Barkley Books

Books by P. Katherine Barkley

Story Archive

  • Void
  • Curse
  • Expiration
  • War
  • Alien
  • Quiz
  • Imaginary Friend
  • Fairy
  • Marriage
  • Message
  • Tea Party
  • Gravedigger
  • A Krampus Carol
  • Wizard
  • Queen Ikataru
  • Halloween 2015

Mini Adventures

Here you can find mini adventures from my mind and keyboard.  These short, approximately 500-word stories will give you a laugh or a thrill and cost absolutely nothing to read!  If you like one of them, consider purchasing one of my books through this website or find me on Amazon.

Want your own?

Contact P.Katherine Barkley about being featured in your own mini adventure!!

Void

Fowler looked at the front door in the grocery store where he worked. He felt an overwhelming sense of dread at the sight. There wasn’t anything frightening about the door itself. It was a typical glass sliding door, like any you would find in the façade of any retail shop. But he knew that beyond the door was the inky blackness of night, the empty void of the outside world. It wasn’t that he liked the store or his job. He hated both with a passion that would have frightened anyone he told about it. It was just that he feared the darkness outside even more.


Fowler’s entire world sat within the confines of those walls. Inside the store, there was light and people and noise and the hustle and bustle of life. Or at least, life as far as he could define it. He wasn’t actually sure that anyone but him was real. He watched a customer approach the door. The door slid open. The customer walked out into the night and vanished into the shadows. He knew he could follow her, but he’d tried it before. He could never figure out where they went.


“Your shift over?” asked the unnervingly chipper voice of his supervisor.


“Yeah,” Fowler sighed, his shoulders involuntarily shaking just a bit.


It was time for the nightly ritual, where he pretended to go home. He stepped up to the door. The door slid open. He stepped out into the night, into the shadows. The door closed behind him, and he looked around, seeing nothing. There was no ground, no sky, no parking lot, no cars, no light, no air. The black void of the world surrounded him. He turned a bit and looked back at the brightly lit store. It looked so normal, yet it hovered there in the nothingness like an asteroid in space.


There was nothing to do while he was out here. There was nowhere to go. He couldn’t remember things ever being any different. He knew what words like “home” and “vacation” meant, but he couldn’t remember ever having them. He just worked at the store and then went outside and waited for his next shift to start. He didn’t even sleep or eat. He knew what those things meant too, but he couldn’t remember ever doing them. Sometimes he would fight the ritual. He would refuse to leave the building. He would sit at the cafeteria near the front of the store or in the employee break room in the back and wait. He would wait for his next shift. And people would look at him and ask why he was still there, why he didn’t want to go home. And Fowler would wait. Because there wasn’t anything else to do.


He hated working at the store. But what else was there to do? There was nothing outside in the darkness. And that was somehow more frightening than the store itself. He turned back and gazed through the glass door. Then, he walked back inside and sat at the cafeteria and waited.

Curse

First, my hair. Then, my skin. Then, my vision. Then, my hearing. One by one, I’m losing everything. The curse that witch put on me has gotten worse every year. At first, I didn’t think anything would even happen. Who believes in witches and magic? Seriously? But everything I’ve ever taken pride in, everything I’ve ever enjoyed, is being ripped away from me, piece by piece. I’m nearly bald. My skin is so scaly and rashy that I look like a mutant. I’m mostly blind at this point, and now I’m going deaf. The arthritis has gotten so bad that I can barely type these words. There goes my dream of becoming a writer. And when I think it’s over, that I can’t possibly lose anything else, it’s starts up again. I never really took pride in my hearing. Until my eyes started going. Then, I noticed that I could hear things people around me couldn’t. I couldn’t help feeling a little proud of that. Can you blame me? But pride automatically marks disaster for me these days. The moment I take any enjoyment out of something I can do, I start to lose it. That’s just how it works now.


I’m more careful now. I try not to notice anything about myself or my home. I made the mistake of admiring my collection of dragon figurines last week, and somebody broke into my house and stole them. Things I couldn’t bear to part with have been given away simply because I knew I’d lose them anyway. I have to ignore everything around me to avoid having it taken away. I have to ignore myself. I used to be pretty good at the drums, or at least, I thought so. I tell myself now that I couldn’t play a beat to save my life. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, does it? If I avoid playing in order to avoid losing the ability to play, it’s the same result. I still end up not being able to enjoy the instrument or my own talents, such as they may have been.


I sit in my apartment, trying not to think about how bad I have it but also trying to tell myself that I have nothing to be happy about. I’m pretty miserable. I have a few relatives left who visit me and bring me anything I need. I’d like to tell them how much I appreciate their time and effort. But if I even think about it, I might lose them too. So I take advantage of their kindness without saying a word, knowing that I come off as a curmudgeonly old grouch. They probably think I’m cold and unfeeling, but what else can I do? I would literally die in this room without their help now. I lost my job months because I took pride in the work I was doing. No one will hire you if you don’t seem to have any confidence. It’s sort of amazing that I’m still alive right now. That I’ve survived all of this torment. That my heart is still beating, even though I have nothing left to live for. Pretty incredible, isn’t…

Expiration

The doctor held the scanner up and peered through its lens. Numbers popped up on top of everything and everyone in the room. Expiration dates. Everything had one; it was the main reason people came in to see their physician. Knowing when something on your body expired was a great way to plan for things and prepare for the part of your life you would spend without that body part. She had just diagnosed a man who would be losing his sight in three years. He was understandably disappointed but also glad to know that it was time to get ready. He started immediately making plans to read everything in his library one last time before his vision started going.


The doctor looked at all the numbers that hovered around her office. The big red set above the child’s head said that she would live to be about 80. There was a more concerning number just in front of her chest, however. The girl’s nonexistent breasts had an expiration date less than 20 years in the future. Cancer. That would have to be dealt with. There was no vaccine for breast cancer, so it would mean surgery. Poor thing. But that wasn’t anything to worry about right now. There were no other dates on the girl that would arrive any sooner. The stuffed rabbit she clutched had an expiration date in about two months. She would probably be upset about that.


The doctor smiled and was about to tell the girl and her mother that everything was all right, that the girl’s scan was clear. But when she glanced at the woman standing next to the girl, she saw a big red number that spelled disaster for the entire family. The woman was slated to die next week. How could she not know? Scans were done every year, starting at birth. Numbers very rarely changed, but new ones often appeared. The doctor lowered her scanner and looked the woman in the eyes. Tears began to form, and the mother looked at her daughter, her lip trembling. The girl was unaware, barely old enough to talk.


“Clean bill of health,” the doctor stated, trying to smile again. “She’s going to be fine until a breast cancer diagnosis in about 18 years.”


“I’ll make sure her father knows,” the mother said softly, running a hand through her daughter’s hair.


“I’m sorry, but I have to ask. Have you had a detailed scan done to find out how…”


“Non-health-related,” the mother responded quickly, looking away. “Unpredictable. Could be a car accident or something.”


“Pity. I’m sorry.”


“It seems to run in the family. My mother’s lungs expired when I was about Jillie’s age. She hung on for as long as she could with the implants, but…Her main expiration date was correct.”


“Sometimes it’s tough to know in advance. Some people choose not to learn. How did your husband react?”


“He knew from the start.” The woman beamed a happy smile at the doctor. “He said that he loved me too much to not spend as much time with me as possible.”


“That’s sweet.” But she couldn’t help thinking that it was also incredibly sad.

War

Her eyes followed the smooth line around the edge, twisting and turning and culminating in a point in the palm of her hand. The other end was flat and blunt; it swayed to the side when she tilted her wrist. There was a flash of brilliant colors, purple and red and blue, and the hand fan was open, waiting for its moment. She could almost feel the air around it, pressing into the material and into her fingers. She felt an old, familiar itch, the need to act, to move. A spot of sunlight glinted in front of her, reflecting off of the sword held by her opponent. He was ready, as well. The battlefield was empty except for the two of them. It wasn’t really, but in her mind, he was the only other person she saw. His people had fought to keep her people down, underneath the boot heels of the dictator. Taking revenge upon a single soldier meant little in this grand game of strategy, but what else was there? The war had been long and would continue long after the warriors on this field were gone. She had only this moment.


She took a single step forward, gauging his reaction and waiting for her moment. He was patient; he waited for her to make the first move. In her youngers days, she wouldn’t have relished making him wait, knowing that a premature action on his part would spell his doom. Now, she wanted only to take his head. Sprinting into action, she pushed her body forward, throwing every ounce of energy behind her feet. She spun, her fan careened through the air, its sharp edges dancing. Her opponent lunged to one side and then the other. She tried to match his footsteps and somehow ended up behind him. He turned and swung his sword.


She fell, silent and voiceless, unseeing and unaware. Her opponent turned away and spotted a new threat. He was gone in an instant, lost in the smoke and cries of ongoing battle.


A young man, terrified and wide-eyed, stumbled past her corpse. His hands shook, and he tripped over her arm, nearly falling on her. He involuntarily cried out and stifled his own voice but was unable to stop his sobbing. He was unprepared. War had not come easily to him, and he would not live long enough to adapt. A howling face appeared nearby, screaming some profanity that he couldn’t understand. The body it was attached to threw a spear through the young man’s chest. He cried out again and sank to the ground next to her. He noticed for the first time that she was wearing the enemy’s uniform. He thought about how odd it was that he should focus on such a detail now. His vision blurred, and he fell, gazing into her hard, determined face. He wondered if they would both go to the same afterlife. He wondered if she had been as bad as he was at war. He wondered if it mattered.


Slave

He chewed his meal slowly, relaxing after a hard day’s work. The slave masters had pushed him today, making him perform unnecessary tricks and stunts. When he had been free, enjoying his days in the fields with his family, such exertion had been utilized only for fun. He remembered winning races against his brothers and sisters, exploring the craggy cliffs around his homeland, and resting under the shade of a favorite tree after a long day in the sun. Now, his life was full of toil and threats. Whips and metal spikes kept him in line, working as long and as hard as the masters wanted. He had no choice in the matter. None of them did.

Things could have been worse. There were rumors of other slaves being executed for being too wild or too slow or too old. But sometimes, he wondered if that might not have been a better end to his life, after all. Some days, he no longer wished to live under the iron rule of the masters. One of his sisters, who was also in the holding pens, had recently given birth, and he wondered if his nephew would ever feel the heady elation of being free. Probably not. He was lucky that he hadn’t yet been taken from his mother.

The oldest slave in the pens sighed loudly and settled down on the floor. He knew that her bones were aching. She couldn’t handle the extra weight that the masters made her carry each day. They didn’t work her as hard as they used to, but they still made her pull their cart full of supplies so that they didn’t have to. It didn’t seem fair. None of the slaves got anything out of their work outside of meals and a roof over their heads. Each of them was worked to death, worn down by the harnesses and the weights they carried. Even those who were exempt from the hardest work didn’t get to relax or make their own decisions. They were cleaned up, taught stupid tricks, and put on display like trophies. His legs ached from the day’s practice, and his neck was on fire.

For the hundredth time, he gazed at the door to his pen and wondered if he could break it open. How far would he get? There was the main door at the end of the hall to deal with, as well. There were no guards, but the masters slept in a building nearby and would probably hear the noise. They would catch him. And the more he fought, the more likely that he would simply be executed. He would not be the first, nor the last. But maybe it would be worth it. All he really wanted was to be free one last time. If he could take his nephew with him, that would be even better. But deep inside, he knew that his dream would never come true.

One of the masters entered the building through the far door and walked toward his pen, saying, “Got a new saddle for you, Blackie. Should be more comfortable than that old, beat-up piece of junk we’ve been using. My ass has been killing me the last couple of weeks.”


Alien

“Do we have confirmation?” asked the military general. He wiped the sweat from his brow with a spotless handkerchief.

“Yes, sir,” replied the scientist excitedly. She was wearing a stereotypical white lab coat and hunched over a computer monitor. “It’s almost identical to various whale and porpoise sounds we’ve been translating. We have independent confirmation from three other laboratories. We’re ready to test the translator.”

“Do it.”

They both gazed through a large glass window in nervous expectation. On the other side was a sterile room half-filled with a large tank of water. Two men in white lab coats were peering into the glass tank and making notes on clipboards. Floating in the water and looking back at them with large eyes was a pale-skinned creature with fin-like flippers on its lower appendages. It also had a dorsal fin on its back, but its arms were more human-like in appearance, except for the webbing between its three fingers and one thumb on each hand. Its head was bulbous and looked delicate. There had been some concern about that when they moved it from its ship to the water tank. The creature had thrashed around a bit and bumped into the glass sides of its new home. But it had survived the transfer with no apparent ill effects.

The ship itself was now in a hangar, being examined and dismantled by the top mechanical scientists in the country. A classic UFO, if anyone had ever seen one. Sleek, oblong design with a single, circular doorway that had opened on impact. They still didn’t know why it had crashed, but when the military arrived on site, they found salt water pouring from the doorway and the creature inside gasping and choking. They transferred it to a tank of simple sea water, and that seemed to be good enough. Wherever the thing had come from, it breathed salt water through gill slits on its neck, much like a fish.

The general listened to the whale-like sounds coming out of the speaker next to the monitor. It did sound like a humpback or something similar. He caught himself gaping and quickly closed his mouth.

“This can’t be right,” the scientist seated next to him said, furrowing her brow. “I thought we had the program properly calibrated, but…This can’t be right.”

“Why? What is it saying?” he barked more harshly than he had intended.

“It wants to go home. But it says its home is just a few hundred miles away.”

“A mistake in conversion? Maybe it means a few hundred trillion miles. Or a few hundred million light years.”

“Wait…No, it’s very clear. Hold on, it’s describing its home. Something about the area above it…Sir, it’s calling its ship a ‘submarine’. Or at least, that’s the closest word the computer can translate it to. Now it’s describing the trip back to its home.”

There was a long pause.

“Well?” the general asked abruptly.

The scientist had gone pale. “It has to go down. Sir, I recognize some of the features the creature is describing. I’ve been there.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” He frowned imperiously at her.

“No, sir, I’m sure. It’s talking about the reef off of the coast. I dive there all the time. This thing isn’t an alien. It’s from Earth. Its people are from deep beneath the ocean’s surface! UFOs are from Earth!”

Quiz

“I’m a fairy!” Samantha gleefully typed into the status update box on ShowOff.

Her homepage was filled with these sorts of posts. She had an obsession with online quizzes that labeled your personality according to the answers you gave. She especially loved the ones that were related to mythology or her favorite movies.

Just a couple of minutes after making her post, she saw a reply from one of her ShowOff-mates, a girl in New Zealand who went by the name Saratology. Sara had gotten the quiz response of sorceress. Samantha was jealous. That was even better than fairy.

Scrolling through her mates’ homepages, she ran across a few more quizzes that looked interesting, so she spent the next half hour happily answering questions like “Who would you kiss if you could travel back in time to do it?” and “Do you prefer hedgehogs or beavers as roommates?” In the course of her clicking on one internet page after another, she learned that she was the reincarnation of a samurai, the soulmate of an alien from Taurus 7, and a secret agent.

“Sam, dinner!” her mother yelled.

“One more minute, Mom!” Samantha yelled back.

“Wash up!” her mother replied, as if she hadn’t heard her.

“Ugh!” Samantha sighed heavily.

She reached for the mouse in order to shut down her browser window, when a new post popped up on her newsfeed. It was from Saratology, and it was a new quiz.

“This is a weird quiz, guys,” she wrote. “A friend of mine took it, and I haven’t seen him online since. Something about it must have freaked him out. Maybe it’s like crazy accurate or something. Somebody wanna check it out for me? I’m scared, lol.”

The title of the quiz was “Where Are You?”

Samantha was excited. This was the first time she’d ever been certain that a quiz was about to change her life. She heard her mother calling her again but decided to ignore her for just a couple of minutes. She clicked on the quiz link, and a new window popped up with the title of the quiz at the top. The first question was “What can you see out your window?” The response options were “Tree,” “Garden,” “Wall,” and “Street.” Samantha picked “Street” and moved on.

The second question asked, “What was the last big event in your life?” The answers were “Graduating high school,” “Getting married,” “Getting a job,” and “Disappearing.” She laughed and clicked “Disappearing.” She hadn’t graduated yet, and none of the other options fit her. The joke answer would have to do.

The page reloaded, and all but one of the remaining questions disappeared. Samantha stared at the screen for a moment, her brow furrowed. Obviously, her choice had triggered an alteration to the quiz. Most quizzes didn’t bother with that sort of customization. This was definitely an interesting little game.

The third and final question wasn’t multiple choice; it had a box for typing a unique response. The question was “What year did you disappear?” Recognizing this as an extension of the joke answer from the second question, Samantha chuckled, put her fingers on the keyboard, and vanished. In the text box was now the number 2015, the current year.

Imaginary Friend

“Sally, come down for dinner!”

Her mother’s voice echoed up the stairs again, but Sally was busy arranging her stuffed animals. They had to be just so before she went downstairs, or they might forget where they were supposed to be.

Footsteps thudded up the staircase and down the hall. Sally’s mother looked in on her through the playroom doorway and smiled softly. She shared her daughter’s cute, curly brown hair and hazel eyes.

“Come on, Sally,” she sighed. “You can get back to your tea party after dinner. You don’t want to miss dessert, do you?”

“Mommy, I have to wait for Lily,” Sally insisted, furrowing her brow and sticking out her lower lip.

It was frustrating having to explain these things over and over again, but Mommy and Daddy just didn’t seem to be able to grasp the importance of Lily.

“Your imaginary friend will be here when you get back, too,” her mother sounded more frustrated herself now.

“I told you!” Sally raised her voice. “Lily’s not…”

“Don’t you yell at me, young lady. Now, you will come downstairs this minute and wash up for dinner. Your father’s waiting at the table. And I don’t want to hear another word about Lily.”

Sally glanced around the tea table in the middle of her room. Lily was still sipping her tea. Sally knew something bad would happen if she didn’t wait. She wasn’t sure what would happen exactly, just that it would be bad. Lily had to finish her tea before Sally went down for dinner.

“Hurry up, Lily!” Sally pleaded.

“That’s it, Sally,” her mother took two steps into the room and grabbed her by the arm. “You’re coming downstairs right now, whether you like it or not. And if I hear one more word about your imaginary friend, you’ll get no dessert after dinner.”

“But she’s not done!” Sally wailed, trying to think of some way to make Mommy understand.

Lily looked up at them, a confused expression on her face.

“What’s going on?” she asked in a distant voice. “Sally? What’s happening? Are you…Are you leaving? W-where are you going?”

She put her teacup back on the table, and it vanished, never really a part of the set. Sally started to panic, as her mother literally dragged her across the carpeted floor. She screamed in a high-pitch, and her mother shouted, “Sally Kestra, you stop that! If you keep this up, you’ll be going to bed without dinner tonight! What is wrong with you?!”

“Lily!” Sally screamed, reaching for the tea table.

She couldn’t quite touch it, but she could see Lily fading away in mid-air. She looked confused and a little bit angry.

“That’s it!” Sally’s mother said sternly. “No dinner! No dessert! And you’re going straight to bed! Say good-bye to Lily. No imaginary friends are allowed in your bedroom when you’re being punished.”

“I told you!” Sally screamed, as her mother succeeded in dragging her out the door. “She’s not imaginary! I am!”

Suddenly, Mrs. Kestra found herself holding on to thin air, and she tumbled onto the hallway floor. The playroom was empty and so were the picture frames on the hallway walls. Sally was gone.

Fairy

Marian paused to rest her wings and looked out over the city from her perch on a billboard. The smog wasn’t as thick today, so she could see as far as the grain silos on the outskirts of town. She’d had a busy day already, and it wasn’t even noon yet.

“How many does that make this week?” she thought to herself with a sigh.

Marian had just finished rescuing another child from abusive parents. As the official Fairy Godmother of the Western Stretch, or what humans called North America, it was her job to find and rescue children from bad or dangerous situations and magically place them with families that would take care of them. It was a thankless job since humans were not allowed to remember her after she departed. And it was also a difficult job since she had to make sure she covered all of the involved people with a blanket magic that would dull their senses and wipe their memories. On top of that, there were just so many children who needed help.

Marian could remember when humans were a rare sight in these lands. Now, you couldn’t fly two inches without practically bumping into one of them. And although, there were plenty of good, kind ones, there were still far too many of the other sort, the ones that necessitated the existence of a Fairy Godmother. Fairies had long ago taken it upon themselves to look after the littlest humans. No one could even remember why, but it was fulfilling work.

Marion felt a tickle in her wings, alerting her to another cry for help. Fairies were attuned to the unconscious, the part of the world that no human adult could see or hear. Children were able to tap into it, which was how she knew when one needed her help. She fluttered her gossamer wings and rose into the air. Orienting herself in the right direction, she sped through the atmosphere, zooming over buildings and treetops, until she found a little suburban house on a corner. Inside was a child fearing for her life, the one-hundred and thirty-seventh for that week.

Just as Marian was about to pass through the front wall of the building, a young human woman started marching up the walkway to the front door. Marian sensed within her a burning desire for justice and a determination to help the child. This woman had an aura that she had never seen on a human before, an aura very similar to that of a Fairy Godmother.

This was something new, and perhaps something helpful. Humans were rarely useful or effective enough to provide any assistance in fairy work. But Marian sensed that this woman was about to prove herself different. And having a human on the Godmother team to help navigate their world would be invaluable. Eagerly, Marian followed the young woman, maintaining her invisibility so that she could watch her and find out how she planned to rescue the child.

Marriage

Leann went over the list of things she had to do today in her mind. There just wasn’t enough time for it all. She passed a young man walking a dog and nearly tripped over the leash that strung between them.

“Watch it!” he shouted at her.

She paid him no mind. At the crosswalk, she waited impatiently for the light to change. The little traffic bot that sat atop the light post counted the autonomous vehicles that passed beneath him. At the right moment, it switched the light, and Leann started walking again.

Halfway across the busy street, she spotted a social contract bot. She glanced down at her own social status chip in her left wrist. It marked her as unmarried. She didn’t have time to avoid the bot, so she put her arm behind her back and hoped it would pass her by. Ever since the Nursing Plague of 3482, the social contract bots had been marrying people almost at random, at the behest of the government, which was concerned about underpopulation. They used to do DNA analyses to match people up. Like most people, Leann had no interest in breeding. That was what Nursing Facilities were for.

The bot had almost passed her, rolling along on its treads, its head towering above her. Suddenly, it turned and pointed a finger at her. Zap! Her wrist chip lit up and blinked, and the bot announced, “Leann Sawyer.”

“No, you tin can!” she shouted at it. “I can’t…”

But it was no use. The bot had moved on, rolling to the corner of the street. Leann looked around in frustration. She didn’t have time to hunt down her new husband. She briefly wondered if she could just skip finding him and go on with her life. But she’d seen what happened to people who defied the government bots. Her life would be turned upside down, and she’d never have to worry about being too busy again. Well, at least, they wouldn’t actually force her to breed. She was only required to live with the man.

On the other side of the street, Leann checked her wrist chip again. It was blinking more rapidly, so she was moving in the right direction. She kept going, and the blinks led her to a man at an outdoor café. He was finishing his cup of coffee and looking around for her. She held up her wrist to show her chip, which was now a solid yellow, matching the one in his left wrist.

“Hello,” he said sheepishly. “I guess, we’re, uh, married, huh?”

“I’m Leann Sawyer,” she introduced herself. “Your place or mine?”

“Uh, Todd Lawrence,” he looked bewildered. “My apartment is a small one-bedroom.”

“I’ve got a house with a guest bedroom. My place.”

She handed him a card with the address.

“Dinner and a movie?” he asked with a smile.

“What?” she was confused.

“Well, we should get to know each other. I’m off tonight, so I could bring some of my stuff over, and we could have a date.”

It had been a long time since Leann had heard anyone use the term “date.” Her first instinct was to rattle off the list of things she had to do for work today. But then she saw the hopeful look on his face and thought about how long it had been since she’d had a good reason to sit down and relax. She smiled back at him, “All right. It’s a date.”


Message

Foster sat at his console, drumming his fingers slowly.  He was bored.  A monkey could do his job.  All he had to do was watch.  He watched the screen all day, waiting for messages.  None ever came.  Why would they?  The FTL computer could do anything, and it had consoles in every room in every building in every city in the entire world.  Humans were obsolete and unnecessary.  And humans with dull, unimportant jobs like Foster were forgotten, left to rot in their little rooms with their little consoles, waiting for a message that would never come.

Foster looked at the time index on the screen.  It was still half an hour until lunch, but he was bored.  He took his lunchbag out from under his seat and opened it.  Sandwiches again.  Boring.  But he had nothing better to do.  Slowly, he unwrapped one sandwich and bit into it.  He chewed at such a glacial pace that someone watching him might have assumed that he wasn’t moving at all.

There was a flicker on the screen, and a message appeared.

“What?!” Foster exclaimed, jumping out of his seat and dropping his sandwich.

His heart racing, he started reading the message.  According to the metadata, it hadn’t come from anywhere he was familiar with.  In fact, it hadn’t come from any time period he was familiar with.  It seemed that the Faster Than Light computer had finally fulfilled its ultimate purpose, beyond making life easier for everyone: communication through time.  And it had only taken a couple of decades.  No one had expected a message from the future for at least fifty years.

Foster imagined himself accepting an award from his supervisor.  To be the first watcher to catch a message from the future!  Forget his supervisor!  He’d probably get an award from the head man himself, the prime minister!

He realized he’d been staring at the screen for longer than a minute and went back to reading the message.  It was probably some unimportant little note, like “Hello from the future” or something.  He was too excited to concentrate; his eyes kept skipping around the screen.  He decided he’d better just print it out.  That way, he could carry a copy with him and make more copies for anyone who wanted to see the first message from the future.  He slapped at the print button and gleefully waited for the paper to slide out of the slot on his right.

As soon as his fingers touched the sheet, the lights went out, and the computer screen went dark.  Foster took his flashlight from his belt and shined the light around.  He could hear people shouting outside the room.  The whole building must have gone dark.  Probably just a fuse or something.  He took the paper and read it slowly by the dim circle of light he had.

“To the past, exactly three days ago,

“Foster, it is very important that you replace the master fuse in your console room.  You haven’t replaced it in too long, and it’s about to go out.  The whole building will lose power, you’ll lose your job, and you’ll have to beg Arnold from Floor 6 to let you use his console to send this message.  Good luck!

“Sincerely, Foster (Your Future Self).”

Tea Party

A cute story to fill 2016 with joy.

“Here she comes, here she comes!” Puppy shouted excitedly. “We’re almost ready! We’re gonna have a tea party!”

“Calm down,” said Kitty. “You’re making a nuisance of yourself.”

“Am not!” Puppy protested. “Aren’t you excited to have a tea party today?”

“It’s always nice to have a tea party,” Kitty agreed calmly. “But getting excited about it doesn’t make it come any sooner.”

But Puppy couldn’t help herself. She could still remember the last tea party they had. The day had been warm and sunny, just like today, and the warm breeze had ruffled her brown fur, just like today. Everything was just the way it should be for a wonderful tea party. Puppy and Kitty were both seated at the little tea party table in the backyard, just waiting for the rest of their friends to arrive. There were three other seats, empty so far, but they would soon be filled.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and Kitty’s white fur was almost too bright to look at. The grass smelled wonderful, and there were birds in a nearby tree, singing to them. Puppy wanted to jump for joy, but she knew that would annoy Kitty. She watched as Melinda hesitated at the door of the house, then went back inside.

“Oh, no!” Puppy wailed. “Did she change her mind? Are we not going to have a tea party today?”

“She probably just forgot something,” Kitty sighed patiently. “Would you calm down already? The tea party will be fine. It’s the perfect day for one.”

“It is, isn’t it?” Puppy looked up and around, admiring the sky and the grass and the tree.

Then, she looked at the tea party table and admired the little pink place settings and the little white and pink china dishes. There were cups and saucers and tiny tea spoons and a big teapot right in the center. There was also a chain of flowers circling the teapot, pink and fragrant. Everything was just so perfect.

“Here she comes again,” said Kitty, even though she knew this remark would set Puppy off again.

And so it did. Puppy got excited all over again and started barking and shouting about what a wonderful tea party they were going to have.

Melinda was coming toward them with a tray of sugar cookies in her hands. They were white with pink frosting. She was wearing her pink frilly party dress with the white lace apron. Everything looked perfect. She set the tray on the table and said, “Almost ready. Please, excuse me a moment, ladies, while I gather the rest of our guests.”

Then, Melinda ran back to the house and emerged moments later with Lamb and Foxie in her arms. She placed them carefully on their seats and went to her own chair, slightly larger than the others since she was slightly larger than the other guests. A sudden gust of wind ruffled Puppy’s fur and knocked her off of her chair. She barked and barked, but she couldn’t get back up by herself. Melinda got up again and put her back in her place. She tried to say “thank you,” but of course, she couldn’t. She was only a stuffed puppy, after all.

Gravedigger

January 2016 Mini Adventure

The shovel sank into the soft earth, and Saul pulled it back up again, laden with another burden. He piled the dirt up higher and higher behind him until it was twice as tall as he was. Then, he paused for a break, brushing the crumbs of earth from his pants and shoes and settling on a stone bench. He took a swig from the flask he kept in his shirt pocket and sighed heavily, looking around at his handiwork.

The graveyard was full of markers and graves, as far as the eye could see. Far, far in the distance, he could just make out the fence that served as the edge of the cemetery, but that was only on the north side. In every other direction, there was nothing but cold, stone markers straight to the horizon.

“Hey, Saul,” said a melancholy voice.

It was Earl, ten minutes early for his shift.

“How many today?” he asked.

“After I finish this one, only two more.”

There was a beeping sound from Saul’s back pants pocket, and he pulled out the GPS locator that marked all the jobs for the day.

“Make that three,” he amended.

“Why can’t they get machines to do this grunt work?”

“They could. But then we’d be out of a job.”

“True enough.”

Earl sat down on the memorial bench next to Saul, and the two of them looked out over their kingdom of gloom. Nothing but dirt and stone for miles around. And of course, the ever-shining lights of the grave markers. Each bulb shone bright red on top of its marker in light and dark, rain and shine, snow and sleet. Until the future inhabitant died, that is. When the little clock inside the stone marker that was connected to the little clock inside its owner sensed a failing heartbeat, it flickered. When it sensed a failed heartbeat, it went out and alerted the little GPS units in Saul’s and Earl’s pockets. And they went to work, preparing a home underneath that marker for its owner.

“It’s never-ending work,” Earl said gloomily, the same as he did every day.

“That, it is,” Saul agreed, just as he always did. “That, it is.”

He stood and stretched his tired bones and heard another beep. He didn’t have to check the GPS unit in his pocket this time. The dimmed light was right in front of him. Usually, he didn’t bother to read the names on the markers; he just did his duty and dug a new hole. But he knew this marker already because it belonged to his wife.

“Isn’t that Carlene’s?” asked Earl in a disinterested tone.

“Yup,” Saul took a deep breath and hefted his shovel up onto his shoulder. “Think I’ll put in some overtime and dig this one myself.”

“All right,” Earl stood and stretched his arms behind his back. “I’ll finish the other one and then head out to the east side.

He turned toward the half-finished grave that Saul had been digging and saw a flickering light on another marker next to it. Stooping low in the fading sunlight, he read the name, “Saul Gravedigger.”

A Krampus Carol

Christmas 2015 Mini Adventure

Cindy sat with her arms folded, looking stubborn and annoyed. After visitations by three other ghosts that night, she was in no mood to be spooked by this wannabe. First, it had been her best friend, Janie, dead for four years now. Their parents had warned them to stay away from the gorge, but at seven years old, neither of them had been able to resist the siren call of adventure. Janie’s body had also been unable to resist the call of gravity when she slipped from the top of the gorge. Tonight, Janie had warned Cindy that her stubborn refusal to obey her parents, her teachers, or any other authority was going to get her into trouble in the afterlife, which she would be visiting very soon if she didn’t mend her ways.

Then, the Spirit of the Past had taken Cindy on a trip through time to see all the people she had hurt by not following the rules and not caring whom she stepped on in order to have a little fun. However, her brief pangs of guilt had vanished when the Spirit of the Present arrived and showed her what a good time her family and friends were having without her, while she sat in her room after being grounded for a week for using her father’s drill to ventilate the dog house. She was missing all the Christmas fun this year, and it was her father’s fault, not hers!

Finally, the Spirit of the Future had shown up and revealed to Cindy the circumstances of her own death, in just two short years. A terrible prank involving the school bus went horribly awry, and she ended up flattened beneath the vehicle’s wheels. No friends showed up at her funeral to mourn her. She had evidently managed to alienate everyone she ever knew with her incessant pranks and flouting of authority. Her parents cried, but then they turned her room into an office.

Cindy wasn’t worried, though. Now she knew how to avoid messing up that school bus trick. She could prevent her own death. The Spirit wasn’t pleased with her attitude, but she had more important things to worry about. If those so-called “friends” of hers were going to abandon her, it was time to start planning some very exciting pranks to chase them away. Her friendships would go out with a bang!

The Spirit vanished, but her room remained dark and creepy. A shadow appeared at her open window, and something started climbing inside. Thinking it was a burglar or another annoying ghost, Cindy grabbed her baseball bat. A hoofed leg stepped inside, followed by another. The creature was hairy and had horns on its head. It towered above her on two legs and leaned down, its eyes glowing a dull yellow. She started to get worried. The thing opened its mouth, revealing fangs and a long red tongue that rolled out and waggled at her.

“Wh-what are you?” Cindy stammered, clutching her bat to her chest.

“Krampus,” the thing growled in a low hiss.

It reached for her, and she found herself unable to move. The bat slipped from her fingers, as the Krampus’ claws closed around the back of her neck. It felt cold and dry. She was lifted into the air and stuffed down into a sack that the creature had been dragging behind it. As the top of the sack closed over her head, Cindy realized that she wasn’t the only kid in there. There were two others, crying and wailing for their mommies. Something swatted at the outside of the sack, stinging her arm, and she felt the Krampus dragging them away, out the window and into the night. Somehow, she knew she would never see her home again.

Wizard

Story written as a gift for Jimmy

Chase sent away his final customer of the afternoon with a smile on his face. Trading in these border towns was always far more profitable than any of the rural areas farther inland. This was partly because borderland merchants were more interested in some of Chase’s more “interesting” items and partly because they traded themselves with a wider variety of clientele.

Chase’s potions and restoratives were particularly popular, but he also carried a heavy supply of spices when he came down to the southern towns from the north. And when the season changed, he would return to the colder climates with fish and pelts. These valuable commodities often made him the target of highwaymen and cutthroats, but he could take care of himself.

Chase rubbed his hands together, briefly igniting a spark that would warm his fingers. The cool sea breeze was a bit more biting than usual today. Luckily, there was no one around to see this bit of magic. He kept his abilities a secret in order to maintain his persona as a humble traveling merchant. The truth was a bit more complicated.

“Wait, sir!” a voice drifted up from the nearby sand dunes, where a wooden pier hosted half a dozen clipper ships. “I have to speak with you!”

“I am always prepared to do business,” Chase put on a broad smile.

A young man, a squire by the cut and style of his clothing, climbed the grassy hill to meet him. He gasped breathlessly, “My mistress asks that you come to the castle at once! Word of your prowess has reached her ears, and she begs an audience.”

Chase raised an eyebrow in suspicion. He kept a low profile in his travels. How could the locals have learned of his adventures? True, he had been on numerous quests and hunts for valuable items that took him to far distant lands and up against powerful enemies and creatures, but he accepted only the most interesting, and profitable, jobs and swore those who hired him to secrecy.

“Who is your mistress?” he asked cautiously.

The young man glanced around and whispered, “Lady Derrington, sister to the Duchess of Rondshire.”

“Ah,” Chase relaxed and smiled again.

He had done the Duchess a great service last summer in exchange for a great portion of her family’s wealth. She had turned out to be a kindred spirit, with a mercenary heart to match his own. She had vowed to send him any jobs that would not put his secrets in danger, and in return, he sent her information that he picked up on the road in regards to the movements of her enemies. It was an easy enough task; people talked freely to merchants who sold them the things they valued most.

“And what does the Lady desire of a humble merchant such as myself?” Chase gave a little bow.

“That’s what we’d like to know,” said a gruff voice behind him. “Hand over the boy, and maybe we won’t hurt you.”

Three highwaymen had managed to sneak up on them while they were talking. The young man went pale and nearly tripped over his own feet in his haste to flee back the way he had come. Chase let him go. He didn’t want any witnesses to what he was about to do, anyway. He was quite intrigued by the possibility of a new adventure, and he wasn’t about to let these rogues muck it up. With a flourish, he summoned a fireball in one hand and said, “Gentlemen, you’ve made a grave error.”

Queen Ikataru

Story written for cosplayer Ikataru

Queen Ikataru paced leisurely down the grand hallway toward her throne room. Her graceful robes rustled softly against the polished floor, and her royal visage was serene. It was a typical day in the elven palace with many royal duties to handle. Since taking on the responsibility of the crown from her own mother some 500 years ago, Ikataru had led a calm, excitement-free life, just as an elven queen should.

“My Queen!” came a breathless call behind her.

Ikataru turned slowly to see her First Guard, and first choice for royal lover, running to catch up with her. Ordinarily, Damian was the picture of coolheaded equilibrium, but something had upset the balance today. For a brief moment, she entertained the notion that she might see the start of an adventure this morning.

“My Queen,” Damian gasped, coming to a halt before her and kissing her hand politely.

They might have shared a bed for the last 300 years, but he was still a perfect gentleman.

“What disturbs your ease this fine morning, Mookie?” Ikataru asked, fluttering her eyelashes playfully.

A look of annoyance flashed across his face. He disliked her little pet name for him. But he ignored it and said, “The Amulet of Angollan has gone missing from the treasury! In the same manner as the Goblet of Glouston in your cousin’s kingdom eight centuries ago.”

“Indeed?” Ikataru raised one eyebrow and smiled just a little. “A copycat crime? Intriguing.”

“My Queen, I will not rest until I have captured the thief.”

“I think I’ll handle this one myself,” she leaned in close to him and touched his cheek lightly with her hand.

Damian blushed deeply.

“My Queen,” he whispered. “Ikataru, please. Not here.”

He glanced around and saw no one in the hall with them, but he remained flustered, which only amused her further. She leaned in so close that he could feel her breath on his cheek.

“None would challenge us,” she whispered in his ear. “I am the Queen.”

He sighed softly and put a hand on her waist.

“But you’re right,” she said, pulling away abruptly with a mischievous grin and leaving a look of disappointment on his face. “Business first. I’ll see you tonight.”

She turned to leave, and he protested, “But you can’t find the Amulet on your own!”

“I think I can,” she smirked over her shoulder. “I know where to start.”

“You should have a guard. I’ll accompany you.”

“No, no,” she waved a hand at him dismissively and continued down the hall. “I’ll take care of it. I need you here to handle my appointments for the day.”

“The Goblet was never found,” he reminded her, a note of desperation in his voice.

“I know,” she said mysteriously and disappeared into the throne room.

The spacious room was vast and empty, and Ikataru went to the throne, reached behind it, and pulled out a golden cup with jewels of many colors embedded in it. Gazing at her own reflection within the gold, she remembered the day she stole it from her cousin, when she was living the life of a carefree thief, the most talented in the land, long before becoming Queen. No one ever figured out who the rogue was or what happened to her. Not until today. Obviously, her cousin had finally succeeded and sent a master thief to continue the game.

Queen Ikataru smiled. This was going to be fun.

Halloween 2015

Written for Halloween 2015 Facebook contest winner!

Roger stepped out onto his back patio, breathing in the crisp, cool night air. It was Halloween, and he could hear children singing on the unseen crossroads near his new house. He didn’t celebrate the holiday himself, but he had planned to bake sugar cookies and introduce himself to his neighbors tomorrow. He had spotted a beautiful woman on the other side of his back fence a couple of days ago. She had been pushing a baby carriage around the yard, but there’d been no sign of a husband or boyfriend. He was hoping for a little female company over the holiday weekend.

A light flickered on in the back of his neighbor’s house, and Roger saw the raven-haired woman pass by the window. She reappeared and waved, beckoning to him. Her smile was enchanting. He checked his watched. It was past midnight, but he decided to speak with her, anyway. He strolled through the grass, leaving the gate open. She met him at her back door.
“Please, come in,” her voice had a nearly musical quality, and her eyes sparkled in the dim light.

Roger passed through the doorway, feeling a bit lightheaded. Her perfume was strong, but it was a pretty smell. He cleared his throat and said, “I’ve been wanting to come over and introduce myself. I just moved here, and I’ve been busy.”

“I know,” she responded, leading him into an adjoining room. “You’re a traveler.”

“I guess you could say that,” he chuckled. “I do move around a lot. For work.”

They were in an uncluttered kitchen with a single pot on the stove. Something was boiling inside. Roger stepped closer to get a whiff and saw that the pot was more rounded than usual. In fact, the more he examined it, the more it looked like a cast-iron cauldron.

“Something for Halloween?” he asked, feeling nervous for reasons he couldn’t understand.

“Samhain is a special night,” she smiled at him again, and her lips seemed to broaden more than the first time.

“That’s, uh, unusual, in my hometown,” Roger backed up a step. His heart was beating quickly now, and he was starting to sweat. Something in the atmosphere of the house had an oppressive quality.

Another figure appeared in the shadows of a far corner, and an old woman stepped out. She was wrinkled and hunched, and she smiled at him in a way that was disturbingly similar to the younger woman’s smile.

“Your, uh, mother?” he asked, coughing. His throat felt dry, and his voice sounded weak.

“We are of the same family,” she replied.

Feeling faint, Roger forced himself to step back and reached for the door, intending to make his excuses and leave. He overshot, and his fingers closed around the handle of a baby carriage. He stumbled into it and looked down. The sheets and pillows inside were soaked with blood.

“I’m afraid that was the last of my children,” the younger woman spoke, advancing on him. “But a traveler will do for tonight.”

The old woman stepped forward, and her mouth widened, showing fangs. Roger reached for the doorknob. In an instant, the young woman’s body melted and reformed into a large bird, and she flew at him, knocking him to the floor. He looked up and saw them both leaning over him, their sharp teeth glinting in the dim light. Unable to move, he could only think of what they called Halloween in his hometown: Witch’s Night.