“So he’s all-powerful, he knows everything, he controls everything that happens, right?”
“We don’t have time for your–”
“This is important! Omnipotent, omniscient, in control, right? Then why ask him for anything? Isn’t he the one who set in motion the needs in the first place, and doesn’t he already know everything we want?”
The wind drifted across the grassy meadow in waves, making the grass billow and almost shimmer.
“This is the old dead end about Fate. Just the act of asking–”
“Not Fate! Control! We’ll do what he wants us to do, and we’ll get what he wants us to get. Why ask?”
“Can’t you stop questioning everything for one minute? Why can’t you just ask like a normal person?”
“Because I don’t like the higher power! I don’t want to submit to something that seems fundamentally amoral to me. Something that goes around making people do what it wants. You hear me up there? I’m not kowtowing to you!”
“Please what? Please shut up, or he’ll hear me? He already knows my thoughts! Please swallow my pride and just ask him for something like everyone else? Fine, I’ll ask him for something. HEY WRITER! I WANT A PONY!”
And with no clear reason or mechanism, there was a pony, a shaggy pony the color of butterscotch with a white, silky mane and liquid eyes. A few moments later, like an afterthought, a saddle appeared in the grass beside it.
They stared at the pony. Then they looked up into the clear, empty, robin’s egg sky.
It was your idea, your concept that started it all. I saw your face as you watched the historical footage. I saw the moment the plan came to you. I didn’t know what it was until you drove us out there, beyond all the walls and shields, the abandoned strip malls and the checkpoints.
You tapped the pad you’d glued to the dash and the old-time music started, so loud and so low our ribs throbbed with the beat and we couldn’t hear the screeching of the harpies. You’d slipped the restraints and slid out the window before we could stop you.
There, under the light of the hololoops of the dearly departed, you danced. And the hover, controlled by that patch pad on the dash, moving in time to the math you’d programmed, danced with you. You leapt and slid and spun, ran or slow-walked, while the hover surged and stopped, fishtailed, hopped up and drifted down. You spun on the roof; you tumbled through the underside jets and came up again, road dust unfolding spookily around you in the holo-light. The mausoleum blocks echoed with laughter and voices singing along to century-old slang.
“Ghost dancing,” you said.
The next week, we cruised the tombs again, and we all took a turn. Under the flickering gaze of beloved husband of, cherished daughter, much-missed brother, we danced. The hover, danced with us; you’d taught us the method of your math, and we’d each programmed our own choreography.
Your math was always the best; your choreography the most perfect. That was why things went wrong — your movements were too true to the beat. The harpies knew exactly when to swoop. They had you off the ground by the time we reached you. You were still twitching to the bass; they knew how to move to hold you tight in their claws.
Now you stay locked indoors, won’t talk to any of us who still go out into the night and the music.
We dance to new tunes, stochastic syncopation that bewilders the harpies, too many rhythms shifting too quickly. We dance for you, much-missed brother, and hope that you’ll join us again, to leap and twist by the light of the dead.
The Daily Cabal has ceased; it is no more; it has shuffled off this mortal coil…
Well, at least until we return at some point, like phoenix.
Or a zombie.
Or, perhaps, some kind of zombie phoenix.*
We’d like to thank everyone who’s joined us over the past four years to explore whatever unusual, uncanny, and unexpected things we could fit into 400 words.
Here’s a complete list of all our stories, organized by author:
All Stories by Author
And here are story lists for individual authors:
Alex Dally McFarlane
Jason Erik Lundberg
*Seriously. We may, eventually, reappear for short spells. Watch this space.
Ron showed the lid to the cashier at Quickie Mart.
“The contest!” He clicked the lid down on the counter and pushed it an inch or two towards the man.
The cashier picked it up, walked to the window, and stared at it for a long time. He put it back down in front of Ron. “It says ‘all-expenses-paid worlds tour.’”
That was right, Ron knew, typo and all.
“But how do I get the world tour? Do I go to a website?”
The clerk pointed at some tiny print on the bottle cap. “You call that number.” He gave the lid back and turned away.
“Hello.” A pleasant contralto.
“I, um, I’m calling about,”
“The worlds tour! I’ll set you up right now. When do you want to go?”
“Well, I, er, any time,” Ron finished weakly.
“Fantastic! Thank you so much for calling, and have a great trip.” She hung up.
That was the most surreal conversation he’d ever had, even stoned out of his mind. He turned, and was overwhelmed with the sensation of jamais vu, the unexpected feeling of unfamiliarity amid the familiar. Had the apartment been this untidy when he left this morning? He stepped over a pile of clothes and looked out the window. Holy shit! The lake was gone. No, it was covered with floating condos. But when had the condos been put in? His stomach was starting to feel a little queasy.
Someone walked out of the bathroom. He was short, paunchy, middle-aged, and wearing a towel.
“Hey…” Ron began.
“Gaah!” The man dropped his towel.
Ron stared at the man’s forked penis, then stammered: “Are you a weresnake*.”
“Funny, Zero. You’re still trespassing. What you doing in my zÅn?” Then he slapped his forehead.
“Oh, right, ‘the worlds tour.’ Look, I don’t need this today. Get out.” He nodded toward the door.
Ron opened the door and stepped out.
From the apartment behind him he heard the fat man with the Y-shaped penis say “Oh yeah, watch that first one.”
*Not making this up: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snakes#Reproduction.