There really isn’t any reasoning with mythical, flying, irrational beings

I’ll be honest – I have zero memory of what inspired/prompted/fed into the idea for the newest short story posted here. I don’t. I can say it was influenced by an episode of Ash vs the Evil Dead, a blurred mental mosaic of middle-aged detective stereotypes from the 80’s, and probably having a hard time falling asleep. From some seed of sleeplessness came this fiasco, or, shall I say, fandango? So what’s it about? Flying, irrational beings and two to three parts murder. I had fun writing it, so I hope you have fun reading it. If you don’t – hey, at least it was free. 

“There Is No Reasoning With Fairies”, link to the right, or link to it right here

[Fun fact: Titles always come last with me. Stumped with this one, eventually I landed on “Killer Fairies From Inner Space” and thought, man, that’s a slick, slick title. Took a few weeks before I realized why it sounded sorta familiar. And so, not to impose on the classic Killer Clowns From Outer Space, I changed it, because I can’t afford to screw stuff like that up.]

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“On Time and Intent”

I had a train of thought develop on the way home from work, another variation on the “world-ending collision” theme. I tried addressing how our perception of time skews the way we see events taking shape in the universe in an unpublished flash fic, “The Secret is Perception”. I think there is more tweaking to do to it to really draw out what I was trying to communicate. In any case, I exorcised the theme temporarily while considering the possibility that maybe what seems like a random, chartable cosmic phenomenon is some much more patient intelligence’s idea. “On Time and Intent” is now available at 365tomorrows.com. Enjoy.

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Inconsistency, and a new flash fiction… sort of

Depending on who’s publishing, a “flash fiction” can be any story that’s less than 600 words, or less than 1,000, or less than 1,200 words. I’ll say this. Tonight, May 26th, I’ll be inconsistent. Every flash fiction I’ve done to date has been shared on this site via a post. For stories >1,000 words, I’ve made separate pages with an associated post to just say, here it is. 

Scrolling down, I don’t like having flash fictions embedded as full-fledged posts. There’s a side menu to ease navigation, and if you want to read something random in the feed, great, and I don’t think you should have to hurdle nearly-thousand-word pieces just to satisfy your curiosity.

Not that I’m convinced there’s a lot of people curious out there to be honest. If this site is nothing more than a silent mausoleum of my imagination, then at least when I’ve forgotten it all, I’ll be able to return here.

In any case, Schrift’s Tunnel of Love is now up. Just shy of 1,000 words, I feel it’s a Twilight Zone-style piece. Hope you enjoy, wherever you are.

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That the Stars Do Shine

Not a whole lot to say with regards to this story. I had an image in my head, probably very much inspired by the cover art to Muse’s Absolution album. I thought of spirits flying away. At the same time, I was listening to an audiobook, which one exactly I don’t remember right now. It could have been Brian Greene’s The Hidden Reality or the Great Courses lecture Mysteries of Modern Physics: Time by Sean Carroll. Side note, I find it much easier to pay attention to what I’m reading if I narrate it in my head using Sean Carroll’s tenor and articulation. Very handy. Also, he’s written some very extremely interesting things, but I’m getting off track. The point is, I was considering how the Earth is in a constant orbit around the sun, which is constantly orbiting the Milky Way, which is in its own motion. Now, if something, anything, leaving Earth were to have nothing attaching it to the planet and no means to self-propel, it would be left behind. What if we were continuously leaving something behind? What if the reason no scientist, no energy detector of any sort can find the spirits of the departed that people are wont to believe? What if the reason is simply that gravity has no effect on the deceased? 

The thought came with its own peculiar terror, but that’s not what I dwelled on. I tried to exorcise it through type, and thus we have “That the Stars Do Shine“.

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What to Do With One’s Best Friend

Note: This story was originally inspired by my dog, Gunner, who developed a type of oral cancer that developed into a tumor which loosened his teeth, made his tongue swell, and otherwise ruined his health. Unlike this story, we had no supreme technology to beat it. Wished we did, but I can’t regret knowing his suffering is over. Included, a picture of him from his better years.

“What to Do With One’s Best Friend”

By Brian C. Mahon

Microfiber pores puff lavender plumes as I flop into the chaise lounge’s cozy arms. I love the scent of lavender. It is such a good idea that she scents her furniture.  

“So, where would you like to start?” Amy asks, clicking her pen. According to her office door, she is Dr. Amy Hegel, PhD, but she was fine with Amy.

“Truth be told,” I begin, “Nothing is the same. I know sometimes that’s for the best, but for me, and Jarred I guess, it isn’t. I mean, I’m glad we did it, don’t get me wrong. We just weren’t ready for the changes.”

“Some changes take us away from where we are comfortable, and it’s natural to be bothered more by changes that are forced on you. Can you tell me more about what happened between you two?”

“Well, his disease was so abrupt and so… well, it was all we could think about. Taking care of him became our life. We thought maybe he ate something in the backyard, a dead animal, a plant, something rotten. At first his drooling didn’t stop. Then his face got bigger. Then we found a tumor growing under his teeth, like pushing them out of his gums, and the poor guy couldn’t keep his tongue in his mouth anymore. He got really lethargic. You could see how miserable he was, but he was still the same, still our dog.”

Amy mm-hmm’s toward the corner.

“So, I mean we called the vet, y’know, one of the corporately sponsored ones with the proprietary nano-medicines. We weren’t going to just pretend some outdated chemical treatment would be at all as effective as nanos. I mean, if we’re paying thousands on treatment, why not go nano, right?”

“Right, of course.”

“As soon as treatment started, like by the second day, the swelling went down, his gums were a healthy pink again, and he could keep his tongue back in his mouth. But just as he got healthy, he started behaving differently. We thought it was a side effect of the new nano-blend we signed for or maybe the emotional shock of being that sick. I mean being that sick, close to death? That’s just as mentally scarring to dogs as for people. We’re all mammals after all.”

“I agree. Studies have shown anim- other mammals are just as emotional as humans. What happened after that?”

“Probably, oh, last month? Sometime last month, how much he changed really sank in. Bowie refused to sit on the couch with me. Even when I offered him treats or put his doggie bed next to me. What really did it was when Doggid Bowie looked me in the eye and said,

‘It’s over, Katlyn. These conditions are disgraceful. For one, it’s insufferable that I only relieve myself when you allow it, and, two, didn’t you consider just once, Kat, that maybe feeding me the same processed food for every meal might have led to my condition? Did you think that was healthy? You nearly sent me to the grave!’ Something like that. I think that’s pretty word for word.”

“That must have been quite a surprise for you.”

“Surprising and hurtful! He used such a hurtful tone! I didn’t know what to say, so I called him a bad dog and kenneled him for the rest of the night. All night long he kept yelling about ‘misguided homocentric ideologies’ and how ‘lack of common communication is not tantamount to inferiority’. His words, not mine.”

“Wow. It sounds like he made you really upset.”

“He did. I went to bed early that night just to get away from him. Jarred was still at work. The next morning I told Jarred I’d take Bowie to a corporate shelter because they knew how to handle bad nanos, and, like, his constant comparing of people to other primates was really getting to my self-esteem.”

“That’s understandable. There are both constructive and deconstructive ways to share how we feel, and the way we choose our words and tone can determine how our feedback and our perspective is perceived,” Amy quietly says to the corner.

“Yeah, I just had it, y’know, and I think Bowie heard me talking with Jarred. Bowie was so quiet in the car, and we were halfway there when I realized, like, he is still my dog, y’know? So, I turned into the first parking lot I could, and we talked through things, agreed to a few things. He sits in my lap in the evenings now when Jarred’s at work, and I make sure there’s a third plate at the dinner table. He pees in the tub whenever he needs as long as he rinses it down, and I think that’s fair.”

“Has the change in dynamics between you two been helpful for your relationship?”

“It’s been okay so far, but he tenses up every time I touch his fur.” I look over my shoulder and back to Amy, mumbling, “It’s not the same.”

“Thank you for sharing, Katlyn. Mr. Bowie, how do you feel?”

Doggid Bowie complained during the whole car ride here of speciesism. I see him on the corner cushion roll his eyes and mutter, “Woof.” 

“Is that really what you want to say?” Amy asks, tapping her pen against her clipboard.

“Bark. Bark bark. Ruff.”

“That isn’t very helpful, Mr. Bowie.”

“I want her to take it back!” He huffs, sitting up.

“Take what back, Mr. Bowie?” Amy looks at me, like I know what he means.

“Tell her that caring about my quality of life does not make me a villain!”

“Katlyn? Do you understand why he’s upset?”

I do. I knew it when I kenneled him that one night, the way he walked in with his tail between his legs. “I’m sorry, Bowie. I didn’t mean it. You are my good boy, forever and ever.”

His nose raises to the air with a huff, but his tail sweep says it’s what he wanted all along.

 

End

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“How Dangerous We May Be”

Long distance night driving on an empty road can cause the mind to wander. Sometimes when the only company you have are the lane dividers passing under the reflection of headlights, the best you got for entertainment is music and imagination. Listening to Sponge’s “Giants” (Rotting Pinata album), a cinematic montage would come to mind during the chorus. Scenes of giants falling, killed by one means or another, and in my mind, I saw it playing out in backgrounds of different colors, places, tones. And I would think, imagine if it wasn’t all just killing “monsters” per se. It’s been in my head a while, and I decided to exorcise it by print. “How Dangerous We May Be”, a short story of giants falling down. Down, down, yeah yeah yeah. And not all of them happen to be monsters, per se.

Hope you enjoy, and if you do, spread the word, leave a like. A little encouragement goes a long way. Link is below and in the short list to the right.

https://mahanimalism.net/how-dangerous-we-may-be

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A Quiet Day

by Brian C. Mahon

Jacob anxiously stirred at his soggy cereal. When he thought Mommy wouldn’t notice, he started to quietly slip off his stool until she looked his way, making him freeze with his hands still on the counter.

“Where are you going, Jakey?”

“I want to go outside,” he whined.

She dried her hands on a dish towel and briskly stacked the cleaned salad plates into the cupboard. Mommy had makeup on and smelled very nice. Jacob didn’t know why; they weren’t going anywhere. His hands danced on the countertop until she finally said, “Are you done with breakfast, hon?”

He smiled wide, saying quickly, “Done! Can I go outside now?” 

She pursed her lips and rounded the counter, then wrapped her arms around his shoulders to kiss the top his head. She sounded sad when she said, “Go outside, dear. Have fun and run as much as you want. If you see the neighbors, please say hello and goodbye to them for me, okay?”

“I will!” he chirped, then ran out the townhome’s back door to their small, fenced-in yard. His first priority was to snatch his adventurer’s backpack from the patio table and check everything was still inside: binoculars, magnifying glass, pocketknife, compass, and small notepad with pencil. Sucking on his bottom lip with a smile, he placed his arms through the pack’s straps and walked around the yard.

He chased twitching grass blades to scare up grasshoppers. He followed a butterfly’s staccato flight to the Mr. Sinclair’s yard. As he followed it, he paused near the patio to run his hands across the grass blades. Tender green points shifted and tickled under his soft palms and fingers. Jacob plucked a dandelion and placed it in his bag. The only sounds about him were a pair of tweeting birds and lazy rustling of the fence bushes against little breezy gusts.

Jacob looked at the fence, the tree in the neighbor’s yard, then the sky. The sky was different now. The new moon was a lot closer than last night. Mommy said he shouldn’t be scared. She said God was sending a new moon to make all the nights in all their tomorrows together brighter and more special. And Jacob knew happy tomorrows needed happy flowers!

 He ran back inside, hollering, “Mommy!”

“Yes dear?” She was at the sink again, staring through the window.

“I got this for you,” he said, offering the dandelion in his warm palm. She hugged him, kissed his cheek, tussled his hair, but she didn’t smile.

“There’s grapes and juice for you on the counter, and I want you to finish them up. Today could be a big day for us, so we need to make sure we have full bellies, ok sweetie?”

“I will, Mommy. Love you,” he replied, squeezing her around the waist.

“I love you too. I will always, always love you, my Jakey.”

Jacob slurped his orange juice and bit into delicious, wet grapes. Mommy stared through the window and wrung the dishtowel in her hands, watching the new moon get closer and brighter.

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“Float on By”

Happy to report that my flash fiction, “Float on By”, is available starting today at 365tomorrows.com. The short inspiration, so to speak, was rifling through the bills on the 16th of the month and watching the paycheck I just got go to someone else. I initially wrote it a while ago but haggling with property and flood insurance may have also been an influence. Insurance companies – a thing of the past, a thing in the future, so please click the link and enjoy.
 
 
 
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“Mad’s 104th, Reporting for Duty”

by Brian C. Mahon

Suddenly, in the moist, windless cirque basin, the crack of the last rifle sounding off startled Lime. His earpiece chirped to pre-alert an incoming message.

“Sir, Nguyen, grid alpha four check complete, all Zetas cleared.”

“Nguyen, Lime, copy check completed. Report if all skull, collar, and pelvis cortex minors verified destroyed and report status of purple pigmentation, over.”

“Sir, Nguyen, all cortex minors verified destroyed, and all Turned faded. Sergeants Benitez and Roth are supervising second checks. I watched the last one blanch, over.”

“Understand all, over.” Lime sighed in wearied satisfaction. “Connect command.” He waited for the bell, stiffened up, and reported as formally as exhaustion would allow, “Colonel sir, Eighth Company reports all grids checked and deceased verified, over.”

The Colonel, Phillip “Mad” Madrigan, was a man to deliver, and he delivered the day’s victory.

Mad’s 104th Space Expeditionary Regiment was the only tried and true combat unit effective against the Zeta’s Turned. The 104th cut teeth scouring New Babylon of Mars with flame and gamma bombardment and, with exquisite meticulousness, later obliterated every Zeta spore on the Europan and Enceladian forward stations. The Colonel’s thorough nature was his strength. Where Mad left a footprint, resurgence didn’t dare follow. Sometimes, Mad’s nature got the best of him, and tales of 104th’s CO bleaching and scrubbing his office’s tile grout until nightfall was part of his legend.

A response chirp preceded the Colonel’s voice. “Allen, Madrigan, you did well. You did a great thing today.”

“Thank you, sir,” Lime smiled from behind his air-fed copolymer mask. “Eighth Company follows orders, sir. Gunnery Sergeant Nguyen reports second checks in progress.”

“Very well. Allen, you got that nickname ‘Lime’ on lunar liberty two years ago, right?”

Lime chuckled and slung his rifle to check his wrist display: rebreather green, in-line spectrophotometer showing no contaminants. “Yes sir, that was the, um, the margarita incident, with the, er, entertainment. Hoped they would forget, but no one did.”

The Colonel laughed, full and generously. “We all have a story like that. JO’s believe us old men don’t have them, and CO’s like me hope you never hear them!” After a pause, the Colonel’s tone took an abrupt about-face. “Lime, the Zetas know where we live now. It’s a blessing Space Warfare New London’s Atlas Net is sensitive enough to detect spore pods. Earth will always have a chance.”

Lime nodded along.

“I’m proud of you, as I am the rest of the 104th. You, Captain Allen Prairie, and your fellow company commanders Captains Caila Luhr, Jim Cook, and Dejounte Johnston, as well as battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Atkinson, and our orbital team. We are… well, we’re fortunate phases two and three were not required, and only First Battalion hit the field.” Lime heard a sniffle, and the Colonel’s voice grew quieter. “I’m proud to have been down here with you all. We did a great thing today.”

Lime waited to respond. Words like “tension” and “anxiety” did not capture the eviscerating dread of the previous twenty-one hours since orders came down to deploy to India. No one slept. Everyone was quiet but active, automatons getting battle ready. It was Earth, after all. Lime was certain the Colonel was just letting his emotional stresses go, so he blurted with forced enthusiasm, “Yes, sir! Mad’s 104th always delivers!”

The Colonel did not offer the immediately expected “oorah”. Lime shifted his weight uncomfortably between his feet.

“Lime, we, um, we all understand the significance of a Zeta pod on Earth. You saw Mars. It’s a sinister, a real malevolent, uh, intelligence that creates something like this, and I tell you, I would have thrown every warhead in all of Earth’s inventory at their planet if I could. I absolutely would have.”

“We’re getting there, sir. At least we know their direction of origin now,” Lime awkwardly responded, now less certain of the conversation’s direction.

“You can’t let one spore go,” the Colonel said in a dull monotone that caught Lime’s attention.

“I agree, sir. That’s why we’re here. And we stopped them, sir.”

“Not. One.”

Lime crouched down. “Yes. Sir.”

“You’ve heard my standards. A leader leads. A leader shares victory and shoulders defeat, and a leader, a good leader, never gives an order they would not execute.”

“Sir, I’m… sorry, sir, I’m not tracking.”

“You understand, we had to strike fast, keep them occupied, keep them from running or firing up triple-A’s, but this isn’t the Europan scenario. Too many variables. Air currents. Microbes, insects, pollen. We can’t afford half-measures.” His voice trembled, but he continued, low, with forced measure, “This is Earth. And we did a damn fine service. Everyone on the field today will have their names emblazoned in Victory Hall. I made sure of it.” The Colonel’s voice changed again, either in anger or exultation Lime could not tell, but he noticed now their discussion was broadcasting on all channels. “The world will know our names, and no one will ever forget what the 104th Space Expeditionary Regiment sacrificed for their home! All of Earth watches and bears witness to our deeds! When we take the oath, we dream of moments of glory. We hope to walk away heroes, legends, but most retire without ever tasting the vindicative sweetness of doing something history remembers. This is our moment. This is ours. It was an honor, everyone.”

Lime crumbled backwards. This should have been a surprise. He knew the Colonel meant to be certain. The man never suffered half-measures. The man was always so very thorough, so obsessively thorough. There could be no half-measures here. It was home, after all.

Discarding his rebreather helmet, Lime drew in the stinging sweet and acrid mixture of spent munitions among the spring blooms and dewy underbrush. It was the scent of fleeting catharsis. He felt a calm pride, a muscular release and serenity in a smile, as a triad of hypersonic bombers zipped overhead to deliver several thousand degrees of irradiated, sanitized certainty.

 

End

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Doppelganger Day

The below flash fiction was an experiment in a bullet-style format of fiction writing that I’ve seen published in arenas such as Daily Science Fiction.  It is my first attempt at discontinuous story-telling that I personally liked doing.  Earth-shattering depth?  Nah, not so much.  A fun little read?  I think so.  Please enjoy, “Happy Doppelganger Day, Stranger”.

  “Happy Doppelganger Day, Stranger”

February 27, 2000:

Dear Journal,

Happy Doppelganger Day! I can’t believe it’s been eight years since the quantum tunnel between Earth and Aerth was discovered. It was crazy, but with everything happening in 1992 (Bosnia and Herzegovina, ending apartheid, LA riots, Noriega, and NAFTA for a few) it was lost in the mix until the tunnel opened again exactly one year later. That became the first official Doppelganger Day.   

Bad thing is it didn’t appear in the same place, which is why Doppelganger Days are terrifyingly fun, or funnily terrifying(?). The first official Doppelganger Day started for us about 8:00 at night when the news reported a bunch of cars driving through a London suburb disappeared. Mom and Dad yelled for me and Will to come downstairs to watch Cambridge physicists probe the tunnel live.

That’s when everyone saw the first Aerther.

Our blonde Dr. Amelia Kurzner met their red-headed Dr. Kamelia Arzner. Arzner stepped out of nowhere into the quarantine area where the cars vanished. She was wearing like a black raincoat or trenchcoat or something socio like that. Anyway, Dr. Arzner, with a lot of body attitude, looked Dr. Kurzner up and down and punched her right in the mouth! Whap!

That’s the way it’s been with Aerthers. Every year it’s something new from them.

Doppelganger Day 1993:

An Aerther Airtrain 4000 suddenly appeared on a Brazilian control tower’s radar. The air crew spoke Spangerman, a Spanished version of German or something. Using three interpreters, the control tower got them to understand they needed to land. The problem was, Aerthers use light signals, and aircraft marshallers (had to look them up) are used only in emergencies. The pilot, a patriotic Brazelander, read the flag signals as saying hijackers were on the gangway waiting to board the plane. So, what did he do? Rammed the extended gangway! Luckily, no one was seriously injured.

As a happy ending, the first Brazelanisch steakhouse opened here in Lubbock last year. Endless spatzel!

1994:

Three Aerthers showed up in Des Moines and took a movie theater hostage. We stayed up all night praying the hostages would be okay. After a three-day standoff, SWAT burst into the theater. That’s when America found out Aerthers were really, really good at holograms. No one was actually tied up in the lobby. The Aerthers spent three days eating candy and nachos and watching movies for free, and they racked up like a $10,000 bill. “Final Destination” was apparently their favorite movie by far.

1995:

Cruise missile, right through the chute and into Mount Rushmore. It was a blind shot, but the Aemericans (yes, with two “e”s) showed us what it takes to kill a bull moose. Our President vowed we’d retaliate on their Vengeful States of Aemerica. There were more Army and Marines recruiting commercials, but nothing else changed. 

D-Day 1996:

The VSA and WMTO (West Mongolia Treaty Organization) sent a fleet of single seater-submersibles through to attack the Florida coast. Turns out, Aerthers don’t do coastal living. They have shallow water marine cities, where submersibles with .50 caliber machine guns are a real threat and, I guess, good strategy. We watched for six hours as NATO planes flew circles over their submersibles, and WMTO submersibles did maneuvers off Miami. No shots were fired in the stalemate, and they surrendered when they realized they forgot to bring a way to refuel.

1997:

Mark “Hud” Hudspeth’s Aerther double arrived with his entourage in Hong Kong. Our Hudspeth is CEO of probably the evilest corporation in this hemisphere. Caught and sued five times for illegally dumping pesticides and heavy metals in salmon river runs, Midwest irrigation ditches, Lake Mead, and elementary playgrounds. When Hudspeth’s anti-twin pledged to make good for all the bad things Aerthers did, it made sense. He challenged our Hudspeth for company control based on his status as also a Mark “Hud” Hudspeth and won. We all wanted our Hud gone. Environmental groups everywhere celebrated, and New Hud paraded his super-charming smile over all the morning talk shows.

Did-they-do-it Day? 1998:

Nothing happened (that we know of). Mom bought a home security system just in case, and dad got Will and me helmets, pepper spray, and made what he called “old timey bayonets” out of discarded iron fence posts he found on trash day.

Doppelganger Day 1999:

A nuclear bomb the size of a Boeing appeared at UN headquarters. That was how we found out New Hud wasn’t a good guy. New Hud started a press conference from his mansion (our Hud’s old mansion) to talk terms of surrender. But! Our Hudspeth jumped out of a bush and knocked him cold with a softball bat! Stepping over other Hud to the mic, he yelled something about getting his company back, a $100 million dollar bonus, and his face replacing Roosevelt’s.

Nobody out evil’s the Hud.

The army took custody of the bomb. I hope it’s safe. God knows water out west isn’t anymore.

Today:

We survived Y2K two months ago, and now everyone’s trying to guess what Aerth will do this time. How do you upsize from a nuclear bomb?

Besides them, there’s a lot of things to look forward to. New millennium, new friends when I start college this fall, and new technologies everywhere! My parents finally bought a cellular phone for the family, and soon (I think) we’ll all be able to access GPS – just imagine, no more maps! I mean, even the internet was barely useful five years ago, but now, Gugolplex’s search engine can find anything on the World Wide Web! They started like two years ago and went from nobodies to a household name. Internet browsing, web shopping, Gugolplex made everything easier. Maybe I’ll become a software engineer and work for them when I graduate? I’ll be part of a worldwide movement!

Dad’s calling us downstairs. Time to watch the news and see what the Aerthers have planned this year. I’ve got my helmet and bayonet just in case. As the Brazelanders say, buenen Nacht!

-Diane  

End

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