You oughta drop in. It’s all chew what they say about how grate hell is (sp? Nobody thought to bring a dickshunary. Thank God. Books would of made life in hell hell!)

It’s a never-ending bitch party with necked sand volleyball and castles that last forever (unless someone kicks ‘em over. Someone usually does). One half of the place is frozen, the other a fiery lake. Remember the Polar Bare Club in Alaska? Like that accept we brake holes in the frozen lake, leap in, then dripping ice cubes, dash over to the one of fire.

Hey, remember the good times when we’d boozed up at ol’ fatty Slim Jim’s, then you’d talked me into driving us around town doing crazy shit like playing chicken with oncoming traffic or tossing the “Bridge Out” sign into the ditch? Damn, that was funny. At least I thought so until I drunkenly forgot about it on the drive home.

That’s what it’s like here–crazy fun! non-stop parties by the lakeside! the best practical jokes! One hot chick keeps an everlasting stash of whiskey chilled in the frozen lake. While we slurp Southern Comfort from rose-colored, plastic sand-buckets, the guy or gal who’s been the biggest pain in the neck of late gets roasted on a spit over the lakefire. It hurts like a son of a beach, but the pain receptors get charbroiled quick enough. Then we’ve got something to snack on with our buckets of booze. The meat rots fast, so we wolf it down. Tastes like chicken. Not a big deal to the guy being charred cuz he reappears after we’ve licked the last grease off our fingers.

You were always the life of the party, so I know you’d be a favorite as I’ve been. Life here is so much more exciting–better sex, sexier babes, faster boats, spicier meats, and no work. Heaven can’t beat this living.
RSVP. The guys look forward to meating you.

Cupid’s got himself a chopper. He fancies himself quite the slaughterer of indifference. “Pow!” and movie star falls for waitress. “Kchow,” and billionaire clothing designer finds chauffeur irresistible. ‘Pada-ching!” a ricochet and there’s a three-way for a nun, an opera singer, and some unemployed douche from Passaic.

It’s a Heckler & Koch MP5 with a billion-round magazine adapted for tiny little magical arrows. It’s taller than he is, but he swings it around like he’s been carrying for ten thousand years. It’s got a sight, but that’s not how Cupid rolls. He’s more of a shoot-from-the-hip kinda god.

“Looka me!” he crows, and puts the thing on full auto. A year later the world’s population almost doubles, a lot of people and I do mean a lot die in the next few years, and Cupid finds himself on the wrong end of a scolding.

But that’s all in a day’s work for the Love Assassin.

So there I am, holding four to a flush and confident as hell. The werewolf on my left has the best tell in the world; his tail droops when he’s got nothing. The vampire across from me has a mirror behind and to one side of him so I can see every hand. And the mummy on my right is too stupid to live; barely intelligent enough to unlive, if you ask me.

I bet twenty guldens, Dogboy folds, the Count matches my bet then throws in a blood-red jewel, and the mummy slowly topples forward into its plate of nachos. “I take it you’re folding,” I say, and push all my winnings into the pot. To the Count: “I’ll see your Heart of Mongombo.” Then I pull the deed out of my inner pocket. “And raise you Castle von Frankenstein.” I unfold the document and set it reverently in the center of the table.

The inn goes quiet. The squeak of the golem’s rag on already clean glasses stops, and a succubus clutches my right shoulder. They know.

They know there’s only one thing the Count has that’s worth anything to me. His gaze finds mine, and I know he’s trying to exert his vampiric influence, to find out what I’ve got or to force me to fold. Nothing doing; I’m beyond his power.

Then, slowly, he extends a hand toward a shadowed corner without removing his attention from me. A woman glides across the room and enters the circle of his arm. Leaning on him, she too looks across at me in mute challenge. Her all too solid reflection blocks my view of the Count’s cards.

Good, I think. He’s not made her entirely his.

I deal him two cards, and take one for my own hand. I barely glance at them before placing them face down on the table.

He studies the pasteboards. “Pass,” he says.

I have nothing more to bet. He could have had the pot for a gulden, but I know his pride.

He puts the cards down. “Full house,” says his ensorcelled ‘wife’. “Aces over eights.” She reaches for the pot.
“Royal flush,” I say, tipping the cards over.

The werewolf snorts, and everyone in the inn – those that breathe, anyway – exhales at once. I stand, and take my wife’s still-outstretched hand. I pull her to me, pick up the deed to my castle, and shamble to the door.

I fear no retribution. Fear was mislaid when I was made.

C. Kopaska-Merkel, Daniel Braum, and Luc Reid

This is an exquisite corpse. Each of us wrote 1/3 of the story.

Joe wanted to blink. His eyes were shriekingly dry. He tried to focus. Bundles of dried wass reeds, a wall of them. Hung on the wall: stone-tipped spear, leather sack, dried Tolin head. He was in a native hut, but somehow things seemed to be too low. If he was standing on something, he couldn’t feel it. Holy crap! He couldn’t feel anything below his neck! Was he paralyzed? His mind ran panicked circles in his head.

A Tolin stood in front of him. It was a short one. They stood eye to eye, but most of the aliens were at least 7 feet tall.

The creature spoke.

“Death is not the answer,” it said.

Joe’s mind filled with a mechanical buzz. Sensation began to return to his limbs. Cold and stiff.

“Contact with you and your kind was too important to just let you die,” the Tolin continued.

Joe looked down and realized why he was able to understand its speech. His body had been replaced with artificial mechanisms. Parts of his new body looked like wreckage from his ship mixed together with the rudimentary Tolin technology.

But they couldn’t be that primitive, could they? Not half as primitive as he and his superiors back on Earth had thought … Joe dug into his memory, trying to recall. One of the top-heavy Tolin trees had crushed his chest. Had they really brought him back to life? Or had they just done some kind of radical surgery to save him?

“We want to understand your species,” the Tolin said, his voice a low hum that Joe could feel in his bones. “We know more than you imagine, and your computer video records are very easy for us to view, but we don’t speak your language yet. We thought perhaps if we took apart your brain, we would find your language in the pieces, but it was not there.”

Joe began to remember a little more now, disturbingly more. Yes, the tree had fallen on him: but now he remembered a group of Tolin standing in the shadows behind the tree as it fell.

“No, death is not the answer,” the Tolin said, “but that’s all right. We’ll just try something else.”

– end –

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