One of my resolutions for 2020 was to write a very short story for each day of the year! This, I accomplished with the help of Twitter's writing community, and prompts such as #vss365 and #BraveWrite.
Below is the compilation of my efforts, including the original prompts and hashtags.
Monthly total: 29
She’s born golden, haloed with buttery light. Nestled in the mottled brown arms of the old one.
“Take care of her. She’s a new beginning. A chance.”
The old one’s eyes are burnished, like old pennies. “Nurture her, and she’ll be good to you.”
“Drive,” says the bride, before she’s fully in my taxi.
She looks like a wedding cake, sugar-white gown aglitter. In gloved arms, she’s holding a panting corgi.
“I realized I don’t love him. Just his dog,” she explains. “Now, DRIVE. Before he catches up.”
"I think there's been a mistake," said the girl.
"A mistake?" Asterion chuffed, ears flattening. "Your profile clearly said 'adventurous couple seeking #unicorn.'"
"Yes, but --" the man started.
"Now, buy me a frappucino. Or I'll stab you both with my horn."
"Come on, #raging beast!" Theseus bellows. "Minos sent me to slay you, or die trying!"
The Minotaur regards Theseus, unimpressed, from beneath bovine lashes. "Why should we cater to a man who wants one of us dead?" he asks. "We share a common enemy, my friend."
She struts in like a lioness, spiked heels clicking on the marble. She has, hooked under one arm, a #yipping, three-headed puppy.
She hasn't seen me yet, and I catch a candid glimpse of the adult she's become. My little Kore.
No. Persephone. It's Persephone now.
The duke eyes the #usurper warily. "This. Can't be allowed."
"He killed the king, sir," says the adviser. "The rules say the kingdom is his."
"Yes," agrees the child now in the king's throne. "It is. And you'd best remember that, or I'll have you flogged."
The man placed a white rabbit before the fertility god. It hopped up to join its brethren, left in offering, and who huddle around the god like petals from a tree.
"For the health of our child," he explained to the god. "It will be my first."
The #kinetic energy of the affair exploded in your face, and you went crawling back to your wife. Literally.
But she only gazes down at you, eyes dark and cold as winter skies, your ex-girlfriend on her arm.
"Can you believe we loved him?"
Famine, like the other Horsemen, wasn't what I pictured. He was eating constantly, sucking juices from his salt-bloated fingers.
War spotted me regarding him #inquisitively. "Wherever there's famine, someone is gorging himself while others starve."
The girl I'd been pining for walked in, and I felt a thumping against my sternum. Oh. Not again.
My thundering heart burst from my chest. It squirmed across the floor, arteries like tentacles, towards my horrified crush.
"Sorry," I offered, sheepish. "It's #lively."
It's a creature as #languorous as it is beautiful, draped like a ribbon of liquid gold.
"Oh, great god of cats," you say, "I need your wisdom. How can I be as self-confident as you?"
The cat god flicks its ears. "Be perfect in every way. That's it."
"I found your children," said the witch. "They were hungry."
Hansel and Gretal's mother eyed her warily. "They #wandered off."
But the witch's #opaline eyes saw all. "I like children. They'll live happily ever after," she said. "You won't."
#MuseMon #vss365 #ProjectFairyTale
The princess stares, open-mouthed. But the knight isn't looking at her.
#Opaline scales. Molten eyes.
"I had no idea." He falls to his knees before the startled dragon. "There are so many princesses. But you -- you're one of a kind."
"Why does everything have to end?"
"Nothing ends," says Death. "Everything #changes." The blue skies of his eyes turn to look at me. "What you call an end is a transition point. And those are painful. But you have to #acquiesce, if you want to live again."
Mushrooms #flourish, like warts, pebbling the troll's back.
"Well?" he grunts.
He's still waiting for an answer to his riddle. "Erm. True happiness?"
"Fair enough." He makes way, offering entry to the club. Whose idea was it to get a troll for a bouncer, anyway?
"Look at me," the Truth demanded.
To some, her flesh #flourished with warts, mottled like rotting tree bark. They looked away, #disturbed.
But some confronted her, accepted her. To them, the longer they looked, the more beautiful she became.
#vss365 #TalesNoir #BraveWrite
I come to the author's grave to read her books. Though we are separated by #time, she understands me. Her words #calls out to me, across the decades. Ghosts in each other's time. We #yearn for each other.
Every time I open her book, we embrace.
#140lines #Thurds #vss365
Unprompted, the villagers sent the dragon their most beautiful girl. A small #caveat, while they searched for a knight to slay him.
They weren't prepared to see him flying towards town with the girl on his back, flames in his jaws and in her eyes.
We made our home in a giant's grave. No. We made our home in the bones of a giant.
His rib cage is the arching ceiling of our dinging hall. His skull is our bedroom.
I wouldn't mind if someone did that with my empty husk. In a way, it's life after death.
He's not what I expected. #Articulate. Oddly beautiful, if you can get past the visible stitches.
"I'm glad we went on this date, Mr. Creature."
"Call me Frankenstein. Everyone else does," he smiles. "And what should I call you? Dracula?"
"Please. Call me Vlad."
"I have to thank you! Without suitors, my academic studies are flourishing," says the princess. "And I have so much more time to watch my shows."
The witch scowls. This wasn't what she'd expected when she #cursed the princess to never marry.
I went to the dream clinic to have a nightmare extracted. The witch pulled it out of my ear, a squirming blob of black ooze.
"Any tips for trapping good dreams?"
"Those can't be trapped. They become nightmares," she said. "You can only lure them with good thoughts."
"Let me sleep," I groan, but the demon only sits obstinately on my chest like a small anvil.
It leans close enough that I can feel its cold breath against my ear. "Do you remember that awful, embarrassing thing you did when you were sixteen? Let's relive that in detail."
The sallow air is cluttered with sound, with overlapping voices and roaring laughter and clinking glasses.
I nurse my cherry cola miserably as the #cacophony seems to crest.
My extrovert friend beams at me. "Aren't you glad I made you come out tonight?"
My teacups rattle ominously, reminding me to drink them before they get cold. Phantom music lulls me to sleep each night. If I stare at my reflection too long, scrutinizing, the mirror fogs.
I was concerned at first. But it's not so bad, living in a haunted house.
I'm in love with the night sky.
I press my face to her cool back, and count the bright freckles splattering her wine-dark skin. I'm #amazed by how many there are.
She's always gone by sunrise. But by dusk, she'll always return.
"She has the #range," said one judge, climbing over the rail of the yacht.
"Powerful vocals," agreed another, who'd preemptively bound himself to the deck.
"Great stage presence," a third concurred, jumping into the ocean.
A talent show about sirens wasn't the best idea.
As the city's supervillain, my greatest obsession is obviously its hero. His photo is beside my bed, on my desk, in my wallet. It's not weird.
Every time we battle, I contemplate how lost I'd be without him. There is nothing I cherish more than my #adversary.
It used to be a common practice to burn witches, until one rose to power. She vaporized our old king into a rosy cloud of mist, as blood red as her lips.
I was among those gathered to watch this public execution. I fell in love instantly.
Monthly total: 17
Everyone warns me not to fall for Juliette, but I can't help but feel that they all want me to. That I've been handed some invisible script for a forbidden love.
The thing is, I don't feel one way or the other about Juliette. But Mercutio is looking pretty good.
The most popular boy at school asked me to prom. He'd never talked to me, but I had cerebral palsy, and was just the thing to blow up his Instagram.
"I actually have a prom date." My unexpected answer seemed to suck the noise out of the hallway. "I'm taking my mom."
I don't fall in love with the living. I fall in love with the dead.
I visit the graves of authors, adventurers, and bards, summon up their evanescent spirits. They become more vibrant as they tell me their stories and sing me their songs. Through me, they live again.
I woke up without my heart, and searched long and hard for whoever stole it.
When I found her, I realized my heart hadn't been stolen at all -- the dumb thing was fluttering around her like a drunk butterfly. I'd just taken a while to catch up.
"What do you want?" The negotiator chose his words carefully. "Are you angry?"
"I'm a pragmatist. This school has violated the fundamental rights of my compatriots." The child slid a paper across the table. "Conditions, in exchange for the principal's safe release."
"Who's the fairest of them all?" I ask my enchanted mirror.
"Oh, honey," comes a deep voice. "Is that even a question? YOU."
"Really? I found a gray hair today."
"Um, and the problem is? You'll KILL it as a silver fox."
I smile, my confidence bolstered. "Thanks, Cecil."
"Are you SURE you want to buy her? She keeps me up all night with her creepy wailing."
"Of course she does. She's unhappy here. You have her in this tiny box." I carefully pick up my newly acquired haunted doll. "You've heard of ghost hunters. I'm a ghost rescuer."
"I need you to fall in love with her. Break the curse."
The haggard-looking queen is pointing to an angry swan, which is honking and flapping against the window.
"She's my stepdaughter," the queen explains. "I enchanted her. But no one told me how vicious swans can be."
"Oh, well," says my friend. "It's not my place to judge, is it?"
I am no longer listening. I've already put on my court dress. I place a long white wig atop my head. A gavel materializes in my hand like Thor's hammer.
My place or not, judge I can, and judge I will.
I hand her my heart in a sealed glass bottle.
"It's stuck," I explain. "I've tried everything, even whacking it against rocks. I can't get it out."
She glances at me, unimpressed. "Have you tried this?" Effortlessly, she pops open the lid.
"Fear not," came the cosmic voice of the angel.
But I was afraid. Not because of its sky-filling wings or blazing eyes or animal heads, but because Angels only come to profits. That means I have to do something.
There's nothing I fear more than responsibility.
"The human city is built over a sleeping spirit of #greed," the witch tells me. "It inflames their most selfish wants at the expense of all else, and it suckles their envy and desire and pleasure like a sow at a teat. The forest is safer, for things like you and me."
"I consider the Murder Club's last meeting to be an unadulterated success," I announced, once the quorum of members had gathered. "In unrelated news, I move that we relocate our meetings from now on, as this is technically a crime scene."
"Miss Carmilla, thank goodness! We've been infiltrated by a vampire! It ate Mr. P!"
Miss Carmilla came out in a blood red, silk nightgown. "Mr. P? Who's been harassing the students?" She sipped a glass of what appeared to be red wine. "What a shame."
Parents send their wild children to the woods to die. But the children don't die in the woods. They're adopted by them.
They grow their hair long, and antlers sprout from their heads, crowning them.
In the wild, they are royal, and the woods are their kingdom.
The men charged the beast's castle to free its prisoner, a belle beyond compare.
They didn't notice that her hair was the same shade its fur, the lupine glint of her eyes.
They came looking for beauty and the beast. They didn't expect them to be the same person.
I popped open the cork, and a ghost spilled from the bottle like cream in coffee. It gave a joyful groan of freedom.
"What the hell is that?" my wife cried. "I told you to get something from the Wine and Spirits store!"
"I know. I picked up one of the spirits."
Monthly total: 29
Amongst the #whitecaps are flashes of snow white hair -- it glows bio-luminescent in the deep, deadly waters from which the mermaids came.
They live for days like this, these queens of the #Atlantic. When the ocean is as fierce and wild as they are.
Just don't fall in.
The best part of living by the seashore is waking to the sound of #seagulls. It turns out it's also the worst, if the seagulls sound too close. Eerily close.
I open my eyes to see one of the little yellow-eyed devils standing on top of me, laughing in my face.
The dragon took a centuries-long nap, #glittering masses slowly #hidden by earth.
The pompous king built his castle atop this hill, smug in his superiority.
But all it took was a sleepy shrug from the dragon beneath him to send him crumbling down.
Our camping trip was disrupted by cries for help, each the exact same as the last. A hollow, predatory #imitation of human distress.
My father loaded his gun as my mother poured salt around our tent. "And here, we left the city to get a break from all the demons."
I kneel on trembling legs before the old queen, sequined skirts scratching my knees. I feel the eyes of the kingdom.
"Young and sweet." The old queen places the crown on my head. "Only #seventeen."
ABBA starts to play. The kingdom erupts in cheers.
I am the dancing queen.
My own father ran away, never even named me. So I make and repair children's toys.
A little girl beams as I hand her a freshly #patched teddy bear. "Thanks, Mr. Frankenstein!"
I smile back. I feel like I'm breaking the cycle, making them happy. "Call me Prometheus."
The tiny dragon arrived to avenge his slain mother, and the knights all laughed when he could produce only a #spark.
They failed to notice as the flame grew, until it was already lapping the walls. By the time they stopped laughing, it was too late.
I thought I would be #isolated, keeping the lighthouse. Words #spoken only to the sea. But the sea speaks back.
Selkies keep me company while I drink my coffee, sirens sing me to sleep. I love even the serpent, whose coils swell like glittering waves.
My wife is a witch. She captures sounds in bottles. Sunshine-yellow bottles, crackling with the chatter of children. Bubbling bottles of champagne-pink giggles. Bottles of tar-black, angry #words, to be shattered during our arguments. They fill the room like clouds.
I have perhaps the world's least desirable superpower: I can see to the bottom of the ocean, and everything in it. I discovered this ability on a flight at the age of six. It's still #unfathomable what I saw. Ignorance is a gift people take for granted.
"You're #insurmountable," said the servant's wild daughter. "So am I."
She stroked the nose of the chained dragon, and relieved coils of smoke curled from his nostrils.
"There's no place for us in their castle." She held the key before him. "So let's burn it together."
"They say I'm a changeling," says the child to the king of the Fair Folk. "That I'm too smart, and too strange. That I'm not #normal."
"They haven't changed. The ordinary yearn to be special," says the king, "yet they punish those who are."
"Take me with you!" I begged, waving my arms at the flying saucer as it levitated into the air.
I've always felt like a stranger in a #foreign land. Would I feel at home with them? It's worth a shot.
I nearly cried tears of relief as their transporter beam swept over me.
I pick up a hitchhiker. Young, pretty, and stupid, just how I like them.
"You don't remember me?" she asks, before I can reach for the knife. "We remember you."
In the rear view mirror, very girl I picked up stares back at me. Every girl I killed.
"He was a poor boy. Quiet and clever, wild and strange. Like you," said the King of the Fair Folk. "He ran one day into the woods, without #shoes, and never came out."
"They say you take that kind of child."
He looked at her. "I once was that kind of child."
I couldn't escape the feeling that the #mannequins were watching me when my back was turned. When I heard the clack of their wooden legs, I ran for the door.
"You went to the art studio ALONE?" my roommate gawked when I told her. "That place is haunted as FUCK!"
My #robot husband stares at my pregnant stomach. We used a sperm donor.
"What?" I ask.
"Thinking," hums his voice. "About how complex a machine must be to support a soul." He looks down at his metal hands. "I wonder when babies get theirs. I wonder when I got mine."
Winter is a womb for #spring. Beneath the cold, dark earth are pockets of warmth and life. Hibernating bodies, curled like shrimp, and tightly coiled seeds waiting to unfurl.
Spring is loved, and winter is dreaded. It is often forgotten which one begets the other.
I #organized my emotions carefully, in bottles. Honey-golden #happiness, bubbling pink love, wine purple sorrow, and royal blue pride, all carefully contained.
And then I saw you for the first time, and every bottle inside me quivered and broke, one by one.
At lunch, I sit next to an android. He's drinking what seems to be a steaming cup of oil.
"What are you writing?" I ask.
"#Haiku," his voice thrums. "At first, I thought #poetry was pointless. But your world is full of chaos. Through words, I can organize it."
"I think the universe needs us. To see itself. Experience itself. Whenever I look up at the night sky, I imagine it's thinking, 'There you are. There I am. I love you.'" The stars are reflected in his eyes. "Whenever I feel small, I think of that."
"I'm not cut out for this," I try to explain. "My own dad walked out on me. I used to be an alcoholic!"
But the #stork won't leave me alone.
He cranes his neck towards me, bundle dangling from his beak.
This is what life has chosen for me. I can only try to deserve it.
I float from my bed to the smell of coffee and the sound of classical music. Outside my #cozy #vessel, the earth is a milky blue marble below. Peaceful. Based on what I've heard from the news and my fellow travelers, I prefer the world from a bird's eye view.
Death doesn't free Marilyn from fame. It follows her, as surely as tourists flock to her Brentwood Home.
"Isn't it just #delicious?" she coos for them, translucent white skirts billowing around her. The show goes on.
Even in the afterlife, no one's asking for Norma Jean.
After a decade of work, my spacecraft is big enough to support as many animals as possible. My family, my friends.
No one else believed me when I said the meteor is coming. I guess they'll be left behind.
My wife calls it my #lifeboat. It's really more of an arc.
It's funny, how people resemble their pets. A girl in a sleek black dress, followed by a sleek black cat. A plump girl dressed all in white cups a white dove. A squat lady, wide-eyed as the #toad in her palm.
Oh, dear. This is a witch's meeting. I'd better leave the park.
"Are you alright?" I ask my husband. "I know she was a drunk and a hoarder. But still."
"Every surface she owned was covered with cigarette #butts and ash and dust. Gray. Like a graveyard." He turns to look at me. "I'm not sad my mother is dead. She died long ago."
"You have to change me back."
"To a beast?" The witch was flabbergasted. "But you just found true love!"
"It's the beast she loves! She didn't want me to #change. And neither did I." The prince implored, "Please. Make me myself again."
"My success is making you superficial, Marie."
"Living well isn't superficial!"
"Oh, really? Living well is buying three French poodles? And a Parisian chandelier? And whatever the hell this goblet thing is?"
"It's a #zarf!"
"I don't care what it is! I want my wife back!"
Monthly total: 35
My wife jostles me awake. "Have you heard the news?"
"Honey, we're in the midst of a global pandemic. At this point, nothing could surprise me."
"The city's being attacked by a giant, kaiju #chicken."
I'm sure it's a joke, till I hear a distant, thunderous clucking.
She became one of the most feared and formidable survivors since the outbreak. She prowled the landscape for provisions, ready to kill anyone who stood in her way.
Feeling her unborn baby #kicking inside her reminded her what she had to lose, and made her fiercer still.
"I wish life were more interesting," sighed the sentient ape, in an advanced society of sentient apes, on a #rock spinning around a ball of fire in the vast, unexplored landscape of space. "I should play a video game."
We honeymooned on Venus, but it wasn't as lovely as its goddess namesake; the sulfuric rain was a mood-killer.
My wife took a job on Mars, which I dreaded, but every sunset there blazed a glorious, mango #orange. Beauty is always where you aren't #seeking it.
She cried so sweetly, even the hardened officers felt sorry for her. A #classic beauty, with Shirley Temple curls and clear blue eyes.
The officers cleared out to give her some space, and only then did she dry her crocodile tears with her late husband's money.
She took me #home for spring break, to a house as dark and angular as she is. It towers over its peers, beneath what appears to be a miniature storm cloud.
"What did you say your parents' names were again?"
My girlfriend tosses her black braids. "Gomez and Morticia."
"You saved me from drowning," I say to my robot child. "But the water. It could have destroyed you!"
"I know." Through a tear in his artificial skin, #chrome glints like a minnow. "But you made me, Papa. I wanted to."
When I hug him, he feels like my son. Like a real boy.
The white witch of the marshes moves like her #crane familiar: tall and angular and lanky-legged, with ballerina grace.
"I want to speak to the spirits of the marsh," I tell her.
She smiles faintly. "To do that, I'd have to teach you everything I know."
"Whatever you do, don't walk into the Fairy Ring. It's a #club run by Fair Folk."
"But the music sounds amazing!"
"That's the problem. You're lured in by the beautiful music, and you might not come out till years later. If you come out at all."
I blocked my ex on everything, happy to move on.
The next day, I received a #telegraph: "I miss u. :("
The day after that, a homing pigeon delivered a note: "Can we talk??" I sent it back with a note that read, "No."
The next day, a smoke signal spelled out, "Bitch."
Princesses are happiest in #isolation. Don't believe anyone who says otherwise.
They don't always inhabit towers, guarded by dragons. Some prefer lighthouses, guarded by sea serpents. They like the view.
They are introverts. They don't need you to save them.
"What, um, breed is he?"
"Oh, he's a #rescue," the girl smiles. She's pretty, Polynesian, probably in her early twenties.
The "dog" seems to extra limbs. He grins, showing sharklike teeth.
I sip my coffee, making sure my Collie is leashed. "So, a mixed breed, then."
"I have #rescued the princess!" the prince declared.
The king frowned. "She seems to be screaming."
"I had some trouble getting her out of her tower. Stockholm syndrome."
"The tower has a DOOR, idiot!" the princess bellowed. "If I wanted to leave, I'd have WALKED out!"
"You ever think about how your future self is watching you?"
I don't open my eyes. "Go to sleep."
"I can't," says my sister. "I keep thinking about everything she can't tell me. She watches, mute, as I cross the terrain of #life."
"Delphi, you're six. GO TO SLEEP."
"What seems to be the problem?" asks the marriage councilor.
I sniff, stoically holding back tears. "He won't stop incorrectly quoting popular memes."
"This is so sad," says my husband, "Siri, play #desperado."
"I CAN'T GO ON LIKE THIS, IAN."
"I hear a baby!" says the newcomer. "In the woods!"
"No, you don't," I say. "You think you hear a baby. The bright strings of lights keep them away from the #road, so they try to lure us into the dark."
Soon enough, the crying turns to snarls.
"You're new. You'll learn."
I take my daughter to the #shelter, give her some space as she looks around.
"Mom, I think I found the one I want!" she calls.
The crate she's looking into is bigger than our car. Something inside snarls, and I feel the floor shake.
I smile. Ah, the magic of a first pet.
"Living in the lighthouse is interesting," I say to my fellow keeper. Outside, the waves barrel over each other like gray elephants.
"You don't know the half of it. Look." He points a weathered finger.
Among the #tumbling waves, I can make out undulating, scaly coils.
Against the #desolate landscape, the diner shines jolly rancher blue.
I wander in, gun cocked. People are eating pancakes. It's like a pocket outside of time.
"Ready to order, sweetie?" smiles a waitress. Her name tag reads 'Pam.'
"...I'd kill for some waffles."
"So detective, which one's the monster?" asks the bartender. "The ax-crazy old lady? The conspiracy theorist? The dissection-obsessed kid?"
"No. Humans are strange. Normalcy is the greatest indicator of a monster," I reply. "And the only normal person here is you."
When I'm #arrested, he arrives to bail me out, sharply dressed and accomplished. Everything I can't live up to.
"You got a delinquent on your hands, pal," an officer mutters.
I can't stomach the disappointment in his eyes when he says, "You can't keep doing this, Dad."
My best friend is a witch. We walk through the woods, and she points out the flickering rainbow pixies.
"The #blue ones help with sorrow, the yellow with fear, and the magenta with unrequited love."
"Then I'll talk to the magenta," I say. But I can't stop looking at her.
The creatures that once ruled the forests and the hills now rule the #streets that were built on them.
You might pass a boy with horns curling around his ears, or a girl, and hear the faint shuffle of wings. A gaggle of children, lupine eyes bright as their cigarettes.
It's 2081, and we're going to Grandma's for dinner.
"Aw, Mom," my sister whines. "Grandma's so old! She always #dabs when she sees us!"
"Or saying 'yaaasss queen,'" my brother agrees.
"I kind of like her old-timey music, though," I say. "Nicki Minaj is kinda catchy."
I arrive home to find my ex wife sitting at my kitchen table, sipping coffee.
"Thought our marriage was bad?" she smiles. "Your hell's only just begun."
The bullet wound glints like a #ruby in the center of her forehead, red as her lipstick.
Right where I shot her.
My commutes are my solace. I love everything from the buzz of the #radio to the fast food from the nearest Space & Shake. The hum of my small ship around me, the dome of space above, planets hanging like ornaments. It's just me, flying through a universe that's only mine.
"Welcome to the Shop of #Oddities, can I help you find anything?"
"Just browsing." The aisles are marked Lost Dreams, Misspent Wishes, Imaginary Friends, and -- "Eggs?"
"Oh, our eggs are very popular! I recommend the griffon. They come equipped with a training manual."
Without warning, she hurls the plate she was washing on the ground. "Apologize to it." she says. "See if that'll make it whole again, without the cracks." I stare at the broken pieces. "The #damage is done. You can't fix it. And you can't expect me to trust you again." #vss365
"What did you bring to show and tell, Carol?"
"I brought my pet, #Mittens."
"Is Mittens a cat?"
"Yes. He's waiting outside." Carol opens the door. The students scream with delight, and the teacher with terror, as the tiger stalks in. "Told you my cat ate my homework."
The gangster has the build of a #heavyweight champion, a scar over one ursine eye.
I gulp. "You must be the boss, then!"
"Oh, he doesn't run this operation." From behind him steps the tiniest, prettiest thing I've ever seen, with long lashes and Tiffany blue eyes. "I do."
I was sent to put an end to the monarchy. I go to visit the prince, the tyrant king's blood on my hands.
Then I see him sleeping. The fan of eyelashes on plump cherub cheeks. No more than two years old.
#Killing him is no longer an option. I would die for him.
We sent our man to war, and they sent them back as ghosts. They drift the streets, sad-eyed, an ethereal #resurrection of who they were.
Fifty years ago, we got them back. I've aged. My husband hasn't. I hold his ghostly hand, and though it's cold, it's enough.
"The boss said I'd be helping people live on their own terms. But no one's even sold their soul for anything worthwhile!" The demon shakes his head. "I won't even accept #guitar players anymore."
The angel is unimpressed. "Well. It's almost like Satan's a bad employer."
"If someone offers you drugs, just say no," she tells me, beneath her "Every day's an #alcoholiday!" plaque. "Peer pressure is no joke. You don't have to emulate the other kids."
If I were honest, I'd tell her we're not emulating each other. We're emulating our parents.
Monthly total: 33
They call her the #Ragpicker, but what she deals is second-hand spirits.
"I interest you in a haunted doll? Buy one, get one."
"No, thanks." In her cart, I spot a bottle of honey-gold light. "What's that?"
"A protective spirit. But poltergeists are fifty percent off."
"Don't I get three wishes?"
"No, you get one," says the genie. "And it always doubles as a curse somehow."
"Wow, you suck." I try to think of a loophole. "What if...I wished for everything I possibly wanted?"
The genie is unimpressed. "Sounds like a curse to me."
For the first time in five years, I felt the rain. The air smelled fresh and clean, and it was filled with sounds, with life. Leaves glistened in the #rainwater like jewels.
It washed my hands of my captor's blood. For the first time in five years, I felt clean.
I sculpt babies out of clay, #bake them, and take them from the kiln pink-faced and wailing.
"Give him my charisma," say the fathers. "Give her my eyes, my courage," say the mothers.
But I also note their flaws, and give them to the babies too. Only then can they be real.
"Do you feel like our job is important?" says one lantern-lighter, rowing through the currant-purple sky.
The other lights lanterns as they go. "Eh. Someone must notice, somewhere."
On the earth below, millions watch the stars appear as they light them, one by one.
The genie looks like Mother Nature, flowers in her hair. She places a tiny potted plant in my hands.
"Nurture it," she says, not one for argle-bargle. "Wishes take work."
For nine months, I do. Its bud swells like a watermelon.
From that bud, my baby is born.
He rode from the curling fog, a black silhouette on the back of a bone white #horse, strangely beautiful. He looked almost human. He wasn't.
Everyone scurried from the streets like rabbits. We knew what this meant. Someone had done wrong, and they were going to die.
The monster found me. The floorboards groan, and I turn to see him, filling my doorway like a shadow.
I know he's hear to kill me, this hideous creation I abandoned.
Then, he speaks.
"Dad," he murmurs, his eyes like wet puddles, "will you teach me tie my #shoelaces?"
I try to sneak past, but not quietly enough. The dreaded monster blinks open its leonine eyes, dragon tail raising like a question mark.
I reach for my sword.
Then, the beast rolls over, showing a soft belly. "Brr-ow?"
The mighty #chimera is asking for a belly rub.
After being released, the first purchase Joe makes is a truly mythic feline. A #chimera.
It's the size of a VW bug, with tendrils of fire spilling from its jaws, the hind hooves of a goat, and a dragon tail.
"Let's see that bitch Carole Baskin try and take you from me."
Working at the mythic veterinary clinic defies expectations.
#Chimera cubs are dandelion-fuzzy and sneeze clouds of smoke. Dragons are intelligent and loyal. Sphinxes are great conversationalists.
Unicorns, though, are assholes, and will purposefully shit on the floor.
The most beautiful girl I've ever seen wears a white fur coat with #nine fox tails, her eyes bright and glinting with vulpine wit.
I try to catch up to her, only for her to disappear from view and emerge as a white, nine-tailed fox.
It's hard having a crush on a kitsune.
After slaying the dragon, the knight discovered its egg. Guilty, she scooped embers over it to incubate it, sat and read to it.
The hatchling that emerged had eyes bright as the embers, scales like delicate opals. It looked at her and chirped one word: "#Mother!"
Dragons are everywhere.
As big as elephants, basking on rooftops, and as small as pigeons, stealing bread.
"Isaiah, you #quisling! You relaxed the magical barrier! My kingdom is overrun with dragons!"
The young wizard just smiles. "Seems like the opposite of a problem."
I live in a Tree #Village. Upsides include our adorable tree cottages and a beautiful view of the sunset. Downsides include vertigo, rickety rope bridges, and the monsters that prowl the woods after dark, reminding us why we live in trees. Reminding us not to fall. #vss365
"Namaste," a blond girl with dreadlocks greets me. "You have a really pretty #orenda!"
I know Natives who are white-passing, so I say, "Oh, you're from the Iroquois tribe?"
"Only spiritually," she smiles.
If this is my new roommate, I'm in for a long semester.
I tried to wish for my ex girlfriend to love me, but the genie said that would violate her consent. So I #transferred the lamp to her, hoping it would make her take me back.
Instead, she wished for a harem full of beautiful men and women, and hooked up with the genie.
The girl I've been seeing is perfect. Hair the color of October and fierce, whisky-gold eyes.
The night after I move into her cabin, I'm startled to awaken to the sound of howls from outside, surrounding us.
She only smiles. "It's about time you meet my #family."
"This," says Grandmother, "is the #Church of the Old Ones."
I look around. "It's a canyon."
"It's a church. I'm its priestess."
I gasp, as what I thought were trees start to move. Antlers. The head of a great stag rises into view.
"And that," she smiles, "is an angel."
After giving her wealth and power, I demand payment: her firstborn child.
"I'm gay," she smiles, lounging poolside. "I'm #skint in the baby department."
"What!?" I'm heartbroken. All I've ever wanted is a child.
She puts her hand on mine, gently. "We could always adopt."
"The #moon is made of honeycomb. Each night, its #bees disperse to pollinate the stars, to drink their sweet nectar."
"Oh, Grandma. I'm too old for those stories."
"Oh?" She placed a jar in front of me. In it was a bee, its wings glowing like crescent moons.
I keep the ghosts of my past in bottles, lock them in a cabinet. They glow all the colors the #moon can be: ivory white, butter yellow, squash gold.
At night, they rattle, hum like #bees. Cheerful, almost.
They can't be locked away forever.
#TalesNoir #vss365 #BraveWrite
"How much for a spell for eternal youth?"
The witch is unimpressed. "Pathetic, you who worship at the frivolous alter of youth." Her hair is moon #silver, skin a delicate web of wrinkles. "I can take the wisdom you'd gain, the beauty you'd discover. That is my currency."
"A smiling pussycat? My aunt had one of those."
"He didn't just smile. He spoke." Alice sips her tea. "Not unlike your lion friend."
"So you've had a #queer life too, huh?" Dorothy puts her hand on Alice's. "We've got something in common."
"Curiouser and curiouser."
"I knew we shouldn't have taken a #detour," says one Angel. "Where the hell are we?"
"Someplace called Sodom," says the other.
"What a mess." The first Angel fluffs his wings. "I hope everyone's being respectful of each other."
"Let's have a look around, just to see."
Jellyfish float by like gelatinous #sapphires down the hallway, to music twining from the ballroom. Interspersed with the laughter and chatter of my fellow ghosts.
I thought my life was over when the ship went down. Maybe it was. But there's a whole new life down here.
It takes the #Dreamcatcher a while to capture my nightmare. It looks like a bat crossed with a tarantula.
"Thank God," I breath, after he finally nets it. "I can finally sleep!"
"Sweet dreams, ma'am," he says, on his way out the door. "But if not, you know who to call."
I cup the house god in my hands like a #drop of dew. "Please," I pray, "let this difficult time pass."
Outside, a hurricane god rages. My little house god alone isn't enough to stop it. But a thousand other households are praying to their gods, too. We'll be enough.
I taught you to play the #mandolin. That's why you've stopped. It sits by your bed, where you lay heavy and hollow-eyed.
I send a little bird to pluck its strings. Life sparks behind your eyes, and they grow tear-heavy. You hug the mandolin and cry, grieving, but alive.
I'm the best at what I do, because I love my job. I approach each client with understanding, compassion, and #verve.
"There's no need to cry, sweetie," I sooth the sobbing woman. "He pushed you too far, and got what was coming to him. Now, let's get him into buckets."
"Grab her front hooves," I instruct. "So, you're new to the #farm?"
We're helping one of our girls give birth. She lows, flank heaving like a hill.
The newcomer nods. "I wasn't expecting this."
The baby unicorn spills out, horn no more than a stub.
"You get used to it."
"I used to lament about the #longueur of my life. The endless monotony of it. I prayed for something, anything, interesting to happen."
"And do you regret that now?" asks my fellow survivor.
I don't have time to answer. "Oh, shit. We gotta go. More zombies are coming."
Evening #gloamed around me, clouds gelatinous and pink as jellyfish. The abandoned diner sat in the middle of the field, like a relic of a forgotten era.
Abandoned, only til sunset, when the neon sign flickered to life. Open to select clientele, none of whom were human.
Monthly total: 35
The merfolk bask on the #littoral sands, some seal-plump, some lean as cats.
A tourist toddles up to one.
"Wouldn't recommend that," I call.
"Just getting a selfie!"
I shake my head, go back to my book. The next thing I hear is a snap of jaws and a cry.
Every damn year.
What I thought were #hydrangea petals turned out to be clustered butterflies, rising in a cloud of pink and blue against a sky almost the same shade.
I collapse against the hillside and watch them disperse, like a sigh, as our chaotic world burns below.
Going too deep into the forest is a bit like going too deep into the sea.
What I thought were small saplings turned out to be the antlers of a huge stag, bigger than a milktruck, eyes like moons in the dark woods.
I lowered my gun. A #buckshot would only make him angry.
The stallion emerged from the lake, #sinew like liquid beneath its shimmering black coat.
"The kelpie. Admire, but don't covet: it drowns those who try to own it," my grandmother explained. "Beauty is not a possession, but a gift. The kelpie reminds us of that."
I've grown to love the space-traveler. The way his face lights up when we see a nebula, and he points out it looks like cotton candy. Even the #sinew of his strange, two-legged body.
I'm only his ship, albeit a sentient one. But I think he loves me too.
"Is it time to sleep already?" yawned Night. Her wine-dark skin was freckled with stars, drowsy eyes like waning moons.
"Yes." #Aurora's hair was a sherbet pink cloud, her eyes bright as rising suns. "I'll sit with you awhile. Day will be here soon."
"The villagers claim you eat people," said the knight.
"Ha! No, they want to kill me for my treasure." The dragon stretched with the #languor of a great cat. "They don't know I only collect books. I'd tell them if they asked."
"Hmm. And I thought you were the greedy one."
The stripper's name is #Effervescence. She's a siren, but she looks like an angel. She shimmers as she floats before me, contouring like liquid.
"You shouldn't have to do this," I say. "I'm sorry."
"If you're sorry, give me a big tip," she says. "I'm in grad school."
The kingdom is #effervescent with #celebration. I've married my prince. My happily ever after.
But, for the first time, I realize there will be a day after my happily ever after. And a day after that.
I've hoped for this my whole life. What will I hope for now?
"What perfume are you wearing?"
She smiled, lips candy red, teeth sugar white. "I'm not wearing perfume."
"The air around you...it's #sapid." Her date pressed his nose to her neck. "I feel like I'm drunk."
"That's the point." He didn't even see her fangs unsheathe.
I come from an underground civilization of sun-fearing people.
When I first broke out, I clung to the earth, terrified I would fall into the ocean of sky above me.
People here are #inured to its beauty. But each day, I'm awed to wake to sky above me and sun on my face.
I'm sitting on my porch with my visiting cousin, when the Marsh God rises from its sunset-streaked waters. Driftwood antlers crown his head, shaggy with greenery.
My cousin yelps. "What the HELL is that?"
"City slicker," I huff. "You'll get #inured to it, just like me."
Icarus, sunburned and half-drowned, drags himself home to find a man waiting for him.
"It took courage, what you did." The man pours himself #ambrosia, as molten gold as his eyes. As the sun. "You won't always reach the sun. But the sun notices your efforts."
When your government fails you, go to the nature god. His home was once an official building, its #penetralia an indoor forest.
For the offering of a bonsai tree or a succulent, he'll make your garden rich, clean your water, overrun the homes of the elite with weeds.
Today, monsters cut through our forest. I crouch beside my mother to watch them pass.
"Savages," she growls. "They lock their children in schools, to sit in #carrels like machines. Never let them catch you."
"I won't, Mom." I stroke her ears, glad to be raised by wolves.
Something strange happens to the library after midnight. Especially the quiet parts, with few other students.
The swell of roots under the rug, leaves ghosting over the #carrel, honey-sweet music playing from an unidentifiable source. The books have their secrets.
The wind chimes fall silent, noise and motion sucked out of the world.
We know what this means. Overhead, an angel blots out the sun. Reality bends, shimmering, around its halo.
The chimes in the #zephyr indicate once it's passed. We shrug, and go back to shucking corn.
Mermaids and selkies lounge on the shore, #benthos clinging to rocks. Jellyfish larger than people undulate beneath the clear water.
The ocean is nurturing, but treat it with respect. Watch for the swell of tentacles beneath its wine-dark waters, and remember its secrets.
Tiny mushrooms #constellate her shoulders, like raised, multicolored freckles. Flowers grow from her hair, her dress made of interwoven grass.
"I can't believe you're a goddess of death."
"I'm also a goddess of life." She smiles. "You can't have one without the other.
Space is an ocean, full of life. Because it's boundless, everything is bigger.
Anglerfish dangling lights as big as space stations, jellyfish as big as planets. Great, drifting whales that #ingurgitate plankton the size of stars, their songs echoing throughout galaxies.
The dragon's lair is more like an antique shop than a hoard.
Porcelain dolls, old books, pretty fabrics, a glinting #periapt.
"So many knights came to try to slay me," he grumbled. "They think I have gold and jewels. But your people like shiny things far more than I do."
"We need to raze your mountain," explained the businessman to the dwarves. "It's restricting travel."
The head dwarf rolled his eyes. "Follow me." He lead the businessman through a #submontane tunnel, alight with strings of tiny lanterns. "Precision beats destruction."
I released the genie days ago, but my wishes remain #velleity.
"What's taking so long?" His aura has changed from dreamy blue to impatient red. "I could give you everything you ever want!"
And that's the thing. If I'm still unhappy then, I'll have no one to blame but me.
An angel has settled over our little town, hanging like a cosmic mobile over our #tellurian lives.
We know what this means. Something world-changing is about to happen here. The angel is a harbinger.
My wife is silent for a long time. She whispers, "I'm pregnant."
We've been sent to observe Earth. "Wow. It's a mess down there."
My senior officer sips his coffee. "Gets worse the longer you watch. Gotta love #tellurian life."
"Shouldn't we help them?"
"If we help, how will they learn? They've got to make the same mistakes we did."
The man invited the little girl into his van. Predator sits beside prey, her pigtails tied up with blood-red ribbons, her eyes wolf-bright.
He won't see her jagged teeth until it's too late, and no one will see the #rubiginous flecks of his blood amidst her freckles.
Our cottage sits on the edge of the woods, between two worlds.
Behind us are buildings and the shoots of factory chimneys, belching smoke.
Before us is a #verdant world of endless green. Of the Old Gods who guard it on foggy days, silhouetted antlers huge as trees.
Beware when the giants wake. #Verdant titans beneath the hills, the ocean, dragons slumbering in mountain caves like seams of jewels.
They crumble mountains, capsize ships, overturn villages.
They're not evil -- they might even be good. But to us, they are indifferent.
My ex won't stop pestering me to get back together. He promises things will be different.
So I #slather a mound of dirt with frosting until it looks like a cake, and leave it on his doorstep. When he bites in, maybe he'll understand how dating him felt.
I'm surprised by the #viridity of the Underworld. I'd expected gloom and groaning spirits, but it's exploding with foliage.
"Wherever there's death, there's new life," explains Hades, touching his flower crown. "My wife taught me that. Every home needs a woman's touch."
Girls are invited to the unicorn farm to see if they're pure of heart. The foals only like the brightest of souls.
When the town's most notorious tramp comes trotting up, lips ruby red and eyes smoky, everyone scoffs.
Then, the littlest foal curls up in her lap.
During our moonlight #escapades, we become young again. Our wrinkles recede into smooth skin, moon-white hair stained brown.
We dance at clubs to crackling drums. The other young couples have no idea of our secret. Each night a miniature eternity, just for me and you.
I'm an invisible woman. Each morning, I paint myself with makeup, color my hair. Spritz myself with #perfume.
Finally, I meet someone like me -- a smudge of foundation missing, clear as air beneath.
We wash off the pretense and lay in the dark, invisible, together.
The Angels watched the fish drag itself from one puddle to the other, its fins working like #sculls.
"And what on earth is this stupid thing?" asked one Angel.
"The first of the human race," answered the other.
"Evolution, you'll find, is where stupidity meets faith."
Sisyphus got the last laugh. With time and effort, he wore down the #incline of the hill, and his boulder down to a pebble. He rolls it back and forth, wearing it down to a grain of sand.
Once it's gone, he'll explore the fields of Elysium, his paradise finally earned.
Monthly total: 67
While researching the gods, I meet Eris, the goddess of strife and discord.
"Why do you cause #chaos?"
"The universe is comprised of order. Patterns, symmetry." She smiles, golden apple in hand. I feel like Eve. "Chaos causes evolution. It triggers change. You need me."
The #Angel had that expelled us from Eden had four rotating heads -- a gilded, roaring lion, a lowing ox, an arrow-eyed eagle.
"Please," Adam begged. "There's nothing down there!"
Only the human head showed sympathy. "I'm sorry. It's the only way your life can begin."
The most beautiful girl I'd ever seen sat surrounded by flowers.
As soon as I took a step towards her, tulip petals split into jaws, like those of a #demogorgon. The snapdragons spit fire, #dividing me from her.
The most beautiful things aren't to be touched.
Each firework brings a cheer from the people I fought for.
My arm is gone beneath the elbow, like it was singed off. I gave it to them, a price of #patriotism.
They'll never even have to think about the wars being fought, but I flinch at the sound of each explosion.
The fireworks in my town are purchased illegally this year, true to the spirit of revolution.
I imagine ghosts of the past #flying in the ether, watching fireworks unfurl like #patriotic jellyfish, enjoying the beauty of a world that's no longer their problem.
"I'm not like OTHER girls," I stated. "In the words of Hamlet, 'to thine own self be true.'"
The cheerleader, whom I'd taken to be a #moron, batted thick, curled lashes. "Wasn't that, like. Ophelia's father Polonius?"
Maybe there was more to other girls than I thought.
When aliens came to Earth, it was to tell us we were being #morons. Diplomatically.
"You keep trying to attract attention. Stop." They looked skyward with huge, almond eyes. "Space is a dark forest, full of things bigger than us. The small must be silent and stealthy."
The #skeptic got coffee from a three-eyed man at the Mars Cafe.
"Such a sad deformity," thought the skeptic.
He read on his porch, ignoring flying saucers as they danced.
The believer sat next to him, holding his hand. "The greatest superstition is a refusal to believe."
The pious women call her a #heretic, but the witch is holier than any of them.
She walks naked in the sun-drenched forest, soaks in its divinity. Dances beneath its haloed moon, howls with its wolves.
She'll never shroud herself from the ferocious glory of creation.
My wife comes home with what seems to be another human skull.
"Watcha got there, hon?"
"It's for the #aesthetic," she explains, arranging it with some fairy lights over our hearth.
I don't know where she gets them. But they make her happy, and that's enough for me.
The clouds marched like #pachyderms over hills like camel humps, the air fertile with coming rain.
I sat on my porch in a snuggy with a book in my lap, texting all my social engagements to tell them I was busy.
I had an appointment at home with a rainy day.
The dreams of drunk elephants are invaded by bubblegum pink humans.
There's some debate amongst scholarly #pachyderms as to whether humans are intelligent. Most refute the notion, based on observation.
But they're still charmed when we appear in their drunken dreams.
The elephant goddess of the library has a coffee or a book in each of her hands, trunk curled around a pencil.
I kneel before the pachyderm, place my offering before her -- twinkies from the vending machine, all I can afford.
"PLEASE, just get me through finals."
A local, the little girl had no desire to attend the visiting circus. They put so much time into painfully training their elephants. Was she supposed to be impressed?
Meanwhile, she could easily amble up the back of one the local #pachyderms, enthroned on its shoulders.
Sometimes, on quiet nights in Neverland, Peter and Hook would meet on grassy hills and look up at the stars.
Hook was one of Peter's very first Lost Boys, and so were his pirates.
Despite their quarrels, both were #orphans, who'd never really grow up.
I was eleven when I found out the truth.
"Your birth parents put you in this, and sent you off into an unknown future. As it was with Moses." Ma had her hand on the rocket like the flank of a cow. "As all parents must do, one day, when their children become #orphans."
The girl is easy to groom. Young, pretty, vulnerable. An #orphan. The best kind of target.
When I finally I hit her, I expect tears. But she looks at me with the eyes of a predatory creature.
"You know my parents are dead," she growls. "You never asked who killed them."
The ship was a fleck on the flank of a vast ocean. The Great Old Ones watched, unseen, from the depths.
"Ugh. THOSE things again," one of them grumbled. "They're like flees."
Another elbowed him with the force of a tidal wave. "Don't be a #xenophobe, Cthulu."
It's my hundredth year of attendance at the Annual Witches Conference. There are red-haired girls with foxes, white witches cupping doves. A warlock with the same smooth lines and feline #charisma of his panther familiar.
We were forged in the fires that tried to burn us.
It's my job to sing to the Great Old One, who slumbers beneath a blanket of #ocean. His headlight-red eyes stay closed.
When the humans catch me, and force me to sing for them in a tank, I feel vindictive glee. The Old One will wake soon. They'll all get to meet him.
I'm a concubine, the ultimate #sycophant. I count to ten between my moans, avert my eyes from master's sallow-toothed grin.
"To you, the only girl who appreciates me," he says, "I leave my will."
When I smother him that night, it's the only pleasure he's ever given me.
My mother said that each person is a #chronicle of the universe, condensed like origami, folded into different shapes.
I didn't believe it until I saw your eyes, and I could swear I saw everything -- that ever was, that ever could be -- unfolding right in front of me.
"Look, sweetie!" squeals my girlfriend at the zoo. "It's an elephant!"
The trunked animal looks up. "My God, that dress is just STUNNING!" it exclaims.
"Actually, it's a #sycophant," I correct her. "Common mistake. The elephants are this way."
A tattoo appears when we love someone new -- first faint beneath #skin, getting bigger and more vibrant as they #chronicle our growing love. If the love fades, so will they.
I color in the once-brilliant tattoo on my chest each night. My wife can never know.
My mother named me #Anathema, because I brought her nothing but pain.
To ease the sting, I embraced it, spitting venom at anyone and everyone who came near.
Then, I met you -- soft as lapping sunshine on an old wound. Now my venom is only for those who'd cause you harm.
"The #pain of birth," said the priest, "is woman's #anathema for original sin."
It was the first time I saw my mother hit a man.
"Life is bought with sacrifice." Blood on her hand, she pointed at the crucifix on the wall. "I'm more like him than you'll ever be."
Our undead neighbor Barbara bumps repeatedly against our glass door, groaning. The upside of the zombie #pandemic is that they can't turn handles.
"She followed all the guidelines," remarks my husband. "Her idiot kid got bitten over spring break and brought it home."
We're the #familiars of rival witches.
I'm a raven, sleek as my witch's hair. You're a wolf, as gray as your master's suits.
Secretly, we play beneath the full moon. Our species enjoy a natural symbiosis.
Maybe they'll realize that they, like us, work better together.
"Are you a misfit, too?" the baby elephant's comically large ears like flower petals.
Rudolph chooses his words carefully. "Yes, I was #ostrasized. I'm loved now."
The elephant's eyes shine in the candy light of his nose. "Does it ever stop hurting?"
"I hope so."
"You're so much more interesting than the knights," said the princess. "All they want is to save me. You have something to say."
"It's those who are #ostracized who often have the most to say," purred the dragon, pressing a jewel into her hands.
#SatSplat #SlapDashSat #vss365
"In order to inhibit the orcs from eating people, the humans have taken a new approach," said the Elf King's assistant. "#Empathy training."
The king wasn't impressed. "How's that working out?"
"They've already eaten the instructors, sir."
"I do love our orc brethren."
"Do you want to explain what caused the altercation between you and your roommate?"
"She was bringing negative vibes," said the freshman. "I felt attacked."
The R.A. frowned. "That doesn't justify shoving her out a window."
"I'm an #empath. I can't deal with negativity."
Frankenstein thought he had #empathy for his monster. He forced himself to tolerate its presence.
One day, he managed to bring himself to look at it, and saw the eyes of a child, full of compassion. All this time, the monster had been giving him the gift of forgiveness.
The moss-covered railway mark the barrier between our world and that of the monarchs of nature. What passes that barrier disappears into moss, fog, and vine.
It seems to grow fiercer the taller our factory chimneys grow, a world cleaved by a #schism of man and nature.
As an author, I mine the terrain of my mind for pretty words. Sometimes I'll unearth a #poem, graceful as a string of pearls. Treasure hidden for me by my muse, as a reward for diligence.
Most days, I just find clay. It's my job to sculpt it into something new.
I watch my classmates' #poems crawl from the page.
Some wobble like baby deer, some lope, some waltz to a slow, confident rhythm.
Some writhe on the floor in self-indulgent agony, fatally eating their own tail.
I look at my own page, and will myself to write.
I used to come home to words as light and pink as bubbles, my wife stringing them into happy #poems about our love.
Now, I find her sharpening them into daggers, her eyes just as cold.
No one warned me words could be #fatal. I wish I could take mine back.
I like to watch words take flight.
Sleepy words that float from your mouth like jellyfish. Happy words that skip and bounce and lilt.
An early draft of a #poem, dancing with the clumsy grace of a foal.
Words have a life of their own. Once they're out, they live forever.
The #dinosaurs graze like cows in a pasture, never thinking to look up.
The asteroid will cleave their starlit sky like an angry streak of chalk, piercing their peaceful world in a moment of conception.
Only once it ends will the next one be born from its ashes.
The cat is very much aware that she was once worshiped, and the rooster has not forgotten that he was a monarch amongst #dinosaurs.
They are kindred souls, the regency of a forgotten era. At dawn, they sit on the sun-painted roof, and imagine it's still their kingdom.
My neighbor's garden is #lush with words, poetry bursting up like clusters of tulips, prose standing sunflower proud, a triumph.
I'm inspired. Expecting very little, I sew the seeds of ideas.
I'm surprised to find crocuses waiting for me, buds waiting to unfurl.
We found the chickadee nesting in the eye-socket of its ancestor, the skeleton of a #dinosaur.
Despite the potential for damage, we almost couldn't bare to relocate him.
From the bones of a long-dead era, new life had been born. And it had a tiny heart, beating anew.
Raptors fill our chicken coop, their #lush plumage puffed from morning cold.
They look at me with cat-bright eyes, explode with trilling as I toss it in handfuls.
When they invented the means to clone #dinosaurs, I'd expected more #glory than this.
#vsspoem #vss365 #BraveWrite
The #dinosaur trills with delight as we scrub his hide, soap bubbles clinging delicately to his scales and plumage.
His claws curl contentedly, like plows to the #lush grass. He yawns, showing banana-sized teeth.
Working as a groomer is by far my favorite summer job.
Growing up poor, I never felt there could be a force in the universe that loved me.
Then, I met you. The #galaxies of your freckles, the green worlds of your eyes. You contained the universe inside you, and it loved me.
And I realized I loved it, too.
Used to being his father's only creation, Lucifer was surprised to see carefully bottled #galaxies.
"New life will grow there," his Father explained.
Lucifer smiled dutifully, waited till he thought he was unobserved. He took those bottles, and shook them, one by one.
The Angels rest in the dark spaces between #galaxies. Only evil fears the nurturing blackness of the unknown.
An Angel wakes to a whale song of the universe only he can hear. He bathes in the Milky Way, and its stars cling quivering to his feathers like drops of dew.
The #galaxy is a warren, the stars endless white rabbits. All-#consuming black holes are their burrows, each nebula foliage in which to hide.
No matter how much they multiply, their masses huddle together, softness and light in the dark forest of the universe.
Instead of going to work, I bought a cheap spaceship and booked it. The stars streaked the blackboard sky like chalk.
I wanted to cross the #galaxy, somewhere where I was a stranger to myself. I barely made it to the edge of the solar system before it sputtered and died.
Her hair pooled golden in the rich man's hands, like #nectar. "Milk and honey," he murmured, kissing her pale neck. "I could drown in it."
"You will," she smiled.
He had many enemies, this great man.
While he slept that night, she strangled him with her golden locks.
Amalthea the goat and Lupa the wolf meet atop a hill.
Amalthea let the infant Zeus suckle #nectar from her gilded horns. Lupa nursed Romulus and Remus, fathers of Rome.
The Colosseum still stands, beneath clouds of wolf gray and fleece white.
The kingdoms they mothered.
Venus stands between the woman and her pursuer.
"How can you keep me from what I desire?" cries the man. "You're the goddess of beauty!"
"I'm the guardian of the beautiful," Venus explains, hair gilded as #nectar against marble. "I protect them from the likes of you."
"What makes you think your child is possessed?" the exorcist asked his customer.
"She's been erupting with lesions, using horrendous language, and acting like a vicious animal!"
"Ma'am, she doesn't need an #exorcism, she needs chocolate. What you described is puberty."
Karen is prone to possession. Sometimes there are warning signs, like getting a severe A-line bob. Today, it grips her suddenly.
"I WANT TO SPEAK TO THE MANAGER!" the demon roars.
"I don't get paid enough," mutters the Whole Foods employee, dialing the #exorcist.
As a Junior Exorcist, I'm mostly on ghost duty. I suck stubborn spirits from rafters with a vacuum. I don't get a sleek suit yet, or to vanquish demons.
But when I watch the freed ghosts curl into the night like cream in coffee, my job doesn't seem so bad.
"Susan, you're too soft on the boy. Twenty-one, and he doesn't even have a job!"
"Sshh!" Susan hissed. "It's not his fault he has ergaphobia! It's a fear of working!"
"That's called being lazy, and why are you whispering?"
"He also has phobophobia: fear of #phobias."
"So, what seems to be the problem?" asked the therapist.
"Well, this is awfully silly," said the patient, "but I have anatidaephobia: the #phobia that somehow, a duck is watching me."
From across the street, a White Pekin duck lowered his binoculars. "Shit. He knows."
"Oh." I stepped into the shade as the sun emerged. "Sorry. I have #heliophobia: a fear of sunlight."
My date laughed. "No worries! I have sanguivoriphobia. That's a #phobia of vampires!"
I chuckled nervously, running my teeth over my fangs. This might be a problem.
"This is lovely," smiled my date. "Everyone out there seems so maladjusted!"
"Um, sorry, can you not say that? I have a #phobia of long words."
"Oh?" She thought for a minute. "You mean -"
"Oh, God, don't say it!"
The time machine only went backwards.
The 80s failed to meet our neon-soaked expectations. The jazz-rattled 20s, haunted with whispers of wars. #Fancy Victorian England stank of piss.
Without the molasses-gold tint of #nostalgia, the only way to go is forward.
At the #Nostalgia Store, they sell candy as sweet as when you were a kid.
Toys that don't break, that feel alive in your hands.
Bottled scents lined up like perfume: that first Christmas tree, that perfect summer afternoon.
You can visit. But you can't take it with you.
Words float over a party like a cloud of lazy jellyfish.
Laughter crackles in blue lightning bolts. A girl in the bathroom weeps willow-gray sobs.
The quiet girl in the corner holds #iridescent words, that bolt and leap like deer. She saves them for later use.
Anchored to the earth, boats float overhead like thoughts.
Twin whales spiral through the evening clouds in slow pirouettes, gulls circling around them.
#Iridescent jellyfish rise with the stars. One sits on your shoulder, just as my hand touches yours. A miracle.
A Chosen One is a lot like a child star. After the #hero bests their dark lord, they often spiral into alcohol and public outbursts, ridiculed by the public that once cheered them.
Like Shirley Temple, I quit the business. If I stayed, I might become the next dark lord.
"Please," said the villager. "A knight is ravaging our town! Stealing, vandalizing, harassing women. We need you to vanquish him!"
The dragon never thought he'd be asked to vanquish a knight.
He'd heard this story before. But this was the first time the #hero was him.
I scribble down words and will them to move.
I yearn for those rare, blessed days when they spring from the page like crickets, like flecks of sun.
I keep going till they inch along the #paper like caterpillars. If I keep going, they'll grow their wings.
They kept me in a pit, its smooth walls impossible to climb. I asked only for books to keep #myself occupied.
Little did they know that after reading each book, I used its pages to craft #paper wings. On these feathers of knowledge, I flew to freedom.
#vsspoem #vss365 #BraveWrite
Monthly total: 35
"What a lovely bird! Poor thing."
The nearly-blind widow nursed the #broken-winged creature back to health.
She didn't think twice when it stayed, even when it began lighting her hearth with its fiery breath.
"Winters are cold around here, anyway."
"...Once you've simplified x<2, please get out your cauldrons and turn to page 52 of your textbook."
The other students cheerfully follow along. I'm five steps behind as they begin chanting square roots.
No one takes me seriously when I say #math class is like sorcery.
"You need to learn #math like everyone else," the teacher lectures me.
I don't bother explaining I found a better way.
I apologize, and then at lunch I show the rest of the class how I solved the math problem.
Now we're all learning the same thing.
I married a #mathematician. She bubbles over with enthusiasm as she explains equations.
When she looks back, I'm halfway through drawing her. "Keep going," I implore.
I can't understand her craft, but she shows me its beauty. All I can do is capture it with mine.
"I recognize you from the news." The vigilante feigns ignorance. "You did bad things to little girls, yet you walked free. Quite the controversy."
The man takes a step backwards, defensive. "Age is just a #number."
The vigilante cocks his gun. "And a coffin's just a box."
"I'm sapiosexual. Attracted only to smart people."
"You must avoid a lot of drama, then!"
"Ha. I've already dated and broken up with my entire #calculus class." My new friend tiredly sipped her latte. "And the semester's only halfway through."
The monster under your bed isn't here to harm you, but to protect you.
I crouch, watching your father's feet as he approaches with the belt. His drunken canter, slurring he'll "teach you a lesson."
A growl vibrates inside me. The lesson tonight will be his.
Named #Epsilon, I was expected to inherit my father's love for math, and my mother's affinity for ancient language.
I got neither. But "epsilon" can also refer to children, whom I love to teach.
Our names preceed us in the world. They usually have something to tell us.
"The only acceptable #theorem," said the puffer fish, "is that we are the only intelligent life in the universe."
"A universe which has clearly defined barriers!" The hermit crab tapped the aquarium glass with his claw. "Beyond which there is nothing."
The skeptic is briefly abducted by aliens.
"Illogical," he insists, under their tractor beam glow. "Completely contrary to my understanding of the universe."
Above him are countless stars, and a universe too vast to understand. #Logic is not a blanket he can hide behind.
I'm alone in the woods when I meet the goddess October, here to beckon the coming fall.
She's tall and terrible and beautiful. Her antlers brush the foliage, making it blush gold.
"Hush," she warns me, voice like whispering leaves.
I've never felt so honored.
Each of my #manifold books transports me to a new world.
I return from my latest expedition, drenched in swampwater. Not all of my worlds are pretty ones, but I learn something from each.
My next book has pink binding. I hope it will take me somewhere light and airy.
When I'm in love, flowers sprout in #manifold from my hair, blushing pink and red with passion.
For years, I clipped and covered them.
I finally gathered the courage to show you, expecting anger. Instead, you kissed the buds, and they #bloomed one by one.
"This planet is called #Torus, after its unique doughnut shape. Math term."
"Great. We'll make a pit-stop on the surface for supplies."
"I hope you like doughnuts. It's basically all they sell."
"Yep. It's their greatest draw, and they ran with it."
I knew its #genus (Draco occidentalis magnus.) I'd spent years reading about it in books.
But finally faced with the dragon, each flaring nostril the size of my head and billowing white-hot breath, I realized I knew nothing. I was an infant.
What else did I have to learn?
The arc hosted animals of almost every #genus, but some beasts were too dreadful to be granted entry.
Some crept aboard anyway, seeping through the cracks, lurking in the shadows, feeding on the weak and easy to miss.
These uncreations live in the shadows still.
As part of the Deluxe Grief Package, I fling myself, sobbing, onto my client's casket. "TAKE ME WITH YOU!"
The other guests murmur, wondering if there was some hidden depths to their deceased acquaintance.
It's a strange #field. But I love being a professional mourner.
I learned to recreate the expensive toys I so desired out of scrap metal.
The rich stopped to gawk at the mechanical bird that hopped about before me, and at the clever street child who'd built such a #complex machine.
I wouldn't be satisfied until I surpassed them all.
Her skirts were a #complex, delicate pattern of silk, as white as sea foam, as her concealed teeth.
Her voice, her very presence enticed the rich and covetous.
They wouldn't see until too late that her skirts were a web, from which there would be no escape.
I found the dragon hurt, a spear between his dazzling scales.
"Hold still. I'm a nurse."
His ember eyes lit up with curiosity. "You're not afraid?"
"Arrogant knights make my life miserable, and #zero dragons have bothered me. You're a patient like anyone else."
"What do you mean? I'm not the Chosen #One. I'm his servant!"
"No. He was your test," said the Dark Lord. "You carried him up the mountain, protected him from danger. You kept him alive against the odds." His smile spread, strangely genuine. "Finally. A worthy opponent."
Princess study #group is not going as I planned.
Aurora's asleep on a pillow of empty red bull cans. Cinderella had curfew at midnight. Even bookish Belle ditched when her beast of a boyfriend showed up.
I'm glad I had eighteen years in a tower to learn how to study.
"Welcome to Feline #Group Therapy. Would anyone like to start us off?"
A tabby raised his paw. "Today, I learned that Father is evil and cares not for me. He would not refill my bowl."
"Thank you for sharing, Sir Mittens. This is a trauma we all must learn to cope with."
"I won't take you," said Azrael. "It's not your time to go."
"Not my time? I'm a #contravariant in my own life! There's no way this will get better for me."
"In the book of your life, this is the #prologue. Don't stop before you reach the first chapter."
I'm a dream. Each night, I #commute to people's minds.
Often, I'm sent to provide anxious dreams for anxious minds. Clowns, public nudity, missed appointments.
Sometimes I can't resist providing balmy evenings and fields of flowers, peace. Dreams you'd want to come true.
Astral whales pirouette lazily through a candy-pink nebula, but the commuters of the interstellar express remain blank-faced.
"Just once," one complained, not looking up from his phone, "I wish these #commutes would be interesting."
"Well. You can get used to anything."
"Sorry I'm late. The wife's brother-in-law drowned in quicksand."
"Sorry to hear that, man. Did you see the news? Another plane went down in the Bermuda #Triangle."
"Remember when we were kids, and we thought our problems would be mortgages or illness? Good times."
"Greetings, #Integer 1.0," my robotic mother thrums affectionately. "I have ordered you sustenance."
"Affirmative. For my favorite organism."
All mothers are programmed to love their children. That doesn't make the love any less real.
It's not the presence of ghosts that I find surprising. Just their #quantity.
Whenever I open a door, they retreat into the walls with a sound like whispering paper or rain on leaves.
We listen to it at night. It's not so bad.
"Guess that's why the house was so cheap."
"Welcome to Intro to #Existential Crises. If you check your syllabus, our first week will be spent questioning what purpose a syllabus serves in an uncaring cosmic netherworld."
"Excuse me, Professor. I think I'm in the wrong class."
"Is there ever really a RIGHT class?"
"Here's another question, class. C's mother, A, says she is divorcing C's father, B. She still loves C, but she no longer loves B. But C loves B. Is A violating the #transitive nature of love, as well as irrevocably scarring her child?"
Math class has taken a weird turn.
The fairytales arrive on #set to enact their stories.
"The meaning feels diluted," laments Goldilocks to her ursine costars.
"I think we get the point across," says Red, still in hair and makeup with the wolf. "Each generation is a new audience. The show must go on."
I sense energy, #negative and positive.
I'm always surprised. The scary punk on the corner has an aura as warm gold as honeycomb.
But my new, dimple-faced neighbor, who arrives brandishing cookies, is soaked in blood red.
I force a smile. "Welcome to the neighborhood."
"Ghosts are like cats," the medium explains. "If they hate you, it's because you're treating them wrong."
She strokes the milky tendrils of the ghost's essence. It purrs, its #negative attitude #erased.
I'm not sure if I'm impressed, or if I want my money back.
Miniature universes line the shelves in little corked bottles. Countless galaxies, each smaller than the head of a pin. Each an infinite #finity.
I dust them, while gazing out the window at the starry night sky above. I wonder how far I could go before I'd hit glass.
Monthly total: 33
Dragons are as #multifarious as birds. Pigeon-sized dragons puff proudly along, sea wyverns perch on moorings like gulls.
Whale-sized dragons make the moored boats bob as they drift past, indifferent.
I try to stop to notice them. Magic becomes commonplace, if you let it.
Wherever we go, seeds shed from our pores.
#Multifarious plants grow in our wake.
Joyful people leave hyacinths, the meek leave sparse violets, the bold leave roses and thorns. Some leave weeds, or plants that are beautiful but deadly.
We are what we leave behind.
At night, #obstreperous centaur and satyr students fill campus with hoofbeats and drunken howls.
Silk-haired Dryads dance under the moon, unobtainable. Harpies snatch food from my hands in the cafeteria.
I was told to expect Greek life at college. I wasn't expecting this.
"Welcome to #Nudiustertian, the country's premier nudist retirement community."
There's been a terrible misunderstanding.
I look to my mother, expecting her to be horrified, but she's tracking the nude body of a buff older man on the nearest lawn.
"When can I move in?"
I'm woolgathering. I pluck the tufts of thoughts like clouds from the sky, feel their #ulotrichous texture between the work-roughened pads of my fingers.
I want to weave them into pretty things for you. I don't know how.
I'll keep gathering, if you promise to teach me.
"Your brother is pursuing a PhD. Your sister is in law school. WHY AREN'T YOU DOING ANYTHING?"
"Well," my adult son explains, "I have #kakorrhaphiophobia. Fear of failure. The only way to avoid it completely is to never try."
"Well, I've clearly failed as a parent."
The deeper we get into the forest, the more it feels like the ocean floor.
#Erinaceous creatures clung to the trees like urchins. A massive, moon-eyed stag drifts by, indifferent as a whale.
My sister grips my hand tighter. "Just keep following the breadcrumbs."
The only rule of Lovecraft Cove is that you don't go near the creatures. Especially not for selfies.
Admire the epic spires of their #tentacles from afar, the ferocious beauty of the ember-eyed merfolk.
Don't disrespect them, and then act like the monster isn't you.
The mermaid, I thought, would be easy to catch. Tiny and delicate as a pearl. Two-legged on land, a perfect bride.
Then she stretched and yawned in #pandiculation, jaws splaying impossibly wide, showing multiple rows of sharklike teeth.
Maybe I'll try Tinder instead.
"I was told trickster gods take the form of rabbits," laments the weary hunter. "You must be one of them."
The rabbit doesn't deny the statement. He chews his carrot with relish. "Then you should've known better then to challenge me, Doc."
The black cat's name is #Widdershins. People say he's bad luck upon bad luck.
But he only turns their energy back on them. Like the man who tried to run him down, but wound up with his car upended in a ditch.
He only ever purrs beneath my palms, and my luck is only good.
Our house is a converted giant's skull, embedded in the sandy shore.
On summer nights, I sit by the sea as old music roles in from town. The people from those bygone eras looked at this same ocean. So did the giant.
We all live in the #remains of what came before.
"What's the problem, nurse?"
"Doctor, it's an emergency! This man is suffering from an engorged #ego!"
"It actually takes humility to acknowledge one's superiority," corrected the man on the stretcher.
"It's worse than I thought. We'll have to operate immediately."
"Ma'am, you #defenstrated your roommate."
"I don't know that word."
"Threw her out the window."
"Right. Want to tell us, allegedly, why you did it?"
"She was washing our dishes in the bathtub. While bathing."
"...Alright, that sounds like self-defense."
They were each other's pet peeves.
She was a #groke -- an old Scottish word, meaning someone who stared at others while eating.
He thought she wanted his food, but really, she was annoyed by his loud chewing.
In terms of mutual annoyance, they were a perfect match.
As soon as I'm in bed and the lights are out, the #whispers rise from the floor like steam.
The whispers of everyone who lived in this house, absorbed into the floorboards, into the walls. Secrets, which the house never forgot.
I've started sleeping with earphones.
The children struggle to operate the adult bodies to which they've been confined, to navigate the adult responsibilities set before them.
They #groke the children in playgrounds, still free. Someone should warn them that #adulthood is a game of dress-up.
I finally find my husband's heart, hidden away in his #vault.
He's a cold man, with a #macrosmatic nose for business. But the heart fluttering in my hand is warm as melted butter, and light as a butterfly.
For the first time, I feel myself start to love him.
The canyon hasn't forgotten that it was a river. Spirit fish still traverse its vacant arteries, #unseen, but there.
Nature gods preside over the developments that were once their kingdoms, grieving forests and marshes like a phantom limb.
The past is all around us.
"Okay, so we need to talk about your, um..."
"What about him? Company guidelines state that therapy pets are welcome."
"It keeps eating people."
"That's my therapy. And if you've noticed, workplace sexual harassment has gone down."
We finally find our #biblioklept in a storage closet.
The baby dragon has ember-bright eyes, and smoking nostrils that make me nervous about his proximity to paper. But his thornlike claws handle his hoard of books with care.
I turn to my fellow librarian. "New mascot?"
But the mortals don't know of the tenderness between the Great Old Ones.
City-sized creatures, #invoked only in nightmares, who stir once in a #chiliad and send underwater volcanoes erupting. They caress one another in sleep, ocean humming with their purr.
A #meldrop of plasma dangles lazily from the sleeping dragon's nose. It blazes like blown glass, illuminating the polished curve of his banana-sized fang.
As his doctor, I'll have to get inside that mouth to check for tonsil inflammation. I'm not looking forward to it.
I go to visit the #colporteur at the Bookmobile of Haunted Literature.
"It was great," I say, discussing my latest read. "Kept moving around on its own."
"Then you'll love this new one. It mysteriously includes events from your life. Super unsettling."
"I'll take it!"
The rain dragon splits the sky like an #anfractuous sinew of liquid gold.
The thunder rumbles, fertile. Rain falls in bud-sized droplets, ending the drought.
The world, I realize now, is full of things beyond my imagination. I'm not sure if that brings me joy or terror.
I have #deipnophobia, but I'm also a nervous eater.
I feel the eyes of the restaurant as I gnaw at my prime ribs, snarling, going for the #marrow.
My girlfriend looks like she regrets going out for dinner on a full moon. Or maybe dating a werewolf in general.
The pub where I work is called #Barmecide.
People come to lament their dying dreams, all while drinking them away. Their careers. Failing marriages, estranged kids.
Me, I don't drink. It feels like a disservice to that drowning potential. Someone has to be its witness.
As a volunteer at Jude's Home for #Finifugal Ghosts, I meet a resident who never finishes a book.
"When I get close to the end, I start over."
"But if you never finish, then you can't move on to the next one!"
"Someday I'll be ready to move on," she says. "Not yet."
I leave my #monster at the Orphan's Home for Misunderstood Creations. He stands there, solemn and #agelast, as I fill out the form.
"A lot of monsters live here?" I ask.
"No, Mr. Frankenstein," the receptionist smiles. "The monsters just drop them off."
The dragons play in waterfalls like birdbaths. They open their jaws and #xertz the clear water, throats bobbling, birdlike, steam hissing up from their gullets.
In cities, people tell stories of fierce dragons that terrorize the countryside. But no one fears them here.
"I am deeply troubled to learn my former costar was a vampire. I fully #abnegate vampires, and support their victims."
I log off, as praise from my fans starts to pour in.
A girl is waiting for me, unaware, arteries ripe.
Unlike my careless costar, I won't get caught.
Everything's bigger in the Old Woods. Mountain-tall trees, moon-eyed stags, wolves that lope like storms.
What I find #obstreperous are the bugs.
#Insects, spiders, the size of cats, eyes like clusters of marbles.
They're enough to keep my curiosity at bay.
"Did you know that a hashtag is actually called an #octothorp?"
"That's nice," says the girl next to me, moving away.
The only sixteen-year-old at my college orientation, I discover that I'm a lot less comfortable talking to people close to my age than I am to adults.
Monthly Total: 35
I'm informed by my peers on the Supervillain Committee that my #debut has been ineffective.
"Robbing the bank was alright, but destroying mortgage notes freed thousands from debt. This is not reflective of our core values."
Maybe I'll give the superheroes another try.
When I arrive downstairs to breakfast, my late spouses are #already waiting. As usual.
They eye me judgmentally as they sip their coffee, throats slightly transparent. Ignore me from behind the morning newspaper.
It's not my fault I have a penchant for matricide.
When I arrive downstairs to breakfast, my late spouses are #already waiting. As usual.
They eye me judgmentally as they sip their coffee, throats slightly transparent. Ignore me from behind the morning newspaper.
It's not my fault I have a penchant for matricide.
It's a rare privilege, to see Medusa with her hair down. Her snakes #relax and unfurl, curling when she laughs. You wonder how her amber-warm eyes could turn anyone to stone.
Look around at the statues, and remember what you could become if her gift is forsaken.
My roommate's been a pain in the ass since she achieved Nirvana.
I hoped it was #satori, which at least is temporary, but nope.
I find her levitating in her room, and ask her to do the dishes.
"I am free of connections to the physical world."
I'll take that as a no.
The girl we tried to sacrifice to the dragon returns on its #back.
A peasant girl, always the kind first sacrificed. Pretty, but feral.
The dragon's nostrils flare with white-hot heat, and his eyes are like embers.
But they don't match the murderous fury in hers.
In the Old Wood where I live, the air is saccharine and bright and alive with sound. A fawn lopes by, a delicate #flower where each of its spots should be.
This place is fertilized with the bodies of things it devoured. I can appreciate its beauty, only because I fear it.
"It's a #cat. I got the bottled kind."
"Cat's aren't a liquid!"
Instead of answering, I pop the lid. A black cat spills out like ink. He shows no discomfort, dripping to the floor and landing in a glossy droplet.
"You've clearly never owned cats before."
I'm a #nomad dream. I don't belong to anyone's mind, but go from one to the next.
I collect memories as I travel: the smell of peppermint, an imaginary friend, the touch of a lover.
The dreamers wake, missing something they never had, and already forgetting what it was.
Mother never made it home from the market. #Because I'm the eldest, I manage the house. That can happen, when you live in the woods.
At night, our house is a lantern in a sea of dark. Mother's voice calls to us from the blackness, and we remind ourselves it isn't her.
"Dude, did you hear? Another boat fell off the edge!"
"Seriously? They should really do something about that."
"I know. Hey, how was your date?"
"Not good, bro. He turned out to be one of those #round-earth weirdos."
"Ugh. My uncle's like that. Like, listen to science."
As I child, my family were squatters in an abandoned city. I'd go to sleep each night listening to the #joik of the spirits and old gods who had returned to reclaim it.
It forever changed the way I look at abandoned places. They're vibrating with unseen life.
I sign up for Ghost-#Chat, the premier dating website for the earth-bound deceased.
I consider making my profile photo - me in front of a foggy mirror - black and white. Seems contrived.
I can't let them know that I'm among the living. Even if I don't feel that way.
Of course I met my end #naked. Like an idiot, I slipped on a bar of soap while exiting the shower.
The other ghosts on the spectral subway avert their eyes. I know there's a ghost clothing store somewhere.
I'm also starting to realize that problems don't end with life.
"How's public opinion?"
"Not great, ma'am. Using humor to quell fears of the nuclear containment breach backfired."
"But we played Britney Spears' #Toxic! People love that!"
"Apparently, not in this context."
"Well. Let's try a dramatic, operatic cover."
In a last-ditch effort to take my schooling more seriously, I enroll in the Sphinx's class.
Her exams are entirely in riddles. She paces between desks, muscles fluctuating beneath her tawny pelt. If you don't #pass, she devours you.
Just what I need to get motivated.
"They look like...#sunsets in jars."
"They are! You just leave a jar of sweet tea on the windowsill at sunset or sunrise, and it captures a little bit of it to keep. I try to make one every evening."
"Why? How do you make sun tea?"
The abandoned cinema only starts showing #movies after midnight. I know, because I'm a janitor there.
The projectors flicker to life, silhouetting its patrons. You really have to look to notice they're see-through.
No place is really abandoned. Just filled with ghosts.
"Girls are mysterious creatures. Each is born in the #calyx of a flower. Their first language is that of the trees."
"This isn't helping me with my social anxiety."
"Do you want to learn how to talk to girls or not? So, if you want a date, make an offering of dewdrops."
After her tumble down the rabbit hole, Alice tried to give up her #curious ways.
But she'd see the white rabbit all her life. He'd arrive whenever she got too set in her ways, like a long-lost, favorite toy.
A flash in the corner of her eye, goading her into a chase.
My parents wanted backup. So they had their baby #cloned.
We don't know which of us is the original. Neither do they. Favoritism and all that.
But some mornings, as we eat the same serial and look into each other's identical faces, we wonder which of us is the replica.
"Productivity has plummeted!"
"It's the Google Contact Lenses, sir. People can goof off #online, surf social media, even watch Netflix. We have no way of monitoring, thanks to the personal wifi networks."
"How about brain implants?"
"Not legal yet, sir."
"Girls! I finally found the perfect man!"
"He's gorgeous! Where'd you find him?"
"He was #frozen in a block of ice for a thousand years. He has no concept of modern society."
"The only problem is, he doesn't talk."
"That doesn't sound like a problem."
There's a door-to-door salesman in town selling bottled #happiness. Or so he claims. I know it's some kind of cherry cola, bubbly and champagne pink.
What bothers me is that the idiots who buy it do seem happier. Power of suggestion, I guess.
Maybe I'll give it a try.
"Can you stop singing? I know it's what sirens do, and your song is beautiful, but it makes me cry."
"I'm not a siren. I'm a #banshee."
"What's the difference?"
The woman in the tree smiles like Mona Lisa. "Sirens promise the sweetest lies. We offer the painful truth."
"I inherited my #chocolate business when I was eleven. That's definitely illegal, but it's not the worst part of it."
"Trauma takes many forms, Charlie," the therapist assures him.
"So. It all started when this kid Augustus just HAD to drink from the chocolate river..."
"If the #machines take over, no one would notice. We'd be too comfortable: fed, entertained, the world thrumming with productivity that's no longer our own."
A self-driving car buzzes by overhead, its passenger fiddling with a phone.
"Maybe they already have."
I'm still clinging to the stake, its tip stained dark with blood. Wine red #beads cling quivering to my fellow groundskeeper's stubble.
"This isn't what I expected from this job," I manage.
He shrugs. "Keeping the graveyard sometimes means keeping them in their graves."
"So, what's living on the #seashore like?"
It's seeing the humps of sea serpent coils like rows of islands, the distant red eyes of huge, indifferent creatures. It's having some context of how small you truly are.
"It's nice," I smile. "Lovely view."
I see her at the Halloween party. Pumpkin-yellow eyes that blaze like cigarette tips, #dangerous. She smirks, and disappears into the costumed crowd.
We dress up to pass among otherworldly creatures. But it also makes it easy for otherworldly creatures to pass among us.
Monthly Total: 28
As an #Oneiric Pediatrician, I ensure that children's dreams remain healthy and light. A great gig.
But sometimes, I'm tasked with extracting nightmares. Many-limned, skittering, squiggling things, that feast on tender, unbridled minds.
Ironically, they haunt my dreams.
Once Upon A Dream (TM) is the world's first #oneiric dating service: you sign up, and prospective partners meet you in your dreams. Romantic.
My date found me naked at school, while being chased by a clown with a chainsaw. Some ideas are better in theory than in practice.
When I don't write for a while, prose begins to blossom beneath my skin, in curling black #ink.
My senior year of college, the words overlapped, like the legs of panicked insects.
It took over a year of writing daily for the words to fade. Stories demand to be shared.
When we perish, thoughts are freed from the mind.
As a night nurse, I see them. Some skitter, some flutter, some crawl. Some spring #exuberantly, and some stand-deer still, moon-pale eyes full of #solace.
Living on, independent of their hosts. Reminding me to live, too.
I take #solace in the little ghosts that light up the graveyard at night, like lanterns. They're all the colors the moon can be.
One floats up to me like a jellyfish as I kneel on his grave, leaving an offering of chocolate. He perches, warm, on my shoulder like hope.
The moon cracked, like an egg. Its luminous essence #pours into the night sky. A slow unfurling, cream in coffee.
They're already sending an astral repair crew to fix it, but for now, we stand beneath its glow, hands brushing in the dark.
Beautiful in its brokenness.
A Principality flutters up to Michael's desk. "Sir? We've had several million requests for #divine intervention."
"What else is new? It's 2020. But that's Gabriel's department."
"He took a sick day."
"DAMN it. Get some cherubs down there. Let's try and fix this mess."
"Honey?" calls my husband, from the kitchen. "The neighbors made good on their stupid threat."
"They got a trained attack pony?"
I assume he's joking, but he comes around the corner with a red hoofprint on his forehead.
"A Shetland pony. His name's #Fudge. He's vicious."
The rain dragon hatchlings fall from the sky, tadpole-sized and squirming with #excitement at being alive.
Once they inherit their flight and cosmic power, they rejoin their parents in the sky, like sea turtles.
Be kind to them, or be cruel. Either way, they'll remember.
I peer out the plane window as we descend. "Are those horses?"
"Nope, unicorns. National animal, you know."
"There are no such thing."
"There are in #Scotland. We used to train them to lance the British."
I'm about to protest, when I notice the glint of ivory horns.
A beautiful woman lounges on the dragon's hoard. She glitters like the coins in her scale-#print dress.
"Miss! We have to go. The beast's coming back!"
She smiles. "Are you sure the beast isn't already here?"
Smoke already coils from her dainty nose as her horns sprout.
Girls have taken to keeping #miniature dragons. No bigger than hamsters, they come in a multitude of colors, and make adorable fashion accessories.
Just one produces the equivalent of a flame thrower.
Incidentally, girls aren't afraid to walk alone at night anymore.
"Aren't you afraid to go out on Friday the 13th?"
"I'm not #superstitious. The Norse goddess Freyja is patron of Friday the 13th, so I'm going to honor her."
"With her preferred method of transportation. I have a carriage pulled by cats waiting for me outside."
The #translational device fails mid-meeting. None of us speak the same language.
We sit and wait for the repair crew, exchanging uncomfortable smiles. If we could communicate, I'd suggest tic-tac-toe.
Maybe it was a mistake to stop teaching foreign language at schools.
Reincarnation is now proven, and it's led to some awkward situations.
"Before he was #reborn, he was the most notorious crime lord of the century! We need to press charges!"
"Well, 'he' is now a seven-year-old girl with pigtails. It would conflict with her ballet class."
I go to the #Laughter Shop to stock up.
"Giggles and belly laughs are very popular this time of year," the sales girl offers.
"I'm looking for something mean-spirited. My ex is getting divorced."
"Ooh, then may I direct you to the mean-spirited cackles. Right this way."
My date is wearing a candy pink apron. Her eyes are as wide as the strawberries she's holding.
I look from the jelly jars on her counter to the guitar in my hands. "I misunderstood you when you said you wanted to #jam."
"We can do both," she assures me. "I can shred."
We're all dressed for a night on the town. Stilettos and short, tight dresses, pouting red lips concealing our fangs. Designed to #prevaricate our prey.
"You sluts are asking for it!" someone yells.
"Girls," I say to my fellow succubi, "I think we found an appetizer."
Doves clump the tables, #plump as hydrangeas. They sit atop the wedding cake like an extra layer of frosting. Guests have to step over them.
"In hindsight, ordering 1,000 doves might have been a bit much."
"In hindsight, I should have said no when you proposed."
"So, before we get #together, I have two confessions to make," says my date.
"First, I've been diagnosed with erotomania."
"...And what's the second?"
"I'm cheating on Leo DiCaprio to be with you."
I see my quest to date someone normal remains unfulfilled.
Underneath one evergreen, a girl weeps over Ben & Jerry's. Another carves initials into a trunk. A man sings a poorly written song about his ex.
"What are they doing?" I ask my friend.
"It's a #pine forest. They're pining."
"By the way, I'm in love with you."
The elven folk work in #collaboration with local children. If they're being mistreated, then they can visit the woods, and volunteer to be replaced with a changeling.
The changeling will then wreak havoc on unfit parents.
Adults shouldn't be in charge of fairy tales.
"#Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the fairest one of all?"
"Whereas some beauty standards are universal, attractiveness is largely subjective. It differs depending on cultural context and personal preference."
"Okay, but do you think I'm hot?"
"Oh, 100%. Slay, queen."
Working in the #wax museum isn't so bad.
Sure, the figures sometimes move around when you're not looking, and you're not sure where that creepy replica of you came from. But it has reasonable hours.
Just make sure you're coworker's nearby, because you're never alone.
Every year, we watch the Plague Doctors #Parade. They march in straight, somber rows, their beaked masks polished like shoes. They sing the saddest, most beautiful songs the town's ever heard.
It's the anniversary of the outbreak. A reminder to never let it happen again.
The beaming faces. The #mosaic of perfectly prepared dishes. A picture of familiar harmony. How do they do it? It's simple, really. The grandmother. She simply eats any relative who doesn't behave, and it does wonders for the atmosphere. #vss3665
"So, where should we go to get a #heart, a brain, and courage?" asked the Tin Man.
"The Wizard?" suggested the Cowardly Lion.
"Sounds reasonable," said the Scarecrow.
"Nonsense," said Dorothy. "Witchcraft seems to be a viable profession here. I'll learn to do it myself."
To get to the Depths of #Despair, you need a submarine. It's in the Mariana Trench.
Once you get inside, still in your atmospheric diving suit, bluesy jazz is playing. People are drowning their sorrows and eating their feelings.
Just what you need after your breakup.
Monthly Total: 16
Yearly Total: 392
"I want you both to pinpoint what you want from the relationship. Hera, would you like to start?"
"Commitment," says Hera. "I want to operate as a cohesive unit."
"Very good. Zeus?"
Zeus thinks for a moment. "#Sex."
Maybe marriage counseling can't solve everything.
I spot a man with a bouquet of flowers. A ribbon attached reads, "For my deer."
"They spelled #dear wrong."
"Nope," he smiles. "Here he comes now!"
I watch in surprise as an enormous stag canters up to him, and starts eating the flowers.
"They're his favorites."
Don't fear when you find a #portent of the Apocalypse.
A two-headed calf, suckling. Frogs raining from the sky. Locusts.
The world has been ending for as long as it's been turning. Life is sustained by destruction and rebirth. It's in a constant state of Armageddon.
"Is this an #advent calendar?" I lean in closer to observe the tiny illustration. "Why is there a pickle in the Christmas tree?"
"Each date shows a weird Christmas tradition," my friend explains. "That one's from Germany. I'm partial to the Icelandic Yule Cat."
"My community disowned and mocked me for my deformity. They adore me now that I'm useful, but it hasn't erased the trauma of my abuse."
"Thank you for sharing, Rudolph. Hopefully, through group therapy, we can all help you step towards healing."
"Skip this house," advises an elf. "The guy living there has #Christougenniatikophobia."
"Excuse me?" asks Santa.
"Fear of Christmas, and anything related to it. It should really be called Clause-strophobia."
"...That is not getting a 'ho ho ho' from me."
The ship moves like a capsule of sound through the deafening #silence of space. Without oxygen, even explosions carry no sound.
But the hull vibrates with the beat of music, the laughter of a crew. Amidst the silent void, each thud of their hearts is an act of defiance.
The casket lies, overturned and empty, amongst the funeral attendees.
"This happens all the time," the paranormal investigator assures the bereaved. "Did he show signs of vampirism?"
"He said he forgot to clear his browser history."
"Oh, yup. That'll do it every time."
I can see #imaginary friends. Not just my own. Everyone's.
Dragons, polka-dotted monsters, pink elephants, princesses with pointy ears.
It's why I became I child psychiatrist. I remember something most adults forget: that sometimes the imaginary is very, very real.
Somewhere in the North Pole is a forest of discarded Christmas #trees.
The oldest tower tall as mountains, from a time before Christmas was Christmas. The newest take root, picked up from curbsides.
This is a birthplace for new things, a home for the old.
It's a well-kept secret that all reindeer can fly, but only the most #stalwart are chosen for Santa's sleigh. He learned his lesson after a new recruit crashed them into a vegetable garden.
"Weeks worth of sleigh damage, for a mouthful of Brussels #sprouts."
Midas sat alone in his #golden palace. What had once seemed like a treasure was now ugly, common as brass.
"It's only beautiful if it's rare. Like the love you threw away," Apollo remarked. "I shouldn't have bothered giving you donkey's ears. You're already an ass."
"How do you pick #treasure for your hoard?" the little girl asked the dragon.
"I only collect the most precious objects."
"Well." She held up a crayon drawing of the dragon. "I drew this for you."
It now hangs on the wall of his lair, overseeing his other treasures.
The mythic dating app isn't treating me too nicely.
The siren, who sang so sweetly after dinner, tried to eat me. The #sly-eyed girl in the white fur coat turned into a nine-tailed fox the next day.
I wish I liked human women.
I just swiped right on a dragon. She seems nice.
It's the #Winter Solstice, and the world is frozen so brittle it could crack like an egg.
Frost giants traverse the arctic landscape, giant arctic hairs like tufts of white grass.
Our table clatters with plates and laughter. An act of defiance. Winter won't eat us yet.
"What on earth are you doing?"
"Trying to stuff a stocking," says the Easter Bunny. "And failing."
"Looks pretty successful to me! You'd make a #rare gift."
"As fun as this has been, #Santa, I think I'm going to stick to delivering eggs."
About the Author
Brooksie C. Fontaine was accepted into college at fifteen and graduate school at nineteen.