Dr. Sarah Meckham knew how she felt by what she did. She knew she must feel nervous, because she kept dropping crumbs on the rug.

Companies fought over her for her neatness. No jet engine she designed, no part she machined, ever failed.

“Don’t worry,” said Lady Stirling. “These are crumbly scones. I have people to worry about the crumbs.”

“I don’t normally drop them,” said Dr. Meckham. The crumbs marred the pattern of the Turkish carpet, scattered across its blue and red hexagons. She’d even spilled some tea. She never spilled her tea!

“May I refill your cup?” asked Lady Stirling. Dr. Meckham wasn’t sure.

“So you’ve come to have your fortune told,” Lady Stirling said, giving up. “Doesn’t sound very engineer-like.”

“Yes, I know,” Dr. Meckham said, and thought, ‘and that is how I know I’m afraid.’ “I believe that you may help me understand the odds.”

“Odds of…?”

“Of surviving. Some people want to be the only ones who know how to make some of the machines I have designed. And other people would like me to stop making machines that make their military buildup difficult, or meaningless. You see.”

“That explains the gentleman and the car waiting outside,” said Lady Stirling.


Lady Stirling watched more crumbs fall.

“And the men on the ridge and in the gazebo?”

“They prefer it if I pretend not to know.”

“I see. So you are interested in probabilities, not tall dark handsome men.”

“Yes,” said Dr. Meckham.

“That’s wise. Well,” said Lady Stirling, slapping her hands on her tweed skirt, “I think you’ll do for the next decade, particularly if you remain vigilant. After that, you must hire a different driver, because your enemies will blackmail this one. That’s about all the detail I can get at the moment. I should be delighted to have you to tea in nine years’ time, if you can manage it, so we can look a bit further ahead. Does that help?”

“Yes,” said Dr. Meckham. “That was very quick. I expected…”

Lady Stirling smiled. “Palm reading? At least a pack of cards? No. I don’t normally explain my mechanism, but to a mind like yours I will offer a hint: even perfectly neat eaters drop crumbs on this carpet.”

All the way out the door, Dr. Meckham treaded carefully, staring at the patterns. Lady Stirling smiled gently again, amused.

What am I doing here?

I knock the door with the butt of my gun three times. I wait. I hear feet on the far side of the door. I hear them hesitate.

“What do you want?” A woman’s voice, not afraid yet. But it’s a voice that knows there are things to be afraid of. It’s a voice that knows there are monsters out there.

That’s why I’m here.

“Gas leak in 15B,” I say. “Just need to check if everything’s OK.”

A pause. Then, “I don’t smell anything.”

“I still gotta check.”

A second pause. This one’s longer.

“Call the super if you want,” I say. “I can wait.”

“No. It’s OK.”

I hear her undo the latch, turn the lock. I ready my gun. She opens the door.

She’s maybe thirty, maybe forty. Dark, shoulder-length hair, eyes placed just a little too wide. But for all she looks like my neighbor, like yours, she isn’t. She’s just another monster.

She opens her mouth. I pull the trigger.

As the bullet leaves the barrel I hear the thing inside of her shriek, see it try to pull it’s way out of her though her mouth, white and segmented as it is, see it try and unwrap its tendrils from behind her hindbrain, try to leave this empty corpse and scamper for the nearest piece of cover.
The bullet hits it in its yellow mouth, between its myriad eyes, and she and it punch apart, tumble to the floor.

Job done.

Then there’s a yell, a scream. A boy runs into view. He sees the woman, the thing that used to be his mother. He screams again. Can’t be more than eight. Doesn’t look more than eight.

Why am I here?

I holster my gun. I turn away, but I can still here his scream. It’s in my head and it won’t get out. It shakes in me as I walk down the hall.That scream from when he knew the truth.

There are monsters out there.

We’re changing things up a bit this week, giving you updates on cabalists you haven’t seen here in a while mixed with some microfiction pieces that are even more micro than our usual fiction. Click here to read yesterday’s update, here for yesterday’s story, or just click “previous story” further down this page.

Where are they now: Jason Fischer

Jason Fischer has written quite a few stories, garnered some awards and some nominations for them, and even written a graphic novella, After the World: Gravesend. His most unusual achievement, however, may be that his fiction once inspired the renowned science fiction editor Gardner Dozois to burst into song.

Bonus: If you’d like so see one ex-Cabalist interview another, click here.

This is a sequel to

Martin was not in Heaven. He appeared to be in a suburb of Heaven at about one in the morning on a weekday. He wandered down vaguely curving streets through 70′s- and 80′s-era raised ranches that were uniformly dark and silent. Martin felt like he had been wandering for hours. If that was true he was late for his meeting with God.

Another intersection: Pinta Street and Apple Tree Way. He’d been here before …  right? Or was it just someplace like it? No, this was the place: there were those concrete, warehouse-looking buildings he’d seen before with the signs that said things like “Platform 3″ and “No Lifters.” He had a choice of either a grimy alleyway by the “No Lifters” sign or going back into the winding suburban maze. The maze was beginning to creep him out, so he decided to take his chances with the alley.

The alley was short, it turned out, and ended in a wooden door that was a little bit ajar. Martin pushed on the door, but couldn’t see anything in the dimness beyond. He went through.

“Oh, wait, hang on!” said a trim little guy with beautiful teeth, stepping out of the gloom and putting a hand on Martin’s chest. “What’re you doing here, now?”

“I’m Martin?” Martin said.

“Is that a question, or are you actually Martin?” said the trim little guy.

“Actually Martin.”

The trim little guy smiled and dropped his hand to a “shake” position. Martin shook it. “Martin, I’m Timmy Gates … they call me Pearly. You here to see God?”

“He said 3:00.”

“Well, time is immaterial here, and you died at 2:57, so you’re all set. OK, people!”

This last thing was said to the gloom, which lit up with golden and misty white light. A host of angels–a large host, as in probably more than a thousand–burst into song. Martin had a hard time tracking the song, but it was so gorgeous his head nearly exploded, and it seemed to be more or less on the theme of “We love you, Martin! Welcome to Heaven!”

After about a week of that–which was less than Martin wanted–the angels wrapped it up and and then flapped off without a word, leaving Martin alone with Pearly.

“Is that because God … ?” Martin began.

“Oh, no,” said Pearly. “They do that for everybody. You can’t stop angel from singing, am I right? Come on, let’s go see the Big Guy.”

So they went to see the Big Guy.

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