The real and imaginative adventures of Dennis Spielman

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Script Thief

Detective Psychon arrives on The Glimmingdrift where he works with a client to solve who has been leaking their play scripts to the press.

NOTE: This story takes place after Who Killed The Toymaker Aboard Starbringer II? and at the same time as A Rescue Request to Santa. However, I wrote this sci-fi story to stand on its own. Enjoy!


Every piece of media and publicity Detective Psychon found about The Glimmingdrift recommended seeing a live show in the Dionysus Circle district. Spawning from a shady gambling past, the current captain revitalized the spaceship city to be a theatre lover’s paradise. Performing arts venues replaced the twelve casinos, keeping the flashy neon aesthetics and repurposing them for the arts. A neon blue holographic billboard promoting, “‘A Disastrous Carol’ Written and Directed by Scourge” briefly caught the detective’s attention as he walked deeper into the district.

Pairing with the performing arts, visitors also knew Dionysus Circle for its eclectic culinary collection of food vendors. Each booth was a work of art, often embodying the dish they best served. While the detective had no use for food, in a past life, he would’ve had a hard time picking something to eat based on all the tantalizing aromas as he strolled past them.

All the detective planned to do during his visit aboard The Glimmingdrift was to see a client.

Vertically, the district was only two to three levels tall, allowing people with wings to fly around, but no need for upper-level pedestrian walkways. The detective stopped in front mini-tower consisting of an elevator base to a circular observation deck. At the top was a penthouse suite that doubled as a living and rehearsal space for the prestigious writer and director, Canopus.

“I’m here to see Canopus,” the detective said to the private guard.

The muscular brown sasquatch with a black hoodie and jeans sized up the short-by-comparison human vampire. “What’s your business?”

“I’m the new hat designer,” the detective lied as requested by the client.

The guard looked at Psychon’s ragged black pointy hat with various hand-sewn patches adorned on it. The guard shrugged and stepped aside from the door. “Canopus is waiting for you.”

The door automatically slid open, and the detective stepped inside the freight elevator, which was large enough for a few dozen people. The elevator walls and ceiling were covered with living flowers and ivy, smelling like a spring meadow. A few of the flowers had a metallic sparkle to them. As the door closed and lifted him to the only destination, Psychon recalled his initial conversation with Canopus. They spoke on a holographic video call via their networkers.

Canopus patted her forehead with a towel using one tentacle while the second used her flower sewn hat as a fan. Her third tentacle held the networker as the last one raised a glass of ice water to her mouth. She took a sip through the rainbow swirly straw.

“Look, I need you to find out how my stories are getting leaked to the press,” Canopus said as she sat the glass down. “I don’t want to accuse my troupe falsely, and I don’t want to come across as unhinged.”

“Is it one media outlet that gets the inside details?” Psychon asked.

“No, it changes every time, but whoever gets it, it’s an exclusive.”

“That rules out any media outlet. Do you have any suspects on your team?”

“My troupe is loyal,” she said with a hateful glare with her large eyes.

The detective opted not to question her statement further and went with a different approach. “I’ll need to infiltrate your team to be sure. They may be unknowingly or unwittingly helping.”

Canopus tossed the towel aside and put her hat back on, which gave her an idea. “You could be my new hat designer.”

Psychon adjusted his pointy black hat he made himself. “I can pull that off, and I now know how to solve your problem.”

The elevator dinged open with a gentle musical melody. Like the elevator, plants covered every inch of the ceiling. Most of the walls were transparent or were windows to the outside, making the circular penthouse feel larger than it already was. Before walking on the plush green carpet, Psychon took off his boots and placed them on the shoe rack with the others.

The detective only took a couple of steps when Canopus ran up and greeted him with a tight, warm hug that lifted him from the floor. If Psychon needed to breathe, he would’ve been struggling at the moment. Instead, he grumbled, and Canopus carefully returned him to the ground.

“I’m so excited to see you,” Canopus apologized.

“I’m excited to be working with you too,” Psychon said as he straightened out his black trench coat.

Canopus turned back to her troupe of eight people working together for their latest show. Each person sat in a plush pod hung from the ceiling that formed a circle, so everyone was equal in discussion and rehearsal. All nine pods were large enough to fit Canopus, who was the largest person there. The detective noted the diversity of the troupe. From the reviews the detective gleamed about the company, the mix of ideas and cultural backgrounds was a favored trait.

Canopus returned to her pod. “Everyone, before I give out the scripts for tonight’s show, I have a special associate who I commissioned to design you each a special hat for this production.”

Psychon took off his hat, then one by one, he walked around the room, pulling out a hat from inside his hat, which was bigger on the inside. Each black and red striped hat was similar in appearance as not to cause any jealousy. However, they were different enough in size and strip width to tell each one apart. After the detective passed out all the hats, he returned to Canopus.

“I hope everyone enjoys their hats,” Psychon said as he gave the last one to Canopus.

“These are exquisite,” Canopus genuinely praised as she put on the hat. She took a rolled-up poster from her pod and unraveled it to show only Psychon. “This is for you as a thank you. You’re the first one to see the poster for tonight’s show.”

“Thank you,” Psychon said as he rolled up the poster and put it in his hat. “It’s been a pleasure working for you.”

The detective tipped his hat and returned to the elevator. Everything was going according to plan.

The detective made himself comfortable in the corner of an underwater themed bar. He sipped on his glass of blood while his networker projected live feeds from the hidden cameras placed in each of the hats. With the show starting in a few hours, no one attempted to leak any details about the production. With tentative diligence, he watched for any sleight of hand tricks as well as any outsiders who might be spying on them.

When a news alert with breaking details about Canopus’ latest show popped up on his feed, he almost didn’t want to believe it. Earlier, he scheduled his networker to push any news about the show to him. He tapped on the news box from The Daily Cork. 

The article revealed exclusive details about the plot. The story even mentioned the wardrobe and hats for the show. It included several suggestions on what to eat that paired with the show. Then down at the bottom was a witness sketch of the show poster, which Psychon plotted with Canopus to make sure only he saw it.

Psychon closed the networker video. “Time to pay The Daily Cork a visit for answers.”

The Daily Cork was a one-person operation specializing in culinary news and reviews, with the occasional story about performances, usually with food recommendations. Luckily for the detective, they had an office aboard The Glimmingdrift, but it was a private residence, which meant he couldn’t barge in.

The detective learned the residential hallways were designed without any decorations so people would get to and from home quickly without any distractions. The bright purple walls did give Psychon a sense of luxury despite the minimal architect. He knocked three times on the white door to Room 289. 

The door slid open, revealing a young 28-year-old human woman, although the snakes in her hazel hair exposed she was half-gorgon. She wore a thick, white sweater and a pair of tight red leggings. 

“Hello, Alaia,” Psychon said, forcing a warm smile. “I saw your article about Canopus’ latest show, and I wanted to see if you be interested in interviewing me about the hats I designed for it.”

Alaia beamed with excitement. “Yes, please come in.”

With the invite, Psychon stepped inside. “Thank you.”

The detective studied the white minimalist zen studio apartment room. If Alaia was hiding anything or anyone, there wasn’t much space to do it. He didn’t spy any surveillance equipment, and Alaia didn’t seem to recognize him either.

Alaia took a cross-legged seat on a mattress on the floor, which was the only piece of furniture. She sat up with an immaculate posture.

“So, tell me, what’s the story behind this show’s hats?” she asked. 

“Well, Canopus hired me to find out who was leaking details about her shows to the press, and so I made special hats with surveillance equipment to track her staff.” The snakes in Alaia’s hair rattled with nervous restlessness. Psychon held up a warning finger. “Don’t even try to turn me into stone. Vampires are immune. Now, tell me, how did you learn about the show when I saw no one contacting you?”

Alaia’s posture slouched. “I got an anonymous message. They said if I brought them some stuff, they would give an exclusive. I’ve seen other publications get exclusives, and so I took it. I thought it was a publicity stunt at first…”

“What did they want in return?” the detective questioned.

“I can’t pronounce it, but here’s the message. They want wanted me to deliver it to a dumpster out back Canopus’ place.”

The journalist brought up the demands on her networker.

The detective swiped away the screen. “That explains everything.”

Canopus and her troupe stumbled up the penthouse entrance with celebratory bottles of wine and high spirits from a successful performance. The detective stood outside with the personal security guard.

“Psychon, it’s so good to see you,” Canopus said. “Do you have good news for me?”

“Yes, I’ve learned that your troupe is loyal, and you don’t have to worry about your shows being leaked to the press again.”

“Really?” Canopus said, about to drunk cry with happiness.

“Wait, I thought you were a hat designer?” one of Canopus associates asked.

“Detective is my proper title,” Psychon said.

“How’d you fix it?” Canopus asked.

“I set it on fire.”

“Set what on fire?”

“All of your plants, specifically the aglowies. Fun Fact: aglowies are native to the Yellow Planet and illegal on all the others. They are notorious for fusing with technology. They’ve been getting fertilizer in exchange for exclusive information about your shows.”

Canopus paused to take everything explained to her. “I got that plant as a souvenir when I visited the Yellow Planet for inspiration. That’s about the time when small little details started to leak to the press.”

Psychon nodded. “And as the plant grew bigger, it was able to expand its reach.”

A realization hit Canopus. “But the aglowies covered my entire place!”

“Yes, your whole penthouse suite is currently in flames. I had to get special permission from the ship’s captain, but once I explained the danger, she gave me access.”

The detective’s client took a big swig of wine. “I guess it was time for a remodel anyway.”


Script Thief - Dionysus Circle Scene artwork by Chen Kang at Design Pickle - black and white

For January’s short story, I wanted to reveal the case Detective Psychon was heading to that he referred in Who Killed The Toymaker Aboard Starbringer II? I thought it would be fun to explore more of The Glimmingdrift featured in A Rescue Request to Santa, having both stories take place at the same time. In the Santa story, I did mention Starbringer II landing there, so I’ve planned this idea in advance. I was also inspired by a bit of dialogue from a writing prompt, which I incorporated. The prompt was, ““How’d you fix it?” “I set it on fire.””

I got to work again with Chen Kang at Design Pickle to bring Dionysus Circle to life. I incorporated the tower in the background Chen drew as Canopus’ penthouse. Huge thanks to Chen for the fantastic art!

I have to say, I love writing a detective story in a speculative fiction world with Psychon as I can give him such weird and unusual cases. If you liked this story, be sure to click on the Detective Psychon tag for more with him.

Be sure to join me on Patreon to read my works first.

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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