Eleanor sat in a chair holding the pan of bars on her lap, thinking it through. Several of her friends came up, asking when the goodies would be served, but she didn’t answer right away; Eleanor didn’t like to be pressured. After almost 20 minutes, she stood up, took the cover off of the pan and moved to the desserts table. “Yay!” Alma said at the head of the line. “There’s marijuana in these,” Eleanor said, quietly but clearly. Alma’s hand hung in mid-air, her mouth open. “Cherry cordial pot brownies,” Eleanor said again a little louder. “In case you want to live a little.” The bars were gone in less than five minutes, and Doug Cabot had taken a small flask out of his vest pocket and tipped a little into the church coffee with a sly wink in her direction. The cake donuts sat in a pile, untouched, but Eleanor thought they’d probably be gone later (if what she’d heard was correct). “84 is going to be a really interesting year,” she whispered, packing up.
As they read the list of his heinous crimes aloud, Fred showed no emotion. “Cursing, astral manipulation, poisoning, kinesis with intentions to harm, thought control, necromancy, necrophilia, animal cruelty, and bullying. His aim? To extend the reach of his sorry life – in this one and the next – through the use of a simple spell disguised as the verbal tic of a buffoon.” There were gasps and some sniffles in the courtroom. “You will be hanged from the neck until dead, Mr Flintstone. No more ‘yabba dabba do’ for you.”
The zombie apocalypse began during the late shift, and the Dairy Queen grounds were packed with post-game idiots. “On the one hand, no Chem test tomorrow,” Hannah said to Decker while nailing pieces of metal shelving up over the windows. Peeking out, she noticed a number of people just standing there, pre-frenzy. “On the other, so much for my engineering degree.” Decker was modifying his prosthetic to be a bayonet with replacement lawnmower blades from the back and some duct tape. Hannah had turned a small gas canister into a flamethrower and had been working on their Molotov cocktail stash for the last hour. “You and me, man,” she said to Decker who nodded. He was surprisingly cute for an arts major; if they survived … She put the flamethrower in the makeshift mount and told Decker to take his station by the side door. The clamoring outside had begun in earnest. Hannah sang, “Our milkshakes bring all the boys to the yard!” and opened fire.
Peters listened carefully, occasionally taking notes. “Well, we can’t stay in any kind of hotel or motel,” the mother began. “Or farms; can’t do petting zoos or any kind of camping,” the father added. “He’s very withdrawn and distracted at school.” “No trips to the beach or even the circus.” “No antique stores.” Peters offered a compassionate smile before asking, “Is there a place he does like to be? A place he feels safe?” The parents looked at each other, pondering the word “safe”. “Well,” she said in a quiet and measured voice, “he likes the library. A lot.” Peters nodded. “Mr and Mrs King, I think little Stephen has a very fertile imagination, sees a lot of things and people that aren’t there, and lives out long storylines inside his head. Most kids do this, he just does it to a profound degree.” “So, you’re saying this is normal?” the father confirmed. “I’m saying,” Peters said slowly to add weight to his words, “that you’ve got yourself a writer.”
“When did you know?” Foy asked, putting liberal amounts of brandy into his friend’s glass. “In the third grade, as preposterous as that sounds,” came the reply. “She stood there, in her blonde pigtails and blue dress at the front of the class, delivering the most erudite, confident book report on ‘The Necronomicon’ that I can ever imagine.” Foy paused, not knowing exactly what to say. “And that,” Lovecraft finished, “is when I realized that I was in love.”
whatwouldyousellyoursoulfor.com was an unmitigated success; the answers poured in via web and text and the Facebook page reached its maximum likes on the first day. The Devil sat watching the counters spin, giggling to himself and occasionally whipping the scribes for no reason; they were working as hard as they could, he was just antsy. When the lawyers had determined that, yes, all of that was functionally a signature, he’d brought more wayward souls into the contract pool just to handle the backlog. The Devil had a long sulfur bath, got his hooves buffed, and ordered something extra smart from the tailors (comfortable yet chic) for the massive amount of visitations and collections that were to come. He giggled again. “The best part,” he told the scribe closest to him, “is the emoticons.”
“Stop, or I’ll tell!” Cindy whispered hoarsely. Sam extended his arm just a tiny bit more, the threat of dropping her doll to the entryway a story below them becoming real. “Tell them what?” he jeered. “That you were playing on the landing where you shouldn’t have been? That you were clumsy with grandma’s antique doll?” Cindy’s mouth curved up slightly into a smile he didn’t expect to see. “I’ll tell them you cry watching animal rescue videos; I’ll tell them you talk to yourself under the covers; I’ll tell them you put that candy bar in the Johnson’s pool on a dare.” Sam’s mouth hung open. “I know everything about you,” Cindy said in a voice so low it seemed not to be human for a moment. He could feel his arm drawing back the threat; the doll would be safe, but he himself … not so much.
Zell was a failure as a son, of course, for he rejected the counsel given him. He had seen the Jabberwock for himself (unbeknownst to his father) and found all words that spoke against her to be slander and rubbish. Zell had looked into her eyes of flame and lost himself to worlds beyond time and space; he was not bitten and her claws did not catch. “To know she is here gives me patience to suffer the world just as nobly,” he wrote before he left the castle to live in the wild. “I do not expect you to understand.”
He heard a sound and looked at the landing; a woman was there. She was agitated and urged him to stay home from work the following day – to not take the train for any reason. They spoke briefly and he thanked her, a chill of foreboding making the hairs of his arms stand up. In the morning, Brad and Susan woke and shared a lazy breakfast of eggs and toast while they watched the snow come down. “How did you sleep?” she asked, setting out the honey and raspberry jam. “Good,” he replied. “I only woke up once.” “Did you have the dream again?” she asked, settling into her chair. “The man and woman on the stairs? The train?” “Yep,” he confirmed. “You?” “Yep,” she replied with a smile. “Every time it snows.”
Rae looked at herself in the mirror, checking the blowout while the camera man got set up. Still reeling from getting the “Hippie Communes Redefines Success” story, she vowed to be extra ruthless going forward; she was totally hot enough for the evening news. “First, we acknowledged the fact that we die successfully 100% of the time – absolutely nail it as a species with zero failures or public embarrassments of living on and on, lacking the talent to expire,” the guide told her with a relaxed and easy grin and a twinkle in his eye. “Then, we posed the question to ourselves: what would we like to do – who would we like to be – since our very starting point ensured our complete success.” “And?” Rae prodded, trying not to sound interested. “Every single one of us wanted to be surrounded by people who cared, having fun and caring in return. The trick with death is not dying on the inside way ahead of your actual time.” Rae called the station and talked her boss; there was a bigger story here and she thought she should stay a week or so.