Flammable Darkness, Interlude


Sparks. Find something that makes more sparks. The black slime creature had evaded the sparks sent out by the broken portal generator.  June ran to her kitchen with a crazy idea.

In the kitchen June kept a brown paper bag full of sparklers. They were leftover from last year’s July 4th.  She grabbed the bag and her cigarette lighter and ran back to the utility room.

June smoked, but not in the house. She never let her son see her do it, knowing the risks and all the scary stuff cigs were supposed to do. For once her bad habit could do something to save her life.

A sparkler was lit. The creature’s slick body reflected the light emitted from the sparkler. It slowly backed away toward the wall. June threw the sparklers at the creature. Not good enough. The creature evaded it until the sparks went out. Then it started to advance.

June went for bear and lit all of the sparklers, throwing them at the creature. So many sparks, so much light.

There was an audible wail as the sparks did their damage. It didn’t take much to quickly incinerate the creature until it was all smoldering ash.


The creature exploded like one of those puffball fungi, filling the room with black, purple, and blue smoke. The smell of death and rotting flesh and decay washed over the room. June, lightheaded, was covered in the ash and ran out of the room coughing and sick to her stomach.

The ash was filling the house. June had to get out of there. she ran to the kitchen, opened the door, and out of the house. the whole house was filled with the smoke and ash, becoming clearly seen by the neighbors. Someone called the fire department. An ambulance was also sent.


“Oh thank God you’re safe,” said June’s mother Carol. Along with June’s mother were Frank and Anne, friends of June. Their children had invited little Eddy to stay over. Eddy was there to visit too.

June had been sent to the hospital for smoke inhalation while fire and rescue personnel searched the house. The entire inside of the house was covered in black soot and it had been determined that the fire started in the utility room.

“What happened?” asked Carol.

“I don’t remember. Electrical shortage maybe,” said June, “I feel fine.”

“No, I mean what happened to your eye?”

There was a bandage on her eye. June touched the gauze lightly.

“It doesn’t hurt. I don’t remember it being here.”

In walked a nurse to check on June. she politely asked friends and family to leave the room. Then a tall man in a black suit with a white overcoat showed up. June assumed he was a doctor.

“Hello, ma’am. I’m Doctor Thomas Phasmid. In addition to your smoke inhalation, we’ve done some tests on the type of smoke. It isn’t anything we’ve ever seen.”

“Why is my eye covered?” asked June.

“Well that’s what baffles us,” said Dr. Phasmid, “It appears the smoke infected that eye, but we were unsure as how to treat it.”

“I feel fine.”

“You’re also on pain killers. The infection was spreading. We  removed the eye.”


Excerpt from “Enzectozoid Chronicles: The Legacy of Whartleburg the Whalloper” from the curiously long book of short stories, I am lettuce, who are you?


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It hungers, interlude

black swampflat

“Maybe I can contain it,” June said to herself, “The police will never believe me.”

The portal generator wasn’t through transporting and its small size meant it wasn’t built for something so massive. The creature in June’s utility room slowly crept toward her. It would never be satisfied with a single meal and viewed June as fair game.

June remembered she kept a gun in her hall closet. How long did she have? The thing wasn’t giving chase so far. June found the box and opened it. The gun was missing.

The portal generator kept processing. The creature’s body flowed through like black honey with various luminescent colors here and there. Perhaps it was a mistake to go this way? The creature was stuck where it was until all of it was through the portal. It turned around and examined the machine. Oh, fairly simple; you just press here to speed it up.

June searched in her room for the gun. It was on her night stand but unloaded. She just liked the security while alone in the house. Now with loaded gun in hand, she ran to the utility room.

The creature was about through the portal. The portal generator was now moving faster. Just a little more.

June saw the creature concentrating on the portal generator.


Two shots were fired and hit the creature in the head and chest. They passed harmlessly through it and into the wall. The creature ignored her, it was so fixed on getting fully out. What if she destroyed the portal generator? Whartleburg would not be able to come home.


The portal generator blew apart and immediately stopped its work. The remainder of the creature would stay on the other side forever. It was like a faucet was turned off. June had the creature’s full attention.  That faceless head slowly turned toward her.

The lights in the hallway flickered and went out. Then the lights in the utility room started to flicker. In the renewed darkness could be seen two points of faint white light from deep within the creature’s face.

June stared at the creature and immediately regretted having destroyed the one thing it that might have saved her life. She could still see the remains of the portal generator spew sparks.

June saw the thing move this way and that to evade any sparks. Sparks. She had an idea and ran for the pantry in the kitchen.

Excerpt from “Enzectozoid Chronicles: The Legacy of Whartleburg the Whalloper” from the curiously long book of short stories, I am lettuce, who are you?

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Black Swamp, interlude

“What if I helped?” asked Victoria, “All we need is a distraction, right?”

“You’re not trained yet,” argued Whartleburg.

“Perhaps I can help,” said Whevelbor, “I happen to know the instructor for Maantisazian school of Enzectozoid marshal arts. I cannot use his instruction myself, but let me pass on what I know.”

* * *

Meanwhile, back on earth, at June’s house, in her utility room, something was stirring.

The investigators who had tracked Victoria’s signature to the dimensional portal machine, located inside June’s house, forgot to turn off the device. It was left on Channel 3, a general, unprotected, public portal. Anything could freely go and come through that device. And it did. And it was hungry.

Ray, the lead investigator, and his two men were in the kitchen with June. He wanted to know where to find Victoria and was getting no where, when they heard the noise in the utility room.


June stayed in the kitchen. Ray and his men went to investigate. June quietly followed.

She saw Ray and company go into the room. They cringed and shot their weapons but it was not phased. June heard loud screaming, then silence.

After a few moments of silence, a white mist started to travel across the ground. June was compelled to enter the room.

It wasn’t fully out of the portal yet. Light was absorbed into its surface as it slowly crawled out of the portal.

It went by many names, as many as the number of cultures it had destroyed. Yet among all the names, there was one that had stuck. Survivors who reported it to authorities simply called it Black Swamp.

It didn’t have a face but June already knew it saw her. Solid black, humanoid, on the ground, more liquid than solid, it used its arms to thrash this way and that to get out of the portal.

Long since had it left its home far away. Constant travel to other dimensions wore its body down to the point where all that was left was sentient black sludge.

It didn’t care what it ate, so long as its prey came in contact, producing exhaust to move it along to its next meal. As it ate, so it grew. Now it was the size of a large house.

June didn’t know it yet, but she had half an hour to get to safety. Rather than try to fight it, should she try to run? Maybe she could contain it. The authorities would never believe her.

Excerpt from “Enzectozoid Chronicles: The Legacy of Whartleburg the Whalloper” from the curiously long book of short stories, I am lettuce, who are you?

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Beauty and Exoskeletons, Interlude

Victoria Swansoncrop


Victoria’s luminescent yellow-green eyes were now curiously staring at Whartleburg. Having recently arrived via Channel Teleporter, thanks to June, she was expecting Whartleburg to take her under his wing.

“Who are you supposed to be?” asked Whartleburg. But he knew already; His instinct told him so.

“I’m June’s sister.”

Whartleburg didn’t know how to handle the revelation.

“I’m Whartleburg.”

The two stared at each other. For ten seconds, the world was frozen in time and nothing else mattered. Whartleburg suddenly could not move. He was transfixed in place, only able to see Victoria’s luminescent green and yellow eyes. Instinct told him it was a common trap that praying mantis type Enzectozoids used to catch their prey.

But then another image entered his mind. Salyria, tall and pale, her lavish gown, a wedding gift from Spider King Ahab, the same color as her sapphire eyes. Her long dark hair danced in the winds that endlessly chase at the height of her window outside the granite prison walls.

Her eyes were saddened, yet strong, determined to wait, knowing in her heart that Whartleburg would save her. At that moment her eyes met his. She saw Whartleburg from afar and her inward gaze was turned outward.

Salyria while in her prison was not helpless. Though not built for combat, she could still encourage the heart. She spoke briefly and the vision was gone:

Remember Salyria. Should Whartleburg give up now, all his efforts to oppose Spider King Ahab would be in vain.

Whatever huntress’ charm Victoria unknowingly had sent out shattered like glass, and Whartleburg was no longer smitten. He no longer saw the great beauty in the exoskeleton of Victoria Swanson, June’s sister. Instead he saw a confused, scared Enzectozoid woman. She needed training.

Whartleburg woke up and sprang to his feet.

“Hey, you’re alive! Thank God you’re alive!” Victoria was saying.

“You thought I was dead?” asked Whartleburg.

Victoria nodded.

“You were unaware of what you did? It’s called a Hunter’s Glare trap.”

“Hunter’s what?!”

“Lady, I cannot train you,” said Whartleburg, “Only a master in the Maantisazian school of Enzectozoid marshal arts can do that now.”

“What’s that?”

“The Maantisazian school is for Enzectozoids who are mantis, wheel bug, or other assassin types.”

“Who, me?” exclaimed Victoria, “I’m no killer.”

“Then show me,” said Whartleburg, “Put your hands up. Like you are praying.”

Victoria reluctantly put her hands up in front of her.

“Now close your eyes.”

At first she refused but Whartleburg convinced her it would be ok.
Whartleburg then picked up a rock and threw it right at Victoria.

Victoria quickly shot out her hand and snatched the rock out of the air. She looked at the stone, amazed she caught it. But then she realized the rock had been perfectly cut into three pieces.

“How’d I do that?”

“Your instincts make you attack anything that comes near. Until you can train, you cannot be yourself without causing violence,” said Whartleburg.

Just then, a swirling blue storm cloud boiled forth out of nothing six feet from the ground. From out of the swirling tempest emerged a giant. Muscular, white beard, light blue skinned and balding, The giant was sent to destroy the stronghold.

“My liege!” ran Whevelbor panting. “Reports have come in. The enemy knows the fortress is taken.”

“That explains why the giant is here,” said Whartleburg.

“My army has provided us transportation,” said Whevelbor.

Close to the fortress were several old military Jeeps.

“All we need to do is not get caught,” said Victoria.

“Can you still fight, my liege?” asked Whevelbor.

“It’s been a long day,” said Whartleburg, “But we must escape.”

Whartleburg raised his arms to summon his battle axes, but he knew already that he still did not have the strength to use them fully. The axes appeared, but then faded and returned whence they came.

“Alas, I need more strength,” said Whartleburg.

“What if I helped?” asked Victoria, “All we need is a distraction, right?”

“You’re not trained yet,” argued Whartleburg.

“Perhaps I can help,” said Whevelbor, “I happen to know the instructor for Maantisazian school of Enzectozoid marshal arts. I cannot use his instruction myself, but let me pass on what I know.”

Excerpt from “Enzectozoid Chronicles: The Legacy of Whartleburg the Whalloper” from the curiously long book of short stories, I am lettuce, who are you?

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Something Creeped In, Interlude

June wandered from her bedroom to investigate the noise.

Cat calls and fox whistles heralded June when she reached the laundry room.

Three sharply dressed men were in the laundry room. They were inspecting the washer and dryer, taking measurements of the walls and ceiling, inspecting every corner. The men had embroidered on their sleeves a letter S in yellowish green thread.

“Hey there, Pajama Mama!” said one of the men. He was a particularly slick young man in a grey silk business suit. “This is a nice place ya got,” he said as he eyed June.

June was not amused.

“Um, can I help you?” June said finally.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said smiling and offered his hand. It had many rings. “Name’s Ray. Here’s my card.”

The card read: Rayford Dusk; Pest Control Investigator.

“Hello, Ray,” said June, “Please tell me why you’re here?”

“Yeah, we’re lookin’ for someone,” said Ray, “Ya know, it’s been all over the news? About new bug peoples? ‘Enzecto-whatevas.'”

The other men laughed.

“Yeah… We’re here to catch it. Our sensors say it was sent though this here portal generator.”

June’s first thought was to yell at the men to return from whence they came. Then she noticed the suits looked the exact same. Like a dress code. Her heart told her they would not leave so easily.

“I’m sorry, boys. My house only has regular bugs,” said June.

“That so? We heard you are related to the Enzecto we’re tracking. She’s  especially dangerous and may return here.”

A light suddenly turned on in June’s mind. These men were authorized to hunt Enzectozoids. June remembered the news talking about that new bill addressing the new Enzectozoid threat. She needed to get them away from the portal generator.

June tried to stay calm.

“Can I offer you any coffee?”

Ray looked at his men, who were still calculating on their devices.

“Yeah. That, uh, sounds nice.”

Fresh brewed coffee was served in June’s kitchen. The three men sat at the table drinking their coffee and eating cookies June had made two days ago.

Ray finished his coffee, took out a comb and casually slicked his hair back.
“Last week we got a call from a…uh,”

He wiped the comb down with a napkin, and returned it to a pocket inside his dress coat. Then from the same pocket he pulled out a piece of paper.

“Mr. Swanson,” he read from the paper, “Yeah, Jorge Swanson. He said his wife turned into a five-foot-two, humanoid, preying mantis. With razor sharp. Lightening fast. Retractable blades on each hand and forearm.”

Ray folded up the paper.

“He said after his wife’s transformation she tried to kill him.”

June folded her arms. She remembered Jorge. Why Victoria loved him was beyond her. June could have predicted that Jorge would sell out his own wife.

“Is Victoria the only one you’re after?” asked June.

Ray gave her a funny look.

“Yeah, Victoria Swanson is the only one we’re tracking from your house,” said Ray slowly. “We’ve been busy with other reports of killer bug people.”

Ray signaled to his men and they got up from the table. June sighed relief and cursed under her breath at the same time. Had she just turned the portal generator back to Channel 5, Victoria would not have been hunted. But they had not been able to track Whartleburg.

“One more thing, and we’ll go,” said Ray, “I admit we’ve seen a lotta things on the job. A teleportation device isn’t something we see everyday. We already know your sister escaped through it, but I doubt she’s the one who built it. I don’t think she’s the tech type. I suspect you didn’t build it. Which makes me suspicious as who did.”

June was silent.

“Jorge Swanson contacted us because the police would not believe him. Not even after showing the deep gash on his left forearm. It cost him six stitches,” said Ray. “You see, these Enzecto-things cannot be negotiated with. You can’t make peace with them.”

“My sister. Would never intentionally hurt her husband,” June managed to say, “And she loves her only nephew.”

“Victoria Swanson is no longer your sister,” said Ray. “She’s an assassin bug. In the end, she will kill you and your son. Believe me, I don’t want that. Tell us where she is, and we’ll leave you alone.”


Something in the back made a loud noise. Ray and his men turned their heads toward the direction of the laundry room.

“Did you leave the portal generator still on Channel 3?” asked Ray to one of his men.

“Uh, oops,” said the first man.

“The lady offered coffee,” said the second man, “Who can refuse coffee?”


“Holy Basil,” said Ray, “Something creeped in.”

It was their job to investigate scary situations. Ray made June promise she would stay in the kitchen. He then left with his men to investigate the noise in the laundry room.

Excerpt from “Enzectozoid Chronicles: The Legacy of Whartleburg the Whalloper” from the curiously long book of short stories, I am lettuce, who are you?

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Pro Wrestlers Write Science Fiction, Interlude

Little Eddy was at a friend’s house for the day. June was in bed asleep when the radio abruptly turned on.

“Hey there, kiddos!” said a tough, grizzly sounding masculine voice, like a biker or pro wrestler.

“Do you like writing fiction? Well I love it! Did you know you can sell stories to the MOST POPULAR magazine devoted to sci fi? Fantasy? Even horror?!”

Sounds of explosions.

“I, Havage the Savage, wrestler of monsters, want to read stories sent in by you! If I approve what I read, then you’ll see your story in Scifansorer Magazine!”

Electric guitar solo plays in the background.

A much lower, more sane voice gave the web address for more details. He then spoke a fountain of legal gibberish that June did not want to hear. She got out of bed and walked over to turn the radio off.

Havage the Savage? Sounds like someone Whartleburg would fight. Her thoughts of Whartleburg led June to thinking about her sister Victoria.

Having gone through a metamorphosis into a new Enzectozoid, Victoria had become dangerous. She was a threat to herself and to others. She needed training, and no one on earth could appreciate her like another Enzectozoid. Luckily, Whartleburg had left with June a mini dimensional portal leading back to his home world.

“All Enzectozoids carry them and they’re easy to make,” she remembered him saying to her, “Keep it turned to channel 5 for your safety, so that I’m the only one who can use it.”

Victoria will get the help and training she needs with Whartleburg. Surely she will, June thought. Next Christmas will be very different.

When June finally turned off the alarm she heard beeping.

A strange blue light, followed by a whoosh sound, came from the laundry room. June had forgotten to turn the portal device back to channel 5. It had been on channel 3, a public channel, for a week and now something was coming. There’s no telling what found its way inside her house!

Excerpt from “Enzectozoid Chronicles: The Legacy of Whartleburg the Whalloper” from the curiously long book of short stories, I am lettuce, who are you?

Next page: Something Creeped In

Go back to the previous chapter by visiting “Armies Underestimated.”

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Metamorphosis, interlude

I, I underwent a change. Do you like it?” Victoria asked.

Her husband Jorge was speechless. He backed away. Knocked over a lamp. He found himself against a wall.

“Uh, honey, what have you done to yourself?”

An overnight, unexplainable, dramatic transformation left his beautiful young wife no longer human. Victoria now had the athletic humanoid body of a praying mantis. She had become an Enzectozoid.

In reality, she was only one of many to undergo metamorphosis into a half human, half insect. It was all over the news, but they had been too busy to see it.

Victoria now had a light green exoskeleton. Her insect abdomen protruded out behind her like as if she wore a permanent leafy green dress with two leaf-shaped tails behind her. Seemingly delicate wings  occasionally fluttered at the small of her back. She was transformed. She was more beautiful than she had ever been in her life, but her husband could not see it.

“Please get away from me,” said Jorge.

“Jorge, it’s me, Victoria!” she cried.

She tried to reach out to him. She had not yet full control of her new body. Instead of a gentle touch of reassurance, the segments in the arm stretched out to reveal razor sharp blades.

Jorge backed away just in time to avoid being cut diagonally in half. Then he realized he really had been cut and saw a small amount of blood. He grabbed the phone and dialed 911.

“911 first response how may I direct your call?” said the operator.

“Get me the police,” said Jorge, “My wife’s turned into a giant bug!”

“Sir, this is not a number for prank calls.”

The phone in his hand suddenly sliced into several pieces. Victoria was scared and confused, not knowing what she was doing. Jorge ran out the door. Victoria soon heard Jorge’s car screech out the drive way. He would not be back, she knew it.

Victoria had to calm down and answer two questions: What made her this way? Could she reverse it?

She already knew the answer to the latter. She was stuck like this. But then a glint of hope entered her mind. Her sister, June, had once housed an Enzectozoid, or whatever you call it. Surely June would understand. Victoria found her cell phone.


“June, how are you?”

“Oh, hey Victoria!”

“Jorge and I had a fight. Can I stay with you and see my nephew?”

Excerpt from “Enzectozoid Chronicles: The Legacy of Whartleburg the Whalloper” from the curiously long book of short stories, I am lettuce, who are you?

Next Chapter: “Armies Underestimated

Previous Chapter,”Captured, the Enemy Plays Dirty

Captured, the enemy plays dirty, Interlude

A vision set in greyscale. The skies overhead now weep. Colorless curtains fall on the just and the unjust. Whartleburg is seen powerless, on the ground, defeated.


Whartleburg had cut through the forces of wicked Spider King Ahab. Nothing could stand before Whartleburg’s might and as he fought, he could feel the oppression lifting. But the last of the giants was different from the others. This one used cunning.

“I have a message for you,” he said to Whartleburg.

“You must atone for what you did to my kingdom,” said Whartleburg.

“You will not listen to me, even if it’s from your beloved?” asked the giant.

“You have only to listen to my spinning blades,” answered Whartleburg as he threw his axes at the giant.

“You only have two of those magnificent axes,” said the giant,”And those mandibles are only good for close range combat. What happens if you lose them all?”

The giant caught the axes with his bare hands. No one had ever done that. Who was this heathen? He gave the signal. Armed guards dressed in black armor brought forth a beautiful maiden in a tattered dress. Salyria. Her long dark hair flowed over her face. She looked up. When their eyes met, Whartleburg ran to her but was immediately blocked.

“I’ll tell you what,” said the giant, “His Arachness decried he will give you Lady Salyria with his blessing. But you must turn yourself in.”

Whartleburg looked at the giant, expecting an answer. Then he looked at Salyria. Her blue eyes pleaded with him. Alas, he agreed.

“If I can have her back, and rebuild my kingdom, then I will turn myself in,” said Whartleburg.

The guards released Salyria. She walked up to Whartleburg. For the first time in ages, they embraced. The smell of her hair was as it had always been, the smell of the sea. But there was a sudden change in the air. Even as Whartleburg held his fiancee, her eyes changed color.

Whartleburg felt a sharp pain in his back. He immediately pushed the imposter Salyria to the ground and removed the knife. She had been concealing it in her sleeve and took advantage of the embrace.

The real Salyria was still far away, trapped in a granite tower. There was no way Spider King Ahab would ever let her go. Not even if Whartleburg turned himself in.

He called for his axes, and they answered in a flash of light, but the damage was done. The knife had been laced with insecticide poison. The damage had been done. He sank to his knees.


“How the tables have turned,” says the final giant. He smiles big, revealing missing teeth. Then he kicks Whartleburg in the side.

“I’ll never eat an apple again because you knocked my teeth out!” screams the giant. His underlings await the command to finish him off. But orders are orders. They want him brought in alive. A simple antidote injection removes the poison.

“His Arachness has plans for you.”


It was a month later. Whartleburg was sentenced to death. For now he was held in chains, forced to eat on an hourly basis. The food-grade insect market was a rich industry, and they loved Enzectozoid meat. They were going to sell him off piece by piece to the highest bidder.

Yet on the night before his execution, Whartleburg heard loud knocking from within the prison walls.

“My liege, is that you?” came a voice from inside the wall.

“Who are you?” said Whartleburg.

The chains suddenly came loose from the wall. A long snout poked out briefly.

“I’m called Whevelbor. My army is ready to get you out.”

Excerpt from “Enzectozoid Chronicles: The Legacy of Whartleburg the Whalloper” from the curiously long book of short stories, I am lettuce, who are you?

Next chapter: “Metamorphosis

Previous chapter, “Insurmountable Odds.”


The-scariest-homemade-costume-I-could-find-from-a-show-you-never-heard-of, Interlude


 8th graders were, for the most part, treated like gods and goddesses, being the highest grade at Bernard Berenson Middle. In a peculiar, unexplainable reasoning, 8th graders were blessed with the ability to do subtle things other grades could not get away with. They had more freedom in the school, for one thing. However, in order to do these things, one had to take their eyes off themselves and focus on others. Consequently, for groups like the jocks and the cool people, most of whom were oft full of hot air, they never realized their true nature.

The jocks, especially the select popular crowd, were too focused on being cool. They had long since abandoned their childhood; but to Roger they seemed dull and boring. They had all dressed as simple as possible: A mask here, some face paint there. Nothing scary, just enough to fit in.

“Hey, Roger, nice costume!” said one of the jocks in Roger’s class. It wasn’t a complement. Roger wasn’t fitting in according to cool 8th grade protocol. To the cool crowd, he was portraying a lesson in what not to do.

Roger, however, didn’t care. His plan for wearing the elaborate getup was two-fold. The first part was winning the costume contest. He arrived in a homemade costume, made from cardboard and aluminum foil, to become “Sliver Fang Espro of the martial arts school of ‘Potentate Leviamath'” from his favorite video game, “Enzectozoid Chronicles: Mandibles of Justice.” He had spent many hours with the help of his older brother to get the costume perfect. It looked like a humanoid metallic shark had eaten him.

When the 8th grade jocks and the cool kids saw the costume, they thought Roger’s maturity level was still in third grade. But Roger didn’t care. Let them kid. They weren’t the reason he showed up at the dance. Suddenly the music stopped and Miss Long, the seventh grade english teacher, strode up with a microphone.

“Ok, everyone. Those who witch— I mean, wish— to be part of the costume contest, stand in the center of the gym and form a line! Whoo hoo!”

Everyone adored Miss Long. Trim figure, early twenties, curly blond hair, she was one of those teachers who was young enough to relate to youth, but mature enough not to give busy work, or lots of homework. Tonight she was dressed like a smart phone, glasses and everything. Even in that dorky costume, from afar some of the boys still had a crush on her; a love which would never be returned.

Five minutes later, Roger received second place for his costume. First place went to one of the sixth graders, a quiet young man dressed like an old southern gentleman. That mask looked amazing.

Time went by rather fast for Roger. He danced his heart out, embarrassing the 8th grade jocks even more. He slow danced with every pretty girl he could get to agree to dance with him. One of them was Beth Azure.

She was Miss Long’s younger second cousin and, under normal circumstances, looked strangely just like her. Tonight she was dressed like a mime, complete with black and white striped long sleeve shirt, suspenders, and black pants, black socks, and white tennis shoes. Her blond hair, which normally extended past her shoulders, was neatly tucked under a black newsboy hat. The finishing touch was her painted face; it made her look more like a witch doctor than a mime, but was good enough to win her third place.

“Congrats on winning second place,” said Beth.

“Thanks,” said Roger.

“Sliver Fang Espro, right?”

“Yes. From Enzectozoid Chronicles.”

“My little brother plays that game!” said Beth. “He also collects the toys. And he watches the cartoon.”

She quickly pulled out a smart phone.

“May I?”

Roger let her take a photo of his costume.

“He’s a big fan,” she said, “Literally. It’s all he ever talks about.”

Roger didn’t know what to make of that comment. Was Beth also a fan?

“So how well do you know Enzectozoid?” asked Roger.

“Me? Not much,” she said. “I’ve only read the books. Twice through.”

There were, so far, four books in the Enzectozoid Chronicles series. They were all best sellers. Book #5, Claws of the Scorpiozzo, was due in January.

Roger could feel his heart thumping in his chest. “Um, I like your costume.”

“Aw, thanks,” Beth smiled and looked away toward one of her friends. Then she looked back at Roger. Awkward silence. Their eyes met. It was dark. Roger leaned in toward Beth. He couldn’t see clearly, but he wanted to know for himself.

“Your eyes… have some purple in them,” mused Roger aloud.

“…Really?” said Beth.

She had always been the studious, calm type personality. Though many had tried, none had ever succeeded in charming Beth Azure. But for the first time, and possibly the last time that night, something dramatic, unexplainable, happened when Roger inadvertently complemented Beth’s eyes: She blushed.

“BUZZZZZ! Buzz Buzz Buzz! BUZZZZZ!”

Suddenly, from out of no where, a couple zoomed in between Roger and Beth.

“Buzz Buzz Buzzzzz!”

Hands clasped in classic ballroom fashion, and running from point A to B, seventh grader Tim and his date Joy, dressed in matching bee costumes, laughing as they ran up and down the gymnasium. They randomly targeted slow dancing couples, running past them, circling them, and running back up to rest. The whole time they buzzed like bees gathering pollen as they ran.

“Bumble Ballroom” was a self-chaperoning method of dance introduced and encouraged by Miss Long. It was designed to interrupt other couples, ensuring the atmosphere was kept light.

Whatever spell the song playing had cast was now broken. To Roger it was like waking from a dream. The song was about over anyway.

“Are you doing the dare?” asked Beth.

“Yes I was planning on it,” said Roger.

“Well, how do you know it isn’t some prank?”

Roger swallowed.

“I really don’t. But I agreed to a dare and cannot back out.”

“Well, most of the school knows about it. I’ve read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow over the Summer. Ichabod Crane was also played a cruel joke. Please don’t follow in his footsteps.”

The last slow song of the night ended and Beth looked at Roger with a funny look in her eyes. She quietly gave Roger a small mirror.

The mirror was strange. It was round and fashioned to look like a human face with his mouth open. The mirror was placed where the mouth gaped open.

“If it’s a ruse, you can just record the dopes and put it on YouTube. But if it’s real, well…” Beth trailed off and gave Roger an impish grin to reveal perfect braced teeth. Even that look made Roger’s heart flutter. He then did something uncharacteristic.

“Um, Beth, if I don’t make it,” he said hesitantly, “I just wanted to say—-”

“Roger it’s almost midnight,” said Beth, “Be careful, and good luck.”

Now remember, at the beginning of this post, that 8th graders, even the uncool types, were blessed with being able to get away with certain things other grades cannot? This challenge was one of those things. Whether intentionally done or not, the cafeteria doors were left unlocked. It was two minutes to midnight when Roger opened the doors, exhaled, and slipped inside.

The other reason Roger donned a scary costume was for the dare. Maybe he could out-spook the spook? It was the scariest costume he could think of. There he was in the cafeteria, alone, in the dark, arriving to the challenge early. Two minutes before the ghostly challenge would start at midnight.

Excerpt from “Fall from Autumnway”
from the curiously long book of short stories, “I am Lettuce, who are you?”

Go to the next page: “Veiled in Red

Previous page: “Homemade and Cheesy

Insurmountable Odds, Interlude


In a rush, the flaming portal closed with finality. Whartleburg was where he needed to be. Though June and her son Eddy wanted to go with him, Whartleburg knew they would only get in the way. Indeed even as he thought about his charges back on earth, in another dimension, the storm was brewing.

This would be the fight Whartleburg had been moving toward. He would do his best, he would push through. And when the dust settled, in a granite tower waited Salyria, his fiance. She had been waiting for him, should never have been waiting, but the Spider King Ahab wanted her. He could not be told no, and to keep her safe locked her up in frozen isolation, so no one could harm her. Whartleburg was the only opposition who had lasted this long. Though he too was caught and banished to an unknown dimension, thanks to Eddy and June here he was again.

From afar could be felt the presence of Spider King Ahab driving forward his armies. First send in the weaker thugs to wear him down, next the tougher ones, then the champions. And should he succeed still, well we’ll just see what happens next. His Arachness Spider King Ahab will not get up unless he must.

In came the bikers, whooping and hollering. Whartleburg brandished his twin giant axes and bared his mandibles. Suddenly something overshadowed him. What’s this? A pincer attack! From behind were more bikers. Among them was a great hulking guy whirling around his head heavy chains.

“This is the end, Whartleburg!” shouted the great biker.

Whartleburg threw his twin axes and looked at the big man.

“What goes around comes around. That includes razor sharp spinning axe blades.”

Excerpt from “Enzectozoid Chronicles: The Legacy of Whartleburg the Whalloper” from the curiously long book of short stories, I am lettuce, who are you?

The next chapter: “Reminiscence.”

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