Friday, October 31, 2014

Dear Santa

Dear SAntA, 
for christmas i wish everyone else in my family had more brains. i'm really sick of my sister being so stupid. And mum and Dad are so mean sometimes.
yours,
Tommy.
PS i’m NOT little. if any one calls me LITTLE Tommy again you might not be able to bring me any presents. sorry. TB.

Tommy stared down at the sheet of paper with his tongue between his teeth and his brow wrinkled. That looked about right.
He folded it up, tucked it into the envelope, and sealed it. He pulled a face. Envelopes tasted ick.
Tommy bounced down the stairs to the kitchen and tugged on his mum’s sleeve. “Mum, Mum!”
“Tommy, why aren’t you in bed?” she said, without turning around.
“Mum, I need you to post this letter! You have to post it quick, it’s nearly Christmas and it has to get to Santa in time!” He waved the letter up at her.
She smiled and took it from him. “I’ll post it when I go to get your sister from Betty’s, okay?”
Tommy bounced on his toes. “Will it get there in time?”
She tousled his hair. “I think so.”
Tommy ran back to his room and flopped on his bed. He stared at the ceiling. Mum said she’d post the letter, but what if she forgot? What if she only said she would? It was Christmas tomorrow. There wasn’t much time.
He tossed and turned and eventually fell asleep.
***
Tommy blinked himself awake. He stared at his door for a minute, feeling dozy. Then he bolted upright. “It’s Christmas!”
He leapt out of bed, whipped on his bathrobe, and pounded down the hall. He bashed on Samantha’s door as he passed, grinning as he heard her yell. He took the stairs three at a time and bounded into the living room.
Presents! 
He pranced around the Christmas tree, snatching at the brightly wrapped gifts. The blue one was his, the one with the huge gold ribbon too, and the bike in the corner. “Come on!” he yelled. “Faster!”
His mother stumbled into the room, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. His father yawned and stretched before plopping down on the couch. “We’re here, kiddo,” he said. “Go ahead.”
Tommy pouted. “Sam isn’t here yet. Do I have to wait for her?”
“She’s coming, dear,” said Mum. “Just a moment.”
“Sam!” Tommy hollered. “Hurry up!”
She stomped into the room, eyes mostly closed, hair teased up like a fluffy halo. She collapsed onto the beanbag and folded her arms across her chest. “Shut up,” she told him. “I’m here.”
Tommy jumped for joy. “Presents!” He dove at the stack, pulling them out with both hands and tossing them to his family. 
Soon, everyone had a large pile in front of them, and the others had woken up enough to laugh and smile.
“What are these?” Tommy’s mother asked, holding up a strangely shaped package in green, the size of a football.
“I don’t know,” his father answered, “but I have one too.”
“We all do,” said Samantha, pointing at hers on the floor.
Tommy pouted. “I don’t.” He grabbed his sister’s and rattled it. “What’s inside?”
“I don’t know, who are they from?”
“Open them!” He bounced on the edge of Samantha’s beanbag, and she was too excited about her strange parcel to mind.
“On the count of three,” she said. “One, two...”
“THREE!” Tommy shouted, tearing at her wrapping.
She batted him away and he sprawled on the ground.
“Look!” She held it up. It was brownish grey, kind of squidgy. A ball? he wondered. Some sort of cushion?
The rest of the wrapping dropped away and he stared at it.
“It... it looks like a brain,” Samantha said, mouth twisted in disgust.
“I think it is,” said Dad, holding up his.
“Weird.”
Tommy poked the brain, wondering what it could do. The brain twitched. He gasped, and scrambled towards his parents to see if their brains had moved too.
Samantha screamed.
He whirled around. The brain was pressed against her face, thin tendrils grasping her head as she thrashed against it.
Tommy moved towards her but froze as another scream sounded behind him. 
“Mum! Dad!” he shouted.
But they were too busy to notice; the brains sucked squelchily at their faces. Mum shrieked and leapt to her feet. She ran forward, right into the Christmas tree. It toppled over, tangling her in the cord of lights and tinsel.
Dad stood, trying to follow her voice, hands waving in front of him. He bellowed as the brain gave an extra loud slurp, and tripped to the ground.
Tommy shrank back under the lip of the sofa, whimpering.
Samantha screamed again, tearing frantically at the brain. But it was no use; within minutes all three family members slumped motionless on the ground.
The brains slurped happily.

Tommy cried. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Happily Ever After

“I hate fairy tale endings!” Rose threw the child’s coloring book into the fire place designated for burning princess memorabilia. She stooped to pick up a sheet of stickers and waved them in her husband’s face. “Look at her! Look at her! Does that look like me at all? Do I have blond hair? What kind of Nordic whore do they think I am?”

She threw the stickers back into the fire and grabbed a torch from the sconce on the wall. “I. Am. Sick. Of. Happy. Endings.”

“What happy ending?” Gavin asked, relaxing back in his chair with a cop of coffee and a newspaper ten months out of date.

“The one we’re supposed to have! The one that left us here!” She let loose with a stream of invective she wouldn’t have dreamed of using a few centuries ago. Time had been a bad influence on her. “I want to die!”

She flopped into her ornate chair and stared at the banquet in front of them. The same banquet they’d been eating for the last four centuries, or was it five? She’d lost count somewhere along the line.

“You can’t die,” said Gavin in a mild tone. “Dying isn’t living happily ever after.”

“I hate happily ever after.”

“We haven’t happily ever aftered in quite some time.” He looked over his raised mug at her with a lifted eye brow.

Rose blushed. They’d been quite happy, for a few years. But there were no children in happily ever after. No visits to friends. No improvements on the castle. No wrinkles. No lines. No death.

“It wouldn’t have been bad if we’d aged. That’s what normal people do. They get wrinkles and they die and sob over each others graves.”

“Old age isn’t happily ever after either.” He flipped the page. “Oh, look, we missed another concert.”

She glared daggers at him. “Concerts aren’t happily ever after, dear,” she replied sarcastically. “Neither are cell phones, hot running water, or cars.”

Frustrated that she couldn’t get Gavin to fight with her, Rose stormed off to her room and started her letter writing campaign again. To every known book seller and movie maker she wrote the same plea: Kill Beauty at the end of the movie.

Wouldn’t it be dramatic and sweet if she died saving her beloved? Preferably before her beloved became that guy she couldn’t stand because they didn’t have anything in common but a stupid flower and some wishful thinking.

The only daughter of the widower school master was meant to be an old maid, dispensing charity and maybe entering a convent before she died. She was not meant to marry some forgotten prince of a kingdom no one had ever heard of. Deep in the bone, Rose knew it was the truth.

She looked out the window and the spiky vista of pine trees and mountains, and considered how many people she would willingly kill to go see a beach. Swimming! Beaches! Surfers! Visitors told her about such things, but no where in happily ever after did any author ever mention the second honey moon, or family vacations.

While she watched dark clouds rolling over the pass and young woman hiked into view carrying the now very familiar outline of a lap top case.

“Visitor!” Rose screamed, rushing downstairs to wait for the inevitable knock. “Gavin! Get dressed! We have a visitor!”

“You never used to complain about me going naked before,” he grumbled.

“That’s because you were covered in fur,” she snapped back. Rose sighed in exasperation. “You aren’t answering the door like that.”

“I hate codpieces, they pinch!” he whined.

“Do I look like I care what they pinch?” And she let the joke die there, pursuing it any further would start another castle burning fight. It wasn’t really Gavin’s fault. He’d been deeply in lust when they met, not love, and princes as a rule just weren’t genetically programmed to be monogamous. Was it any wonder he’d gotten bored with her? Or her with his… “No more jokes,” she told herself.

The inevitable knock came.

Rose threw open the door to show the slightly surprised looking young lady. Maybe not so young, there was a definite pudginess around the midline and confidence in the smile that suggested the girl wasn’t still in the first bloom of youth.

“Welcome to our castle,” Rose said with a painfully sweet smile.

The lady smiled back. “What a fabulous costume! That must have taken days to make. But why pink, did they have pink in the fourteenth century?”

Rose looked down at her rose-pink gown and lied. “It was red, but the dye faded.”

“Well, I guess that makes it realistic!” the girl beamed at her. “Hey, I hate to beg and all, but can I borrow your phone? My car broke down coming over the pass, I coasted as far as I could, but no dice. I just need to call a repair truck and maybe a cab, since this thing’s a rental.”

“We don’t have a phone here,” Rose said. “And our cell phone reception-“

“- sucks, I know.” The girl sighed and looked back at the long drive. “I know this sounds psycho, but could you drive me somewhere? I just need to get over to the next town. I’ve got a map,” she said as she started to rummage through her bag.

“We don’t have a car,” Rose said, her teeth gritting together. Did vampires have it this hard? If she ever met one, she’d be sure to ask how they lured unwary travelers inside. “Won’t you come in?” she tried.

“You don’t have a car?” the girl asked as she stepped through the door, not noticing as Rose slammed it shut.

“The car’s in town at the moment,” Gavin lied smoothly as he walked out of the breakfast room wearing the perfectly tailored blue coat he’d worn the first day he’d been human again. Rose liked the coat. It brought back found memories of a time when she didn’t know what happily ever after meant.

“Okay. Um, well, do you guys mind if I hang out here? I can pay admission if you take credit card.”

Rose looked to Gavin for help.

“No need to pay! Usually groups book the castle for exotic vacations, but this us our down season.”

“And the boss won’t let you wear jeans? Geez, what a curmudgeon.”

“Indeed…” Gavin fumbled then picked up his lines again. “And what is your name?”

“Em, actually, Emina, but everyone calls me Em.” She dropped her lap top bag and looked around. “This is a gorgeous place, just like a fairy tale castle, you know?”

“We try,” Rose said. She left out the bit that they were trying to forget, but, you know, to each his own. “Where are you from, Em?”

“Hmm, oh, America.” She blushed. “The accent gives me away, doesn’t it? I know some German but it comes out like that… this…” she said, switching languages and mangling the German terribly. “I speak much poor.”

“Thankfully, we speak English just fine,” Gavin said wryly.

“Come in,” Rose insisted. “You can stay here until the car gets back.”

The girl smiled. “That’s so kind of you. I hate to impose. Just shove me in a corner, I can write.”

“You’re a writer?” Rose nearly squealed with delight. “Really? You write books?”

“Um, yes? Is… is that wrong?” The girl looked around to Gavin in confusion.

Gavin shook his head. “No. We like writers.” He smiled, showing his teeth, but the girl didn’t pick up the threat. “What do you write?”

“Horror. And some urban fantasy.”

Rose considered that. Well, it wasn’t perfect, but hopefully she’d finally get to die.

It took two years for the book to get published. Rose loved the red rose dripping blood on the black cover. She flipped through, and laughed at the dialog on page two fifty one. She sauntered down to the dungeon, kicking aside the remains of some forgotten bride who had rented the castle back in the forties.

“Are you down here, Em?”

“Yes.”

Rose heard the little writer whimper. “I’ve been reading the book.”

“And?” Em scuttled to the back of her dungeon cell.

With a wicked smile Rose flipped open the book to the offending page and read, “Help me! The crazy princess has me chained in the basement! Somebody rescue me! I’m off of route seven! In the big castle! Bring guns!” Rose tsked. “You aren’t chained, dear. I would never chain you. And you can’t complain about the food.”

“Wedding cake for two years?” Em snarled. “I hate wedding cake!”

“Try eating it for a few centuries!”

Up the stairs she heard the wooden door shatter. Commandos dressed in black stormed down the stairs.

“No!” Rose shrieked. “No! Em, stop it! Change the book! You don’t want this kind of happily ever after! Save yourself!”

Gun fire felled the demon princess.


Em smirked and pulled a hidden chapter from under her straw mat. A ruggedly handsome hero stepped in to take her away. “Cross-genre epilogue, B****, the author always wins.” 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Desperate Measures

As always, Katrina gazed in awe at the rows of white dresses that lined the walls, some sparkling, some shimmering – all beautiful. She gripped her mother’s arm and squealed. “That’s it, that’s my dress right there!” She pointed toward a mannequin at the back of the store.
      Her mother smiled. “Come on.”
      The sales assistants, in their crisp black suits and white cotton gloves, were all busy with other customers, and a young blonde girl smiled apologetically. “I’m sorry ma’am, we’ll be with you in a moment.”
      Katrina didn’t mind. She adored bridal stores – could spend hours in them, literally. Ever since she’d been a bridesmaid for Tanya two years ago, she’d been addicted. 
She leaned against the counter. Honestly, the way some of those dresses glittered – especially that puffy-skirted one on the mannequin – well, she wouldn’t find it hard to believe they were alive. 
      A flicker caught her eye, and she looked down towards the mirrors at the back of the store. A thirty-something woman with dark, glossy hair posed, primping the veil in her hair. The sales assistant stooped behind her, adjusting the train and hemline. 
      Katrina smiled again. The snug fitting bodice showed off the woman’s curves perfectly, and the golden ivory of the satin made her tanned skin glow. 
      And the crystalling down the back… Katrina sighed wistfully. Her parents weren’t exactly oozing cash, and she and her fiancĂ© lived the frugal life of students. Her dress was pretty – but it was plain.
      The woman in front of the mirrors turned, flicking the train of the dress out behind her. The crystal beading caught the light, writhing like some fantastical snake around the hem and stirring envy in Katrina’s breast. 
      “Katrina?”
      She turned back to the counter. A dark-haired, stern-faced assistant arched an eyebrow and peered over her glasses.
      Katrina nodded. “Yes, that’s me.” She swallowed, suddenly nervous. 
      “And you’re here to pick up…” The assistant glanced down at the open book on the table. “A Glamorique gown and veil?”
      Katrina nodded again, throat dry. 
The assistant gave a curt jerk of her chin. “I presume you wish to try it on? When was the wedding, again?”
       “Er, tomorrow.”
      The woman’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.
      “Yes, there, er, there were some issues.”
      “I see.” The assistant stared.
      Katrina shuffled. “Um, I’d like to try it on?”
      “I’ll go fetch it, then.” One more glance at the book, then she disappeared into the back room.
      Her mother squeezed Katrina’s arm. “It’ll be okay,” she said. “This time it will be fine.”
      Katrina nodded, hoping she was right.
      She should be right. There was no reason for her not to be. 
      But there had been no reason for her to be wrong last week, either. Or the week before that.
      Katrina’s stomach twisted, and she wished the friendly sales assistant would appear. She’d been so kind last week when Katrina had opened the zip-up bag, only to find they’d sent the wrong one.
      And she’d been wonderful the week before that when the gown had been the right style, but so tiny Katrina couldn’t even get it over her shoulders.
      The sales assistant emerged from the back room, arms overflowing with a white plastic zip-up bag. She strode off towards the change rooms.
      “Off you go,” said Mum in a low voice. “Here, I’ll take your bag.”
      Katrina passed over her handbag and sunglasses, and took a deep breath. “I hope it’s okay this time.”
      “It will be,” said Mum. “It’ll be fine.”
      Katrina squared her shoulders, and marched after the assistant. 
      As she entered the change room, a movement caught her eye. She looked at the mirrors that covered the back wall. They showed nothing out of the ordinary – just a perfect reflection of the empty story.
      That was odd… Katrina creased her brow. When had that dark haired woman left? 
      But the sales assistant had lifted the dress up and stared at her impatiently. Katrina jerked the curtain shut, shrugged out of her cotton day-dress and held up her arms.
      You’d think after so many fittings I’d have ceased to feel vulnerable, she thought, standing with her arms above her head in nothing but a strapless bra and knickers. Apparently not. She shivered, even though the store was warm, and was glad when the satin dropped over her shoulders. 
      Over her shoulders, over her hips… It kept dropping, dropping, until at last it stopped, hovering around her upper thighs.
      Katrina looked down at the dress, then up at the sales assistant, stomach sinking.
      “Um, that’s not supposed to happen, is it?” The dress was supposed to be figure hugging. And in order for it to hug her waist, there was no way it ought to be able to fall down over her hips like that.
      The sales assistant pursed her lips and took hold of the back of the dress. “Let’s do it up first,” she said.
She lifted the dress up so it covered Katrina’s torso, and Katrina hugged it to hold it up. She heard the zipper screaming up its track – but the dress didn’t seem to be getting any tighter. 
      “Hmm.”
      Katrina’s pulse quickened. “What?”
      The assistant’s fingers scrabbled at the inside of the dress. “What size did you say you ordered?”
      “Twelve,” Katrina said, lifting her arms up, holding them away from the dress to keep the sweat off the precious satin. “Why?”
      “Hmm.”
      “What?”
      “The label says fourteen. I’m terribly sorry.”
      Katrina took a deep breath. I am not going to cry. I’m not. She glanced up at her reflection in the tiny plate-sized mirror that hung in the change room. Not going to smash mirrors, either. She exhaled. “Ok. What can I do?”
“You said the wedding is tomorrow?”
      She nodded.
      “Then I’m afraid there’s not much we can do. If you’d come earlier in the day” – Katrina felt like smacking her for that accusatory tone – “then we could have had a seamstress work at it all day to take it in. But now…” She shrugged. 
      Katrina clenched her jaw, fighting tears and the urge to tear the stupid dress right down the seams. 
      “Although…” The sales woman tilted her head.
      Katrina’s heart leaped at the speculative tone. “What, what is it?”
      She hesitated, chewing on her lip. 
      Katrina blinked in surprise. The women who worked in bridal stores were always so professional, so snooty, so perfect. Chewing lower lips seemed right out of character – and it worried her. 
      “Katrina? How’s it going?”
      Her mother’s concerned voice brought her back to earth with a crash. The wedding was tomorrow. She didn’t care what the sales assistant was feeling; if she could help somehow, anyhow, she was willing to hear it. “Um, can’t quite tell yet, Mum. I’ll be out in a minute!” Katrina turned to the sales woman. “Can you do anything or not?” She placed a hand on her hip and tried to project assertiveness. 
      “I… Well, yes,” said the assistant. “But it’s not exactly something we would recommend to anyone, and, in fact, we usually don’t like to think about it at all, but since your situation is so desperate, maybe it’s worth a try.”
      Katrina frowned. Babbling was even less consistent with her mental image of bridal shop assistants. What on earth was going on? Katrina exhaled forcefully. “Look, if it’s going to make this dress miraculously fit me between now and one o’clock tomorrow afternoon, I’m willing to try it. Whatever ‘it’ is.”
      The woman’s face tightened and she gave a curt nod. “We’ll go out then. But it might… take a while. You…” She swallowed, and Katrina’s stomach clenched. “You’d probably better ask your mother to leave. They don’t like… extras.”
      Extras? Now Katrina was beyond confused. “You want me to tell my mother, who has practically organised this wedding single-handedly, who hasn’t slept in the last three days, who is just as stressed about this dress as I am, to go away?” She raised an eyebrow. 
      The sales woman nodded. “Please trust me. It’s much safer that way.”
      Safer? This was starting to sound crazy. 
      Maybe it was. Maybe she should just duck down to the formal wear shop tomorrow morning and purchase the first dress that was white and fitted. Maybe-
      “Katrina? Are you quite sure everything’s fine?”
      She took a deep breath. “Uh, Mum?”
      Footsteps, and then the curtain wavered. “Yes, dear?” she said from right outside.
      “Well, it’s not a big deal, it’s just minor, they just need to do a slight refit. But it’s going to take a while.”
      “But we need to pick the flowers up before five!”
      “I know. You go on. I’ll stay here with the dress. It’ll be fine.”
      “Okay. Message me when you’re done and I’ll come pick you up, okay?”
      “Sure Mum, thanks.”
      “Here’s your bag.”
      Katrina took it and dropped it in a corner of the change room. “Thanks. Bye.”
      “Bye.”
      She waited until she heard the bell that hung over the front door of the shop ring, then turned to the sales assistant. “Well? I hope whatever you have in mind is worth it.”
      The assistant nodded and smiled. “Definitely.”
      Katrina felt she’d have believed the woman if her face hadn’t been so pale.
      The woman swiped back the curtain. “Go hop up on the step.”
      Katrina gathered up the skirt in her finger tips and tiptoed towards the raised step that took pride of place in front of the mirrors.
      The carpet felt pleasantly scratchy under her feet, and she rubbed her toes against the edge of the step before stepping onto it. She released the skirt and it draped to the floor, the hem a bare centimetre off the carpet. Behind, the assistant fussed over the train, straightening and tidying and brushing of stray bits of fluff.
      Why bother? Thought Katrina, struck by melancholy now that she could see her reflection. She held her arms out. The dress dropped, revealing a good inch of bra. She’s never going to be able to take this in enough overnight.
      The assistant took her time fussing, and Katrina grew distracted. The sky outside had dimmed – probably another storm, and she hoped fervently once again that the weather would stay fine tomorrow – and the lights around the mirrors seemed to yellow. The dresses on the racks and mannequins glittered and sparkled and for a moment Katrina was sure that they moved... Surely they couldn’t sparkle like that by themselves.
      With half closed eyes, Katrina looked back at her reflection and tilted her head. Hm. The dress didn’t look so bad. She smiled dreamily at the shimmering satin. Okay, so it didn’t have crystal beading, and it was devoid of lace or sequins or decoration of any sort… But it was beautiful in its simplicity. 
      The woman came up beside Katrina, a strange look on her face. “Keep quiet,” she said. “They’re coming.”
      The tight, haunted look in her eyes spoke to Katrina’s subconscious and her responded with her voice low and urgent. “What’s happening?”
      “They’re coming,” the woman said again. 
      “Who?”
      The sky outside darkened and thunder rumbled. The building trembled, the motion setting the dresses on the racks dancing. The sparkles and glitterings went wild with the movement, and the mirror bloomed with white and gold fireworks. 
      Katrina blinked, trying to clear the blinding lights from her eyes. 
      “They’re here.”
      The woman voice was hoarse, and Katrina turned. She strained, trying to see the woman past the afterimages burned in her vision. Through the flashes she thought she saw fear, raw and open, on the woman’s face. 
      The spots faded, and Katrina looked more closely - but the woman’s face seemed calm.
      “Who are here?” Katrina demanded.
      The woman’s eyes gleamed and she gave a slow, dangerous smile. “We are.”
      Adrenalin shot through Katrina’s body. The woman’s voice was no longer a tense soprano. Instead, it was rich and deep – and had a strange, echoing quality.
      She swallowed. “Um, we?”
      “Yes.”
      The echoes behind the voice sent shivers up and down Katrina’s spine, and she turned back to the mirror to avoid the woman’s intense gaze. 
      The woman shifted, and in the mirror it looked for a moment like she had numerous limbs, like there was more than a single person occupying her space. “What is it you want?”
      Before Katrina could answer, thunder cracked again. The dresses on the racks shuddered and in the mirror – Katrina gulped – the beading that snaked around the hem of the dress on the nearest mannequin was actually snaking.
      “I will ask you again.” The woman stepped up nose-to-nose with Katrina. “What is it that you desire?”
      “I… I…” Surely her eyes couldn’t be shimmering?
      “Oh come now,” said the woman. “You must want something. Beads, perhaps?” She touched a finger to the sideseam of the gown, beads sprouting and spreading down Katrina’s hip. 
      Katrina gasped.
      “No?” The woman arched an eyebrow. “Crystals perhaps?” she said, drawing her fingers over the neckline of the strapless dress. A few tiny crystals sprang into being, and she tilted her head. “More, maybe?” She rubbed her hand across the bodice, caressing the curve of Katrina’s breasts. 
      Katrina’s heart hammered and she jerked away. The woman pressed harder and despite her fear, Katrina’s body rippled in response. Soon the fabric was encrusted in crystals, but still the woman drew her hand back and forth across Katrina’s breasts.
      Katrina moaned softly, feeling the tingles stretch down between her legs. 
      The woman glanced up, lips quirking at the corners. “No?” she said. “Then what?”
      Katrina panted, chest heaving, legs tingling. “I… I just… I just want it to fit.”
      “Want what to fit?” she said.
      “The… the dress. I want it tighter.” Her heart hammered harder ‘til she thought it might break through her breastbone. 
      The woman pressed her fingertips down and Katrina moaned again. “Tighter I can do.” She placed her hands around Katrina’s waist and the fabric of the dress writhed under her palms, shrinking and tightening. 
      The satin caressed Katrina’s skin and she shuddered. Even through the fear, it felt good. She drew in a breath, trying to calm herself. As she exhaled, the bodice closed around her ribs, her breasts, her waist and hips… She tried to breathe in again. “Tight.”
      The woman laughed and held her tighter. “Oh, you are a precious one.”
      “No,” she gasped. “Too tight.”
      She flinched as the woman reached up to brush her cheek. “Never too tight, my pretty one.”
      The dresses in the mirror danced to the thunder, shimmering, flashing, glittering. The woman stooped and ran a finger around the hem of the gown, beads slithering out behind her fingers. They spread, unfurling like a vine, climbing, creeping, trailing, up and up towards Katrina’s hips, around her waist, over the rise of her breasts, and onwards.
      Katrina squeaked, batting them down. But the beads, free of the dress, continued their upwards climb, twining themselves through her hair, wrapping around her neck. She screamed. “Stop! Stop, make it stop!”
      The woman laughed. “Oh, I will my dear. When your dress is tight enough.” She placed her hands around Katrina’s waist again.
      “It is,” Katrina choked out, tears streaming down her cheeks. “It is! Please, please stop!”
      The woman leaned over Katrina’s shoulder and caught her eye in the mirror. “Never too tight, remember? You asked for tight. Tight it is.” 
      “I’m sorry!” Katrina cried, slapping at the beads that now crawled up her face, over her nose and into her ears. “I’m sorry, just make it stop!”
      The woman laughed, a deep velvety sound. “That, my dear, is what you get for approaching the spirit of the bridal store.” She stepped back and clapped her hands.
      The beads crawled faster, reaching up Katrina’s nose. She opened her mouth to scream, but the beads drowned her out. She sucked in a last gasp of air, clawing frantically at her throat as she inhaled the beads, choking, coughing, falling to the floor as they suffocated her...

      And the woman stood over her, and laughed. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Edge of Time

“Children!” Heather snapped. “Do not put holes in the fabric of time!”

IT ISN’T A PROBLEM The landlord said in leaden tones.

She gave him a dark look.

He coughed and ran a hand through his curly ginger hair. “Sorry.”

“You need to get a new hobby. Imitating Terry Pratchett’s Death character doesn’t suit you.” Heather reached down to scoop up her youngest. “Look, the roaches, when will you have that resolved?”

“Next week at the latest,” he answered promptly.

She’d heard that one before. “Who’s latest? Yours or ours?”

Something in her look hinted that she wasn’t going to play games, or maybe he finally decided to grow up. “Yours. Definitely yours.”

“Good.” The house wasn’t what she’d expected, but it worked. After the funeral she needed somewhere to go. Some place away from the city and well meaning friends who asked inconvenient questions. Away from her husbands co-workers who dropped by to say hi, and then dropped hints about beautiful women and being alone.

On the Internet site the house had looked like a good deal, big yard, a commute that wasn’t to far, scenic views. Although she really shouldn’t have thought a view of 1795 was a typo come to think of it.

Elsa reached her hand through the window trying to grab the coattail of George III.

“No, Elsa, do not play with time.” She looked around for her dead husband. “Justin?”

He floated down through the ceiling. “Yes, dear?”

“Who’s cooking dinner tonight?”

“I can.” His kiss on her cheek was a cold breeze. Elsa hopped into his arms. “I fixed the upstairs windows, we shouldn’t have any more Templar knights falling in.”

Heather blushed. “It wouldn’t have been so bad if he didn’t walk in on me doing yoga. I was in a twisting pose and I think he thought I was dead.”

“And a ghostly husband probably didn’t fix matters.” He paused, staring behind her. “You better go find your son.”

“My son?” Heather gave him the LOOK.

“Your son is presently in 2112.”

“Oh mercy! Not again. Remind me to call the landlord tomorrow. He advertised a timeless classic, not a time machine!”

That night, washing electric colors out of her son’s hair, Heather had an idea.

She climbed into bed next Justin. “Sweetie, you know how I said I wanted to go back to work?”

Justin closed the universe he was currently building and nodded. “Yes?”


“Well, maybe we could open a bed and breakfast…”

Friday, October 3, 2014

Adam, Be A Star

Adam, stardom is just a click away.
Adam stared at the computer screen, fingers trembling on the touchpad. Should he do it? He stroked the enter key. Louise had sent the link to him, recommended it even. But now that it came down to it, could he actually bring himself to accept?
He leaned back in his chair and screwed up his face. Being a star would solve a lot of problems, that was certain. Louise had only been a star for a week, and look at her: married to that famous singer, wealth pouring out her ears, fantastic mansion in the tropics – and of course, every night, she joined the Heavenly Host in their trek across the night sky.
Brilliant.
She hadn’t stopped smiling since.
And now, here, right in front of him, was an opportunity to do the same. He’d received one of the very precious, very limited invitations to stardom. And he was going to accept it.
Of course he was.
He hit enter, grinned broadly and stretched in satisfaction. The computer screen flashed silver then black as it processed his application. Stars began to dot the screen and within seconds the view zoomed through the universe, finding a place for Adam, the newest star.
He sighed and pushed his chair back to go grab a drink while the system found a place for him.

#

He’d have screamed, if he could – but in the daytime, no one would believe him and in the night time, no one could hear him as he circled the Earth thousands of light years away.
The computer virus had sucked him right into the machine, digitally editing his exterior before hurling him out into space, then creating a holographic substitute for him on earth. 
And then it had sent the email.

Every now and then Adam bumped into someone else who, like him, had become a star. He had to admit, the glow was lovely. But he’d have preferred it if there was altogether less glow and rather more conversation.
Another flare; another human shunted into space in a ball of flaming gases. The sky around him blazed. There couldn’t be many left to go.

#

Frank frowned as he peered at the computer screen. He leaned over to cross check what he saw in his high-powered, completely-legal telescope and frowned again. There were definitely more stars showing up in the online starmap than there should be.
He grabbed his phone and dialled. “Hi, Ben? Have you been messing about with the system again? I told you to leave it alo—“ He cut off at Ben’s earnest assurances that he hadn’t logged in since last week. “Yeah, yeah. Just make sure you don’t touch it anymore, okay? ...No, there’s nothing wrong. Go back to sleep.” 
He dropped the phone back on the desk, still staring at the screen. If Ben hadn’t been messing around, who had? 
Frank zoomed in. Louise Fischer? What kind of name was that for a star? And Steven Brayburn? Seriously? It was like whoever had hacked the starmap was trying to make it obvious or something. 
A word registered in his subconscious, but before he had time to figure out what it was, an email notification popped up. 
Adam. Hmm, was that the word he’d just seen? Absently, he scrolled across the starfield while the email loaded. Ah, there, just above star Louise on the screen: star Adam Litchfield. Frank grinned. Sneaky bugger. The email was probably him gloating.
Frank switched over to read the email. “Frank, be a star!” he said, reading the subject heading. “Oh, sure, Adam. I’d love to be a star. Nice one.”
He opened the email, found the link. Still grinning, Frank clicked.

#


The virus would have smiled, if viruses could. In fact, it probably would have licked its pointed fangs if it had had them. As it was, it had to settle for a quick zip up and down the nearest circuit. Very soon, those pesky humans would be off its planet for good, and all would be right in the world. It waited until Frank had been processed, then sent the next batch of emails from his account.