It had been a tranquil summer day until my sister stepped on the snake. She hadn’t seen the long black creature in the grass until it reared up and struck at her. I couldn’t really blame it. After all, my sister had stomped her foot down on the thing’s back. I probably would have struck at her if she stepped on me like that.
The scream my sister let out could have woken the dead. Mom heard her from all the way up at the house and came running. Sophie was still screaming and dancing around when mom finally got there. She’d been smart enough to jump away from the snake, but instead of turning and fleeing like a normal person she started running around in circles. The snake, who didn’t want anything except to not be stepped on, had subsided into the grass and slithered away under some spiny bushes. At least there it wasn’t likely to get stepped on again.
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