I drag my feet as much as possible on my way back to the town hall. It doesn’t matter that the situation is beyond my control, no matter what I do, the elders are going to blame me for the bridge’s deterioration. I’ve staved off the inevitable as long as I can; I might as well get it over with.

The guard gives me one of those “Good luck, bro” looks before unlocking the hall doors. I don’t know what the council expects of me. It’s not like I can stop mother nature. I enter the hall and address three of the most annoying men I’ve ever met.

“Well, nice of you to finally join us, engineer, I presume you are ready to make your report to the council,” said the High Elder. Thirty years ago we all called him Carl.

“The bridge situation remains the same as last week I’m afraid.”

The second elder grunts with the effort of leaning forward. “Unacceptable!”

I really have no idea how to respond so I keep my mouth shut.

The high elder puts his hand up as if to appear sympathetic. “We need the bridge, engineer. We are counting on you to fix it.”

“As I’ve said for years, without paint or heavy equipment we can’t stop the bridge from corroding. At this point my best guess is we have less than a year before it washes away.”

“And what are we to do?”

“We do what I, and just about everyone else has suggested for about twenty years, get the hell off this island and look for a new place to settle.”

The third elder starts to fan himself in a melodramatic fashion. Apparently the mere mention of my suggestion is enough to make him almost pass out. The second elder, now completely enraged, is red-faced and grunting furiously from his many failed attempts to stand.

“How dare you speak to the council in such a fashion?”

“How dare I? Jesus, Carl, we went to the same high school for crying out loud. You were a bully then and you’re a bully now. Just look at Frank, he’s so damn fat he can’t even stand up and Stanly, you can’t even comprehend the thought of leaving without needing first aid.”

“Well, perhaps I should call the guard. Maybe a few days uncarserated will help you remember how we run our society.”

“You mean incarcerated?”

“That’s it! Your insulin has gone on long enough.”

“Insulin is for diabetics you imbecile. And what are you gonna do call the guard? Bernie’s been my best friend since the second grade. Face it; it’s over, done, at-an-end, caputski. You’re all nothing but glorified town selectmen. Your job before the war was to manage the town’s money, but since money doesn’t exist anymore you went ahead and appointed yourselves leaders. And we let you, I guess because at the time we needed some sort of leadership what with the government’s collapse. We all held out hope that someone would cross the bridge and bring help. We were weak and vulnerable then but now we are strong, and we did it despite all your attempts to keep us isolated here on this island.”

“You’re a fool, engineer. You think it is easy, ruling over the masses; listening to their whining day in and day out. There are important decisions we have to make every day; Choices that decide whether we all live or die.”

“Oh, for the love of God, stop it. You’re not that important, Carl. You’re just a dickhead bully who’s basically given the town a giant wedgie for years.”

I have to admit, the stunned looks I’m getting feel pretty great.

“Tomorrow I’m crossing that bridge and anyone who wants to come with me is welcome, including the three of you. It’s time for us to leave this island, while we still can. Maybe there are others out there, maybe there aren’t, but at least we’ll know.”

I leave them to mull it over. Bernie is standing outside waiting for me.

“How’d it go?”

“Better than I thought. You and Sarah packed?”

“Yeah, us and just about everyone else in town. You sure about this, Bill? Should we wait and see if others want to come with us?”

“No, we need to strike while the iron is hot. We’ll let them know which way we’re going and let them catch up if they choose.”

Bernie nods his head in understanding. “You think they’ll come?”

“I don’t know, I hope so. As much as they annoy me, I don’t want to see them dead. As far as we know we’re all that’s left.”

“I’ll walk you home, I still don’t trust the council or their supporters. I wouldn’t put it past them to try something.”

I’m touched by the gesture then a thought occurs to me.

“I hope no one expects me to be the leader. That’s not what this is about.”

“Tough crap, Bill. I’m pretty sure I speak for everyone when I say we’re following you over the bridge. Like it or not, you’re the one we’re all looking to, to save our bacon.”

Once again I have no idea what to say so I keep my mouth shut. The walk back to my cabin is punctuated by many nods and smiles from my fellow townsfolk. I stand in front of my cabin for probably the last time.

“I’ll stand guard while you get some rest, old friend.”

“Thanks Bernie, you’ve always looked out for me.” I clap him on the back before opening my door. I’m not thrilled about being in charge of the town’s exodus but at least we are finally doing something proactive. I turn around and see Bernie standing arrow straight and looking serious as a heart attack. It makes me uncomfortable knowing he thinks of me as a leader.

“I think I’ll just sit out the next apocalypse, Bernie, It’s all just too much work”.

Of Panties and Pirates

I’m over thinking it. I’m sure she has a perfectly good reason for hiding a gun in her room. I can’t ask her because she’ll want to know what I was doing pawing around in her underwear drawer. Oh hell. I swallow my courage and go for broke.

“Jessie, can I ask you something and you not get upset?”

“I’m sure you could ask me many things and I wouldn’t get upset.”

She’s kind of sexy when she pulls that crap.

“You know what I mean.”

“It’s a loaded question isn’t it?” she asks and shoots me a flirty smile. “If I say yes and the question genuinely pisses me off, I’m screwed.” She puts her hands on her hip and juts it out to the side as if to say go ahead and ask, if you dare.

“What are you doing with a gun?”

“What gun?”

I pull the snub-nose from the small of my back and show it to her. She looks miffed.

“I’m pretty sure that one was in my underwear drawer.”

“Yeah, I found it while stealing a pair of your panties.” I pull a black and purple thong from my back pocket and hold it up next to the gun. She reaches out and snatches the tiny garment from my grasp. I’m kind of shocked at her speed.

“I assure you these are much deadlier than that little pea shooter.” She lets the silky fabric slide down her long outstretched finger. “You can keep that if you like, not nearly as fun to sniff but handier in a fight.”

She chuckles a bit as she seductively twirls her underwear for a second then slowly unzips her shirt. She leans in for a kiss. Everything about her turns me on. She has the softest lips.

Captain Onus,” The damn pilot picks the worst possible time to interrupt. “Sensors have picked up a ship on intercept course.” Damn.

“Duty calls,” she says. She reaches over and hits the door button then steps aside so I can leave first. She makes a show of zipping up her shirt as I walk past. She smacks me on the ass as she passes me in the hall on the way to the bridge. Actually it’s more of a cockpit than bridge. It’s really no more than a bunch of controls and a couple seats in the front of her ship. I watch her climb into her chair. Her pants cling to her like second skin.

“What do we have?”

The ship to ship com answers her question. “Attention trader vessel. You are targeted. Power down and prepare to be boarded.

My stomach flips as visions of a gruesome death form in my head.

“Power down and lets get to the air lock,” says Jessie. “We don’t want to give them any reasons to attack. If we do what they want it will be over quick and no one gets hurt.”

“Are you serious?” I ask. “We’re just going to roll over and let them pirate us?”

“These are Gordon’s men. I’ve dealt with them before. They’re kind of like a big dog humping your leg. Annoying, but it’s best to let them finish.”

I don’t like it but it’s her ship. The three of us leave the bridge and head to the cargo area to await the boarding party. It takes about five minutes for the pirates to maneuver and dock and another two before the airlocks pressurize. The door swings open and two men spill onto the ship, guns ready.

“Hello lovelies. You know how this works. I stand here with this big gun pointed at your heads while Carl here, helps improve your fuel economy by lightening your load.”

“Good one, Earl,” Carl laughs. He’s probably heard that joke a hundred times before. He shoves his gun in his pants and gets to work stealing Jessie’s cargo. It’s slow going. My legs are getting tired from standing so I lean against the wall. The little snub-nose pokes me in my back. I mindlessly stuffed it in my pants after the intercom put an end to my extracurricular activities. If I screw this up we’re all dead. Maybe I should just forget it and-.

Halfway through my thought the lummox Carl drops a shipping container on his foot causing Earl to turn around and see what’s going on. I have the gun out before any semblance of rational thought can stop me. I fire a shot and hit Carl in the back of the head. Adrenaline gets in the way of my second shot which merely grazes Earl’s cheek.

Jessie seizes the opportunity to attack Earl. They’re locked in a deadly embrace. I don’t have clear shot. The melee ends and it’s an old fashioned stand off. I have my gun pointed at Earl and he has his arm around Jessie’s neck with his gun against her temple.

“God damn it, you killed Carl!” His eyes are wild and blood is streaming from the newly formed trench in his cheek, courtesy of my duffed shot. “Drop it or your girlfriend dies.”

I’m stuck. There’s no way out of it. I start to lower my gun knowing full well I’m a dead man. It’s been a good life; I only hope I buy Jessie enough time to do something once he takes his shot.

Jessie doesn’t like that plan. Instead she throws her head backward. Her skull collides with his nose. It’s a terrible sound. She spins around him and somehow manages to wrap something around his neck. It doesn’t take long for Earl to run out of air. She pushes him away as he slumps to the floor.

She looks over at me and shakes her head. She holds up her purple and black thong and shoots me another one of those flirty smiles.

“Told ya these are deadly.”


I would have made it out the door undetected were it not for the squeaky hinge. I should have waited another half hour for everyone to fall into a turkey-induced coma before trying to escape but my impatience got the better of me. The traitorous hinge blared a warning to the guards like in an old black and white jailbreak movie.

“Nicholas Bartholomew Grosspepper, get away from that door this instant!” My mother’s patience had been steadily shrinking all day. Now in the midst of post-Thanksgiving clean up, she was completely strung out. I could here her stomping her way toward me. Any second now and all three hundred pounds of her would turn the corner and catch me red handed. I desperately searched for a place to hide my bundle of stolen goods. In a flash of inspiration I grabbed my coat.

“Where do you think you are going?” She glared at me with her bloodshot eyes. “Well, don’t just stand there looking dumb, answer me.”

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Practice Session

Author’s note: Sorry I missed last week. It was a rough one. This week is an excerpt from my NaNoWriMo WIP. It has had minimal editing and is posted mostly unaltered from how I originally typed it in week one. I hope you enjoy.


“You need to understand that the fallen can disguise themselves as anyone,” said Levi. “That’s why you need to keep the amulet on. You won’t be able to read auras without it. It would be the easiest kill they ever made.”

Cara shuddered at the implication. All this time she had assumed her mother was just being overly protective of her little girl. Now she understood her instance of always wearing the dress and the amulet.

“Tell me a bit more about this dress, how come you don’t wear clothing like it? Or why doesn’t anyone else wear any magical clothing for that matter.”

“The guardians of the books, that is to say you, are like the knights of old. Think of your dress as holy armor.”

Cara looked stunned. “Some armor,” she said running her had along the impossible dip in her cleavage. Levi’s face blushed and he looked away.
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Ranger Six

This is an adaptation of a scene from my current NaNoWriMo project, In The Shadow of Magic. President Roosevelt is not actually in the novel, I just wanted to throw him in for fun. Good luck fellow WriMo’s.


“You were in fact not shot, and there were no bullet holes found in the barn,” the district attorney leaned in close to the witness and prepared to deliver his killing blow. “And you have the gall to testify, under oath, that Mr. Levi Holt is dead, by your hand, because he made a mistake?”

“No sir, that would be crazy,” said Jethro Stern. “He’s dead because he made two mistakes.”
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Nefertiti Express

Jacob took a long slow pull on his cigar before taking a sip of brandy. He stared out his office window at the giant steam engine outside. It hardly seemed possible that this would be its last run. He turned from the window as his business partner entered the office.

“I’ve some news you will undoubtedly find interesting,” His business partner grinned from ear to ear. “We may be able to keep the trains running after all.”

Jacob rubbed his temples as he turned back toward the window.

“I’ve run the numbers a hundred times, James, but the fact remains, with the war in full swing coal is simply too expensive.” Smoke and steam billowed from the Grey Ghost as it waited for its passengers to load. “She’s beautiful and it pains me greatly to see her fire extinguished forever. I’m sure there will be no shortage of buyers. Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if the army itself was interested in her. She’d get the boys deployed in short order.”

“Jacob, what would you say if I told you there may be a chance you could keep the Ghost and remain profitable? In fact you may even make a killing.” James chuckled at his own joke.
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Billy McGee’s Tall Tale

It’s a foggy night. I know, lame, right? I only mention it because it’s a particularly dense fog. The street I’m on has only two lights, adding to the ominous feeling that someone is behind me. There are no foot steps, but I hear a sort of odd breathing. A noisy breath in…pause…loud breath out, over and over. I decide to slow down. I want to know if whatever is behind me in the fog, is trying to catch me or stay well behind. The noisy breathing sounds get closer and closer.

Right about now, you’re wondering if this is the set up for the twist ending. Is the hunted really the hunter? Is this a red herring to throw you off the trail? Nah, it’s legit. I mean, I am a ritualistic killer. Except my victims are usually bottles of scotch. Sometimes, if I’m desperate to feel life slipping through my fingers, I may attack a bottle of vodka. There was one hedonistic night involving tequila, but it’s so gruesome I can’t bring myself to talk about it. Nope, it’s not me doing the hunting this night.
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Wizard’s Last Hope

I grasped my thumb and pulled. It separated at the knuckle with ease.

“Wow!” said Emily with eyes as big as saucers. “That’s brilliant! How’d you do that?”

“It’s simple, watch.” I turned my arm so my palm was facing her then bent my thumb back.

“Now, take your other hand and put your index finger over your other thumb like this. Now when you put them together it looks like a normal thumb. See.”

“You’re so good at tricks. Do you have another one?”

I reached into my pocket and pulled out my lucky coin.

“OK. Now you see it. Abra-ca-dabra! Now you don’t.” The coin disappeared from my hand.

“Bring it back now,” she said giggling.

“Right, let’s see. Abra-ca-dabra!” I flourished my hands and nothing happened. I feigned surprise. “Huh, where could it have gone? It should have worked, I don’t under….” I reached behind the young girl’s ear and pulled back my hand to reveal the coin.

“Amazing!” She clapped and bounced up and down. It was darling. “Can you show me more tricks Master Johan?”

“In due time little one, in due time. For now though what do you say we go and get something to eat and I’ll teach you how to make the cook’s food disappear.”

She pouted and crossed her arms in mock defiance.

“Please, I remember the rules. I won’t tell anyone the secrets, I promise. I’ll do extra chores. Please?”

“Alright fine, but I really am hungry and if we don’t get downstairs soon, Cook will toss out the leftovers, then we’ll both be starved,” I said with pretend anger. “I’ll show you in the kitchen.”

We started down the hall to the stairs when I heard a most terrible noise.

“Emily, go into my study and shut the door. Do it now and don’t open it for any reason. No matter what you hear don’t open the door. I’ll come get you when it’s safe.”

She stood there staring at me in shock and disbelief.

“Run, Now!” I waited until she was inside and the door was shut before running to the main foyer.

The Queen and her man-at-arms stood waiting. They were obviously concerned.

“Master Johan, where is Emily?” the Queen asked.

“In my study. I’m the only one who can open the doors without being reduced to a pile of basic elements.”

“Are you sure?” asked Martin. “I would have bet a year’s wage that the enemy couldn’t have gotten this far and now look. Is your magic what it was?”

“My magic may be in question, but I assure you the study is safe. The wards on that room were placed there centuries ago by the first wizards. In fact my queen, I recommend you adjourn there now yourself. Martin and I can handle things.”

Martin grunted his approval and began to lead our queen upstairs to my study. With the queen and princess safely locked inside Martin turned to me.

“Are you sure of this?”

“Quite. Once Callahan gets here we will surrender the castle to him. I have made arrangements for Emily to live.”

“What of the queen?”

“She will be publicly disgraced and executed as planned. And what of you, are you prepared?”

Martin’s look was one of grim determination.

“I am prepared to die in defense of my queen, if that’s what you mean.” Martin unsheathed his sword and placed it across his chest in salute. “Our families have served this house for two hundred years. I know what must be done. I know righteous vengeance must be felt in the blood of the royal line so we may once again wield the old magic our families once governed. It doesn’t mean I have to like it though. So yes my brother, I am ready to die tonight.”

I clasped Martin’s hand. It seemed an inadequate gesture but it was all we had. The banging began at the front gate.

“Here they come,” said Martin.

The front doors exploded open with the unnatural force of a fetid wind. It blew up the stairs and struck us as if it were a fist. The enemy’s first battalion flooded the hall and charged toward us. Heads exploded as I cast the first volley of spells. Martin charged the remaining horde. He dispatched several of the attackers before falling in battle.

“Enough!” Callahan’s voice bellowed from below. “The wizard lives.” He ogled the castle interior taking inventory as he approached.

“Open the doors wizard and you and the wee girl live. You have ten seconds.”

I had to play it close.

“It will take longer than that, Callahan. You’ve won. I should think a few more minutes wouldn’t kill you.”

I felt my skin part as Callahan’s knife sliced across my cheek.

“Shut your mouth!” He was mere inches from my face. His spittle pelted me as he talked through clenched teeth. “Open the door now or die where you stand. The queen dies out here or in there from starvation. I don’t care, but if you want the little girl to live you’ll open the door now!”

I opened the door to my study for the last time. The queen stood with Emily behind her.

“My queen, I have failed you. Emily will be safe. Callahan has agreed to let me take her in exile.”

“It’s good to show a conquered people some compassion,” said Callahan. “After all, they will soon see their queen hung, drawn and quartered.”

“Master Johan, you have done well. Protect her with your life.” The queen brought the princess from behind her dress and pushed her towards me. “I love you Emily”

“I’ll see you dead before I’m twenty.” Emily stared at Callahan as his smile slowly faded. Vengeance boiled deep within the girl’s blood. I could feel ancient magic awaken in me. Callahan screamed and threw himself at her. I grabbed her young arm and with a loud pop the two of us disappeared from the castle.

The Hunted

I run. The hounds are coming. I can hear them. Hunting. Their feet churn the ground. Nostrils flared to catch my scent. Baying, they come. Snarling, gnashing and blood thirsty, they come.

I flee. And yet they come. I’ve done no wrong. Panic. Why do they chase when all I want is to flee. I’ve done no wrong. Taken no babes. Tasted no blood and yet they come. They have no cause. They have their hate.

I hide. Burying myself underground. I smell the earth. Heady. It smothers me. Damp and oppressive. It shields me from them. Heavy, it envelops me. Gritty, pungent and elemental, it envelops me.

They hunt. I hear them now. Men on horses. Shouting. Their weapons sharp and ready. Ready to strike me dead. Stopped above me. Confused, focused and looking to the hounds for help, and still they come. They know to dig.

They find me. They pull me up. Hold me down. Celebrating. The hounds rip and tear at my flesh. They laugh. I scream. Weapons unsheathed. They look to one another for support. They find me; Weak.

I fight. Roar in primal rage. The price they pay for their hate. Destroyer! I rip the hounds apart. Clawing, I smell the blood. They know not what they have done. I care not what I’ve become. Continued existence my only thought. The men scream. They fall one by one by my feat. I feel their blood flow around my teeth. It’s done.

I run. Run in the night. I run for my life; run for theirs.

I Was A Teenage Romeo

Every year the eighth grade put on a play and every year the whole class looked forward to it. I mean this was the big time. Real theater. Dress rehearsals, after school practices, set design the whole shebang. I remember the auditions. I walked in full of confidence and left looking at my shoes. I thought I totally blew it. My voice cracked twice and I had to read from the script the entire time. I think it was the second longest night of my life. Our teacher posted the casting list on the bulletin board the next day and wouldn’t you know it, I was cast as the lead.

I still remember the first time I tried on my costume. I thought it made my breasts look huge. Which sucks if you’re a twelve year old boy. To make matters worse, Maryanne Kempler, the prettiest girl in class, announced she was moving to California. This was a particular kick in the pants as she was the Juliet to my Romeo.

I sat in the lunch room eating a burger looking at my tits and feeling sorry for myself when I felt a tap on my shoulder.

“Can I sit here?” Donna didn’t wait for me to answer before taking the seat next to me. She smelled like ranch dressing.

“I’m going to play Juliet. We should get together and practice sometime. How about recess?”

I had to make a conscious effort to close my mouth. When she smiled it caused her nose to wrinkle. She stood up and giggled her way back to her friends. I don’t remember much of those recesses. My memory is flashes of forgetting my lines and laughing way to hard about absolutely nothing. The only thing that still stands out is Donna.

We practiced our parts together at recess and dress rehearsals. For me it was, “bla, bla, bla, good night, good night, yadda, yadda, parting… sweet sorrow” then, much to my chagrin, the director would remind me specifically, that we weren’t actually going to kiss. Jerk.

I spent the afternoon before the play trying to stretch my costume so I didn’t look like a fully developed young lady and convincing myself that I really didn’t want to kiss Donna. It didn’t work.

Opening night finally was upon us. The air backstage was electric. We were all excited and nervous as hell at the same time. The boys punched each other and joked loudly while the girls studiously practiced their lines. I made clandestine efforts to flatten my boy boobies one more time. It didn’t work.

The curtain went up and we were on. It went OK. For me it was, “bla, bla, bla, good night, good night, yadda, yadda, parting… sweet sorrow” then, much to my amazement Donna kissed me. I tried to pretend it was nothing, like girls kissed me all the time. Against all odds, I was able to finish the play. I think that was the longest night of my life.

My father took a job out of state that summer. Donna and I tried to keep in touch, but time and distance were too much for our freshman love and we agreed to go our separate ways. For years I labored under the delusion that our paths would cross again. My senior year I kissed Tara Tucker under the bleachers. Then again in my car. Then again and again. Donna’s spell was finally broken and the wonderful world of dating was now open. I had plenty of time to find the love of my life. Maybe it wouldn’t be Tara, or Donna. There was even a weird time in college when I thought it might be Steve. But throughout it all one thing remains constant, I still love ranch dressing.