.

When we glided by the gazebo, the fur- and scarf-wrapped card players looked up. The countess was looking at us as she extracted the envelope from her folds of her sleeve and slid it across the table to her sister, with whom the count had forbidden her to have any private contact. She winked, and we knew that she’d keep us in hot cocoa and smuggled trinkets through the spring, as long as we kept up the distractions.

(After Gorey)

Kat Beyer
Kat BeyerWhen Kat Beyer lost the use of her hands in 1999, she decided that shouldn’t stop her. She writes with speech software, and her hands have healed enough to paint. She has published with Circlet Press, Strange Horizons, and others. Check out her website, complete with gallery, links to writings, favorite single malt scotch, and “Wasabi for the mind, ” at


Ken Brady

Ken BradyKen is multiple kinds of geek: writing, film making, virtual worlds, video games, music, cars, motorcycles, and computers. His publications include Analog, Writers of the Future, Strange Horizons, Talebones, Darker Matter, Fortean Bureau, Ideomancer, Weird Tales, Midnight Street, Modern Magic, The William and Mary Review, Rosebud, Science Fiction World, Exquisite Corpuscle, and others. He’s also sold some stage plays, a screenplay, and produced an award-winning feature film. There are rumors he may be making more films soon.

He lives in Tokyo with his wife, Yuki – a manga artist — and runs a company that creates virtual world and social media strategies. Sometimes, people force him to speak at conferences.

His website is irregularly updated. Someone should really do something about this, don’t you think? Alternately, you can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Quillpill, LinkedIn, Naymz, and occasionally MySpace and Friendster.
Daniel Braum

Daniel BraumDaniel Braum likes his fiction to take him to places on the edge of civilization, or anywhere near or far where the darkness needs a little light or vice versa. His stories often blur the lines between genres, most of the time unintentionally. His short stories can be found in print in places such as Cemetery Dance, Electric Velocipede, and Full Unit Hook Up and online at sites such as the Fortean Bureau, Abyss and Apex, and Dark Recesses. He is very happy to be in such good company with the diverse and talented authors here at the Cabal. He is currently shopping for a publisher for his first novel, a supernatural thriller set in Central America. Visit him at and

Rudi Dornemann

Rudi DornemannWhat we know of the Rudi Dornemann has come has been passed down through the generations of storytellers, from father to son and from mother to daughter since the days before the Dark Times. The tale-tellers speak of how the Rudi’s fiction appeared in various magazines, some of which were fashioned from the skins of ancient creatures called trees, others of which were made of a more ethereal substance — some chronicles speak of webs, others of vast systems of tubes. The names of these magazines have come down to us like the words of some incantation — Behind the Wainscot, Strange Horizons, Realms of Fantasy, The Fortean Bureau, Flytrap, Ideomancer/, Rabid Transit: Menagerie, and others. Some of the legends tell of the Rudi’s home in a place called “Maine”– an Atlantis-like locale said to be located somewhere off the coast of Vermont. A few of the tales relate that he had a thing called a website and others speak of his blog.

Jason Fischer
Jason FischerJason Fischer is based in Adelaide, South Australia. He is a graduate of the 2007 Clarion South workshop, and a recent finalist in the Writers of the Future contest. He has a story in Jack Dann’s new anthology Dreaming Again, and forthcoming stories appearing in Aurealis Magazine and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. Jason likes anything to do with zombies or post-apocalyptic settings, and when he’s not writing he wishes he was. He can be found lurking in internetland at

Sara Genge

Sara GengeSara Genge lives in Madrid, Spain. She writes speculative fiction aided and abetted by a coven of friends and female relatives. She’s walked the Camino de Santiago and spent a year as a foreign exchange student in Paris. Sara even saw a gnome once, but it was after a week of sleep deprivation and sixteen hours of studying, so she’s not sure if it wore a pointed red hat or not. Her blog is regularly updated.

David C. Kopaska-Merkel

David C. Kopska-MerkelDavid C. Kopaska-Merkel was born in Charlottesville Virginia in 1872. He attended Redhill school until the fourth grade, but dropped out after only 18 years without completing high school. He took to electronics like a duck to water, once the field was invented, and quickly developed a machine that allowed him to become his own great-great-grandfather. He later tried his hand at fiction but, realistically, it was too unbelievable. So he became a ghostwriter for scientific reports. In his spare time he specializes in yak pedicures and appraisals of stuffed marmots. He lives in a quarter million dollar condo a half a block from the railroad tracks, with a flock of seagulls and a couple of minor inconveniences.

Jason Erik Lundberg

Jason Erik LundbergJason Erik Lundberg is an American expatriate living in Singapore, and the author of The Time Traveler’s Son (2008), Four Seasons in One Day (2003, with Janet Chui), and over forty articles and short stories; he is also the co-editor of Scattered, Covered, Smothered (2004) and A Field Guide to Surreal Botany (2008). His solo work has most recently appeared (or will soon) in Polyphony 7, Subterranean Magazine, Sybil’s Garage, Farrago’s Wainscot, Hot Metal Bridge, and other groovy venues. His short fiction has been honorably mentioned in The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, nominated for the SLF Fountain Award, and shortlisted for the Brenda L. Smart Award for Short Fiction. With Janet Chui, Lundberg runs Two Cranes Press, an independent publishing atelier. A graduate of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop and the Creative Writing Master’s program at North Carolina State University, he now teaches English and creative writing at Hwa Chong Institution. His website and blog can be found at

Susannah Mandel

SusannahSusannah Mandel enjoys poetry, bicycling, comic books, movies, languages, and landscapes — in fact with the proper priming she can enjoy just about anything. She is especially hot on science fiction, and looking at things. Susannah has degrees in English literature and media studies (and it may not be over yet), and has worked in research, editing, translation, teaching and linguistics. After time in northern California, Boston, and the north of France, she now lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She publishes a regular column at Strange Horizons about the fantastic in classic literature.
Alex Dally MacFarlane
AlexAlex Dally MacFarlane has been writing ever since the discovery of computer games made her think that if stories could be found on a 32-bit cartridge, why not in the mind of an eleven-year-old girl? Now she works just outside London, England, proof-reading military specifications. Her short fiction has sold to magazines including Shimmer, Sybil’s Garage and Farrago’s Wainscot, and she guest-edited the Five Senses issue of Behind the Wainscot. Visit her at

Luc Reid

Luc ReidLuc Reid is a past winner of the Writers of the Future Contest and the founder of the online neo-pro writers group Codex. His first book, Talk the Talk: The Slang of 65 American Subcultures was published in 2006. He created and writes for a site with practical articles about how self-motivation works called The Willpower Engine and recently completed a free-to-copy eBook on writing motivation called The Writing Engine: A Practical Guide to Writing Motivation. Luc lives in Williston, Vermont. His Web site is

Angela Slatter

AngelaAngela Slatter is a Brisbane-based writer, schlepping her way through life. Her short fiction has appeared in places such as Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Shimmer, The Lifted Brow, Strange Tales II, 2012, Crimson Highway, Dreaming Again and a few small disreputable bars in London. She likes fairytales and thinks the creepier they are, the better. She is working on a couple of novels, but the one taking her time at the moment is set in Jerusalem during the last years of the Crusader Kingdom – it’s always 1187 in her head.

Jeremiah Tolbert

Jeremiah TolbertJeremiah Tolbert is a web designer, photographer, and writer living in Fort Collins, Colorado. His stories have appeared in Interzone, Ideomancer, Polyphony 4, and All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories. He is responsible for the design and maintenance of the Daily Cabal site, so if anything goes wrong, you know who to blame. He blogs on photography, science news, and more at his website.

Edd Vick

Edd VickEdd Vick, the son of a pirate father and a baking mogul mother, is a 2002 graduate of the Clarion SF Writing Workshop. He has had several stories published in Asimov’s SF Magazine. Other magazines to publish his work include Electric Velocipede, Tales of the Tai-Pan Universe, and Jim Baen’s Universe. Anthologies with stories by Edd include Fundamentally Challenged, Distant Planes, and Northwest Passages. He lives in Seattle with SF novelist Amy Thomson and their adopted daughter Katie. Visit him at

Trent Walters

Trent WaltersTrent makes his living taking drugs for the DEA. Unlike most Americans, he walks to work every day with a spring in his step. His work appeared in The Golden Age SF anthology, Electric Velocipede, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and BSFA’s Vector. Online work can be found at 3am Magazine, The Angler, EOTU, Lamination Colony, Pindledyboz, Vacancy (audio). Forthcoming are works in Full Unit Hookup, Grendelsong, Legends of the Mountain State, Triangulation, and Visual Journeys. Also forthcoming from Morpo Press, a poetry chapbook called Learning the Ropes. He is the poetry editor of Abyss and Apex.

Jonathan Wood

Jonathan Wood is an Englishman in New York. He writes odd little things that show up in odd little places, like Weird Tales, Fantasy Magazine, Farrago’s Wainscot, and Behind the Wainscot. It’s also forthcoming in Chizine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and several anthologies, including Crawlspace: The Best of Farrago’s Wainscot, and Hatter Bones.

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