I have no idea how the universal translator works. It just does.
The thing about keeping bar in an interdimensional speakeasy is that nobody really speaks English, except for myself, and I don’t speak Alien. Nobody really speaks “Alien.” “Alien” isn’t one language, it’s every language, and even some modes of communication I’m not certain even qualify as language. Which makes it pretty difficult to order drinks. That’s where the universal translator comes in.
Guy comes up to the bar, places an order. He may have a frog-face with a tongue as long as my arm and a vocabulary made up entirely of burps, but what I hear is “vodka martini, please, with two olives.” I mix the drink, hand it over, and the customer goes away happy. If I concentrate, I can still hear the words (or grunts, blusters, clicks, pops, whinnies, howls, random weird smells, or whatever else his species uses for communication), but my brain hears it in English.
Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I somehow got a translator to the United Nations, but there’s a non-zero chance it would be World War III, so I try not to think about it too hard. (more…)
“Ah, there she is — the beauty of Stowreath!”
“I’ve told you, if you keep calling me that, I’ll start selling to other taverns.” Vigdis directed her hired men to carry the barrels of beer to the storeroom behind the bar. She followed behind them, past the smattering of customers at scuffed tables; this time of day it was only ever drunks or passing travelers, making it the perfect time to swap barrels and money with Allyn. “Micah down at The Yawning Goat has offered me a better sum per barrel than I get here.”
Allyn feigned hurt, as he always did, clutching his hand to his heart. “You wound me, oh beauteous one. If I don’t have your brews, I only have my wife’s cooking to keep this place afloat.”
“And she’d have no need of you at all.” Vigdis shook her head and was glad her beard could hide her amusement. “This is the last time I let you get away with it.”
“On my honor, I’ll never do it again.” He winked beforing turning to the men as they brought in the fresh ale. “Come along, lads, I’ll lead the way to the empties.”
Vigdis paced the length of the bar while Allyn led the men back, lost in the thought of planning her day. The wagon had deliveries needed in four neighboring towns. The weekly circuit took her from sun-up to sundown and being away from home for so long made her anxious anymore. It had been easier when she was young, working in her father’s brewery under the mountains. She had longed for the open road and the promise of adventure each time they loaded their cart.
“So, you’re the Beauty of Stowreath?”
“Call me that again if you’d like a bloody nose.” Vigdis squared her shoulders as she turned to face the stranger sitting alone at a nearby table. She longed for an axe, but tended to leave hers in the wagon; instead, she hooked her thumb through the empty loop on her belt and puffed out her chest, filling her breastplate.
The ghost didn’t leave after the séance was over.
That hadn’t ever happened to me before. Although I hadn’t ever had a real ghost show up to one of my fake séances in the first place.
It started off as one of the fake séances Madame had me do for her shop’s off-the-street clientele. Madame Nneke—whom everyone just called Madame—was the owner and proprietor of Tarot Express, a hokey tourist trap that provided all the New Age stuff any neo-pagan could wish for. Madame pulled out all the stops for the tourists—lots of smoke and mirrors, knocking under the table, me pretending to be in a trance when I pretended to contact the dead. That’s what people expect when they walk into a shop like Tarot Express.
Mr. and Mrs. Dunham had been no different.
“Our son was killed overseas. We just want to know what his last thoughts were and let him know how proud of him we are for his service.”
They presented the medal of valor that had been included with all of his personal effects.
I made a show of contacting the dead and about jumped out of my skin when he actually showed up. I sat frozen, staring at him. Luckily, the family thought it was part of the act. Unluckily, I didn’t know how to proceed with him standing there, staring at me. (more…)
Spring tentatively dipped its toe into the water, then did a cannonball into the deep end. But after that, it quickly fled again. We have no idea what season it is here in the Midwest.
Thankfully, as writers, it can be whatever season we want in our stories.
This month, the Confabulators wrote about an undeserved accolade someone was desperately trying to get rid of. We hope you’ll take some time to read our stories each week
Here’s the March lineup (no, that was not a March Madness reference–we don’t know much about sportsball here):
Wednesday, March 8: “The Wrong John Dunham” by Sara Lundberg
Wednesday, March 15: “The Brewmaster’s Armor” by Ashley M. Hill
Wednesday, March 22: “Wrong Place, Wrong Time” by Aspen Junge
Wednesday, March 29: “The Trouble with Rumors” by Isabel Nee
The soccer ball caught her right in the face knocking her glasses askew. That didn’t bother her though. The fact that they laughed didn’t bother her. She didn’t even mind not getting an apology. They never gave one so why should now be any different? No, what bothered her was the fact that she had lost her place. Picking up the book from the field, she gently brushed away the grass blades that had gotten caught between the pages and sighed. She glanced over at the other kids returning to their game. They didn’t look back. She was a brief amusement to them, quickly forgotten.
Lily wasn’t sure why she was always picked on. Her teachers told her to ignore the bullies and try to make friends. Her mother told her that it wouldn’t matter because they’d be moving again in a year or two anyway. Her sister was too young to have an opinion. Lily stopped by the kindergarten room on her way back from the field, peeking in at the four and five year olds settled in for their lunch time nap. Sometimes the kindergarten teachers would let her stay, not hide, there with her sister. It was awkward to do so when she wasn’t even awake though. Lily kept moving, wandering in the direction of the library.
She would eat in the library if they let her, but Mrs. Scheffield was very strict about not letting food or drink near the books when in her care.
“It’s bad enough you snips spill things all over them when you check them out. I don’t want you destroying them in here!” (more…)