A Simple Void

CHK-shhhk. Another spadeful of dirt on the pile. Anabel brushed her sweat-damp hair out of her eyes and looked at the line of nursery-potted saplings she had yet to plant, fully half of her twenty acquisitions. She looked around her rural dream home: a worn house only half repaired sitting on forty acres of untamed brush. With a deep breath, she thrust the shovel again.

CHK-thhhhhh. She almost fell on her face as the dirt slid off her spade and disappeared into the dark hole she'd just unearthed. At first she only stared in puzzlement. She usually thought of the earth as a uniform mass of dirt salted with rocks. A simple void wasn't something that made sense.

Anabel got on her knees and looked closer. It wasn't just dark. It was black as the Devil's colon and projected a sense of depth and echoing empty space. Fishing a coin from her pocket, she tossed it into the hole and turned her ear toward it. Nothing.

Much later, once she'd acclimated to the morals of it, Anabel would get rich disposing of bodies and other problems for the ethically challenged. Much, much later, she would learn where the hole went.

The Tooth Hidden There

Howie slipped a hand under his pillow to touch the tooth hidden there. With eyes he almost couldn't hold open, he looked up at his mother. "Where does the tooth fairy take the teeth?"

His mother leaned close. "I'll tell you a secret. It's not really a tooth fairy. Actually, the bed keeps the tooth."

"What? But where—"

"No one knows. Some say inside the bed, some say in a secret realm only beds can reach."

"No, where does it get the quarters?"

"Oh! It gets them from the couch. One of the reasons the couch is always stealing change from our pockets. Haven't figured out what the couch gets out of the trade, though."

"Why do they want teeth? That's weird."

"Once they have enough of your teeth, they can chew you up with them. G'night, my sweet."

He called out to her at the door. "That can't be true. What about adults? They'd be chewed."

"Beds have to leave some alive to have more kids, right? Hey, congratulations on your last baby tooth."

Wide, trembling eyes watched the sliver of light from the hall slim down to nothing. A stomach growled, and Howie wasn't sure it was his.


Ksenia lay in bed, not wanting to get up. She could indulge that feeling for five minutes, at least. Maybe as many as seven. Burying her face in her pillow, a position she never fell asleep in, she enjoyed the warm cocoon of her bed.

She became aware of her heartbeat. She'd tucked her arm under her body for maximal coziness, and she felt the blood flowing through the veins of her elbow pit as it beat against her ribs, ba-dum, ba-dum. It soothed her. Tension seeped from her shoulders, and she smiled.

Other places where her pulse neared the surface made themselves known. She felt the beat of her wrist against her hip, and the pianissimo rhythm of her other hand's thumb tucked against her shoulder, bi-dip, bi-dip.

As she relaxed, she opened to ever more sensations, becoming increasingly attuned. She felt it in her knee pit against the blanket so warm, and in her one ankle crossed over the other, and where her neck pulsed strong, deep in her pillow, thrrrrum, thrrrrum.

Where she felt a different rhythm, rapid and shallow: bidibidibidibidibidibidibidibidi. She surged up onto her elbows and stared down, relaxation forgotten.

"Oh, shit," said the pillow.

A Moment of Frustration

Gabriela had a five-year-old, which meant she had a problem making her brush her teeth. When asked, in a moment of frustration, why in all the faiths on Earth did Zahra fight so hard, she said,

Because when I brush my teeth the toothbrush cleans down and down until it's brushing inside out and it'll suck me in if I don't stop in time.

Well, that was too impossible to be true and too detailed to be a lie. Next time Zahra brushed her teeth, Gabi was there to watch. She watched as the toothbrush slipped deeper and deeper into Zarha's mouth and almost panicked, fearing choking, but stopped when

She saw a different angle in the mirror This one showed her the toothbrush disappearing in a spiral that grew small with distance, surrounded by a yawning void so absent of all quality it could not even be called black.

Gabi pulled Zahra's hand away from her mouth. Dimensionality returned to rightness, and she blinked away an afterimage that held as much as the void had held nothing

"Those are all baby teeth, anyway." She led her daughter out of the bathroom. "Now about why you don't flush the toilet..."

This Meat Market

"Hey." Alicia quirked an eyebrow and a smile at the half-naked man. "How you doin'?"

"Miss?" An older man approached, sounding concerned.

She glanced over. "A bit young for you, doncha think?"

His eyes widened in confusion. "Miss, are you... flirting with Jesus?"

Alicia looked up at the man on the cross with a smile. "Is that your name?" She bit her lip. "Strong, silent type? You really hit all my buttons. Bingo!" She laughed, a little self-consciously.

"Miss, this is a church." The priest gently turned her toward the door.

"Did I say you could touch me?"

"Wuh.... No."

"Next time I'll scream." She turned back to Jesus. "Now how about you and I get out of here?"

"Miss, I..." He tried to herd her without touching her, so his hands hovered around her shoulders. She ignored him.

"Don't worry, Jeezy, I may be looking 'cause you're smokin', but I want to know the man behind the muscles. Maybe we fit, maybe we don't, y'know?"

"Thank God," Jesus said, pulling free of the cross. "Most of the time I just feel so objectified, y'know?"

"Let's get outta this meat market."

Gasping in a pew, the priest watched them leave.

They're All Right

Hakim opened his eyes on a stunning scene: clouds glowing ivory beneath the shining sun, a man wearing flowing robes and a kindly smile, and a tall, golden gate.

Hakim's mouth opened, his legs wobbled, and he fell to his knees on the impossibly comfortable clouds. "The Christians were right." He looked like he might weep.

"Oh, no," the man said. "Everyone's right.

Hakim looked up at the man. "What? I.... What?"

The man sat cross-legged in front of him. "Your beliefs are true. So are theirs."

"But where is the paradise of heaven? Where is the ecstasy of knowing Allah? Are you an angel?" His panic nearly boiled over.

The man pointed over Hakim's shoulder, and he turned to see the heaven he had always imagined. Fear left him like air escaping an inflatable snowman.

"Oh, thank—wait." His murmur of relief transformed. "What's with this Western Christian bullshit?" He swept his arm to include the clouds, the gate, and the bogus St. Peter.

"Yeah, western Christianity's snuck into a lot of subconsciouses. Well, see you when you get to stage two." He waved.

"Stage... what?" Hakim had been gazing at paradise. When he turned back, everything else was gone.

Got Any Oil?

It was a cold night and I was out of sorts as I left the theater. My box seats had been sticky, and an understudy replaced the famous Miguel Dornados, whom I'd gone to see. "Hey, brother." The voice oozed to my ears as though too tired to properly leap. "Brother, got any oil?"

Against decades of trained reflexes, I stopped. "What?" He was gangly, up on his elbows to address me. Moonlight shone off a slick of sweat that made me lean away. If it wasn't the shakes, it might be contagious. These people lie about, take whatever they could beg off soft-hearted passersby who worked for a living. God, it was like they were a different species.

"Anything. Olive. Veggie. Mineral. Machine. Anything, brother. Don't need much." I swallowed my revulsion. Even my disciplined mind had to imagine what it was for. I skipped the thought of dense calories straight to a sex thing I tried and failed not to contemplate.

"No. Uh, no." I quickly left him behind. When I was block away, I called my car and looked back. The sidewalk was empty. Except for a dark, spreading stain that I could only believe was oil.