copyright Roger Bultot
The phone rang immediately. Of course.
Be strong. I picked up the receiver.
“Josh,” the female voice said. “You covered your camera again.”
“Look, I’m just not comfortable—“
“Josh.” She was chiding. “It’s for your own good. How many lives does SIS save?”
Everyone knew the statistics. Special Interior Surveillance saved 47,000 lives a year. They said.
“What if you have another panic attack? Like last month? We need to see to help you.”
My chest was already tightening at the thought. “Okay,” I mumbled.
She made a kissing noise into the phone. “Thanks, Josh. SIS loves you, remember?”
She takes her first tentative steps onto the runway, foreign territory after a year’s absence.
The crowd erupts in applause at her appearance. She can read their thoughts in their expressions.
She’s beautiful again.
You can’t even tell she was sick.
At the end of the runway she pauses. Reaching up, she pulls the wig from her head, her smooth scalp reflecting the harsh scrutiny of the spotlights.
The expressions change to shock. The applause falters.
Someone is still clapping. One little girl is applauding wildly, a grin on her pale face, a bright bandanna tied around her hairless head.
copyright Sarah Potter
Night of the Living Job Applicant, Jessica thought as the man shuffled in, clutching a scribbled resume. IT guys were scruffy, but not usually abandoned-corpse scruffy.
“Job.” The voice was like dusty silk.
Taking the crumpled resume, Jessica noticed a gap between the shirt and glove. There was no skin, just thick threads running next to white bone.
The eyes were glassy, unfocused. She got the feeling this was less a person than a machine, being controlled from the inside.
Still, they were an equal opportunity employer.
“Any experience in web design?”
The head jerked once. Up. Down. “Oh yes.”
Jeremy stared at the bread, horrorstruck. It was the fifth heart.
Maybe the sixth.
Last week, he’d gone to a fortuneteller and somehow a seven-of-hearts had gotten stuck in the tarot deck. The fortuneteller gamely forged ahead, declaring he would die after seeing seven hearts.
Now he’d seen five—maybe six: that cloud had either been a heart or a camel.
Jeremy finished making his sandwich and left for work. Stepping outside, he heard a screech of metal. He looked up just as the heart from a new erotic cake bakery sign bore down.
It wasn’t a camel, he thought.
Susie said Grandma’s crystal bowl was a chamber pot.
I used it.
Dad jumped to catch her.
He dropped his cigar on the rug.
A neighbor heard the scream.
He called the police.
The rug caught fire.
Mom grabbed the crystal bowl to extinguish it.
Then had second thoughts.
The police came.
They smelled smoke and called the fire department.
A news helicopter saw the commotion.
People mobbed the house.
Someone stole the bowl.
I tackled him.
The bowl survived.
I cleaned it.
Grandma forgave me.
That night, headlines screamed:
WHIZ KID SAVES THE DAY!
Teddy Bear Brawl
Teddy bears’ picnic, my ass.
Those pretentious little Paddingtons thought they could leave us out, just because they sit on the bed and we live in the closet.
Baby-doll saw them sneaking out the window. We found them under a tree in the backyard.
“Let us join,” Baby-doll whined.
Somebody, probably I-Couldn’t-Give-A-Care Bear, sneers, “Back off vinyls. Plushies only.”
That’s when the Pooh hit the fan.
I beat the stuffing out of a few, and soon we were all muddy and ripped.
At least we cleaned up with some Windex. Those bloody bears got a trip to the washing machine.
I’m extremely late in posting this story, but better late than never. I actually wrote it last week, but I was in Seattle for a conference and didn’t get a chance to post it.
copyright J Hardy Carroll
“You’re a werewolf?” she asks.
“A wereman, actually.”
“So every month you turn into a . . . man?”
“A different kind of man. An accountant actually.” I blush. “Just a frenzy of budgets and data sheets.”
She looks pensive. “That’s cool. You could do contract work, do a month’s work in three days and rent an office on a per-day basis to save money.”
“Okay.” This is getting serious for a first date. “What about you? Your profile said you’re a succubus, right?”
Now she blushes. “Not exactly. I just exploit men’s useful abilities.”
“Oh. So you’re . . .”
She nods. “I’m a practibus.”