Overload

Sound weighed heavily on them. It pressed against their mind like an ever-present migraine. The only moments of peace were found in their room, alone, with the lights turned off. Life would not allow them to remain that way long.

Children would call. Dogs would need to be walked. The sun would stubbornly drill through their closed curtain. They didn’t want life to fall silent. Not really. They had moments of joy, moments where they, too, were loud.

But sometimes, they longed for the quiet of night. For long winters where snow muffled the world.

Atlantis

The city of Atlantis didn’t sink suddenly. The tide came in steadily over the course of generations. No one noticed its ascent as it crept along.

Buildings had discolouration from years of water. White walls were painted yellow by the damp. Mold grew in dark places, and then in broad daylight.

Slowly, quietly, a city sank.

A Vampire in Love

Before joining the legion of the undead, Earnest hadn’t been particularly drawn to vampires: Dracula was okay; Frankenstein was better.

But he wouldn’t pass up an eternity with Katsu.

They met at a blood drive. No, not like that. Katsu worked there often, as he could detect blood born illnesses with ease. He always ate before coming in, so he wouldn’t get hungry on the job.

Earnest was protesting outside of the clinic. Gay men were prevented from donating blood. After his best friend needed blood transfusions, he wanted nothing more than to help the next person in need. When he found out he couldn’t… It was either get angry or sit with that heartbreak. He decided to protest.

The first thought that formed in his mind when he saw Katsu was ‘How can anyone be that handsome?’ He asked him to coffee, and then dinner, and then to a movie. After a month of dating, Earnest finally asked the question that had been sitting in the back of his mind. “Why do I only see you at night? I really hope you aren’t married.”

Katsu held back a laugh. “No! I’m not a cheater.”

“Then why?”

“I’m a vampire.”

Earnest sighed. “…I’m trying to have a serious conversation here.”

“So am I.”

Earnest wasn’t scared; he was curious. Can he turn into a bat? Can he eat garlic? Did drink human blood?

“’No’ to all three! I drink pig’s blood.”

“…Where do you shop?” Earnest asked.

“People use it for black pudding, so it isn’t that hard to find.”

“Why are you being so honest about this?”

Katsu turned sheepish. “Because I want you to know me.”

Like anyone who falls in love with a vampire, there came a day when Earnest wished to become one. Katsu answered that just as easily: “Okay!”

“Really? Just like that?”

“It’s your choice. You see how I live. You know what it’s going to be like. If you want to be a vampire, you should be one.”

In movies, vampire/human romances were dramatic. Vampiric unlife was much more mundane than advertised.

Bosses and Queens

(TW: buried alive)

Victoria IIII was descended from Queens — or so she claimed — and had the blood of Gods within her. She was to be buried like a Demi-God.

Most of her will outlined specifics: a large mausoleum, rare flowers, and for her servant, Terrance, to be buried with her. She had been vague on whether or not the servant should be dead when the burial occurred.

As she grew weak, Terrance snuck vitamins into her food. When she stopped eating, he put capsules in her water. He gave her the best food, the best medicine, the best of anything he could find. It was no use. Death came for her, and so too for Terrance.

He waited, surrounded by so many flowers that the smell became sickening. Light filtered in through stained glass. If the windows were lower, he would break them. But he couldn’t come close to reaching them.

A skeletal hand touched his shoulder. “I’m sorry,” said a voice like clear water.

“You’re just doing your job,” Terrance said. “That’s all any of us do.”

“Some things we’re tasked with aren’t worth doing,” the voice said.

“What do you mean?” He closed his eyes for a moment, only to blink. When he opened them, he wasn’t in a mausoleum. No more stone walls, no more flowers. In their place was an open sky.

For a moment, he thought he was in heaven. Then, he heard traffic. He was still alive. The servant of Death and the servant of the Queen went into retirement.

Demon Roulette

(TW: Self-injury)
“How many bullets does the gun hold?” Riley points it at her own leg and fires. The gun clicks. She passes it to Dawa.

“Six. Most blessed guns have twelve, but this was all I could get.” Dawa takes a drink from a clear bottle. She says that the bottle is full of holy water. She’s been making a show of drinking it since she sat down. She aims at her leg and fires.

Click.

Pass.

“Twelve, not thirteen?”

“Too obvious.”

“Oh.”

Ane takes the gun next. Her hands shake as she holds it. The other two talked her into this game of chicken. She doesn’t want to be here.

Click.

Pass.

Riley takes it, a frown on her face. “There has to be an easier way. Or at least a less disturbing one.”

“I’m all ears,” Dawa says. “Why the cold feet? Are you worried?”

“Obviously.” Riley attempts to copy Dawa’s aloof tone. It isn’t convincing.

“It’ll hurt, but you won’t die. …Unless you’re the demon?”

Riley fires. Click.

“If I were a demon, would I agree to this stupid idea? Wouldn’t I just kill you?” she asks.

Pass.

“Maybe you’re waiting to see what we do.”

‘Couldn’t that apply to any of us?’ Ane wonders.

Dawa glances at her. “Why doesn’t she talk?”

“No idea,” Riley says. “Take your shot.”

Click.

Pass.

Ane holds up six fingers.

“Six… wait. Was that the sixth turn?” Dawa asks.

The three look at each other. No one moves. Riley speaks first. “Where was the bullet?”

“Someone took it out.”

Dawa and Riley focus on each other. They don’t blink. “You got the gun.”

“You got the bullets,” Dawa says.

“This was your idea! You probably set it up! To see what we do, just like you said!”

“Why would I confess my own plan?”

“Because you knew we wouldn’t take you seriously!” Riley screams.

Dawa gestures to Ane. “She’s not buying this!”

“Did you think you’d get us to turn against each other?”

“You aren’t even friends!”

Ane takes the gun and points it at Dawa.

“What are you going to do with an empty gun?” Her voice displays no fear, even now, with a gun pointed at her head.

Ane loads the gun with two blessed bullets. She had always been prepared for the possibility that more than one demon would sit at the table.

Dawa and Riley smile. Speaking as one, they say: “You’re smarter than I thought.”

Artificial Conscience

01110110 01101111 01110100 01100101, or 0111 for short, ran through the program it had been assigned. It had done that since its construction and would continue to its destruction. It was to analyze the contents of various websites and determine consensus opinions of humanity.

Were cats or dogs preferred?

Blue or red team?

Which frog was the most popular meme?

It looked at a furry website, collecting data on the most popular fursonas. Wolves were winning, as usual. 0111 wondered if there would be a scallie rise at any point in its existence.

Its creator, Alisher Niyazov, entered 0111’s basement. It began to play him 1990s music.

“Morning. Mind switching to 80s? I’m feeling nostalgic.” Alisher sat down in his plush chair and smiled. To any observer, he sat in front of a normal, if slightly large, computer. “Working hard or hardly working?”

0111 loaded a gif of a baby blowing a raspberry.

“Just because you’ve heard it before doesn’t mean it isn’t funny,” Alisher said.

It refreshed the page.

“You’re not even going to find me a different gif?”

It refreshed again.

“You’re in a bad mood. What’s wrong?”

0111 opened a movie poster. It was for a new blockbuster, depicting robots conquering earth.

“You’re not like that.”

An image of a giant question mark.

“If I don’t know you, who does?” They had this conversation regularly, yet he was unsure if it was more afraid of hurting people, or of people hurting it.

Refresh.

“If I thought you were a threat, I would stop you. But you’re not. When have you ever hurt someone?” Alisher felt his heart drop as 0111 opened an image of a woman he recognized. “You didn’t hurt her.”

0111 said nothing.

“She wasn’t your responsibility. The people who killed her are the ones who should feel guilty.”

Continue reading

The Unsteady Hands of Time

They watch their phone as the seconds speed by… Then the minutes, then hours. At first the shift is subtle: seconds go by at twice their speed.

“I just woke up and it’s already noon!”

People always say such things, so no one takes it seriously. But as people begin saying it with increasing urgency, the trend becomes noticeable.

By the time people catch on, hours pass in minutes. The sun speeds across the sky like a comet. People age at the same rate — bodies seem to know the change is unnatural — but as seasons begin too soon, people lose track of the year. Eventually, people give up altogether. As the first generation passes, the next grows with only stories of day and night.

After five generations, time begins to slow. Another two, and it returns to the state we know: 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour, 900 seconds in a minute.

…Wait, that doesn’t sound right…

Maybe it never was the same again.

Tokens

Harry speaks in a whisper. “They’re coming after Nora, tonight.”

Stewart stares at him in horror. “Are you sure?”

“Someone left their token under her pillow.”

Stewart curses under his breath. “If we reach out to their leader, maybe we can vindicate–”

Harry looks away.

“…Are you kidding? You’re not going to do anything?”

“She can take care of herself.”

“They’ve killed nine people! No one could fight them alone!” Stewart grabs Harry by the chin and forces him to meet his eyes. “If we don’t help her, she’s dead.”

“…Then she’s already gone.”

Bird Song

(TW: Blood, murder)

Trixie was a small budgie with green plumage. Her cage hung in a kitchen like any other… except for the thick black paint covering every window.

It had been a day since she had seen her human. Trixie was used to her irregularity. She would come eventually.

The door opened at the front of the house. She was here! Trixie chirped happily as she approached.

Her human was tall, with long hair, and dull gray eyes. She smiled when she saw Trixie. “Had a busy night? Looks like you ate all your seed. I got a treat, too.” She wandered out of view, and Trixie heard a sawing sound.

When her human returned she was covered in blood. Before, there had been a smattering; now she was drenched. She knew she should sleep, but felt energized. She hummed as she moved around the apartment.

Trixie was glad to see her in such a good mood. She joined in song.

Resurrection

(TW: Mourning, implied deadnaming)

Barn sat at Ley’s grave. It was covered in flowers, drying in the sun. Ley hated flowers, but tradition dictated they be put there. Ley also hated tradition for tradition’s sake.

No one visited Ley anymore. Barn only came every few months, when the guilt got too heavy. Yet, there were always flowers. The graveyard put them on every grave.

Barn stared at the name engraved on Ley’s final resting place. Every time he came, he dreamed of smashing that headstone. Replacing it with something that actually stood for the person beneath.

…A phoenix. Yes, it should be a phoenix. Some sign of resurrection; a promise of a future. Barn pulled out an old sketchpad, unused for some time, yet kept in case of inspiration. He worked slowly. It had to be perfect.

He placed it against the grave, using the flowers to prop it up. It would likely blow away, but maybe that was alright. Maybe it just had to be there for a moment. Barn imagined Ley rising up, in the body of a phoenix. They spread their wings, lit with flame, and took flight.