Sharp Winter

“What’s the big news?” Nancy asked as soon as she opened the door. Melanie smiled broadly and her eyes twinkled as she walked into Nancy’s house. Snow had been falling since January 1st and very few people seemed to notice. Nancy noticed in March, and her waitress happened to be Melanie; someone else that noticed.

Their shared secret helped the two women bond quickly. Melanie introduced Nancy to several other weather-astute friends; and, over time she became part of their group. That evening Melanie attended a meeting that Nancy was unable to make. She called Nancy and said it was “SOMETHING MAJOR”, they had to talk tonight.

“We have an answer now,” Melanie said; she appeared to be vibrating with excitement despite her calm.

“You do!? REALLY? TELL ME!!” Nancy grabbed her friend’s shoulders and gave her a firm shake.

“Someone new showed up to the meeting. She knew what was going on and what we were up to. It was kind of scary at first; she had that kind of ‘mob boss’ vibe with a sexy bodyguard and everything. I thought she was going to have us all killed.

“Well, you’re not dead,” Nancy smiled. The pair of women relocated to Nancy’s kitchen. When Melanie insisted she was on her way, Nancy put a kettle on. “But you will be if you don’t explain the snow to me right now,” she added as they sat at the table and began fixing their cups.

“I will,” Melanie said. “But, it’s complicated…,” she paused for a moment, then reconsidered. “No, not complicated I guess. But pretty unbelievable. It sounds crazy, but I promise you I can prove everything I say; I just need you not to freak out completely when you hear it.”

“I promise I won’t freak out,” Nancy said. Melanie nodded and reached into her purse she set on the table. She pulled a small rectangle of glass from it. It was about the size and thickness of a standard playing card.

“I tried to get you one of these, but Ms. Sharp, that’s the mob boss I told you about, said you had to claim it in person. I’ll take you tomorrow.”

“Yeah, okay. What about the SNOW?” Nancy asked.

“I’m getting to that, hold your horses.” Melanie placed the glass card on the table in front of her. “You like video games, right?” she asked. Nancy only narrowed her eyes in response; then, Melanie made an encouraging motion with her hand. “Humor me,” she said.

“Yeah, I like video games. I need something to distract me from all the SNOW.” Melanie sighed and giggled at the same time.

“Fine, I wanted to ease you into it; but, since you can’t wait, here you go.” Melanie lifted the glass rectangle and tapped it. Nancy saw a clock appear on the screen like a cellphone. Melanie continued tapping and swiping as Nancy watched colorful icons scroll by. When she stopped, Melanie looked back at Nancy and winked.”Life is a game,” she said and tapped the glass one more time. Nancy was surprised when snow started falling in her kitchen. “A real, literal game.” She wiggled the glass at Nancy. “And Ms. Sharp gave us the controller.”

Message Loggin’

“Who can I tell?!

Someone must know!”

Ken searched the hill

for someone he could show

or explain the message.

A guard of sorts wandered by

with an official vest and badge.

Ken waved and caught his eye,

pointed at the upright stones.

“It’s a message!”

The guard smiled, “We know.”

He presented a small card to Ken.

“Follow the secret passage.”

He pointed at a specific stone.

Ken found the door and went in.

He climbed down the narrow stairs.

Then he trekked the dim corridor.

He paused to listen more

when music filled his ears.

He laughed, “Perfection!”

He sang along and cheered.

“Revvin’ up your engine

Listen to her howlin’ roar….”


“Impossible!” Bob wrote.

“I won’t make it on time.”

He added to the note.

“I’ve spent my last dime.

I planned to win this thing.”

“I celebrated; maybe

somewhat prematurely.

I went on the town for fun

and depleted all my funds.”

“I paid for everything

in cash and a la carte.”

Bob was proud of his smarts.

“Give my win to Bob Guinn.

He deserves the  prize wallet.”

Eight more to forfeit.”

Fluttering Arm

“I’ve never seen her before, Master,” Gallos said. The feeble, balding man answered his ruler’s question. The pair of men sat in the town square on a bright, sunny Saturday. Hundreds of citizens congregated to honor the most powerful man in the world: Dragonetti.

The town square was decorated for a festival. Balloons, streamers, food stalls and craft vendors set up. Townsfolk enjoyed the festive atmosphere and wandered between the booths smiling and laughing. As Dragonetti watched his citizens, bright red hair caught his eye. The owner, an alabaster-skinned giantess, stood at least three heads taller than anyone else in the crowd. Dragonetti stood from his makeshift concrete throne.

“I have to have her,” he explained his actions to Gallos, then strode toward the imposing woman. Fear parted the crowd as he walked toward her. Dragonetti was far from being an honorable ruler; he tried to be fair but did not always manage it. The times he could not play fairly, he did not hesitate to use his powers to ensure his preferred result. He wasn’t evil, or even coldhearted; he just liked things his way, and he had the power to make it happen.

“Hi,” Dragonetti said once he reached the woman at a vendor; he had to look up at her despite his own 7-foot 3-inch height. The booth operator immediately bowed at his sudden appearance. The tall woman looked down at Dragonetti and gave a pleasant, if not warm, smile.

“Hi,” she said, then refocused her attention on the assortment of cooked meats.

“My name is Dragonetti. I’m the ruler here and the most powerful man in the world.” The tall woman glanced at him briefly.

“Neat. Keep up the good work,” she replied, then she turned to walk away from him and the booth. Dragonetti grabbed her wrist to stop her.

“You don’t understand,” he said. “Thanks to my dragon tattoo I get anything I want; and, I want you.”

“Dragon tattoo?” she let him stop her and turned to face him. Now that he had her attention again, Dragonetti let her wrist go and smiled.

“I’m sure you’ve heard of me,” he smiled and held his arm up. A long purple dragon touched both his wrist and inner elbow. “I’m the only natural dragon tattoo in the world.”

“Nope,” she shrugged, then turned to leave again. Dragonetti grabbed her wrist again and squeezed harder.

“What’s your name, beautiful?” She stopped and turned again; He released her wrist again.

“If you grab my wrist again, I’m ripping your arm off,” she said. “That’s your warning.” Dragonetti chuckled.

“That’s a horrible name unless you think you actually can,” he said. “I’m pretty much a dragon. I breathe fire, I have the strength and armored scales of a dragon.”

“Scales?” She asked with genuine interest. “Let me see.” Dragonetti smiled; his well-tanned skin segmented and shifted to a sickly green color.

“Oh, that’s adorable,” she said. “Let me try.” She winked at Dragonetti and her smooth, pale skin hardened. A thick layer of beautiful golden scales covered every inch of visible skin. They sparkled like metal in the bright sunlight. Dragonetti gasped in surprise and his scales disappeared into his skin again.

“Who are you?!” he asked. The woman smiled and retracted her own scales.

“Flutter,” she said. “Bye,” she turned around to leave but Dragonetti grabbed her wrist.

“Wait!” he shouted. Flutter did not wait. Dragonetti decided to teach Flutter a lesson. He squeezed her wrist with all his strength and stood his ground. She kept walking while he held her wrist, after a step he roared with strain.

Despite using all his strength, Dragonetti could not stop Flutter. He braced himself but he was as effective as a spiderweb trying to stop a bull. Flutter kept walking and he screamed in pain as his tattooed arm went with her. She didn’t seem to notice.

Minting Society

“Pardon me,” the tall stranger apologized to Clover over his shoulder without slowing. His forest-green suit stood out from the crowd of blue and grey suits waiting for the bus as he plowed through them. Clover’s gaze drifted upward. She gasped audibly when she saw a golden infinity sign floating above his head.

The rest of the commuters around her all had a timeframe of years above their heads, but not the stranger. He didn’t stop to wait with the rest of them and kept striding down the block, seemingly in a hurry. Clover pretended to weigh her options, but her decision was already made. The mystery of the immortal man was far more pressing than anything she needed to do in the office. After a few moments, she stepped away from the other commuters and followed the man in green.

Clover followed and studied him from behind for two blocks until he reached the park. She could not see much other than the green suit and a perfectly parted white head of hair. He walked into the park at a much slower pace. As he turned, Clover also noticed he had a full white beard; she thought he looked like a lean, tall Santa Claus. Clover followed him into the heart of the park until he sat down at one of the concrete picnic tables.

After she watched him from a distance for a few minutes, she realized he was waiting for something. Even with his back to her, she noticed him glancing around the park with the same kind of nervousness that comes with expectation.

Clover never told anyone about her abilities. She hinted and joked about it with some of her closest friends in her younger years; just enough to find out she was unique. She didn’t know how to, or even if she wanted to explain her gift to this stranger; but, she had to talk to him. If he was immortal she wanted to know why and hopefully how to be immortal too. Clover took a few deep breaths to build her courage, then walked over to his table.

His face lit up into a bright smile when she reached the table and looked at him; it surprised her. Clover spotted a white vest under his green suit, but it was his eye that surprised her.  His right eye looked like the Earth, and it spun slowly in its socket like an Earth. Under that eye, the number 37 was tattooed on his right cheek. He spoke before Clover could say anything.

“You came!” he said and gestured at the seat across from him.

“Do I know you?” Clover asked. It was a silly question; she would definitely have remembered him if she did, but he seemed to expect her. He smiled but shook his head.

“You don’t yet, but I did want to introduce myself. My name is Peppermint,” he said. Clover smiled.

“My name’s Clover, and I’m glad I’m not the only one with a flowery name. So, Peppermint, why did you want to introduce yourself to me?” When he said he wanted to introduce himself, Clover assumed the bump at the bus stop was intentional. She started to grow annoyed until she remembered the very real mystery floating above his head. As if he read her mind, Peppermint pointed to the air above him.

“Because you can see this,” he said. Clover’s eyes went wide.

“YES!” she almost shouted. “How did you know?” Peppermint shrugged.

“I don’t know what you see exactly, but I know you see something. Like you, I can see things too. To me, you look different than anyone else at that bus stop.”

“You’re immortal,” Clover said. “I see when people are going to die, you have an infinity sign. Can I be immortal too?” Peppermint shook his head and chuckled.

“I’m not immortal as such. I can be killed, but if I’m left alone I won’t die naturally. You can’t be immortal in the same way, but there are workarounds that I’m familiar with if you wanted to join me.”

“Join you?” Clover asked. Peppermint nodded. “Doing what?”

“That’s up to you. I’m building a new society of sorts where special people like you can live in peace. So, if you joined, it’s up to you to find your niche.”

“My niche? That doesn’t sound like it’s gonna earn me much money,” Clover said. “Can I keep my current job?” Peppermint shook his head.

“You won’t need money to survive; that’s the whole point. We take care of our own. You’ll have comfortable lodgings and plenty of good, healthy foods. Most of the extra luxuries are covered with bartering.”

“When can I start?” ‘Clover asked. It was mostly a joking way to accept the offer. She was planning to turn in her two weeks notice and use that time to pack. Peppermint smiled and reached into the interior pocket of his coat.

“Whenever you want,” he said. He pulled a fresh sprig of peppermint from his coat along with a small glassy rectangle. “When you’re ready, pin this to your top. Ensure the pin is touching your skin,” he handed her the sprig; it had a green needle affixed to it.

“Once you have that pinned,” he handed her the node. “Use the TraverseTaxi app to call a ride.” Clover tilted her head.

“Does it have to be the app? Where do I tell them to take me?” Peppermint nodded as he stood from the picnic table. He waved his hand at the air; a green, watery portal opened up next to him.

“The only way you can get there is by using the app, but you won’t be able to go if you don’t have that pinned. As you can guess…,” he gestured at the portal. “…it’s not on this Earth.” Peppermint stepped into the green hole as he waved at Clover.

“Ask your ride to drop you off in Hell. Goodbye,” he smiled. The portal closed and disappeared.


“I won’t say nothing!” Charlie huffed with a bloody smile. The mid-20s thug was chained to a brick wall in a bathroom-sized room. Two black-masked strangers, one male one female, questioned him. “You’re gonna hafta kill me, ’cause I can take a ton of pain. More than you can dish out! Haha” he coughed and laughed at the same time.

The woman stepped forward with a smirk; she made a show of holding her right hand up in front of Charlie. He noticed a small tattoo on the base of her thumb as she slipped on a blue surgical glove. The tattoo was just the number 21 in blue ink. She tightened the glove and flexed her fingers prompting Charlie to laugh again.

“I don’t care how much you cut me open, I ain’t talkin’,” he said.

“Cut you open?” the woman asked. It was the first time Charlie heard her beautiful voice. Part of him wished he could have met her under different circumstances. The masked man that roughed Charlie up before the woman arrived held out a black canvas bag in front of her. “Oh, we don’t need to do that,” she dipped her glove hand into the bag. Charlie felt the strangest sensation. It wasn’t pain, but pressure. Somehow he felt something poking at his heart.

The woman pulled her hand out of the bag and locked eyes with Charlie. He watched her bring a blood-red fingertip to her mouth and lick it clean.

“If that wasn’t clear enough,” She said. At her comment, the man holding the bag flipped it over and turned it inside out. There was no secret reservoir of fake blood in the bag. Then he held the inverted black bag out again for the woman. She pushed her hand in and immediately Charlie felt fingertips caressing his heart.

“Now, I’m sure you can take a lot but pain is my career,” Charlie lost his breath for a moment and saw stars when she gently squeezed his heart, then she released it. The woman leaned closer to his ear and whispered. “You think we’re going to break your legs? Smash your fingers, maybe pull your fingernails out? You wish.”

Charlie screamed in agony. Searing, stabbing pain radiated from his gut; he leaned forward trying to protect and cradle the spot but he could not move his arms. The woman pulled a bloody, broken, jagged rib from the bag then casually tossed it on the floor. She wiggled her red fingers at Charlie and winked.

“You only have 23 more ribs, but don’t worry. If you’re not ready to talk after we ask you 23 more times, you have other organs you can live without.” She put her hand back in the bag.

“To save time, I’m just going to start taking you apart piece by piece,” Charlie screamed again as she pulled out another rib. “You can tell us where to find her whenever you want me to stop.”

Red Badge of Immortality

“Your wish is granted!”

the genie snapped his fingers.

“Immortality like you wanted.”

Max checked his hands and fingers.

“I feel the same,” he said.

“How do I trust you?

How do I know I’m immortal?”

The genie sighed.

“I don’t know what to do

to convince a ‘meh’ mortal.”

“I try to be honest and straight.

I grant wishes with no mistakes.

No corruption or twisted outcomes.

Not a single thank-you; just “how come?”

“You want proof?

I can arrange it.” *poof*

Max scream and hunched over.

Red blood flowed from his chest.

“What’s going on?” Max pressed

his hand against his wound.

“You’re not dying, and never will.

No matter how much you bleed,

You’re immortal.”

Hint of Evil

“This is stupid, this is stupid, this is stupid,” Adam mumbled to himself as the elevator moved up to the top floor. The mid-30s college student paced within the empty elevator while he reminded himself of his stupidity. “I’m gonna say the thing and they’re going to call security on me.” Before he could reconsider any more, the elevator slowed, then dinged.

The doors slid open to an almost blinding white office. Adam stepped out onto a polished white floor and looked around. The walls were made of frosted glass with solid white lights glowing behind the glass. In the middle of the room, at a white desk, sat a dark-haired woman in a black suit. She looked up as soon as Adam walked in and she continued to stare at him as he closed the distance.

“Yes?” she asked.

“Uh,” Adam leaned over the desk. He dropped his voice to a whisper despite no one else being in the room. “Satan sent me to see Ms. Sharp?” he said without an ounce of confidence. The woman’s stern look bloomed into a friendly, warm smile.

“Adam Juárez?” He nodded, slightly surprised. “We’ve been expecting you.” The woman gestured at a wall behind her and Adam noticed the faint outline of a door. “Please go in,” she said.

“Thank you,” Adam nodded and approached the door; it opened wider as he got closer. He stepped through the door into another white room. This one was softer than the lobby he was just in. The floor consisted of lush white carpet, the walls were not glowing as much. The outer wall consisted of a large single window that looked out on the city. A white desk sat between Adam and the window; a woman in a white suit sat at the desk.

“Hello, Adam,” Ms. Sharp said. She gestured at a chair in front of her desk. “I’m very busy, so let’s try to make this quick,” she said. Adam’s head was swimming with questions, but he did not waste any time sitting down. Before he could ask his first question, the woman spoke up.

“You’re here because you want to be a hero, correct?” she asked.

“I’m here because the devil said you could make me a hero.” Adam shrugged. “But I don’t know why he couldn’t do it himself.”

“Contrary to popular belief, Satan is quite..,” the woman sighed and faintly rolled her eyes. “…amicable. He sent you to me because he knew I could give you what you want without him having to make a deal for your soul. So, what kind of hero would you like to be?” she asked.

“Wait a minute. You’re saying Satan: ruler of hell and suffering, is a nice guy?”

“People are not their jobs,” Ms. Sharp said. “Satan is required to bargain for your soul to give you anything. I don’t have any such requirements. And, I’m in a hurry, remember? What powers do you want? What kind of city do you want to protect?”

“You’re serious? You can really do it?” Adam asked. The woman sighed.

“You wouldn’t be here to waste my time if I couldn’t,” she said.

“Alright!” Adam hopped to his feet and pulled out a crumpled sheet from his jeans. “I kind of drew a sketch and wrote out the powers and stuff,” he presented the sheet to her. Ms. Sharp’s eyes glanced down at the ruined paper, but she did not accept it. Instead, she pulled a clipboard out from her desk drawer and gave it to Adam.

“Easy. Sign this, take your design and signature to Melody, my assistant,” Ms. Sharp gestured at the door Adam came in through.

“That’s it?!” Adam asked as he eagerly jotted his signature.

“That’s it,” Ms. Sharp nodded. “Good luck.” Adam took his crumpled paper and the clipboard and dashed out of the room.

“I did my part,” Ms. Sharp spoke to the empty room. A small red, winged imp appeared on Ms. Sharp’s desk in a puff of yellow smoke. It narrowed its obsidian eyes at her.

“You took his soul without telling him,” it hissed in a small, ragged voice.

“Satan sent him to me so that he didn’t have to claim his soul. He never said I couldn’t claim it for myself. Now for the payment,” Ms. Sharp said. The imp sighed, but nodded.

“Oren,” it said.

“What about him?”

“He’s Ballisea’s son. He’ll answer all your questions about her.” The imp disappeared. 

Justine’s Jeopardy

“Whatcha doin’, spider-freak?” Ben asked the hunched over girl. She was alone in the middle of an overgrown field when Ben and his group spotted her on their walk from school. The girl, Justine, became the talk of the town the day she turned 16.

On their sixteenth birthday, all children get their familiar: a magical animal that can share its attributes with its master. Mammals were most common; lions and tigers and bears. Birds and fish were known to happen, but that had always been the extent of it. On her 16th birthday, Justine’s familiar appeared as a basketball-sized furry brown tarantula. The same tarantula that was on its back when Ben showed up; Justine was tickling its abdomen and giggling. Justine looked up at Ben and his two buddies, then she looked down again and resumed playing with her spider. It wiggled its spindly legs energetically.

“Freaky spider stuff,” Justine replied with a flat tone. Ben smiled and balled his fists.

“There’s no one around, Justine,” Ben sneered as he used the name. “I don’t even need an excuse.” He cocked his fist and borrowed the strength of his bear. Ben launched a bear-strong punch directly at Justine’s face; but, it was gone by the time his fist reached the spot. Without her body there to interrupt the blow, Ben punched a hole in the ground, then he screamed with fury.

Justine leaped out of the way as soon as Ben loosed his punch. She flipped over his head and landed behind him as his punch hit the ground.

“I hate that name,” Justine took a moment to remind the group, then she swept Ben’s legs out from under him as he screamed. He landed flat on his back. The heavy thud knocked the wind out of his lungs and interrupted his scream.

“Get her!” One of the two remaining thugs shouted. The heavyset teenagers charged forward and fell flat on their faces. Justine’s tarantula crawled over them toward. The pair of troublemakers struggled themselves to a sitting position to check their legs. Their feet were bound together by dense spider webs.

“Nice one!” Justine giggled while the spider crawled up to her shoulder like a pirate’s parrot. She took a single step away from the fallen trio then stopped in her tracks. Over a dozen black portals opened around the teens. Armored and armed soldiers walked out of dark holes with their guns aimed at Justine.

“Hey dumbass,” Justine said to Ben as he was pushing himself off the ground. “Are these dumbasses with you?”

“No. BORIS!” he yelled. A giant grizzly bear materialized next to him and roared at the approaching soldiers. A single one stepped ahead of the others.

“We’re only here for her. You guys are free to go,” the soldier said to Ben.

“Oh,” Ben said. “Cool.” Boris disappeared. Justine turned around to ask, ‘What the Hell?’, but she was met by a solid punch to the face. It knocked her unconscious.

Party Invitation

“Yes?” Turner asked the stranger at his door. When he opened the door, his first thought wondered if it was Halloween. A tall, lean figure wearing a black cloak and hood stood on his doorstep. He spotted a pale, delicate chin under the hood before the stranger pulled it back. She was a pallid woman with sunken eyes and long forest-green hair flowing down her back. The woman looked Turner up and down, then sighed heavily.

“You don’t have a tattoo, do you?” she asked with a voice full of disappointment. The question confused Turner enough that he couldn’t answer with more than a shake of his head. What kind of person knocks on people’s doors to ask them about tattoos? “Damnit!” she hissed in a near-whisper. “You had to be slumbering.”

“Well, thanks for checking in…,” Turner wanted to shoo this person off his doorstep and started closing the door. She stopped him by blocking the door with her foot.

“I came here to warn you off my turf…,” she pushed her way into Turner’s house while grumbling annoyance. “…but you’re not even doing it intentionally.”

“Get out of my house, please,” Turner said, but the woman shook her head.

“I know you can stop time,” she said with a sly smile. Turner’s eyes went wide. “And, I need you to stop saving people. It puts me off schedule and makes more work for me. Turner tilted his head as he processed the new information.

“D..Death?” he asked. The woman smiled.

“My name is Eden,” then she nodded. “Being Death is my career and your attempt at good deeds is interrupting my workflow.”

Attempt? I save their lives!” Turner blurted his defense. Eden shrugged.

“Then what?” she asked. Turner narrowed his eyes.

“Then what, what?” he asked for clarification.

“Did you really save their lives? They’re still going to die.”

“One day, probably. But not while I can stop it.”

“Why not?” Eden asked and let herself fall to his bright red couch.

“Because! They’re people, they deserve to live.” Turner sat in a matching red recliner next to the sofa.

“They deserve to live?” Eden giggled for a moment, then sat up straighter to talk to Turner. “Pretend you’re in charge of keeping someone from a surprise party until it’s time. Then, you get so focused that you forget your job. All you know is if you take them to the house, your time with them is over. You’re so worried about that time coming to an end you take every opportunity to stay away. You convince yourself that they deserve to spend time with you, despite the plan that was already in place.”

“You’re saying Heaven’s a party?” Turner asked. 

“I’m saying you’re messing up the plan and I’m here to put a stop to it,” Eden stood gracefully, but quick enough to cause Turner to step back. “You have two options. Join up, or move on to the party. Either way, you won’t interrupt my work again.”

“Join? You mean, become Death?” 

“You already are in some ways. But you have the option of formalizing your relationship with the universe.” 

“Huh? How am I Death?” Eden rolled her eyes, then she bent her left knee and lifted it. She pulled the black gown upward to reveal a tattoo on her calf; a silver scythe with a clock on the blade and the number 14 on the handle. 

“Your favorite number is 14. You can stop time. You’re a Unique Soul known as a Muerte,” Eden lowered her leg and pointed at herself. “We Muertes are the ones that keep things running. So. Do you want a job, or do you want to go to the party?”