Another short that was very fun to write – the first art show in human history.
Another short that was very fun to write – the first art show in human history.
Hello there, and welcome to August: ) It’s bringing enough sci-fi for several newsletters.
Seen on Earth
The most science fiction thing that happened to me recently was having my mind blown live by the band My Bloody Valentine. They played sonic sci-fi mayhem with a surrealist bent; big, bludgeoning walls of tonal magic. The show was both absurdly loud and superb. (Abspurb?). Their closest song to a hit so far – “Only Shallow” – sounded entirely different at a commanding volume.
Here are the number of amps and guitars for just their lead guitarist.
(If you can’t see any of these images, select “Display images below” or similar in your email viewer.)
The whole experience was strong enough to find its way into a novella I’m currently writing. If there is an artist whose music you enjoy, then I heartily recommend you see them whenever possible. Good art in the moment is a powerful and beautiful gift.
In the near Earth future
Two weeks from now in consensus reality, I’ll be attending an evening interview with George R. R. Martin the creator and writer of Game of Thrones. Just a couple of days after that is Worldcon 76, one of the largest and most prestigious Science Fiction conferences in the world. And I expect other interesting things will happen by then as well.
Strange worlds for sale
Throughout August I have a number of different works available for the low price of free. These giveaways also feature many other excellent works by other authors, each also for fifty barrels of nothing – without the barrels.
If you enjoy one of my tales below, please do leave a review on Amazon via the handy linked book titles. It helps keep me in electrons and multidimensional glitter.
|Just try and run out of books to read with Limitless Sci-Fi and Fantasy, featuring my own full-length novel Two-Fisted Jesus Tales, Book 1: The Book of the Job.|
|Experience the Summer of Sorcery with my novella Ghost Magnet, the first in my series Crime and Magic in the New Russia.||And just relax and beat whatever the temperatures are around you, with the August Sc-Fi Takeover – starring the second novella in my “Crime and Magic” series, The Luck Thieves.|
Keep on imagining,
~ j : )
It’s been a busy and productive month for me, as I hope it’s been for you. It’s also been a fun past thirty days, including both the 4th of July and Pride.
Both celebrate independence, and Pride celebrates an independence both personal and public that I find inspiring and fantastic. Amazing levels of creativity and heart-warming amounts of acceptance were on display in parades around the world – just fabulous in all of the best definitions.
In the past 30 days I also was able to take a side trip over to a store known as Paxton Gate. They specialize in strange exhibits and exotic gardening, to educate our youth on both the natural sciences and the unnatural ones.
Sadly their prize piece, a lovely stuffed unicorn, is no longer on display. Some naysayers claimed it was naught but a horse with a narwhal tusk. As a pure coincidence, it turns out it’s no longer legal to display items with narwhal tusks. I’m sure this has nothing to do with the unicorn’s disappearance. Perhaps instead the unicorn was seen by too many non-virgins and has elected to disappear.
There were still many other fantastical beasts on display, including a lovely example of a jackalope.
|Perhaps an ancestor to the modern unicorn? A Unisaur?||A magnificent beast, fearsome in herds with dangerous horns, great speed and near lethal amounts of adorability.||The most unbelievable of all these strange creatures – the so-called “moose”.|
In fiction news, I have new stories in the (non-cryptozoological bunny) hopper and many current tales in bundles.
Strange worlds for sale
For the next few months, I have a number of different works available for the low price of cheap or free. If you end up enjoying one, please leave a review on Amazon. Reviewing can be as easy as selecting the right number of stars and entering a single sentence into your magical keyboard machines.
|My novel “Two-Fisted Jesus Tales, Book 1” is part of the great Amazing Fantasy giveaway through July 20. Many other fine books from other authors are also available here.||
My short story collection “Hyperspace Radio” is available through the excellent SciFi Book Bonanzafrom July 16th through July 22nd. After that it will be available for $.99 for another week, from July 23 toJuly 29.
|My novella “The Luck Thieves”, the second installment in my “Crime and Magic” series, is available through the Judge a Book by its Cover! Giveaway through July31, and the Paranormal Reads giveaway through August 3rd.||And my novella “Ghost Magnet”, which kicked off my “Crime and Magic” series, will be available from Sept 1 through Sept 30th in the Discover Your New Favorite Series giveaway.|
|Finally, “Wishful Thinking” is available as part of the Summer Reading List until September 2nd. It concerns an innovative solution to the “Genie of the Lamp” dilemma – creating a startup company to sell the magic wish.|
Among many other tales, the first book in a heroic fantasy series is also in the works.
I’m also throughly enjoying the world-building for a sequel to my novella “Wishful Thinking”, about a troubleshooter for magical startup companies. It puts a smile on my face just thinking about it.
Upcoming new authors
On a separate note, my good friend Lillian Dish has just joined our publishing company Mind Fu Media. She writes in the “Cozy Mystery” vein, with an interesting twist that’s all her own. More on her releases soon.
Another new author is the enigmatic Connor McCloud. He’s been described as “Tom Clancy on dirt weed.” I’ve seen what he’s got coming, it’s strong and will surprise you.
I celebrated this recent 4th of July by taking a rare 12 hour block of free time to post years of my accumulated electronica albums to Bandcamp, complete with stylish fractal images what I also made myself. And I was still fully able to enjoy hot dogs and fireworks as our foreparents intended.
It’s interesting to consider how this music fits in with the rest of my artistic output. It seems I enjoy creating music that feels like strange worlds, and then creating instrumental narratives that fit within them.
Check ’em out, and let me know what you think.
All that and I found a new pizza place too.
Once again, thanks for checking out my work! As always, I’d love to hear your feedback on any of my work.
Keep on imagining,
~ j : )
Harlan Ellison, RIP.
What else is there to say of a fantastic writer and a legendarily irascible persona?
There is the memoriam from an excellent modern writer, Cory Doctorow. He salutes Ellison’s great talent and also addresses his prickly nature. Others have pointed out that Ellison as a teacher was, in a common human blindspot, exhibiting exactly t he same bullying behaviors he hated in early teachers of himself. https://boingboing.net/2018/06/28/rip-harlan-ellison.html
There’s also Ellison’s own words on art and commerce, which really should be required listening for artists in our world, whether they agree or disagree.
But the most suitable words I’ve found yet are other words of Ellison’s own, which come from being asked his thoughts on the creative giant Philip K. Dick.
What you’re asking is really two questions: What I think of him as a writer and what I think of him as a human being. As a writer, he was one of the great innovators. He was sweet, man, an absolutely individual talent, and I admired at least 80% of what he wrote.
…As for the human being, it’s an entirely different answer. When he wanted to be charming, he could be. …
You know what? I’m not going to answer. It doesn’t matter what I think. He could do you a solid or be a very unpleasant person. Like Frank Sinatra. Or God…Phil, like God or Frank Sinatra — they’re all deities.
Mr. Ellison, wherever you are, you were a truly magnificent bastard. Thank you for the work.
It’s been a lovely month so far, both creatively and climately. Our planet has had a distinct lack of world-rending apocalypses requiring the intervention of a rogue hero with a code of honor, or a plucky band of misfits, or an elite team of professionals coming back to save the world one last time.
As I write this, I just attended an actual Corgi convention. I don’t have dogs myself, but I was curious to see these ferocious animals of war. As you may know, in Welsh myth Corgis are the chosen battle mounts for faeries. I didn’t happen to see any fae war games featuring these cheerful, doughty compatriots. But there’s always next year.
|Probably not a Corgi.|
In fictional news, I am proud to release a new novella “The Luck Thieves”. As the second in the series “Crime and Magic in the New Russia, it continues the adventures of Aurelian the thief and his love Lyita. In the streets of St. Petersburg, a bullet can kill you just as dead as magic. it’s just the magic you don’t see coming.
I expect to release a third novella in this series very soon, perhaps even in the next month.
In other new production news, many readers have told me they also enjoy audiobooks so I’ve started making them. I’m going through the different short stories in my collection Hyperspace Radio. They’re available online in podcast form for few months, so if you’re curious give them a listen.
Cheers, and thanks for checking out my writing.
Psyched to release a new novella, and the second in a series. “The Luck Thieves” continues the adventures of Aurelian and Lyita in the strange world of crime and magic that is St. Petersburg.
Proud to announce a new book! A collection of my many completed short stories to date.
Now available on pre-order, and fully released tomorrow May 15. Print edition available soon also.
And thanks to you all who keep inspiring me to keep on writing. : )
Proudly announcing that I’m a lead Earth correspondent for the intergalactic, interdimensional and multiversal Hyperspace Radio podcast!
This is a rough draft, a work in progress.
* * *
She decided to read her comment one more time before posting it. It looked good. No, it looked better than good. It was perfect.
It had taken her hours at home on her laptop, when she could have been enjoying many other things. But she had had enough. In the middle of responding to the previous commenter, who had been relentlessly dismissive and insulting, Mae had crafted the perfect response. Through a lucky happenstance, a random typo had led her to thinking more deeply about things she’d never considered. This train of thought had led her nearly instantaneously to musings she’d had in the back of her mind without being addressed, her entire life. In some ways, even before she’d learned to speak and was just beginning to experience her first sparks of awareness.
A bit about existentialism, and awareness, and the place of people in the world and the larger universe, and something that really resolved everything while also telling the other person how wrong they were – in a way that not only proved Mae was right with the universe, but that the other person also simply could not deny admitting no matter how they tried.
She looked it over, and reached forward to hit “Enter” on her keyboard.
A hand reached out from nowhere and grabbed hers before she could complete the stroke.
“What the fuck?” she blurted, shocked. The rest of the hand around her wrist emerged from a … a hole in the air, she realized.
The hole enlarged, and the person leaned through a bit further. He was encased entirely in a grey-green suit of what looked like plastic, with a plexiglass globe for a helmet that showed glowing lights throughout the inside.
“Oh my God!” he said, speaking back into the hole that hung in the air in the middle of her room. “We did it, people! We found her! Oh thank whatever might exist!”
She heard light cheering, coming impossibly from further inside the hole he was reaching from. She looked inside it, to see barely lit cracked concrete walls and a few other people, in similar suits. Their suits were all in some states of disrepair – patched and sewn with material that didn’t match at all.
“Who the hell are you?” asked Michelle.
He faced Michelle, still leaning forward out of a hole in the air in her bedroom. “Listen Michelle,” the guy said, in his suit. “You can’t send that!”
“But it proves I’m right!” she protested. “And – and it could really make things better! It really has – I’m talking about-”
“Don’t tell me!” he screamed. “The rest of us are only still individuals because we didn’t hear it!” He almost looked towards the monitor, and shuddered. He turned off the monitor, and pushed her back from the keyboard.
“Michelle, that’s exactly the problem. You had an internet argument with a jerk, and you found the secret. Whatever it is, somehow you found a way to change his mind and convince him you were right! Then everyone else who read that comment also convinced. Your comment pierced the ego defense mechanism of all human minds, effortlessly.”
“But that’s great!” said Michelle.
“It’s not great,” the guy said. “As a result, as that comment spread, everyone’s egos on Earth just melted. They no longer had a way to disagree with her. And it turned out that our egos were the only thing holding back our consciousnesses merging on a quantum level.”
Michelle narrowed her eyes. “So…?”
“So as that comment went viral across the Internet, the melded consciousnesses snowballed until all of humanity became one mind. We no longer had individual points of view. We became one large wriggling sentient mass.”
“Okay,” said Michelle. “So…humanity then became one being? Almost a God?”
“Maybe that’s what we could have been. But the problem was we were still assholes! We hadn’t worked through how to not be shitty – basically, our crazy. We evolved to the next step too early! Left to our own for even a century longer, we might have become mature enough to handle massive, godlike collective intelligence as one being. Instead, when your comment spread, we became one giant 7 billion-person sentient complete asshole!” He shuddered. “The resulting crazy thing has simultaneously expanded into quantum time and ruined the entire globe! The human race is worse than doomed – it’s become a giant asshole that’s producing nothing but shit!”
“But I…” she looked at the screen and back at him. “But I’m right! Are you telling me I just have to let this go, when I’m actually right?”
“How important is this internet argument to you?” he asked. “How much time is this guy worth? Let alone potentially destroying all of humanity before we could advance to our next level and *not* be a giant asshole?”
“We always have to be quiet though!” she said. “We women have to go along or not hurt egos, all these things…”
“Go ahead and hurt egos!” he said. “I’m just telling you your best-case scenario, actually changing this troll asshole’s mind, is a disaster. You cannot change his mind. He doesn’t want to change his mind.” He reached over with his other hand. “Can I – just so we don’t accidentally…” shielding his eyes from even seeing the comment that she’d typed, he pulled the cord out of her computer keyboard. He sighed with relief, and turned off her monitor. Only then did he let go of her arm.
She rubbed her arm, and frowned. “Well…if it’s so bad, how’d you survive?”
Through his glass bowl helmet, his eyes became haunted. “We escaped the initial barrage of memes only because our cellphones were dead at the time. When everyone started talking at the same time, we pretended we were mutes until we reached the sewers. There we waited until we found ourselves near one of it’s sentient quantum-altering mind-shits.” He shivered, leaned back and heaved a bit, then regained his strength. “That was something you never want to experience. We followed it back here in time and space. I’ve tried many times to stop this moment. This last time I was able to punch through the second before it began. Now that timeline can undo itself.”
His voice became choked.[ argument could start here?] “I only have a little time left before it mentally flushes. Don’t make our sacrifice in vain. Don’t make that comment! Just let that asshole disagree!” The figure faded, as the hole disappeared.
Michelle looked at where the hole in the air had been, and back to her keyboard She reconnected it, turned on the computer monitor, and looked again at what she had been about to send.
She stared at it for a good minute, cherishing how well written it was.
Then she erased it, called the commenter a stupid ass instead, and signed up for some yoga.
This is a short story rough, a work in progress.
* * *
Shelly had the spell for weeks, but it took a long time to work up the courage to use it. The last straw was her brothers teasing her about the boy she had the deepest crush on. His name was Tex, he was new to town and he was dreamy. She had finally gotten his attention, and they’d started hanging out after school. It had been weeks now, but their relationship hadn’t gone to where she needed it go – for him to tell her the truth she hoped for deep inside: that he liked her.
She and Courteney had found the spell in their homeroom teacher’s desk drawer, when trying to get back Shelly’s phone. Their teacher had confiscated it for texting in class, and then died overnight. The spell itself said “This can only be used once.” It was dated from the early 1940s. So apparently their teacher had brought this with her without using it for her whole life.
They chatted on Facebook for weeks until Shelly finally declared she’d use it.
The perfect night came – her parents and brothers left her home to go to a line-dancing competition. As soon as they were gone, she broke into her parents’ liquor cabinet. A few full glass of rum and she was ready to go.
She went upstairs and logged into Facebook. As she did, she saw her butt in the mirror on the closet door. She didn’t know if her butt was too big, just right, or not big enough. She felt like Tex liked it, and her, but she knew she also wanted to believe that. How could she know for sure?
According to her smirking brothers, no guy would ever tell the truth about a girl’s butt to a girl. They were always complaining about no answer being alright for their girlfriends.
Shelly had the support of her friends at least. Most of them were stuck home tonight too, but they could chat. They were interested in this spell too.
Once she confirmed that she was actually going to cast the spell tonight, the news spread like wildfire. It had been a slow night to begin with, and not much news in general. Interest kept expanding for this teenage girl who was about to cast a spell.
She pointed her laptop’s camera for a good view of her, and pulled a folded-over piece of paper from her pocket. She opened it, revealing a torn-out notebook page covered with rainbow sparkles. It contained the spell she’d copied from an old book they’d found, underneath some scraps in the boiler room below the school library.
On the paper, in her purple ink writing dotted with hearts, was the formula of the spell:
I risk the love of my life to know if my love is real! I declare it forfeit, to make _ not lie!
“I’m still not sure if I should put his name in,” said Shelly.
“Does he like your butt?” asked her sassy friend Courteney. “That’s the question here. He should, your butt’s fantastic.”
“Thanks Courteney – but how can I know that if he likes my big butt he won’t lie about it anyway?”
“It shouldn’t be just about him either,” said Shelly’s other close friend Audrey. “What about other guys too?”
Suddenly it came to Shelly. What was that song her brother was listening to the other day? “I got it!” In her rum-drunk state, it seemed like just the thing.
Her eyes closed, she held the note tight and whispered the incantation: “I risk the love of my life to know if my love is real! I declare it forfeit, to make sure people who like big butts cannot lie!”
She pulled out a pink lighter, held her thumb down and lit the notebook paper on fire. It quickly took to flame, and disappeared in a flash of rainbow glitter.
In Shelly’s room, and then astonishingly in every room connected to the Internet around the world, a gathering force rose. It was felt first as hairs raising on the back of the neck, then goosebumps, and then as an electric current within one’s own soul – a feeling amplified by all the people now witnessing this spell. In the olden days, it would have been rare to gather as many as twenty witches for such a spell. But this evening, there were hundreds of thousands.
The spell climaxed, and crashed like thunder.
Shelly thought it was just the rum, as she passed out. But, amplified by her pure innocence, the rum, and Facebook which amplified her spell to millions, the magic’s effects spread like a shockwave throughout the world.
The next morning, and from that day forward, she found that all who liked big butts could not lie. Her brothers, and others’ brothers, could deny. But when a girl walked in with an itty bitty waist and a round thing in their face they got sprung – from the cages of their own deceitfulness.
This shook society to it’s foundations.
Most children could still lie, until around when they hit puberty. For the rest of humanity, politicians and peasants, police and criminals, employers and employees, pastors and flock – whatever their station in life, whether high low or middle, the very large percentage that liked big butts were forced to tell the truth.
Judges were soon selected based on their Internet browser history. Entire political careers became based on candidates selecting the preferred kind of porn. Parties and governments lost favor because of their sudden mass inability to lie to their voters – they could no longer claim there were easy, simple solutions to any number of different problems. On the other side of power, the voters who elected them had to face their own real impulses, because they could no longer lie to themselves. That is, as long as they liked big butts.
After all the social upheavals this brought the world, humanity settled into a deep and lasting prosperity and peace.
There are now full-size statues of Shelly in every major city. Behind these statues people are taken to swear oaths – for none can lie when they look upon her statue from the rear.
The bittersweet irony is, Shelly still didn’t know how Tex actually felt. He was still able to lie, and did so to save her feelings. He revealed years later that he really preferred skinny men.
She did find out that Courteney had some interesting feelings for her, of an entirely different sort.
They were married behind Shelly’s statue ten years later.
This is a short story rough, a work in progress.
* * *
“Can you help me out here?” Mark asked, his face desperate.
Fred realized Mark was talking to him. He took his headphones off, and looked around his cubicle in the vast office floor. Everyone else was eating lunch at their desk.
He looked back at Mark. “I’m actually working on something here. Can you find someone else?”
“We’re interviewing someone, and it’s gone on for a couple of hours. So the big boss said we should break for lunch. He wants to go take some calls, so he asked me to hang out with the interviewee for a bit.”
Frank frowned. “Okay, but why do you need my help?”
“It’s kind of…hard going keeping this conversation going. We want to seem natural. I can’t think of anyone else who could handle this better. Help a brother out.”
Frank sighed. “You know I’m behind here. If you really need my help…”
Frank put down his headphones, logged off his computer and walked with Mark towards the cafeteria. They grabbed today’s menu, what looked like some rather good cheeseburgers and some salad that came with the deal.
Frank coughed. “So what should I know about the guy? The boss must like him.”
Mark’s face froze into a mask of impassiveness. “You’ll see.”
“What do you…”
Mark pointed over to a table where a large child-sized porcelain doll was sitting, motionless. It had a white dress with a light-blue stripe around the bottom, with ruffles at the sleeves. The doll had a laptop next to it. Moving no other part of it’s form, the doll’s childlike head swiveled in Frank’s direction. It smiled.
Frank grabbed Mark’s arm, and pulled him around the corner. “Oh no. Oh you gotta be kidding me. Not again.”
“You promised, man!” Mark whispered back intensely. “I need your help on this!”
Frank shook his head. “Why do we keep interviewing soul-killing possessed dolls?”
“Because they kill at coding, you know that!”
Frank sighed. They walked towards the table, and set their plates down.
“Hello,” said the creepy porcelain doll.
“Hi,” said Mark, and very tentatively shook the tiny doll’s hand. “This is my friend Frank.”
“Hello Frank. I’m Dolly Dollerson!” It said with perfect chipped cheerfulness. “We’re gonna be great friends.” The porcelain beneath it’s eye had the lightest stain of what looked like…
Ketchup. It had to be ketchup.
“Hello Dolly,” said Frank, realizing just as he said it that he was repeating the refrain of the famous old song. He sat down.
“Hee hee,” said the doll.
“So, uh, what do you do?”
“I’m a database engineer. I also drink the souls of those who cross me. You aren’t going to cross me, are you, Frank?”
Frank threw a scowl directly at Mark. Thanks buddy. “No, of course not. I, you know, I mind my own business. It’s all about the work.”
It raised a single mechanical eyebrow. “That’s smart. You stay smart. Hee.”
Mark coughed. “Dolly here has taken up databases after her previous position working for Salesforce. She was already heading up a team before she left. She’s a natural.”
“What were you doing at Salesfo-” Frank began.
“I headed up HR.”
“Of course you did,” said Frank smoothly. “What made you take up databases?”
“I have a good mind for cold precision,” said Dolly. “Also, numbers in databases can make grown men cry.”
“Isn’t that the truth, huh?” Mark forced laughter, elbowing Frank in the ribs.
“Got that right,” agreed Frank. “What made you Oracle?”
“No one MADE me leave. I LEFT.” It moved it’s porcelain face pieces in an imitation of a scowl. “Are you suggesting something?” said Dolly with perfect pinprick perkiness.
“No, no,” said Frank smoothly. “I just meant with your, your obvious skill at precision, were they no longer challenging enough?”
“Yes. Okay, you’re off the hook for now. I’ve got my eye on you.” It kept one glass doll eye focused on him, as that side of it’s face turned a mechanical check upwards in something that was supposed to approximate a smile. “Is this a typical amount of attendance?” Dolly asked. Her other eye moved off of Frank and snapped into sync. Then she looked around, her smoothly swiveling neck covering nearly 360 degrees, like an owl.
“Pretty much,” said Frank. “Some folks are on PTO.”
“We have a lot of food options,” said Mark. “Kosher, Halal, vegan, gluten-free…”
“Do you have souls?” she asked softly.
“Uh…not that I know of.” Mark admitted.
“I’ll have to see what I can do then.”
Frank sorted through his mind, and nothing came to him but the old set of cliches. Better than silence. “What are you looking most for in a position?”
“A place where I can make everyone as happy as me! FOREVER. EVER EVER AND EVER.”
Frank raised an eyebrow. “Doesn’t that…kind of conflict with enjoying how databases can make grown men cry?”
Dolly shook her head, with the perfect smoothness of a plastic joint in a socket. “Good question. Not at all. It instead the best time to DRINK their souls so they can be HAPPY AND HAPPY.”
Frank nodded. “Well, you should fit right in then.” He saw a gleam of hope. “If you aren’t so stuck on the souls thing.”
Dolly Dollerson looked at him with a puzzled glance in its frozen eyes. “Yes Frank? Why do you say that?”
Mark looked over at Frank. “Eh, heh heh, Frank’s still getting over a bit of a breakup. He used to date someone else who was…flesh impaired.”
“A doll?” Dolly asked. “Why did you break up?”
“It was just time,” said Frank.
“So she dumped you, hee!” It swiveled both eyes back on him as it smiled.
Frank was about to respond angrily, and then laughed too, surprising himself. “You’re right.” It felt a bit of a relief to admit it. “She wanted…more interesting opportunities I guess. Anyway, she liked it here while she was here.”
“But…everyone here is still so … living,” said Dolly, puzzled. “Why would she leave before she had made everyone as HAPPY AS HER, FOREVER AND EVER, you know.”
Frank shrugged. It was a mystery to him too. For all her faults as a significant other, Amy had at least been good with his family. “She did say something once about there not being a lot of room for her to grow.”
“Let’s not dig up old negativity now, Frank,” said Mark. “Let’s stay on track about working for us. There’s so many things Dolly can do here.”
“Sure. Dolly, Have you met our current VP’s of marketing and production?” Frank indicated the corner table.
There sat two dolls, in sharp suits. They slowly raised empty spoons from bowls of red, that Frank and many others always hoped were just tomato soup. They were surrounded by several other human VPs, who also stayed quite quiet.
“I…have not,” said Dolly, suddenly somewhat unnerved.
“They came on board last year,” said Mark.
“It’s been a year now, hasn’t it?” Frank inclined his head philosophically. “I didn’t realize it was that long. To be honest, I thought it was kind of bad at the time. But, their expertise in a variety of fields has worked out really well.”
“Absolutely,” said Mark. He seemed more than a bit relieved to be back to talking on a positive note. “Yeah, it seems like they are quite happy.”
“And they’ve been able to get past the whole souls thing, too,” said Frank, a perfectly innocent look on his own face.
Mark’s face froze. “We don’t need to talk about compensation right now…”
“I disagree. Hee. I think we do.” Dolly Dollerson’s eyes narrowed. “What about compensation?”
Frank shrugged. “We had a hard time keeping interns, so we didn’t have a lot of souls to offer. So we cancelled the intern program, and they accepted stocks instead. All about the profits, for the good of the company,” said Frank.
“No souls?” the doll turned to Mark. “You foolish sack of blood. You didn’t mention NO SOULS.” It waved its arms at the cafeteria. “No souls in the dining room, no interns, no souls, only stocks instead?”
“I understand being interested in souls,” Mark responded, “But we can’t really pay in life-force any more. We could pay in happiness, maybe? Like how much enjoyment would you want to suck from each of the living per quarter?”
It frowned and gnashed it’s perfect tiny teeth. “I need a house to keep my form in, so I am not stuffed into a trunk and burned when my soul wanders for new victims. That means I must make good income, especially in this city. But once I have that money, does it bring me souls?” Dolly shook her head. “The best things in unlife cannot be paid for.”
“There’s still things that can be paid for,” said Mark, a panicked edge rising into his voice. “You can still get a lot of nice things. Think of how you can help make people happier and happier, forever and ever!”
“Is there room in the budget for hiring contractors?” said Dolly hopefully.
“I’m sure we can work something out,” said Mark.
“We do also have a general policy against soul harvesting now.” Mark kicked him under the table. Dolly noticed.
“We order food out, when we can’t cook it,” said Frank. “I don’t think there’s a startup offering souls yet.”
“That’s a good idea!” said Dolly. “I think I’ll do that! Want to join me?”
Frank blinked. “Uh…”
“I mean, I’m not working here now. No souls, this is bullshit.” Dolly crooked her finger at Frank. “You have an original way of thinking. You can keep your soul. We will make the green tickets you blood sacks think bring you joy. Just bring lots of other souls to me. We can set up a database. We can even store them in a database, hah haaaaaaa!”
“We can talk about it,” Frank said smoothly. “Send me a proposal.”
“Done.” Dolly got up and grabbed her laptop bag, and leapt off the seat. The possessed porcelain doll stood and turned it’s polished blank face up to Mark. “There’s no need to waste my or your time any further. I won’t forget you tried to hire me without telling me about the souls. Watch your back heee heeee!”
Dolly left as quickly as her doll legs could take her.
“You absolute dick,” said Mark. He sighed. “Now I have to get a whole bunch of protection hexes. Maybe even a damn salt rug and a familiar.”
“All I did was tell the truth,” said Frank. “I’ll be at my desk.”
He spent the rest of the day figuring out if he could begin a startup based on protective hexes. If he and Mark wanted them, maybe there was a way to cut out the middle witch.