Stone Wrong

“January 7th, 2013: Day 1-,” Max read his first journal entry. He sat in his study on a soft patch of grass next to a red pine tree. He could not remember why he decided to plant a tree and some grass in his study, but he did not regret the decision. No matter his mood, the tree always gave him comfort somehow. He assumed it had to do with having a connection to the Earth in the room he spent most of his time in.

“Everything Lucifer promised is working out. So far, anyway. I decided to start keeping journals to keep track of my life. I’ll have to make it a habit to read back through them annually. It’s crazy to just wake up rich one day. My mindset is already changing! This is actually the second journal I bought for this. I bought one already and I put it on my nightstand; but, there was no nightstand when I woke up. I should’ve realized everything around me would transform. Anyway, the point is I lost a notebook and instead of obsessing over it, I bought a new one. Because I can do that now. This money thing is going to be awesome. Anyway, more journaling later. If not, then I’m out spending money. I’ll check in again tomorrow.” Max chuckled to himself and shrugged.

“Another year and still no changes,” he smiled to himself. “This is the best deal I ever made.” Max read through the journal entries backward. Once he was done he liked to sit and reflect by the tree. He leaned back and relaxed against the large tree-stump sized stone that sat next to the red pine tree. Years of leaning against it wore it down to a smooth, comfortable surface.

“Ow,” Max felt a sharp pain in the back of his neck and hunched forward. He clapped his hand to the back of his neck to capture whatever pricked him; but, nothing squished under his hand. He rubbed his neck a bit to be sure, and he looked back at the stone. He did not see anything skittering. With a shrug, he turned around and settled back in place. Then, he felt the prick against his neck again. He spun around and ran his fingertips on the spot and he felt something sharp.

“What the hell?” he ran his fingertip over it several times and it seemed like something sharp was poking out from inside the stone. It only took him a moment to make a decision. “It’s just a rock,” he thought to himself.

With his decision made, Max stood from the grass and walked out of the room. Two minutes later he returned with a hammer and chisel. Max’s curiosity decided the rock was just a rock and could easily be replaced. He wasted no time in trying to crack his way into it. He started from where he felt the sharp point. After the first chunk popped off, Max realized the point was part of something bigger. He broke off more pieces; it was a corner.

After almost 10 minutes of constant chipping he broke enough of the stone to reveal a nightstand. A notebook and pen sat on top, undisturbed.

“No way…,” Max recognized the lost notebook and flipped through it. There was only one front and back journal entry.

“January 6th, 2013: Day 0. I’m finalizing my deal with Lucifer tonight. There might be changes in the morning, or over time, so I’m going to start keeping journals. Since this is the first entry I need to write down things that are important that I might forget as time goes on. Because I know myself and once I get rich I’ll be too distracted to remember these things later,” Max felt a knot growing in his stomach. He knew he’d already forgotten the important things because none of his other journals mentioned anything.

“First: I’m not immortal forever. I know that going in, Lucifer isn’t tricking me there. The deal is I am immortal as long as the tree is alive. I don’t know what tree yet, but he says there’ll be a tree. Once the tree dies so do I. I need to make sure that tree has a long, healthy life.” Max stopped reading then looked up at the red tree. After a moment he nodded to himself. “I’m good there at least.”

“Second:,” he continued reading. “Hell already has my soul. At least, they will as soon as I make the deal. They don’t have to wait until I die to claim it. That’s it for now. I’ve got a shopping list to make.”  The entry ended there, but after several blank lines, more was written.

“P.S. Deal made! I’m immortal AND I tricked Lucifer into protecting the tree for me! Because a tree is wood, and I got to thinking I’m screwed if my house burns down. Since he was getting my soul up front, I told him I needed some sort of guarantee too or I wouldn’t deal. He totally caved. So new important info!” Max reached the bottom of the page and found the rest written on the back.

“Third: there’s going to be a magic stone by the tree now too. As long as the stone remains intact, the tree lives. The best part is, I convinced Lucifer to enchant the stone so that I’m the only one that can damage it. As if I’m ever going to do that! Anyway, I’m going to sleep now to make my money get here faster.  Also, I’m not complaining, but it’s kind of weird that I have to sleep in the dirt as part of the deal. It makes me feel like I’m in a grave. Anyway, I think this is the only night I have to do this. To the future me that reads this: Congratulations! We outsmarted Lucifer!”

Max felt something land on his arms and head. He looked up and saw the pine tree was black now. Its needles were falling off and raining on him.

Sharp Divinity

“Prove it,” Agent Whitney said. Neither he nor the rest of his squad lowered their weapons. They all kept their aim focused on the two women sitting in the diner’s booth. Both were pale; the lean one wore an all-white suit, the other one wore a matching black suit.

“What kind of proof would you like?” Dana Sharp – the woman in white- asked. She lifted a glass of water from the table. A small black hole appeared above the glass; then, it moved down around the glass. The drink was replaced with a filled wine glass in her hand. “Water into wine?”

Speaking directly into your mind again?” Her voice filled Agent Whitney’s mind; it was a foreign, invasive thought. Exactly like the elders described.

“Just the fact that I’m here with my assistant should be more than enough proof for an Earth that monitors its population so closely.” Agent Whitney had to admit she had a point. He assumed most people would panic when suddenly surrounded by armed soldiers in a public space. She seemed to be expecting them as if she knew her presence would be noticed. He had no idea where the two women came from. Whether she was who she claimed to be or not; she still had amazing capabilities. Agent Whitney guessed if she wanted him and his men dead, there was nothing they could do to stop it. He relaxed his weapon and nodded at the rest of his men.

“Wise choice,” Dana said. “You’ll be thrilled to know you’re at the right place at the right time. I’m a busy woman, so let’s talk about why I’m here,” she gestured at the seat in front of her booth.

“I’m not fond of the methods your society has chosen to control your population,” she said.

“I knew you weren’t God,” Agent Whitney said. He looked Dana in the eyes. “If you were, you’d know that God made the rules; we just follow them.” Dana smiled.

“I know what I did,” she said. “We’re talking about your society, not me.”

“No one can get pregnant if we reach the population limit!” he said. “What else can we do to keep the Human race going? Wait for people to die naturally? Our elders already live hundreds of years and that’s only getting longer.” Dana sighed.

“I can see now that I was too hopeful,” she said. “It seems humanity, in general, is less intelligent than I thought. A God shouldn’t have to explain her designs; but, you folks are just too simple.”

“I put the limit on this Earth to encourage you to think about expanding; to encourage exploration. Why do you think I gave you longevity on top of the population limit?” Dana asked. Agent Whitney had often wondered about that. It seemed like a cruel joke, but now he was able to see its purpose.

“I’m putting you and your men in charge on this Earth,” Dana said. Her assistant stepped forward and placed a small white briefcase on the table. She opened it, then stepped back again. The inside was lined with red velvet. Six rectangle shapes were hollowed out and holding what seemed to be transparent glass cards.

“Sacrifices stop immediately. The limit only applies to this Earth; with these you’ll be able to access other Earths. At the risk of over-estimating you again, I trust you have some ideas of how to make use of that information,” Dana said. Agent Whitney nodded.

“Yes, my God,” he bowed his head. Dana sighed.

God is a title that feels rather weak; Please, call me Ms. Sharp.”

Sharp Fee

“HELLO!!??” Gavin yelled at the top of his lungs. His call echoed around the empty lobby; but, no one showed up. He managed to wait several seconds before getting fed up. Screaming was his resort. He rang the service bell on the desk several times and even tried calling the hotel number; no one answered. Finally, he decided to call the travel agent. Gavin’s panic died down once he heard another person’s voice.

“How can I help you, Mr. Walker?” Gavin was glad he wouldn’t have to dig out an account number or anything. He recognized the voice as the woman that put together the vacation for him. It was a small detail that helped him temper his anger. The woman on the other end sounded pleasant and willing to help. Gavin felt guilty for not remembering her name.

“Uh, hi. There’s no one here. I can’t check in to get a room. Where is everyone?”

“You requested the Lonely Planet package,” the woman replied. “There’s no one else there.” Gavins suddenly felt a knot growing in his stomach. “Pick any room you like.”

“Whoa… wait. I don’t have the money to rent out a whole hotel.,” he said. He hoped they would let him cancel due to what was obviously a misunderstanding.

“There won’t be any more fees on top of what you already paid,” the woman said. “However, if you’re unsatisfied with your current package, you may choose another destination. At Sharp Travel, we strive to do our best for our clients.”

Upon learning it wouldn’t cost him anything extra, Gavin reconsidered his situation. He did want some quiet time away from everything. Having an entire hotel to himself didn’t sound half bad all of a sudden. But, he was there via misunderstanding.

“Well, I think I’m here by accident,” Gavin apologized. He knew it was his own fault for lack of attention. “The travel guide, ‘Lonely Planet’ puts out vacation recommendations. That’s kind of what I wanted when I said ‘Lonely Planet’ package. But, since I’m here, it’s only right that I give it a fair shot. That being said, can you remind me again what this vacation is supposed to be like? I thought I knew what I was getting.”

“Of course, Mr. Walker. My name’s Lucy and I’m your personal concierge for this vacation. Anything you need, I’m at your service.  You signed up for a two-week ‘Lonely Planet’ package. For two weeks, you are the only human anywhere on that Earth. Many of our clients use these types of vacations to live out their ‘last person on Earth’ fantasies. You’ll find a welcome package with a node in the manager’s office. With that node, you can customize the Earth for your experience as you see fit.” Gavin spotted a door behind the check-in desk and headed toward it.

“Wait,” he asked. “I’m the only human on Earth? How’d you do that? Where are you?”

“On another Earth,” Lucy replied. She tried to maintain an even tone, but Gavin heard a slight, ‘duh’ in her voice. In the manager’s small office he found a white folder with the travel company’s logo- a pair of red scissors- on the front. He opened it to find several welcome pamphlets as well as a smaller red envelope. A card-sized pane of glass was in the envelope; its display lit up to show the time when he touched it.

“So, not only do other Earths really exist. For a few thousand dollars I can rent one out for two weeks? That seems ridiculously cheap.” Gavin sat down at the manager’s desk and began playing with the node. After it greeted him, it started to ask him questions about the kind of Earth he wanted to vacation on.

“Sharp Travel isn’t about making money, Mr. Walker. We simply want to give our clients the best vacation of their life. Honestly, the money is just a service fee.” Gavin pressed enter on his last choice. Then, the node displayed a new message.

[Cyber-future template selected. Build time – 8 hours.] Gavin didn’t know exactly what that meant, but he hoped it would somehow give the hotel a futuristic look.

“Service fee?” Gavin chuckled. He put the node down and stopped splitting his attention. “My signature on a few forms hardly seems like it’s worth this amazing vacation.”

“I did inform you that your soul was part of the transaction,” Lucy said.

“Wait… you were serious!??” Gavin was glad he was seated; his head spun at the news. “I thought you were joking because of your slogan. ‘Vacations worth selling your soul’,” he repeated as if she didn’t work for the company. “I don’t want to sell my soul! Cancel everything!”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Walker. If you had changed your mind five minutes ago, I would have been happy to refund your soul. However, you’ve already used the amenities. There is actually another reminder on the node before you use it; which, you also agreed to.” Gavin vaguely remembered seeing the word ‘soul’ somewhere in the wall of text he acknowledged. He accepted the responsibility of his situation with a heavy sigh.

“Is there anything you can do for me?” Gavin begged.

“Let me check,” Lucy said. After a few quiet moments, she spoke up again.

“Mr. Walker, because it’s the slow season I can extend your vacation for three more days if you like.”

“Well,… it’s better than nothing,” he replied with a shrug.

“Great! Your total comes out to $627.33 cents. Is it okay if I pull it out of the same account you paid with?”

“You’re charging me!?” he asked.

“Of course not, Mr. Walker, we already own your soul. However, there is still a service fee.”

Sharp Campaign

There is no other way.

We make the rules.

In life, you’ll find

you control your own fate.

Life is a game; Don’t think

you can’t set your own rules.

For a good life; know that

we provide the tools

to give you strife, or

live happily ever after. We decide

if our reality is real. You’ll never

forget the day of this event.


The AlterNet is everywhere.

-this Ad brought to you by Sharp Development.

Over Armor

Nicholas’ confidence tripled the moment he walked into the Magus’  tower. Only the high council and a few of his close friends were present as witnesses, despite Nicholas’ public challenge. The Magus herself stood in the center of the dueling arena; she wore a long purple robe with sparkling gold embellishments. She was rumored to be hundreds of years old, but barely looked older than Nicholas’ mother. Long salt and pepper hair with a few laugh lines under her eyes being the only wrinkles on her skin.

The fact that the Magus was an old woman is what made Nicholas think he stood a chance at all. He knew he’d probably earn some backlash for sucker-punching a senior citizen; but, once he had her title it would be worth it. Nicholas loved watching wizards duel. He often wondered why no one ran up and attacked their opponents at close range. He had trouble making friends in his younger years because according to them he ‘wasn’t playing right’. What they saw as rule-breaking, Nicholas saw as a weakness. He practiced with a dagger as often as he practiced his magic.

“I expected a bigger crowd,” Nicholas said. He descended the few stone steps into the stone arena. “Didn’t want to get embarrassed in front of too many people?” he asked.

“I didn’t want to bother people with a non-event,” the Magus said. She gave him her own confident smile. “The council and your witnesses are all we need to ensure fairness. I want to point out that this is an actual duel. This is not a lesson, I will treat you as an opponent, not a student. This is not a duel to the death; however, I strongly encourage you to fight with the intent to kill. You won’t stand a chance otherwise,” she said.

Yeah, I’ve got the intent,” Nicholas grinned to himself.

“Standard duel rules. I’m assuming everyone here is familiar with them?” The Magus looked around the room. Nicholas followed her gaze and saw everyone nodding. It was Nicholas’ first non-school assigned duel. He knew all he needed to; stabbing your opponent was not against the rules. 

“Ready?” The Magus turned her back to Nicholas and faced the far side of the arena. Nicholas lined up behind her with his back to hers. Nicholas and the Magus each took ten steps forward. Nicholas readied his first spell as soon as he finished the tenth step; then, one of the councilmen jingled a small bell.

Shadowstep,” Nicholas cast his first spell at the sound of the bell. His shadow jumped up from the ground and enveloped him, then he was gone. He rose up from the Magus’ shadow behind her and did not waste any time. He stabbed his dagger forward at her spine.

The tip of the dagger touched her robe; a pulse of purple energy radiated from the point it made contact and pushed back against him. The dagger flew out of Nicholas’ hand. Before he could process the situation, stone pillars shot up from the ground to surround him. They were close enough to him and each other to prevent him from moving.

“What the hell was that?” The Magus whirled around and asked. Her  violet eyes seemed clouded with confusion. “Did you just try to stab me?”

“There’s no rule against it!” Nicholas shouted. He tried wiggling himself out, but the pillars kept him locked in place. The magus sighed. She reached up slowly, then patted his head. The gesture was deliberately slow as if to hint at how many spells she could have used in the short movement.

“You lose,” she said. The pillars crumbled away and the Magus nodded.

“There’s no rule against setting yourself on fire either; some rules are redundant. As the winner, I’m requesting an essay from you. Three pages on the importance of mana armor.”

Sharp Planet

“No way…,” Lyra almost couldn’t believe her eyes. The young woman sat in a diner staring at the TV in awe. A group of astronauts returning from Mars was being interviewed about the photographs they returned with. “That’s gotta be the reason I’m here,” she whispered to herself. Her boss, Ms. Sharp, asked her to keep spend some extra time on this Earth, but she did not give a reason. She pulled her node out and sent a report immediately.

It was a pleasant Saturday morning and the diner was full, but not overcrowded. Lyra expected the din of conversation to die down, considering what was shown on the TV. Actual, English words written on a cave wall on Mars. Lyra regularly traveled between alternate universes but even she was impressed. Even if the actual message struck a nervous chord somewhere in her. But, everyone around her was focused on their own troubles. Her node vibrated in her hands as she wondered about the cave’s message.

[Thank you, Lyra. Please exit to another server for your safety. Ms. Sharp requested an emergency shut down on that server; there won’t be a warning. – Melody]

Lyra was surprised. She felt confident that Ms. Sharp would be interested in the message; especially considering a human skeleton was found next to it. The more she thought about it, the more Lyra appreciated Ms. Sharp’s focus.

That’s why she’s the most powerful woman in the universe,” Lyra thought with a smile. “She knows what she wants and doesn’t let herself get distracted.” Suddenly, Lyra felt the ground tremble under her feet; she glanced at the TV and saw they seemed to be in the middle of an earthquake too. Lyra casually wiggled her fingers at the air next to her and opened a black portal to escape through before the Earth exploded.


“The server is down and the Mars astronauts are in hibernation, Ms. Sharp,” Melody reported to Ms. Sharp in her office. “Except for Lyra, everyone that saw the message is accounted for.” Ms. Sharp gave a curt nod.

“Put a team of Zeros to work on solving Mars frequencies. You are the only Unique that knows about it,” Ms. Sharp said. Melody nodded.

“Yes, Ms. Sharp.” She turned to leave, but Ms. Sharp spoke up again.

“Let’s not take any chances; this might show up again somewhere. It’s better to take ownership. Start an ad campaign on suitable Earths,” Ms. Sharp smiled as she repeated the four words found on Mars.

“The AlterNet is Everywhere.”

Unique Purchase

“It’s called a rice cooker,” Larry said. Despite his reminder, Dee nodded and dropped a hunk of raw chicken into the pot. It was the last in a short list of ingredients; none of which were rice.

“That’s what it’s called,” Dee said. “But that’s not what it is.” Larry narrowed his eyes at the appliance on the table between them. It seemed to be a standard 6-cup rice cooker. It was white with an electronic control panel on the front, and a glass lid. He watched Dee push the lever down; then, a red indicator light came on.

“Looks like one,” he shrugged.

“Really?” Dee asked with a large grin. It took Larry a second to realize she was holding the unplugged power cord in her hand. He focused on the rice cooker again and noticed that the red light was still on. He grew curious and peeked in through the glass lid but he only saw thick white steam.

“…What’s going on?” Larry asked. He briefly wondered if it was a prank. Although, in their short friendship of three years, Dee never showed any signs of being a practical joker. It wasn’t that she did not have a sense of humor, but as a rule she tended to be reserved. Dee shrugged.

“I don’t know exactly,” she said. She sat down at the small dining table across from Larry. “When I first got it, I was organizing my pantry and I accidentally dropped some ingredients into it. Nothing major. Some pasta, a head of garlic and a can of tomato sauce. Since I was focusing on something else, I put the lid on and planned to clean it up when I was done.”

“And then?” Larry asked.

“And then, after a few minutes, I heard a click,” she said.

“Click?” Larry asked.

*CLICK* the lever on the rice cooker popped up; the red light turned green.

“That click,” Dee said. She reached over and lifted the lid; it released billows of steam. The smell instantly hit Larry’s nose. It was the most delicious chicken soup he’d ever smelled. He looked in and noticed a rich golden broth simmering with chunks of chicken and vegetables.  “Except, when I opened it the first time it was full of fresh cooked spaghetti.” Dee grabbed the ladle and began serving a bowl for Larry.

“I experimented with it after that; it’s like a magic crockpot,” Dee giggled. “I can throw in pretty much anything and it’ll cook the ingredients into a meal. And, it’s been saving me money; I only need a small amount of an ingredient,” Dee stirred the pot and nodded at it to get Larry’s attention. “There’s way more chicken in here than I added.”

“Oh my god! Where did you get it!?” Larry asked. He hopped out of his chair and bent forward to study the rice cooker. His eyes roamed over the front, then he ran around the other side to check the fine print.

“I ordered it online from Woolie’s; it’s not like they’re making magic items. I’m sure it’s a fluke that I got this,” Dee said. Larry was nodding in agreement while trying to read the fine print.

“I need to see the bottom,” he said.

“You know something?” Dee asked. She stood from her own seat, then grabbed a different pot.  She pulled the inner chamber out of the rice cooker and emptied it into the pot. While she did that, Larry flipped the base over.

“YES!” he shouted loud enough to startle Dee slightly. “You are SO lucky.” 

“Well, I kind of already knew that,” Dee giggled. “This is obviously magical.” Larry shook his head.

“It’s NOT magical…,” he grinned. He walked around to her side of the table and pointed at something on the bottom of the cooker. It was a 36 in small, golden numbers. “…it’s Unique.”

Good as New

“It’s true…,” Carrie said. Her eyes were wide with awe as she watched the torn sheet of paper put itself back together on the desk. She sat in a large white office sitting in front of the world’s most famous man. He made headlines almost a year ago; his abilities were well known. However, seeing it happen in person was magical to her. She couldn’t believe she had a chance to talk to him.

“That’s not all,” Wendell said. He picked up the sheet off the desk and held it up to show Carrie both blank sides. The crazy scribbles he asked her to make an hour ago were gone. “It’s like new.”

“Amazing…,” Carrie felt relief wash over her. She now knew for sure that he could help her. The fact that he took the time to meet with her at all also felt like a good sign. She took in a deep breath to help calm her excitement. “About your fee…,” she asked. Carrie had very little, but she went into the meeting willing to walk out homeless.

“In my position…,” Wendell smiled warmly at her. “…I can name any fee I want from anyone.” He reached into a drawer, then placed a form on the table along with a pen. “I’ve only been doing this for about 10 months, but I’ve met a lot of people in that short time. The great thing about naming my prices is; I get to say ‘free‘ sometimes.”

“Free?!” Carrie perked up immediately. “You’d do that?”

“I would, and I have. I’d hardly be benefitting humanity if I only focused on money. If you sign the form, I have time to help you today if you’re ready.”

“Today!? Right now!?” Carrie grabbed the pen and signed her name at the bottom of the form. “I’m ready!”

“Wonderful,” Wendell said. He stood from his seat and walked around the desk while removing his white lab coat.

“I’m assuming you have a ride in the waiting room?” He asked while rolling up his sleeves.

“Oh.. No, I drove here,” Wendell paused.

“I’m sorry, you may have missed some of the more important details in the pamphlet,” he said. Carrie immediately regretted spending the hour on her phone instead of reading the information  he gave her. “You won’t be able to drive after the procedure,” he said.

“Oh.. For how long?” Wendell gave hearty laugh; Carrie felt her cheeks burn.

“16 years,” he said. He pointed at the blank sheet on his desk. “Like new, remember?”

Spider. Lady.

“Where- Ow!” Tara banged her head against something, then fell back to the cold, concrete floor. “What the hell?” she asked aloud while rubbing the ache on her forehead.

“Careful,” a soft voice said. “These cages aren’t that big.” Tara’s pain subsided and she looked around to try and get a better idea of her surroundings. She was in a cage with thick metal bars. Though it was dim, a small window with bars on it let in a sliver of moonlight. She was able to see several other cages in what appeared to be a basement or storage room. Though, only one of the other cages was occupied. A young girl that appeared to be about Tara’s age was doing her best to sit close to Tara. She sat with her arms around her knees and leaning against the side that faced Tara’s cage.

“Where are we? How’d I get here?” Tara asked.

“There were six other girls when I woke up here,” the girl replied. “Men came and took them, and the ones that arrived after me away one by one.” She spoke with the most defeated voice Tara ever heard; the girl’s tone was flat and distant.

“I’m Tara, what’s your name?” Tara asked. She guessed the situation and decided she wanted nothing to do with it. It was time to leave.

“Doesn’t matter,” the girl replied.

“That’s kind of long; I’m going to call you D.M. instead. How long have you been here, D.M.?” While Tara tried to make conversation with the girl, the locks to their cages were being dissolved by acid. Tara also managed to learn about their location and the people that put here there, from within the cage.

“Four girls showed up after me,” she said. “I think it’s about one a week; you’re the fifth.”

“Damn, well don’t sweat it, D.M. You’re out of here tonight,” Tara replied. The locks on both their cages popped off; two heavy clinks sounded on the concrete floor.

“What?” D.M. sat up on her knees and looked at Tara in surprise. “Did you do that? How?” she asked. Tara crawled out of her cage and stood to give a tall stretch.

“C’mon, I’m hungry. I’ll explain it over a pizza,” she said. D.M. timidly crawled out of her cage and enjoyed a stretch herself.

“There’s guards!” she said as Tara headed toward the door.

“Nah,” was all she said before opening the door. D.M. followed Tara out of the room and into a narrow hallway. She was glad for the dim lighting. It was brighter than the storage room, but not bright enough to blind her coming from a dark room. The moment she looked down the hall, D.M. shrieked in fear.

The two guards she expected to see were both on the ground; each one was covered with dozens of different types of spiders. The guards were already dead and the spiders were wrapping them in webbing.

“It’s cool,” Tara said. “They won’t hurt you, they’re with me.”

“…with you? What does that mean?”

“I can control them, c’mon.” Tara repeated. “I’m hungry. I’ll answer all your questions when I get some food.” 

“What about the rest of them?” D.M. asked. She pressed herself against the opposite wall to walk by the guards. Tara shrugged.

“What rest of them?” she asked with a smirk. D.M. followed Tara out of the building they were in. She spotted what looked like a main house, and two more corpses were on the ground being wrapped up by hundreds of spiders.

“Where did all these spiders come from?” D.M. asked.

“From me,” Tara replied as they kept walking.

“Okay…,” D.M. said. She didn’t know what that meant, but she knew Tara saved her life. She would get to see her family again as soon as she found out where she was. Tara seemed to know which direction to go so she continued to follow her.

“My name’s Denise,” D.M. said. “Denise Martinez.” Tara giggled as they walked through the acid-melted iron gate.

“D.M. it is,” she said. “I gotta say, you’re taking everything that’s happened pretty well. What’s your favorite number?” Tara asked.

“Three,” D.M. said. Tara nodded to herself.

“Yeah, I thought so. We’re going to have a very interesting conversation.”

Ark of the Coven

“I’m sorry,” Alicia apologized to the young man. “There may have been a miscommunication; you said you were here about my ad?” Alicia sat behind a large, dark wooden desk in her study while the visitor in a white blazer and red tie sat across from her. A pair of red scissors was stitched on the front of the blazer. He nodded.

“Your ad prompted my visit; but, I’m not here to babysit. My employer excels at fulfilling…,” the man paused and his lips formed a slight smirk. “…shall we say, niche needs. I believe you can benefit from our services for more than just a babysitter.” Alicia was immediately intrigued. Finding a babysitter proved more difficult than she expected. She ran the ad daily for a month and Perseus was the first person to respond. His name intrigued her and she was hopeful he would take the position. 

“Well, you’re my only appointment today; tell me more,” Alicia replied. Perseus nodded.

“Sharp Medical Services offers a wide selection of pure and mixed blood-types from a variety of demographics. We know blood preference is a very personal choice. Whether you prefer young yuppies or grizzled hippies; we guarantee you’ll find something you like.”

“That does sound like something I’d be interested in,” Alicia said. “But, blood supply is not my main problem; it would have just been a nice bonus to find a sitter that’s willing to donate.” Perseus nodded.

“Sharp Development also has an Education division with several schools. Our teachers are trained to be able to handle special students. How old is the child?”

“He’s three, but very smart. He’s already writing numbers,” Alicia giggled to herself. “I don’t know where he picked it up, but I swear he draws a ’47’ every chance he gets. It must be his favorite number for some reason.” Perseus smiled wide.

“He sounds like he’d be perfect for one of our kindergartens. We have several night time schools to help out our more nocturnal parents.” Alicia smiled at him. She couldn’t believe how everything was coming together for her.

“Although, to help avoid any misunderstandings it’s better if we speak more honestly. You, and by extension your son, are vampires; is that correct?” Alicia’s smile faded slightly and she was immediately on guard. It seemed too good to be true; but over the centuries Alicia learned to trust her instincts. No matter how she considered him, her instincts said he was honest about the schools and blood. Alicia remained quiet for almost two minutes and Perseus did not make any effort to rush her answer. He sat still, smiling and waiting. Finally, Alicia nodded.

“We are,” she said.

“Great, thank you. There have been a few parents that tried to keep their secrets, and their children ended up with very incompatible classmates. Of course…,” as Perseus spoke, golden stars glowed briefly in his eyes. “…I can see what you are, but we’re only able to act on what you tell us.” The golden stars faded. Alicia’s eyes widened in surprise. She thought she’d seen every form of magical creature that existed; but, he was something new.

“What are you?” she asked.

“I’m Unique,” Perseus winked. “I hope you don’t think I’m dodging the question, but I do have other appointments after this. However, I can promise you’ll get an answer to that question when you take your son for orientation. If you agree, I can have him enrolled in time to start tomorrow.”

“Everything sounds wonderful. I’m very interested in your program, but I suppose we need to talk about tuition.”

“Oh, there is none. Ms. Sharp, the company’s owner, believes very strongly in a proper education for Unique children, like your son. All I ask is that you be available to visit the campus tomorrow night with your son, and his father if that’s a possibility. After the orientation, we’ll be able to pick him up every evening and drop him off after school.”

“About his father…,” Alicia sighed. “…in the spirit of honesty, I should mention… his father was a Unicorn.”

“Wow,” Perseus seemed genuinely surprised. “That’s quite an interesting combination. Off the top of my head, I can’t imagine any complications with other vampire classmates, but I’ll definitely research it. Thank you for mentioning it,” Perseus said as he stood to leave. “Oh, and of course I’ll need his name.”

“Alexander Royce Kingston.”