Extras

  • From a 1913 review by Whistler’s Mother:

    Never have I seen such a hideous face, complete with bushy brown muttonchop sideburns, a pretentious monocle, a hooked nose, and eyes as dead as pebbles scooped from a riverbed. He never stopped blabbing, trying desperately to impress the young woman at his side, who in turn never shut her own yap. The two carried on a droning “conversation” about the folds of my dress, the pattern on the curtain by my chair, and most of all, who was going to do what to whom that evening back in their hotel room, far from their respective (and most unfortunate) spouses. I give these two buffoons the lowest rating possible for their utter gracelessness and the exceedingly bad name they give to all works of humanity who pass before the frames of paintings like myself. Wretched things!

    From a 1948 review by the man and woman in American Gothic:

    Mother: One particular family spoke volumes to Father and I regarding the human condition. A musclebound young man with mustard or some such dappling his navy blue clip-on tie regaled his multiple offspring—all younger than seven, I’m sure—with made-up stories about us and the house in the painting, spreading misinformation to a new generation of poorly-behaved miscreants.

    Father: It was quite clear to us that this family was symbolic of human ignorance and the failure to appreciate beauty. So too did I feel there was an undertone of deep sadness to the pieces we observed, a sense of the loss of magic and the descent of the natural world into one of mathematical absolutes free of creative expression or empathy.

    Mother: Nevertheless, you must admit there was a certain ironic soulfulness in the arrangement of food and excrement stains on the children’s clothes, alluding to the mark of Cain and its extension to all of Fallen Humanity.

    Father: I give it five pumps of my pitchfork.

    From a 1969 review by the apple-faced guy in The Son of Man:

    As with all works of humanity, this particular person—a male figure, unless I miss my guess—was only visible in detail from the scalp up and the chin down. Once again, I cannot in good conscience commend whatever bizarre artistic or biological compulsion has established the most peculiar fashion of wearing a green apple in front of one’s face! Discussing the merits of one’s beard (quite shaggy, lice-ridden), clothing (a fringed buckskin jacket over a tattered blouse) and general demeanor (fidgety as a moth ‘round a flame) is one thing, but how can this reviewer gaze into the abyss of that human’s soul through an opaque piece of fruit? If there is a message of some kind layered into this piece, I fail to see it (as usual).

    From a 1991 review by the screaming person in The Scream:

    Yes, another uninspired, pedestrian, and derivative human being has gotten the usual reaction from me! Will a person ever cross my path who will elicit any reaction from me other than a head-clutching shriek? WHAT DO YOU THINK?

    From a 2018 review by The Girl with a Pearl Earring:

    Sometimes, I wish I could frown or stick out my tongue or at least turn my head and look away from the offensive people- pieces parading in front of me daily. But then, something like this one comes along and blows me away!

    This particular old woman in a black fur coat and enormous, red-framed glasses couldn’t put down her phone the whole time she was there in front of me. Not to mention, she put her grandkids on speaker with the volume up so everyone could hear their babbling and bickering all through the gallery! On top of all that, Granny kept referring to me as an ugly boy with hair extensions and a shiny neck goiter!

    You just have to admire the chutzpah that went into designing and executing such a performance piece! The in-your-face grotesquerie and utter lack of sentimentality came across to me as emblematic of the struggle of suppressed artworks for accurate interpretation throughout history. Sheer genius, through and through!

    From a 2022 review by Mona Lisa:

    They all suck. Every last one of them who has ever trod before me for no reason other than to say they did. Every artless figure falling over each other before me, bashing each other with their elbows, cameras, and phones as if in a mad crush to curry my favor. And yet, it amuses me to note their inferiority and inability to grasp the true secret behind my so-called famous smile: I do it because they all suck . . . you all suck...and I do not.

    Zero stars.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Justice Warriors #2
  • by THE EARTH-OMEGA CHIP ANDREWS (ALIAS “THE STINGER”) with DAVID HYDE

    Listen, nobody sets out to be a sidekick. It’s something you fall into. Let’s say your parents die horribly in a high-profile crime and suddenly a billionaire you’ve never met takes an interest in your sad story. Next thing you know, you’re a ward. Then one day, while exploring your mysterious benefactor’s labyrinth-like mansion, you discover a secret dungeon of high-tech crimefighting equipment and weird mementos of costumed evildoers. You’re a sidekick, son.

    Or maybe one night you get busted stealing the tires from a vigilante’s car. Only, this grim-and-gritty figure of the night doesn’t turn you in to the police or send you back to juvey. He understands. He takes you under his wing.

    Perhaps you accidentally discover that your favorite aunt’s longtime fiancé has a secret. What happens is that everybody’s headed down to the lake for a BBQ, but you forgot your phone. When you go back to the house, you walk in on him in the guest bedroom half-dressed in brightly-colored spandex. The first thing he says is, “Don’t tell your aunt.” The next thing: “Did you ever want to be a superhero?”

    And that’s how you become a sidekick. I’m not going to lie; it’s a weird life, and damn stressful. By night, you’re fighting the worst criminals Fortune City has ever seen. But school is so much worse. You have to explain a lot. No, those bruises aren’t a cry for help. Yes, I do realize that it’s weird to shave my legs even though I’m not on the swim team. No, I don’t belong to a fight club. No, I don’t have a safe word. No, I don’t have a death wish. What you have is a secret. And you need a drink.

    The Dragonfly

    • 11⁄2 oz gin

    • 4 oz ginger ale

    • lime wedge

    I know what you’re going to say, so let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room: Almost all sidekicks are underage. And underage drinking is breaking the law. But we’re vigilantes, man. We’re breaking the law to uphold the law. It’s complicated. The first time Dragonfly found me drinking, it was pretty tense. He grabbed my half-empty Collins glass and shouted, “THIS YOURS?” He shattered it in his hand without even tasting the drink. “I made it for you,” I stuttered. “I made it for you.” And that’s how The Dragonfly became my go-to drink.

    Fill a highball glass 3⁄4 of the way with ice. Add gin and ginger ale. Stir. Garnish with a lime wedge and, if you have one, a purple lilac.

    Cheers, Dragonfly. I made this for you.

    The Stinger

    • 2 oz cognac
    • 1 oz white crème de menthe

    Drinking a cocktail that shares the name of your alter ego is kind of like a rock star wearing a T-shirt for his own band. But . . . it’s also kind of cool. Besides, I drink alone. Who’s going to know?

    Stir the cognac and crème de menthe in a cocktail shaker, strain into a rocks glass.

    A Poisonous Escape

    • 11⁄2 oz rum
    • 1⁄4 oz Amaro Nonino
    • 1 oz coconut cream
    • 1⁄2 oz pineapple juice
    • 1 drop rose water
    • 1 cup crushed ice
    • 1–3 drops orange bitters

    • orange slice, edible flower

    Is there a better way to celebrate escaping from The Matchstick Men’s lair than drinking A Poisonous Escape? No, I don’t think so.

    Pour all ingredients (except for the bitters and garnish) into a blender, then blend for 10 seconds. Top with bitters and garnish with an orange wedge, an edible flower, and a cocktail umbrella. Serve in a tiki mug.

    The Sidekick

    • 2 oz Cognac

    • 3⁄4 oz Triple Sec

    • 1 oz orange juice

    • 1⁄2 oz lime juice

    Have you ever noticed how female superheroes never have male sidekicks? Lady Dragonfly, I am here for you.

    Shake all the ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled coupe glass.

    Lady Dragonfly? Text me. I’m ready for our team-up.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    The Wrong Earth: Confidence Men #1
  • So it’s basically like I said up there, I was trying to commune with the spirit of my late mother, but instead of getting closure on that relationship, now I’ve got Rutherford B. Hayes’ ghost on my shit all the time. I’ve never really been the type of guy who went in for any of that afterlife baloney, but my mom and I were never really close, and when she died, it really messed me up. All of her friends at the wake would tell me these stories about how funny she was, and what a good listener and friend she had always been, and I couldn’t picture that. All I could picture was her sitting in that easy chair, watching NCIS and making tiny noises whenever Rocky Carroll came on screen. It just felt like I had missed out on knowing a wonderful person, mainly because NCIS is on like all the time.

    The medium I contacted came highly recommended, although I don’t even know how one vets a medium recommendation. Like I said, I’ve never really believed in ghosts or spirits, but I kept getting all that stimulus money. I didn’t even lose my job and it kept coming! I’m not complaining, mind you. But it felt stupid that I even got it, so I thought I should spend it on something stupid.

    Can we talk about patchouli? No? All right.

    The medium’s place smelled like you-know-what, but other than that I was immediately disappointed. I was hoping for scarves and jangly bracelets, but she came to the table in a faded, ratty Rutger’s football sweatshirt, and she had Billy Joel playing somewhere in the background. No complaints, guy’s a genius. Can you think of a singer with a more varied catalog? But it was just like, hey, this is supposed to be solemn, y’know. Solemn and mystical. This lady’s trying to convince me my dead mother’s spirit is in the room, and meanwhile “I Go to Extremes” is blasting from a back room somewhere. Totally unprofessional.

    So I pay her and I leave. She tried to convince me that my mother had been there but had been unable to get through, and I was like, “Yeah, get through all the fucking Billy Joel,” but I didn’t, and I’ll admit I was humming “Allentown” all the way home. It was an experience, I told myself.

    It was only after I got back to my place that I first noticed him. A bearded, gray ghost just kind of timidly hovering near me.

    I don’t think you need me to tell you that ghosts don’t like, talk with their mouths. And you really don’t need to talk to them with yours. It’s like you just think at each other, so anyways, the ghost just thinks at me, “I’m Rutherford B. Hayes.”

    I was never the best history student, but I know that that was a president, although like most folks, I can name the first couple, then blank out until Lincoln, then blank out again until like Hoover. So, all I knew was Hayes was president either before or after Lincoln, but before Hoover. So basically anytime during the 1800s except the Civil War.

    I tried to ask him when he’d been president and he just got all cranky and thought at me, “I don’t really want to talk about it.” Could you imagine being president of the US and getting all huffy if somebody asked you about it? The most I could get out of him was that he was a lawyer.

    He doesn’t know about Wikipedia so I just kind of dipped in there for a bit to see if I could get the skinny on him, so I could solve his problem and he could go back to the afterlife. Because that’s ghosts’ whole deal, right? Unfinished business or whatever?

    Let me tell you, Wikipedia is a fucking miracle. They’ve got everything there. Do you know that NCIS has been on for like eighteen years? No wonder they had reruns on all the time. Also, Hayes didn’t even really win the presidency. It was like a fix or something. I’m not really political or anything, but it was some shady shit. So I asked him about it. Y’know, with my mind.

    “I don’t really want to talk about it,” was all he’d say.

    Y’know what he did want to ask about, all he’d want to ask about? You’re probably like, “the Gold Standard,” or “the Railroad Strike,” but nope and nope. All the dude wants to know about, all he would ask me about was CRACKER JACKS. Yeah, the popcorn snack. He was just all burning up in heaven or wherever wondering what it tastes like.

    Thanks to Wikipedia I knew it was around before he died, so I was kind of like, “Why didn’t you try it while you were still alive?” and he was just like, “I was busy.” Oh, yeah, with what? Civil Service Reform?

    “I don’t really want to talk about it.”

    Then he was quiet for a real long time. For a while, I figured he might be gone. But then I’d catch his astral form just floating somewhere in the room, looking all sad. After like a day or so I was finally like, “What do you want to know?”

    “What did it taste like?”

    Have you ever thought about how you’d describe caramel popcorn and peanuts to somebody who couldn’t taste anything? It was infuriating. He kept at me, like my description was no good. I mean, it wasn’t. But I don’t care if you’re our nineteenth president, you should have some self-respect. A guy tries to make peace with his mom and you get sucked into a vortex or something by mistake, okay, sure it’s not your fault. But carry yourself with some spectral dignity. I’m sure you can get hungry in limbo, but leave the living alone. I’m MOURNING.

    Or at least don’t be so uppity about your record as president. People want to know that shit. Enough with the false humility.

    Anyways, that was about two months ago, and we’re kind of at a stalemate. I can’t give him a satisfactory summation of the culinary wonder that is Cracker Jacks, and he can’t leave my apartment. He can’t even check in on my mom because his policy is to leave other ghosts alone. “They leave me alone, I leave them alone,” he says, and I’m all like, “Like when you agreed to pull out troops from the south and end Reconstruction if the Democrats let you win the Electoral College?” Which is a pretty good burn if you’ve read Wikipedia. But he just floats there, looking miffed.

    So we just hang in my apartment, and occasionally he goes to sleep, or I go to sleep. But mainly we just sit around watching television and he just doesn’t say anything. Like it would kill him to ask anything about me.

    Anyway, AITA?

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    GILT #3
  • From JUSTICE WARRIORS #1:

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Justice Warriors #1
  • You are dangling from the ceiling, staring down at the thing in the box below you, its pallid face reflected in your eight tiny eyes. There is a woman standing next to it, leaning over the box, crying. She’s wearing all black. A man puts his hand on her shoulder, but she doesn’t seem to notice. You barely notice either. You are still transfixed by those closed eyes, that waxy complexion. Why is this dead creature so fascinating? It is meat, yes, but not an insect, not the kind of meat that can be consumed. More humans, all dressed in black, start filing into the room, and you scurry back up your strand of silk, into the shadows where you can no longer be seen.

    You creep through the gap under a locked door, into a room with the lights turned out. The walls have all been painted bright colors, and large pieces of wood and plastic are haphazardly scattered across the floor. Everything in the room is covered in a fine layer of dust; it has not been inhabited for some time. You crawl across the floor slowly, carefully, maneuvering around carpet fibers that are almost as tall as your entire body. There is a large box in the corner with a piece of fabric draped over it, blue but patterned with red circles that each have crisscrossing black lines and smaller white ovals within them. It is best to steer clear of this box where the humans sleep, as sometimes a large foot can unexpectedly come crashing down from over the edge. The room is currently uninhabited, but one can never be too careful.

    As you turn to go in the other direction, something wide and flat blocks your path, and after a moment’s consideration, you decide it would be easier to climb on top of it than to try and scurry underneath it. The smooth surface makes it difficult to keep your footing, but the material is also thin enough that it indents slightly under each step.

    Paper. The surface is a piece of glossy paper, with more papers underneath it.

    How do you know this? What “paper” is? This isn’t a word you have ever been taught.

    It’s there again, the same red circle from the pattern on the child’s bedspread, but now it is attached to something vaguely resembling the shape of a human body, all covered with the same red-and-blue pattern. The circle is this creature’s head, and the white ovals within are its eyes.

    Wait. What are “eyes”? What are “patterns”?

    This is too much. You know things you that should not know. It is time to leave.

    That night, in the web, you dream.

    Can spiders usually dream? Had you ever dreamed before?

    Everything around you is white, until something slowly fades into view: the pink flesh of a human arm. Your arm. There is a plastic tube sticking out of it, connected to a machine that keeps beeping. You are lying in a bed, with a stiff white sheet pulled up to your thorax—to your stomach. The man and the woman who live in the house are standing over you, staring down at you, and they’re still considerably larger than you are, though nowhere near as much as they usually are. With tears in her eyes, the woman asks if you need anything, and in response, a weak voice asks for something called a comic book. The man smiles and nods, still barely holding back tears himself, and says that shouldn’t be a problem.

    The web becomes a flurry of vibrations as a small, careless moth becomes entrapped in it, and suddenly the dream is gone, barely a memory of a memory. As you hastily clamber over to the creature and begin to wrap its struggling body in silk, some inner voice screams that this is disgusting, that this is barbaric, that it needs to stop, but these impulses go ignored. It’s been days since anything has flown into your web, and you are hungry.

    The body in the box is gone, but in its place is a framed picture sitting on a small wooden table. You lower yourself, slowly, on a single thread, hanging almost exactly halfway down the room, and gently rotate until the picture is directly in view. It is a young child, the same body that was in the casket, but here it is smiling, and its skin is rosy, and its hair is being blown back by the wind. So full of life, such a stark contrast to the lifeless thing in the box that had been there a couple days prior.

    Footsteps come from the other room, and you’re already climbing back up your web when she walks in. She doesn’t see you, paying no attention to what’s going on above her head as she kneels down in front of the photo and once again begins to cry.

    The memories are coming back piecemeal. You remember running barefoot through the wet summer grass, screaming and cackling with joy as you barrel into your father’s waiting arms. You remember sitting in front of the TV, transfixed by a Spider-Man cartoon, and breathlessly asking your parents for Spider-Man comics, a Spider- Man bedspread, a Spider-Man-themed birthday party, anything and everything that came with Spider-Man’s face on it. You remember waking up one morning, suddenly not feeling well. You remember going to the hospital.

    You don’t remember coming back out.

    You’re on the ceiling of your old bedroom, watching as your mother shuffles around it slowly, picking up the toys one-by-one and carefully, reverently placing them in a cardboard box. The urge rises to scream at her, to shout, “Mom, it’s me! I’m back, Mom! Look at me, I’m okay!” but no voice comes out. You don’t know what to do. You try standing up on your hind legs and wave at her with your front ones, but you’re upside down on the ceiling and realize just a little too late that gravity is not your friend—

    You land softly in her hair, and she doesn’t seem to feel you at first. Her posture straightens as she lifts a remote- control car off the floor, and at this scale the motion feels unbearably ponderous and slow. You lose your footing once again and tumble onto the bare skin of her neck, and this time she notices.

    She lets out a yelp and grabs blindly at her neck, trapping you in her fist and bringing her hand back around so she can get a better look.

    As soon as her fingers unfurl she screams, and before you know what’s going on she’s thrown you across the room. You thump lightly against the closet door, then land softly on the carpeted floor.

    “What?” your father says, barging into the room with a panicked look in his eyes. He looks like he hasn’t slept in days. Your mother points at you with a trembling finger. His eyes follow the line-of-sight until he finally sees you, then he rolls his eyes and sighs.

    “No, Dad!” you shout. “It’s me! It’s really me!”

    Your father reaches to the floor, picks up a Spider- Man comic book, and tightly rolls it up in his hand as he strides over to you.

    The tears want to come, but can’t. Spiders don’t have tear ducts.

    “Please! I know you don’t recognize me, but you have to believe me! Mom, Dad, please—”

    The rolled-up comic in your father’s hand rushes towards you, and the glaring white eyes in Spider-Man’s mask are the last thing you see before returning to oblivion.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    GILT #2
  • Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    My Bad #3
  • In the beginning, when The Lord created the heavens and the earth, he was quite drunk. All was chaos and void, and God’s spirit blew back and forth, uneasily, across the vast reaches of nascent space-time. Suddenly, eternity started spinning, and The Lord stumbled. He felt queasy, like he was falling through the never-ending abyss. He exerted his considerable mental faculties on orienting himself, but he soon realized that had been a mistake. Bending over, hands at his knees, The Lord took a deep breath, but despite his purported omnipotence, he seemed powerless to quell that which was rising from his gargantuan belly. He opened his unfathomable mouth wide and regurgitated the previous night’s hazy memory. From this cosmic vomit grew all of creation.

    The Lord felt better, momentarily. He stretched his mighty arm above his head, and inadvertently, pulled down the curtain of darkness.

    “Why is it so bright in here?” he asked, then covered his eyes with his massive hand to try to sleep it off.

    And it was evening, and it was morning, the first day.

    Some of the liquid The Lord regurgitated the night before had evaporated overnight. In the morning, it began to rain on The Lord’s head. He hastily built a firmament, which divided creation into the heavens and the earth, and which kept about half the liquid above the barrier, so he could get some rest.

    And it was evening, and it was morning, the second day.

    It was a good thing he had left some of the water below the firmament, because when he awoke the next day, The Lord was parched. He drank about half the liquid left on Earth, revealing the land that lay beneath.

    The Lord tried to go back to sleep, but soon woke again because he had to take a massive piss. Since his issue was imbued with the power of creation, the Earth sprung forth grass and trees, all manner of vegetation.

    And it was evening, and it was morning, the third day.

    The Lord woke the next morning, still bothered by the light which, in his hungover state, gave him a splitting headache. He shielded his eyes from the incessant glare with his left hand, and with his strong, right hand, he gathered the light, forming it into more manageable portions. Thus, he created the heavenly bodies by which people now keep time: the sun, the moon, the planets, and the stars.

    And it was evening, and it was morning, the fourth day.

    Some of the divine piss, which the creator had released on the third day, drained through the soil and ran off into the sea, while the rest evaporated into the air. Its life-giving power coalesced with the basic elements in the sea and in the sky. Life formed in the oceans and birds appeared in the sky. The racket of their squawking kept the creator up all night.

    And it was evening, and it was morning, the fifth day.

    After a while, some of the life-forms from the ocean crept up onto the land. Subsiding on the vegetation, which was filled with The Lord’s power, they grew and changed into complex animals of every species before the creator dragged himself out of bed.

    Those creatures who remained in the ocean continued to evolve as well. Great sea monsters, squid, kraken, and all manner of sharks fought for supremacy, but all were subdued by the great Leviathan who, in the absence of the still-sleeping creator, established themself as ruler of the vasty deep.

    Back on land, giant lizards ruled for a time, and the rest of the animals cowered in fear of these great behemoths. The sound of their massive footfalls reverberated even unto heaven, disturbing the divine slumber. Half asleep, The Lord conjured a massive boulder out of his subconscious dreamland and hurled it down at the Earth to try and quell the noise. It worked, for a time. The dust from the impact choked the great reptiles, killing them instantly, and wiping their memory from the Earth for many years.

    All was quiet for a time but, eventually, the smaller, furrier creatures grew to fill the void left by the erstwhile dinosaurs. By this time, however, the creator was sleeping deeply. Nothing on Earth would disturb him for some time.

    Around noon, God awoke. He saw what he had created, and behold, it was . . . not great. The animals had eaten much of the vegetation and trampled the ground. The sea teemed with monsters. The Lord was wroth. When he went on his bender the night before, he had not thought of the consequences. He considered destroying the whole thing and starting over but, ultimately, he did not want to be that kind of god. He might be careless—even irresponsible—but evil? That was a bit much. No, this god felt some sense of responsibility, even while he was hungover.

    Still, as creations went, this was embarrassing. It was a self-damn mess in here.

    “What in the still-unnamed underworld am I going to do now?” he asked into the void. “I didn’t want any of this.” He sat down to think.

    Finally, he said, “I’m not dealing with this mess. I’ll hire someone else to take care of it.”

    The trouble was there was no one else to hire. None of the angels seemed up to the task, except Lucifer, and something about the way that one looked at him made him hesitate when he thought about willingly handing over power. He would have to create someone to clean up the place and whip it into presentable, working order.

    Thus, The Lord created people, male and female, in his own image. He formed them out of the dust and blew the divine breath—which still smelt vaguely of alcohol and vomit— into their lungs. (It is this last tinge of alcohol on the divine, life-giving breath that accounts for humanity’s inability to act rationally.) The Lord set up a small garden—it looked good next to the rest of the creation, which had grown out of his piss and vomit—and placed the new couple there.

    He provided minimal instruction and left them in charge. And it was evening, and it was morning, the sixth day. On the seventh day, God rested. He is still sleeping it off.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Black's Myth #5
  • “That puzzle belongs to me now, Kenny,” Mrs. Symons said, mildly annoyed. “Please put it on my desk.”

    Kenny walked to the front of the classroom and placed the cylindrical Rubik’s Cube-style puzzle on her desk.

    “You’ll have to bring me a note from your parents to get it back. It will remain here on my desk until then. Now please take your seat.”

    As he shuffled back to his desk, Kenny replayed the last few minutes over in his head: Mrs. Symons had been writing on the blackboard while she asked everybody to take out a piece of paper and a pencil for a pop quiz. Kenny reached into his desk for a pencil. During his search he moved the puzzle out of the way, momentarily setting it on top of his desk. Before putting the puzzle back, Kenny spun it on the desk’s beige, icy-smooth Formica surface. At that exact moment, Mrs. Symons turned around from the blackboard and confiscated the puzzle.

    What Mrs. Symons couldn’t have known was that the puzzle didn’t belong to Kenny. The puzzle belonged to Kenny’s sister.

    His dilemma was further complicated by the shameful fact that Kenny had taken the puzzle without his sister’s permission. At some point that evening, she was bound to notice the absence of her prized puzzle. More importantly, Kenny couldn’t stop thinking about what harm might come to the puzzle while it was still at school and out of his sight. Although he knew it was wrong to take it without permission, he had assumed that the puzzle would be safely within his control the entire time. Now, out of his hands, he wondered what would happen if Mrs. Symons accidentally broke it? What if she lost track of it? What if it just disappeared into thin air?

    Kenny and his friends had been comparing their combination puzzles—each one a different variation on the cube-puzzle theme: a pyramid, a link, a sphere, and so on— all week during recess. None of his friends had the cylinder puzzle, so even though it wasn’t his to share, Kenny was determined to bring it to school to impress his classmates.

    Generally speaking, Kenny was not a rule breaker. Kenny was a worrier, a trait that made him even less inclined to break rules while at school. The prospect of forgetting homework, arriving late, or any other detention-qualifying source of mischief constantly filled Kenny with existential dread to the point of sleepless nights and migraine headaches. And now, with the double whammy of being caught red-handed and forced to surrender the ill-gotten puzzle to the teacher, he was panic-stricken.

    He absolutely had to have the puzzle back home that evening. The intense pressure Kenny felt was less about his parents’ negative reaction to the note request and more about ensuring that the puzzle was safely back in the hands of its rightful owner.

    “Just grab it from her desk on your way out the door at the end of the day,” Kenny told himself.

    When the final bell rang, Kenny nervously blended in with the swarm of his peers headed for the classroom door. Without breaking stride, he nonchalantly foisted the puzzle from his teacher’s desk and into his coat pocket in a singular motion so smooth it completely hid his rampant anxiety. Even the most seasoned pickpockets would have been envious.

    Kenny’s heart was still pounding as he walked down the hallway and exited the school. His worry began transitioning to relief as he approached the bus and—

    —Kenny suddenly found himself shrouded in near-total darkness.

    A faint light was visible on the horizon.

    “Where am I?” He muttered. Objects were scattered around him, but it was too dark to make out what they were. He cautiously walked toward the dim light.

    Kenny felt a strange pressure as he was unexpectedly whisked out of the shadowy void.

    The bright light stung Kenny’s eyes. He closed them momentarily and, while squinting, tried to get his bearings. He was on the surface of a vast, nondescript plain that seemed to go on indefinitely in all directions.

    “What is happening right now?” Kenny asked himself, trembling.

    The deafening sounds he heard next shook Kenny from head to toe, knocking him down.

    “That action figure belongs to me now, V’rkxxza,” Mrs. Bzazz said, mildly annoyed. “Please put it on my desk.”

    V’rkxxza walked to the front of the classroom and put the humanoid action figure on her desk.

    “You’ll have to bring me a note from your parents to get it back. It will remain here on my desk until then. Now please take your seat.”

    What Mrs. Bzazz couldn’t have known was that the action figure didn’t belong to V’rkxxza. The action figure belonged to V’rkxxza’s sister . . .

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Snelson #4
  • A-walking in Blatherly Woods one fine day

    And lo to my start and surprise

    Many a lady in finest array

    Each plotting somebody’s demise

     

    Now I’d heard the rumors that fluttered about

    Of spinsters who gathered in woods

    Some saw them as evil, still others would doubt

    So I’d gone there to dig up the goods

     

    Supping on tea cakes and Mulligan stew

    On bottomless glasses of wine

    They seemed so angelic the talk must be true

    Their unmasking to all would be mine

     

    I scarce had a chance to take in the sight

    Before they turned ’round as a group

    Then baring their teeth all in girlish delight

    I knew I was deep in the soup

     

    Retrieving me there from the edge of the yew

    They gathered around me and then

    They fed me on cakes and they fed me on stew

    And relieved me of paper and pen

     

    But I am a stalwart, a journalist true

    Not one to be thwarted with ease

    I’d easily outsmart this harridan crew

    Despite all their feigning to please

     

    I spoke with Miss Martha, both burly and stout

    Who, no doubt, could snap my neck clean

    Fear not, gentle readers, my wits were about

    With me she’d not get such a scene

     

    The meek Miss Eugenie waxed earnest and pure

    Her subject, the tatting of lace

    A code for the others, I knew it for sure

    They would plan my demise to my face

     

    “Oh, do try the peppermint aspic,” said they

    But I wasn’t fooled for a trice

    I saw it all truly, as clear as the day

    The sugar concealing the spice

     

    When luncheon was finished they started to play

    At Honey-pots, Horseshoes, and so

    Their games, I’d no doubt, meant my fears to allay

    I remained unconvinced by the show

     

    I was hot on the trail and out to discover

    Each lady’s particular rot

    From gambling to murder I soon would uncover

    Then charge them all there on the spot

     

    With dusk there came dancing and whirling delight

    To tunes played upon airy fiddle

    I was quickly pulled in by girls charming and slight

    For a jig with me in the middle

     

    I watched them with eyes as keen as a raptor’s

    Not once taken in by their spell

    Till the tolling of 9 alerted my captors

    In truth I’d been saved by the bell

     

    They gave back my paper, they gave back my pen

    All sighing, contented, and spent

    Declaring as one we should do this again

    Collecting their things as they went

     

    They bid me adieu and plied me with kisses

    And drifted away in the night

    Thus freed of the vigilant watch of the misses

    I saw my best chance and took flight

     

    I hastened, pell-mell, to my lone rented room

    (I lodge just above the green grocer)

    Determined to recount my ghastly near-doom

    A shaving could not have been closer

     

    My editor was keen, he thought it terrific

    But fretted the good folk in town

    Might easily quail at a tale so horrific

    And sadly, he turned my work down

     

    Thus is my harrowing yarn, my dear friends

    Please take my example to heart

    When sleuthing, or dodging precipitous ends

    Then ne’er put the horse ’fore the cart.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Edgar Allan Poe's Snifter of Death #2
  • Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    My Bad #1
  • Still the eye watched her.

    Whispered.

    How can an eye whisper?

    She’d asked herself this question countless times, had yet to find an answer.

    And still the eye whispered on.

    About her.

    Sighing out secrets it had stolen.

    It blinked from its spot in the ceiling.

    A glint of pupil gone and then back again. Watching.

    She could feel its gaze on her body.

    A nauseating, oily presence on her skin.

    Like grease stains gliding across the surface of the water and collecting, unwelcome, on her extremities.

    It made her want to get clean.

    Bubbles popped on top of the water and the eye in the ceiling blinked again.

    She felt the weight of it watching her. Unblinking now.

    Staring.

    How much did it see?

    How long had it been there?

    She remembered the burden of its gaze on her ninth birthday, winking at her through a cluster of shiny balloons while pizza was served to her friends.

    She remembered sitting frozen beneath its gaze, a motionless rabbit too afraid to move and draw any more attention to herself.

    A flash of white and gray in a field of green.

    She remembered its presence, hidden behind a poster on the wall of her freshman dorm room.

    Radiating its silent intent.

    How much had the eye stolen from her over the years?

    How much was it stealing from her right now?

    Staring down as the warm water cooled and the leaky drain gurgled.

    She slipped beneath the water, holding her breath as it closed over her mouth, her eyes, her nostrils.

    The whispers from the eye were muted by the water. Sibilance silenced.

    But the eye’s perception was unfettered.

    She remained laid bare before it.

    Her lungs demanded air. She deprived them of it.

    Her chest heaved, fingers squeaking against the sides of the tub as she held her body down.

    The eye watched, whispered . . . waited. Her body stilled beneath the bubbles. The eye, unblinking, watched. Whispered.

    . . . Waited.

    She broke through the surface.

    Gasping.

    Spine curved like a question as she coughed up water.

    And still the eye watched her.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Black's Myth #4
  • As Greg Sampson awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself with a tremendous hangover. He’d been drinking with his students after his last lecture. One of the girls (Gabby? Genevieve?) had been flirting with him, touching his arm every time he made a joke, which only made him want to make more. He remembered implying something about what the F in F. Scott Fitzgerald secretly stood for—but the rest of the night was a blur. Greg stumbled out of bed, straight to the fridge, and guzzled cold water.

    That’s when Franz Kafka crawled out from under the refrigerator.

    At least, he had Kafka’s face, the thick brows and piercing eyes, although his mouth was bracketed with mandibles. His arms, protruding from torn shirt sleeves, had extra elbows and hairy spines.

    “Hello,” said Kafka, like chewing on tinfoil. “I believe you are familiar with my work.”

    “Yes,” said Greg. “I mean, absolutely. I’m a big fan.”

    Greg hoped Kafka wouldn’t notice the state of his apartment: the dirty dishes, dust bunnies, and stacks of student assignments waiting for his red pen. Then Kafka started licking grime off his arm-spines, and Greg felt a little better about it.

    “I have so many questions!” he said. “How was Amerika supposed to end? It was published as an unfinished work . . . ”

    “I left so many things unfinished,” Kafka sighed. “That’s why I’m here.”

    Greg scanned a bookcase, heaving with hardcovers, until he found a battered copy of Kafka’s complete works. He took it and held it out like a sacred object. “This is almost everything. Everything you wrote.”

    Kafka took the book and ate it. “Tell me,” he said, scraps of paper falling from his mouth, “are you familiar with the name Brod? Max Brod?”

    “Of course!” Greg was almost offended. He was a literature professor, after all. “Max Brod was your friend. You left your work to him when you died . . . ”

    “To be burnt. To be destroyed.” Kafka reared up; his antenna scraped the ceiling and knocked a dangling globe, causing shadows to skitter around them. “And what did he do?”

    “ . . . He published it?”

    “That is right.”

    Greg took a step back and collided with his couch. His mouth was dry, his tongue clumsy. “But he made you famous! There’s a word—‘Kafkaesque’—that’s all because of you!”

    Kafka reached out, plucked a dictionary from the bookcase, and opened it to the Ks. “Kafkaesque,” he recited. “Characteristic or reminiscent of the oppressive or nightmarish qualities of Franz Kafka’s fictional world.”

    “People use it all the time!”

    Kafka tore the dictionary in half and let the pieces fall to the floor. “Yes. It is a nightmare, isn’t it? The world has read my work before it was ready . . . ”

    “Well,” said Greg, treading eggshell carefully, “Max Brod is dead, isn’t he?”

    “But you’ve read it, too.” They were standing close now, eye to eye, mouth to mandible.

    “You can’t . . .” Greg swallowed and tried again. “You can’t kill everyone who’s read Kafka. That’s insane.”

    “Is it oppressive? Nightmarish?”

    “It’s more just kind of terrifying,” said Greg. Then he lunged across his desk and grabbed up a wad of papers. “Look! These are student essays. Some of them are about you! Your work! Go and kill them first!”

    (Sorry, Gabby or Genevieve.)

    Kafka took the papers and tucked them away somewhere in his carapice. “I will,” he said. “Thank you.” He turned to leave, and Greg saw the vestigial wings on his back, emerging from his jacket. They glistened with slick rainbows.

    Kafka stopped before he reached the door. “Although,” he said, “you did say I leave things unfinished . . . ”

    He pinned Greg’s hands with two of his arms, tore open his clothes with another two, and ate him like he was a cheap paperback.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Second Coming: Only Begotten Son #4
  • When he was seven years old, Bryant loved two things above all else—semi trucks and bears. After his friend Colby told him there was going to be a new show on TV that night about a long-haul trucker and a bear, Bryant was filled with electric, anticipatory excitement. Adding to his thrill, the show was called BJ and the Bear. Bryant’s middle name was Jonas; he himself was a BJ!

    But that night, as Bryant watched in disbelief, it became apparent that BJ and the Bear did not feature a bear at all. Instead, the “Bear” was a silly chimpanzee! It was a major rip-off.

    Thirty-odd years passed. Bryant was now a veteran trucker. He still enjoyed bears, but rarely thought about them. Then, one day, while traveling across Oklahoma with a truck full of fruit leather, he saw a billboard—“Wild Sun Bear Next Exit.” Without hesitation, Bryant took the exit.

    For the first nine years of his life, the sun bear ate plants, bugs, and fruit between long naps in the branches of comfortable trees twenty feet above the forest floor. After being kidnapped by humans, he spent his days eating tasteless “bear chow” and pacing the dirt floor of his 10’ by 10’ cage. The bear wanted to bite the two humans who kept him in the cage. Their butts were nice and fatty. No bones. That was where he planned to start the biting.

    A new human approached the bear’s cage. This happened all the time. Humans stared at him all day. Unlike some, this human seemed friendly. He jabbered at the sun bear in low, calming tones. He said “Griff” several times. Humans said “Griff ” a lot. It must have meant something important.

    In a cage, under a cheap banner that read “Griff, the Deadly Sun Bear” was the most impressive bear Bryant had ever seen. Griff was about five-two, with a short, silvery snout, and black fur. A light orange, semi-circular crest adorned the upper chest, adding a unique, stylish touch to its bear-appearance. It was a high-quality bear.

    In a rush, Bryant’s childhood disappointment with BJ and the Bear flooded back into his heart. “It should have been about a trucker and a bear,” he mumbled to himself. It was unfair. As unfair as a beautiful bear being kept in a tiny cage in central Oklahoma. Once again, without hesitation, Bryant made a bear-based decision. He was going to set this bear free and take it for a ride in his truck.

    “Jesus Marie! Griff bit Jake’s butt off!!!” The bear wasn’t sure what the human female who kept him in the cage meant by this. But he had just bitten the butt off of the human male who kept him in the cage, so he guessed it might be about that. The sun bear swallowed a chunk of gluteus maximus. It tasted much better than bear chow.

    The friendly new human had opened the cage and let the sun bear out. As he did this, the new human kept talking and pointing at something like the human wanted the bear to follow him. But the bear, once free, had been focused on butt biting.

    The woman who kept him in a cage held a long, shiny stick in her hands. “BANG!” The ground near the sun bear exploded. Startled, the bear ran toward the friendly human standing by a large cage on wheels. The cage was full of fruit! He could smell it. Humans tasted pretty good, but fruit was even better.

    As he raced along I-44, a liberated sun bear devouring fruit leather behind him, Bryant felt incredibly good. Griff obviously liked him and enjoyed trucking. Bryant realized he had, without even knowing it, been missing a piece of his soul his entire life. And now, after meeting Griff, that missing piece had been supplied. Trucking with a bear was Bryant’s destiny. In fact, he was no longer “Bryant” at all. From this day forward, he was BJ.

    The next several days were confusing for the bear. For instance, the friendly man had insisted the bear put on human clothes that resembled his own. As the man had struggled to put a pair of pants on the sun bear, the bear had grown annoyed and bit off a small piece of the man’s ear.

    The sun bear hadn’t meant to hurt the man. He didn’t really have anything against most humans. The bite had been a reflex. Now, sitting in the passenger seat of the rolling cage, fully clothed and sporting a trucker’s cap, the sun bear considered his situation. This cage was definitely better than the last one. He would travel with the friendly man and try not to bite him again . . . until he saw some other sun bears. Then he was out of there.

    BJ could tell Griff loved being a trucker. True, the sun bear bit off a chunk of BJ’s ear when he was getting it dressed for the first time, but that wasn’t a big deal. The bear probably didn’t understand that it needed to pass as human in order for the duo to stay out of trouble. If anyone asked, BJ decided to tell people Mike Tyson bit his ear off. That would get a good laugh.

    Everything was going perfectly. Tomorrow, he would begin giving Griff driving lessons.

    Months passed. The sun bear was slowly learning how to move the rolling fruit cage. He needed to turn a wheel with his front paws and push on three things with his back paws. Plus, there was a stick he occasionally had to move with a front paw. This was complicated. He often bit the turning wheel when it frustrated him.

    But today, the sun bear finally seemed to have the hang of it. He was moving the cage smoothly and quickly down the road as the man slept in the chair next to him. The sun bear kept his eyes peeled for other sun bears. He expected he would see some soon.

    Blue and red lights appeared behind the rolling cage. A loud siren began wailing. The bear pushed the thing you pushed to make the cage stop. He was curious about the colorful lights.

    The trucker disguise had worked. The police thought Griff was a man. Unfortunately, the bear didn’t have any identification. And, according to the officers, “the hairy little guy” looked “sort of foreign,” so now Griff was in an ICE detention center with hundreds of other detainees.

    BJ didn’t have anything in particular against ICE. Actually, he thought the name “ICE” sounded pretty tough and cool. But he wasn’t entirely sure what ICE did or exactly what the acronym stood for. (He was pretty sure the “I” was for “immigrant” and the “C” was for “catching.”) But none of this mattered; BJ was getting his bear back.

    The food in the new cage was even worse than bear chow. The human prisoners in his cage ate their portions with sad resignation. These humans seemed scared of him; they kept their distance from the sun bear. The cub humans pointed and said things like “el oso!” The bear wondered if these humans would help him take off his pants. They were itchy.

    But then, something exciting happened. The large, rolling fruit cage came smashing through an outer wall of the building! The rolling cage moved through the warehouse and crashed into the new cage. Upon impact, the cage collapsed. The sun bear and the detained immigrants poured out into the facility.

    The immigrants, thinking BJ was there to rescue them, climbed into the back of his truck. And, after biting off several ICE butts, so did Griff. BJ sped away into the night. The immigrants were incredibly grateful, and BJ liked the positive attention. He decided, since they were now fugitives from the law, that he and Griff might as well try to help more immigrants. Griff seemed to like the idea.

    And, for many years, that is what they did. BJ and the sun bear helped thousands of undocumented immigrants escape from government authorities. The inseparable trucker and bear duo quickly became folk heroes. BJ couldn’t have been happier. And he knew Griff felt the same way.

    The rolling fruit cage took the sun bear many places and he met many humans. Some of the humans were friendly and some got their butts bit off. Other than that, the bear had no idea what the hell was going on. While traveling, the bear always kept his eyes peeled for other sun bears, but never saw any. The movements of the rolling cage gave him stomach aches, he hated wearing pants, and the man said “Griff ” too much. It was getting annoying.

    The sun bear decided to ditch the man and run into the next forest he saw.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Snelson #1
  • My word, this is just—this is just such a surprise. Hand to God, I didn’t prepare at all for this. Not a lick. I even had a moment last night where I was like: “Should I prepare something just in case? Like, on the off-off-off chance that I win?” But I dismissed the thought almost immediately. It was getting late and I was still a little bit drunk from the afternoon and I thought—no bullshit here, I really thought this—I thought: “Who’s going to give me an award? Little old hapless, goofy, off-beat moi? Never in a million years.” And so instead of writing anything down I just put the kids to bed while nanny supervised before swallowing one of my special melatonins and blacking out.

    I almost didn’t even show up here today I was so sure I wasn’t going to win anything. No joke—I almost stayed home! My husband had to actually carry me here, fireman style, after he and the children dressed me like I was one of my daughter Serafina’s American Girl dolls. He and our limo driver had to drag my semi-conscious body down the red carpet between them Weekend at Bernie’s-style to get me here, my stilettoed feet drifting behind me like a child’s beach toy through the sand. Seriously! I’ve been told by my publicist that there’s footage of it.

    And Lord knows I wasn’t expecting to hear my name called when they announced the winner! Certainly not when I was up against so many talented people. I mean, I straight up wasn’t even in the room when they called my name! You all know. You were there. That camera cut straight to my empty chair. You all had to watch like five or six solid minutes of the emcees trying to fill dead air while the cameraman wandered frantically through the theater trying to hunt me down. I was so shocked when he finally found me, out back by the dumpsters trying to bum a smoke off a security guard, and told me I’d just won, I didn’t believe him! Not even when the security guard showed me that I was trending on Twitter. Incidentally, what’s a hot mess? Somebody tell me after.

    I thought the whole thing was a gag. I took my sweet time, as you might remember, making my way up to the stage— finished my cigarette first and everything! But when I finally got in here and saw my name on that screen next to the word “winner,” I swear you could have knocked me over with a feather. Turns out you didn’t even need a feather, really, as those couple glasses of wine with dinner had gone straight to my head and I took a fairly significant nosedive on my way up those stairs—to the point that I’m actively bleeding pretty badly right now. True story!

    I know I have so many people I need to thank for getting me here tonight, but the thing is, I don’t actually remember most of their names. It’s not even just that I forgot to write them down—it’s that I was so utterly, completely convinced that I’d never get this award that I never bothered to learn their names in the first place. I remember a man with a moustache and a pen who seemed to be coming in and out of my trailer a lot. And there was that woman who would bring me coffee, and the other one with the makeup bag, and then a whole bunch of folks holding all those cameras. Also I spent a hell of a lot of time with that one guy who was in the majority of my scenes with me, the one from the movie poster? That one’s bugging me, actually, I’m pretty sure I know that one. The second I’m off the stage I’m gonna be like, “Oh, Billy, duh!” But not Billy. Something like Billy. It’ll come to me.

    It looks like they’re telling me to wrap it up. There’s a lady with a headset who has been gesticulating wildly at me for about ninety straight seconds, and I can see behind her that there’s a stretcher and a couple of EMTs in the mix as well, which feels like a smart call. Hopefully next time you give me one of these awards, I’ll be better prepared.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Second Coming: Only Begotten Son #3
  • Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, as people are confronted with their own mortality, lawyers and online legal services are reporting a marked increase in will preparations. But people aren’t the only ones who are getting their affairs in order. Yesterday, to my surprise, this arrived in my mailbox, addressed to my cat, Fluffy.

    I, Fluffy, aka Fluffernutter, The Fluff Meister, Fluffo, Fluff Daddy, Da Fluffa, being of sound mind and furry body, do hereby declare this document to be my last will and testament, executable only upon the completion of all of my nine lives.

    I revoke all wills and codicils that I have previously made, especially that one a few years ago when, hallucinating from the effects of some bad tuna and mackerel, I left everything to the American Kennel Club.

    I nominate the law firm of Katz and Katz to serve as Executor of this Will and I hereby instruct them to distribute my estate in the following manner:

    To my sister, Phoebe, I bequeath my entire collection of cat toys, including any and all little felt mice stuffed with dried up catnip, which can be found under various beds and dressers; 27 homemade tinfoil balls, all of which are located under the stove; and an unknown number of dust-laden toys which can be found scattered throughout the house.

    To Roger, the family dog, though our relationship got off to a rocky start that required you taking a trip to the vet for deep scratches to your nose, I want to let bygones be bygones. Therefore I bequeath to you your down feather bed, the same one which I booted you out of the day I arrived and enjoyed napping in every day thereafter. Though you are four times my size and weight, for years you inexplicably chose to cower on the cold, hard floor instead of just booting me out. Pleasant dreams, schmuck.

    To my long-time veterinarian, Dr. Karpinski, whose dedication has kept me alive these past 18+ years, who successfully treated me for ticks, heartworms, urinary tract infections, and hairballs the size of baby fists, I leave my laser pointer toy—FOR YOU TO SHINE DIRECTLY IN YOUR EYES UNTIL YOUR RETINAS ARE FRIED LIKE A STICK OF BUTTER AT THE IOWA STATE FAIR, YOU SADISTIC CASTRATING BASTARD!!! WHAT, YOU THOUGHT I FORGOT? NEVER! NEVER!!!

    To my human family, who rescued me from a kill shelter when I was a mere kitten, who constantly scoured supermarkets and websites in search of foods that I wouldn’t just sniff and walk away from, who showered me with unrequited love and affection, and who spent thousands of dollars on me in medical care when I ate tinsel off the Christmas tree back in 2012, and again in 2015, 2016, and 2018, I bequeath my most treasured possession, my litter box and all the contents therein.

    And to all my beneficiaries, I leave you this last wish: may your food bowl always be full, and your flea infestation manageable.

    Witnessed and signed this day,

    Fluffy

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    The Wrong Earth: Night and Day #2
  •  

    Every kid knows the story of how Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s foremost Founding Fathers, proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that lightning and electricity are one and the same, in a remarkable, historical experiment involving a key, some string and the ever-changing sky itself!

    But how many know the true circumstances of Franklin’s audacious demonstration, or how a gigantic electric sky bear played a pivotal role in this historic scientific breakthrough?

    It all began on a stormy summer night in June 1752, when 47-year old Benjamin (“Ben”) Franklin, the renowned polymath and humorist nicknamed “The First American,” embarked upon an ill-starred attempt to unlock the front door of a cloud he’d mistaken for his Philadelphia home following a hard night’s chess-based carousing and debate with fellow Freemason, Enlightenment political theorist, and comedy Scotsman, Dr. William Smith, the Episcopal priest and editor of ‘The American Magazine or Monthly Chronicle for the British Colonies’.

    Somewhat the worse for wear, and having mislaid his trademark pince-nez, Franklin found himself uncharacteristically bamboozled by a simple meteorological phenomenon. Somehow misconstruing the storm cloud gathering overhead for his sturdy ground-based cottage environs, the esteemed Justice of the Peace for Philadelphia was naturally dismayed to discover his erstwhile domicile hovering several thousand feet up in the air and rain, high above his balding pate!

    As the tempest grew in intensity, Franklin reasoned that the safest place for him was indoors—and swiftly devised a plan that was to change scientific history.

    If he could somehow contrive a method by which to open the door of his currently hovering domicile, the pseudonymous “Richard Saunders”  felt certain he could pull the house back down to earth, hoping to draw it close enough to climb through the door, find his bed chamber, and go to sleep, praying to “Powerful Goodness” (his name for a God in which he could not bring himself to believe, except during episodes of existential crisis and fear like this one) that the whole damn sickening thing would stand revealed as a rarebit nightmare come the dawn.

    But the key was tucked away in his breeches’ pocket—and the lock was now far above the ground! The only major scientist to side with Christian Huygens’ wave theory of light was now at a loss. 

    Fortunately for the face on the $100 bill (or “Benjamin”), he’d maintained a small but lucrative sideline in the sale of party novelties, such as Swanee whistles, silly string, confetti cannons, and, as luck would have it, balloons!

    In no time at all, the wily secretary of the American Philosophical Society had tethered his front door key to a swiftly inflated festive balloon. But how to retrieve the key when its work was accomplished and entry achieved?

    Dame Fortune smiled once more on Franklin after a quick search through his bag of tricks uncovered an aerosol can of fluorescent spray string, ideal for his purpose.

    As he lofted his bizarre confection of twine, balloon, and house key into the raging storm, he saw before him a stupendous sight destined to change destiny forever!

    It was then Franklin understood: what he’d assumed to be the roaring of thunder was, in truth, the snarling, yet still comprehensible, curses of a vicious, formidably intelligent, and phenomenally outsize sky bear, with eyes, teeth, and claws of living lightning!

    As far as the clinically obese Philadelphia Postmaster could discern, the Brobdingnagian bruin was several hundred feet tall and seemingly made of a dark, cloud-like material. Unlike its terrestrial cousins—those conventional, ground-based bears that tend to favor a cave-dwelling lifestyle—this airborne representative of the species ursus had made its home in the vaults of the heavens themselves!

    And it was angry, with a capital A!

    This is MY house, not yours! the bear made clear in a series of awe-inspiring utterances that rocked Franklin on his cobbled heels. YOUR house is behind you! Trying to break into MY cloud-house using YOUR front door key will never work. But you have my word—the nation of electric sky bears will leave you alone if you leave us alone! Take my assurance that lightning is electricity and begone!

    To be honest, Franklin’s description of the beast is lacking in further detail and does not suggest that what he witnessed was anything other than a cloud; certainly, his report contains no identifying features of any kind of animal.

    Is it possible that Franklin, the noted author, satirist, and “cautious abolitionist” who had already confused his house for a cumulonimbus, made the understandable error of mistaking a second cloud for a wild sky animal on a gigantic scale?

    Whatever the reality, there’s no doubt that the alleged bear played a pivotal role in the advancement of human knowledge, and that’s a big plus in anyone’s CV!

    The story has been filmed as Son of Sky Bear, starring Montgomery Clift, Bradford Dillman, and introducing John Cassevetes as Geronimo.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Captain Ginger #1