No Thrills

Three minutes into the horror movie, and she was already on its Wikipedia page. My queen of no thrills, he thought of her habit which had once been cute, then quirky; had morphed in annoying, and now presented him with a unique opportunity at amusement.

“Come on, honey, I thought you wanted to spend time together,” he yelled at her perched at the table, bathed in bland neon from her laptop.

“I want to know what you’re making me watch. Geez.”

Once upon a time she trusted him on movie nights. Once she wasn’t afraid to be afraid around him. To feel and be vulnerable.

After five years of marriage, the new normal for both of them was neutrality. Never being too mad, or too happy. Never too offensive or ready to fly off the handle over minutia. They now fought over important things. They only felt when it was an act of survival.

Not tonight.


“Fine.” She rolled her eyes, clucked her tongue.

She cuddled with him under a tattered blanket, incapable of keeping them warm. He smiled at her, in preparation of his laughter a few hours away. Oh, and the inevitable fight.

For one night, she wouldn’t see it coming. Their night would be rewritten, temporarily, like the movie’s Wikipedia he’d edited a few hours before.

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Human Touch


As a boy, he’d seen his daddy shoot at planes flying above. “My land, my sky,” the old man would mumble into the shrieking air.

The memory scratched at the mailman’s mind as he watched another drone fly over his yard. It was a cool Saturday morning when he should’ve been at work, but there was no work.

24/7 superstores? Yep. All night gas pumps? No prob. Overnight CSI reruns? Damn straight.

Mail delivery on Saturdays? Gone with the dodo. The price of a human touch was too expensive.

Another drone flew by, faster than the last. He remembered his old man’s words: “Nobody should be making money off your air but you.” And there in his own sky, now, dollar bills zooming back and forth, people with money and things zooming their money and things in front of those who didn’t.

He went outside to his truck. He took out his rifle and waited.

“My land, my sky,” he whispered, as he pulled the trigger, sending the ugly, tentacled thing crashing near his feet. In its weakening grip sat a package, and in the package he found a cup, as ugly as it was common. Practically worthless, a waste of fallen metal and even its cardboard.

He laughed. He glanced at the drone, which eyed him sadly through a cracked lens. The mailman picked it up and put it into his truck.

The address on the package? He knew it. After retaping it shut, he decided to finish his dying friend’s job. One fallen drone covering for another. And he’d do it at no charge.

The price of a human touch.

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Empowered (Superhero flash fiction)

Siphone sniffed the air, angling for that familiar scent of power. Mmmm. Smelled like stuffed chicken. Being in the money district of Jack City, it was hard to differentiate the scent of one fat cat from another, to get a bead on Overdrive through the reek of caviar and entitlement, but he had a special odor that made her insides all tingly. So strong, she could almost taste, almost lick, his sweat, his pheromones, the photons crackling from his pores.

“What you looking at, lunch meat?” she said to the well-dressed robber-barons all around her on Main Street. They bumped into and slid around each other to avoid her as she marched forward, clearly not used to seeing a Cape–especially one of the darker persuasion–around their parts in the light of day. Superpeople were dangerous things to these people, an unsettling of the status quo, or at least, their type of it.

Someone like Siphone, all spandex and attitude, leather boots and angry brownness, didn’t belong around the respectable.

Screw them. There was a new dawn coming, and outsiders like Siphon owned the future.

She bumped shoulders with a girl around her age, draped in Gucci and Coach. The girl averted her eyes and walked away, and Siphone felt a tinge of guilt. Clothes she couldn’t afford. An image she couldn’t maintain. Commoditized sex. Fakeness was a stench like anything else.

Siphone had spent enough of her life being that girl. She wouldn’t spend any more of her life scrubbing away weaknesss.

Sniff, sniff. There, to the right. Siphone jerked into the alley flanking her, away from the ivory towers, the crystal-infused cement and the carved stone where money and wealth flowed like rain, but the accompanying power never trickled down.

“Come out! I just want to talk!” she yelled into the sudden darkness. Her voice echoed off the exposed joints and crumbling brickwork here between places, finally bouncing around and up where towers reached the sky. Every step, every breath, their sounds strained to escape, scraping every inch, stripping itself of every secret.

No use in trying to sneak up on him. He knew where she was. And there was nowhere for him to hide either. They both knew this was the kind of place superpeople belonged, somewhere nice and tight, away from the light, somewhere confined, like a pressure cooker on too high, where after the boom there’s either burning coal or a shiny diamond.

“Stay away from me! I ain’t did jack to you!” The voice echoed, coming from nowhere in particular and still everywhere. With her focus narrowed on the dumpster on the far side of the alley, she crouched and kept her pace, her face in a twisted smirk, her hands behind her back the way her momma used to when it was time for Siphone to get a whupping.

“You have too much juice; I need a little bit to go on my way. Fair trade, brotha! Just let me get a taste,” she said, hoping he’d take the bait.

Of course he did. In the split second before the blasts pulsed from his hands, she saw him as he jumped from hiding: ragged, strong, ashen, sweaty, caked, handsome, warped. Like a functional crackhead after a full meal. Teeth clenched, he let it out, lighting the alley.

Hunger being the ultimate equalizer, Siphone used hers to avoid what should’ve been instant death. Her boots gripped the unseemly wall to the left, and with just enough momentum, she lurched herself forward and upward into a vertical spin. Her prey’s eyes began to glow, and for a moment she felt a smug satisfaction in his mistaken perception of his place on the food chain.

Before the stupid thought even had time to reveal itself wrong, she had two fingers in his eyes. There was a boiled crackle, and the entire alley exploded in blue. The surge was so strong, the hue so intense, it made the world outside the alley look dark and old.

Siphone ate, and met eyes with Ms. Coach & Gucci standing at the alley’s entrance. Yeah, they were about the same age, yet before that moment, and maybe since birth, lifetimes apart. No longer. Siphone smiled, and for a split second so did the women, until she finally ran, dropping her bag and probably a bit of pretense too. Good.

After a minute, Siphone was finished, and Overdrive was on the ground. He’d live, of course. She’d never meant to kill him. All she wanted was power and a place in the world that came with it. She grabbed him by the collar and threw him upwards, catching him on her shoulder.

Being someone’s everyday meal wasn’t ideal, but Overdrive wasn’t a bad guy. He’d understand. He might even come to love it. Siphone would give him relief, Overdrive would give her the power to change the world.

Reaching the now empty, dimmed street, she marched on. She had no idea what was next, no concept of what direction she was going. All she knew is that with the power in her possession, she’d do something besides hoard it, besides watch the world around her crumble in her stone, ivory towers.

If you enjoyed this story, check out Expired .

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The North Pole Syndrome


[An oldie, but one of my favorites.]


Heartless. Dickish. Mean. A scrooge. Yes, I know what the kids at school sometimes call me. I love Christmas, I love Jesus Christ, I love family and the holiday season.

“Timothy, I’m sorry, but…he isn’t real.”

But Santa? No, we’ll never celebrate him within these walls.

Timmy leaves my office, standing a little shorter than when he entered. My secretary and Vice-Principal give me daring glances, but my conviction is resolute.

I’m going to save the world, one kid at time.

At home I sit at my davenport, a grandkid on each knee. I tell them the story as it was told to me.

It came from the North Pole…

It always starts the same, it always ends the same. The kids stare at me slackjawed and incredulous. I let them go and my son stays behind, his face twisted the way a philosopher’s is when emotion interferes with truth.

“Dad, Emily and I, we’ve been thinking about letting the kids believe. It’s just that, Santa’s not even as important as he used to be…” I let him drone on and I look out my window north…north…

In a remote Greenland village, circa 1743, ten mischievous children were tasked to go north for food and medicine. They returned very different, perpetually in motion, carrying a constant ringing only other children could hear. These “elven” children would go on to build little knicks and knacks, dangerous trinkets they used to kill adults and spread the belief of an omnipresent St. Nick.

My ancestors won the first battle, but where there’s a belief in Santa, there’s a risk of a return. I sit and watch my grandkids play in the den. They turn to me in unison, necks twisted, voices synchronous, high, in legion, and slowly go “Ho, ho, ho…”

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Expired: Part 1 (superhero fiction)



The fiends, they know when you’re weak. It’s like blood in the water, like a slow limp in the jungle.  The rules in Capedom are no different than that in the wild. Eat or be eaten, kill or be killed. And if you get sliced, if you start to sway, if you give anybody a reason, you’re done for.

To Alpha Black, this wasn’t supposition. This was fact. She’d been in the game a long time, long enough to know real rules from the mindless chatter.  And as the blows kept raining down on her by Therm-mite and then Smoker T—young buck fiends  who were probably sucking on Gerber back when Alpha Black was ball busting Dredspot—she couldn’t help but think about how those who thought they were exceptions to the rule became statistics of the game.

In a flash that was probably the beginning of a concussion, she saw the strangest things, like the one-day too-old milk back in her fridge, like bread with a hint of mold on its side.  Still edible but past its prime, soon to be completely spoiled because nothing hides itself from the elements forever.

Everything has an expiration date.

“Keep the broad still, T. I can’t get a good hit!”

Broad? Black refocused. What was she, some chick in a Billy Dee flick? She dropped her weight and spun into a kick, sending Therm-mite to his backside.  The move was enough to also throw off Smoker T’s attack, routing what should have been a jarring blow to Black’s skull into her shoulder instead.

Through Smoker T’s smoke, Black tried to grasp her surroundings. Nothing. She reached down and felt rigid steel. Rebar, maybe? They’d been near construction when the fight started, and perhaps that would save her life.

Black gripped it and got ready to pounce.  Smoker T’s powers allowed her to shift the spectrum of light that made its way through her smog. It was an effective strategy—black smoke, then white, then purple, blue, and green—and completely disorienting, not giving prey enough time to adjust her vision. But like any power, there was a drawback, as between every shift Smoker’s outline became just…so…visible…

Alpha Black swung. Smoker T fell. Therm-mite grunted from behind, ready for another attack.

“Kill that leatherface witch, Derek!” Smoker screamed in pain.

“Leatherface? Heifer please,”  Alpha Black said, trying to throw her voice for an advantage in the now orange-ish haze.  Leatherface? That hurt.  Black’s ability to control the density of her skin in different spots of her body had taken a toll over the years, but Smoker was one to talk. “Let she with dirty tracks be the last to throw stones, okay bae?”

Just as she expected, they pounced at the sound of her voice. Good.  It wasn’t hard to find Smoker’s weave, either.

Poetic justice.

Grabbing it, Black sent the girl’s face into her knee, ending that part of the threat.  But she’d given away her position, and she knew what was coming next.

Knowing didn’t make a damn bit of difference.  Therm-mite’s hand gripped her shoulder, and with a slithering, chittering sound she heard, then felt, them. Insects. Dozens of them.  His bugs oozed from him to her.

Modified termites. The hot, creepy little turds made their way across her shoulder, down the breast of her Synthdex suit. There were too many already across her body, rendering her power useless in blocking their effects.

“Aarg!” she screamed as they began they began to pop and die in bursts of heat.

“Sista, I’ve been a fan of yours for a long time. What you did to The Trump…stone cold,” Therm-mite said, his voice the kind of calm, deep bass you’d expect from a more experienced fiend.  Seductive enough to throw her off-guard.  “ But I gotta take you down.  Good for my rep.” If his powers weren’t so damn disgusting, Black might’ve tried to Cougar him over to the good side.

But she’d had enough. With Smoker T out, the haze was beginning to lift. Alpha Black could see just enough to make one final play.


“Ohhhhhhh!” Thermmite groaned as Black sent a heel to his groin. A sucker move, yeah, but they’d sucker’d her into the fight, and what’s fair was fair. An elbow to his temple finished him off.

“Ewwwww…” As Nyka Black, code name Alpha Black, frantically brushed off the suddenly confused, but still glowing and translucent bugs from her body–spitting one out of her mouth–she came to a decision that was a long time coming.

She was done with this crap.

She was done being a Cape.

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Solomon’s Test (Superhero fiction)

One week a Cape, and it’s all come crashing down on him.

One week is all it took, and now Solomon was about to die.

He and Blithe lay in twin craters of rubble, the dust starting to settle. They fell out the sky.

People approach, silhouettes wrapped in smoke. It’s easy for them to tell which is the hero. It’s easier to tell which one is not.

Where’d they come from? Are they dead?

Are you kidding me? Those people never die.

Solomon stirs, and as if by entanglement so does Blithe. But they don’t get up. They’re both broken, like principles in a shaky world. The thunder that brought them is now a dull rumble slowly losing its resonance.

Good God! They’re still alive?

Should we be here? Should we call someone?

One week, Solomon thinks. He didn’t even have time to pass the test. To become a real hero. He turns his neck, the only thing that works. His hearing tells him Blithe does the same. Gurgling. He’s another newbie, all power and no rep, but on the wrong side of the fight. They’re separated by ideology and ten feet of rubble; they’re conjoined by a youthful spite that would continue this on hands and knees if they could.

Don’t go there!

Baby, come back!

A girl suddenly appears above. She looks at him and then in the direction of the adjacent crater. The wind sways, the light cotton of her dress unsure of which way to cling. Solomon’s sage-vision shows him the tendrils of energy snaking her, feeding itself tail to mouth like a band of infinity. A caduceus.

A healer.

An older woman of sweaty nervousness tries to reach for her, but the girl slips her, dismisses her with a look that says ‘For once, let me be me’.

She drops into Solomon’s crater, her ankles wobbly against the rubble, and kneels beside him. He’s surprised at how ordinary she looks. How emaciated and plain.

“My name is Keisha. You’re on Prudence Street. I think you’re gonna die if I don’t do something.” She strokes his cheek, and it momentarily feels tight. He remembers his mother and the smell of vapor rub. He tastes penicillin.

“I can heal you, but only one of you,” she says, lifting a delicate brown arm. “I’m not that strong.”

Yells from above. Just let ’em both die and let’s get outta here. Nobody will know.

“What abou…what about him?” Solomon nudges his head towards the barrier separating black from white. “Is he going to…”

“I…I can’t…he’ll die. I told you I’m not strong enough!” her ashy lip quivers. “Please don’t make me think about that. I just wanna think about the good.” It’s a plea. For her it’s not black and white, but a choice of one or the other. Monochromism in a world that can’t afford the rest of the spectrum.

Solomon sees the world blur. He doesn’t have long.

Fuck him, Keisha! Let him die.

Save the other one! I don’t see the heroes taking care of any of us!

Keisha hand reaches, then wobbles and hesitates, either fighting her nature or trying to embrace it. “What will the bad guys to us do if the other one dies?”

They’ll come here and kill us! Fuck him!

Even in the haze she looks so thin, calories burned from the weight of her gift. He knows her kind, a local Talent. Take her away from here and she’s probably just another girl. Homely. Simple.  But here, on Prudence, she’s transformed, a lifeline for its people who live in complex times, die simple deaths.

“I’ll..I’ll protect you,” Solomon says, not even sure what he means, but knowing it’s something better than blurting ‘I want to live. I deserve it more than him!’.

Nobody even has to know. It’ll be he secret of Prudence Street. The other Capes, they’ll pat him on his back and congratulate him. His colleagues. Any league, any society…he’ll have his pick. This will be a learning experience, the first test of Solomon, which he passed with flying colors.

Keisha reaches again. This time her hand is steady.

He’ll grow older, get stronger. Be wiser. He’ll advice other heroes. They’ll look up to him, the prodigy who beat an Alpha baddie the first time out. You don’t have to be a sacrificial lamb like those other Capes with funerals on tv, with pyres burning in the orbit of Mars. Being right doesn’t have to mean being dead. There’s always another way, a way that looks better in the spectre of hindsight.

Heroes live on. They pass the test.

Her hand almost at his forehead, he speaks. There’s a smile on his face.


She stares blankly for a moment and then nods. As she climbs away he thinks about his name inscribed on the Wall of Champions, along with other great heroes. Brava. Samson. Heracles. Gilgamesh. His colleague.

And Blithe? He’ll live. He’ll have to live with the miracle on Prudence Street, how a green hero and a little girl gave him his life. He’ll have to live with that, and imprisonment, and the bloody beatings from other heroes. Cape-killer!

Solomon smiles. His eyes are tired even though his vision’s suddenly clear. He closes them.

Oh shit, they’re here!

Mommy, they’re so pretty…

He’s draped in blackness as he hears their arrival. His colleagues. A gruff voice, resonant and strong, like fire stolen from the gods, whispers to him. “Not bad, kid. Not bad at all. You’ll be alright.

“You passed the test.”

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Gene Roddenberry/Notorious BIG: Twin Prophets of Literature (or Why It’s Time To Embrace More Utopian Fiction)


It’s always interesting learning things about yourself, right?


Maybe only sometimes.

Okay, usually never. But for a creative type I think it’s essential. What inspiration makes us rise like Batman from the Lazarus Pit (a 20 minute recovery from a broken back? I love ya, Christopher Nolan, but dafuq)? What vice leads us on early morning Walk of Shame (Brazilian fart porn…yea boi!)? What makes us…us?

One of the more interesting comments about my story The Primary Color was how it touched on issues of utopia vs. dystopia, and if it’s possible to tell the difference between the two from the inside.

Heady stuff. Way headier than the story I actually intended to write but, hey, you take any compliment you can get. I don’t see Michael Bay giving back his Oscars on a technicality.

What I realize is that I’m a dreamer and optimist. Even in the darkest of my fiction there’s brightness underneath. There’s the promise of better.

Those are the stories I like to create, and those are teh stories I love to enjoy. Sure, I can sometimes be a literature snob. I can lose myself in worlds where happy endings have no place. I like my Faulkner. I read my Welty. I appreciate the bleakness and nihilism sometimes associated with the more literary, the more realist and, at times, the more anti-realist. Willy Loman, bro, I got your back.

But given a choice between a Greek tragedy and a geek epic, I choose epic all day, every day.

It’s why I love superheroes, who almost always exist in the time of “the near future”. I love the brightness bordering on gaudy, the camp, the pure exhilaration portrayed by their very existence. Sure, there are dark superhero tales and forced deconstruction. But in the end, you can’t have superheroes, with their primary colors and their campy rhetoric, exist without a a whole lot of hope.

The mere existence of superheroes point to an optimistic society, possibly utopia, even if that utopia is in disarray. (subtle difference there, so bear with me), even if the characters don’t realize how good they actually have it.

So the question I keep asking myself is: why isn’t there more optimistic/Utopian fiction? What does the lack of it say about how society views its future?

What do we have against the backdrop of happiness in our fiction?

And when I hear even Grant Morrison, one of my idols, a man whose love for superheroes and the positivity they represent oozes from every superhero comic he writes, give in to the bleak homogeneity of the day to say he might

embrace the zombie ethos that’s complete overridden this culture – I’m getting bored doing the single shining light

it breaks my heart, Fredo. It breaks my heart.

Things have to change, right?

From a consumer’s point of view, the fascination with pessimistic/dystopian narrative and the accompanying themes is understandable.

We like to see the fall before the rise. We want to wallow in darkness before we finally embrace the light. Conflict is the name of the game, and most consumer’s can’t imagine enjoying conflict in stories built around the conceit that most familiar conflicts have been resolved.

Fair enough.

But from a creative perspective…I don’t get it. Creators should know better.

This past weekend I was able to catch a documentary on Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek–yes,I’m a Trekkie..a big, Black Trekkie, and I’ll be happy to shove a bat leth up your yin-yang to defend that honor–and came away from with a new appreciation for his will.

By hook or by crook, ol’ Gene was going to do things his way. Despite the challenges, he was going create a modern, progressive, brainy, and Utopian universe, whether his bosses or his young writers liked it or not.

And for any creator who thinks Utopian fiction can’t be exciting, can’t find an audience, I point to the 5 Star Trek tv series, 12 big budget movies, hundreds of novels and comics, 50 years of continuity, and the assload of fans who were pretty much the template for the current “geek is chic” movement.

Yeah, not bad.

See, Gene realized what a lot of writers fail to, that conflict exists wherever people exist, no matter how evolved, no matter how smart, no matter how without need they become. It’s so simple, yet so easily missed.

Where one set of problems are solved, another set takes its place. Not everyone views utopia the same.

For any society to satisfy every hunger, it must deal with the complications of appeasing base cravings.

Or, as the Notorious B.I.G. put it, in what might be the most succinct explanation of why Utopian fiction works:

Mo’ money, mo’ problems.

So yes, I think there’s room for more optimism in fiction, in science fiction and young adult, in superheroes and even in horror (think about it, utopia is the perfect backdrop for the macabre). It gives us a future to strive for and the tools to deal with the complications in reaching it.

Will it be easy? No. But is it supposed to be?

We just have to be willing to embrace it and smart enough to make it happen.

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