The beginning of the end

Well, it’s still not 100% certain, but things aren’t looking good for Princess Ana. There are probably some hard decisions ahead.

So here she is, looking perfect as usual:

IMG_5278

Update: The decision to put her to sleep has been made. We’ll tell the kids in the morning.

Update: Ana died peacefully at the vet last Saturday.

The Amazing Reverse-Goldilocks Belly

So.

Last post I wrote about how the surgeon I saw about the gap in my abdominal muscles was probably too small to be covered through the public health system. “My hands are tied,” he said. “Although you certainly need the surgery.”

I had a CT scan that revealed (among other things) the gap in my abdominal muscles is 9cm wide.

Yay.

Went back to the same surgeon with the CT scan results. “Ooh, that’s much too big,” he said. “This hospital isn’t equipped for such a major surgery,” he said. “My hands are tied,” he said.

So.

Another hospital, another waiting list, another surgeon.

My job

In the afternoons, I pick up two girls from school and mind them. Louisette comes with me. The girls actually chose the two of us over several other potential babysitters. Louisette is delighted with the girls, and they are delighted with her. I have their mum’s permission to post this photo:

 

Is it any wonder I love my job?

The Reverse Man Cold

I have what I call a bad cold – and doctors call bronchitis. I knew I’d been exposed to pneumonia, so I want to the doc to get pre-emptive antibiotics and discovered that, actually, I was quite sick.

My favourite thing about CJ today: Unlike so many spouses of either gender, he is more likely to overestimate my illnesses than the reverse.

I’ve been on meds for a few days now, and I’m on the way out of sicktown. Louisette is doing fine, although she does have a cold so CJ and I are watching her like hawks.

And here’s a random pic:

 

So much to love

I’m reading “Pride and Prejudice”, a version which happens to have the below picture on the front cover.

 

The painting is “Congratulations” by George Henry Harlow. Here is my list of concerns about the painting:

1. Why are these young women clearly teething?

2. Who stretched out their necks like that?

3. Why is a man’s hand protruding from the right-hand woman’s neck?

4. Why is the left-hand woman’s head and neck not attached to the left-hand body (I don’t care how good your corset is, chests do not stick out that far)?

 

It seems I’m not the only person who just can’t draw hands.

I got got

So I was caught in a scam yesterday. A simple but brilliant*scam. My phone rang; I noticed it was a long-distance number and was instantly intrigued. All I heard when I picked up was a buzzing noise so, after a pathetically small period of wondering who had called me, I called the number back.

No-one picked up. No-one ever does – as I discovered when I googled the number to see if it belonged to a publisher or to some annoying advertiser. Calling them back cost me $1.25, apparently. So I won’t be doing that again in a hurry.

In unrelated news, Louisette is seven months old tomorrow, so I’ll be posting another months’ worth of daily photos.

 

*or so I like to tell myself

Diverting power to the main grid

I seem to be strangely busy these days*so I’ve decided to cut down on blogging a teensy bit. Those readers who’ve been around for a while (or who noticed that I still blogged while on my honeymoon/in labour/etc) will be stunned at this development, while the rest of you will be left wondering, “And the big deal is. . . ?”

The blog will be silent on weekends from this week onwards. The “articles by others” (usually on writing, usually with my comments) will be moved to Thursdays, and “Steampunk Sundays” will be moved to the somewhat less alliterative Tuesdays (from tomorrow – so you’ll score two steampunk days this week). Mondays will remain Miscellaneous (including any awesomenesses that deserve the name), Wednesdays all about Louisette, and Fridays will still be all about book reviews.

 

* I wonder why

 

Ch-ch-ch-changes

So July is interesting so far. Our landlady is selling our flat; I’ve given up losing weight (for now); I’m about to go back on anti-depressants (just to see how functional I can get – possibly very functional indeed); my sister is in town and about to have a second child; and I’m looking for full-time work for the first time in my life. Should be interesting.

Here’s Louisette, pleased with her sudden increase in solo-sitting ability.

“Meg the Egg” full story

And yes, I know it’s weird. . .

4

Mum walked in on Hugh and I kissing. “Sex ed clearly isn’t enough,” she said, and gave each of us an egg with a drawn-on face to look after.

She said it was the latest technology, and it would teach us about parenthood. Hugh freaked out and went home. My egg began to cry.

Mum made me walk up and down with the egg cupped in my hand until it finally shut up. I named it Meg, and decided never to have kids.

5

Stupid Meg is stupid crying and it won’t shut up. From now on, I’m only kissing Hugh if we’re both wrapped in cling wrap. Just in case.

Hugh tweeted that he didn’t want kids. Perfect. I wonder if sixteen is too young for him to get a vasectomy.

Discussed vasectomy with Hugh. He says he’ll do it if my Mum takes the eggs back. Definitely worth it. Meg makes my hands itch.

6

Miss Bobbit asked us what we were holding under our desks, and when we explained she had a coughing fit and left the room. NOT FUNNY.

Meg is oddly compelling. I feel funny without her neat warmth in my hand. Her little marker-drawn face looks like it’s smiling.

7

My BFF Sasha said that if I have to face parenthood my Mum should let Hugh stay with me so we can experience the pitfalls of married life.

When I asked Mum why she disagreed with Sasha she sent me to my room. Meg was making little gurgling noises. Pretty cute for a robot.

8

Meg was doing so well, and then at 3am she spat out some kind of green goo. Mum sucks! I never woke HER at 3am when I was a baby.

Fell asleep and missed drama class. Why couldn’t I fall asleep in maths? What’s wrong with me? I LIKE drama. Uh-oh, Meg needs a walk again.

9

Hugh pulled me over at lunch to show me something cool. He threw his egg (Sven) up in the air. It made a squealing noise like it was happy.

I wasn’t sure I dared throw Meg anywhere, even if it helped develop her motor skills in later life. Hugh grabbed her and chucked.

Meg flipped over and – yes, she was laughing! Hugh stepped forward to catch her and slipped. I dived facedown and JUST got her. Never again!

10

Rough night. When I woke up, both my hands were dark purple with bruising. Hugh came over and his hands were the same – especially the left.

“It’s Sven,” he said, “because I hold him in my left hand so my right is free for the remote.” “Should infants be watching TV?”

“Not the point,” said Hugh. I said, “Fine. We’re – allergic, or something. Should we tell Mum?” “What if she makes us give them up?”

11

I walked into Mum’s room without thinking, and saw her getting dressed. Her skin was green and slimy, and she pulled on a human skin suit.

She turned slowly and looked at me with two bulbous eyes on stalks: “We need to talk.” I stood frozen: “You’re not Mum.” “No.”

The alien explained that my real Mum was in Barbados and would be back for Christmas: “Call me Xarla.” “Oh. . . sure. Er. Nice name.”

12

Hugh and Xarla and I sat down with the eggs. “We need human blood to feel our children,” she explained – “so, sorry about your hands.”

“Why don’t I remember Mum saying she was going away?” I asked. Xarla said, “Short-term memory wipe. Give it another day or two.”

I called Mum in Barbados. “Are you doing your homework?” she trilled. I said, “Um. Yes. So you’re fine?” “Time of my life!” “Okay then.”

13

Meg was crying again, so I walked around with her in my hand for over an hour. Now I knew she was doing it, I could feel tiny pinpricks.

I called Hugh. “Is Xarla implanting me with something? Because I’m finding it cute how Meg drinks my blood.” Hugh was silent a long time.

“No,” he said at last: “They’re not altering us to like the eggs. Humans are biologically programmed to like small messy helpless things.”

14

Hugh and I sat close together at the back of English and discussed whether or not we were aiding an alien invasion of Earth.

I decided, “I don’t THINK we’re betraying the human race. I think we’re just. . . babysitting.” Hugh nodded.

“If the aliens do take over, do you think they’ll abolish school?” said Hugh. I said, “Another excellent point.”

15

For the sake of the children, Hugh and I skipped maths. I know I’D wipe out humanity if that was what I saw of it.

16

Hugh and I had dinner with Xarla – she cooked a great lasagna. I said, “Er. . . would you mind putting your human skin suit back on?”

“No problem,” said Xarla. Hugh whispered, “Adults are sooo gross.” “I know.”

17

We took the eggs to a Lady Gaga concert. They moved around a lot, but I couldn’t tell if they were dancing or trying to escape.

18

Woke up to dead silence. Why isn’t Meg crying? I can’t tell if she’s sleeping peacefully or if someone snuck in and hard-boiled her.

It’s fine! Meg was just sick. Still is, a bit. Anyone know a good anti-ichor soap? Parenthood is so gross.

19

Hugh’s Dad asked us what our plans were for Christmas Day. I said, “Xarla said we should both stick around for. . . celebrations.”

Hugh rallied desperately: “Why don’t you and Mum come?” I cut in, “Um. . . I have two Mums.” Hugh’s Dad said, “We’ll be there.”

I glared at Hugh. His Dad said, “Don’t worry kids. We’re VERY tolerant.” I said, “Oh. . . good. See you on Christmas then.”

20

Hugh’s call woke me, and Meg began to cry. “What?” I mumbled. Hugh said, “It’s Sven! I dropped him! Quick, tell me what to do! Is he okay?”

21

Xarla and Hugh and I stayed up all night in case Sven woke up. “It’s touch and go,” she said. Hugh’s face was grey: “What have I done?”

I called Mum. “How did you cope when I was sick as a baby?” “I didn’t – not until you were well again. Love you, see you on Christmas Eve.”

22

The phone rang again. It was Hugh. My heart pounded. One way or another, this was the call that would tell me Sven’s fate.

Hugh was crying. “He’s all right! Just now he woke up hungry, screaming for blood as if nothing happened.” “Oh, thank goodness.”

23

Cops came to our door and invited themselves in. We hid the eggs in a rack of others in the fridge, and held our breath as they searched us.

One cop took Xarla aside. “We know you’re a good, upstanding citizen. If you see anything suspicious, you’ll let us know?” “Oh, of course.”

24

Mum swept in with a new pair of pink cowboy boots, plus intense sunburn to 75% of her body. “Hey kid, what’s been –” She stopped dead.

I said, “Mum, this is Xarla. She’s been cooking and. . . stuff. And she gave us her eggs to babysit. And feed. Until they hatch. Tomorrow.”

Mum carefully examined Xarla’s green skin and human suit. “Well, it’s certainly true that sex ed these days isn’t enough. Nice to meet you.”

25

Hugh’s parents sat facing my Mum and the identical Xarla. Hugh’s Dad said, “Would you mind passing the cranberry sauce?” Xarla just smiled.

Meg danced across the table, cracking against the gravy jug. One tentacle shot out and upended the roast. Bang! Sven and Meg both stood up.

Cops burst in to see three green humanoids and my tears of joy. Xarla said, “Thanks SO much kids. It’s teleport time. Merry Christmas.”

26

I woke up several times in the night, wondering where Meg was and if she was happy.

In my email, among dozens of Christmas wishes, I found a thank-you card from Meg herself. My little green girl was all grown up.

THE END.

New story begins 1/1/11!

“The Captain’s Daughter” full story

1

I curled my toes around the narrow foot-rope, and dug my nails into the knot tying up the sail. No good; I bite my nails too much. On the up side, my teeth are good. I leaned into the wind and pulled at the knot with my teeth. Spitting fibers, I pulled the rope free.

Da’s first mate, Hank, met me on deck. He said, “You’re disgusting, Gail. Biting at ropes like a dog.”

“At least I don’t look like one.”

2

Da called me to his cabin. “Sir?” I said.

He said, “In here, call me Da.”

“Yes Da.”

“You’re old enough now to think of your future.”

“Oh.” My heart sank. I bit my nails, wondering if he’d marry me off.

He cleared his throat: “I want you to be captain after me.”

“What?”

He said, “The men know you – and I won’t live forever.”

I said, “You WILL live forever, Da – I order it.”

He grinned: “Whatever you say.”

3

We neared a familiar port. I held the lead line – mainly so I could sit apart from the rest and wonder if they’d really obey me one day. The cord ran through my hands and stopped. I stared for a second before realising the harbour floor had shifted. “Avast! Turn about!”

My friend Jim was on the wheel, and he pulled hard. The ship wailed as it turned too hard, but we made it safely. Jim, at least, obeyed me.

4

I still wanted to think, so I stayed on board while the rest went to spend their gold or line their pockets with other people’s purses. Da came back with a red-faced and slouching boy who wouldn’t meet my eye. He introduced my brother, Al.

Al said, “I’m gonna be captain.”

“No you ain’t!” I said.

He threw a punch and I threw it back, giving him a nice bloody nose with his own fist. Da sent me to the hold.

5

Da came to me: “I didn’t know about Al until now – and Hank said the men’d be ashamed to let a woman lead them. He knows the crew, Gail.”

I shook my head at him, too furious to speak.

Da said, “It’ll be better this way – you’ll see. We’ll find a place for you.”

Da left, and I fumed. The ship was mine, and no long-lost landlubber kid was going to take it from me. I was NOT going to be married off!

6

A dash of bilgewater poured into my face, waking me. I couldn’t help noticing the ship was heeling badly. Above me, thunder rolled. I watched as rats leapt and scuttled up the walls, leaving the bilgewater and I alone. Hm.

I climbed on top of some crates and held on.

7

The hatch opened and Al peered in, munching on a fresh red apple. My stomach growled.

“Our Da sent me to let you out,” he said. “There’s a big storm happening. I wouldn’t want my baby sister to get hurt.” He closed the hatch, and I heard the lock turn.

“Baby?” I muttered, and followed the rats upward. Da had long since taught me to undo any lock. If he said I was allowed out, I was free.

8

I was tugging on a line with Al when we were all tumbled by a rogue wave. Most of us were smart enough to hold on. Al wasn’t. I let go and dived for my landlubber half-brother, and caught hold of his curly red hair just before he was swept overboard.

When the wave was gone, I let go of Al’s hair and went to tie up the sails. He got up – slowly. We both knew I’d saved his life.

9

Al and I worked and I saw Da nod an apology to me. He’d taught me long ago that sometimes, a captain needs to turn a blind eye. I got that.

We made port at Tin Island – the place Da found me when I was just a kid. The orphanage stood majestically shining on a high hill.

10

Da summoned all hands. “As you are aware, I now know I have two able-bodied children. I intend to leave this ship to one of them. Here is the challenge: Whichever one gains the most gold in the next two weeks will be my heir. Are we agreed?” The crew cheered.

I gave Da a nod of thanks, and he grinned back. All I had to do was get more gold, and the crew’s hearts and minds were mine forever.

11

Da found me in the market and asked me to come with him. We walked all the way up the winding orphanage path, past children working. “Why bring me back to this hole?” I asked.

Da said, “Sometimes, our future is found in the past.”

He left me at the same place Ma dumped me.

My old mistress tried to sell me a “good, hard-working set of twins” and I said I’d think about it. I slipped the kids a few coins and fled.

12

I suddenly realised why Da had reminded me of my past. Rope in hand, I went back up the hill to the orphanage and climbed the back wall. The strongboxes were where I remembered them. Mistress had punished me once by making me count out all the gold coins in one trunk. Mistress’ Dobermans ran to attack, but the mum remembered me. I’d always treated her well.

I took as much gold as I could carry.

13

I presented my haul publicly, and promised the same again. Da hid his smile. I saw cogs turning in the heads of the crew, and knew I’d won.

Al took me aside: “This is a fool’s contest. What say we get rid of the greedy old man and take this ship as ours.”

“No!”

He drew his sword. I grabbed his blade with my hand and kneed him in the groin. He pulled back, splitting my palm, and bashed my head with the hilt. I fell.

14

When I awoke, Hank was there. I blinked: “Why are we in the hold?”

“Because your brother bribed me to kill you while your Da was with him.”

I said, “You like bribes, then?”

Hank smiled and drew his sword.

I said, “Let me go, and I’ll tell you where I got all that gold.”

I went up on deck smiling.

Hank was honorable enough to leave my death for later. I hoped he enjoyed meeting my old mistress’ Doberman.

15

I hadn’t seen Al, and hoped he’d fled to make a different life for himself. But I had a bad feeling, and went to check on Da. I unpicked the lock and flung open the door to my exhausted Da and brother, each bleeding in a dozen places. I yelled my rage and attacked.

Al fled.

Da collapsed, and I ran to him instead of giving chase. “Gail, I’m so sorry – for everything.”

“Shut up,” I said, and bandaged him.

16

There was no sign of Al when we set sail. I privately hoped my old mistress found him.

“Where’s Hank?” Da asked.

I said, “Dog food.”

17

Da surprised me by officially passing across captaincy of his ship to me. The crew cheered – evidently, I was the last to know. I straightened up, accepting my new life. Jim winked, and I wondered if he was being disrespectful. He confused me. That could be an issue.

18

I made Da keep his cabin, but we were both on night watch so it didn’t matter. Not until we finished, and found a corpse locked in there.

Kip was just another member of the crew until I found him stabbed in the captain’s cabin. Who would do something like that?

Our cook ran out of the galley. “Who took my apples? They were for a pie for all of us. Where are they?”

Suddenly I knew: Al was a stowaway.

19

We searched the ship room by room and found another dead body – stabbed in the back. Al was a coward as well as a killer. But it got worse. The crew took Da and I and locked us inside Da’s cabin. “If you can’t protect us, we’ll take Al over you,” they said.

Jim didn’t look at me.

Da and I stood with clenched fists, waiting for Al’s visit. We heard him pass, but he didn’t visit – not even to gloat.

20

Al came to see us: “Will you obey my command?”

“Not a chance,” I said.

Da tried to stand in front of me, so he’d be killed first.

Al left us to stew all day. Someone snuck a dagger under the door, and I hid it under my shirt and hoped it wouldn’t come to that.

“Gail?” said Da.

I said, “Mm?”

“Did I mention I was sorry about your brother? From about a day after we met?”

“I had gotten that feeling.”

21

Al woke us before dawn and threw us in the lifeboat. I saw a blur on the horizon, so we rowed for that.

 

22

 

We landed on the island and plunged fully-clothed into a trickle of fresh water near the beach. Before we’d drunk our fill, I faced a spear.

 

I stood up slowly, and Da and I raised our hands. The locals took us to their village, tied us up, and put us in a bamboo cage.

 

“Could be worse,” said Da. I said, “Oh yes? How?” “Umm. . . give me a minute. I’ll think of something.”

 

23

 

I woke from a cramped sleep as someone tugged on my bound hands. It was Jim. “Sorry you went through so much – I had to make Al trust me.”

 

Once my hands were free, I was able to cut through the other ropes. Da looked like he’d been crying. “What now, Captain?” they asked me.

 

“That landlubber took my ship. And my gold. And my crew. Let’s steal another ship from these friendly locals and take back what’s mine.”

 

24

 

With my dagger, Jim’s sword, and Da’s rage we had our choice of ships. Given the state of our hands, we took one with a sail.

 

We cut a good wake through the green waves, and I asked Jim how he’d found us. “I made a raft,” he said, “and hoped.” He looked at me funny.

 

“I can tell you want something,” I said. Jim said, “I was hoping to be your first mate. In every sense.”

“Oh!”

Da hastily rearranged ropes.

 

25

 

We had no lights but my ship did, so she was easy to find. They’d weighed their sea anchor so we crept up alongside and climbed the sides.

 

I saw Al’s hateful curly hair immediately in front of me, and the bland faces of several crew members facing me – and therefore him.

 

My old crew didn’t blink as Jim and I drew our weapons and grabbed Al. When we had him tied, they cheered – and begged my forgiveness.

 

26

 

We cut the sail off our new boat and put Al on board before shoving it away and sailing off. He railed at us, and we turned away.

 

As we left, I grabbed a single red apple and tossed it after him. After all, he was my brother.

 

27

 

I named Jim as first mate, and my fickle crew rejoiced. But I knew how to make them loyal. Jim loudly asked me where I wanted to go.

 

I shouted back, “You know what they say – diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Let’s find friends for all of us.”

“Aye aye, Captain,” he said.

 

THE END

 

 

“Zeppelin Jack and the Deadly Dueller” full tale

For those waiting for the diet coke and mentos rocket entry. . . it’s coming. I’m going and putting it together right now.

“The Captain’s Daughter” tale begins tomorrow.

In the meantime, here’s the full tale of this month:

1

Marm grabbed both of us boys by the collars, but Nip wriggled away. I trudged after her to the Foundlings’ Aid Office for my lecture.

“You are too easily distracted,” she said.

I wondered where my Gizmo had got to.

She said, “You’re demoted to fifth assistant cogmonkey.”

She’d demoted me to sixth last week, so I grinned. I wiped grease off my nose and found the offending cigarette behind my ear. Perfect day.

2

Gizmo whirred quietly on my knee as Nip retold the details of yesterday’s flight. Outside the theatre gondola, engine fumes stained the sky.

“Bored?” I said.

Nip said, “The play hasn’t begun.”

“Let’s sneak backstage and join in.”

Giz rolled under a chair, and we crawled after it.

*

“Parp!” said Gizmo.

We looked up into the pulley ropes, and saw a man with an eyepatch and a crooked neck. A dead, dangling pirate!

3

We snuck back into the empty theatre when the coast was clear. The body was gone, but Nip and Gizmo and I were determined to Find A Clue.

“Bing!” said Gizmo, dancing on one of its six radiating legs. I hurried over and saw an eye. It was some kind of metal, like my arm.

“It’s awful heavy,” I told Nip.

He stared, and said, “Jack! It’s heavy because it’s an auto-eye made of gold.”

“Let’s get out of here.”

4

Nip dodged a gear twice his size and flicked grease at it as it crunched onward. Zeppelin School for Boys minded an engine older than Marm.

“Was the pirate killed for his eye?” I mused.

Nip said, “More importantly, should we sell it?”

I pondered until Giz shrieked, “Parp!”

Metal teeth grasped my leg. I yelped and leapt into the air. The teeth kept turning.

Nip said, “You’re too easily distracted.”

“So I hear.”

5

Nip came running with the day’s paper: “Deadly Dueller Strikes Again!”

“It was him! The infamous Saturday killer killed our pirate.”

“He wanted the eye!” I said.

Nip’s eyes boggled: “I don’t want to duel him!”

“Me neither,” I said, “since I’d hoped he’d duel Marm one day.”

6

“I know where he kills them,” I told Nip.

He looked pale to me, but it’s hard to tell with Chinese kids.

“The roof,” I said, “so let’s go.”

*

Nip was quiet as we climbed the metal access ladders to the zeppelin roof. The wind whipped our hair, and Giz parped insistently.

Nip searched East, and I put Giz into my metal left arm and searched West. But when I returned to our meeting place, Nip was gone.

7

I put an ad in the paper: “I have your eye. You have my friend. Let’s meet at the same place at noon.” Hopefully Nip was still alive.

I stood on the vast canvas roof and heard the click-thump of a man with one metal leg. Nip shouted to close my eyes. I did. Giz didn’t.

The dueller said, “Stop messing about, kids. This is a vital clue.” He took the eye.

I asked Nip if he was hurt. “Nah. He gave me pork pie.”

8

Nip filed down a lump in a new cog. “Who are the alchemists?” he asked.

I said, “Dunno. Why?”

“The dueller kept telling me to stay away.”

We went immediately into unfamiliar territory: the library. All the books on alchemy were gone. The librarian said Marm took them.

9

We snuck off work and into Marm’s gondola. Her drawers were full of icky unguents and powders, and – for some reason – loaded mouse traps.

After binding Nip’s broken finger (luckily Nip didn’t have any metal parts, because those are expensive to fix), we found the books.

“Victory!” said Nip.

Giz said, “Bing!”

I said, “Now we read them.”

Giz said, “Parp!” and Nip fainted dead away.

10

I found diagrams of cool experiments. We stole giant canisters of helium and nitrogen. Something made me laugh maniacally for no reason.

“What happens if we mix them?” said Nip.

Giz said, “Parp!”

We crowded together on our bunk and unscrewed the lid of the nitrogen.

Nip giggled and fell asleep. “PARP!” said Giz.

I said, “My hands are soooo big. Look Nip! Nip?” My eyes closed.

Giz said, “PARP-PARP-PARP!”

11

When we came to, Giz was badly scratched from opening the vents.

Marm had her hands on her hips. “I TOLD you not to smoke,” she said.

I said, “We weren’t. We were studying alchemy.”

Marm blanched and left without another word.

Nip said, “She’s not angry – she’s scared.”

12

I found a note on my bunk. It said, “I know who you are and what you’re attempting. No more misguided mercy. We duel at noon this Saturday.”

Giz carefully examined the note. “Bing,” it said. I translated that as ‘Follow’.” We did – all the way to the dueller’s hideout – a home.

The dueller’s wife spotted us and invited us in for honey cookies. They were delicious. Then we left, wondering what to do.

13

We discussed our mystery at work. A gear malfunctioned, jumped its track, and came rolling to crush us both. We jumped out of the way.

Nip inspected the mess.

“Sabotage?” I said.

Nip said, “Yep – but not the dueller, since he’s already going to kill you on Saturday.”

“Parp!” said Giz.

Nip said, “Er. . . he’s going to TRY to kill you. Do you think his wife knows?”

“No-one who cooks that well could kill.”

14

Nip offered to teach me kung fu, since he was Chinese.

I said, “But you don’t remember your parents, so how could you–”

“I. Just. Know.”

Nip made me clean and wax our bunks for no apparent reason. Then he made me do it again. Why?

*

Finally Nip said I was almost ready. Then he punched me in the nose. I kicked him in the leg until he agreed to stop teaching me.

15

Nip paused in his cog-cleaning duties and made a face. “Did you just fart?” I denied the charge, and he threatened to show me more kung fu.

As I clambered onto the cog’s conjoined twin, I saw the cause of the smell. “Hey! There’s sulphur over here. It’s turning toward you, too.”

Nip said, “Mine’s got charcoal, and some kind of black stuff. It stinks like sh–”

I shouted, “Nip! RUN!” The alchemist’s trap met and BANG!

16

Despite Giz’s objections, I went to meet the dueller. “Thanks for trying to kill me yesterday. Did you get too scared to face a kid?”

The dueller paused: “Who tried to kill you? And how?”

“Alchemists, with gunpowder. Wasn’t it you?”

“No. I thought you were with them.”

He lowered his pistol: “I guess I’ll have to duel someone else. Like to meet tomorrow for home-baked pie and grandiose plans?”

17

The dueller made us pork pies and tea as he explained: “I’m trying to stop the alchemists. I saw you stealing chemicals and I thought –”

His wife rolled her eyes.

I said, “Well, now we’re clear – what do the alchemists want, anyway? Gold, I suppose.”

The dueller laughed. “Who wants gold these days? It’s nothing but a bauble – a useless side effect. They’re trying to develop a more powerful form of gunpowder.”

18

The dueller agreed that Marm’s behaviour was suspicious, so we followed her all day, sneaking behind clanking cogs and giant smokestacks.

At last we discovered her noxious secret: Marm had a boyfriend. They did gross, horrifying things – like kissing. Being a hero was tough.

19

We gritted our teeth and tailed Marm again. This time, we saw HER sneaking behind gears. We crept after her. So did our school-friend Grim.

We couldn’t get close enough to hear what they said – but Giz could. Grim showed her something, and she cried. It was as bad as her kissing.

We asked Giz a series of bing or parp questions, and discovered that Grim was an alchemist in training. He’d threatened Marm’s secret son.

20

Nip tried out his kung fu on Grim, and it actually seemed to work. “Leave me alone,” Grim said, “and I’ll pay you as much as you like.”

Nip and I conferred: “We want a pound of real gold.”

“Done,” said Grim, and left.

Nip sighed, “He’s definitely with the alchemists.”

21

We’d gotten good at trailing people, so the dueller agreed to let us follow Grim ourselves. Grim ducked behind a red-hot piston.

We circled the giant piston three times – no Grim!

I gasped: “The alchemists much have a secret passageway through the balloon!”

22

We cornered Grim and told him the dueller was on to him, and demanded he defend his honour at noon tomorrow on the Western roof section.

Grim smiled privately, and Nip and I exchanged a look. What did he know that we didn’t?

23

Nip and I hid, despite our assurances to the dueller that we could fight in his place. All he did was smile, and advise us to get comfy

At last Grim appeared, with a pistol in each hand. “I’m just a kid,” he said, “so I’ll take the first shot.”

“No,” said the dueller.

Nip and I leapt out and pinned Grim’s arms. The dueller said, “I don’t kill children – I question them. You’ll tell me everything you know.”

24

Grim endured the delicious baking of the dueller’s wife all night before the dueller even asked a question. Nip and I were invited.

At last the dueller sat Grim in a chair and asked him who he worked for. Grim burst into tears and touched a switch on his metal arm.

He exploded in a fireball, and nothing but his legs remained, stuck to the chair with blood. His metal pet jiggled in horror at his feet.

25

“Parp!” Giz said ferociously, standing over Grim’s metal spider pet. “Paaaarrrrp?”

The spider cracked and blurted out everything it knew.

We followed the spider along darkened passageways through the zeppelin’s helium heart. At last we heard voices – the alchemists!

Marm’s boyfriend stormed into our passageway and stopped dead. His mouth dropped open when he spotted the spider – and he kicked it to bits!

26

When we visited the dueller and his wife, they’d just received a note. “We know who you are, and we can defeat you,” read the dueller.

“Not in a duel they can’t!” I said loyally.

The dueller read on: “You die at noon on Saturday – wherever you are. We have eyes everywhere.”

27

Giz hid inside my metal arm and his beeps directed me all the way back to the baddie’s hideout by another route. I let him out by the hatch.

He rolled up the wall, parping quietly.

I whispered, “Be careful. Don’t get hurt. I’ll miss you, Giz.”

He stopped: “Bing.”

“You too.”

28

The dueller and Nip and I prepared for the fight while his wife separated a batch of glycerine. “BOTH my legs are fake,” said the dueller.

We loaded his golden leg with fuming nitric and sulphuric acid, and the other with glycerine. “When it happens, I want you to run,” he said.

“Don’t worry,” said Nip.

I said, “We’re definitely not stupid enough to go near Nitrogen of any kind.”

Nip said, “Oh, yep. Definitely.”

29

“Are you nervous about tomorrow?” I asked Nip.

He said, “No. You?”

“Nah. Although Marm might be mad about us blowing up her boyfriend.”

Nip said, “Does she know he’s the baddie?”

I said, “She’ll figure it out eventually on her own. She knows a bad egg when she sees one.”

Nip and I hid – again. The dueller waited – again. Hopefully Marm’s secret son would be saved. I remembered Grim’s bloody legs and shivered.

30

“Parp!” said Giz at my ear.

I said, “Dueller! They’re close.”

He drew his pistols, but Marm’s boyfriend sliced both his legs clean off. 

The dueller toppled backwards, and kept toppling until the nets caught him. His legs fell together and ignited. Boom! The alchemist blew up.

The alchemist fell, and burned through the safety nets, and kept falling. Nip and I ran and helped the dueller get home to his spare legs.

31

The dueller and Nip and I ate honey cakes and thanked his clever wife. She smiled, showing dimples. “I never liked the smell of gunpowder.”

“No-one makes glycerin like you, my darling.”

“No more duelling then?” she said.

He kissed her (ugh!) and said, “I’ve had quite enough.”

THE END

How much do YOU love the internet?

Ubergeeks John Scalzi and Wil Weaton have done something wonderful. This:

Other than writing stuff themselves, they had various other (in)famous people contribute, plus they ran a competition (based on the picture). Which I didn’t win.

The book itself is, technically, free. You can go read it at http://unicornpegasuskitten.com/. But since the whole point of the thing is to raise money for lupus sufferers (Wil and John paid for everything out of their own pockets), see if you can donate $5. Or maybe more.

Because sometimes, it is lupus.

However, here’s the story I wrote. All things being equal, the stories from the book are better than this. So go click on the link and enjoy.

“Kitten Spit”

I woke as my face was scraped raw by warm sandpaper coated in slime. Something monstrous had found me, and its spit dissolved my skin. I opened my eyes to a view of needle-sharp teeth, and gagged at the stench of salmon as the thing yawned.

     “Good kitty,” I croaked.

     It was taller than me, even without the wings spreading from its shoulders. Since my cave had a prudently small opening, only its head could fit inside – if it angled itself so the horn on its forehead didn’t scrape the roof. I scrambled back before it could lick me a second time. Blood dripped down my neck. I healed myself by magic before the thing attacked again.

“Where did you come from?” I said aloud.

     “Well,” came a voice from outside, “when a unicorn and a pegasus and a cat all love each other very much –”

     “No I meant—oh actually, that does answer one question. May I ask who you both are, and what you and your – er, noble steed – are doing here?”

     “Are you the orc magician?” The voice was curiously flat, as if the man was mortally exhausted.

     My heart sank. Even among other magicians, that question always led to an awkward conversation followed by an even more irritating battle. I had thought living on an active volcano would discourage further inquiry. “Just because I have green skin, pointy ears, and incredibly well-developed muscles doesn’t mean I’m going to kill you.” Under my breath I added, “Like all the others.”

     The kitten retreated as someone tugged on its reins. Not for the first time, I was glad I slept in full armor.

A human stood by the lava river outside my cave. Other than his sweater, he was unarmed.

     I took an involuntary step backward and hit stone. “That’s –”

     “Yes,” he said, looking away. “The clown sweater. I need you to kill me.”

     I looked at his young face and saw the deep worry lines of a man possessed by the most diabolical fiend of our time. “But. . . you’re immune. And besides, we’ve just met.”

     “I’m Wil.”

     “John. But –”

     “I’m not immune.”

     “Then how?”

     “Sometimes, it sleeps.”

     “Can you take it off?” I asked. “Can someone take it off you?”

 His eyes glittered, but he held himself together.  “I used to have three brothers.”

     “Ah. So I’m dead then.”

     “No! Kill me first and save your life. And she’s not a monster. She’s Petunia, and she just likes to play.” He pulled down a golden spear from her back. “Take it!”

     “Don’t make me do this. Killing people is so. . .”

     All colour fled his face, silencing me. “It’s waking up. The clown. It’s coming! Help me!” I saw his eyes turn mad just before he leapt onto Petunia’s back. He lifted the spear and smiled the serene smile of the deranged.

The awkward-conversation part of our friendship was at an end.

     I grabbed my axe and shield and ran outside. Wil seemed decent. The least I could do was sever his head from his body.

     Petunia leapt into the air and bore down on me with her claws splayed. Magic filled me, sparking from my fingertips. I jumped straight into Wil and we both tumbled to the rocks. Petunia crouched to watch us, switching her horse’s tail from side to side in excitement.

     “Unicorns,” I thought frantically, searching for a weakness. “Good for looking picturesque with virgins. Not helpful right at the moment.”

     Wil leapt at me, drooling with fury. I parried and his spear clashed against my armored shoulder.

     “Pegasuses,” I thought. “Pegasi? Good for traveling long distances fast. But flighty.”

     Petunia’s eyes glowed with mad kitten joy. Her pupils darkened and she waggled her rear end, ready to spring.

     Wil spun with impossible speed and I ducked just in time. His foot connected with my head, but I magically dismissed the bright stars of concussion before they got me killed.

     “Kittens,” I thought. “Nice to look at, if you like that sort of thing. Attracted to shiny things. Also a source of pure, unadulterated evil.” I blinked, and knew what to do.

Luckily for us, Petunia was already in the mood to play.

     Wil lunged for my throat and I didn’t have time to dodge naturally. My magical defenses shot me fifty feet into the air. I had time to look down as I fell, curious to see if gravity would get a chance to kill me before the rest. Or perhaps I’d think of some further magical brilliance. Either way, I looked forward to finding out what happened next.

     Petunia sprang at me. She batted me sideways in mid-air, knocking me into my cave. I landed on nice soft armor and watched with quiet surprise as magical sparks healed my broken legs. With one hand, I pointed to Wil. Pretty blue sparks danced an irresistible pattern on the clown’s red nose.

Petunia took the bait. She pounced and pinned Wil to the rock with one paw, biting into his sparkly chest as he screamed in pain and rage.

She spat something white and red and grinning into the lava river, where it dissolved. Then she sat on Wil’s legs and licked the hole that used to be his chest.

I staggered outside, dragging up what magic I had to try and heal him. Sparks flew off me into him, building new organs, growing new skin, and filling him with new blood.

It was no use. Petunia’s saliva ate through him faster than I could build him back

Wil didn’t move.

“The sweater is dead,” I said, falling on my knees beside him. “Long live the sweater.”

Petunia yawned emphatically and touched him with the tip of her horn. “Unicorns,” I thought. “Handy for fixing poison. Does that include kitten spit?”

THE END

PS This piece of awesomeness comes free of charge. Your regular schedule of Daily Awesomeness will continue tomorrow.

PPS Please do spread the word about this book. If you’ve ever had a disease of the immune system or known someone who has, you’ll understand why.

“Peace Hostage” complete tale

The next story, “Killer Robot Cat”, begins September 1. Yay for springtime and naughty fluffy robots!

PEACE HOSTAGE

1

The boar was so close I could taste the stench of it. I pressed the butt of my spear into the rocky ground and shouted a challenge.

The bleeding pig squealed and charged right onto my spear. It hit the crossguard and broke it off. I held on, staring at my death.

Tem covered my body with his. He screamed as the pig gored him. I crawled away, pulling him with me. Dad cheered as the pig bled out.

2

Dad and I lay bloated with pork at the door of our hut. Dad said, “That boy, he’s too stupid for you. Getting gored like that.” I blushed.

Dad turned serious: “Truly, Sawi, it can’t be. Tem returns to his tribe next month, or those Yah will kill us – like they killed your Ma.”

“I know, Dad.” He laid his hand on mine: “If Tem doesn’t heal up and go home, your brother’s life is forfeit – and all our lives too.”

3

“Chief!” screamed my best friend, Iv. Dad stood. Iv wept: “Your son! The Yah have murdered their peace hostage. We are at war.”

Dad ordered Tem and I inside. We sat silently, holding hands. Tem kissed each of my fingers. I said, “My tribe must kill you now.” “I know.”

Tem said, “Everyone dies. My life switched with your brother’s life bought our tribes ten years of peace. That is enough for me. I am full.”

4

Dad stood guard while the village waited for him to decide the blooding hour, and who would make the kill. Tem and I didn’t leave the house.

“Sawi? Will it be your Dad who kills me?” “Don’t speak like-– why are you smiling?” He grabbed my hand and pulled me awkwardly, so I fell.

Tem kissed me, knocking our noses together. I gasped. “You fiend! My Dad’ll kill you—oh!” We dissolved into helpless giggles.

5

Dad saw me staring into our fire and said, “I will stop the blooding as long as I can.” I looked into his eyes, and bowed my head.

“Tem! Wake up!” He blinked at me. I said, “I’m going to go into Yah land – and save you.” He said, “Don’t get killed.” “Same to you.”

Tem said, “My Mum loves me. She’ll help you.” I held his hand, and kissed him carefully. We didn’t knock noses. I crept away into the night.

6

I found the ruined stream where my mother’s bones still lay, with many others from both tribes. The Yah bank was black with shadows.

No-one stabbed me as I crossed the naked grass. I stepped into the freezing water, dislodging old skulls so they rolled on down the river.

7

I dreamed of Tem’s death, and saw him burned until his bones turned black. My fresh water was half gone, and the thick air stifled me.

My foot ached and I found a bloody wound. I pulled out a piece of someone’s skull, wrapped my foot in banana leaves and walked on.

8

I hacked through a thorn bush and came face to face with a young boar. We stared at one another. I saw the rage redden its eyes.

The boar lowered its head and I slammed the handle of my knife onto its snout. It was young and fit – too young to be wily.

I slid through the trees, listening for the boar’s pursuit. It didn’t come. I knew I should return and bring it down, but I didn’t want to.

9

I ate my last food and wished I’d killed that stupid boar. Except I was the stupid one, because it definitely wouldn’t have had pity on me.

Iv always said the Yah drank their pee. She said they preferred it. I’d asked Tem, but he just looked at me funny. If only he’d answered.

I drank the last of my water, and decided not to drink urine. My Dad would never forgive me for behaving like a stinking Yah.

10

I woke up wet with sweat, and knew before I looked that my cut foot was red and swollen. Why couldn’t those stinking Yah live a bit closer?

11

Finally a coconut tree! Food and water all in one.

I tried to climb the tree and failed four times. My body was too weak. I lay back, looking up at the coconuts, and carefully drank my tears.

12

A face breathed into my face, smelling of mangoes. “Ehhh,” she said, and trickled water over my lips. I choked, and she held me up.

She bathed my swollen foot and gave me coconut porridge to eat. I lay helpless, and she sang lullabies. I knew she was Tem’s Mum.

“I will carry you to our village. You will be safe with me.” She slung me over her back and stepped through the undergrowth with sure feet.

13

Tem’s Mum Jil tended me all day and night. Her sister Res fried fish and sweet potato for me. Jil went to speak to the chief.

Res shuffled closer. “Tem is alive. We will go and save him.” “Thank you,” I whispered. She said, “But your father must die.” “No!”

Jil and Res argued for hours, and I slipped in and out of dreams.

14

Jil said, “My husband will see you now.” “What? No! Was it him that killed my brother? I can’t defend myself!” “Hush, child. Wait and see.”

A huge man entered the women’s house and knelt by my mat. “I am Hof,” he said, “and I cared for your brother. He was a mighty hunter.”

My throat closed with grief. Hof said, “Your brother was killed, but not by us. When you are strong, you will come and see.”

15

Hof served me food with his own hand, and no-one called for my blood. Many there showed the signs of mourning, but none showed signs of war.

I ate my fill, and slept until I was no longer tired. My foot was bathed in cold stream water and smeared with honey. It began to heal.

16

I told Jil that I needed to see my dead brother. She took me deep into the forest and dug carefully under a stripped tree. I held his hand.

We brushed off the dirt and lifted my brother onto the dead leaves. I recognised the shape of boar tusk wounds, so like Tem’s side.

“Tomorrow I will go home,” I said, “and tell my people what happened. Tem might still be alive, and I can stop the war before it begins.”

17

My eyes snapped open. Res knelt over me, knife in hand. I rolled and she missed me. She shrieked. “Filthy Bek!”

Jil grabbed for Res, but she missed. I snatched a gourd of water and ran outside. Three Yah waited for me with knives and clubs.

Hof burst from his hut bellowing with rage, and stood between me and them. I shoved Res and ran, but I heard Hof scream like a dying boar.

18

Two of the four angry Yah hunted me through the day and night and day. I climbed the trees and swung through the branches like a monkey.

One of the Yah urinated right beneath me. I watched to see if he drank it, but he didn’t. Too bad. It’s possible Iv was misinformed.

19

At last the Yah gave up the hunt for me, and I stumbled upon a grove of peanut and coconut trees beside a stream. I drank deeply and slept.

20

I washed my foot carefully and feasted on coconuts – and bananas. The fish in the stream winked at me until I caught one. 

I slept again, and wondered if I should take my chance to stay far away from war – and live.

21

I dreamed of Tem again that night. He called to me in pain as the goring he’d taken for me festered and swelled like my ruined foot.

I began the long walk home.

22

I was no longer tired, but strong. The pain from my foot kept me from forgetting Tem’s face. I did not need food or rest – just him.

I did not need food or rest – but it’d sure be nice. Especially a good fat boar, spit-roasted with coconut wine to follow.

23

I heard something and stopped dead, my vision blurred with sudden tiredness and fear. A voice whispered, “Today you die.”

It was Res. She lifted her spear. “Men may hunt, but they can’t track prey like I can. You are dead, you stinking Bek fool.”

A young boar thundered out and trampled Res until she stopped screaming. It was the same boar. He nosed at her as she bled out. I crept off.

24

I followed the stream to the crossing point, and watched once more for watchmen with spears – from either side. But I crossed in peace.

The rainforest opened up and I walked a familiar path once more. I hurried, afraid of what I would find when I reached home.

My village lay sleeping. I crept into my father’s hut and saw Dad and Tem side by side, at peace. So I waited.

25

Tem woke up, and blinked sleepily at me. He reached out a hand and touched me. “But you’re real!” he said. I rolled my eyes.

We woke Dad, and I explained all I had learned. “Things have changed. Tem’s Dad was killed. Now Tem is chief.” Tem bowed his head.

Tem and Dad shook hands as one chief to another. They each said, “I will not fight you if I can help it.” I said, “I have an idea.”

26

Dad argued for me to be given the right of blooding, and it was accepted. Tem and I knew we had to fight hard – the trial must be true.

I hit Tem in the face and he fell back, kicking out at me so I fell too. He pushed my face in the dirt until I ran out of breath.

Dad gravely declared Tem the winner: “My daughter is at your mercy. What will you do?” “I will not kill her. I want her as my wife.”

27

The old women accepted Tem’s conquest, and gave me more outfits than I could ever wear. They hassled the men until everyone rejoiced.

Dad performed the wedding, trying not to look smug. Tem squeezed my hand. I looked where he looked and saw his Mum in the trees, smiling.

28

I left my Dad and my friends, and walked to my new home with Tem and Jil – each companion holding one of my hands. THE END

When Good Libraries Go Bad (complete tale)

1

A tentacle circled my neck, squeezing the life out of me with agonizing skill. “Steve!” came Terry’s voice. “Steve! Wake up!”

*

I opened my eyes to Terry, leaning over me. He looked scruffy without his mind-mage robes on. “Your cthulhu nightmares suck.”

“Sorry.”

*

We got up for breakfast. As the mind-mage, Terry got cereal. Phil the muscle-mage got steak. As air-mage, I got zip. And MY robe is puce.

2

“Oi, Steve, stop being nervous,” said Terry.

I said, “Shut up or I’ll CO2 you.”

Phil cracked a smile, exercising at least twenty muscles.

*

We hiked across the desert toward the Forbidden Library. Terry cleared his throat when we were still twenty miles away: “I sense something.”

*

Phil tensed, ready to attack. Terry shook his head: “It’s dead – but still radiating.”

“So. . . ?” I prompted.

Terry said: “It’s a cthulhu.”

3

Five miles away, and I tasted dead cthulhu on the air. Phil was sure he could make the corpse slither away, though, so that was reassuring.

*

At last we reached the three storey iron- and bone-bound doors of the outer library. I sensed breathable air inside. “After you, Phil.”

*

Phil focused, and the great doors cracked open, spraying chunks of blood-stained iron bigger than my house. “And now we wait,” said Terry.

4

We barely slept. I had nightmares, but Terry had his own to distract him. At dawn, we heard the rustling of pages. We waited back to back.

*

A pack of graphic novels emerged and sniffed at my feet. They smelled what I wanted them to smell – a friend. And so they imprinted on me.

*

When I judged my literature army to be big enough, we walked inside. A single giant tentacle lay across the threshold. I removed the stench.

5

More books joined me every hour – everything from gardening to war. I was dizzy with the smell of leather bindings and dust.

*

Phil wanted to move the tentacle, but Terry insisted we climb it. Some mountaineering books made steps for us, and it only took a few hours.

*

“There’s a problem,” Terry whispered.

I said, “What?”

“The cthulhu – it’s either a mother or a daughter. And I can’t tell which is alive.”

6

We ducked into a cobweb-strewn chamber and were attacked by a squad of how-to books. They pounded my head and I wasn’t able to focus.

*

Phil pushed me aside and tore apart the books with his mind. Terry was taken over by empathic rage and he punched me in the gut. I folded.

*

Ten books rushed Phil at once and I reached out with my mind and made him smell of oil just in time. They calmed down, and Terry did too.

7

“It’s Nix,” Terry told us at last.

I said, “The monster mage! No wonder WE were sent. We need to find his spell book – and destroy it.”

*

Phil coughed: “How will we do it?”

“1. Look, and 2. Live,” said Terry.

I said, “You know what a cthulhu’s weakness is? They’re too big.”

*

“How is size a disadvantage?” Phil asked.

I said, “Because hopefully they won’t notice us.”

“Right,” he whispered.

8

Terry shook me awake. “They took Phil!” I stood at once, but all my books were asleep and there were no others to be seen. Terry whimpered.

*

“Is that your fear or his?” I said.

Terry said, “His. Which means he’s still alive.”

“Good.” I sent a shelf of James Bonds to find Phil.

*

I asked, “Do you think it was Nix or the live cthulhu that took Phil?”

“Nix. I can feel him laughing. And he knows I can hear him.”

9

The Bond books returned with an illustrated series on the Moulin Rouge. I altered the air so they fled in disgrace.

*

I said, “We need a library book.”

“Err. . .” said Terry.

I said, “A book ABOUT libraries. One about this library could tell us everything.”

*

“Good! Can you make the other books find it?”

“The thing is,” I said, “books find by smell. And that book smells exactly like this library.”

10

I said, “Okay. Library smell minus stone smell should work.” As I altered the air, my horde of books shivered. Then they moved as one.

*

Terry and I followed my books in a spiral toward the library’s heart. I was beginning to relax when Terry screamed. He was on fire!

*

I threw firefighting books at the sudden inferno and they smothered the flames. Terry brushed ash from his clothes: “BBQ  manuals. Huh.”

11

Keeping away from any unfamiliar books, we crept onward, following the library book’s trail. The air was heavy with rotting cthulhu.

*

Terry wept in his sleep, and I woke him, hoping to make it stop.

“It’s Phil,” he said, “and believe me, I’d rather channel Phil than C.S.”

*

“Who’s C.S.?” I asked.

Terry said, “The other cthulhu. The live one. It’s the baby, and it’s so hungry. It longs for fresh meat.”

12

Terry stopped dead. I did too. My books clamoured at the door before us. The one stained with human blood and torn pages. “Huh,” said Terry.

*

“I guess we’d better open it,” said Terry.

I said, “Yep.”

“Phil could have done it.”

“Yep.”

“What are we going to do?”

“Good question.”

13.

First I made the books hide. Then Terry. Then I lay down alongside the crack beneath the door, and I used my magic to smell like food.

*

A tentacle smashed through the iron door, sending bloody fragments flying. Then another tentacle, questing blindly along the floor. To me.

*

I rolled, frantically trying to smell of dust and stone. Terry reached down his hand and hauled me up, and we hid as C.S. squelched through.

14

C.S. finally floundered away and Terry and I climbed shakily through the smashed door into the library’s heart.

*

We gaped at soaring shelves and a stained glass roof. I saw the library book suspended over a pit, shimmering behind magical defenses.

15

We prepared all night, and Terry went first. He copied Nix’s mind in his, and the first barrier vanished. I smelled of Nix for the second.

*

Together we physically moved a third invisible boundary, and together stretched our hands out toward the prize. We touched it, and screamed.

*

We were hurtled through darkness, and the book was ripped from our burning hands. The burning filled my arms and chest, and I passed out.

16

I woke up in a cage. Terry lay beside me, still unconscious. Phil sat cross-legged. He said, “Let me guess. You’ve come to rescue me?”

*

Terry woke up. “Oh,” he said.

Phil said, “Yep. It’s a magic box. No magic in or out. And the bars are as strong as they look.”

*

“So. . .” I said, “how’ve you been?”

17

Nix appeared as if by – well, by magic – with a tentacle draped over his shoulder. “Good morning, ladies. I see you found my guest room.”

*

Terry leapt to his feet. “Remove these bars and see how smug you are without your mind!”

Nix fondled his spell book and smiled.

*

“I’ll return tomorrow,” he said, “and CS will eat one of you. Choose wisely, girls.”

18

One good thing: to feed us to CS, Nix had to open the box. Phil stood as our volunteer, and I prepared my mind to take Nix’s breath.

*

The door opened and CS’s tentacle snaked inside and caught Phil around the waist, pinning his arms. I stole Nix’s breath and he passed out.

*

CS thrashed, knocking over the cage and hurling books everywhere. I leapt onto CS and tried to climb up to Phil. CS fled, throwing me off.

19

Terry woke me, white-faced: “Phil’s gone. I felt his mind stop.”

I said, “We need to get out of here before we’re cthulhu food too.”

*

I send squads of my book minions ahead to check we were safe. Many of them were missing or covered in slime from CS’s explosive rage.

20

We passed another shattered door and Terry sensed CS was close. I saw the Library Book lying open and ripped on the floor.

*

“It’s a trap,” said Terry.

I said, “I have to try anyway. You get out – tell the other mages all you know. Tomorrow I’ll touch the book.”

*

I hoped Terry got out safely. In the next room, I heard slithering, and Nix’s gravelly voice. I curled up for my last night of freedom.

21

I touched the library book, smelling as friendly as I could. Nothing happened. One page curled around my hand. I picked it up.

*

The door opened as I stared, enthralled by the sorcery I held.

“Like it?” said Nix. “I wrote it. CS – dinnertime!” A tentacle snapped out—

*

–and a bookshelf crashed to the floor, crushing it. CS howled in rage. My new book fell open on a page with just one word: RUN. I ran.

22

I ran and hid and ran all night. My body ached but I was encouraged by thousands of rustling pages. The library wanted me to live.

*

A book on waterfalls dripped fresh (though slightly inky) water into my mouth, and a cookbook fed me something suspiciously like calamari.

*

A bookshelf hollowed itself out and filled itself in after me with books on history, war, revenge, and how to write a fairy tale ending.

23

I awoke refreshed, cushioned by home furnishing books. Judging by a distant explosion, Nix was far away. I began reading the Library Book.

*

The Library Book opened with a picture Nix had clearly painted of himself – except for the moustache of cthulhu slime scrawled across it.

*

I wished Terry was with me.

“But I am,” he said in my ear.

I jumped: “Is it really you? How did you find–”

He said, “Mind mage, remember?”

24

I read the book three times – it added more amusing Nix pictures each time. The last page remained the same: The librarian wins.

*

“Is the librarian the original author – Nix – or the current owner?” Terry asked.

I didn’t know either, and the book wasn’t telling.

*

“I think we should fight,” I said.

Terry pointed to a stack of tunnelling books and said, “Indeed. I read more than just minds, you know.”

25

We followed the books through long-broken air vents and the backs of three-storey bookshelves until we looked up and saw Nix’s book.

*

“We’re in the pit below it,” said Terry.

The Library Book folded into origami gauntlets. Then Terry boosted me up.

*

I grabbed Nix’s spell book, and was thrown into blackness. My hands and chest burned. But I didn’t let go – even when I fainted.

26

I awoke to the sound of burning, and cracked open my eyes to see Nix’s spell book on fire, unable to exist inside the anti-magic cage.

*

Nix rode into the chamber on a cresting wave of evil books – paranormal romance, if I’m not mistaken. He screamed in pain and rage.

*

I put my hands through the bars and held onto the lock as Nix tried feebly to open it. He writhed and died as the last page burned to ash.

27

I slept easily, certain Terry would rescue me. As I checked for any remaining unburnt spell pages, a tentacle coiled through the bars.

*

I screamed for help as more tentacles encircled my legs and squeezed. CS pressed its horrible wet maw against the bars and pulled me closer.

*

Suddenly CS turned aside and sucked Nix’s corpse up from the floor instead.

“Terry?” I croaked.

He said, “Good cthulhu. Eat it all up.”

28

We rode out of the library on CS’s broad head. From the library’s heart to the outside took only a few hours this time.

*

“You know,” Terry said reflectively, “it’s not such a bad place.”

“Except for the giant rotting cthulhu.”

“Well, yes. Except for that.”

29

CS sped us home. Her tentacles brought out the highlights in my puce robe. Other mind mages took over so Terry could rest at last.

*

Terry and I washed and ate before we were summoned by the council to take up our new posts as the library’s keepers.

*

“Bit of cleaning up to do,” said Terry, patting CS absently on the tentacle.

I grinned, “Yep.”

I never did see those James Bond books again.

THE END

New tale begins August 1.

Vampire Diaries (finished)

I will be posting today’s awesomeness in a separate post within half an hour. The next twittertale is “When Good Libraries Go Bad”, which begins on 1 July.

3

Woke up totally gross. Had a shower then realised I’m, like, a vampire now. My friend Sammy’s gonna be SO jealous!

*

Spent all day looking for a mirror that works. This sucks! Also I feel super hungry, and I get the feeling celery won’t fix this craving.

4

Killed a guy. He was, like, totally delicious!

5

Killed an old lady. Yuck, now my breath smells of mothballs.

6

Called Sammy. Said I’m totally a vampire.

She giggled, “You mean a vamp, right?”

“No! Well. . . that too.”

*

Sammy brought her new boyfriend over. SERIOUSLY yum. I know it seems rude to eat him, but I’m, like, evil now. He was finger-licking good.

*

Sammy had a totally unfair tantrum over me eating Bill. “I’m going to tell on you!” she said.

I said, “Who to? I’d sure love to eat a cop.”

7

Went outside. Got serious sunburn – like, with charring. I’m so buying spray tans from now on.

*

Sammy left a message on my machine. “My new friend Bunny’s totally going to get you. AND I have a new boyfriend, anyway. So there.”

*

Too embarrassed to go out with my skin looking so bad. Put off eating Sammy’s hot new treat until tomorrow.

8

Misty day. Went to Sammy’s house. The boyfriend was there, and BIG. They fought me off with frypans and a cricket bat. Stupid humans!

*

Hungry. Soooooo hungry. Almost as bad as doing the Atkins diet all over again. Stupid sun is out!

*

Ate Rover. Feel sick to my stomach, but I think that’s indigestion. Bad dog.

9

Short blonde at the door. My stomach rumbled. “Won’t you come in?” She smiled sweetly, and showed me what she had. A pointy stick.

*

I asked, “What’s that for? Making a tiny fence?”

She smiled, “I’m Bunny. I hear you don’t like sunshine.”

“But I do like visitors.”

*

I leapt for her throat. She slapped me aside, laughing. I grabbed for her pointy stick and she drove it into my belly. Ow! I ran.

10

Great. Now I’m stuck in a sewer hiding from someone called Bunny. I’m totally hungry, and my top is RUINED.

*

So hungry for so long, and no weight loss. That’s IT. I’m going to kill Bunny. And Sammy. And her big cricketer boyfriend.

*

I creep to Sammy’s house and Bunny is there. They’re sharpening weapons and laughing. I feel scared. Luckily, Sammy has a dog. Had.

11

I realise now that hiding in Sammy’s treehouse wasn’t a good idea. Sammy and whatsisface are climbing the ladder – and the sun’s out.

*

I kick the boy in the face and he flies backwards. Sammy screams, but no one hears. He doesn’t get up. I drag Sammy inside by the hair.

*

Sammy punches me right where Bunny stabbed me – and it doesn’t hurt a bit. I knock her out against the trunk and drink deeply. She’s spicy.

12

I wake up when my little finger catches fire from a hole in the treehouse roof. Sammy and her boy are glaring at me – alive. And Bunny. Oh.

*

“We drugged you,” says Bunny, “so you’ll tell us who made you a vamp.”

“Hollywood?” I slur.

Bunny rolls her eyes: “VampIRE.”

“Oh! I dunno.”

*

Bunny says, “Male? Female?”

“I didn’t see.”

She paces: “Where were you that night?”

“Um. . . at a club.”

“Right. Tomorrow we’ll go there.”

13

Bunny and Sammy leave my hands tied for our trip downtown to hunt my sire. The club is all flashing lights and skin. Hungry!

*

I spot my sire by smell – and by the fact that he’s flirting with a particularly delicious-looking redhead. Bunny sees where I’m looking.

*

“Mort!” I yell, “watch out!”

His head snaps up. Bunny shoves me aside and I run for it, hoping Mort gets away. He’s seriously hot.

14

I discovered I could find Mort by smell. Cool (and a bit gross.) He was in a really dorky lair with a bunch of others. “Hi again,” I said.

*

“Did I sire you?” said Mort.

I said, “Yep.”

“Was I really drunk?”

“Well – yes. Is your name really Mort?”

“Uh huh. Definitely not Bill.”

*

“I suppose you have questions about all this,” said Bill/Mort.

I said, “Oh! So many. First, what are vampires wearing this season?”

15

These other vampires don’t understand what being a vampire is all about: looking this good forever. And killing, of course (I suppose.)

*

That reminds me, I could do with a snack. If I can’t lose weight, I can’t gain it either. This vampire thing is to die for!

*

Ate a schoolkid on their way home. Feel MUCH better now, thank you. Even if some of the kid got stuck in my teeth. HOW embarrassing!

16

I still gotta kill Sammy and Bunny and whatsisface. It should be easy now they don’t have a dog. Not that Fifi was the guard dog type.

*

Sammy’s neighbour’s at home. I knock at the door and she opens it. “Myf?” I say.

She says, “Oh hello dear. Won’t you come in?”

*

Nom nom.

17

My new hideout is a little floral, but I like it. Sammy and Bunny never separate, but whatsisface comes and goes.

*

The bigger they are, the more blood for me to drink. Right? Right!

Unfortunately, Myf didn’t keep any decent weapons. Just cats.

*

Pretty sure throwing cats at whatsisface won’t kill him. I gotta be smart. Gotta think of a good plan. The kind that doesn’t get me killed.

18

Screw plans. Sick of an all-cat diet, I followed whatsisface until he was out of sight of Sammy’s house. Then I grabbed him from behind.

*

He threw me into a rose bush, but wasn’t smart enough to run away. I bounded out fangs first and got him. He struggled, but passed out.

*

Mort appeared. “If you were trying to turn him undead, you should have fed him some of your blood.”

“Oh. So turning him over won’t work?”

19

Time to party! I go out clubbing, and since I’m thirsty I drink about ten cocktails. Still thirsty, and now I’m wobbly too.

*

No wonder I’m shrunk. Drunk. I haven’t eaten all day. Shilly me. I let a boy take me out back jusht as Bunny and Sammy come in.

*

Is it jusht me, or do boys taste better than girls? I’m sure I’d be shober now if my victim wasn’t drunker than me. I stagger home.

20

No hangover. Being undead is the best! I peek out the window, but don’t see Sammy or Bunny. Do they know I killed whatsisface?

*

The door smashes into a million pieces. Bunny strides in.

Oh. They know. Time to run again.

21

Sammy and Bunny are never apart, and this stupid tree is scratching my patent leather jacket. Luckily I have an idea. And a printer.

*

Sammy gets the mail while Bunny lurks in the doorway. I see The Look on Sammy’s face and know my bait is working.

*

All the piece of paper says is, “9pm Sale tomorrow at Ladies’ Wear. Everything 90% off.”

22

Sammy snuck away from Bunny and I trailed her all the way to the mall. I’d already broken inside and turned the lights on, so she walked in.

*

“Hi Sammy.”

“Did you hear about the sale too? Where is everyone?”

I roll my eyes and lunge for her throat.

She squeals, but it’s no use.

*

“Thanks for not drugging me this time,” I say, and feed her my blood.

She passes out, so I amuse myself shopping at 100% off while I wait.

23

Sammy wakes up. Finally. I had to kill another neighbour so we had some place to stay. “Hungry?” I ask.

“Oh, yes.”

“How about Bunny?”

*

“Darn,” Sammy says at her own door.

Bunny asks what’s wrong.

“My key doesn’t seem to work.”

Bunny lets her in – and then pulls out a stake.

*

Bunny stabs Sammy in the heart and she falls to bits – literally.

“No!” I scream, but I can’t get in without an invitation.

24

I’m so totally bummed I eat Myf’s last cat. In the mall, I remember old times by eating a cute security guard. But I don’t feel better.

*

OK, I’m done moping. Bunny may have killed my best friend, but technically I killed her first. I’m going to start somewhere new: New York.

25

Being a fashion victim is serious now. I’ve switched from being the fashion police to being a fashion vigilante. Because some deserve death.

*

There’s a girl at the train station wearing a simply hideous jumper – so I drink her blood, and take her ticket. Life is good.

*

New York New York! So many people! Big, small, fat, thin. I can hear their blood pumping – singing to me. I shall never go hungry again.

26

Just had an amazing epifa– revelation. I’m EVIL and it’s Saturday night. So no more hiding. No more diary writing. I’m gonna go eat people.

THE END