A conversation with a philosophy professor about a repeating dream beginning prompts a revelation.
For the past three months, my dreams began with waking up in my own room with a man in a white suit with pink accents on the end of my bed. He would encourage me to go through my bedroom door where I would be in some alternative reality for the rest of the dream. Regardless of what happened, I woke up refreshed. Still, with the way the dreams always started the same, it began to bother me.
I considered taking a psychological or a dream interruption class, but while doing some research I stumbled upon an online philosophy class taught by a fellow journalist, Hank Williams. In the sample lesson, he spoke with such wisdom and insight one would gain from interviewing numerous people. I was hooked.
Eventually after several classes, I got to have a one-on-one videoconference session with my professor. I started out by asking him course related questions, but the conversation drifted over to the subject of dreams and I solicited him for his thoughts on mine. He asked me questions I never considered and he seemed particularly interested in the man and the door I would go though.
“Do you recall seeing this man in your life before you started to have these dreams with him?” Hank asked.
“I don’t believe so,” I replied.
“Is this man always alone or is someone with him? A woman perhaps?”
“No, it’s just him.”
“Have you ever tried to touch this man to make sure he was there?”
“No, I never thought to do that.”
“This door you would go through, are you sure it was your door? Did the weight and movement of the door feel different from your real door?”
“I didn’t really notice anything…”
Our conversation ended with him saying he would like to discuss the subject further tomorrow. He was curious if our chat would alter my dream. I didn’t think it would, but I said I would be glad to talk to him again tomorrow.
Upon waking up in the dream, my philosophy professor sat at the end of my bed. He wore a dark brown suit under a light brown overcoat, being a stark difference between the man in the white suit who would normally sit there.
“Strange, isn’t it?” Hank commented.
I took a moment to startup my brain to process some words. “Hank?”
“Please, call me Quis.” He walked over to my door. “This isn’t really a dream and neither were those dreams you had.”
With those words, everything suddenly felt so real. It was like a fog had been lifted from my brain. My face got red with awkwardness, but Quis wasn’t paying any attention to me as he turned the door knob. On the other side was a sunny forest. He closed the door like a person who had gotten what they needed out of a fridge.
“When did you get this door replaced?” Quis asked, like he knew it was new.
“About a few months ago, actually,” I said, shocked.
“Then the dreams started, didn’t they?”
My jaw dropped. “Yes, they did.”
“Do you remember what the person looked like who installed it?”
“I do. I only remember her because she wore a red dress, which I thought was unusual, but I hate fashion criticisms myself.”
“Black hair, right?”
“That would be Raven.” Quis gripped the door knob and yanked it out from the door. “That should put an end to their work. If you do run into my siblings, send them my regards.”
He tossed the broken pieces on the floor and left my apartment. I knew I wasn’t dreaming because I didn’t fall back asleep.
The final weekly short story for the year was inspired by the writing prompt: “You wake up from one of those dreams again. It starts in your own bed, in your real room, only outside the door is an alternate reality every time. The man you see in every dream was your Philosophy teacher this time. Who is he? ‘Strange, isn’t it?’ He says from the end of your bed.”
I thought this prompt would be a fun way to feature Quis again as I only wrote one story, Interview Spoilers, about the end-timer. I got to show a different side of him as previously he was portrayed as just a journalist, but like all the other end-timers, he does take on other roles.
I hope you all have been enjoying the weekly stories this year! For the most part, I did keep up with my goal of releasing a new story every week with the exception being around A Killer Among the Spaceship Game Show, which took me two weeks to write part one and another week to finish it with part two.
I’ll talk more about my plans for 2021 later, but fun fact: The total word count of all my short stories this year (at the time I’m writing this) was 47,518 words. I do plan to revisit all of my stories, send them to an editor, and publish them as a book.
If you’re on Reddit, I have a forum for my fictional universe so join the community today!
While preparing for a hot date, the visiting cat warns him that his date is going to kill him.
“She’s going to kill you tonight.”
My heart sank – not because the cat spoke in a deep, ominous tone to me as I had gotten used to that, but because of what I already had planned for tonight. Before I get any further, I should back up a little bit. You see, when I signed the lease for my duplex at the beginning of the month, my landlord asked me to take care of her cat, Phineus, any time he visited. Since I felt like I was renting the place for a steal, I agreed.
From time to time, the cat would pop in and I made sure to have bowls of food and water for him. I had no clue how he would get inside, but I became accustomed to randomly seeing or hearing him.
After the first week, Phineus started to warn me of danger. The first time this happened, I dropped my coffee mug. The cat told me to take another route to work. I did and later found out about a deadly multi-car pileup. I asked my landlord about her talking cat, but she laughed me off.
“Is she going to kill me like accidentally or on purpose?” I asked the cat as a I put a holiday album on my recorder player.
Phineus licked his paw. No surprise, the can’t didn’t respond. The cat never responded to any of my questions. He would occasionally repeat himself, but he only spoke to give warnings.
The doorbell rang.
“Fuck it, I’m going to roll the dice.”
As I walked to the door, the cat ran and hid behind the Christmas tree. I decorated my duplex just for her. I even went out and bought the biggest Christmas tree that would fit and that I could afford, even though I lived alone. The cat seemed to enjoy it and the smell of the tree was nice, but I only got it for her.
I opened the door. Her long, curly brown hair danced on her bare shoulders. She wore a sparkling black dress and not much else. She was more gorgeous than her photos. If her stunning looks could kill, I would be dead. I didn’t see any weapons on her, so maybe I can prevent her from accidentally killing me?
“I’m going to take your silence as a complement,” she said with a smile. “May I come in?”
Mentally, I slapped myself and stood aside. “Yes, come inside, Iris. You must be freezing.”
Iris shrugged. “The cold never really bothered me.”
As she stepped a foot inside, the Christmas tree came tumbling down at us. I grabbed Iris, spun her around, leaving us with only a slight brushing from the crashing tree. The cat stood where the tree did.
I lifted the tree back up as I scolded the cat. “Phineus, what is your deal? I’m so sorry.”
“It’s cool. Phineus is an interesting name for cat,” Iris said as she entertained herself by browsing though my vinyl collection.
“He’s technically my landlord’s cat. He just like to hang out here.”
“Ah. Well, did you know in Greek mythological, Phineus was a king and a seer?”
“No, I didn’t,” I answered.
I made a note to ask my landlord about the cat again. Once I got the tree situated, I walked over to the kitchen. I liked the open modern concept of the duplex as it was great to keep connected with guests while I was in the kitchen.
“So, what movie did you want to watch?” I asked as I poured us some wine.
“I thought we could browse together,” she said as she took a seat on my couch.
I handed her her glass. She took a sip and sat the glass aside. The moment I took a seat, she saddled up on me, kissing my neck. I looked to the side to find a safe spot to place my glass when I caught a glance of the cat looking down at me from a tiny door in the ceiling that I’d never seen. Behind Phineus, it looked like he was in a city colored with a purple sunset. Before I could say anything, the cat jumped down from the hole, landing on my head, causing me to spill my drink all over my shirt.
Iris pulled herself off me. Thankfully, the drink only landed on me. I apologized and excused myself to my bedroom. Phineus raced ahead, beating me inside. I stripped off my shirt as I walked over to my dresser. The cat jumped on the dresser and sat next to a small black box with a red button it that was placed in front of the dresser mirror. I tossed the shirt in the clothes basket and picked up the device, looking it over.
“You know, I don’t mind if you leave your shirt off,” Iris said from the doorway.
I looked up at the dresser mirror. The mirror was half the size of the wide dresser, which meant it was large enough for me to see Iris standing in the doorway, however, Iris wasn’t reflected. I turned around to check and Iris was indeed leaning against the doorway, waiting for me. I looked back at the mirror and she wasn’t there. I think Iris caught the look of confusion as when I turned around, a set of fangs protruded from her mouth.
“Push the button,” Phineus ordered.
As Iris leapt at me, I pressed the red button. The room filled with a bight, warm light that made me feel like I was on a beach during a sunny day. Iris screamed. I closed my eyes and held onto the button until she was silent. I released my grip and the warmth and light faded away. With hesitation, I walked over to where Iris stood. There was only a pile of ash and clothes.
I sat the device on the dresser and collapsed onto my bed. The cat jumped over and walked to my face. He bopped me on the nose with his front paw before giving me a warning I had heard before.
“Don’t think with your dick.”
This week’s short story was inspired by the writing prompt: “You’ve just signed a new rental lease, but the landlord makes you agree to care for the cat that lives there. You agree, but within one week that cat starts talking and giving you ominous warnings.”
Story Artwork by Janine De Guzman 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.
Never in my life did I want to hit my boss harder than any criminal I encountered. To me, you were not replaceable – far, far from it. People thought you would be useless, a waste of time, a money pit, but you proved them wrong case after case. You became my best friend, helping me on the job with your keen senses and in other coincidental ways like meeting the woman who would become my wife because you needed a custom uniform.
From the first case we solved together where you found evidence no one else wouldn’t have been able to find, I knew we would be together forever. Hell, I honestly figured I would go before you, and you would become someone else’s partner. At least, that was my intention when your eyes flicked to life for the first time.
Then today, for some reason, you burst into the room – without my authorization – triggering the bomb. Was there a bug in your code? Was it a malfunctioning sensor? Or did you know it was a trap and you sacrificed yourself?
There was nothing left of you, so I’ll never know for sure. I wish I could transfer your soul into my next model. Instead, I’ll just pour my heart into it, hoping to get the same results.
Then, for you, I will solve this mystery.
From a Theme Thursday prompt, the challenge was to write a 100-500 word story on the theme of “Loyalty” without using the word. I hope you enjoy my sci-fi angle to the challenge.
While doing her rounds as captain of the spaceship, The Glimmingdrift, Alvas checks in with the docking bay to find an unlogged vehicle consisting of eight reindeer and a red sleigh.
While sipping tea from a space gray mug with the text, “Best Spaceship Captain Mayor Ever,” Alvas stepped into the docking bay command deck for The Glimmingdrift. Her orange reptilian tail wiggled up to behind her back, allowing the door to close behind her automatically. The neon purple light bar that ran the room’s length under the ceiling reflected warmly on the white consoles, giving the small space a cozy feel. Purple was Alvas’ favorite color, as evident in her dark purple shirt and matching scarf she wore with her black suit work attire.
Seated through the five chairs were quadratums, a small furry cube-shaped species, and each person was a different color. Their white chairs were locked to the floor but had armrests, padding, and could raise up and down with the touch of a button as Alvas wanted her staff to be comfortable.
Alvas got on one knee to greet the red quadratum face-to-face. “How’s everything going, Vianola?”
“Everything is in order, captain,” she cheerfully reported. “We’ve just docked The Starbringer II, and they’re letting out their passengers.”
Alvas stood up and looked out the window. In the docking bay below, there were a few dozen spacecraft parked to visit The Glimmingdrift. The three-kilometer disc-shaped craft was a city known for its culinary and performing arts. Alvas was proud to have transformed the ship around from its infamous past.
Alvas tapped on the side of her black plastic glasses, trigging the view to zoom in on an unusual occupant stationed in one of the bays.
“What is that in Bay 15?” Alvas said.
Vianola pulled up the reports on her monitor. “I don’t see anything in Bay 15.”
Alvas looked at the security feed and logs on Vianola’s monitor, which showed nothing. She looked back at the bay herself to make sure she wasn’t mistaken, but there were eight reindeer attached to a bright red sleigh. The reindeer were lined side by side in two rows in front of an empty open sleigh.
“Odd,” Alvas said as she sat her mug down on the console. “Raise your seat and see for yourself.”
Vianola raised the seat above the monitor to look out the window. “That is odd. It doesn’t show up on the monitors, but there’s something there. That’s some advanced technology.”
“I’m going to go check it out,” Alvas said as she walked out of the room. “Keep an eye on me, please.”
“Will do, captain! I’ll let Magnolia you’re on the way.”
Alvas kept a brisk pace as she walked down the hall, down the stairs, and into the docking bay. Along the way, she warmly greeted the three personnel by their names that she crossed paths with while they carried about their jobs.
Upon entering the docking bay, Magnolia slithered up to Alvas. The gorgon’s snake-like half body was advantageous at navigating in the sometimes gravity-less areas of docking bays. Alvas has also appreciated Magnolia’s stone-transforming skill for unruly visitors, which thankfully, didn’t happen often.
“What’s the situation with Bay 15?” Alvas inquired as they headed there. “Is it something another ship unloaded?”
“I honestly don’t know,” Magnolia apologized as she tapped around in her tablet. “They must’ve been placed there when I was addressing Starbringer II.”
“And they’re not from that ship?”
“Not at all.”
Alvas and Magnolia approached the eight reindeer and red sleigh, splitting up to inspect them.
“What are these creatures?” Alvas asked.
“We’re reindeer,” one of them spoke.
Alvas stepped back. The Magnolia’s hair of snakes started to stir, ready to turn any threat into stone.
“They can talk,” Alvas said.
“They can talk,” another reindeer mocked.
Magnolia straightened her back, making herself taller to tower over the creatures. “Who is your captain, and where are they?”
Alvas could tell by Magnolia’s tone that she was on edge. It was a rare feat for anything to slip by Magnolia unnoticed. Alvas respectively stood back and let her manager do her job.
“He goes by many names,” one of them answered with a cheerful tease.
“Like Father Christmas,” another reindeer spoke with a sparkle.
“Or Saint Nicholas,” another commented.
“Or Kris Kringle,” another added.
“But you may call him Santa Claus,” the first one concluded.
Magnolia’s snakes began to hiss in agitation from the reindeers’ games. “Where is Santa Claus, and what’s he doing on this ship? And I want just one of you to answer me.”
Seven of the reindeer turned their attention to the one directly in front of the sleigh to the right.
“A child wrote a letter to Santa, asking for him for freedom,” he explained in earnest. “He’s deeply indebted.”
“What!?” both Alvas and Magnolia said, shocked.
“There are no indentured workers allowed in my city,” Alvas boasted. “If this is true, then I’ll personally get to the bottom of it. Who’s being forced to work for who?”
“The child’s name is Tim Crotchet, and he’s working for a director who goes by the alias of Scourge,” the reindeer continued. “He got Tim a brand new mechanical leg, and he’s been working hard to pay him back.”
Alvas’ tail curled up in thought. “I don’t know any kid by that name, but I do know of this Scourge. He’s a bit of an egomaniac and kind of cheap when it comes to paying anyone, but people seem to enjoy his dark comedies. If your story checks out, I’ll forgive you for improperly boarding. Now, can you describe Santa for me?”
“He’s no illusion, he’s a human who wears red from head to toe,” a different reindeer answered, poetically.
“With a fluffy white trim, that doesn’t make him look slim,” another added.
“With a little round belly, that shakes like a bowl of jelly,” another finished with a giggle.
Magnolia rubbed her temples with two fingers in frustration.
“Magnolia, please keep watch in the docking bay while I go investigate,” Alvas said.
* * *
The Daily Art Desk once said in a travel guide, “If you’re visiting The Glimmingdrift and you don’t see a show at Dionysus Circle, then why are you even at The Glimmingdrift?” Consisting of twelve independent performance venues, Dionysus Circle was the ship’s largest and most visited district. People would travel from neighboring solar systems to catch a live in-person show there.
The pleasant aromas from the various pop-up food vendors scattered throughout Dionysus Circle always made Alvas hungry, even when she just ate. She walked around, looking for a human in a red suit. Security wasn’t showing anyone by that description, but if the reindeer and sleigh were invisible to it, Alvas figured Santa was too. Instead, she tasked them to track Scourge, who was last seen outside Lamina Theatre promoting his newest production.
Alvas cut through the crowd surrounding Scourge as he hyped his show. Being a seven-foot-tall minotaur in a three-piece red suit with a silky black cape, on top of his bright red fur, Scourge had no issue attracting attention.
“We’ll be starting the next performance of A Disastrous Carol in one hour,” Scourge said. “There are only a few seats left, so get your tickets at the box office now.”
Scourge stepped off the mini-stage to cheers from the crowd. Compared to Scourge, a tiny human boy with a robotic leg followed the director inside the theatre. The boy scrolled around the tablet and said something to Scourge that Alvas couldn’t make out. As Alvas tried to follow, she bumped into another person.
“Excuse me,” Alvas said before realizing who she found. “Wait a second. Are you Santa Claus?”
“Ho, ho, ho,” he replied, his belly shaking like a bowl of jelly. “Why, yes, I am, Alvas.”
“How do you know–”
“Why I know everyone, especially good people like you.”
“You’re here to help me rescue Tim Crotchet, aren’t you?”
“Well, yeah, if this Tim Crotchet requires saving, like your reindeer claim.”
Santa chuckled as he took off his red cap hat. He reached inside, his hand going deeper than the length of the hat (which was not an impressive feat as Alvas had pockets that were bigger on the inside, too), and pulled out a crystal ball. “Your answers are here.”
Alvas took the crystal ball. It was pleasantly warm, and she felt connected to the object. The crystal glowed, playing a video montage of Tim’s tragic life. She saw Tim getting adducted, being take away from his home on Earth, getting sold in an auction where Scourge bought him, and how Scourge has taken advantage of the child ever since. The montage ended, and the crystal stopped glowing, leaving Alvas feeling disconnected and heartbroken at what she witnessed.
“Oh my,” she said.
Santa took the crystal ball and returned it inside his hat. “Will you help me?”
“Thank you. Perhaps as the captain of his ship, I was hoping you could have a word with him.”
“Scourge doesn’t listen to anyone,” Alvas said. “That I know. He’s an arrogant writer slash director type who shrugs off anything negative as nonsense.”
Alvas kept the idea of using force to herself. She never wanted to be that kind of person like her predecessors.
Santa rubbed his chin in thought. “Then perhaps like a writer, we shouldn’t tell, but show.”
* * *
All of the drawers and cabinets, which consisted of 75% of Scourge’s private room, were bursting with costumes and props. Tim had been with Scourge for months and still had no idea how Scourge organized anything, but Scourge always seemed to know precisely where to find what he needed. However, Tim had a hunch that Scourge didn’t know and only pretended that what he found was what he needed.
Tim sat in a makeshift chair of dirty clothes while Scourge sat in a plush recliner chair as he ate his lucky pre-show sandwich. Scourge tossed Tim the ends of the crust as he approached them. Tim grabbed and devoured the scraps.
Three gentle knocks tapped on the front door. Scourge waved Tim off to answer the door, to which he complied. When Tim opened the door, no one was there. Tim peered down the lush red velvet hallways. No one in sight.
“Who’s there?” Scourge asked, annoyed he even had to inquire.
“No one, sir,” Tim said as he closed the door.
The moment the door clicked shut, every single item of clothing erupted out from their spot. Scourge screamed, dropping his sandwich, while Tim froze in place, watching the clothes swirl around in the air like a tornado.
“Show yourself!” Scourge shouted over the noise. His hands trembled.
The clothes formed a colossal human head that engulfed the room from floor to ceiling. Some clothes still swirled around like a tornado as the neck.
“I am the Ghost of Christmas,” the head said with a threatening rumble.
“What-what’s a Christmas?”
Tim smiled. He knew.
“I know how you came in possession Tim Crotchet here,” the head said. The head transformed into a stage, using the clothes as puppets to show Scourge buying Tim at the illegal auction. The clothes retook the shape of the head. “If you do not wish for the media to uncover your wickedness, then I suggest you surrender Tim to the authorities.”
Scourge dropped to his knees. “Yes, yes, of course. Who exactly should I leave him with?”
“The ship’s captain, Alvas Sunback, will do nicely. Now, do not disappoint me, Scourge. You won’t like it if I have to come a second time.”
The clothes collapsed onto the floor.
Tim and Scourge stared at each for a moment before Scourge snapped, “You heard the Ghost of Christmas. Go find Alvas whatever and not a word about this or me, or else I’ll rip off your new leg.”
Tim nodded and ran out down the hallway. Tim had no clue who Alvas was, but he figured if they were the ship’s captain, anyone should be able to help. As Tim ran down the hallway, he realized he was the farthest he’s ever been away from Scourge’s side. The thought made him turn a corner and run into a group of people.
“I’m sorry,” Tim said.
“It’s quite all right, Tim.”
Tim’s eyes beamed with glee. “Santa?”
Santa chuckled and winked. “Yes, Tim. I got your letter, and I’m here to help.”
“Then could-could you take me to an Alvas Sunback?”
“Already here,” Alvis said as she got down on her knees to talk with Tim on his level.
“I’m lost. My parents live on Earth. Could you get me home?”
“I’ll certainly try. There’s some bureaucratic tape we’ll have to cut through.” Alvas turned to Santa. “I don’t suppose you can’t just take him home yourself?”
Santa sighed a breath of sadness. “I’m afraid my powers are limited. I’m only able to even be here because Tim wrote a letter to me. But, I have faith you will figure it out.”
Alvas turned back to Tim. “While we get things sorted, how about I get you some proper food.”
Tim nodded. “Okay. Thank you.”
Alvas stood up and held out her hand for Tim, which he took. She turned to face Santa, but he was gone. The bracelet around her wrist vibrated. She tapped on it, and a 3D hologram image of Magnolia popped up.
“The reindeer are gone,” Magnolia blurted out to her boss. “I swear, I only turned my back on them for a moment.”
“Santa is gone too. He was with me just a second ago. But, good news, I have Tim with me.”
“That’s amazing. I can’t even wrap my head around how this Santa Claus knew everything and evaded us.”
“That’s Santa,” Tim said. “He’s magic.”
A Rescue Request to Santa was inspired by the following writing prompt: “As captain of the city-sized space shuttle, you get a notification that a ship has just entered your landing bay, but when you go to check, all you find are 9 reindeer attached to a sleigh.”
I thought this prompt would be a fun way to kick off my December short stories. It took me some time to build the world for this spaceship city, but I had fun and I may come back to it for other stories. In my mind, I’m placing this story after Who Killed the Toymaker Aboard Starbringer? and The Glimmingdrift was where Detective Psychon was heading to for work.
As I got to the second section, I got stuck on how to proceed until I read an article about the various “squeals” to A Christmas Carol, which was prompted by some random discussion between my wife and me. While I didn’t use the sequels for inspiration, I did use the main story as a structure guide.
I hope enjoy this fun holiday story. Maybe someone will read it to their kids?
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.”
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.”
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.