The crowd began their nightly oohs and ahhs. They stared at the spectacle before them — a fairytale castle basked in firework flashes. Music crescendoed with the booms, and they held their breaths, drawing in the magic.
Though few of us know it, Roy thought and extended his palm to catch the invisible magic motes falling from the sky.
“We’ll make a wish,” the song blared, “and dare to do what dreamers do.”
Roy held back tears and placed his magic-infused hand on the statue beside him. Don’t worry, Walt. We’ll bring you back, break the curse. Someday.
The old man chanted like an eastern snake charmer, and the barbed wire rose from the ground. It swayed, undulated, then struck. It bit, piercing clear through Jeremy’s larynx.
“That’ll shut yer screamin’.”
More barbed wire coiled itself tight around Jeremy’s body, pinning him to the post. It shredded his flesh in a hundred places.
“Ye’ll die eventually, maybe a week. Then I’ll chop ye up, coat yer limbs in resin and use ‘em fer more fence posts.” The man chuckled and walked away, glancing at the No Trespassing sign. “Heh. Reverse psychology. Gets ‘em every time.”
Jeremy couldn’t scream.
The avalanche nearly toppled Khandar Steelmane from his ledge. Even an 18 barely made the saving throw.
His companion, Faye Cloakswood, helped him to his feet and cast Minor Healing on him.
One by one, they braved the Trials of the Godsmount—30,000 vertical feet of sheer cliffs, ice dragons, and countless other horrors from a capricious Dungeon Master.
Many times, Khandar thought they’d die. But, finally, they reached it. The Summit.
“Hey! Pudgy!” yelled Melissa.
“What?” Derek clutched his side.
“This is only the first hill on the trail. You really need to stop playing so much DnD.”
“We will be with you,” the mother duck says to the duckling.
At least, that’s what I imagine it says. I watch as the duckling drifts away from its family.
A loner. Different. Special.
I hear the barbecue behind me. What will my mother say? What will my family think when I tell them I’m taking a vow of silence and traveling the world? Being the Starbucks-guzzling, IPad-toting herd they are, they’ll probably laugh.
But it’s my destiny. Like the—eww.
Now a falcon has the loner duckling in its beak.
I sigh. An outlier’s life isn’t easy.
“Whee! I feel so alive!” whooped the daredevil drop and leaped over the edge. Splat.
“Oh my God, get me out of here!” screamed the hydrophobic drop and flung himself over the edge. Splat.
“Oh Romeo, Romeo, wherefore splat thou Romeo?” bequeathed the star-crossed drop and swooned over the edge. Splat.
“I splat, therefore I am,” mused the philosopher drop and—assuming he existed at all—went over the edge. Splat.
“Freedom!” shouted the Scottish drop and charged heroically over the edge. Splat.
The leaf sighed as the dripping continued. Did they have to do this after every rainstorm?
Quillius Porcupine sat writing a book in his tower. He was just inking up one of his quills, freshly grown from his back, when an intruder burst in through the door.
It was Algebreus Alligator, the local mathematician and village troublemaker. He held a sword.
“Now I can prove it!” Algebreus cackled. He turned his head and opened his mouth toward the blade, making a <. “The sword is greater than the quill!”
In response, Quillius wrote “The quill > the sword” on his paper. He repeated it down the page until, finally, Algebreus tired of holding his ridiculous pose and conceded.
Eloni showed Xin the right side of his chest. “An otter, for my son. Tua loved to swim, and to talk. So quick at both.”
He pointed to the left side of his chest, over his heart. “A dolphin, for my wife. Kali was so smart it hurt. And beautiful, graceful—until you killed her.”
Finally, the center of his chest. “A shark, for me. I died the day you killed my family.”
He unsheathed a long, serrated blade, and pointed to his left arm. “My newest tattoo I carved myself. An eel, Xin. Cut into pieces. It represents you.”
The Darkness chased me. I walked under a ladder to slow it. Broke a mirror to give it pause. Bought a black cat simply to set it up to cross my path. That really confounded it.
I’m cursed, you see. Doomed to be hunted by Darkness every Friday the 13th.
Finally, I reached the tunnel. It’s a ghoul-infested hell, but it was worth enough bad luck to ward off the Darkness until midnight.
The inky-void Darkness loomed, roiled behind me.
I made sure to give it the finger before I cocked my shotgun and strode into the tunnel.
You take a sip of the cherry slushy. Slurp. Delicious. You take another.
Huh. Must have hit a warm spot. The next sips become warmer and you notice something.
It doesn’t taste like cherry anymore.
And your mouth is glued to the straw.
You see movement in the cup. A crystalline, bloody face stares back at you, smiling, and winks.
You stand and try to scream, try to tear away, try to stop the suction. But you can’t.
Bit by bit, your insides are sucked into the slushy face.
The last thing you hear and feel before dying is
Hi my name is Mikey and when I was in first grade there was a girl named Kayla. She was real good at reading and I was good at math.
We played at recess and she was my reading buddy. She helped me read better. I guess she was pretty.
Kayla always had pink bandaids on her arms. She said the shots hurt.
One day she wasn’t at school and she wasn’t there that whole week. I asked Miss Jameson and she said Kayla moved schools. But then I saw her cry after school.
I cried too. I miss Kayla.