The real and imaginative adventures of Dennis Spielman

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Stories inspired by writing prompts.

Testing Predictions on an Abandoned Village - art by Mikey Marchan at Design Pickle

Testing Predictions on an Abandoned Village

After overhearing an urban legend about an abandoned village, Haley “The Sounds” Riot and Robin Bee set off to test Haley’s future predicting music player to uncover the mystery behind the community.

* This story takes place after Body Drop, however, I wrote this to stand on its own.


Haley Riot pulled on the purple musical note attached to the retractable band around her neck. The networker designed to look like two beamed eighth notes brought life a three-dimensional map of their position in the woods. Beside the map were a few postings and news clippings about the Babylon Sisters Village. Some of the posts talked of treasure, murder, and ghosts but offered no evidence other than stories of people going missing who explored the area.

Haley was determined to solve the mystery and had a secret weapon on her side: a device that predicted the future and revealed truths through song titles. 

Robin Bee took a seat on a fallen tree as Haley reviewed the map. Once she caught her breath, she asked her girlfriend, “Are we on track?”

Haley swiped away the map. “Just down this hill, and we should be there.”

“Good,” Robin said as she laid down the log. “I didn’t expect this journey to be such an exhausting hike.”

“It wouldn’t be an abandoned village if it was next to a subway station.”

Robin sat back up. “Yeah, I know. Does your music player have any advice for approaching the village?”

Haley couldn’t tell if Robin was facetious or genuine. She had only helped solve one murder thanks to the music player, and Haley wanted to put it through a test on this urban legend she heard. Haley also often had difficulties reading Robin’s facial expressions, but she learned to default them all to seriousness. She decided to pull out the device to answer Robin’s question.

“What should we be aware of as we approach the village?” Haley said to her music player. She pressed the shuffle button. “Endless War.”

Robin sighed. “That’s helpful. Anyway, I’m ready to go.”

Haley pondered the meaning for a moment before letting out a frustrated moan as she returned the device to her short’s side pocket. “Yeah, let’s go.”

Haley led the way down the hill. The incline was steep enough for Haley to be mindful of her footing but not steep enough to slow her down.

“Ouch!” Haley mumbled, feeling a scratch across her tanned legs.

“You okay?”

“I felt something scratch my leg.”

“Told you you should’ve worn pants like me,” Robin said and then felt a scratch across her leg. “Ouch! Something scratched my leg too.”

When Robin got scratched, Haley knew it wasn’t her imagination. While Haley was human, Robin was a ghaukvoi, and her thick, blue skin was tougher. Before they could think about it, a bunch more scratches cut across both their legs. Haley cussed, and they both ran down the hill, slapping at their legs to brush aside whatever was scratching them. As Haley rubbed her ankles, Robin looked back to where they once stood. Gusts of wind cut across the grass and plants, and she found the source.

“Wind ants,” Robin said.

“Wind ants?” Haley repeated.

“They’re territorial insects that can fling sharp gusts of wind at their enemies. I did some reading on the subway on our way,” Robin explained. “Anyway, from the looks of it, I think I see two different groups fighting each other.”

Haley’s face lit up. “Like they’re in an endless war!”

Robin’s eyebrows squinted down. “That’s a bit of a stretch.”

“But it makes sense,” Haley said with an optimistic wink. “Come on. We’re here.”

Nature had reclaimed most of the tiny village. According to Haley’s research, the cobblestone community consisted of about 25 people living an off-grid lifestyle. A dozen dome-shaped homes surrounded a large community center building also fashioned out of brown cobblestones.

“You know, this place is kind of cute,” Robin admitted as she took in her surroundings. “Not sure if I would say that at night, though.”

Haley laughed. “We got plenty of daylight left.”

“What do you want to investigate first?” Robin asked. 

Haley took a look at the houses, inspecting them for any activity. “Let’s try some of the homes first and make sure this place is abandoned.”

Robin nodded. “Sounds good.”

Haley and Robin walked over to the nearest house, where Haley knocked on the door and called out hello. The wooden door crept open with a sharp squeal. Haley looked around and opened the door further, calling out hello again as she entered. Robin stayed behind, keeping watch.

“Anyone here?” Haley shouted.

The house was the same small size on the inside as it was on the outside. The lights did not automatically turn on, so Haley turned on her networker’s flashlight function to see. Instead of electricity, she found candles scattered around. The home was one room with furniture creating dividers for different sections. The place’s brown wood design had a warm, rustic atmosphere that Haley would have found calming if it weren’t for all of the belongings left out and covered in dust, leaving her with an ominous feeling. She returned to Robin outside.

“Anything interesting?” Robin asked.

“It’s weird.”

“Weird how?”

“It’s like someone lived there, but they left years ago without taking any of their stuff.”

“That is weird. Do you want to head back?”

No,” Haley said without hesitation. “I want to see if it’s the same story with the other homes, and then I want to check out the big building.”

The couple visited three more homes, each with the same story. Clothes, food, and keepsakes were all left to gather dust. Inside the fourth home, Haley found a crimson wooden spoon resting on the kitchen counter. The spoon reminded Haley of the one Robin used to shove a rainbow muffin into her mouth when they first meet. Upon seeing Haley’s rainbow hair at the coffee bakery shop Robin worked at, Robin thought Haley would be a perfect test subject for a new recipe. Robin pocked the spoon and left the abandoned house.

“Same story,” Haley said to Robin as she closed the door.

“I’m curious. If everyone here suddenly disappeared, then how did you hear about this place?”

“I overheard this conversation at a bar, and they were talking about unexplained stuff, and this person was talking about the Babylon Sisters Village. Apparently, they came out here to deliver stuff for a wedding, and no one was around. I did some digging as I wanted to know more, but there wasn’t much to be found as it’s a small community. There were some posts about people saying they were going to explore this place for themselves, but they never did follow up.”

“Did they just not go or something?”

“No, it’s like they said they were going, and they disappeared.”

“And you’re not worried about disappearing?”

“Not when I got this,” Haley said, shaking the music player. Robin scoffed, and Haley quickly added, “And you too, of course.”

“Smooth save there, muffin. That thing tell you how this all got started?”

Haley asked the music player the reason that caused everyone to disappear and tapped the shuffle button.

“My Heart is Burning,” Haley said, confused.

“That’s—”

“Don’t finish that thought,” Haley interrupted. She held up her music player. “How does Robin feel about that news?” Haley tapped shuffle. “Okay, now finish.”

“Spooky,” Robin finished.

Haley smiled and showed Robin the exact song title.

Robin rolled her eyes. “You set me up.”

“What? No way!”

Robin turned away and faced the community center. “How about we go check out this large building now?”

“Yeah, let’s do that.”

Blocking the wide double doors rested a large wooden crate with the retailer’s name, “Journal of Ardency,” stamped in black ink across the sides. Haley peeked inside through the opening. The container was empty, save for a few bits of red fabric hairs. Despite nothing being inside, Haley requested Robin’s help after trying to push it aside as it was heavier than it appeared. With the door clear, they both went inside this time. There was no need for additional lights as the windows filled the space with warmth and light. Both girls’ jaws dropped at the simplistic charm of the wooden reception area. They slowly walked into the room, soaking in the place. Haley could see the site as a perfect venue rental for events with its open floor plan and natural lighting. 

“There’s nothing here,” Robin said, surprised. 

“Except for that big old rug,” Haley added. In the center of the room was a fluffy, red rug several times their size. “Wait. I wonder if something is under it.”

As Haley stepped off, Robin yanked on her arm and pulled her back. “Hold on. Something is off about this place.”

“What do you mean?” Haley asked.

“You said all the homes were dusty?”

“Yeah.”

“There’s not a speck of dust here.”

Haley looked for confirmation. The place was immaculate. Haley asked her music player, “What danger should we be aware of in this building?”

“Well, what did it say?”

“Quicksand,” Haley spoke with gentle reservations.

She pulled out the wooden spoon she found and tossed it at the rug. The rug snapped on the spoon, like the jaws of a giant beast. Haley and Robin both shrieked and jumped back. The carpet slithered toward them, and they both bolted out of there. They didn’t bother to look back to see if the rug was following them or not. They ran as fast as they could, slammed the door shut, and moved the wooden crate back over the door.

As they caught their breath, a tall, brown fur sasquatch yelled, “Don’t go inside there!”

“Too late,” Haley snapped back as the sasquatch came racing up toward them. “What the hell was that thing?”

The sasquatch didn’t immediately answer.

Robin repeated Haley’s question with a threatening grumble. “What was that?”

“A carnivorous carpet,” he confessed.

With a gentle tone, Haley asked, “How did this all start?”

“You could say it was because my heart was burning with pain.” The sasquatch took a seat on a rock, putting him more at eye-level. “The woman I was in love with was getting married to someone else, and I got that rug, thinking it would scare them as a bad omen. Instead, it ate everyone in the village. I’ve been sticking around for the past few years to make sure it got no one else. I was hoping it would’ve starved to death by now…”

“But it’s still kicking,” Haley said.

The sasquatch nodded.

Haley pulled out her music player and asked it, “How do I kill the carnivorous carpet?”

She tapped the shuffle button. Upon seeing the result, she nodded.

“Simple enough,” Haley said as she strolled off. “Be right back.”

“What’s is she doing?” the sasquatch asked Robin.

Robin shrugged. “Her thing. I’m Robin, by the way.”

“Francesco,” the sasquatch introduced.

About a minute later, Haley returned with a rag stuffed inside a glass bottle.

“Open the door and get ready to close it,” Haley said to both Robin and Francesco.

Haley struck a match, lighting the rag on fire. Without questioning her, they promptly opened the door. Haley tossed the flaming bottle at the rug. It snapped the bottle in its clutches. Robin and Francesco slammed the doors shut as the carpet howled in pain. Robin covered her ears while Francesco squinched in pain. Haley hummed and moved her fingers like she was conducting an orchestra until the cry stopped.

After a moment of silence, Haley consulted her music player.

“It’s safe to enter,” Haley announced.

“Are you sure?” the sasquatch asked.

“See for yourself.”

Robin stepped back as Francesco opened the door. In the room was a smoldering pile of ash from the burnt carpet. The sasquatch bent down and picked up some of the remains. They blew out from his hand as a tear formed.

“It’s over,” Francesco said.

Night had fallen when Haley and Robin returned to the subway station to get home in Aequus. Francesco insisted on staying in the village as he didn’t know where else to go, but he assured them he would give his future some thought. The car Haley and Robin entered only held a few other people, but they knew it would fill as they got closer to the city. They used the opportunity to spread out and relax. Robin rested her head on Haley’s legs.

“What does that thing say about how I feel about you?”

Haley asked and pressed shuffle. “Really love you.”

Robin smiled. “What about our future?”

Haley consulted the device.

“Champagne,” Haley lied as she closed the music player, hiding the answer, “Can’t Cheat Death.”


Testing Predictions on an Abandoned Village - art by Mikey Marchan at Design Pickle

Thank you for reading my February 2021 short story!

After writing about Detective Psychon last month, I knew I wanted to feature another story about Haley “The Sounds” Riot where she was solving some sort of mystery to test the music player. I got inspired by the writing prompt, “For years, people go missing in the nearby abandoned village, sparking dozens of theories about treasure, murder, and ghosts. The culprit? A carpet that traps and drowns them like quicksand.”

Like I did for Body Drop, I also solicited song suggestions from friends that I incorporated through the story in different ways. Those songs were: Journal of Ardency by Class Actress, Spooky by Classics IV, Babylon Sisters by Steely Dan, Don’t Call Me Back (feat. Francesco Yates, DJ Lux & AJ McLean), Really Love You by Paul McCartney, and Mein Herz Brennt by Rammstein. I also tossed in a few of my shuffled songs.

Story artwork brought to life by Mikey Marchan 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.

I hope you enjoyed this story!

Curious Dream Beginnings

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…”

“How curious.”

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?”

“Yes!”

“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!

Thank you for reading!

The Cat’s Warning

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.

Loyalty

A detective morns their partner.


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. 

A Rescue Request to Santa - art by Bienvenido Julian

A Rescue Request to Santa

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.”

“Thank you.”

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.”

“But–”

“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?”

“Yes.”

“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.”

“You’re welcome.”

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 - art by Bienvenido Julian

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?

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