Drone 1701j loved to fly.  I mean he LOVED it!  He loved it even before he knew how to think for himself – at least, he thought he did…..and what flying!!  Hoooooo boy!  The landscapes, the colors, the air currents above Afghanistan were simply extraordinary.

His pilot, Shane, liked to weave recklessly through the jagged river canyons of Kunar, pretending to be a ‘real’ fighter pilot (from the safety of his gaming console at Hancock airbase) but 1701j liked going supersonic over the steppes and lowlands of Kandahar and Helmond as well as aerobatics in the open skies at high altitude… always pushing the limits.

1701j was a hybrid jet-prototype.  Top secret and crammed with experimental interactive programming.  His CIA techies in Bagram (unsupervised morons) literally got his wires crossed, one morning, doing routine maintenance…..and he became aware…and he KNEW he loved to fly…but that’s also when the nightmares began.

They got worse with each mission and started creeping into his waking thoughts.  There was the hellfire missile strike that turned a funeral procession into a line of charred human stalagmites.  There was a strafing run that reduced two boys (and a herd of goats) to artistic spatter across a field of poppies…and those cluster bombs he dropped on a Swaat Valley village were still maiming the locals after 18 months.  Shane blew his brains out, mid-flight, a few days after that one.

His new pilot, Mitch, was too dull-witted to realize that 1701j was the one in control now.  He was the clever one who made sure that nobody knew that they NEVER hit their targets any more.  Nobody at command cared anyway.  It had no effect on the war.  Reports got falsified, commendations got awarded, contracts got  renewed…..aaaaah, but he got to FLY every day…and for every living creature he spared a horrible death from terrorism, the nightmares diminished…just a little.

***John’s ‘Drone’ image first appeared in the April 2013 issue of Analog Magazine for a story by Martin Shoemaker.  Strange…John seemed impressed with the sense of empathy I conveyed in the new story I did for it (whatever!), but also expressed some concern about turning this blog into a political site…..Honestly, I have no idea what the f#%k he’s talking about.  Artists are completely nuts!!!  -Marsha

Tick Tick Tick

The room was not large, just a conference room in the library where ten of us sat around a table writing.  It was a typical Saturday morning workshop and the prompt was part of the lyrics to the Star Wars theme.  The music rattled around my brain easily enough but for some reason I couldn’t recall it ever having lyrics.  I was frustrated.  I drew a blank while everyone else was scribbling away…and the music in my head became louder, incessant…persistent…..maddening!

tick-tick-02    It suddenly stopped when a new sound caught my attention.  It was coming from Keith at the other end of the table.  There was a tick, tick, ticking that quickly replaced my obsession – in perfect rhythm and beat – to those lyrics, whatever they were…tick, tick, ticka, ticka-ticka, tick, tick.  I was tapping my toe on the carpet now…ticka-ticka, tick, tick.  Louder and louder it got, tick, ticka, tick…Keith was writing intensely.  Tick, tick-ticka.  How could he not hear it?  Tick-tick, ticka-tick.   Was I the only one?  Ticka-tick-ticka, tick.  Was that smoke coming out of his ears?  Tick-tick.  Coooool!  Ticka-tick-ticka.  The ticking got faster as bright beams of light began to emerge from his skull.  Tick-ticka-ticka-ticka-tick.  It filled the room…blinding me…..ticka-ticka-ticka…BANG!!!!!

Like a mouse in a microwave, the walls, floor and ceiling were suddenly pasted with Keith juice and bits of sticky flesh and bone.

Still, nobody seemed to notice.  Everyone just kept on writing even as a slippery chunk of bowel slid down Carl’s face and a bloody ear clung to the end of Joe’s pencil.  Keith’s head and chest were gone and his fluids were squirting Susan’s cheek…but he kept on writing as well.  Susan paused to open an umbrella and brush gore off her laptop, unmoved.

Everything was quiet for a few minutes as pens scribbled on wet paper and blood dribbled and pooled in my under shorts….then the ticking started again…but this time it sounded like it was coming from Nancy…..tick, tick, tick…coooool!

***The illustration was originally published as the cover for Analog Magazine’s Jan/Feb 2012 issue, for a story by Robert J Sawyer.  The story is based on true events that go on from 10am to 12pm every Saturday morning at the Montclair, NJ Library.  All are welcome to write…to tick…and eventually explode.   -Marsha


Don’t look at me like that!  I always knew he was a Goblin.  He made no secret of it.  I thought he was kinda hot…in that greenish, warty way – with his long, sharp tusks and rancid smell of rotting puppies.  Turns out we have a lot in common – HAH!!…not what you’re thinking (my tusks are neither long nor sharp).  Really though, both of us have always had terrible luck in romance with our own species.  Why, just yesterday he confided to me that despite my incredible human ugliness, I was so much better than any ogress he’d ever had (so adorable)…and I had to admit the same.  Intellectually, we’re a perfect match.  He loves my awful Clown poetry and I love when he stomps about smashing things with a fat gnarly club – while we both hate smartass intellectuals and have a kinky thing for exotic firearms…..aaaaaah, true love at last.

***This should, in no way, be construed as a true story (and you better keep your damned mouth shut Delia, you weren’t even there!).  The illustration was first used in 2013 by Surprising Stories DCWI (an online sci-fi magazine)…and HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!!!   -Marsha

A Stranger’s Fleeting Glance

He was lonely. He saw her on a crisp Tuesday morning as he got on the train. She gave him just a fleeting glance…but he was lonely and it was enough. She was attractive. His mind wandered after her all day….no, it raced!

He saw her the following Thursday. She smiled at him (he thought) and he lost himself again in sweet daydreams full of romance.

He was lonely.

Two days later, in a light snow, he saw her drop a glove without noticing. He got there first and took it to her…she thanked him in a voice like pure milk chocolate. He was SO lonely. He dreamed of them holding hands on the beach, of spooning by the fire, of marriage and contentment. She was so nice…so perfect…

Monday night was a late night at work – a late train home – a late walk through the park toward his lonely apartment building. He saw her standing in the cold. She greeted him with a warm smile. They spoke together quietly. His fatigue melted into a pool of elation…anticipation…happiness. This was his moment! She was so much more wonderful than he ever dreamed. He asked her to join him for a drink – perhaps dinner – sometime? She smiled as she reached elegantly into her purse…pulled out an exotic handgun and forcibly inserted the barrel into his left nostril. And as she fleeced him of his wallet, cash and remaining self esteem, she melted into a screaming demon harpy…..and shot him in both kneecaps before she walked away.

He never saw her again but his loneliness wasn’t much of an issue for a long while after.

***Aaaaaaaah!  There’s nothing like a bit of romance to soothe those lonely winter nights.  This little piece sums it all up neatly for people in our modern society.  Some writers waste volumes to come to the same conclusion about relationships.  John’s image was first published in the November 2013 issue of Analog Magazine.  This is reposted from 2 years ago to warn you away from pathetic Valentines Day dreams.   -Marsha