Columbarium

Abandoned so long ago their very domestication seems a myth: flying rats, they call them, trash birds. But neoteny can’t be so easily unwound—abandoned pets go feral, not wild, and some part of the deep structure of their bodies cries out for the old communion, the hand that feeds, the voice that smiles.

Fearless, they live near us, in the artificial cliff faces of our cities, even as everything eats them. They were bred for meat, for easy digestibility, and not for durability. They lose toes and feet to errant human hairs, build useless nests out of unwoven grass, drink dumpster water, warm themselves on third rails, huddle for some remembered warmth on the cold bronze of the city founders.

In the parks, they descend on every friendly stranger, eager to please, happy to be remembered. In the buildings that still bear their name, the sound of flowing water, quiet music, the cremated remains of the dead; bird song from other birds.

A Feast of Blood

Another year, another futile attempt to create an iconic Thanksgiving horror monster. Bloodthirsty turkeys, sentient mashed potato mounds, sweet potatoes gone sour, you name it, they’ve tried it. The earth cries out for blood, but who has the energy. The days are short, the nights are long, the harvest is in, everyone has eaten too much, the heat is turned on a little too high, nobody wants to kill anybody, they just want to take a nap. They’re spitballing semi-frantically.

Racism? Racist uncles? The real monster is white supremacy? A chorus of groans. You could tell a story with that, certainly, but racism is sadly timeless, untethered from any specific national holiday. Pumpkins and pumpkin pie is rejected as too Halloweeny. It’s a tough holiday, they’re agreed in that, too prominent to ignore, but whose iconography is almost entirely food-based, which is a slender reed to build any kind of compelling visual on.

Eventually they give up and put out another cannibal family movie, and if it’s all mostly just a rehash of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre in pilgrim drag, well, everyone’s in a food coma anyway, at least they tried.

Chamomile

Chamomile’s been doing the webcam grind for nearly a year now and she’s just barely breaking even. She’s got a small group of regulars, but nobody’s dropping significant cash on her shows; none of them can afford to. She tried findomming for a while, but nobody bit on that, either, and there’s only so long you can post salacious paypig stuff before you start to look desperate instead of hot. She wasn’t expecting easy money, but, hell, she’s hardly doing any better than freelancing. Masturbating’s easier on her eyes and better for her posture than proofreading, but the disinterest is hard on her self-esteem. She’s doing everything you’re supposed to, techwise, and she’s rocksolid about posting, but she’s just not pulling in enough of an audience.

“Gosh, you’re pretty,” says one of her regulars, and it about makes her cry. Some days are just harder than others, that’s all.

Perfection

Fred and Kevin are shitkickers out in some bumblefuck little nothing town in Nevada. Calling it a town is putting on airs; the place is small enough that when they leave — like they’re absolutely going to, this summer for sure — that’s a tenth of the place gone right there. Course, that was before the giant worms started bursting out of the ground and eating people. Kinda put the kibosh on the whole plan.

Instead they’ve been stuck on top of the water tower for a couple of days now and Kev’s starting to get a little weird about it.

“I mean, it’d be a hell of a way to go, sure, but also: it’d be a hell of a way to go. I’m just sayin’.”

Fred spits over the side of the railing in outrage. “You are sick, man. I love you, but that’s bent. What about that little seismologist gal you were talkin’ to?”

“Hell, Fred, I’m not saying I wouldn’t mind a tumble in her rock polisher, I’m just saying—since we’re as likely as not to get got by those ugly sons of bitches—that I can think of worse ways to go. Dying of dehydration at the top of a power line, say.”

“Kev—”

Kevin coughs, turns his eyes very idly to the horizon where the first stars are just starting to show, says casually, “Now, I don’t know if you’ve heard about this thing on the internet called ‘vore,’ Fred, but I figure since we’re up here anyway, maybe I could tell you about it some.”

Things go… well, not downhill, exactly, but certainly sideways, after that.

Work, Work, Work

It’s a long story and frankly the caliph is getting bored.

The blind man drones on. “Then, not content with ten of his camels and forty of my own, I returned to the dervish and said, I said, good sir, even thirty camels is a huge number of camels to handle, if you’re not used to it, why don’t I—”

“So did you end up taking all of his camels?” Reliable Ja’afar is so good at picking up on these things; the caliph beams at him happily.

“Ah, yes, my lord. But then I—”

“Talked him out of the ointment, too? And then it did something wondrous, like letting you see all the spirits of the air, I presume?”

“All the treasures of the earth, actually, but only—

“—when applied once or to one eye or with the right words, yeah? And then you put it on again or on the wrong eye or said the wrong words, and then it made you blind and the dervish took all of the camels? Something like that?”

The man is positively deflated. “Exactly like that, my lord. Your majesty. Precisely so.” The caliph doesn’t blame him—wonder brushes against most men but once in their lives, if that—but Baghdad is the wonder of the world and the crossroads of civilization and such stories have been heard without end in this court. The hour grows late and he still has to hear from the man who beat his horse in the market, the three eyeless dervishes, and a half-dozen old porters cursed to speak in tongues.