Crystal Catching

“So, let me make sure we’re completely clear on what I’m doing,” said the Scavenger.

“Whatever helps, friend,” said the Pilot.

“I’m going to - and please let me know if what I’m saying is completely wrong here - I’m going to eject myself from the airlock,” the Scavenger said, tapping the inner seal door to the airlock, “this airlock right here?”

“Yup.”

“I’m then going to stabilize my forced ejection into space with…” started the Scavenger, leaving the question unfinished.

“Your blaster.”

“Right, this,” the Scavenger said, tapping the blaster holstered at the blaster at their hip, “this blaster. The one with which I usually shoot people.”

“And that goat,” added the Pilot.

“Of course, right, mostly people and also one very angry goat. I’m going to use it to stabilize my forced exit from a pressurized airlock into space.”

The Pilot simply nodded affirmative at this.

“So then I’m supposed to fly toward that,” the Scavenger began while pointing out a nearby view screen, “field of debris from the last ship that attempted this.”

“The last two, actually.”

“Oh, right, the last two ships that attempted to retrieve this crystal,” the Scavenger said, rolling their eyes. “Thank you for the correction.”

The Pilot nodded again.

“Now once I clear the terrifying debris field which, if I heard correctly, contains live explosives…”

“It does, yes.”

“Okay, I get past all the wreckage and bombs and I dive into the hole in space?” the Scavenger said very loudly, again pointing out the view screen, this time at a shimmering nothingness just beyond the debris field.

“That’s the one.”

“And once I make it through the rift in space and time, I grab the hunk of blue crystal that’s resting in a deep nothingness beyond the comprehension of mortal minds humming a tune that’s known to warp one’s understanding of the self and potentially cause rapid uncontrollable mutations.”

“Mhm, thus the ear plugs.”

The Scavenger ignored this, “And lastly I need to come back out, which will be from a random direction and at a random…”

“Velocity,” the Pilot finished.

“Right, so I’ll be launched back out of the void within a void at an unpredictable direction and speed back through the same debris field filled with explosives and you’re just going to…” the Scavenger finished, arms open in an exasperated half shrug.

“Catch you.”

“And how exactly are you going to do that?”

“I’m very good.”

“Okay, yes, fine. And the reason we’re not using a drone for this insane stunt is…?”

“The goat.”

“The goat,” said the Scavenger, adding a curse. “Wish I could shoot it again. Well, any advice?”

“Yeah - don’t miss.”

Opportunity

Tension hangs in the air like smog, making everyone in the area uncomfortable and a little short of breath, but they are excited. Something is about to happen and Cameron, like he always seems to be, is right there in the middle of it. He looks down the street and the Red Caps, a group of young men and women in santa-style stocking hats and covered head to toe in tattoos that are anything but festive. He looks back down the other way to look at the Blue Shorts, a gang of well-muscled toughs with a uniform cut of short-cropped hair of vibrant blue and none standing over 5'4".

Cameron feels the heat emanating from both ends of this now-deserted city street. The citizens in the area know what is about to happen and have locked themselves behind closed doors and barred windows. Cameron watches on as one of the Red Caps sharpens a wooden staff painted like a big candy cane, which seems a waste since it's going to be all red very soon. Cameron feels that this is his moment, his time to really take care of business.

"Ice cream!" he cries from the side opening of his white truck as he switches on the familiar jingling of bells like a sweet siren's call. "Come get your pre-fight ice cream! Build your bones up with some calcium before you break your enemies! Bring that sugar rush into battle!"

He sees some heads look around at each other at this. some nods are exchanged and some glaring eyes turn his direction as small groups of ruffians approach the ice cream truck from either end. Cameron braces himself for the coming onslaught.

"Chocolate," says the first of the Blue Shorts.

"One of them blue hedgehogs," demands a Red Cap.

Pretty soon ice cream orders are flying left and right, dollars are piling up higher and faster, and more and more of the members are joining the crowd, wanting to get in on this unexpected distraction from the coming bloodshed. Soon, all of the members of each crew have found themselves crowded together around this white truck with its jingling tune. It seems that, for a moment, it's possible that nothing will happen. But Cameron knows better.

It was the blue hedgehog-eater that falls first. A look of terror fills his eyes as he realizes what is happening to him. There is no cry out, no torrent of hateful words or demands for blood. There is only that look before he falls to the ground and is gone. Panic begins to ripple throughout the crowd as one-by-one they continue to fall. It takes only a few moments for both the crowds of Red Caps and Blue Shorts to turn on Cameron, but he remains calm, as he is sure that the danger to him has passed. Their knees give way beneath them, but one Red Cap manages to catch herself with her sharpened candy cane staff and looks angry and desperate into Cameron's eyes.

"Why?" she manages to get out as she begins to sag heavy against her weapon.

"I scream," Cameron says, opening the sealed door to his truck and stepping out onto the pavement. "You scream," he continues, gazing out over the field of the fallen bodies and unfinished treats."We all scream...for blood."

Dog and the Lottery

It was another good day for very god boy, Dog. The sun was shining, the air was alive with the songs of a hundred birds, and he had two separate chances to chase a squirrel. So it was in these good spirits that Dog received another errant prayer.

“Message addressed to you,” said the heavenly messenger with the soft white cap on their long blonde hair and expressionless face. They had appeared from seemingly nowhere, as they always did, and produced a note from a white canvas messenger bag detailed in gold and silver. They placed the note in Dog’s open mouth. “Have a blessed day,” said the angel without a trace of mirth on their face, before vanishing again.

Dog placed the message on the ground and used his snoot to open the paper to read it. “Plase Dog,” it read, “let thes numbres win teh loteri. 12 15 12 42 47 9. Thx”

This was very serious, thought Dog, This human with awful spelling was counting on him to bless a series of numbers so that he might gain tremendous wealth over all the other participants in the numbers game. Dog knew what he must do. He read the address of the petitioner from the note and, seeing that the human was several hundred miles away, Dog made for the nearest transit station and stowed away on a train headed in that direction.

The adventure was many hours long and filled with many tempting smells and soft hands made for perfect pets, but Dog remained resolute in his purpose. There would be time to indulge in delicious treats and good belly rubs when his duty was done.

He emerged practically within barking distance of his destination and took off in a great run. Finding the home with the address and without slowing his pace, Dog dove straight through the lowest window to the sound of shattering glass and screaming. Ignoring the loud voices that were increasingly becoming quite angry, Dog sniffed the air. Finding his mark, he bolted into another room and rushed up a set of stairs before breaking into the home office of a young man.

“What is this?!” he exclaimed despite not really expecting an answer.

Dog leapt past him onto his work desk and shove papers aside until he found the man’s lottery ticket. He took the scrap of paper into his mouth and tore it to shreds.

“No! Why?! That was my ticket to millions of dollars, you bad dog!” cried the man at Dog.

“The lottery is a tax on the poor!” barked Dog at the startled man.

George Goes Abroad

It was another day on the ceiling of the stairwell and George the spider was having as good a time as any.

"Hello, George!" greeted the kind lady of the house as she did every day.

"Good day to you, ma'am," he replied in a tiny voice too small for her to hear.

Life was going well for George in the house. He had plentiful small bugs to eat and a wonderfully comfortable spot on the ceiling. Everything was going very well indeed.

But it was on that day that a fierce monster reared it's terrible head and many, many legs. A great big centipede encroached on his spot, terrifying and hungry. George could see it moving towards him with snapping jaws from his vantage point.

"Hm," he thought aloud, "perhaps it is time I took a vacation." And with that spun a small sack to hold his things, hurrying to cram them in as quick as he could. The great beast was getting closer and closer, scurrying with its unnaturally large amount of legs. With mastery, George also quickly spun a great parachute and, along with his bag of supplies, George dropped from the ceiling and sailed away on a draft out a nearby open window.

"Goodbye, friendly human!" he said toward the house in his small voice as he drifted away on an air current.

The wind took him many places. First, he drifted from his home in the American Midwest to the south. While there he decided to stop in and see his many thousands of cousins, who lived comfortably in the mild temperatures. Some even lived outside! It was all very surprising to George, who was used to a well-insulated home. He wished them well and continued on his way.

Next he sailed to a great human airport so that he could stow himself away in some luggage bound for Europe. After a good long nap, he awoke to the shrieking of a young man in a Parisian hotel.

"Thank you for the ride, sir!" said George to the man who was scrambling for a shoe. "But I will take my leave now." He opened his silken parachute and flew away out another window.

While in Paris he decided to take in some of the local delicacies. He was very impressed with the insects that could be found atop the Eiffel Tower. He sat comfortably there for several days in a great wide web among the struts of the tower.

"What a great time this has been," he said to no one in particular, "but I believe it is time I return home."

So he spun another parachute, took his bag of things, and made his way back to the airport where he found a suitcase bound for home. In practically no time at all, he was able to make his way back to the nice little house with the kind woman. He squeezed himself under a shut door and crawled back to his favorite little spot on the ceiling, now with no centipedes in sight. There, he rested.

"George, you're back!" said the house human next morning when they both awoke.

"Yes, thank you!" said George in his voice she could not hear. "I had such a wonderful time abroad, but there's no place like home."

The Vault Door

It is 3:00 in the afternoon so, as I do every day, I go about the mansion dusting the various surfaces in the many, many rooms. It seems an oddly large number of rooms for a single man to own, even with the addition of his three young nephews. The rooms they use in particular have been a mess, though none of the other staff seem to mind. It makes this empty place feel more alive and loved.

I pass the big circular door as I do every day. I know that the master uses this room daily. I've seen him as he pulls the large key out from his pocket and look to see that no one is looking. I've watched from my hiding place as he turns the great circular handle and seals the door like a vault. I've observed as he creeps inside and shuts it behind him. What does the master do in that room? And why is he always wearing a bathing suit? Has he hidden away some hot spring beneath the manor? Perhaps a pool or sauna? None of the staff seem to know what lies within, or if they do they have kept to showing ignorance.

I check one of the many clocks throughout the house and see that the time draws near. I must know, I decide.

I find my hidden place in the shadows where I know he will not find me and I wait. I wait several long minutes, my heart thudding in my chest with fear of what I will find when I finally steal away into that vault-looking thing. Finally, I hear him padding down the hall. I bury myself deeper into the darkness, shutting my eyes as if fearing they would give off some luminescence and reveal my position. I listen as he walks by, allowing myself a peak at his figure. I see him in that bathing suit, briefly, and shut my eyes again. This is it, I realize. I am finally going to know. What will the others think, I wonder?

I hear the gentle jangling of the key before it is inserted. The grating of some metal bar as it is removed from a latch. The squeaking of metal as the wheel is turned. I open my eyes and see him swing the large door open.

He steps beyond and I make my move.

Rushing forward as stealthily as I can manage in my servant's uniform, I manage to just barely catch the door before it closes with the feather duster in my hand. I fear for a moment that the weight of the metal door will snap my tool in half. The wood of the handle holds, just barely, and the door is open to me. Cautiously I move my hand forward to the edge of the door and grasp it.

I swing it open and can not believe my eyes.

"Uncle Scwooge?" I hear from behind me. No, this can't be happening! The nephews have caught me. I spin around, ready to explain myself, but I trip upon the edge of the doorway.

The last thing I see before the darkness takes me is that wondrous treasure - a great pool of golden coins as the master swims among them effortlessly.

Chimera

"Come one, come all!" cried the carnival barker. "See with your very eyes the dreaded Chimera! One of a kind! Only thing like it on earth! Only 2 tickets! Only here can you see this miracle of nature, a fusion of two creatures!"

I emptied my pocket for any remaining tickets and looked at the contents as they fell into my hand - a piece of chewing gum, a paddle ball toy I had won from the age guesser, and a single red ticket. I tucked the toy away and walked up to the barker with the yellow suit and black pinstripes.

"Will this do?" I asked, holding out the ticket and gum. "It's all I have left and I really want to see the monster."

The barker looked down at the offering in my hand with a curious expression on his stubbled face. He knelt down to meet me at eye level.

"Tell you what, kid," he said with a smile, "just for you I'll let you in for a single ticket. Be sure to tell everyone you know about what you saw here, okay?" He winked as he snatched the ticket from my hand and shooed me along toward the opening of the tent behind him.

I was small, so it was easy for me to slide past all of the crowding adults to try and get closer to the animal pen. It smelled absolutely awful in here, like they didn't let the creature out very much. I figured it must be very dangerous indeed f they didn't want to risk going outside. I pushed further and further past the adults and around a few kids. It was dark beneath all these tall people, as if under a canopy of suits and brightly-colored dresses, and too-large hats.

Finally, seeing the light at the end, I pushed past to the edge of the animal pen and I saw the "miracle."

It was a dog in a lion costume with a plushy snake tail afixed by a button flopping limply behind it. And the dog was covered in mud. I watched him walk around disinterested before he flopped down on his side and began chewing his "tail."

I crept my way out of the tent, past the forest of adults, and emerged once again into daylight.

"What did you think, kid?" the barker asked as he saw me.

I struck him in the knee with the paddle ball and stole his tickets.

Officer Johnson

"Johnson, get in here!"

Officer Derrick Johnson made his way to the chief's office to see what she needed. It had been a rough month on the force, ever since his former partner fell in a hail of bullets that had spilled a hundred feet from a broken shipping container.  He hoped that the chief had some good news for him today.

"Shut the door!" Chief Lee ordered as he stepped through the entrance. She waited until Johnson followed through and sat down in front of her desk. "Good, you're going to want to be sitting down for this.

"Wh..." Johnson began.

"The thing is, Derrick, that you're a damn good officer but you haven't been quite on the ball since Davis had that terrible accident with the crane and the horse. Clearly you need to have a good partner at your back, so I have a little surprise for you. Davis!"

Derrick felt his blood pressure drop to a trickle as the ghost of his former partner, Laura Davis, materialized in front of him. She was just as he remembered on the day she had suddenly been killed after that crane had poked that horse and the cascading catastrophic events that tipped that freighter over. She smiled down at him in that sarcastic way.

"Well, Officer Johnson, what do you think? Requisitioning a necromancer is costly but I think it's worth it in this case."

"Uh.." he began, "this is great, but, couldn't they have summoned her without all these horrific bullet wounds?"

"Wasn't in the budget."

"Right."