Flash Fiction : Wrong Bottle

I couldn’t help it. This dumb brick joke of a pop culture reference got stuck in my head.

“What do you mean, NO! I’m your master. You can’t say NO!”

Her face grew redder as her pitch and volume rose into the scream, but still failed to approach the shining crimson of the much more relaxed face she was screaming at. He rolled his eyes and drew a long pull from the massive goblet in his hands, the dozen twisty curly straws each somehow filling with a different color liquid before all combining where the mass of straws were held bundled together by his ruby lips.

Catherine stopped for a moment, puzzled by the fact that she could clearly see him roll his eyes, even though she couldn’t actually SEE his eyes behind the massive, chromed shades he wore. This situation quickly reversed as he set down the comically large glass on a table that hadn’t been there a minute ago, sat up a bit straighter on the fluffy divan that had filled her small apartment living room, and lifted the shades to his forehead. The burning embers of his eyes smoldered in boredom, a mild quirk of his lips betraying the amusement he tried to hide behind the nonchalant demeanor that had been his only attitude since appearing in a puff of smoke.

Continue reading “Flash Fiction : Wrong Bottle”

Happy Birthday Pluto! : Song Pluto’s always a planet to me

So, it’s the 90th anniversary of the discovery of our 9th planet, Pluto.
Yes. It’s a planet. There are a LOT of reasons why the IAU decision is a steaming pile of manure. I put a couple of them into song! (To the tune of Billy Joel’s ‘She’s always a woman to me’.)

It can push and can pull, where another planet lies
Good Lowell had faith we would see it with eyes
In his tower in Flagstaff Clyde finally did see
They call it a dwarf now but Pluto’s always a planet to me.

Continue reading “Happy Birthday Pluto! : Song Pluto’s always a planet to me”

Fiction Snippet : Nu Yeller

Thanks to Totally Mindy on Kid’s Place live this morning, I have a horrible cyberpunk version of Old Yeller in my head… here’s a snippet of “the scene” in my head, so you can all share in my horror at my own brain.

“No pa. He’s my dog. I’ll do it.”   Tahmina pulled the old keyboard out from the rack by her desk.  “Easy Nu, easy girl.”  Yeller growled, the thin crackling from her blown speaker modulating as Tahmina slid down the access panel on her neck, slotting the old usb-c connector. The dog froze as the command line activated, the familiar floating screen popping into existence above the board.  She closed her eyes tightly, typing by touch, the clacking of the old physical keys feeling like nothing less than the loading and cocking of a shotgun.  She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up to see Arslan standing over her, a rare tear touching his own eye as he nodded to her, knowingly.  She looked at the screen, the lines of instructions, approvals, directory searches.

 Her father coughed lightly, unable to see the screen from his angle, but not willing to move to look.  “Tahmi, darling, you need to get the subroot directory under the facial imagery as well.” 

She squeezed her eyes shut again, but the blinking prompt was seared into her retina.  “Confirm full system reformat and restory? Y/N?” 

“I know father, I did. She… she won’t recognize my face anymore.”

With a sob, she stabbed down on the y key, and then tossed the keyboard from her lap, bursting to her feet and out the door.

FASH ATTACK! A real life fan fic pastiche.

Once again, a few wonderful people on twitter have inspired me with insanity.

Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Content warning, violence, blood, death.

Bobby felt the warmth on his cheek before he heard the screams. Almost in slow motion, he turned to his partner as his hand came up to feel the warm, wet spot that had appeared on his face. He watched the scene, Timmy slapping frantically at the clucking, pecking, swirling mass of white and red that clung to his head.  It was surreal, watching his friend get pecked to death, blood turning the white parts of Timmy’s Flag tshirt redder than the stripes.  He looked down at his fingers. Red with blood, ‘Timmy’s blood’, he realized to himself.

The screams stopped, but the clucking and slicing never did, the rooster riding the body to the ground and continuing to savage the already mangled flesh.

“What in the… FUCK! IT’S THE FASH!”

The world sped back up to normal speed as the bite of pain cut into his upper arm from behind.  Bobby’s fingers went limp, and the metal gas can fell from his grip. It clanged off the rocky ground, the gas inside sloshing noisily as it fell over. He spun, nearly tripping over the can as he jumped back, the head of a spear, ‘A SPEAR FOR CHRISSAKES?!’, whizzed past his face, slicing the cheek that had been free from blood.  In reflex, he pulled the pistol from belt, aiming it one handed, the other arm still limp and usesless.

“Stay… stay back!” 

The woman who had stabbed him narrowed her eyes and curled her lip in a sneer, nostrils flaring around a ring that glittered as dark and dangerous as the edges of the spear she kept pointed at his eyes.  She dropped into a crouch, twirling the spear point in a small circle, ready to strike.

“Look, I don’t want to hurt anyone. We were just delivering a message to Fisher.”

The circling point stopped for a moment.  “Fisher?” 

“Yeah, Fisher.  Urving Fisher, the author? He lives here right?”

He felt his grip loosening, the gun dropping, as she started laughing at him, deep, booming, and dripping with ridicule. He stepped back again, tightening his grip and raising the gun slightly.

“Well, where is he?”

“Sonny boy, you’ve made two mistakes in coming here.  One, someone sucks at GoogleFu.  No, you have the wrong place. Two… ”  She pointed the spear tip at the pistol in his hand. “You shouldn’t threaten someone with a pistol when you left the safety on.”

Confusion flared to panic as he looked down at the gun, thumbing the safety back and forth, trying to remember which side meant what. Then a dark shadow swopped through his vision, and he stared down at his hand, missing the gun, half his thumb, and all of his pointer finger. It didn’t hurt until AFTER the blood starting pouring. 

“Go ahead, pick it up with your other hand.”  The spearwoman stepped forward, back leg over front, staying in her crouched stance. “C’mon, pick it up so I can legally run you through!”

Bobby’s mind gibbered, his hand throbbed, his arm hung limp, and his cheek burned.  He felt a warmth spreading across the tops of his legs, and thinking she’d gutted him without him feeling it, he looked down in alarm at his darkening jeans.

“Did you really just piss yourself? They just don’t make Fash like they used to.”   She stepped forward again.  “Ah well, maybe they’ll let me put your head on a pole as a warning to the others. ”

Bobby closed his eyes, ready to die.  He found his lips moving, his voice escaping as a gasp. “Heavenly Father, I commend my soul to your hands, may my sacrifice be a torch held by the “

The impromptu prayer ended with a grunt of pain as the breath was driven out of him, and he felt himself lifted and tossed from an impact into his side.  Keeping his eyes clenched tight, he felt the ground slamming into his right side, his left, his back, his knees, as he rolled and tumbled from the blow.


He came to a stop, and after a deep breath, opened his eyes.  He was a good twenty feet away, laying next to the house. Putting his bloody palm against the door, he struggled to his feet, to see the spearwoman yelling at a goat that pawed the ground next to where he had just been standing.  She stood with the spear butt in the ground, pointing with her other hand.  “Damnit Havoc, I did NOT cry you and slip the goats of war.”

The door opened behind him.  A figure peered out, leather hat tucked over her brow, trowel and rake in her leather gloved hands.  “Shep? What the hell is, WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU!?”

Operating on instinct, he pushed the door the rest of the way open, and shoved the newcomer out.  She swore, stumbling and windmilling arms as he slammed the door, fumbling with the deadbolt, pain shooting through him as he squeezed with the stump of his thumb.  The gloved woman’s voice came muffled through the door.  “FUCK DAMN SHIT. DUDE!  If you bleed on the carpet, I’m going to gut you and compost you!”

Glancing around, he ran into the house, looking for something, anything.  KITCHEN!  He burst in, looking for a knife block, pushing aside cans labeled in other languages, bags of candy, and assorted produce.


He stopped, and looked up at a small window in the corner of the kitchen.  The spearwoman grinned evily in at her, tapping on the glass with the spear.

“Mistake three, Fash.  You’re in the kitchen.  With Sergei.”

“THE FUCK LADY! Who the FUCK is Ser”

His lips clamped shut, drawing blood from his tounge, and fire ripped into his back. With a clatter, a small butcher knife fell out of him onto the tile.  He turned, slowly, to see a cat standing next to a magnetic bar rack, holding the knives he had been looking for. The cat looked sideways at him, out of the one eye it had.  “MRRROOOWWW?” 

Bobby watched, abstractedly, the adrenaline burnt away, his abused body giving up, as the cat perched up on his back legs, reaching with front paws towards the rack.  Glittering arcs ended against his body, some hitting him handle first, some not thrown hard enough to pierce, but a few slid inches into him, rivulets of red running together, pooling in his socks.

‘Fuck. I hate walking in wet socks.’  With that final, pedestrian thought, Bobby’s eyes closed for the last time.

Poetry – Song: Phantom Limbs . A tribute to Neil Peart and Rush, and to lost friends.

I’ve been thinking about death and loss lately. Specifically, I was thinking about Neil Peart. And how his friends and bandmates must feel. Especially Geddy. His voice has sung, for decades, words put there by Neil. How must that feel? To have a portion of your voice… gone?

And I can kind of understand. I’m missing a piece of my own voice these days, a dry sarcasm that would point out my stupidity, and sometimes add its own dumb ideas. Over a year now. I miss you Twitch. You were part of me, and I still feel you there.

And it made me think of phantom limbs, that feeling of something gone, but still there. People, friends, family, as a part of ourselves. So… I wrote a song

The man who lost his hand to the cannery blade,
Still can feel the tickle of his five fingered shade,
A bomb blast leaves the soldier sitting in a chair,
Late at night she could swear that her legs are still there.

Phantom Pains from what we’ve left behind,
Phantom Fears they’re only in our mind,
Phantom Pieces that we never find,
When they’re gone.

A clot bursts, tissue thirsts, deep within a friend’s brain,
No more hugs, pull the plugs, release him from your pain,
Sometimes you hear his voice, greeting you by name,
A vital piece of you will never feel the same.

You feel him at your side,
hear his words wry and snide,
You turn to him in pride,
Empty chair where he sat,
Makes you lose your stride.

Phantom Pains from who we’ve left behind,
Phantom Fears live only in our mind,
Phantom Pieces that we never find,
When they’re gone.

More than a hand or leg, my friends are a part of me,
No matter how I beg, Time will not let them be,
My words feel hollow now, without your counterpoint,
My soul is borrowed now, no more beats to anoint

You wrote the song I sang,
With my strings, bells you rang,
Backing me up from behind,
I fear to turn and find…
The empty swivel chair,
Still I feel you there.

Phantom Pains from who we’ve left behind,
Phantom Tears they live in our mind,
Phantom People that we’ll never find,
When they’re gone.
When they’re gone.

The man in the mirror…

Content warning : physical dysphoria

About two years ago, I grew a beard. My wife asked me too! And I’ll humor her just about anything she asks, at least once. I was expecting a short experiment. I had grown a beard about 15 years ago, or at least, tried. I tried to do a goatee, and by the time it got a few inches long, well… The hair grew in several different shades, fine and fuzzy, and every which way. It basically looked like I had reached into a vacuum cleaner bag, pulled out a large dust bunny, and SLAP, glued that sucker to my face.

Much to my astonishment, my beard hair grew in nicely. My mustache hair grew faster, it always had, so I ended up shaving it a few times until the beard was thick enough. My face with just a mustache looks just enough like my father to freak me out in the mirror. See, when I look in a mirror, it takes me a moment to parse that that’s me. And anything that makes me look like someone else, well, my brain goes there first. The one and only time I tried growing JUST a mustache, I woke up a few days in, looked at myself in the mirror, and had a panic attack. (I also can’t watch the live action Jungle Book with Cary Elwes for that reason. He has my father’s exact mustache. )

But the beard grew nicely. I noticed that I had two TINY spots of white on my cheeks, which left me quite chuffed. I had always said that I wouldn’t have minded starting to go bald at 17 if I had also gone silver, but nope. I kept it trimmed, and it became a look that I enjoyed. None of that bushy ass hipster lumberjack thing. I don’t need to keep a snack in there. It took me about a month with the beard to start instantly recognizing myself in the mirror with the beard, which seemed, at the time, normal. It was a very pleasing thing, the morning I looked in the mirror and went, yup, that’s me. In retrospect, it was VERY pleasing, although I didn’t understand why at the time.

Picture below by the very talented Keyhole Photography

The Scrivener – My persona in a local role play group

I’m going to back up a bit in my reminiscing here. I’ve always had a touch of body dysphoria. Specifically, there are times when my body feels too BIG. “Oh, that’s your brain’s way of telling you to lose some weight, fatty.” (Yes, I’ve had someone tell me this in response) No, fuck you, not like that. I mean… Watching Men In Black when it came out was the best thing I could reference. I feel sometimes like I’m piloting a meat suit. The “real” me is like, two foot tall, with spindly limbs, grasping nerves and tendons inside my body and pulling them to make me move. I have a bad sense of how much space I actually take in the universe, and bounce off walls, doorways, people. Because of that, I’ve always been extra careful and paying attention, and stay further away from things than I really need to.

The odd thing is, the times I feel the LEAST like that, are the times when I’m working out regularly. The bigger my body actually is, muscle wise, the more I feel like I “fit” in it. I’m just mentioning this to show that I have a minor understanding of this feeling of “This is not my beautiful body!? How did I get here!?”

ZOOM fast forward to today. My face has gotten ITCHY the last couple of months. I’ve got a bit of dandruff. I read that it is a good idea to give facial skin some time to air out now and then. Also, I’ve lost a LOT of weight since growing it. You can tell in pictures, even under the beard. I was kind of curious to see what my face looks like now. So today, my wife used the clippers and buzzed my face. (She insisted that if the beard was coming off, she was the one to do it!). She stopped halfway for a moment, and let me see it with just a goatee and mustache. Hilarious. I looked weird. But I still instantly recognized myself. She took the rest of it down. And I looked in the mirror. And… who the fuck is that? Oh, wait, it’s me. Hunh. It’ll probably take a month to start recognizing myself without the beard, but by then, it’ll have grown back, I though.

Move over Mr. Price! This man is eggs-actly the one to bring down The Bat.

And that’s when it hit me. And I realized why I was so happy that day I looked in the mirror and instantly knew who I was. I never had before. I see myself in photos, clean shaven, and I’m more likely to recognize myself from the back, than the front. In fact, I HAVE looked at photos of myself in a group, and asked, who’s that dude? And people stare at me. “Uhh, that’s you Alex.” No, really, who… oh shit it is.

I don’t recognize my own face, without the hair. I never have. I never really thought about it, but… My own brain doesn’t see me as me, without at least a thin ruff of hair on my face. It’s… an interesting feeling. The cold on my cheeks, splashing water on my face. That’s weird. Looking in the mirror? It’s downright disorienting. I can’t wait for this to grow back.

Gonna be a bad shift, My handle time is gonna fall, :Song parody

Wrote a quick song parody of William Bell’s immortal Born Under a Bad Sign. For all the call center folk!

Its gonna be a bad shift
My handle time is gonna fall
If it wasn’t for dumb people, you know I wouldn’t get a single call.
Hard boots and troubleshooting to the end
Gotta be polite hope they rate me ten
Its gonna be a bad shift
My handle time is gonna fall
If it wasn’t for dumb people, you know I wouldn’t get a single call.
My callers can’t read, but they know they’re right
My whole day is just one big fight
Its gonna be a bad shift
My handle time is gonna fall
If it wasn’t for dumb people, you know I wouldn’t get a single call.
That queue’s so high
You know if it wasn’t for dumb people, I wouldn’t have no calls,
If it wasn’t for real dumb people, I wouldn’t get a single call.
They whine and beg me, their tech to save
A big mouthed caller is gonna report me to my grave
Its gonna be a bad shift
My handle time is gonna fall
If it wasn’t for dumb people, you know I wouldn’t get a single call.
Yeah, my bad call time
Been having bad times for days.

Peanut Butter Jelly Time! : Workplace memories

I was reminded today of one of the more interesting HR experiences I’ve had. At least, of the ones that I can actually talk about at work without getting sent to HR again…

I was working at a call center that had a decent kitchen in the breakroom. Actual fridges, several toasters, an electric kettle. I had settled into a decent filling breakfast routine of toasting an english muffin, and spreading peanut butter and jelly on the halfs while still warm. The peanut butter melts into the nooks and crannys, the jelly spreads smoothly in the heat. Yum.

Now, we didn’t have our own drawers. So the jelly was in the fridge, the peanut butter in a cabinet of the break room. Theft happened. Often. The levels of both containers would often be lower than I last left them. Ugh, but as long as they use silverware, and not fingers, I’m not going to complain TOO much. I did use masking tape and permanent marker to make sure my name was on both lids, and the body of each jar. To make it clear that this wasn’t company provided pb and j.

So, one morning, I’m making breakfast. I spread the pb, and dip my spoon in the jar. And another worker, one of the different departments, so not someone I knew by name or worked with, watches me, startled. “HEY! You shouldn’t do that!”

I’m very confused. I would expect this reaction if I say, stuck a metal fork in the toaster to pull out my muffin. Not use a plastic spoon to spread jelly. “Do what? I like peanut butter and jelly…?”

She steps up, getting indignant. “You shouldn’t use the same spoon for peanut butter and then stick it into the jelly! What about people with peanut allergies?”

I’m nonplussed for a moment. I’m fairly certain that I have found one of the people using my stock. I realize that she’s been waiting for me to finish at the counter, with two pieces of bread on a plate. The toaster is free, I’m not blocking it, and she’s got a plastic knife on the plate as well. But nothing visible with which one might expect a knife to be used ON. So…

“Yeah, but, it’s MY jelly.” I show her the lid with my name on it. “So no one else is going to be using it. Or at least.” I pause, narrow my eyes, and look at her bread, then look her in the eyes. “No one else SHOULD be using MY jelly. That would be stealing.”

She gets a bit nervous and steps back, but rallies. “Yeah, well, um, I mean, if someone BY ACCIDENT used it, you could cause an allergic reaction, you know? So, you shouldn’t mix them, just in case….”

I’ll admit, I was a bit ticked. What I did next was a touch childish. Justified, but childish. I showed her the labels on both sides of the jar as well. “Well, no one else has jelly in the fridge, both jars in there are mine, and labeled. So I’m not sure how someone could do so by ‘accident’. But just in case, you’re right! Lets make it clear. ”

I took a big spoonful of peanut butter, and mixed it into the jar of jelly. “There, like homemade Goobers!” I pulled out a spoonful of jelly, dark brown streaks through the glistening purple mass. I took a big sniff of the jar. “MMM MMM. Now it smells and looks like peanut butter, so anyone with an allergy would know better than to use it!”

I finished making breakfast, put my stuff away, wiped down the counter with a wet paper towel, as she stood there, getting redder and redder, spluttering on occasion.

And then two days later I get pulled off the phone to talk to HR.

“So, we understand that you were asked to not mix peanut butter into jelly that’s in the fridge, to avoid allergy issues?”

I blink, several times. “Seriously? That’s what you brought me in to talk about?”

“Do you recall this conversation”

“Yes, I ‘recall this conversation’. I pointed out to the person the same thing I’ll say here. It’s MY jelly, that I purchased. It has MY name on it in several places. Anyone other than me who would use it would be stealing. Did the person who made the complaint to you admit to stealing my jelly?”

HR director and subordinate, sitting next each other on the other side of the desk, glance at each other for a moment. The answer is obviously yes, and just as obviously, they can’t admit it. “Well, there’s a lot of possible room for misunderstanding, and we’d hate for an accident to happen, so we need you to take the jar that’s in the fridge home, and not mix allergens if you bring new jelly in the future. “

“So, is the company going to provide jelly?”

Another glance between them. “No, why would we do that?”

“Then no.”

A longer glance. They aren’t used to that word, I see. “I’m sorry, what?”

“No. Unless you demand that no employee brings a lunch in a sealed container that contains potential allergens, you have no right to demand that of me. Unless you intend to make the break room peanut free, tell people that they aren’t allowed to bring sandwiches that have peanut butter on them, you have no right to demand that I do so.”

Long sigh. “Alex, look, you have to understand, if there was an… accident… and someone had a reaction, then.”

I cut her off. “Then, per the signs that you put up a month ago after someone kept stealing lunches, the fact that they had a reaction would be proof that they stole food from the fridge, and you’d have no choice but to fire them instantly. And if you push further, and I make a complaint to the ethics committee via that number we all got an email and training about a few weeks ago, and they looked into the documentation, and there was any notation in the complaint that suggested that the complainer was knowingly stealing food from the fridge, well then…”

I paused for a moment, letting things work their way through her thoughts. “Then you would have a real fun time explaining to the ethics committee why that person wasn’t instantly fired, wouldn’t you?”

They looked at each other, at paperwork on the desk, at each other. “Are we done here? I should get back to the phones, we have a queue.”

They nodded, I got up and got back on the phones.

Twitter feeds…

Started in my head by @emccoy_writer on twitter, saying that twitter feeds on typos.

“Jak by numble, kack be qick, jacj jump iver teh candelstick.”

Jack hummed to himself, swaying in the glow of monitors.
“Jack, buddy? You okay down there?”

Benny looked down into the lowered floor of the NOC from the raised walkway surrounding it, server trees blinking behind him.

Jack nodded lazily. “Feeding of teh fede!”

Benny watched as one of the monitors jumped, auto refreshing with new tweets. The wires strung from monitor to monitor sparked and shone, and the ghostly images of letters flew to Jack, leaving afterimages in Benny’s eyes that kept making him think of Sesame Street.

Jack cackled as the alphabetic apparitions slurped into his skin, his eyes flashing for a moment. “TYPE A, TIPE B!, TYPO POSTIVE!”

Benny bit his lip, chewing apprehensively, as Jack swung around to gaze at monitor after monitor. He jumped suddenly when a hand touched his shoulder.

“Calm down Benny. Your shift is over. Simone is gonna watch him.” Benny turned to look at the speaker. Junie’s eyes were as concerned as his, he knew, but their glistening orbs held concern for him, not Jack.

“C’mon Benny. Coffee. You need it.”

Benny nodded at let them drag him gently towards the stairs, and down to Twitter headquarter’s commissary. They sat in silence for several minutes, Benny slowly sipping at his coffee. Finally, he found the strength to speak.

“He’s getting worse Junie. I thought he was playing a prank at first, laying the wires, pouring cups of … whatever that liquid is. Lighting candles. But…”

He looked them in the eyes. “Can you see them yet? The letters?” Junie nodded slowly.

“Just now, first time. I wasn’t sure I was imagining it, still not sure, but”

Benny cut them off. “R, Q, t, z, and a 1.”

Junie’s eyes widened, fear, paranoia, turning them rigid. “Fuck Benny. How did… yeah, that’s what I saw, but… I can hear the caps in your voice. And that when you said one, you said…”

Benny raise a hand. “Don’t try it. Don’t force it. Just… let me know if you can start hearing the misspellings like when HE talks.”

The sat, Benny sipping, Junie watching him intently. Neither noticed movement until the chair between them slid out from the table, a long leg swoopping over the back of it, Riker style.

“Hey Destiny.” They spoke in unison, not needing to look up. Only one Twitter employee sat like that.

“Hey. We gotta stop this.”

Benny looked up, desperation written across his face in more words than 140 characters could ever tell. His hand shook and bounced on the table, his wedding ring clunking against the stained Formica. TAP, TAP, TAP.

“How, he’s too powerful. Did you see what he did to…”

Benny cut off with a sob, ragged breath fighting in and out, tears wetting his cheeks.

“Yeah, we saw. Look, we have an idea. We’re deploying to prod in an hour.”

Junie looked up. “Deploying to prod on a Friday night? Are you insane?”

Destiny laughed, a harsh, humorless mirth, dry as dust. “Yep. I think we all are. But we’re deploying. QA is done with it. Hitting desktop, mobile browser, Apple and Android. Fuck, we even updated the Blackberry App for this. Forced update, nothing works on an App until you download it.”

Benny caught his breath at the news, air finally coming in and out naturally. “Blackberry? Jesus fuck. To do what?”

“Spellcheck…?!” They both turned to look at Junie, wonder on their face as they looked back and forth between the two. “Am I right Destiny?”

She nodded, taking Benny’s cup from his nerveless fingers, slugging the rest of it down. “Ugh. Dark roast. How you drink that shit. Yeah Junebug. Got it in one. Forced spellcheck. You hit submit, it comes up with fixed spelling and you have to hit submit again. We’ll take his power, wean him down, get him back to normal.”

Benny grinned a moment, then his face fell. “Won’t work.”


Junie held up their hands. “Whoa, whoa D. He’s right. It’ll help, but… they can reedit typos in, right? We aren’t forcing the spellcheck?”

Destiny frowned, shaking her head negative. “No, we can’t do that. Might be legitimate. Might be vernacular, but no worries there. We tested. AAVE and dialect spelling doesn’t activate his power, just actual typos. We’ve built in AAVE spellcheck too, no worries there.”

Junie sighed. “Still won’t be complete.”

“Who the fuck is going to put purposeful typos in, not meaning the word to be correct, even if its a correct alternate spelling?”

Junie and Benny sighed and spoke in stereo. “Nazis.”

Junie explained as Destiny looked at them in surprise and disgust. “The alt right white power fucks. They misspell words on purpose to get around filters and bot detectors. They MEAN for it to be considered a wrong spelling, so it still counts for whatever spell Jack cast on the servers.”

Destiny’s jaw dropped.  “Fuck.  Is THAT why he fucking coddles and protects those bastards?”

“Pfft.  Naw. Nothing so sinister. He’s just a racist.”

Telepathillogical, or Did You Hear What They Said About Our Marlene’s Telepathy? And who Grandma left the good china to?

As so often happens, a story idea gets into my head from an odd source. An online discussion of the Romance Genre, and what it means to be Romance, being talked about by Ursula Vernon ( @ursulav on Twitter) morphed into her talking about the weird way that Science Fiction and Fantasy get mixed and matched based on odd qualities. And made a comment of, “Did You Hear What They Said About Our Marlene’s Telepathy? And who Grandma left the good china to?”

Which immediately planted a story seed. Free story, since the title is shamelessly stolen.

Green. The conversation happening downstairs, the one I was intently NOT listening to, was green. Strands of red and yellow, but mostly green. Gossip.

That’s the best I can explain how thoughts FEEL.  Perhaps if I were musically inclined, and could tell you the difference by sound between a G major and a C minor third, I might describe them as pitches or octaves. If I cared more about food than, tastes great, more filling, I might talk about the sour and bitter and umami of brains as I brush across them.  Or maybe if I worked with my hands more, I’d feel thoughts as smooth, rough, gritty, oily. 

I’m not an artist though, and thoughts are colors, with a few specific exceptions. Green is gossip, that odd combination of greedy longing for what others have and do, and scandalized relief that it didn’t happen to you. Red is anger, yellow concern.  Happiness is a bright pink and purple streak, and it wasn’t until I was taught the birds and the bees via random memories running through my mother’s mind when I was seven that I realized what the bright white bursts that would sometimes come from my parent’s side of the house at night were. The memories were bad enough, I’m just glad that my room was far enough away from theirs that I never heard them. To be clear, I wasn’t feeling the actual emotion. I’m not a telempath. It was more like body language, but of thoughts. I could still hear TONE at a distance

Distance being exactly what was being discussed below me, in conversation that I was failing badly at NOT listening.  Because those exceptions I mentioned? One of them kept coming up.  Me. I can tell you exactly what it feels like when someone is thinking or talking about me. Maybe if I was a bit more self absorbed, it would be pleasant.  But I’m not, and it’s not. Ever walk into a room at the wrong moment, and dozens of eyes are staring at you? Or sit on a park bench, no one else around, but you could SWEAR that someone was staring at you? Every hear your name called out from a distance by a voice you ALMOST recognize.  Or feel a twitch in your leg like your phone was in your pocket, vibrating, even if it’s not in your pocket, with the absolute certainty that someone just texted you?

All of it.  All those feelings and more, when people are thinking about me. Or talking about me. And Aunt Patty just couldn’t stop talking about me.

“Distance? Really. They made the determination based on DISTANCE?”  Aunt Patty’s red words broadcast from her mind just as surely as her voice boomed from her mouth, an Irish Whisper my Mom calls it.  Four people all talking together acted as amplifiers, their own words in their minds being rebroadcast a moment later by the other three hearing and processing.  Impossible to ignore, I finally decided, rolling over and stuffing a pillow over my eyes and ears to minimize stimulation.

Blue came her husband, my uncle Jeffrey. The sparkling blue of a bucket of water, drawn from a ‘Well, actually’.  “It’s the cube square law, love. Very scientific.”   I found myself wishing telekinesis was real so I could throw a cucumber sandwich at him.

“No Jeffrey, that’s volume. You’re thinking the inverse square law, like gravity.”  Deeper blue, my mother educating.  It still amazes me that depth of shade can tell me so much, whether someone is passing information along because they want the information to be known, or telling someone something in order to prove they know it .  “And yes, exactly.  Marlene can’t hear more than 20 feet away, and words appear to her suddenly as soon as she’s in range, as strong as if she was next to the person.” There was a pause, and a tinge of pink and silver that let me know she was taking a deep sip of her tea.  Even being gossiped about as if I wasn’t the telepathic equivalent of sitting at the table being talked about I third person, I still smiled into my pillow. I worked hard on finding that tea blend for Mom, and I was very happy that she took so much pleasure from the chocolatey Earl Grey. I just had to rebox it when it arrived before giving it to her, she’d never drink it if she knew it was named after a fictional telempath.

That was a word they taught me at CI. Empath means able to read emotions from signals. Like empathy. Almost everyone is empathic. Being able to sense emotions, through your mind, at a distance, is TELEMPATHY. Telempathy of course, since emotions aren’t proper brainwaves, is magic, not science. And I’m not a telempath. I swear. The colors I feel aren’t truly emotions, more like, tone of voice, but of thoughts.

Yellow and red tinged the returning blue, her mind focusing on the conversation. “According to the Cricket Institute, if her telepathy was science based, she would have a, a strong signal, as it were, when next to someone, and the feeling of their words would weaken with distance, a measurable decrease that follows the inverse square law.”

A wash of mishmash colors, confusion warring with set beliefs.  “So, as the distance doubles, the strength is three times weaker?”

“Almost love.” Pumpkin orange. I could almost feel her desire to pat her husband patronizingly on the head. Almost. I’m not an telempath. “As the distance is squared, the strength is unsquared.  De squared? Square rooted?”  

“That works Patty, square rooted. But Marlene’s ability doesn’t follow that law.”  Red flared brighter in my mother’s mind. “So CI says she’s not a scientific telepath, but a magical one.”

I screamed into the pillow, and chucked it across the room.  I popped up to sitting, done with being spoken about. Also, I wanted a cup of that tea.

 I looked over at where the pillow landed, and at the ears flickering in irritation a few feet away.  “Oh come off it Skeeve, I knew you were there, it was nowhere near close.”   He languidly opened and closed his one good eye, then went back to licking his paw, wiping it over it ears. I pulled on boots, grabbed my purse and phone.  The one bright side to moving limbs is that it makes it easier to not focus on a conversation, so I missed the next few moments as I skipped out of my room and down the stairs. 

“I mean, being a magical telepath isn’t a BAD thing. There’s nothing wrong with magic, it’s just, she can’t…”  I heard Mom’s voice echoing up the stairs, a Pollock of colors, sadness, resignation.

“It means I can’t get a job using my abilities.”  The four jumped as I came hopping around the bend in the stairs, looking down on them.  “Only ‘scientific telepaths’ with provable and measurable limits can get Cricket certification. If it’s not hard science, than it might as well be a fantasy, is what they told me.”

I stopped at the table and let them collect themselves a minute.  I curtseyed to each in turn.  “Good afternoon Aunt Betty, Uncle Jeffrey, Grandma Joane.”  I bent over and kissed my mother on the forehead, the tea in her cup wafting into my nose.  “Good afternoon Mom.  May I have some tea?”

She smiled, and poured a cup.  Grandma Joane spoke up for the first time, the muted tones of brown and green brightening.  “So, you’re not disappointed about the loss of guaranteed job?”

I shrugged, and took the cup from Mom.  “Thank you Mom.”  I took a sip, rolling the deep velvet on my tongue.  I wonder what it be like to taste thoughts as types of tea. “Not really Grandma. I didn’t have a certification and guarantee before, so I didn’t lose anything.  And besides, the kind of jobs you can get as a Cricket certified telepath? Tricking people into thinking of hidden information, acting as a spy for a company looking for disloyalty and waste?  No thank you. I don’t know what I want to do after college yet, but it’s not THAT.”

Everyone nodded approvingly, although colors and random splashes of words made it clear not everyone agreed.  Waste. So sad. Poor dear doesn’t know what she wants. The random thoughts floated, less powerful for not being vocalized.

I delicately took a bacon fluffin from the plates arrayed on the Lazy Katey, Ladies Don’t GRAB, I could hear Mom say in her mind as I mentally repeated the oft drilled lesson myself. Our eyes met for a moment, the sparkle in hers showing she knew I knew.

I took a bite, letting the colors of thoughts slow their swirling around me.  “Honestly, the part that upsets me is the inconsistency.  I met almost every other test for being scientific, but they get stuck on this one.” I took another, larger bite of fluffin, letting the pancake and meat mingle.

Jeffrey raised a finger. “Wait, what other tests?”

I chewed hurriedly, trying to swallow so I could answer, when I stopped dead. Grandma Joane lit up in the darkest blue I had ever seen. Yes, I understand that lit up in dark sounds weird. It’s my brain, deal with it. She raised a fist, popping out fingers one by one, dark red nail polish and rings flashing.

“One, distance. We already discussed that. Two, detectable waves. A scientific telepath will show changes to their brainwaves that partially mimic the person they are listening to. A magical one won’t. In addition, there are areas of the brain that show activity while the telepath is, well, telepathing, meaning physical structures are involved. ” She paused, and glanced up at me.

I remembered the testing, the graphs showing my mind matching the technician, the bright flares on the scanner as specific wrinkles in my brain caught fire, electromagnetically speaking. “Yes Grandma, my brain does the wave.” Mom snorted in laughter.

Grandma nodded curtly. “Three, languages. A scientific telepath will hear words thought in other languages as the sounds the person would have spoken. If they don’t know the language, they won’t understand. Many magical telepaths translate automatically.”

She paused, and looked at me again. I swallowed. She knew more about telepathy than I knew she did. That was, unsettling. Sprechen sie Deutsch? “No Grandma, I don’t sprechen the Deutsch, although everyone knows what that means, c’mon.”

She nodded, smiling, and continued. Nothing in her head but the words she said. She had the kind of control the technicians at Cricket did. I realized suddenly that while I felt her colors, I hadn’t really heard her earlier.

“Four, emotions. Emotional response is a function of more than just brainwaves, so a telempath is magical by definition.”

“And I’m not a telempath.” Okay, I said that really firmly. Defensively even.

” Five, shielding. Since they work with waves of some kind, certain materials will block their ability, and certain devices can provide a hum that makes it harder to hear.”

Blue faded to a bright grey, her face paling to match. Her counting fingers went limp and her free hand clutch her hair. “Which is the other test you failed…”

Everyone else was staring hard at me now. “Yes, you could say I failed it. Their blocking material didn’t work for me. How… wait, that’s right, you wear wigs. Is…” I started to laugh, half nervously, half from real humor, as she tugged her hair, shifting it slightly in place. “You have thought shielding in your rug? Seriously?”

“RUG! How dare you.. how did you know! I wasn’t thinking about it, you couldn’t have known I wear a wig” WHO DOESNT KNOW! The thought hit me from three directions in unison.

I took a long slow sip of tea and smiled. “Grandma Dee told me last summer when I spent a week with her. She told me LOTS of things she thought I should know.” I finished the last nibble of fluffin. “Thank you for the tea Mom.” I kissed her on the forehead again, and walked towards the kitchen with my cup. A flurry of thoughts swung my way, a kaleidoscope of colors. Hell, of emotions. Maybe I am a telempath. Magical is just a codeword for, we can’t control. I stopped, and turned.

“Actually, now that I think about it, distance is just a red herring.” Grandma Joane looked at me with a touch of fear, purple tinging her presence. She definitely knew way too much about telepathy. I found myself wondering for the first time just what she used to do before retiring. “It’s the shielding that really damned me getting a certification.” LANGUAGE! I threw Mom a hairy eyeball, then looked back at Grandma Joane. “Like I said, it’s provable and measurable LIMITS. If you don’t have them, if they can’t defend against you, they won’t certify you. Interesting. Well. Mom? I’m going to head over to Jamal’s, okay?”

Mom nodded weakly. I turned, stopped, and spun again, looking at Aunt Patty. “Why yes, Grandma Dee DID in fact tell me who she was leaving the good china to!” The bright flashes of color followed me nearly halfway down the block.