Fred had almost forgotten the boy who fell off the world. “So you lived. You lived! How?”

“I fell. I expected to fall forever. Instead, I plunged into a net of roots. Many broke as they slowed my fall, but soon I was caught. It was a simple matter then of climbing up the stouter roots, ever mindful of the void beneath me, until I reached the good brown earth. I found openings in the world’s venter, the termini of smooth-walled tunnels at whose origin I greatly wondered. Some were large enough for me, and one of these I entered. Though from the beginning I misdoubted their character.”

“What dug those tunnels Chuck? What worms are those whose girth exceeds that of a man? What lives down there on the bottom of things?”

At this the visitor grew pale and trembled. “Don’t ask me that,” he whispered. “Some things are not to be spoken. Would that they could be not thought!”

“Those damnable tunnels. The walls are encrusted with phosphorescent fungi, revealing in a jaundiced, fitful light that which were better hid. There are dead ends in those subterranean passages, each a fatted place like a spider’s brood sack. Many are empty, thank all the gods that be, but some are not. What I found in those would send you shrieking, desperately seeking light and clean air and any thing outside those fetid burrows. Those nearer the surface and the Sun’s good light contain the desiccated, partially devoured, but still living remains of creatures well familiar, including man. I spoke with one, a hollow thing that begged me to end his life. I did so, swiftly, and all those I later met. Brood sacks many miles below Earth’s face contained other remains, also still living, discernible in the flickering radiance of the mutant fungi. These I hope never to meet hale and hearty either above or below ground.”

“Ask me not what I dined on during my sojourn beneath the surface. I sucked water from roots that dangled from tunnel ceilings. This water, never present in any great quantity, faintly bitter and with a nauseating aftertaste, suffused with the essences of all through which it had passed, was the most wholesome thing I ingested while I was within the earth.”

“When I finally crawled out of that bewildering subterranean maze, the setting sun’s ruddy light streamed across a hilly landscape of red-tile roofs, the scattered farm houses and fields of complacent cattle concealing a horror of which their inhabitants are blissfully ignorant.”


Tad was feasting on the last of the cold roasted carrier pigeon. Felicity did her best not to gag. He let out a great froggy burp and leaned against the padded chair with a satisfied air. The princess took a deep breath.

‘Tad, we need to talk.’ ‘Oh, no. You’re froggist, I knew it,’ he sighed.

‘Tad, you’re a frog. A genuine, dyed-in-the-wool-not-gonna-be-anything-else frog, aren’t you?’ She tapped a finger on the table.

‘I might…you never know with these things, really…’ he said lamely.

‘Why did you pretend?’ she demanded. ‘Well, guys be they men, frogs, or dogs, always want what they can’t have.’ He thought for a moment, then shrugged. ‘But I’ve got to tell you, I’m really not attracted to you. You’re not nearly green enough and your legs are really awfully long and straight. It’s more of a trophy thing.’

Great, Felicity thought, dissed by someone who swim in the toilet. ‘Well, I’ve got good news for you, Tad. I have a cousin.’

‘Aw, Felicity, you’re a good stick but I really don’t want another human girlfriend. They’re pretty high maintenance.’

By now Felicity was ready to throw Tad against a wall just to see if he would stick, but she gritted her teeth. She could hear footsteps running along the corridor. The doors to the dining room opened and Bob stumbled in. He smiled broadly.

He held a pink silk cushion and on it sat the greenest of girl frogs, with bendy legs, large eyes, a little purple cape and a teeny-tiny tiara. She batted her lashes at Tad.

‘Tad, this is my cousin Gwyneth. I think I mentioned my great-great-aunt Bernadette of Grenouille-sur-le-Tapis? This is her great-great-granddaughter, a greenblood through and through. I think you’ll find you’ve got a lot in common.’

The look on his face was one of pure rapture; Tad was a real gone frog.

A day later, the pre-nup had been drawn up and Gwyneth, with Tad in-tow, headed back to her kingdom. The last thing Felicity heard as the coach pulled away was Tad’s voice, low and romantic, asking ‘Do you have any carrier pigeons in your castle?’

‘Euuuw,’ said Felicity and Bob in unison.

The very next day, Felicity ordered the pond be drained and filled in. All the foliage was uprooted and burned. The whole area was turned into a soccer field.

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. To read yesterday’s story, just click “previous story” further down this page.

Where are they: Alex Dally McFarlane

This entry isn’t so much a “where are they now” as a “where are they?” Alex has been traveling the world for more than a year now, and we hope she’ll return to Cabal eventually. In the meantime, you can follow her travelblogging , or check out her poetry and short stories .

Pursedog doesn’t like you. Forget that he belongs to Kitty, your semi-long-term girlfriend, or that you’ve run into her apartment to retrieve the little yapping piece of accoutrement because she asked you to.
Forget that you paid for the diminutive bag of fur. He hates you and there’s nothing you can do to change it.
Pursedog knows your innermost secrets. Somehow the little fucker always walks in at the worst times like:
- Using Kitty’s toothbrush to clean the toilet bowl
- Practicing solo forms of tantric yoga you found online
- Whacking to pics of Martha Stewart and/or George Wendt
He knows more about Kitty than you do. There are things a girl just won’t tell her somewhat significant other, but she’ll damn well tell her dog. Especially Pursedog. You know why? Because he listens.
Pursedog was grown to be a woman’s best friend, zipper running tail to ears, insides warm, cushioned, welcoming. He holds mobile phones, apartment keys, identification, emergency makeup. Maybe an extra tin of mints or deodorant. Occasionally, you suspect, a dildo. You’ve seen him vibrating on his back on a restaurant floor in obvious elation, and you’re pretty sure why.
Pursedog is smarter than you. And he knows it.
He sends snaps to Kitty’s phone if he catches you not washing your hands when you leave the bathroom. He posts videos of you masturbating to a popular web forum. You’re reasonably famous there.
Under Kitty’s bed, there’s Pursedog, growling an ominous warning. He backs up and his eyes glow red to augment his pervert alarm. You always set off his defenses, raise his hackles. His zipper clasps tight, double-locks. You reach in and snag Pursedog by the scruff of the neck, avoiding his snapping jaws. It’s unclear why Kitty wants protection from perverts when she’s dating one.
He’s freewheeling in the air, trying to bite your hand when it hits you. You’re being replaced. Kitty’s too chickenshit to tell you. Instead, she’s taken up with a modded pooch, locked her important things away from you.
You’ve already been replaced. And you paid for your own replacement.
Pursedog thinks you’re a dumbass, and he’s right.
“Look,” you say. “At least tell me what I did wrong?”
Pursedog stops struggling, like he’s contemplating your question. Like he cares. You consider setting the four-legged hellbeast down, forgiving him for taking your place. You could walk away without a parting shot at Kitty and never even look back. Bow out gracefully. You loosen your grip, and like a coiled spring the little rat spins around and clamps his teeth into your hand.
You drop-kick the little bastard out the window.

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