The Carnival of Tiny Stories

This all started out more than a decade ago, when I entered a contest for 55-word fiction. Each story required a setting, a main character, a conflict, a resolution, and no more than 55 words. The first story was impossible. The next few were crazy hard. After that, it clicked. Voila — nanofiction!

Currently Featured Tiny Story

He ate only pork and was voracious. Bacon, sausage, ham, ribs, everything. His holy duty was consuming all pigs. To more effectively serve him, he bought a mechanized pig farm. When he slipped and fell into the grinder, his last thoughts were not of irony, buy of his final failure in destroying all the pigs.

The Archive of Tiny Stories

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  • 1. ...And Eating It, Too!

    Marie deeply loved Fred and Tom. Fred was perfect husband material, dedicated to making a loving, happy home. Tom was repair-challenged, but perfect father material, doting yet firm. Torn, she flipped her lucky silver dollar. It would decide for her. When it landed on edge, she knew she would be happiest marrying them both.

  • 2. Alone

    Anitra searched for an immortal man who shared her ability to transform into a beast. News reports about brutal Portland murders attracted her and, disguised as a private eye, she interviewed the suspect. But he was a poser, lying for attention. The lies hurt more than loneliness, and Anitra ripped his heart out in frustration.

  • 3. The Apple from the Tree

    The bitter bastard was determined to make life miserable for each and every one of his six children. Make them worse off than he had been. They accepted his abuse their whole lives with kind tolerance. He never realized how successful he was until they eventually placed him on painful life support machinery.


  • 4. Approval

    Tory desperately needed his parents’ approval for his way of life. Accordingly, they refused and he spiraled forever trying to please them. A hit and run driver killed them both and finally he was able to make his own decisions. So, he married a domineering woman who quashed his soul and lived happily ever after.

  • 5. Bad Boys

    She refused to listen to good advice when it came to love. Repeatedly, bad boys entered her life and left her heart a shambles. One day, she met a warm-hearted man who looked like the kind of guy who would love her truly. But her sexy biker boyfriend beat him to death.

  • 6. Bat Boy

    The Hideous Bat Boy was on the rampage again! He looked horrible and scary with fangs and wings, but he only wanted a happy, warm, cozy home, contributing his share of chores. He was extraordinarily fastidious. When he found a blind West Virginia family looking for a mute housekeeper, he pretty much had it made.

  • 7. Blessings in Disguise

    Aliens enslaved Earth! Men were beaten and publicly humiliated. Women were encouraged to eat high quality chocolate, making their sweat an aphrodisiac to the aliens. When James developed a virus to kill those women-licking aliens and free Earth, only the guys were surprised when we was lynched by a mob of otherwise respectable women.

  • 8. Boyish Figure

    She was a skinny girl and it vexed her mightily. The boys tended toward fluffy headed buxom women, not women who reminded them of young boys. But her intelligence proved an asset when the Aliens came for mates. Afterward, she and the other boyish girls (who had disguised themselves as boys) were very popular.

  • 9. Budget Cutbacks

    Senator Wayland's proposal to save NASA money was quite radical. "Only send astronaut heads in jars," he explained. "With a bunch of tiny helper robots to move things around for them." The public was appalled (as were astronauts) and he lost the next election by a landslide. NASA, however, finally operated deeply in the black.

  • 10. Burying Charlie

    Charlie's five friends were small and weak, so no one of them could carry his body across the jagged lava field and hurl it into a volcano in accordance with his Will. However, he had already arranged for backpacks and surgical saws, so he could rest in peace and they had an easy walk back.

  • 11. The Calculus Test

    I can't believe I fell asleep at the TV and nearly missed my Calculus test. The flustered gathering together of my materials and the sprint to class refreshed me. Five minutes late, I was still allowed to start and only panicked when I reached for my calculator and pulled out the TV remote.

  • 12. The Cats

    Cats could now talk.

    "Let me out!" they cried imperiously. "Feed me!"

    But they also formed intellectual enclaves and discussed lofty subjects such as the meaning of Life and the nature of the Soul.

    Because they were intelligent, they weren't cute anymore and they still broke stuff, so they were quickly hunted out of existence.

  • 13. Collectibles

    Planet Tenuda was off limits for centuries, but Rasa was a collector of the planet's unique specimens. With his hold nearly full however, he was cut off from the bridge and isolated. The ship rose, piloted by the former inmate, a curious lizard Rasa had easily captured. With one human, its collection was now complete.

  • 14. Concensus

    There were three, four, or more distinct personalities in Brian's mind, all conflicting on various issues. This constant bickering was destroying Brian's life (as well as mind). Psychiatry didn't help, but eventually he visited a family therapist, who urged and preached consensus. Now, although it takes longer, Brian's insides are happier than most sane folk's!

  • 15. The Contest

    He was amazed. How could he squeeze a setting, characters, conflict, and resolution into only 55 words? Impossible!

    Yet, he considered. Resolution implies conflict and vice versa. Furthermore, in any conflict, there is a single catalytic moment. The rest was fluff.

    Then introduce character and setting with equally haiku precision and it could be done!

  • 16. Cost-Efficient

    Stacy fought a constant battle, sapping her will and draining her wallet. With every new software version, she upgraded. With all her applications, the expense was phenomenal! She decided to screw the incremental crap, buy the companies outright and get all her software free. It turned out to be the best decision she ever made.

  • 17. Creating Life

    Kurt created Life in his Miami laboratory in the hope that a miniaturized, rapidly evolving society might provide useful technology and sociological lessons. He had invested his whole career in this! But Life evolves at a constant, glacial rate, so he ended up flushing the entire experiment while it was still at animated enzyme level.

  • 18. Crying

    The damn baby cried and cried and cried. Nobody said it would be easy, but that crying was like a metal spike twisting in her brain. She often fantasized about smothering the thing. Unfortunately she shared this with a neighbor and so exactly one year after the baby accidentally suffocated, the State executed her.

  • 19. The Customary Greeting

    The little alien landed on my coffee table during a fondue dinner, demanding immediate surrender of the planet. He drove his point home by blowing up my bookshelf (including my first edition Richard Brautigan collection). I immediately stabbed the intergalactic imp with a fork and pushed him under the hot oil. He tasted like chicken!

  • 20. Damn Clones

    Bobby hated not knowing who was real and who was a clone coming into his ice cream parlour. He detested clones. He installed a music system that would play age-appropriate music when customers came in. Witnesses found him dead of self-inflicted gunshot wounds, with "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star" playing softly in the background.

  • 21. Dancin' Fool

    Turk hated dancing and he couldn't learn to dance worth crap, but was an excellent plastic surgeon, so he altered a friend's face to look like his. At dances, they dressed identically and switched places at exactly the right moment. Sure, he had to pay double to get in, but the women were finally happy.

  • 22. Darcy's Skeleton

    "After two years dating," said Darcy, "I must confess I smoke. Frequent toothbrushing and aggressive hair and clothes washing hide it from you, but it's about time you knew."

    Tony studied the gray Northwest sky. "Sorry," he said. "I don't mind smoking half as much as someone who would lie to me for two years."

  • 23. Devotion

    She worshiped the ground he walked on. She had his name tattooed in a place on her body only her doctor would see. But eventually, this longhaired Pan left her for a free-love granola girl. Her devastation was complete. Eventually, she found an outlet for her frustrations - where only his doctor would see it.

  • 24. Dinosaur, Inc.

    Those tiny dinosaurs sold like hotcakes, despite the moral outrage. Millions of kids wanted little clones as pets. The ethical danger of commercialized cloning paled in comparison to the actual danger of millions of surprisingly brilliant sharp-toothed predators. In our homes. Thanks to the Psychic Dinosaur Brain Network, human civilization collapsed in 48 hours.

  • 25. Disposable

    I could hear Tony telling me through what remained of his teeth "She's just a hooker, man! No one gives a damn what happens to her!" But I could also remember hearing the dogs at the junkyard. The feral dogs. Eating. "I do," I said. This time I aimed higher and this time it worked.

  • 26. Dog Heaven

    Aubrey wanted to go to Dog Heaven when he died, so he started worshipping the Dog God. His pastor in particular was concerned for his immortal soul. When Aubrey died, he suffered a moment of doubt and confusing strange images but he knew he had made it when he finally could lick his own genitals.

  • 27. The Enemy of my Enemy

    Worse than Kittertown's raids on Dilian's home city of Lurtown was the arrival of The Dragon, a destructive worm hunting for gold. While Dilian wasn't a strong boy, he was smart. He joined Kittertown's city council and made them so successful that The Dragon moved there. Dilian returned a hero, but no one knew.

  • 28. Escape to the Nonphysical

    The Astral Plane vomited forth Lucien quite unwillingly. "Damn this existence in flesh business," he declared. "I'll have none of it!" He consulted soothsayers and scientists in search of the Nonphysical and finally found a solution. But as his feet stepped off the Empire State Building's roof, his own doubts doomed him to everlasting limbo.

  • 29. Eternity

    Jason was a brilliant doctor and in one whirlwind weekend skiing in Aspen, he developed an Ultimate Drug that cured everything, including aging. This transformed the world into a hell of undying people and one night, while he agonized over the morality of this act, a mob of old pensioners captured and lynched him.

  • 30. The Exchange

    He wanted her with every fiber of his being, but she had no interest in him. But, over years of painful transformation, he made himself into the man she could love. But though he had her love, he had lost his soul in the transformation. She couldn't love a soulless man. Then he had nothing.

  • 31. The Experimental Foray

    The wounded monster babbled about a fearsome dimension of deadly beasts. I knew it would destroy us when it regained its strength, so I bound it in chains and hurled it through the Dimensionator. Its final words haunt my every waking hour. As I threw the switch, it cried out "Home, home, home at last!"

  • 32. Experimental Limits

    Samuel, a research rhesus at the Center, had reached his limit. He had been poked and prodded and shaved and scraped enough! One night, he surreptitiously picked his lock, then conferred with and released the other animals. They ambushed the researchers and after a few "experiments" of their own, the animals fled into the world.

  • 33. Faith

    She was devout, praying for everything. Then her son cut his arm. He bled to death while she prayed instead of calling for help. Then she prayed for the boy to be in the Kingdom of Heaven, and to join him. When her husband came home, enraged, he helped her on her way.

  • 34. Falling

    For as long as he could remember, he fell through The Void. The whistling wind tore at him eternally. Killing himself by gnawing open his wrists was better than the boredom. Just then, someone fell by in the other direction. She greeted him. Now he had to stay alive - who knows what he might miss?

  • 35. A Family State

    Although Lonnie had pushed legislation forbidding homosexuals and their taut muscles and firm asses, his secret heart found new paths of arousal. His intellect and political charisma always routed these temptations clean, creating more laws rendering all such pleasures illegal. Eventually, the entire state of Oregon died, legislated into a soulless, loveless, heartless, ecumenical hell.

  • 36. Famous

    Amos wanted to be in the movies, to be seen by millions, so he started hanging around celebrities. Sensing a weirdo, they brutally rejected him and he accidentally killed three people in frustration. The newspapers exposed everything, he was convicted of vehicular murder, and the Hollywood Courts promptly executed him. Millions watched his televised execution.

  • 37. Fly Cheap!

    Thanks to the Internet, Bill was finally able to tell when the travel agent was screwing him on overpriced fares. He found bargain after bargain. Chicago: $50! New York: $70! Japan: $100! Finally, he discovered the ultimate cheap fare -- flying cargo -- until he realized it was food cargo. For aliens. Hungry, man-eating aliens.

  • 38. Formal Dress

    It was a last-minute dress party and Stephanie had nothing to wear. Not a stitch. So she showed up jaybird naked. It was meant as a protest, but she carried herself with such grace and dignity that the hosts couldn't eject her. Ironically, the other guests then felt overdressed and eventually disrobed as well.

  • 39. Fruit Hate

    The apples argued that oranges possessed inedible skins and thus were inferior to an apple's vitamin-packed flesh. Oranges, on the other hand, spoke of the apple core's cyanide-laced goodness. Although this threw the entire fruit section into an uproar, grapes finally settled the dispute by selling out twenty minutes after the store opened.

  • 40. FTL

    Marcus' FTL drive would propel him backwards in time during testing, but a few minutes wouldn't hurt history. Then the control switch broke. When he finally shorted wires to stop the capsule, his hours in FTL space had taken their toll. His worries about changing history evaporated when he fell into a still-molten Earth.

  • 41. Goals

    Jean of Cincinnati wanted to be the Fattest Woman in the World. She ate vast meals every day and refused to exercise. But she was shy five pounds. Unthinkable! Metal weights hidden under her folds gave her the title, but it was posthumously revoked after the coroner, investigating her early heart attack, discovered the truth.

  • 42. The Good Ol' Days

    America’s old people pretended they were perfect. They passed -- with clear consciences -- laws forbidding their own youthful indiscretions. This same convenient forgetfulness prevented them from remembering how effective laws had stopped them, so they were the only people surprised when the laws proved just as effective now as they had been in the old days.

  • 43. A Good Scrub

    Jacob was a dirty, dirty man. He showered dozens of times a day and scrubbed with every soap he could find, but still the dirt and filth wouldn't go away. Then he switched from pumice soap to pure Hawaiian pumice. He knew he was finally clean when he saw the gleaming pearly white of bone.

  • 44. A Great Big Lie

    Burke came from a bad Chicago neighborhood, filled with pain and death. At fourteen, he ran away, put himself through school, and became a respected lawyer. Still, he felt like a walking lie, so one night he attended a meeting for My Life's A Great Big Lie Anonymous. All his co-workers were there, too.

  • 45. The Great Escape

    Old Joseph never told them of his first honeymoon in Austria. He never spoke of the soldiers, the barbed wire, or of the new life shattered by German bullets. His new American family, he decided, must not carry this memory. But he could not stop the tears when the grandchildren laughed at Hogan’s Heroes.

  • 46. Honor

    Old Sid would certainly die in the gunfight against Lightning Joe. But the old codger was quite the trickster. The next day, Joe emptied both guns before Sid could squeeze off a single round. But Sid had reloaded Joe's guns with tobacco plugs the night before. Sid's one shot, even if late, was quite effective.

  • 47. Hot Chili

    Josie's chili was the hottest in the world. During the final contest, two of the judges died. The third revealed he was an alien bent on intergalactic conquest, wanting her chili as a weapon. She overcame her moral quandary when he plied her with gold, but she kept a lot of buttermilk handy after that.

  • 48. Hunter

    Soon his target - a fat cat industrialist who couldn't gamble well - would walk across the window. He adjusted the rifle tripod and waited. A silhouette! He fired, praising himself as The Best. The target shattered. A mirror?! He only had time to think "second best" before he felt the muzzle against his head.

  • 49. Identity

    Is a person flesh and bone? Or credit cards, social security numbers, and PIN codes? He insisted that it was the essential person. We traded our ID documents, right there in Powell's. Half an hour later, the police dragged him away under arrest and I left with an extra forty bucks and a new life.

  • 50. Illegal Alien

    The invading alien scout Zyga landed in Miami. He concluded that the human race was old, stupid, and blind. The planet was ripe for colonization! His report to the homeworld was cut off when a Caddy blew a stop and hurled him into a poodle day care, where the beasts ripped him to shreds.

  • 51. In the Hands of Fools

    "Moral quandary my ass!" I chortled as I e-mailed the final virus executable. No one in his right mind would ever release such a paralyzing and dangerous piece of code. My patron, evidently, got off on simply owning it.

    When my check finally arrived, no bank was functioning well enough to cash it.

  • 52. Internet Date

    Earl had never met Brenda in person, but email and chat revealed a brilliant and sexy woman. He eagerly sent her plane fare for a visit to Baltimore. One by one, passengers filed off, but never her. His faith was strong until he finally turned and saw the other man holding a "Brenda" sign, too.

  • 53. Jimmy's Betrayal

    Chicago's tough! Jimmy the Hand, an accomplished safecracker, ratted his buddies out after a grueling interrogation. It was truly brutal and he was threatened and hounded and his family placed in jeopardy. Finally he broke on the condition of anonymity. Cops don't make good bedfellows, however, because within a week, he was Jimmy the Stump.

  • 54. Jimbo

    My dog Jimbo is smart. He understands addition and subtraction and all kinds of hard problems and barks out answers. But when a reporter came by, Jimbo ignored him. See, he's way smart! Jimbo doesn't want the scientists to find him and put wires in him again.

    I know this because he told me so.

  • 55. Journey of Discovery

    "Five million dollars?" asked the Astronaut. The Journalist nodded. "If you tell me about this secret mission." "They're sending us to the heart of the Sun," the Astronaut confided. "That's impossible!" barked the Journalist. "No ceramic or alloy could stand the heat and pressure." "Oh," whispered the Astronaut, "Not a problem -- we're going at night."

  • 56. Junk Mail

    Katrina hated getting junk mail, so one day sent a brick via those postage paid reply envelopes. Unfortunately, the postman thought she meant the entire state of Oregon, so the return rate bankrupted the state of New Jersey and the effect of shipping Oregon destabilized the Pacific Northwest, which caused volcanoes and earthquakes. Really unpleasant!

  • 57. Karen's Pool Boy

    The 150-degree New Mexico sun beat down on her coconut-oil coppery skin. Through reflective purple sunglasses, she watched the pool boy work. Watching his wet hands on the brush's aluminum shaft, she licked her lips. Not today, she thought. With hubby coming home soon, she didn't want trouble. But tomorrow... She smiled. Tomorrow.

  • 58. Keeping Ahead

    Candace was tired of being judged by her body. Her mind was her most valuable feature, but guys kept grabbing her ass and whistling. Finally, in disgust, she hired New Jersey's finest brain surgeon, who carefully removed her head and kept it alive in a jar. After that, no one pestered her about her body.

  • 59. Kindness

    Rain drove them into the restaurant, wet and frustrated. Her co-workers' warnings echoed in her mind: "He'll break your heart!" But he was kind to the seater and kind to the waitress and she realized he was kind through and through. A cold thing inside her melted and she finally smiled back at him.

  • 60. The Kiss

    He waited his whole life for the Perfect Kiss. He studied ancient kissology texts and learned advanced techniques for determining who was a good kisser and who wasn't, without ever having to waste time kissing them. But the day it came - that furtive, hungry peck - he was too wrapped up in analysis to enjoy it.

  • 61. Lessons

    I joined monasteries to learn about Piety, but they taught me nothing. I enlisted in the Army to learn about fighting, but they didn't scratch the surface. I read poetry for beauty and found none. I then went out alone into the world to learn about myself and only then did my other lessons come.

  • 62. Lithp

    Donald's feathered body twitched on the kitchen floor. Bugs grinned. "You bastard. It had to be 'sassafras', didn't it? Not Earl Grey or Lipton. You had to say 'sassafras'. You had to grind it in." Whispering "that'th all, folkth!" he squeezed the trigger again. Donald's beak and skull exploded but his voice forever haunted Bugs.

  • 63. The Locomotive

    Back then, the locomotive bravely roamed the rails of young America. Its purpose in life seemed assured. After years of rust and neglect, it knew that its life was over. Just then, it was moved, painted, and laden with curious children. It enjoyed its new life as a multi-ton game of hide-and-seek.

  • 64. The Lone Monkey

    The lonely monkey needed a tribe. At nights he wept inconsolably and during the day he wailed alone in the ancient ruins. When he discovered the mirror, he was happy to have a buddy (he wasn't a smart monkey), but it was only when he broke the mirror that he finally found a whole tribe.

  • 65. Loser

    I congratulated my rival, complimenting his skill and stamina in the marathon. I knew the gal we were unofficially competing over valued athleticism, and he won fair and square. He laughed in my face.

    "Any ass can win poorly," she told me later that night, "but not everyone can lose well. I respect that more."

  • 66. Marat's Woman

    In the far ruined future, people extended their lives by consuming lifeforce from people in cryotubes. Marat refused because he fell in love with the frozen woman meant for him. His only chance lay in linking their fates, so he joined her in the tube, locking it from the inside. They were together forever.

  • 67. Meet Your Maker

    The alien beast chased me through three decks of the empty ship. When I blocked it, the thing changed into another form. What did it want?! Panting, my back against a door, I suddenly remembered. Everything. I flung open the door and faced it. Its arms reached out and I merged with my missing half.

  • 68. Miaow! or "Modern Science"

    The Mayor racked his brains to solve the Giant Carnivorous Cat Problem. Tourists were dropping like flies! If they could lure the mutant feline into the open, they could catch it. His wife finally solved the problem by playing an amplified can opener. Next term, she was elected on the No-Radioactive-Cat-Food platform.

  • 69. Mirrors

    James was awed by the infinite tunnel between two mirrors. Once, while gazing down it, he saw movement far away. Every day the Evil grew closer. Breaking all the mirrors in the house merely multiplied it. Finally, he realized only he was seeing it, so he plucked out his own eyes and saved the world.

  • 70. A Mixed Blessing

    My vile baby elicited the smarmiest of coos from parents with more attractive children (not a difficult achievement!) and embarrassed me continually with its mewling mawkish pleas for unspeakable attentions. Even the tiny fingers were leathery hooks. I could not have been more heartbroken yet overjoyed when hungry beasts took it in the night.

  • 71. Monkey Attack

    Those damn flesh-eating monkeys had him pinned on the secretarial floor. Everyone else was devoured. As they burst through the doors, he threw himself behind a desk and awaited death. But then the monkeys found the typewriters. His life was a small savings compared to the vast quantity of high-quality literature they produced.

  • 72. The Monkey's Paw

    The monkey's paw had three fingers remaining. She was a smart girl though, her first wish was that the hapless simian was whole and happy again. Poof! Her second wish was for a big bag of Magic Monkey Monkey Chow. Poof! After that, she could relax and take her time -- she had one happy monkey.

  • 73. A Moral Household

    Judy wanted her daughter to have the unrealistic values she couldn't even maintain herself. So, she regularly lied about her mistakes and, essentially, her humanity, piling falsehoods higher and higher. Eventually, the daughter, who actually was smarter than a stick of firewood, realized that the real lesson here was to lie to those you love.

  • 74. Mosquito

    The mosquito thing is just a harmless game, I told myself. Just a thing that allows me to pop the little bloodsucking buggers to kill time while fishing. The boat rocked as I shuddered, watching the dark lump under my skin wriggling in an ecstasy of consumption, coursing toward my heart.

  • 75. Muk-Ducks

    In a desperate attempt to preserve the rare Mukilteo Coastal Duck, the City Council erected a barrier fence, warning signs, and explanatory plaques. They also set up viewing kiosks, audio lecture tours, Duck Burger franchises, and hosted the Quarterly Beachwide Save the Mukilteo Coastal Duck Jamboree. All of this, naturally, scared the ducks to death.

  • 76. My Shadow

    I crouched at the bottom of the foxhole, staring at the Vietnamese boy's face. My uncle insisted war was just like fishing, that you could only keep what you wanted. The boy was too small, but I couldn't throw him back. Beneath his bangs, the black-edged bullet hole pinned him to me forever.

  • 77. My Volcano

    Mom was negotiating for a new car to replace the one lost in the divorce. I sulked outside, my six-year old mind confused and not understanding. I kicked sullenly at a rock and it flipped, revealing bright red West Virginia mud.

    I thought it was lava and winced at causing yet another disaster.

  • 78. National Pastime

    Truzania decided to make Halloween its national holiday. Scaring people became a respected and fun pastime. They acquired quite a reputation. In an effort to scare even more people, they developed nuclear weapons and threatened to use them. It backfired when the less scary countries ganged up and bombed Truzania back to the Stone Age.

  • 79. Necronomicon

    The Book warned all who read it, but Jack's heart was broken and filled with vengeance. The spell would make it so she would never break his heart again. He read the Unreadable, spoke the Unspeakable, and called a Great Old One, which consumed his mind and his flesh. His heart was never broken again.

  • 80. News to Starfleet

    Starfleet bigshot James Kirk ordered the miners to stop messing with the Horta eggs and she would leave them alone. But fortunately, via mind meld, she learned how treacherous humans could be. When the starship broke orbit, she and her acid-spraying brood destroyed the miners and henceforth ruled Janus VI with a silicon fist.

  • 81. No Bet

    Two bottles of whiskey and I could still stand! Normally a remarkable occurrence for a lightweight like me, but understandable. Katherine wins every bet she ever made. Every single one. There's no way I could outdrink the memory of tonight's bet that the world would end at midnight.

  • 82. No Means No

    He thought he had mastered English, but he had never really learned to say "no", so everyone walked all over him. He took an assertiveness course, but afterwards, he could only shout "No!" and strike people with the edge of his hand. Since then, he was rarely invited out twice by the same person.

  • 83. The Nose

    Ted always smelled Death coming. By avoiding this dry acrid smell, Ted lived a charmed life, but Death wanted him in the worst way. The train to Queens smelled okay because when the other passenger punched his nose, although it wasn’t fatal, it prevented him from then avoiding the public restroom full of switchblade punks.

  • 84. The Old School

    I leaped toward my desk (equipped against my mother's wishes). "Wouldn't you prefer a computer?" she asked. "All the nice boys use them."

    Its hot rotten breath was on my neck.

    All the nice boys, I must tell her, aren't being attacked by vampires.

    I owe my life to those needle-sharp Faber Number Two Pencils.

  • 85. One Little Mistake

    For hundreds of years, Starfleet tried to break through the barrier at the edge of the galaxy. Finally, with Kirk's help, they succeeded, only to discover the barrier was not meant to keep them in, but to keep unspeakably hungry visitors out. Too late to come back from where no man has gone before!

  • 86. Only to a Second Party

    Helena's husband didn't start out violent. But every act was a little worse than before, so she never came to the conclusion, she just moved her tolerance level a bit. Even a smack seemed reasonable now. When he threw her new fern in the trash, though, he later came home to a forever empty house.

  • 87. Pagan Rituals

    He loved the revival of pagan rituals. Eventually, someone would strike drums just the right way to release him from the Imprisonment Dimension and then he would consume those mortals and rule the Earth. Finally, it was close. Three notes left, then two notes... Then another rhythmless white girl hit the wrong note. Still trapped!

  • 88. Pal on Top

    Pal, Pam's German Shepherd, was loyal and loving, but dumb as a post (even for this inbred East Texas town). All the neighbor kids and her family made fun of him, which infuriated Pam. Late one night, she performed a number of impromptu but simple surgeries and the next day, Pal was -- brainwise -- top dog.

  • 89. Pandering

    Johnny knew that to save his country, he had to get them to talk about important and sensitive issues, but no one was interested in voting. They only wanted to watch sexy action shows on TV. He finally became President by a landslide after changing his name to Jon BabeFerrarriUzi. Everybody listened to that man!

  • 90. Parlour Tricks

    No one was able to see through Jane's tricks. How did she do all that stuff?! Christy promised me she would find out and snuck into Jane's trailer late one night with a flashlight. I don't know what happened, but now Christy can eat only through a tube and shrieks every hour on the hour.

  • 91. A Peculiar Competitor

    That Clive could play ping-pong at all was a wonder -- he was totally blind. His hearing was phenomenal and that alone made him a top-notch competitor. He could hear every spin and bit of English. But the auditorium echoes confused him and the crowd’s roar sealed his fate. Forever exhibition, never a medal.

  • 92. Pepsi

    Farley Hamstring was a contender in the worldwide Pepsi drinking contest. Scientists and health advocates objected for scientific and health reasons. Religious leaders objected because Pepsi was evil and politicians objected because Coke paid them to. Everybody had a bit of spin control to do when Farley won, but didn’t die or go to hell.

  • 93. The Perfect Mate

    In an unimaginably vast Universe, I was able to locate the perfect partner. He shared my tastes, my vices and virtues, my needs and desires. It was as if he could read my mind. Against the wishes of my family and society, I married my clone. Now I hate the bastard.

  • 94. Plaoivne

    He loved her like no one he ever loved before and she loved him as well. But she had exotic needs. She could not express her love unless she was beaten. Not only could he never strike her unimaginable beauty, but his stomach churned to imagine others doing it. And that was how they ended.

  • 95. Poetry Warfare

    Aaron's poetry was the worst in the known Universe. Reading it produced cramps and nausea. Public performances resulted in riots and mass hysteria. He was overjoyed when the government bought the rights to all his work, justifying years of toil. It didn't even matter to him that the work was only distributed in unfriendly countries.

  • 96. A Political Parable I: God

    In an effort to set things aright, the Lord God ran for President. But the political machinations that dogged the human candidates also pestered the Lord. His well-documented dalliance with a married virgin, His use of weapons of mass destruction (namely flooding) and particularly His intolerance during that Sodom and Gomorrah thing ruined his chances.

  • 97. A Political Parable II: Satan

    Satan’s Presidential Platform was simple: He never lied. Lawyers and activists pored over historic incidents, but nothing was hidden or openly deceitful. "Better the devil you know," said the voters, electing him in a heartbeat. A week later, he resigned in disgust and returned to torturing souls in Hell, stating "It was way easier, man".

  • 98. A Political Parable III: Heaven

    While God was away, Ordinary Joe was elected from Earth to take His place. Heaven praised his efforts, but after incurring a severe debt to Hell contractors and massive budget overruns to repair golden pathways, they discharged him. As he was Acting God, this meant they all went to Hell, but it was worth it.

  • 99. A Political Parable IIII: Hell

    During political chaos, Ordinary Joe ran for President of Hell and won. He attempted reform, reorganized the infrastructure and generally did all the Earthly political things. In less than a week, he was impeached, his soul consumed, and vomited back upon the face of the Earth, as the minions of Hell preferred their former master.

  • 100. A Political Parable IIIII: Earth

    Ordinary Joe’s experience in Heaven and Hell was a hallmark of leadership. The Republicans felt, however, his stint in Hell indicated slippery morality and Democrats announced that being kicked out of Heaven was a pretty bad indicator, so he ended up as a pathetic write-in and later committed suicide. The rest is a mystery.

  • 101. Pork

    He ate only pork and was voracious. Bacon, sausage, ham, ribs, everything. His holy duty was consuming all pigs. To more effectively serve him, he bought a mechanized pig farm. When he slipped and fell into the grinder, his last thoughts were not of irony, buy of his final failure in destroying all the pigs.

  • 102. The Present

    Bruce's time machine broke and he had no idea when he was. Primitive huts and savages could mean a distant past, but also a distant future. Try as he might, he found no evidence and it was terribly frustrating. Finally, he decided time was a loop. He destroyed the machine and adopted the simpler life.

  • 103. Prometheus

    In an Alternate History, Prometheus bitched about his treatment. The gods indulged him and showed him the results of his actions. Fire wasn't just enlightenment, but consumption, chaos, panic, and disorder. Fire burned away peace and love, and left death and devastation in its wake. Prometheus wept and pulled his own eyes out in despair.

  • 104. Promises

    "My day?" wept the Bride.

  • 105. Protestation

    They swore they would remain chained to the building until injustices were settled and rights were wronged. The Clinic, however, had to keep helping needy people. Although the law forbade them from touching the protesters, it did not prevent them from touching the metal railings with the 110-volt line. Soon, the place was clear.

  • 106. Quit Barking at Each Other

    The dying millionaire addressed his family. "You've all treated me kindly," he said. "But I know you're treacherous bastards." They were shocked at his candor. "Although I've arranged for you to inherit my fortune, you must wear these anti-barking collars and donate $100 per shock." Sadly, he added "You all better get day jobs."

  • 107. The Real Problem

    The divorce was long and messy and obviously my fault. I knew this despite Mom's protestations to the contrary because she only cried after I went to bed, as if I wouldn't notice. That very morning, I decided to find a new home and relieve her of my burden. She foolishly refused.

  • 108. Really the End

    The Universe's last quark danced a lonely Brownian jitterbug where there had been only recently so much wonderful matter. Its endless sorrow was interrupted by a distant keening, so similar to its own, yet totally different. It raced through the Void. Thrilled, it finally found happiness in the ecstatic collision with the Universe's last antiquark.

  • 109. Revival

    We vampires scrabble for life in this crazy post apocalypse world. You would figure there would have been survivors of the atomic clouds, but you would be wrong. Just us hungry undead predators in a world without prey. I'm sure you can imagine my joy at releasing you from your Twentieth Century cryogenic suspension capsule.

  • 110. The Righteous Gunfighter

    Luke’s honor was at stake, but Cactus Jack was one hell of a gunfighter. The odds were long, but he practiced and prayed and was on the side of Good and Truth. God provides for his righteous servants, so Luke was justly rewarded after Jack’s bullet ripped through his heart.

  • 111. Risk

    Although he read the Financial Papers carefully, his wife refused to let him risk their life savings playing the market. But he could see people making Big Money, so he went behind her back and invested it anyway. When he lost it all, he finally understood where the Big Money was coming from.

  • 112. Safety

    Kate was a careful mother who copied the labels of everything in her house that the baby might conceivably eat. She even noted colors, so she could identify them quickly. But babies are resourceful beasts and it was Kate's surprise to discover she couldn't see colors or read labels on the X-ray film.

  • 113. See No Evil

    Mike's fancy new camera could actually (accidentally) photograph ghosts. He shot them doing horrible things to people (chalked up as bad luck), for ghosts are spiteful creatures. In a Vegas hotel restroom, he finally realized that their privacy mattered more than his curiosity, so he shattered the jinxed camera. Since then, he's been very lucky.

  • 114. Sewage and Wine

    Joey spent thousands on a new computer and software and a rented office in Manhattan to write The Great American Novel. Ray bought a stack of yellow pads, some cheap pens, and an IBM Selectric. Ray was a talented writer, so his messy manuscripts were brilliant. Joey, a hack, produced beautiful trash. Que sera sera.

  • 115. Shimmer

    "Just a gleam, nothing more," the doctor told me, but I knew he was wrong and I felt it's cold anger as it hung there in my arm. Later that night, as the hospital slept, it pulled itself out, coiled upon my panting chest and as I hit the call button, struck.

  • 116. Ship of Doom

    Screaming terror invaded the Sciaga, a cargo ship from Portugal. Blood soaked the decks and insane crewmen committed the most heinous suicides. Captain Duranoña, desperate to save what remained of his crew, finally changed the ship's secret theme music to a sprightly reel and never since had the Seven Seas enjoyed a more cheerful crew!

  • 117. Shock Troops

    At America's borders, the brave soldier faced down the armies of the Sleeping God. These were not ordinary men, but supernatural beasts. One bite, one single scratch and you would become one in a matter of minutes. Hundreds of bullets, not one enemy shot -- just friends who turned. The last bullet, however, was his.

  • 118. The Shortcut

    His hands carved poetry with knives. Her hands sculpted mountains from cream and steam. He ached for the taste of her and she craved being split by him. When he separated her husband's head from his body, she sculpted an excuse from thin air and they cleaved unto each other. But there was no sleeping.

  • 119. Smug Humans

    "That smug human captain is arrogant," thought Spock. "Reckless, emotional, promiscuous." It wasn't the Vulcan's starship, but he confidently exerted subtle manipulation. When Kirk gave him navigational leeway, he plotted a course by Organia, where the Vulcans were already acquainted with the superior life forms. "That'll knock him down a peg or two," he decided.

  • 120. Son of a What?!

    I told them to leave me alone, to stop calling my Mom a witch, and to stop throwing rocks. They chased me around Mr. Pruett's house and then, finally, the ground cracked, Dad came out, and he ate them all. Mom said it's okay, and that my new friends will be smarter. I hope so!

  • 121. Spawn! Now!

    Sammy Salmon wanted to make it upstream before his brethren to catch all the really good girly fish, but his big brain and lame-ass little fins prevented this. So he studied the Great Floating Things, made a few tools, stole some boards, and next season, tooled up the Columbia in a miniature hydroplane Spawninator.

  • 122. Standing Out

    Goth Becky spent all her own money on dark clothes and the Portland late scene. She asked for more money to stand out more, but her parents refused. They worried about her in those dark strange places alone. Instead, they paid a helicopter to follow her with a spotlight. Now everybody had what they wanted!

  • 123. Starter Pet

    Karen begged her parents for a puppy, but they refused. "You’re too young for a puppy, but you can have a potato to start." She walked, fed, and loved that potato, but it still shriveled and died. Karen knew then she would never be grown up enough for a real live puppy.

  • 124. Superstar

    She's just an actress, I thought. An ordinary person. Why do all these freaks and mental cases pursue her and worship her like she's some kind of icon. Correction, I added. She's a superstar and besides, those freaks can go to hell - she's all mine.

    I tested the trigger wire. Perfect.

  • 125. Swords Into Ploughshares

    Josephine knew that civilization had halted because there was so much garbage in the world no one could reach raw materials anymore. Even New Jersey was buried! She was pretty good with tools and very creative, so she produced a handy garbage eating widget-maker. She raked in billions and eventually saw the real ground.

  • 126. Tainted Love I

    She couldn't decide. Should she cheat on her husband or not? He was an honest loving man, but gone for weeks at a time and she had her needs. The barista was handsome, sympathetic, and accessible. What a dilemma! Finally, she decided to fantasize about the barista and take it out on her unsuspecting husband.

  • 127. Tainted Love II

    He was on the road for weeks at a time. Although he dearly loved his beautiful faithful wife, he was too often tempted in exotic locations to stray from his vows. Eventually, he brought a small pillow, redolent of her scent, and kept it near all the time. With it, he remembered her love always.

  • 128. Tainted Love III

    The barista secretly loved his best friend's wife. He could tell she was interested too, especially when her husband left town for weeks to work. He couldn't stand the temptation, but he couldn't betray his friend. He suggested she travel with her husband, and solved both problems. Plus, house-sitting paid better than shot-pulling!

  • 129. Target Practice

    Behind an Arizona gas station, Jake shoots saguaro blooms as target practice. His lead mechanic is affable, does excellent work, doesn't mind overtime, and bangs Jake's wife on the occasional long lunch. The latter point Jake found out just this afternoon, half an hour before he bought the pistol. He aims and another flower dies.

  • 130. The Trees for the Forest

    "Where are the morally superior energy beings?" Picard asked himself. "Kirk encountered them constantly and we just get nutcase godlike entities."

    "Balanced superior beings don’t notice you," answered his fish. "Kirk only experienced the more indulgent ones -- like cat ladies in energy form."

    But Picard didn’t hear it -- why should he listen to a fish?

  • 131. Try a Boy

    Ernie had good intentions when he marched in Seattle's Gay Pride Parade with a shirt reading "Try a boy on for size!" He walked with his gay male friends. Everything was great until he became confused and ended up in a section of weightlifting dykes.

    He learned then he couldn't eat a whole cotton shirt.

  • 132. Two Birds with One Stone

    In the distant, overpopulated future, food was unnecessary. People had built-in sunlight converters. Simona, however, was always ravenous. Cranking up her converter didn't help, nor did extravagant sex acts. During one of her messier failures, though, she discovered a cure for both her and her oppressive environment and became a respected and famous cannibal.

  • 133. The Ultimate Protection

    He was an infection fanatic. He kept his infant daughter away from all animals, the filthy lowly things. They could slobber and drool on someone else's children, but not his precious little girl. Even his wife's loving touch was forbidden. His too, after a while. It wasn't long before loneliness took the little girl's life.

  • 134. Unspeakable! Evil!

    It was a town with a secret. Beneath their streets lived an Unspeakable Evil. They jealously guarded this secret, killing reporters who wrote of such things. After a few years of this, they realized the stories were about other towns. They weren't unique -- every town harbored Unspeakable Evil. After that revelation, they watched only cable.

  • 135. Vaporware

    "I want it to be featureful," Laurie told her programmers. "And extremely flexible, for any client. And," she finally added, as if she had invented the phrase, "I want it easy-to-use." It was to no one's surprise when, eighteen months later, she had nothing but hardcoded crap and pages of cloud-shaped diagrams.

  • 136. Venusian Discretion

    The subcutaneous Varteego (an aggressive intergalactic parasite) kept trying to tunnel into Ray's flesh and plant tiny eggs under his thick soft skin. Even in the seedy bars and aggressive atmosphere of Venus, parasites were unattractive, so rather than order the fancy medicinal shampoo from Earth ($170,000 for shipping alone!), he started dating blind girls.

  • 137. Victor is Gone

    Poppa has Victor's blood on his hands. "I'm sorry," he says. "Your cat must have been under the hood or - " Katie screams and runs past Momma. Momma's eyes are cold. Her hand blurs, cracks against Poppa's face and he falls to the floor. "No more," she says. Poppa leaves then, not looking at us.

  • 138. Vows

    Louis promised that Cajun witch he'd marry her for a million dollars. Naturally, he skipped out once he had the cash and lived the life of Riley. After he died, she dug his body up, resurrected him, and in his ear whispered "'Twas no accident, my love, we left out 'til death us do part'."

  • 139. Waitress

    Now this man, she thought to herself, was a complete pig. Look at how he bosses the waitress around, like he owns her. Now he's undertippping. Deliberately! She was determined to make this their first and last date. But he was bossier than she was and so she became his wife. And he still undertipped.

  • 140. War is Hell

    They say war is hell. "It’s certainly heck," sighed Toby, drying his nails under the lamp. "It’s awful," agreed Bruce, squinting at his cross-stitch. Phillip rubbed his long leather boots sensuously, adding, "Even with gear like this, there are places I’d rather be." Reassignment was quick after the first incendiary bomb struck their tent.

  • 141. With a Clear Conscience

    With pale sand visible through transparent turquoise water, I had no worries as I floated, napping on my surfboard. I heard only gulls, saw only the horizon, and was blissfully happy until the first tug at my feet and the sudden loss of sensation as the serrated teeth cut through.

  • 142. The Writer

    Mark spent every waking moment writing feature length motion picture scripts. But he couldn't sell them to save his life. Hollywood just kept him dirt poor. When his friend suggested he write a sitcom spec script, it was a fabulous success and he became well known as a genius sitcom writer. But he hated sitcoms.

  • 143. Yes Means Yes

    She spent her whole life saying "No." It was as if her world was a TV show that had to end each day as it began, with no big changes. One day, a wild hair struck her and she said "Yes!" to the first question someone asked. She has, since this, never been happier.

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