Category Archives: Short Stories

Quick fictional stories about anything and everything with recorded audio.

Basilisk!

“Basilisk!” The village lookout shouted. “Archers to the walls! Everyone else inside! Lock your doors and don’t look out your windows until the all clear is given!”

The crossbowmen rapidly mounted the wooden palisade that had been hastily erected in the weeks since the beast was seen. It was always a very dangerous thing defending against a basilisk. You couldn’t go out and hunt it because it was simply too dangerous. The most that could be expected was to bunker down until it departed, and possibly scare it off with arrow fire, but only if it tried to attack.

The dozen of the king’s personal monster hunter squad put their backs to the sharp wooden tops of the palisade, and faced inward. The one who had drawn the short straw that morning would take a half second glance over the well every fifteen seconds to verify the large snake’s location. At this distance of almost fifty meters the odds were okay that it wouldn’t look at you, but you didn’t want to look any longer than was absolutely necessary to direct volley fire.

“Blindfolds on!” The unlucky spotter ordered. The other eleven men complied and the spotter took his first peek. The man to his left clutched his crossbow tightly. He knew if the spotter suddenly went limp and fell off it was his turn next.

“Thirty meters, 11:00, fire!” The spotter ordered. Eleven bolts were loosed at the approaching beast. They didn’t have to be precise. You didn’t really try to kill a basilisk, just scare it off. The bolts only had to be close enough to let the monstrosity know you meant business.

“Twenty meters, 10:00, fire!” The spotter called again, and again, eleven bolts flew towards the snake.

“Ten meters, 9:30, fire!” The spotter called, silently crossing his fingers. This volley had to do it. There wouldn’t be time to prepare another. He didn’t need to look for a fourth time, the thing would be close enough to hear if they did not succeed in scaring it off with the last round.

All twelve men held their breath, waiting to hear the tell tale hiss of scales on grass, praying that they had sent the creature slithering off to whatever den it had come from. They were not so lucky.

As the men were placing bolts in their weapons they felt a bump in the palisade. The thing was not only coming, it was climbing. They could feel the weight of it shoving against the palisade as it slithered to the top.

To a man, they all froze, bolts not quite ready to defend themselves. The spotter shut his eyes. Maybe it would just take one of them. Maybe it would go into the village and leave them alone. It was not brave, but it was all they could think to keep from fleeing the spot.

Then, the pressure stopped. The sense of movement came to a halt right next to the spotter’s head. He could feel the change in air pressure and temperature from the thing breathing next to his face. It was too late now, the most he could hope for was that it would be quick.

Quick, yes, that was it, just open the eyes and make it quick. The spotter looked right at the head of the beast, and saw that it wasn’t even looking in his direction. It was staring at an old chicken on the wall of the palisade.

The spotter was astounded that the chicken was looking directly into the eyes of the basilisk, and was not affected in the slightest. The hen hopped over to the head of the basilisk which was peaking over the wall and affectionately rubbed its head against the basilisk, and patted the body of it with its wing.

The giant beast quivered slightly, and the spotter heard the beast do the most imaginable thing possible. It purred. Like a kitten. Like a household kitten.

The spotter realized he should probably close his eyes lest the thing glance his way, but he couldn’t help it. A giant lethal snake, was acting like a kitten being petted by a favorite owner, and that owner was a chicken.

With a flip of its wings the chicken hopped onto the large head of the snake, and the thing pulled itself back over the wall, and lowered itself to the earth. It then promptly slithered off into the woods with the chicken on its head.

Only after it had passed beyond the spotter’s line of sight did he realize. Of course, basilisks are born from chicken eggs that were hatched under toads. The poor thing just wanted to see its mother.

A suspicious skype call

“Hey Sam.” I told my skype buddy from ‘Australia’. “I think something is wrong with your screen.”

“What do you mean Bill?” He said innocently, pretending like nothing was going on.

“It just, um, it just flickered you know? The window. It was like a desert mirage for a second and I thought I saw something on the other side.”

“On no.” Bill said. “I’m sure it’s nothing, firewall messing with the output or something. You can never be to careful with bacteria these days.”

“You mean viruses?” I ask.

“Yes, right, viruses, of course, always ramming the hard drive.” Ramming the hard drive? Was that Australian slang for something?

“Sure, yeah, all the time, ramming the hard drive. Really causes problems with the…..output. Anyway, did you see the football game?” I asked my skype buddy Sam.

“Oh yes, American football, the Pittsburgh metallurgists against the Green Bay cheese fanatics.” He said matter of factly. “Surely the steel shall prevail over dairy.”

“What? That was four years ago. I was talking about the upcoming one, the patriots versus the seahawks.” Sam looked frantically at his screen, scrolling frantically.

“Time distortion offset needs recalibrating.” He muttered under his breath.

“What was that?” I asked. Sam was starting to go off the deep end.

“Nothing, nothing, I was just going to comment that waterfowl will have great difficulty prevailing against men who are armed with the modern musket.” *Modern musket? I don’t think anyone has fired a musket in anger in almost two centuries. Also, I knew people could get caught up in the mascots, but it really seemed like Sam thought there were going to be a bunch of Seahawks facing off against a group of patriots.

“Hey Sam, do you think the muskets are going to be custom made with smaller caliber rounds? I mean the ball size seems a bit excessive for taking down a bird of that size.” Sam did not miss a beat when he agreed with me.

“For sure, for sure, one could hunt bears in the frontier with those weapons. I would wager they would decrease the caliber by half at least, if not a quarter. That way they could carry more ammunition.” Something is most definitely wrong with Sam.

“Sam, what year is it?” I asked.

“You mean right now?” He returned.

“Yes Sam, right now, what is the year.” I said calmly and measuredly.

“Uh, well you know I’m not sure how to convert the number from metric to English, and have you opted for the Gregorian calendar?” Sam replied.

“Okay Sam, what’s going on. It’s pretty clear you have no idea what American football is, or even what the year is. Now I like talking with you buddy, but you need to level with me.” I folded my arms and waited.

“Well, if you must know.” Sam flipped a switch I couldn’t see and suddenly his screen was occupied not by another man like me, but by what appeared to be a stereotypical green, bug eyed, antenna eared alien.

“I’m sorry you had to figure out Bill.” Sam said. I was so busy trying not to swallow my tongue I almost didn’t hear him. “I should’ve checked the local events in your year and place before answering the call.”

“Forget that, what are you and why are you doing this?” I demanded.

“I’m from your neighboring star system, Ceti Alpha V, you would call me an alien, and as for the reason.” Sam sighed.

“Is it research?” I asked.

“No.” the creature that was Sam sighed.

“Is it for entertainment?” I asked.

“No.” Sam said

“Is it for interstellar politics?” I asked.

“No.” Sam said for the third time.

“What then?” I asked.

“I just wanted a friend Bill.” Sam is staring down at his keyboard and picking at one of the keys so he doesn’t have to make eye contact. “It gets lonely over here and I just wanted someone to talk to.”

“Well you can always talk with me Sam.” I told him. “Just don’t say anything too weird while my friends are over okay?”

“Make haste friend Richard the hour is nigh, we must depart and with all speed.” John burst into my office clad in weather mail and wielding a broad sword. He had just thrown me a 3 foot blade and had turned on his heel, obviously expecting me to follow.

“Uh, I’m working dude.” I said. “I kind of need this job. Feed the family and all that? I’m the breadwinner you know.”

“What folly is this that you are proclaiming my comrade of old? Hast thou lost the burning passion for the quest? Where is your unquenchable need to seek out that which is vilest in the world and strike it down? Where is the fervor of the friend who once claimed that he longed to follow me into the dragon’s den and slay the evil within to ensure the princess’ honor and safety? Has the flow of time made you soft?” He threw the words at me like a knight throws down a gauntlet. I didn’t know what had gotten into him.

“I know we had all those imaginary adventures together as kids, but they were just that, imaginary. Real people don’t slay dragons or rescue princesses. Real people have jobs and responsibilities. It may not be quite the adventure you want to have mate, but it’s real, and it makes me happy. I actually like what I do for a living, like it a lot actually. Is this about your job? Did you get fired? If so you know you’re always welcome at my place until you can find something else. You and your wife and kids. I know my wife would love some more company.” I tried to think if my wife Janus had told me anything about John before I left. Had I missed an email? Was one of his parents sick maybe? I knew he was real close to his mom.

“Do you suggest that I have distain for my duties? That I am no longer satisfied or have been expelled from my place of employment” John says indignantly. “Have you no faith in me brother?” Before I can respond he reaches into his back pocket. “Then perhaps this will convince you.” John produces a knife with a note stuck through it that he slams into my office desk. I’m appalled at the sudden destruction of office furniture and reel backwards.

“Compatriot, this was fixed to my door when I departed from my home this morning. I believe it shall explain all.” Hesitantly, and while keeping an eye on John. I pick up the note

*Mortals, fear me and hasten to do my will. For I have imprisoned your spouses and children. They will starve lest you do exactly as I order. My minions will come for you soon. Stay where you are and do nothing to inflame my tempor. Signed, the dark lord of the twilight woods.* After I finish reading the letter, the ink evaporates off the page and coalesces into a tiny black ball several inches above the note, leaving the page blank.

The ball of ink then ignites and slams into the paper leaving a burning hole through the middle of it that forms the shape of a dragon.

“The crossbows are still in my trunk.” I tell John. He smiles.

“Then we are departed my old friend. Let us make haste!” As he reaches the knife he tells me. “This morning I discovered that dragons were real. Now I have found that heroes are as well.”

The ancient creatures are back

You ever watched a unicorn? I mean really watched a unicorn. Not just a passing glance at it as you were walking through the woods, but really stopped to watch it graze.

It will seem dull at first, like any other animal during feeding time, but it’s not just any other animal. The white elegant beast will glance at you, and if you maintain it’s gaze for long enough, it will start to do things decidedly, human. It may tilt it’s neck to one side and blink at you. It may narrow it’s eyes like it’s trying to figure you out. If you really stare at it the horned animal will start giving you sideways glances like a middle schooler looking at their crush and trying to decide whether to ask them out or not.

“Dragon!” Someone called out from behind me, pushing me to the ground. I glanced up to see a giant winged lizard descend on the animal and lift it into the air. It was still looking at me as it was carried away. It didn’t cry out. That part was perhaps most human of all. What animal upon being presented with its final fate wouldn’t struggle? The beautiful thing just looked at me as it was carried upward.

“Get down lad!” Someone called from behind me again. They didn’t give me time to react. They shoved me to the ground, and when I looked up there was a great roar as the dragon was felled from the sky. I saw the unicorn gallop off into the woods, safe. I felt as if I had just seen a child wrested from the arms of a kidnapper.

“Were you just going to stand there and watch lad?” The man from behind me asked.

I realized this whole time I must’ve appeared bound by some magical trance to stare at the unicron, and perhaps I was, but I was being most rude to this person who had saved the animal.

“I am sorry.” I say, getting up off the ground and turning to see who had saved me. “That was an excellent shot….father?” I was confused. Behind me was a scene straight out of a bible thumper’s fanfic.

Four priests, obviously priests, I could see rosarys and roman collars. They were clad in plate mail, carrying crossbows that had vials of holy water strapped to the bolts.

“That’s right my son. Ever heard of the legionaries of Christ?”

The grim reaper’s worst nightmare

Every year the grim reaper challenges Mike to a contest in order to allow him another year of life.

“Not paintball again please, you know that my long robes are a disadvantage. They’re impossible to hide behind any of the obstacles they have on the course, and the last person I tried to reap while I was covered in pink Poke-A-Dots would not stop laughing at me.” I begged Mike. These eternal contracts really should come with a bit more discretion on the part of the reaper. He was only thirteen, but still. He could try and let me have some shred of dignity. Did flowing black cloaks and large scythes mean nothing to him?

“You said it could be any contest with a clear and non-subjective winner that I wanted, but I guess paintball isn’t very sporting so how about…” Mike looked around his room. “Sharks and minnows!” Mike cried, lunging for a cap and goggles that were nearby.

“What’s sharks and minnows?” I asked, knowing that the answer would not be to my liking.

“It’s simple. We go find a pool, you tread water in the middle, and I try to swim to the other side before you can touch me. If I can make it across, you lose.” Mike was already excusing himself to the bathroom to change.

“Oh come on now Mike, you see how I’m dressed. Try to be reasonable.” I begged of him.

“You said any game. I want to play sharks and minnows.”

“I bet none of the other reapers have to put up with this.” I mumbled.

“I hear that!” Mike shouted out. He trotted out with his swim trunks and goggles on. “Come on, the pool is just around the corner, and I’ll even give you an edge. I have to make it to the other side, and then turn around and come back. What do you say?”

“Oh alright.” I sighed, following Mike as he bolted out the door like a child eager to reach his birthday party on time.

A few painfully embarrassing moments later, after I explained to the astonished lifegaurds what was going to transpire, I swam out into the deep part of the pool.

I say swam, it was really more like drowning in a forward direction. I didn’t even want to think about how heavy my robes were when filled with water.

“Alright Mike, let’s get this over with.” I bemoaned as Mike practically bounced up and down on the side of the pool, waiting to dive in. He could be less enthusiastic about trumping an eternal force from beyond the vale. It was downright undignified having him be so….Happy about it.

“You have to say ‘all minnows in’.” Mike informed me.

“Fine, ‘all minnows in’.” Mike dove down to the bottom of the pool like he was a frog, and expertly reached the other side in only a handful of strokes. All while being safely under about 3 meters of water. I made one attempt to reach him, turning myself upside down to use gravity to my advantage. The trouble was my out fit didn’t cooperate and I ended up impersonating an oil spill as Mike gleefully returned to his staring wall.

I dragged myself exhaustedly to the side and pulled myself out of the pool with much panting and coughing of water.

“Okay Mike.” I coughed up half a lung full of water. “You win until next year.”

“Sweet!” Mike called, and then ran back home chanting some asinine childhood rhyme that involved over usage of the word ‘smells’.

“Thanks.” His mom said, walking up to me from where she had been watching.

“No.” I coughed a quarter lung full of water out onto the side of the pool. “Problem.”

“He doesn’t have any idea does he?” She asked.

“No mom. He hasn’t the slightest clue I’m his older brother.” I threw back my hood and tore off the voice changer. “He still thinks it’s real.” Ever since our father had passed on Mike had a resounding fear of death. So every year I pretended to be the reaper so he could beat me and feel safe for another year.

This feels like who you should be(real life story)

Had lunch with another homeless friend yesterday, here’s how it went down.

It was a fascinating and highly rewarding experience. As soon as I step out of my door until I get back home I think about what it must be like to be homeless and it’s like stepping into a different world. For that 90 minutes or so all the other problems of life seem kind of laughably insignificant. It wears off after a day or so, but it’s a very peaceful feeling.

Anyway, step out of my house, start doing my circuit of all the intersections I’ve seen homeless people at before. About ten minutes in I see the same gentlemen from last week(Carchoo, Romanian friend). I was faced with a rather interesting decision at this point. Do I take him out again? Or do I try and find someone else? He still needs help the same as anyone else, but I figured part of the point of this is to give them a positive experience with someone from the middle class. I decide that it would be best to give somebody else that positive experience, and resolve to circle back to him later with some food I had in my car.

I drive on, and about five minutes later run into two gentlemen on different medians but at the same intersection. I park, run into a nearby store to pick up some snickers bars, and head out to greet the two gentlemen.

The first guy(let’s call him Ryan because we actually never introduced myself), I walked up to and called out ‘hey friend, I don’t have any cash on me, but I know there’s some restaurants in that shopping center. Do you want to grab some food.’ He quickly agreed, and I said we should go talk to the second gentlemen(I think he said his name was John). We walk on over and this second gentlemen was very polite and friendly, but declined. I gave him the bars I bought and he thanked me profusely before we parted ways.

Me and Ryan head over to a Pappa Johns and order a couple larges. I did a magic trick, and about this point he lightened up. Until now he hadn’t been tense, but he was definitely awkward about it. He was kind of confused and asked me if I was just walking by. I don’t think this happens very often to people in his life circumstances, but once the trick started he eased up a lot. Once again he was one of the friendliest people I had talked to all week. All smiles and laughs, very attentive to the conversation, he was about my age and I guess it felt good just to talk to someone his own age like they were a friend again.

After the trick I asked him about how he got here, and he said he had a drug problem. He went to rehab, and some bad stuff happened. His parents said they’d let him back in if he got his act together, and here he was. It all happened fairly quick from what he told me. He had only been on the streets a few weeks. The guy couldn’t have been older than 25 and might have been as young as high school. I thought about how much money I had in my back account and how the line between me and him is really not all that wide. I’ve got tons of family in the area, but even so. It really would not be hard at all for our positions to flip.

Our meal ended on an odd note. He excused himself to go to the bathroom and didn’t return for a half hour. I had to leave, so I left him a note and the rest of the pizza, and headed out. After my prior engagement ended I circled back and the pizza and his stuff were gone(I asked someone to watch them for a little while, and I was only gone for an hour so I think he got his things back). Not the best way to end things, I would’ve rather ended with a proper goodbye, but that’s life i guess. It was still one of the most positive and friendly interactions I had all week. Even when I circled back to Carchoo later in the day and handed him the food he was all smiles and asked after my family. Still hesitant to accept anything.

So about that title, while I was driving away and reflecting on things it occurred to me that a lot of times in life we aren’t in the spots we think we should be. We aren’t doing as well in school. We aren’t getting into the relationships we want. We aren’t getting promoted at work or making the kinds of friends we want. There are achievements and milestones in life that we feel we should be hitting, but aren’t. And to me, being someone who does this for homeless people is always something I felt like I should do. I think most people feel like they should do more, and when you actually get out there and do it there’s this peace of mind that comes from knowing you’re being who you should be. It eases the tension in life, unwinds the springs, and just gives you a sense of belonging. That sense of belonging extends to other people. You get this team spirit for humanity complex. This notion that you’re all humans, and you’re all on the same side.

I still think I’m kind of a crappy person because part of my motivation is still being able to post about it later, but you can read more about that in a previous post. And the point of posting these is to try and demonstrate that this isn’t a very difficult thing to do that can be highly rewarding for all parties involved. It costs about forty dollars if you go for all the bells and whistles, and only takes about ninety minutes.

If you guys have had any interaction with the homeless I would love to hear about it in the comment.

Here friend, take a drink and tell me your tale

“It seems I just got out of a violent gunfight.”

“Woah, how’d you survive?”

“That’s the thing. I don’t think I did.

“Oh yeah? How can you be sure?” The person on the bar stool buying the drink asks as the bartender slides over a beer.

“I mean there was the blacking out and waking up here part. There were a lot of shots from the sheriff, and I think maybe one hit me, but that’s not the main reason.” I tell my new found confidant.

“Then what’s the real reason.” He asks, acquiring a beer himself.

“I don’t think I wanted to survive.” I tell him. I pause, expecting him to freak out or look for the sheriff to call, or spit take his beer, or at least frown. He doesn’t do any of these things. He merely sips his beer and watches me casually as if I’m regaling him with a funny anecdote about a couple chickens chasing a dog. “See, I’ve been prairie dogging this area for a while now. I find a quiet place that hasn’t seen a lot of robbery in a while. I look around to see where there’s money, maybe a bank, maybe a mine, maybe just cattle, and you hit’em when they least expect it.”

“Seems to be a sound method of operation.” The stranger sipping his beer says. He is very aptly named a strangeer, because his reaction is not at all what I expected. I can understand the bartender not say something, that’s kind of his job, and the other patrons of this establishment were probably out of earshot, especially with the piano going, but this guy was hearing me loud and clear. Surely the average person did not respond in such a manner to a claim of death and a life of crime, but his non-judgmental attitude spurs me on. “So what happened this time cowboy? I expect a criminal of your caliber is not tripped up by just some regular old sheriff. I reckon it would take some federal marshals to bring you down.”

“That’s the thing, like I said. I kind of didn’t want to make it. This time I was hitting up a cattle farm, not the most profitable, but if you can make off with a couple good steers the money is still decent. Everything is going alright, and then I look back, big mistake looking back. I see this old lady with her five young kids standing on the porch, not saying anything, not calling for help, just looking at me. I don’t know if the father was dead or just no there at the time, but I knew when I drove those cattle away that I was starving at least a family of five. It got me to thinking. How many other young families have I starved that were just trying to get by. I started doing the math on how much money I stole, how much everything I had taken was all worth, and the number of people was higher than you and I could count on both sets of our feet and hands.” I take a large swig from my beer.

“That’s what did me in I figure. I didn’t turn myself in, but I made a stupid mistake. I went back to hit the bank, same town. Everybody knows you don’t hit the same place twice in less than 24 hours. Sure enough the sheriff was waiting, and we go to shootin’ at each other, and well, here I am.” I take another large swig of my beer. “So you tell me stranger, what’s going on.”

The stranger puts his beer down and leans back.

“Well partner you probably got your bearings by now, so I’ll just keep this brief. You ain’t in heaven as there ain’t no angels, and you ain’t in hell because there ain’t no demons either. So where does that leave you?” I remember a preacher talking about a place like this a while back.

“Purgatory?” I ask. The stranger nods his head.

“So what am I doing here and who are you if you’re not an angel?”

“You are here son because I bet if I told you the almighty was right outside you’d hide your head in shame for what you done. As for who am I? Let’s just say I’m the guy whose going to sit here buying you beers until you forgive yourself for what you done so you can look the almighty in the eye when you move on out.”