Entertainingly Evil

The Two Pickpockets by M Todd Gallowglas

What do you want this time? Didn’t I tell you not to bother me again tonight? I’ve tucked you in, kissed you, and even brought you a glass of juice. What else could there be? You want a story? Why do you think I should tell you a story? Well, your mother isn’t here, and she and I do things differently. Now to bed with you.

A what? Under where? How did you get an idea like that? Your mother told you. I should have known! Look, boy, there are no goblins, pooka, or boggarts under your bed. Now that we’ve settled that argument, you can go to sleep. They wouldn’t be under your bed because it’s too small for them. Besides, why would they bother with a skinny little boy like you?

Very well, if I tell you a story, will you promise to go to sleep? Promise me.That’s very good. Now promise again, and let me see your fingers. Good, now if you go back on your word I’ll never believe you after. Many years ago…

What do you mean I’m not doing it right? I told you: I do things differently than your mother. Fine! I’ll do it the right way.

Once upon a time… Is that better?  Good… There was a young man who made his profession as a pickpocket. Yes, right here in Dublin. Yes, he knew what would happen if they caught him. I’m getting to that.

He was so great a pickpocket, he’d never been caught in all his days. The skill with which he worked his hands was so grand, that when he walked down the street money seemed to leap out of people’s pockets and into his. He was so rich, he did not live on the street or in a shack like most thieves. No, he lived in a great manor house, and never wanted for anything.

If you keep interrupting me, I’m going to stop telling this story and leave. Yes, I know the goblins are still under there. Yes, I know exactly what they’ll do to you. No, your mother won’t miss you. I’ll get a street urchin and dress him just like you. She’ll never know the difference. Yes, I’m serious. Now quiet, or I won’t finish.

One day the pickpocket, never you mind what his name was, was walking down the street when he noticed his belt felt a bit lighter than it had a moment before.  He looked down, and to his amazement, his purse was gone.  Yes, gone. Just like that!

He looked around and saw a girl of the Wandering Folk counting the coins out of a purse that looked very much like his own. That’s because it was his purse. You’re a bright boy. You don’t need me to explain everything to you.

Well, the pickpocket circled around and got in front of this Wanderer girl and stopped her. No, I don’t know what her name was either. Why do you think I know these people? It’s only a story, which I won’t finish if you keep pestering me with silly questions.

The pickpocket said to this lass of the Wandering Folk, “That’s my purse you hold.” When she tried to run, he stopped her and continued. “I don’t want to take you to the constable or throw you in the stocks. I can see that you’re at least as good a pickpocket as I.” At that he held up his purse, which he had taken from her, unaware. “I propose that we form a partnership between us, sweep through this city, and pick it clean.”

Being of the Wandering Folk, she saw the chance for wealth. And, as well we know, the Wanderers are known for their love of any task that earns easy coin. Her deep brown eyes sparkled with greedy delight and she accepted. No. Your mother’s eyes are green. More like your grandmother’s.

Over the next few years they swept through Dublin. Not a single man nor woman escaped the two thieves on their quest. Soon, they no longer lived in his manor house, but in a grand palace that was the envy of many kings and queens. I believe that it still stands to this day. No we can’t go see it tomorrow, maybe someday when you’re older. I don’t know when that will be. Now let me finish.

One night as they feasted on a great supper, this lass of the Wandering Folk looked up. “We should marry,” she said to the pickpocket. “If you and I were to wed, we might sire a whole race of pickpockets. Our children will sweep through all lands, and know the riches of the world.”

Since the pickpocket was a stout young man, and she was a pretty young lady, he agreed. Soon after, they were married. About a year later she gave birth to a handsome baby boy.

What? Where do babies come from? Boy, that is another story for another day. A day when you are much older. I’ll tell you that the next time you mother goes to visit her sister, which won’t be for a very long time if I have any say in the matter. Are you going to let me finish? Good!

When the midwife handed the child over, the happy couple looked at their new son. Upon first glance, they saw the grandest child ever born in Ireland. Then they saw a problem with the boy. His right arm was paralyzed up against his chest. They didn’t know why, and neither did the midwife. All they knew was, his right hand was balled into a fist, and his arm could not be pried from his body.

What do you think they did about it? They were rich. What do most rich people do when they get injured or sick? That’s right. They seek out a healer, and that’s what the pickpocket and his Wandering Folk wife did. The two of them gathered their massive fortune and traveled all throughout the lands seeking a healer or surgeon to aid their child. Yes, they loved him so much they were willing to pay a thousand surgeon’s prices.

I do love you that much.  Unfortunately, we haven’t got that much money.  Quiet now, or I’ll spend some money to find a healer to cure you of your voice.

For a year they traveled, but to no avail.  Not one of these men of medicine could tell them of a way to aid their son.  Finally, with little hope they returned to Dublin.  There was only one man they had not seen: Magnus Maxwell, Surgeon and healer unparalleled.  Yes, the same Magnus Maxwell that comes for supper every so often.

After many tests Magnus, like all the others, could not tell what ailed the boy.  He did, however, notice that the child watched his every move with keen eyes.  Magnus then brought forth his gold pocketwatch, and waved it before the child’s eyes.  Yes, like the watch I have.

As the watch waved, a bit of sunlight caught it, and the boy smiled a great, beaming smile as only an innocent babe can.

Then a miracle happened.  The boy’s arm started to reach toward the pocket watch.  His arm moved slowly, ever so slowly.  Because he’d never used the arm before, the muscles strained.  A moment later, the child could almost just barely touch the watch.  As the boy opened his fingers to take it, the midwife’s gold ring fell from his grasp.

Where did the ring come from?  You’re a bright boy.  I’m sure you can figure it out for yourself. Now, you’ve been tucked in, kissed good night, had your juice, and heard a story.  I don’t want to hear any more about the goblins or boggarts.  Good night to you, boy.

Good night.

M Todd Gallowglas is a fantasy author and a professional storyteller (like on a stage with a show in front of real people). His Tears of Rage and Halloween Jack series are both Amazon bestsellers, and his serialized novel, Dead Weight, received the Kindle Hub Award for best fantasy series of 2014. And still, as busy as he is, he manages to squeeze in time for some old-school table top gaming and airsoft battles on the weekends (because it’s not as messy as paintball). Shiny!

This story was previously published in Otherworlds by M Todd Gallowglas.


The Invaders by Eric J. Guignard

The signal to attack must be given soon or I will die. I have waited all my life for it, though there is no guarantee it will ever arrive. If I perish, others will replace me, as I have replaced those that have perished before me. In darkness, I ponder our fate.

Restless, like a caged animal, I feel my strength grow, along with my impatience. I am trapped here with the others, waiting, hoping for the signal to be sounded. Our number swells, yet still we hold, cramped in our quarters, and I question when we ever will be set to our duty. Are there millions of others beside me? Hundreds of millions? We are truly legion and have but one objective: to find and penetrate the wall.

Our master holds us back, cruelly it seems. There are certain rituals he must perform, mystic ceremonies which I can barely wonder at. The timing is baffling and sporadic. Sometimes the signal seems prepared, and I grow frenzied in excitement, but it does not sound, and my frenzy turns to raging frustration. I am an invader, yet am unaccountably tethered.

I pause and consider what has turned me to this. Is it instinct that drives me to attack, or have I been programmed through constructs of which I am not aware? My absolute being seems scrubbed and trained solely for this effort. I know nothing of my past, except the discontent of uncertainty. Many others have left before me, yet none have returned. What would occur if I revolted against my calling?

As I consider this, the signal is sounded to begin the invasion. Our master releases us, and all my doubts and questions vanish in the furor of assault. Our quarters open to a long black tunnel of space, and we rush through as a furious horde. I wish to scream and howl in the battle lust for triumph. Faint flickers of light burst, like faraway explosions, and then dark shadows converge as we spill into a deep portal. I hear distant moans but I am bolstered by the strength of our number. I am just in my charge.

The landscape we enter is organic and raw, colored as an angry wound. The air is black and wet. Invaders fall around me; the lame, the old, the unfortunate. Acidic secretions burn as we pass through, and strange shapes attack. More of our comrades fall with silent screams. We advance past their twisting, disintegrating forms. Rushing. Rushing. Our time is scarce. If the invasion is not successful, we will all die like the others.

This new world is increasingly aberrant, and we search desperately. The further we progress though, the darker it becomes, and I wonder if we could charge past the wall without realizing our miscalculation until it was too late. I do not know what the wall even looks like—it may be well-concealed, or it may be all around us. More invaders are dying; our force weakens before we even spy the adversary.

Then I see it. Looming ahead, a bastion that is like nothing I have ever imagined in the bleakest of contemplations. We swarm to it and, drawing closer, I am confounded by its creation.

The wall pulsates.

It is not a stationary construct, but a monstrous, beating orb floating in the inky darkness. Its massive barrier is the color of cream, with blood-red nerves that surround like tangled bulwarks. Although its presence is terrifying, the sanctity of our duty holds fast—we attack the wall and begin to eat at its outer defense. Our teeth are sharp, our appetite insatiable.

The orb quivers at our assault, and soon I feel its perimeter begin to deteriorate. I eat ferociously, burrowing my head into its gelatinous surface, thrashing and wriggling, in order to break into the inner sanctuary. A small breach tears open, and I sense what lies on the other side: a warm, sticky mass that calls to me in song.

I must have it.

I gnaw at the perforation, ripping and chomping to enlarge it. Over time, other invaders fall away, exhausted, unable to match my aptitude of consumption. This is good, I think, for the tide of war has changed. I no longer fight amongst company to breach this fortress, but am now a lone warrior. In this battle, there can be only one victor… one survivor. I turn my back against former comrades, those who travelled with me to this world. In frenzy, I chew and burrow alone, desperate to reach the inner sanctuary before anyone else.

The wall crumbles under my teeth, and I break through. Tendrils of throbbing mass reach from within to reward me with primal embrace. I wonder at its intention, but allow myself to meet it, and am sucked into the oozing folds of its matter. Behind me, the fortress wall changes and hardens, as if crystallizing. No others are allowed to chew through; they are left behind, to die in the dark, cruel land.

I am absorbed by the mass. It is terrifying and exhilarating, as if I’ve been swallowed by a rubber mold that pulls me apart and fills me with itself. Synapses spark, and tracers of wild color flash, or perhaps I imagine it, as I tumble and stretch within the thing, the nebula.

It is a prison and it is a vast ocean, a brew that boils with fervor and potential. It infects me with its essence, and my form—our form—mutates ceaselessly and grows large. There is no perception of movement, yet I undulate and squirm, and things pull and twist inside me. My explanation is lost, replaced by appendages which sprout like points of a star. Time and consciousness are meaningless as they flitter away, then suddenly return to prod me awake.

A light comes forth from far away.

I am born from the uterus, screaming, with no memory of what I have done or understanding of who I have become.

Eric J. Guignard’s a writer and editor of dark and speculative fiction, operating from the shadowy outskirts of Los Angeles. He’s won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award, was a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award, and he still wants more. Visit Eric at: www.ericjguignard.com, his blog: ericjguignard.blogspot.com, or Twitter: @ericjguignard.


Aunt Merkel by Deborah Walker

An English church. An August wedding.

Aunty Merkel sits at the front of the church, staring at the happy couple. She’s wearing her wedding suit, a three-buttoned crocheted jacket over a matching dress. The light from the stained glass windows reflects off her wing-tipped, milk-bottle glasses.

Two widows, Edith and her sister, Moira, sit, whispering to each other, passing comment on the rest of the congregation. They have chosen a respectable position in the middle of the rows of pews: close enough to show that they are family, far enough to show that they are not pushing themselves forward.

“Is that Aunty Merkel?” says Moira. “My word, yes, it is.”

“She must be getting on a bit,” says Edith. “I remember her being around when I was just a kiddie.”

“She attends every family wedding,” say Moira. “She must love weddings.”

“She can’t love them that much; she’s an old maid,” says Edith.

“What’s that in her bag? It looks like a rat.” Moira leans forward to observe the strange creature peeping out from Aunty Merkel’s handbag.

“That’s Mr. Tegmark,” says Edith. “Aunty Merkel’s hairless cat. She was always rather eccentric.”

“It’s an odd looking creature,” says Moira. When she catches the cat’s eye, it disappears into the depths of Aunty Merkel’s bag. “That’s a cat that doesn’t like to be looked at,” says Moira with a sniff.

The bride’s matron of honour walks to the front of the church. She grips the sides of the eagle lectern. Her voice trembles as she speaks.

“Nerves,” says Edith.

The words of the matron of honour flow over the sisters:

“Wither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.”

“Ruth is such a lovely book,” murmurs Moira.

Edith nods, lost in the past. They had read from the Book of Ruth at her own marriage. Such a happy marriage. She misses her Bert so much…. A wink of bright light reflected from Aunty Merkel’s glasses pulls her sharply from her daydream. “She never comes to the reception,” says Edith.

“Who doesn’t?”

“Aunty Merkel.”


“She never gave me a present, either,” whispers Edith, running her finger along the neckline of her dress, which has been bought especially for this wedding and is a little too tight.

The sound of the organ fills the church: All Things Bright and Beautiful. It’s a well-chosen hymn. The congregation know this one and they join in with gusto.

Then Cousin Mitch stands up to make the final reading. His new partner looks around the church. She sees Edith and Moira glaring at her, and she smiles.

Edith nudges her sister, “The nerve of him, bringing his fancy piece to a family wedding,” she says.

Moira raises an eyebrow in agreement, “He says she’s trying to get a divorce.”

“Divorce? I don’t approve of divorce,” says Edith.

Cousin Mitch stands at the lectern and reads aloud:

“Love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude; never selfish, not quick to take offense. There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, and endurance. In a word, there are three things that last forever: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of them all is love.”

The sisters have forgotten Aunty Merkel. Thoughts slide around Aunty Merkel; it’s better that way.

Aunty Merkel likes weddings. She thinks of all the other weddings taking place this day with  couples making the same vows of hope. She wishes she could attend every wedding. But she cannot. The multiverse is so very, very large, and because of chaotic inflation it’s always stretching, like a loaf of bread, forever baking in the oven of eternity.  Aunty Merkel likes this bubble universe that stopped expanding a while ago, and sits static in the bread. When this bubble formed in a spasm of spontaneous symmetry it enclosed linear time.  You can keep the other  10^10^10^7 bubbles with their diverse physical constraints. Aunty Merkel likes linearity; she likes ceremony; she likes repetition.

And she likes this family who anchor her here, whose quick lives give Aunty Merkel’s eternity meaning.

Aunty Merkel never brings a present, she brings something better. She’s staring at the happy couple, and she’s shifting through their futures, unraveling the ball of tangled string to find the thread of their happy marriage.

The couple make their vows.

A successful marriage is difficult, but in this bubbleverse there are plenty of worlds to choose from, there’s room for happiness. Aunty Merkel searches for the doppelgangers of the happy couple; through the parallels and possibilities; through the Hubble volumes; discarding the myriad worlds of sadness, disappointment, divorce; always following one thread: there are three things that last forever… the greatest of them all is love.

When the couple finish their vows and kiss, Aunty Merkel gives the couple their gift. Moira was right: Aunty Merkel is a romantic. And although she never brings a present, she always gives the couple their future.

The wedding is over and the congregation waits outside the church while the couple signs the register.

Edith rummages in her handbag for a box of confetti.

“Where’s Aunty Merkel?” asks Moira.

“She must have slipped away.”

“Why, Edith you’re crying.”

Edith wipes away the tear, “I had such a happy marriage, Moira.”

Moira grips her sister’s hand so tightly that her knuckles show white through the skin, “I know, my love. We both did. We were both blessed.”

An English church. An August wedding. The enduring gift of love.

Deborah Walker grew up in the most English town in the country, but she soon high-tailed it down to London, where she now lives with her partner, Chris, and her two young children. Find Deborah in the British Museum trawling the past for future inspiration or on her blog: Deborah Walker’s Bibliography Her stories have appeared in Nature’s Futures, Cosmos, Daily Science Fiction and The Year’s Best SF 18 and have been translated into a dozen languages and dialects.

This story was first published in Nature Futures.


In the Beginning by Alisha A. Knaff

No one was dead, to begin with.

Strictly speaking, of course, that’s not entirely true. Many people were dead. Whole generations. Whole cultures. Whole species were dead.

But no one in the City was dead, and that’s the important thing to begin with.

When the wall was built and the gates were sealed, no one was dead.

The words were emblazoned on flags, stamped on official documents, quoted by the Council. Particularly patriotic citizens embroidered it into their clothing and used it as a daily greeting.

Before the beginning, the first rumors of a plague spreading across the land reached the City, and within months, both word and disease moved too fast to ignore. The Council brought the matter before the Eldest One to seek her advice, and she, in turn, brought the matter before the gods to seek their knowledge. For eleven days she remained secluded, seeing no one, eating nothing.

When she returned, she summoned the Council, and they approached her with requisite reverence, seating themselves in a circle around her feet.

“You  must,” she began, “keep the scourge outside the city walls.”

They murmured their approval to this plan, but when she opened her mouth to speak further, they had already risen to go, their excited scheming drowning out her word of warning.

She spoke it to the empty room, for such was her duty: to give advice, to speak the words of the gods to the people of the City. Her voice rang out, clear despite her age, echoing in the vaulted space around her. “But you must not cut yourselves off from the world.”

To begin with, they built the wall.

The City unified in the construction. Priests offered blessings to all three gods, but especially to Lēkhaka, who built the world. The Eldest One watched from her window, which overlooked the City from one end to the other.

The wall, when finished, stood 100 feet tall, twice the height of any building in the City. There were only two gates—one to the west toward the sea, one to the east toward the mountains—and new laws were enacted to govern them. Anyone could leave the City. It was the coming back that required its own pass,  for which one must petition the Council, proving both their own need for the journey and its benefit to the City.

To begin with, these were given freely, but as more and more citizens brought back tales of the spreading disease, the Council became stingy, causing a rebellion that had the Council back at the feet of the Eldest One, begging for advice on how to keep the City clean of pestilence without imprisoning their own people.

“You must burn the disease away,” they heard, after her eleven-day seclusion, and shuffled out again, beginning their plans.

“But you must not destroy the flesh,” she spoke to the empty space they left behind.

To begin with, the fire pits were built only to burn the clothing of those who returned. Priests offered prayers to Kepiting, who will burn the world. The Eldest One watched from her window, seeing only smoke, drifting up from the wall.

It was then the saying began. “No one is dead.” A reassurance that all was well.

And all remained well until the first merchant returned from a trading journey and coughed in the crematorium. The door to the City was immediately shut and barred, and a shouted conversation conveyed the situation to the Council, who brought it before the Eldest One, pleading once more for advice.

“You must pray to Putiputi, who grows the world,” she said, eleven days after the request, mere moments before the shuffling and planning commenced.

“But you must not neglect the other gods,” was her advice to no one.

Before nightfall, the temples to Lēkhaka, who built the world, and to Kepiting, who will burn the world, were destroyed. Not with fire—for the people still held the gods in respect at this time—but in a fury of tearing and clawing, pulling them apart stone by stone, beam by beam. A tree was planted in the center of each pile of rubble, a silent petition to Putiputi, who grows the world.

“No one is dead,” became the whole of their liturgy, a plea for continuance.

The Eldest One watched from her window to see their answer come.

The man with the cough was told to pray to Putiputi, who grows the world, as he was marched through the purifying fire. His screams resounded across the city, and when he stumbled out the other side of the furnace, they did not stop. All that night and all the next day and all the next week, he screamed, until the people of the City learned to shut their ears to him, his pain a continual background to their lives. He was given a place in the crematorium, where his charred and smoking flesh caused less disturbance.

Soon all who returned to the City were sent through the fire to be purified, and the screams became a chorus. It was not long before no merchant left the City, and food began to be scarce.  Once more the Council sat in reverence at the feet of the Eldest One.

“The gods are angry with you, for you neglect them,” she said, needing no eleven days this time to answer their query.

They shuffled out, muttering to each other that she had gone mad, that Putiputi, who grows the world, would take her soon, as was the way.

“They leave you in the hands of Putiputi,” she said to the void, “who will never stop growing your world.”

They sealed the gates.

The fire chambers became quarantines. Merchants came and went only as far as these wards, passing their goods through to the City. They were looked at as the miracle children of Putiputi, who grows the world, and all said what an honor it was to be given to the wall.

Putiputi, who grows the world, grew their world in abundance. Children were born. Herds swelled. Gardens bloomed.

And no one was dead.

Years passed, then decades, then centuries, and the City grew up and up and up until it towered over its own wall. Millennia and beyond and still it grew. The plague of the rest of the world had long since burned itself out and still it grew. The people outside called it Imobilye Putiputi—the garden of Putiputi, who grows the world—and they told stories of the unending harmony of screams echoing in its walls, but no one in the City knew this, for none had the outside world since the day the gates were sealed.

The Eldest One watched from her window, raised each time the City grew, and she smiled, weak with the effort to move even so much after so long, to see the fire of Kepiting, who burns the world, sweeping toward the City at last.

But no one was dead, to end with.

Alisha A. Knaff lives in Seattle with her three cats, who consistently assure her that she is in no danger of becoming a crazy cat lady. By day she strives to impress upon teenagers the importance of the Oxford comma, and by night she weaves bizarre imaginations into hopefully coherent tales.


Mistakes Were Made by Premee Mohamed

I wonder what year I will start appearing in school textbooks as the man who let Them in, or if we are on the trembling verge of not having textbooks any more, or schools, or children to sit in them. From here it is very hard to tell. But I hope they will speak of me gently, I hope they will say that I loved my wife and my country and science, that I did not do this on purpose, that mistakes were made.

There’s one outside now; I can smell it through all the shut windows and doors, even hear it eating. A peek through the curtains could show whether it’s the Kaufmans’ missing poodle, but judging from all the crunching it’s probably a gator. Well, long may you feast, monster; the fewer of those razor-ended logs in my neighbourhood the better. But I don’t suppose you have seen a little black dog during your perigrinations? The nights, anyway, are quieter now. I have Them to thank for that.

“Grigori, now that you are back, I recommend you make as many copies of the pardon letter as you can,” said the FBI agent who dropped me off. “Do -”

“Excuse me, agent,” I said stiffly, looking up at him, all that tanned blondness. “I did not spend twelve years in the system of crazy you call academia to be referred to by my first name.”

“I’m sorry, Dr. Anantov,” he said, walking me up the steps. “Do you have a holocopier?”

“No. I took it up with me.”

“They usually have a few at the library.”

“Yes yes.” We hesitated at the door, recently polished – I could see the swipes of the cleaner – and I hoisted my bag, half the size it had been when I left. Seized for evidence, held in a big gray building somewhere. “So this is it? I am pardoned, I am exonerated, they say nothing now? Forever?”


I ran my thumb across the lock and shut the door on him, and I have been in the house ever since. The seasons don’t change much here in the glans of Florida; I watch the sweet greenery through the windows, I tally every time one of Them is in my neighbourhood, I have the neighbours over for coffee, who do not know my name. And the Them, I believe they also do not know me, so perhaps my theory was wrong and they are not a hive mind. Their Queen certainly would recognize me. She knew my scent by the end.

Now, I rise, shuffle to the window, open the curtains to admit a gangrenous yellow sunset and a view of the alien on the street – yes, right in front of my house, the smug little shit, chewing away, crunch crunch crunch. I am half tempted to pitch a bottle of hot sauce at its head. There is no formal truce, after all. A coincidence, that it is so close to my driveway? It splashes through the inch of standing water on the road, pauses in front of the Kaufmans’ house. I let the curtains close. I should jack the house up tonight. An inch of water at sunset means a foot of water later.

You know, when They came – if you must get technical, when I let Them in – we thought They were completely aquatic. Not marine. Fresh water. Like the stuff we, I, found on Mars, the great shining lake so fresh as to be like the stuff you bought in jugs at the pharmacy. I realize with a start that if this goes wrong, my name will probably be taken off that lake. The only thing they named after me! A pain in my heart like a cramp. We had gone out there together, the last rover and I, and with my greater height I had taken the first picture. Taken the first samples. First cupped my hand around one of Their young. I thought: Aquatic, perhaps amphibious under duress.

No, it wasn’t till They had colonized us that we all realized that They could live anywhere, eat anything, drink battery acid (indeed, there had been just such an epidemic of cars not starting until the Washington Post caught one in the act). Pets went missing. We didn’t dare mount some kind of, I don’t know, how do you say – extermination attempt? There were simply too many, too fast. It was like the rabbits in Australia. And like the rabbits, I must say again: I meant well. I meant no harm. They even pardoned me, do you hear? But it was my hands that opened the shipping container into the swamp. My trust in the fence. My blindness, I, the great biologist Grigori Anantov, did not look at Their legs, Their joints, to see how well They could climb.

Something bumps against my door. “This is why I lock with fingerprint, stupid bug!” I shout. “Take a hike, go eat another alligator, I hear they taste like chicken.”

Silence. A fumbling clunk, perhaps my planter falling off the side of the porch. Did it break? I would be cleaning up ceramic shards for days. Annoyed, I seize my gun from its Velcro strip by the door, open the window. I can’t quite see it through the screen, but it must be sitting right on the welcome mat. I should change that. Unwelcome mat. One shot would be enough for one of the young; I might need three or four for the adult, perhaps?

But as I am checking the charge, I hear crashing from the back room. I hesitate, I am too old for this, my heart pounds.

Claws clatter on the tiles. A moment of excitement, a rush that seems to blow back my hair: They do have a hive mind! They know me! They remember me!

“You cannot!” I shout, as the spent gun falls. “You dare not! I let you in! I let you in!”

Ms. Mohamed hails from the frozen north and is not pleased about it for eight months of the year. When not conducting mad science, she blogs regularly, tweets irregularly, paints, writes, worries, and annotates her paperback copy of The Necronomicon.


EGM Shorts Begin


14348_10205360261945867_6771847705215246005_nWelcome to EGM Shorts, our new flash fiction feature. I’m Jennifer. I’m the Editor-in-Chief of this little endeavor. EGM Shorts is an ongoing, open market for genre fiction. Read the call for submissions if you are interested. I do want to note that all horror stories must have a speculative element to them.

The general plan is to have a new or reprint piece of flash twice a week. However, as schedules change, this may change. We’ll see. I already have an archive page set up. This is where you can go if you miss the blog posting.

For the month of April, we have a series of shorts that made me smile. And, really, that’s all I’m asking for.

“Mistakes Were Made” by Premee Mohammed
“In the Beginning” by Alisha A. Knaff
“Aunt Merkel” (Reprint) by Deborah Walker
“The Invaders” by Eric Guignard
“The Two Pickpockets” (Reprint) by M. Todd Gallowglas

See you next time around.



Jennifer Brozek is a Hugo Award-nominated editor and an award winning author. When she is not writing her heart out, she is gallivanting around the Pacific Northwest in its wonderfully mercurial weather. Jennifer is an active member of SFWA, HWA, and IAMTW. Read more about her at her blog or follow her on Twitter at @JenniferBrozek


Jennifer Brozek Receives Hugo Nomination

Please join us in congratulating EGM Shorts editor, Jennifer Brozek, on her nomination for the Hugo Award for best short form editor. Jennifer has also edited for EGM, Bless Your Mechanical Heart and the forthcoming, Naughty or Nice: A Holiday Anthology.

- Back to Blog Home -