The real and imaginative adventures of Dennis Spielman

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Missing Stars scene

Missing Stars

While driving her through the countryside to visit her parents for the holidays, Jacqui realizes there are no stars in the sky.


The lights from the car Jacqui rented barely pierced through the Britain countryside. Delays plagued her flight from the states, and she hadn’t planned on driving at midnight. Regret began to set up a room in her mind for not booking a hotel room for the night, but her parents were eager to see her for the holidays visit, and a free bed is a free bed. While she was exhausted, she knew being in the middle of nowhere shouldn’t be as dark as it was that night. She looked up at the sky.

There were no stars.

The sky was pitch black like someone covered it up. Not even the moon was visible.

“This is some crazy Doctor Who level weirdness,” Jacqui commented.

Jacqui was no stranger to the British sci-fi time-traveling series. Her social media account would reveal photos of her cosplaying as characters from the TV show, usually as Martha Jones, as she bore a similar resemblance. However, she never remotely considered an out of this world experience happening to her.

She reached for her phone stationed in the central dashboard to make sure she didn’t take a wrong turn when a voice from the backseat whispered. “Did you realize the stars are gone, too?”

Jacqui slammed on the breaks. She snapped her head to the backseat where a ghostly being with a human skull shrouded in a crystalline, black-draped hoodie. It waved their four skeletal hands hello. Jacqui screamed and reached for the car door handle.

“Oh, the stars are missing, but I’m what freaks you out?” the being snarked. 

Jacqui was halfway out of the car when the snakiness of the being’s tone made her mind say, “hold up…” She decided to reply. “Okay, then, who are you, and what are you doing here?”

“My name is Slayer, and after visiting a parade, I decided to visit a time and place on this planet randomly,” they casually explained as they floated through the car and outside. Slayer looked up at the sky. “From what I know about Earth, there should most definitely be stars here.”

Jacqui stepped out of the car and studied the sky alongside the floating, leg-less being in sympathetic concern. “Yeah, there should be stars here.”

“The stars still exist, though,” Slayer added. “I popped off this planet and checked, but in this time, at this place, they are not visible.”

Jacqui reflected on her sci-fi knowledge. “Could there be some sort of device blocking them from our view?”

“That is a possibility,” Slayed reaffirmed in a monotone. With one hand, they reached through their chest and pulled out a black tablet device through their robe. Slayer tapped around on the screen. “I’m showing a device not from this planet nearby.”

Jacqui grabbed her phone and keys from inside the car. “Let’s go check it out then.”

Slayer took the lead, with Jacqui following behind using her phone’s flashlight. They walked up a short hill before stopping in front of a straw scarecrow dressed in jeans and a button-up red flannel shirt.

“This is it,” Slayer softly spoke.

“That’s a scarecrow,” Jacqui quipped.

Using all four of his arms, Slayer stripped off the shirt and straw from the scarecrow’s chest. Inside was a silver metal box with three black switches and a maxed-out gauge.

“What is that?” Jacqui asked.

“I’m not quite sure,” Slayer mumbled as he reached for the switches. “Let’s kill this machine.”

Slayer flicked all three switches down. The gauge spun down, and the stars and moon flickered back to life, illuminating the countryside. 

Jacqui cheered. “And let there be light!”

From further up the hill, an exclamation of pain screeched through the night. With the sky back, Jacqui was able to see a destroyed house further up the hill. The ground rumbled, and the cry got closer, revealing a black six-legged spider the size of a pickup truck with the head of a bison. Steam sizzled off its body like the light was burning it. It grabbed the device inside the scarecrow with one of its two harry tentacle arms while knocking Jacqui away with the other. The arm passed through Slayer, who was unfazed by the attack.

The creature flipped the switches, causing the stars to fade out. The beast was nearly invisible with the lack of light, making the device it held appear as if it was floating. The creature hissed and scurried away.

Slayer floated over to Jacqui and helped her up.

“What was that?” Jacqui forced herself not to scream.

“I do not know,” Slayer answered with a hint of excitement. “We should kill it.”

“Or stop it at least. It looks like any sort of light hurts it. You think a car’s headlights will work?”

“It would stand to reason.”

“Then let’s go.”

Jacqui ran down the hill, with Slayer floating beside her. Jacqui jumped in the driver’s seat while Slayer slipped through the back. The car roared to life with the lights on their brightest setting. Slayer directed Jacqui where to drive, using the tablet to track the extraterrestrial device.

A minute later, down a gravel road, the lights illuminated another demolished house. The creature emerged from the wreckage, hissing at the car. It flung a corpse at the vehicle, which Jacqui narrowly avoided. She spun the car back at the creature, aiming the lights at it. The lights melted away its body, and it retreated down the hill.

“It’s working,” Slayer praised.

“Yeah, but it went off the road, and I can’t get to it.”

“I can fix that.”

Slayer pulled out a shimmering purple box the size of a tennis ball from their chest and attached it to the car’s ceiling. Dozens of veins of purple light wires erupted from the box, expanding in every direction throughout the vehicle before sinking inside. 

“What did you do?” Jacqui screamed.

“Modified your car to fly,” Slayer calmly explained. 

Jacqui could feel the car lift up from the ground. “Woah.”

“Go!”

She slammed on the gas, and the car flew down the hill. In seconds, the creature was in their sights. She pressed forward, shining more light on the beast until it collapsed from its legs melting. The creature dropped its sky blackening device, causing the stars to return upon impact with the ground. Jacqui kept the car still on the creature as it melted away into a massive pool of black goo.

Slayer floated out of the car and inspected the goo. Jacqui joined.

“Is it dead?” she questioned.

“Yes,” Slayer affirmed.

Slayer returned to the car, pulled out the transformation box, returning the vehicle to normal.

“Well, that was an adventure,” Jacqui declared.

“Indeed it was,” Slayer admitted. “You should get to wherever you were going. I imagine they’ll be here soon enough to clean up this mess.”

“Who’s they?”

From above, a blinding white light blasted down on them. Jacqui felt like a criminal caught in the spotlight. 

Slayer slipped down through the ground. “It doesn’t matter. You’ll forget all of this soon enough.”

This week’s short story was inspired by the following writing prompt: “It’s midnight, and your headlights barely pierce through the darkness settled on the road in front of you. Shaking away your exhaustion, you begin to panic as you realize you’re lost. As you reach for your phone, a voice from the back seat whispers, “Did you realize the stars are gone, too?”

Story Artwork by Chen Kang at Design Pickle. Get a discount off your first month of Design Pickle via this affiliate link, which full disclosure, I earn a small commission as a discount for me as well.

Discover more stories following Slayer via the character tag.

Have a safe holiday travel!

Festival Suggestions

After finishing a project for her history class to modernize an ancient Greek festival honoring Dionysus, she jokingly makes a toast to him and the god appears. 


“Finished at last,” Shelby cheered to herself, alone in her studio apartment. 

Shelby stood up from her two-person dining table where her laptop lived. She stretched her body from the extensive writing session. As a final class project, her history professor assigned everyone to write a report about modernizing a forgotten tradition. She chose the Great Dionysia, which she learned about the ancient Greek festival honoring Dionysus from a video game.

To celebrate, she procured a clean wine class from her kitchen cabinet and poured herself a glass of her favorite boxed red wine. Jokingly, she raised her glass in the air.

“To you, Dionysus,” she toasted. “Hope you like my festival idea.”

She took a sip and then sat her glass down on the kitchen counter. The moment she looked up back at her table, she saw a tall, slender man in a gray suit. She shrieked. The man dramatically spun around like a dancer in an elaborate musical number reveal. His brown, curly hair with a pair of locks rested gracefully on his shoulders. In his hair wear a pair of grape leaves. 

“I love it!” the man praised.

Shelby grabbed the pepper spray attached to her car keys and sprayed the man in the eyes. The man did not flinch. He casually blinked when the spray stopped.

“Yeah, that doesn’t hurt us,” he politely explained.

“Who are you?” Shelby demand with a tremble.

The man’s face brunched up, offended she didn’t know. “You just wrote a report about me.”

Shelby’s jaw dropped. “Dionysus?”

“Ding!” he smiled.

Dionysus sat in the gray armchair Shelby had stationed next to the table. He waved his hand over the table, swirling to life in a blue-green mist, two bottles of wine in the air that gently landed on the table. He took one, drinking directly from the bottle. Dionysus nodded at Shelby and nudged the other bottle toward her in a peaceful gesture to join him.

“How did you do that?” Shelby asked in a hushed voice.

“You know what,” he started and then paused to think how. “I just kind of made them appear. God of wine, et cetera, et cetera. Would it help if I turned into a fox to prove who I am?”

Shelby nodded. Happy to put on a show, he snapped his fingers, and in a poof of purple smoke, he reappeared as a red fox with the same suit top.

“Ta-Da!” Dionysus announced in a charming tone.

Shelby fainted, falling on the floor. Dionysus sighed and snapped back into the human form.

“I was hoping to talk and make a few suggestions for your festival, so I’ll just edit your document while you take a nap.”


This week’s short story brought to you by wine and this writing prompt: “You’re sat alone, with a glass of wine in hand, and decide to jokingly toast the Greek God Dionysus. You did not expect him to appear before you in human form, create two bottles of wine, and take a seat next to you.”

The game mentioned in the story is Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, which has made me fantasize about putting on a modern version of the festival. Hope you enjoyed this fun little story. 

Story Artwork by Nona Calingasan at Design Pickle. Get a discount off your first month of Design Pickle via this affiliate link, which full disclosure, I earn a small commission as a discount for me as well.

The Ghost Child from the March of Flaming Skeletons

Three time-travelers visit a Halloween parade when a young spirit starts to cause mischief. 


A thousand people dressed as skeletons held tiki torches as they led a Halloween parade. The three time-travelers siblings blended in with the Saturday, October 24, 2009 audience with their own costumes. The one named Raven wore a silky red dress with a foam pumpkin over her head. The one named Gia dressed as the 1950s movie star Marilyn Monroe. The one named Slayer simply wore a hooded black robe.

“I can’t believe you had me change my form for this,” Slayer grumbled as they crossed their human arms. “Skeletons are on parade, and you wanted me to look human. My form would’ve been appropriate.”

“A floating transparent skeleton would’ve freaked people out,” Gia playfully reminded. 

Slayer put a thin piece of white paper in their mouth. “At least the candy is good.”

“That was a sticker you ate,” Raven corrected in a polite factual matter. 

Slayer shrugged. “I’ve never been much for this world anyway.”

Gia scanned the parade for something to change the subject. It had been a while since she spent time with them, and thought this parade would’ve been something they could all enjoy.

“Hey, look at the little skeleton,” Gia said, pointing at a little girl dancing in the street with the other marching skeletons. “Aren’t they just the—”

Gia’s jaw dropped as the child danced through the other people. People shivered, losing their balance, and some almost hit others with their torches.

“That’s a spirit,” Raven said in a matter-of-fact as she pulled out her tablet from her dress pocket that was much bigger on the inside. “It seems to be causing quite the disturbance.”

“Finally, some chaos!” Slayer cheered with hands raised high.

“No, no chaos and no watching how it all plays out,” Gia ordered. “We have to guide the spirit home.”

“Fine,” both Slayer and Raven grumbled.

The ghost child turned into the crowd of bystanders, skipping along through people. While Gia lost sight of the girl, she watched the movement of people shaking from a sudden chill and losing their balance. The three pressed against the crowd. 

“Where did she go?” Gia asked as they emerged out from the crowd. 

“Over there,” Raven alerted. She pointed to the girl standing in front of a couple heading to watch the parade. A man in his late 20s got one knee to talk to the girl on her level. “That human seems to be able to interact with the spirit.”

Gai squinted in thought. “Wait a second. I think I know him or, more specifically, who he will become.”

“What becomes of him?” Slayer questioned.

“His name is Geoff DeRoot, and he becomes a rather prominent paranormal researcher, but this isn’t his origin story. Not until the death of his fiancé drives him mad,” Gia explained as she started to sprint forward. “We can’t let him get introduced to ghosts just yet.”

“So, where are your grown-ups?” Geoff asked the spirit.

Before the spirit could answer, Gia stood beside them. 

“There you are!” Gia exclaimed to the spirit. “Come on, let’s get you home.” She looked at the couple and smiled. “Thank you.”

“No problem,” Geoff said as he stood back up and wrapped his arm around his girlfriend.

The girl smiled wide and held out her hand, which Gia took as best as possible to make it look like she was holding the spirit’s hand and not going through it. Raven and Slayer caught up with Gia. Together, they walked down the alleyway, where they parked their freestanding doors that allowed them to travel throughout time and space. 

Slayer opened his red wooden door, letting out a bright white light. “I’ll take this one where she belongs.” Before walking through the door, Slayer turned back and faced his siblings. “You know, watching the Halloween parade was kind of fun. I guess this world isn’t so bad.”

Gia smiled. Missioned accomplished. Slayer closed their door, and it blinked out of existence. Raven reached for the handle on her red metal door with a golden frame.

“It has been fun, Gia,” Raven thanked. “I should get back with Loki as I left him in the middle of an experiment.”

“What are you two up to this time?” Gia asked with a slightly accusatory tone. 

“We’re hosting a spaceship reality game show on Earth.”

“Oh. That sounds like fun! What year?”

“2020.”

“Yikes,” Gia chocked up. “I tend to avoid that year.”

Raven chuckled. “It’s been fruitful for us. Anyway, it was good to see you.”

The two exchanged hugs and left through their respective doors, disappearing without any fanfare as the first wave of parade participants crossed through the alley to the afterparty.  


This week’s short story was created in response to a writing challenge. The setting had to involve Halloween with a word limit of 800. Bonus points for using the following words: Candy, Leaves, Chill, and Pumpkin. Points for also using the sentence blocks, “Skeletons are on parade” and “I’ve never been much for this world anyway.”

Hope you enjoyed this story and all of the other spooky tales this month!

Story Artwork by Joemar Villarejo, Design Pickle. Get a discount off your first month of Design Pickle via this affiliate link, which full disclosure, I earn a small commission as a discount for me as well.

Don’t Go Inside

A typical movie night between two girls turns weird when the characters on the screen began to hear them.


Hoi plopped down on their thrift-store-find purple couch. She grabbed a single popcorn from the giant bowl and tossed it at Bree’s face. The popcorn bounced off with no reaction from her roommate. The two worked part-time at a boutique coffee shop and were reasonably immune to each other’s shenanigans. Both considered themselves geeks with Bree being a costume designer and Hoi as a video game streamer who specialized in playing with randomization mods. 

“Put the phone away,” Hoi playfully provoked her friend.

“Just a second,” she replied as she scrolled through the sea of social media comments. “I’m making sure people are behaving.”

Hoi grabbed a hand full of popcorn and started snacking. “Your Geralt cosplay getting a ton of likes and shares?”

“I’d say so. Lots of people like my take. It’s also getting its fair share of haters, but it’s mostly positive.”

“Cool, cool, cool,” Hoi praised with her mouth full. She finished chewing. “So, tell me about this movie you got for us tonight.”

Bree traded her phone for the TV remote on the coffee table. “It’s an indie-flick called The Voices. I brought it from this eccentric couple at the farmer’s market this morning.”

Hoi raised an eyebrow. “Eccentric couple?”

“Yeah, like the dude wore this white suit with pink outlines, and the girl had on a sparkly red dress.” Bree took a sip of her gin and tonic. “Oh, and all their DVDs were in milk crates, and they had this pink door with them.”

“Sounds very Wes Anderson.”

Bree laughed. “Exactly. I thought the movie would pair nicely with our dreary weather. They said the film was about these two guys who hear voices in the woods.”

Hoi waited a moment for Bree to explain more. “And?”

“And that’s all they told me. I couldn’t find anything online about it either.”

Hoi pulled up the fluffy blue blanket around her legs. “This should be fun. Hit play.”

Bree obliged and hit play. The movie began with an establishing nighttime areal shot of a forest. No names or title cards appeared as the drone flew down and followed two young adult men. The guys walked along a gravel trail into the woods, using their phones as flashlights. A lively set of forest sounds accompanied them on their journey. 

“These guys kind of look like us,” Hoi whispered.

Bree shushed Hoi while one of the characters did the same on-screen. The characters stopped, making the girls pause in anticipation of a jump scare. The music shifted to eerie strings as the camera panned around the empty forest. 

“What is it, Marcus?” Anthony whispered. 

“I thought I heard someone talking,” Marcus replied at an average volume. “Come on, let’s hurry back to the cabin.”

The characters started to pick up their pace as the camera flew up and followed them to a small, modern wooden cabin with a chimney. The screen was on a wide shot, showing the guys walking up the cabin as a shadowy figure slipped down the chimney.

The camera switched to a close-up shot of Anthony reaching for the doorknob when Hoi screamed at the TV, “Don’t go inside!”

Anthony yanked his hand away from the door. The camera switched to a medium shot of Anthony and Marcus as they rapidly looked around the area.

“Did you hear that?” Anthony asked, his voice faded. “It sounded like someone said, ‘Don’t go inside.’”

Hoi gasped and briefly covered her mouth while Bree cracked a smile. 

“Now, that’s freaky,” Bree commented in enjoyment.

The guys got close to each other and pointed their flashlights into the woods.

“Who said that?” Marcus shouted into the woods. “Who said, ‘That’s freaky?’”

Hoi slapped a hand over her mouth as Bree’s jaw dropped.

“It’s like they can hear us,” Hoi remarked.

“Yeah, we can hear you,” Marcus yelled, still searching for the voice’s source.

“It’s not like they can hear us, hear us, you know,” Bree vacillated.

“What are your names?” Anthony asked into the void. 

“I’m Bree, and my friend is Hoi,” she joked.

Marcus scanned the forest with his light as he asked, “Now, how about don’t you come out, Bree and Hoi.”

“Shit, they can hear us,” Bree admitted, nearly dropping her cocktail.

“’Couse, we can hear you,” Marcus groaned. “Why don’t you show yourselves?”

“We-we can’t,” Bree explained, fumbling on what to say. “You’re on our TV.”

Anthony and Marcus pointed their lights higher at the house, looking for cameras. Anthony reached for the doorknob again.

“Don’t go inside!” Hoi blurted. “We saw some shadowy monster sneak in through the chimney.”

“A shadowy monster?” Anthony repeated.

“It must be The Devour,” Marcus insisted as he pulled on Anthony’s hoodie, dragging them away from the cabin.

“But what about our stuff?” Anthony pleaded.

“We’ll be dead if we go inside.”

The cabin door burst open. Anthony, Marcus, Bree, and Hoi all shrieked as a massive shadowy monster jumped out, pounding into the ground with each step. It had the appearance of a ravenous black wolf that was the size of a horse.

“Run!” Hoi and Marcus screamed at the same time.

Hoi and Bree held each other as the camera switched to a red-vision viewpoint of The Devour. The guys ran as fast as they could, but they were no match for the monster. The Devour leaped on them, and the screen went black.

After a few minutes of staring at the black screen, Hoi spoke up. “Is that it?”

Bree stood up and walked over to their DVD player. She pressed the eject button, and the tray opened up with no movie inside. Bree moved the other movie cases around, looking for the one the film came in, but it wasn’t there.

Bree turned back to Hoi. “It’s gone. It’s all gone.”


This week’s short story was inspired by the following writing prompt: “While watching a horror movie, your friend shouts “Don’t go in there!” as the main characters are about to enter a cursed woodland cabin. To your shock, the characters all begin looking around, asking each other if they had heard that voice as well.”

I thought this would be a fun story to write with how my wife and other people I know love to yell at the characters on the screen, wishing they could hear them.

Thank you for reading and be sure to support indie filmmakers. 😉

Little Shop of Personalities

During her morning jog, Janelle comes across a mysterious new boutique selling personalities. 


Janelle halted her morning jog when she came across an intriguing new boutique as yesterday, the retail space was empty. Through the glass windows, Janelle would’ve for sure seen people installing the drawers that covered the walls from the floor to ceiling. The shop was part of her apartment complex in Film Row, and she couldn’t recall reading about it in the Oklahoma Gazette or her neighbors talking about it. As Janelle thought back, she could’ve sworn when she passed by during the start of her daily run there was a “For Lease” notice on the door instead of a cheerful “Open” sign.

With time to spare and her curiosity piqued, Janelle went inside. All three walls were covered in drawers of varying shapes and sizes but had a matching white, rustic farmhouse esthetic. The beach lavender aroma put her in a relaxed state of mind. Janelle walked over and inspected a label on a drawer. It read, “Brave.”

“Good morning!” a cheerful female voice called out, catching Janelle off guard. 

Standing in the center of the room was a young woman in a red satin dress holding a transparent tablet device. Next to her was a taller, slim man in a pink suit with bold, black outlines. Both had black hair and lanyards holding placards with their names, Raven and Loki, respectively.

“Welcome to Little Shop of Personalities,” Loki greeted with what Janelle thought was more energy than any average retail worker would have this early in the morning.

“Shop of Personalities?” Janelle repeated, confused.

“Yes. We sell a wide assortment of personalities that you can give yourself to change your life,” Raven explained. “If you want to be more likable, we can help.”

Janelle kept her skeptic tongue to herself. She figured this whole ordeal was some pop-up artistic expression or experience. She scanned the drawers and noticed they were all labeled with various personality traits, including negative ones.

“Why would anyone want something like an ‘obsessive’ or ‘creep’ personality?” Janelle inquired.

“You can give them to others,” Loki revealed.

“Including your enemies,” Raven added with a wink and a wave of her finger.

“Weaponize them to get rid of unpleasant coworkers,” Loki commented, and Raven nodded in agreement.

“Buy as many as you like.” Raven smiled. “But no returns.”

Janelle turned her attention to the drawer that caught her initial focus, the one labeled, “Brave.” She opened it up and pulled out a white index-sized card with the word written in a bold font fitting of the name. Even if the card didn’t magically give the trait, she thought it would make for a cute decoration for her desk.

Janelle showed the shopkeepers the card. “How much for this one?”

“Since you’re our first customer,” Loki started.

“Your first personality is free,” Raven finished.

Janelle closed the drawer. “So, how does this work?”

“Simply put the card on the forehead of the person you wish to give the personality trait,” Loki explained.

“I’ll take this one and try it out,” Janelle said, still skeptical. “Thank you.”

To keep the card from getting bent, Janelle held it until she returned to her apartment. Once inside, she tossed her keys on the kitchen counter. She looked at herself in her hallway mirror and put the card up to her forehead. The card faded like her body had fused with it. Instead causing her to freak out, the new personality had filled her with excitement.

Janelle went about her morning routine with vigor as she arrived, first as usual, to the law firm. She took one look at her desk, marched to the break room for a box, and pushed all of her belongings inside. Her boss, whose name was on the sign outside, found Janelle packing up.

“Everything okay?” Janelle’s boss asked her with concern.

“Never better. I’m going to start the yoga studio that I’ve always been too afraid to do.”

“Good for you, Janelle! If you ever do a beginner’s class, I’ll sign up.”

“Thank you. That means so much. Everyone here has been so great to me, but I must move forward.”

Janelle left the law firm with her box, her mind racing with a business plan. In the cleanup process, she decided to open her yoga studio in her apartment complex. There were several vacant spots. She knew one of them would be perfect.

As she walked back to her place, a dog ran across the street, chasing a squirrel. Janelle could see the bus hitting the dog. Without hesitation, she dropped her box and pushed the dog to safety and the bus hit her.

A few hours later, Janelle woke up in a hospital bed. Every part of her felt numb. She rolled her head and saw Raven and Loki standing over her.

While Raven wrote notes in her tablet, Loki held out a bouquet of spring flowers. “All sales are final.”

This short story was first published on the Oklahoma Gazette for their Writers of the Quarantine series. The Loki and Raven story was inspired by the following writing prompt: “A new shop shows up in town. Upon entering the walls are made entirely of drawers, each with a different personality trait written on them. The shopkeeper smiles – ‘Buy as many as you like, but no returns.'”

If you enjoy my story, please share it! I would love to have more readers. If you want to help me more, join me on Patreon and you’ll get beta access to my novella, Intertwined by Cracks. The urban sci-fi story follows Amber Way who can make doors lead to other doors as she deals with cracks leaking monsters from other planets in a plan from a stranded time traveler to harness her powers. 

Story Artwork by Keith Zarraga at Design Pickle. Get a discount off your first month of Design Pickle via this affiliate link, which full disclosure, I earn a small commission as a discount for me as well.

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