31 July 2006


They Didn't Even Bring a Bottle of Wine

The aliens finally landed. What took you so darn long? we asked. Oh, they said, we were just taking our time, enjoying the scenery. We showed them around the Earth. They seemed tired. They slept for years and years. A lot of us grumbled about that. What was the point of having alien visitors if we couldn’t talk to them and gain knowledge and wisdom from them? When they woke up they thanked us and left the Earth. We put our hands on our hips and looked very stern. Well, we said, just see if we ever invite them back.

30 July 2006



Contemporary physics suffered a catastrophic blow when a young grad student in Australia proved it was impossible to unify the fundamental forces of nature. Most physicists did not believe this result at first, but a rigorous review of the proof by hundreds of scientists found no significant error in the reasoning. Most physicists were soon laid off from their tenure track professorships. Some took up other occupations. Many ended up on street corners, begging for money. They held up signs: Will Explain The Particle/wave Duality of Photons for Cash. Passersby laughed, tossed them a few coins, and hurried away.

29 July 2006



Hungerpang Backspace usually went about the world with her shoes untied. On very special occasions, which included funerals and weddings, she would tie her shoes, but she found it so difficult to walk in them that they didn’t stay tied for long. Hungerpang carried a small notebook in which she drew pencil portraits of people she met on the street. She completed them in a few seconds and gave them to her models free of charge. They would often tell Hungerpang her shoes were untied. Hungerpang would tell them their hearts were anchored and how could they live like that?

28 July 2006


Sing It

Look for ants on an apple. Look for bees on a bush. Look for flies on flowers, and hornets on the house. We got spiders on saplings, we got wasps on wings; fleas in a circus, and moths doing math. There be beetles in the belfry, beetles in the bath, beetles sipping broth, and beetles in a band. Don’t forget about termites chewing, mosquitoes stinging, yellow jackets swarming, and grasshoppers singing. You know crickets carouse, and the butterflies lounge. Cicadas like to sing and scorpions like to sting. Insects insects, we got them all. Insects insects, summer, winter and fall.

27 July 2006


Tree House

We found the bottles while excavating the foundation for our new house. We removed the corks and put our noses to the rims and tentatively breathed in. No odor greeted us but our spirits were ignited with an unfamiliar and urgent energy. The bottles slipped from our fingers and shattered on the rocks. We discarded the blueprints for the house and redesigned it to resemble an oak tree. It took months to build. Crows attended our housewarming, bearing gifts of corks and shiny coins. We rarely descended from the house. We stared at our hands, willing them to sprout feathers.

26 July 2006


Frost Bite

The crow snatched up the snake in two loops and flew in front of us with it hanging from its beak like hoop earrings. It landed near the top of a nearby fir tree and began eating the snake. We watched the spectacle with horrified fascination. Later we added to our hoard of food by stocking up on canned goods. The weather turned bad. We were cold for months. Our fingers turned white. The mountain next to our house grew a glacier that slid down slowly and knocked over the fir tree, from which the crow had long since departed.

25 July 2006


Glug Glug Glug

The ocean got tired of us. It’s getting too difficult to live with you, it said. We were in the early stages of a debilitating brain disease, so we did not understand. The next day the ocean began receding. It was like the lowest low tide in history. We ran towards the edge of the sea, skipping over seaweed, and dodging dying fish and whales. We got to the continental shelf and rappelled down its face, still following the receding water. We bounded over the newly revealed ocean floor. We made blubbering noises with our lips. We loved being insane.

24 July 2006



On the frontier we excavated fossils left from previous epochs. We had to go down several thousand feet to find them. They were long stringy things, flexible like cotton, but strong as anything you could imagine. We sent most of them to the cities back home, where people decorated their hats with them. We miners speculated on the appearance of the city folk, with dug up fossils hanging from their headware. It was easy to mock the city folk. We put the fossils on ice and watched them writhe, then struggle, eat, mate, and become our loyal companions for life.

23 July 2006


Avoiding the Perils of Empathy

Evergreen Passinglane played her bagpipes on the courthouse lawn every Friday evening. If she missed a week people worried about her. What’s happened to Evergreen? they asked. Is she okay? They were always relieved to hear her pipes after an absence, and Evergreen was glad people missed her. Eventually she got tired of the pipes. Instead of playing, she just sat on the lawn and fed the birds. The birds told her they never really cared for bagpipe music. I didn’t know, said Evergreen. The bugs like it, said the birds, but we eat bugs, so we really don’t care.

22 July 2006


Journeys Interrupted

I. I returned. I returned to. I returned to the. I returned to the city. I returned to the city and. I returned to the city and dimmed. I returned to the city and dimmed a. I returned to city and dimmed a bulb. I returned to the city and dimmed a bulb in. I returned to the city and dimmed a bulb in my. I returned to the city and dimmed a bulb in my kitchen. I returned to the city and dimmed a bulb in my kitchen that. I returned to the city and dimmed a bulb in

21 July 2006


Interrupted Journeys

I. I went. I went to. I went to the. I went to the woods. I went to the woods and. I went to the woods and lit. I went to the woods and lit a. I went to woods and lit a fire. I went to the woods and lit a fire in. I went to the woods and lit a fire in my. I went to the woods and lit a fire in my head. I went to the woods and lit a fire in my head that. I went to the woods and lit a fire in

20 July 2006


The Secret Lives of Ghosts

Oh, we conducted our debates with passion and gusto. Our mystics said the bodies we left behind were illusions. The nostalgics loved them as lost homes. The physicists told us they were artifacts of the intersection of dimensional realities, whatever that means. In the end it didn’t matter. We watched our bodies burn up or get buried. It was like seeing a badly faded movie with an absurd plot. Life—or the peculiar absence of it—went on. The hardest part was getting used to the lack of touch. We walked right through each other and never felt a thing.

19 July 2006


Use Pen Instead of Pencil

The notebook fell from her hand, went over the ship’s rail, and slipped into the sea. Sharks shredded it. The water softened it. Jellyfish swallowed it. The salt corroded it. Bits of the notebook washed up on many sandy beaches. Years later, while on vacation, she went to the seashore and stood on the sand. Remnants of her old notebook clung to her soles but she did not know it. Waves lapped at her feet. She sunk into the shifting sand up to her ankles. She remembered a line from her notebook. We are the hope that comes with despair.

18 July 2006


Pleasant, Kind, and Tall

We were partial to junk food for years. It was so easy and so good. It never got old, but we discerned a certain lethargy in our movements, so we abandoned partial hydrogenation, corn syrups, and various nitrates in favor of hunting wild game. We wore only loin cloths and armed ourselves with spears and knives. We stopped mowing the lawn, thereby attracting wild creatures that we could kill and eat. The neighbors joined us with gusto, smearing blood on themselves at every kill. We were fierce beyond words. We ate raw meat and sang to the sky every night.

17 July 2006



Jailcell Clockface learned to fly when she was two years old. She used wings of her own design and construction. Jailcell’s parents were more than a little surprised; they had no idea their daughter was an engineer of rare talent. Jailcell modified her flying apparatus as she grew up. By the time she entered high school, she was friendly with all manner of birds, who welcomed her into their world as an equal. Jailcell sought big trees with strong limbs on which to perch when her arms got tired. Jailcell never did her homework but she did build amazing nests.

16 July 2006


It's Not What You Would Call An Exact Science

Speedzone Chairleg explained to her husband that after she died she would send a message to him from the after life. He nodded, as though this was the most normal thing in the world. It’ll probably be something that you wouldn’t expect, she said. Her husband nodded again. Like maybe a butterfly might fly around you several times, said Speedzone. That would be me. Get it? Her husband nodded. I’ve got one, he said. If I see a cloud with your profile, that’s you, right? Speedzone closed her eyes and breathed. Maybe, she said. It might be me. Maybe not.

15 July 2006


Chain of Being

Toybels Illtot loved Idaho Zoomlens, who loved Peppermill Farside, who loved Magma Instep, who loved Chalkdust Hourhand, who loved Offshore Axhandle, who loved Foolscap Quarternote, who loved Benchpress Buttercup, who loved Cablecar Matchstick, who loved Abacus Flatscreen, who loved Pinkslip Throwrug, who loved Crabcake Seahorse, who loved Pomegranate Thirdrail, who loved Fishtail Morningstar, who loved Papercut Steamengine, who loved Sideview Piecrust, who loved Oilpan Bellpepper, who loved Cufflink Monkeyface, who loved Dandelion Streetscape, who loved Openmike Starlilly, who loved Threadcount Climbingvine, who loved Gravestone Coldfront, who loved Seastack Powerloom, who loved Claypot Dreamstance, who loved Peachfuzz Pulltab, who loved Toybels.

14 July 2006


Prodigy: Part 17

Toybels Illtot planted his feet on the ground and reached up for the sky, which hovered above him, soft and serene. The fairies tugged at him, pulling him deeper into the forest. Toybels could not resist. They led him to a rock. Toybels touched the rock. They led him to a brook. Toybels felt the presence of his mother. He tilted his head up and cupped his ear. The fairies bowed before him, kissed his cheek with their wings, then flew up into the sky. Toybels blinked and looked at his skin, which was now as green as new moss.


13 July 2006


Prodigy: Part 16

Toybels Illtot heard many voices. They were all his own. A chorus of them, harmonizing in the air permeating the forest. Toybels coalesced into a single being over the next few thousand years. The forest rose and fell too many times to count. The fairies recognized him, growing in the womb of darkness. They waited, protecting the forest as though it was a mother’s sheltering body. As Toybels clumped together, his vision returned. Fairies fluttered around him. Their wings buzzed pleasantly. They smiled at him. Toybels reached, leaving his hand open, and waited for fairy wings to tickle his palm.


12 July 2006


Prodigy: Part 15

Toybels Illtot swarmed into the ether. He was subdued awareness, many points of consciousness connected by invisible threads. The sound of bees were everywhere. Toybels got eaten by a great flock of crows, millions strong, easing across the sky. The flock tripped gears into action. The sun resumed its course. The wind gusted again. The crows descended on a forest, covering the trees with a deep blackness. Toybels was there, a fragment in each crow. The crows expelled all his bits from their bodies, then rose from the trees. Toybels remained behind, a hive mind clinging to leaves and branches.


11 July 2006


Prodigy: Part 14

Toybels Illtot, now little more than a floating head, tipped over so his scalp was in the broth. He still had his eyes closed, but heard the sound of the fairy wings everywhere and felt them swarming over his disembodied head. They began singing a song. Toybels could not understand the melody, but the words described feasting and dancing. He thought he heard something about a wedding, but could not be sure. His ears sunk into the broth, muffling the sound. Toybels separated into his component parts. Consciousness was a mere nuisance now. He found comfort in thinking of dust.


09 July 2006


Prodigy: Part 13

Toybels Illtot was soon beyond pain. The water heated up. Chunks of his flesh cooked off and floated around him. The fairies added potatoes, celery, onions, and carrots. Toybels studied the liquid, thickening with his own fat, like he was observing an artist completing a canvas. His face and consciousness remained above the bubbling. The fairies, arrayed around him like beads strung on a hoop, licked their lips and brandished their spoons. Some dipped into the broth and tasted. They fell over in a swoon, littering the surface like dead mosquitoes. Toybels closed his eyes and waited for the end.


08 July 2006


Prodigy: Part 12

Toybels Illtot could not have made things worse for himself if he had tried. The fairies were done fooling with him. They pulled away his protective wrapping and flung him into a large cast iron pot filled with water, which stung his bare flesh. Toybels cried out. The fairies ignored him. They arranged wood under the pot and added some of the sun jewels, which they yanked out of the gears like they were rotten teeth. Flames crept up the side of the pot. The water began getting warmer. Toybels reached for the rim. It was a million miles away.


07 July 2006


Prodigy: Part 11

Toybels Illtot covered his face with his hands. His skinless flesh was turning black with the bruising. Why are you doing this? he said. We have a different moral code than you, said the fairies. I hurt, said Toybels. Please stop hitting me. The fairies groaned. Please stop hitting me, they repeated in a mocking voice. I hate my life. You’re mean to me. I’m going to cry. Boo hoo hoo. A red fury rose in Toybels. He reached out blindly and grabbed several of the fairies and began squeezing the life out of them. Their bones popped like toothpicks.


05 July 2006


Prodigy: Part 10

Toybels Illtot had nothing else in him. The fairies waited patiently. For about five seconds. Well, they said, was that it? Toybels opened his mouth. No sound emerged. The fairies hit him with their oil cans. Toybels blinked. We stopped the universe for you, said the fairies. You better make it worth the effort. They hit him again. The oil cans were getting dented from repeated contact with Toybels’s head, chest, legs, arms, and back. The fairies worked methodically, covering his body with bruises. How’s this working for you? they said. How do you like the universe smiling upon you?


04 July 2006


Prodigy: Part 9

Toybels Illtot looked at the fairies. There were hundreds of them, maybe thousands. Some stood, others hovered on their tiny wings. A few were stretched out on pieces of the sky. They all waited quietly for him to speak. The silence around them was vast. Toybels opened his mouth. His lungs tried to push out air. His lips, tongue, and teeth tried to form words. But he didn’t know how. What emerged was a roar, like the fury of an exploding star. The fairies's hair all went horizontal and momentarily wavered like flags. Not bad, they said, for a start.


03 July 2006


Prodigy: Part 8

Toybels Illtot wiped the blood from his eyes. He looked at his hand. It was larger than he remembered. His whole body was bigger. It appeared he had grown up when he passed through the tear in the sky. This was so astonishing to him that he forgot he had no skin. The grinding sound around him gradually faded away. He saw the gears had all stopped. The fairies returned to him and wrapped him in a soft and warm material. Time is stopped now, they said. Tell us your story. Toybels blinked. He swallowed hard, looking for his voice.


02 July 2006


Prodigy: Part 7

Toybels Illtot watched the fairies advance toward him. He briefly considered going back through the rip to where he came from, but decided he would face his future here. The fairies arrived in a few seconds. They clobbered him repeatedly with their oil cans. Toybels cried out and covered his face. They tugged at his skin. Soon they had torn off most of it in bits. They flew back to the gears where they threw the pieces between the teeth. Toybels reached for air. He was blinded by his own blood pouring over his eyes. Help me, he said. Please.


01 July 2006


Prodigy: Part 6

Toybels Illtot tugged at the rip in the sky, making it big enough to step through. He saw a wonderment: a vast confluence of gears turning slowly, teeth meshing in an intricate dance. Some of the gears had stars stuck to them. Others had pieces of the sun embedded in them like jewels. Everywhere fairies flitted about, lighting on gears for a few seconds, then moving on. As Toybels looked closer, he saw they held tiny oil cans. A great clanging noise erupted around him. Fairies turned to look at him. They gathered into a herd and flew toward him.


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