Durned Gummint Men

“I want to introduce you to someone,” said Sweet Polly. “This is Commander Bonecrusher. Boney, this is Tiktik Bird. He’s new this year.”

Tiktik whined his way down to the ground with a grind and click, and swept one wing grandly before him in a bow. “Tik how do you do tik?” he greeted.

“A pleasure, I’m sure,” agreed the Commander. He extended one armored power-gauntlet to shake, but examined his counterpart’s delicate wing structure and settled for a respectful nod. “Polly, you look lovely. Is that a new dress?”

Sweet Polly combed fingers through her red licorice hair and brushed a crumb from the gingerbread dress. “What, this old thing?” Of course, a light tint of pink crept into her pearly white frosting.

“Where is Atomic Racer?”

“He couldn’t make it.” Polly’s face quickly re-paled and she murmured, “Poor quarterly sales.”

“Tik only three this year tik.”

“Well,” Polly brightened, “Guess we’d better get checked in.”

Over the reception desk hung a “21st Annual Los Angeles International Toy Expo” banner. The lobby was crowded with vendors, dealers, and mobs of other toys all attending the convention.

Commander Bonecrusher leaned his patented ** Proton Cannon with Real Working Grenade Launcher™ ** against the counter and grinned at the reception clerk. “There should be three room reservations under PolyNamPlastiCo.”

The clerk swallowed and smiled weakly. “Yes sir. Let me just check on that for you.”

Tiktik Bird said, “Tik only one room, Mr. Nam is cheap tik.” Several loose gears tumbled onto Sweet Polly’s shoulder where he perched.

Bonecrusher only shook his head, “Typical civilian weenie.”

“Here we are then, one double room, please sign here,” the clerk said. “Take the elevator to the sixth floor, room six six six.”

“Well, that’s not very comforting,” Sweet Polly said.

The clerk leaned forward and spoke directly to Polly in a stage whisper, “Be very careful, and watch out for the Black Suits.”

The clerk resumed wearing his Professional Face, and passed the envelope of room keys to the Commander.

“That was odd,” she said.

The three companions started making their way, very slowly, through the packed and noisy lobby to the elevator.

“I could lay down some frag grenades, just to clear the way.”

“Tik behave, Commander. We are guests here tik.”

Polly was looking around quietly for anyone in a black suit, but didn’t see anyone who looked particularly sinister in the crowd.

“Here’s the elevator.”

On the sixth floor, the primary hall receded to the perspective’s vanishing point.

“Bigger than expected. Is that good, or bad?”

“I will recon,” Bonecrusher dove for the floor, and crawled forward on his belly, Proton Cannon™ at the ready.

“Tik oh please tik.”

The clockwork bird fluttered on ahead. At the sixth cross-corridor, the party turned, and paused before the sixth door. Number 216.

“Tik here we are tik.”

“Didn’t the clerk say six six six?”

“Tik yes indeed. The sixth floor, sixth corridor, and sixth door—and one of the room numbers I was expecting tik.”

Sweet Polly only looked more confused.

“Tik it was most likely to be 18, 216, or 1.0314E+28. Of course, there are other numbers with lower probabilities tik.”

“Like 666, maybe?” Polly rolled her eyes sweetly.

“Whatever, math nerd,” exclaimed the Commander, muscling his way to the front and swiping the keycard.

The door opened into a standard hotel room, except for the four men in Dark Suits. Who were decidedly not standard.

“We’re with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and we have a few little concerns to discuss. For example, the Commander’s very real explosives, Tiktik Bird’s many tiny swallowing hazards, and Sweet Polly’s lead oxide frosting. Please, step inside, all of you.”

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610 words. Inspired by this week’s Finish That Thought (3-15) prompt and special challenge.

Note: I didn’t make the deadline. I’m only truly creative in the stupid-early hours of the morning, and that’s my excuse, missed it this week. So I didn’t bother to carve and edit it down to the required 500 words.

Had fun anyway, hope you enjoy.







“Hurry, we must hurry. The sun will rise soon.”

She pulls me by the hand and we wade into the water. This is the lowest part of the cave, I’m thankful it’s March and the water’s only waist deep. During the rainy season, we would need to hold our breath to negotiate this stretch.

We stop while I shine the light around.

“We must prepare,” Liwayway continues tugging my hand urgently. Her eyes dart back and forth. “She comes soon.”

The cave is in Candaba Swamp in the Phillipines. The roof constantly drips and damp pervades everything, even during the dry season. The cave entrance is underwater for part of the year.

“Look over there, do you see the trunk?”

A gnarled mass of mossy roots, twisted and distorted, spreads out for meters over the cave floor. The unusual root system twists over and around other roots, rocks, and spots of yellowing ivory, shaped…

“Yes, they are skulls. She is quite old and very powerful, as I told you. These are the skulls and bones of her victims. She feeds on the unborn by preference, but she’ll also take the infants or smaller toddlers. The mothers she just kills, because they are too big to carry away.

“Bring the salt. There is only one way to kill her.”

Liwayway stepped into the root system and pulled me forward to the trunk.

Where the roots met, they twisted together and grew as a pair of leprous tree trunks for about half a meter. The scabrous bark gradually lightened in color and melded into a pair of very human thighs and lower torso.

The torso, in turn, ended abruptly a few inches above the navel. When I saw the raggedly torn flesh and viscera, my stomach churned. There were carmine threadlike worms and bloody red maggots crawling in and amongst the exposed intestines.

“We cannot allow the manananggal to rejoin with her lower body. It is nearly dawn. If we can prevent that happening until the sun comes up, she will die. Pour half the salt on the trunk, quickly.”

I swallowed to keep my lunch down, and tried keep my eyes mostly averted as I tore open the two-pound bag. I poured the salt over the torn flesh, ripped intestines, and whatever-the-hell that thing was. The worms tried to wriggle away and escape, I noticed, so I dosed them with more salt.

“Now quickly, back to the cave wall. Bring what’s left in the bag.”

Li’s urgency level was clearly on the rise, she shoved me bodily into a dark nook on the cave’s back wall.

“Pour the remaining salt in a circle around us. As long as the circle is unbroken, she will not be able to cross it.”

I heard the distinct flapping of wings, and my hands shook as I poured the last crystals from the bag. Li grabbed my hand. Her fingers crushed mine tightly as the manananggal glided into our dimly lit viewing range.

She has the upper half of a very human female, with some modifications. The most obvious of which are the enormous bat wings with almost four meters of wingspan. Her wingtips scrape the top of the cave; then she spies us, and turns in our direction.

Then there’s the tongue. She possesses several feet of elongated, prehensile tongue, ending in a bladed spur.

There’s also the bloody gore hanging from her raggedly separated torso, the bottom half of which is currently rooted across the cave. A steady, slow rain of maggots and threadworms falls under her flight path, whenever one of her resident symbionts wriggles free and falls to earth.

She screeches loudly and barrels at us, and slams into the cylinder of air directly above the circle of salt. Whatever mystic barrier Liwayway has set up using the ring of salt works very well. It does fail to block the debris that rains down, maggots and worms shaken loose by the collision.

Now the manananggal screams in obvious pain and tries to reconnect with her lower body. She cries out with impotent rage when another pile of salt blocks her goal.

When the sun rises, the manananggal explodes into flame.

“Back to hell with you, bitch,” Li hisses.

It’s another “happily ever after” ending. Monster destroyed, great job, and let’s go home. Right?

I just can’t stop wondering what Liwayway gained by gathering up those wiggling maggot symbionts in a sample jar.

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Inspired by the prompts for Mutant 750 (#55) at Grammar Ghoul Press.

© Jakub Krechowicz

Head in a Cloud

The man with the foolish grin is keeping perfectly still.

He watches the pathway leading to a portico with ionic columns and a bronze door. Before the door is a sack of homespun wool.

Hooves clop, wheels scrape gravel, and harnesses jingle. Heat and blinding radiance forces him to look away for a moment. A chariot rolls past.

The sack is now burning. He dashes forward and pounds on the door.

A figure opens the door, looks surprised,  and quickly stamps out the flaming sack.

The man with the broad grin races down the mountainside, pursued by a thunderbolt.


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100 words. Inspired by this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction prompt:

(I saw Mt. Olympus, obviously. Apologies to Mr. McCartney, and flaming poo sack pranksters everywhere.)


We All Shine On

The cars whirled and spun, and the carnival patrons squealed with delight.

That is, every customer except one. Edna only scowled.

Miracle Mike saw her scowl, then bowed and opened the gate of his newest ride, the “Wheel of Karma.”

“Guaranteed to delight, madam, absolutely guaranteed. Please accept a free ride, compliments of the house.”

Edna grudgingly accepted.

It took considerable time for the Wheel to get up to speed. It clanked and rattled, shuddered and coughed.

Edna scowled again, naturally. Then she winked out of existence.

“The thing is… You need to enjoy the ride while you’re on it.”

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100 words. Inspired by this week’s Friday Fictioneers prompt:



Leaves of Red and Gold

The family resemblance was striking. Only the tiny lines around her eyes betray greater maturity.

“So you’re her mother?”

“I am. Don’t look so surprised.”

Months ago, I’d shared a drink and conversation with her daughter right here at this bar. Just now, I was still trying to wrap my mind around meeting the mother, without warning, sitting on the same bar stool.

“Relax. You already know we don’t bite.”

“She nibbled a bit, emotionally. I didn’t know about her husband until I was really enjoying her company, you know. My heart wasn’t broken or anything, but my little crush got crushed.”

“Well you’re safe from heartaches with me. Besides, my husband wouldn’t dream of making an appearance. Not even with a thunderbolt, I promise.”

We had recreated much the same evening as when her daughter visited; talking, laughing, and drinking. Eventually, I asked if she’d like to see “our” tree.

The tree hadn’t stopped blossoming and raining petals over the bus stop until high summer. She leaned one hand against the tree’s trunk, and colorful autumn leaves suddenly cascaded.

Demeter just laughed when she saw the sadness come over me.

“Silly mortal, loveliest of all are those which don’t endure.”

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200 words. Inspired by this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction prompt (and a followup to a previous tale—“You Can Tell a Lot About a Person From Her Underworld.”)

Squire Monty’s First Match

Argent, a chevron azure, was the device emblazoned on the shield of Sir Dexter (who was not terribly popular with the jousting fans). Dexter, they said, often jousted “dirty” and performed assorted unknightly deeds.

A bead of sweat dripped from Monty’s chin. The damned eye slits were out of alignment again, Monty couldn’t see more than a foot of his own lance. Suddenly, the trumpet sounded to start the match.

By tilting his head, Monty could barely make out Sir Dexter, already thundering down the list!

Match called because of Snowball. House cats are a common hazard in Mouse Jousting.

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100 words. Inspired by this week’s Friday Fictioneers prompt:

PHOTO PROMPT – © Marie Gail Stratford