"Eat your broccoli, Tillia."
A small girl frowned and pushed the offensive vegetable around the plate with her fork.
"I did, mom. I ate a little bit and it made me sick, look!"
Laura Watson sighed, pushed away the stack of bills she had been working on, and focused on her daughter.
She was flourescent green.
"People don't look like that when they get sick, only in cartoons. Besides, what have I told you about shifting at
"Sorry," mumbled Tillia, fading back to her natural olive-skinned color.
"Do I have to eat the stump too?" She pleaded.
"No, just eat the rest real quick and then you're done."
Tillia bit the head off her broccoli, jumped down from her chair and ran out of the room. Laura picked up the
next bill in the pile, read the polite, formal, and inhuman demand for more money, then gently set it back down on the
She laid her head down on the stack of bills and let despair and self-pity crawl over her for a moment. Just for a
few moments, she told herself as she cried.
The creak of her kitchen floor startled her into looking up. A young woman with shiny brown hair and sparkling
green eyes was watching her. She stood only 3 feet tall. They stared at each other for a moment before the woman
announced "I'm all grown-up!"
"I see. You're pretty small for a grown-up" said Laura, hurriedly rubbing the tears out of her eyes.
"I don't like being big." declared the little woman.
"Why not?" Laura pressed.
"It's hard to notice little things when you're big."
Laura paused for a moment. "That's true. You're very wise. Why don't you go back to being my little girl? I
don't think I'm ready for you to be all grown up."
The young lady faded back into Tillia, who ran over to her mom and climbed into her lap.
"Why were you crying, mommy?" asked Tillia, looking up.
"I'm sorry, honey." Said Laura, hugging her child closer.
"I think we're going to lose the house. We just don't have enough money."
"It's okay, don't cry."
* * *
The man in the suit was uncomfortable. He was always uncomfortable when he used the Double-M, afraid that people
would see his account balance and know how much he was worth. Luckily, he wouldn't be having this problem after today.
"State your name, please." The machine requested in an awful robotic voice.
"Sarallimuel Jacobson" said the man in a voice he hoped sounded confident.
"Place your thumb on the scanner, please." groaned the machine. He placed his sweaty thumb on the flashing
"Please look directly into the retinal scanner." A greasy metal plate slid back to reveal a smudged lens. The man
in the suit complied.
"Thank you." And finally, another metal panel slid back to reveal a touch screen with very large (not the font
size) numbers on it. The man pressed a few buttons and the machine dropped several stacks of bills that also had very
large numbers on them into the tray. He shoved them into his briefcase and walked off as fast as possible without actually
breaking into a run.
A few minutes later another man who happened looked exactly the same as the first man was at the Double-M machine,
except this time he had a pink backpack with pictures of adorable animals on it instead of a briefcase.
* * *
Laura shifted some of the grocery bags she was carrying from one hand to the other so she could dig the house
keycard out of her pocket. She waited until she was in the kitchen with the grocery bags placed safely on the counter
before announcing "I'm home!"
Tillia came careening out of the bedroom and hugged Laura on impact.
"Mommy, I got you something, come here, follow me!" she said excitedly, grabbing Laura's hand.
She pulled Laura down the hall, past pictures of peaceful rivers and trees, into their bedroom. Her adorable pink
backpack was sitting on the bed, bulging worrisomely. She turned it upside down and shook its contents onto the floor.
Laura's knees gave out, hitting the floor at the same time as the last bundle of 1000 credit bills. What lay in front of
her was more money than she could hope to make in a lifetime. With shaking hands, she picked up one of the bundles and
turned it over, making sure it was real.
"Honey, Sweetheart, Darling, Sweety-pie," Her daughters household nicknames tumbled out one after another, trying
to buy her mind enough time to digest the situation. "Sugar, Pumpkinface..." Laura's hands found her daughter's shoulders
and pulled her around so they were looking eye to eye.
"Where...how...did you get this money?" Each word came slowly, as though she wasn't sure of her ability to speak.
"The double M machine." This wasn't happening the way Trillia had pictured it in her head. There was a long pause
before Laura's next question.
"What did you look like when you got the money from the machine?"
In response, Tillia began to grow, and a moment later the man in the suit stood before Laura. She inadvertantly
recoiled a bit at the sight of him.
"S-Sarallimuel? Tillia, are you sure? He couldn't possibly have had all this money!"
"This is what I looked like," the man boomed confidently.
"Okay...okay, change back, please." Nobody wanted Sarallimuel looking down at them, real or not. Tillia smoothly
faded back to her natural form. Laura pulled her daughter close and whispered in her ear:
"Tillia, you need to listen to me very carefully. This is important. You're not allowed to get money from the
double M machine that way. This isn't our money, we can't have it. This money belongs to Sarallimuel, and we have to
give it back to him. We're already in trouble because you shouldn't have taken the money in the first place, but we don't
want to get in anymore, so we're going to give all this money back to him right away. Do you understand me?" It was the
most authoritative whisper Tillia had ever heard.
"Yeah, but can we just keep a little so you can come home from work early? And we don't have to buy the bad rice?
And I could take the bus in the morning instead of walking? And we wouldn't have to lose the house?" Tillia begged.
"I'm so sorry honey, we can't." Laura was fighting tears.
* * *
"Look I swear to god-" The man in the suit was interrupted by a knock on the door. The color drained out of his
face as he dropped the telecom receiver into it's box.
"You've got like 5 fuckin' seconds till I break your door!" yelled a terrifyingly familiar voice from outside the
door. The man in the suit opened the door to reveal a sleak, clean cut businessman twisting a silencer onto his pistol.
Without looking up, the businessman walked into the apartment, apparently focused on getting the silencer on just
"Damien, look I-" The man in the suit was cut off by a simple hand gesture for silence. Damien sat
down in an uncomfortable-looking metallic chair, still twisting the silencer on while sweat dripped down the man in the
suit's forehead. After nearly a minute, he seemed to finish. He looked up, giving the man in the suit his full attention.
"Nice shoes you got there, Saral." He gestured at the pair of dress shoes.
"What?" said the man in the suit, caught off guard.
"I said I like your shoes. Where did you get them?"
"Oh...uh, Meredith's, I believe."
"I think I might pick up a pair myself when I'm done here." said Damien as he shot the man in the suit once in
"That's for making me come all the way up here. Do you know how hard it is to find parking?" Damien griped while
the man the suit clutched at his feet and tried not to scream.
"Please Dami-" tried the man in the suit, but he was cut off again.
"Look, you've got like...fuck, I'm tired of coming up with numbers. You've basically got not enough time at all
to tell me where you put the money before I kill you."
"Damien I swear, I didn't take all that money out, just enough to pay off the shaman." he said desperately.
"Look, we've got bank records and witnesses and stuff that say you did, so where should I shoot you? Head or
heart? Head is pretty messy, but I might miss your heart and that would suck for you."
"Plea-" he started to say, but was cut off by the bullet bursting through his skull. Damien studied the corpse in
the suit for a moment before nodding to himself in satisfaction.
He began searching the apartment for the money, just in case. He gave the bedroom a thorough gutting, ripping
open mattresses and the like. He had just started in on the bathroom when someone knocked on the door. Damien sighed
"Come in!" he yelled after grabbing his gun off the chair and leveling it at the door. The door opened. Laura,
Tillia looked at the gun leveled at them in shock. Damien stared at the innocent mother and daughter standing in the
doorway of his murder scene in shock. A few seconds passed before anyone found their voice.
"If you try to run I'll-"
"Tillia RUN!" screamed Laura before Damien could finish his threat. Damien's gun swung around and he squeezed the
trigger. The bullet hit Tillia's lower right leg as she was turning to run, passing clear through. She went down with a
"The next bullet I fire is going to kill someone, so think carefully before making any rash decisions," warned
Damien while Laura picked up her sobbing daughter.
"Now come inside and show me what is making that backpack bulge in such an interesting way." Laura entered the
apartment on unsteady feet, giving the corpse in the suit a wide berth.
"Why don't you just dump whatever's in that backpack on the floor right there?" asked Damien amiably. Laura set
Tillia on the floor, propped up against the wall, removing her backpack as she did. She carried the backpack to the spot
Damien had indicated, fumbled with the zipper for a moment, then dumped all the money out onto the floor.
"Y-You've got the money now, please let us go," pleaded Laura.
"Huh. I didn't know Saral had a girl. Learn something everyday, I guess. Sorry, I gotta kill you both. Witnesses
, you know?" Damien shrugged.
"P-Please, just let my daughter go, she doesn't know anything." Damien studied Tillia for a moment before
"Heh, she looks a little too smart, sorry. Any last wishes?" he asked impatiently.
"I wish to die before my daughter." Damien was surprised at how quickly and confidently she had answered. He
* * *
Voices drifted through the dark.
"...yeah. Yeah...Seven times...We don't know what kind of gun it was...mhmm...I swear, I hardly did a thing. I
just helped her along, her body did most of the work...No. The mother was dead long before we arrived...Yeah, they
probably do...I'll check...alright, bye."
"You're one lucky girl."
Locked in clutch
Pushed in place
Hold your breath
"Have a nice day sir," said John Lavitzor automatically to the back of a sweating obese man, who waddled to the exit. John took a moment to scan the room. His gaze swept over a few rows filled with unhealthy looking snacks and desserts, past shelves neatly stacked with the latest news data chips, through boxes filled with basic cold and flu medicine, and finally came to rest on the line of impatient customers standing behind the yellow line in front of him. He adjusted his goggles and tie before announcing:
"Next customer, please." A clean-shaven man wearing a business suit stepped up to the counter. He handed John a cheaply-made toy pellet gun. John rang the purchase up.
"That will be 23.47 credits. Is it for your son?" asked John while the man pulled out his wallet.
"No. Keep the change." The man handed John a 50 credit bill.
"I'm sorry sir, but ShopQuick's company policy forbids..." he puttered to a halt, watching the door slam shut behind the departing customer. John sighed and put the bill aside.
"Next customer, please."
Once John finished ringing up all the customers, he began writing a memo. The obnoxious Ding-Dong noise made whenever a customer enters the store caused him to look up. This is what he saw: A small woman, a little over three feet high. She was flawlessly beautiful, with sparkling green eyes and silky brown hair all the way down to her waist. She was wearing an oversized brown sweatshirt that she has to keep pushing the sleeves back on, and silk pajama pants. Her feet were bare. John was so surprised by this strange person that he didn't even mention the store's no shirt no shoes no service policy.
She walked over to the refigerated ice-cream chest and appeared to study it for a moment. She placed her hands on the metallic surface, then pressed her cheek up against it. She closed her eyes and remained that way for almost a full minute. Finally she turned away, and began investigating the little bottles of medicine on a nearby shelf. She would pick up one, shake it a little bit and listen to the noise it made, then move onto another.
At this point he had to ring up another customer, and a line formed again, but John would glance over at the little woman as often as he could. She stayed in the store for nearly a half hour before she approached the counter.
She was carrying a bright green apple with both hands as though it was a fragile vase. She noticed him watching her as she moved towards the counter and gave him a big smile, before lifting the apple above her head and placing it on the counter in front of him.
"I'm sorry m-maam, you need to step behind the yellow line and wait to be called," stuttered John.
"Oh, ok." She stepped back behind the yellow line, leaving her apple on the counter.
"Next customer please." She looked around to make sure that she was the only one there before walking back to the counter. John rang up the apple.
"That will be 5.32 credits, maam."
"oh, I don't have any money, but I'll trade you something for it." She smiled up at him.
"W-What?" John had never faced a situation like this.
"How about this?" She pulled something small and wooden out of her pocket and handed it up to him. He held it up to the light and examined it. It was a tiny wooden Kiutshisitizi, strumming its guitar. Quite an exquisite one at that. In fact, it was beautiful. The detail was absolutely incredible, especially on something so tiny.
"Wow. This is...this is magnificent, where did you get it?" he asked, turning it over in his hands.
"I made it. So do you wanna trade?" she asked hopefully.
"You could get a lot of money for this," he told her.
"I just want an apple."
"Are you sure?" He asked, feeling guilty.
"Yep!" She grinned again.
"Well, alright, but you can't tell anyone that I did this, ok?" He looked worried.
"Ok." She picked up the apple and carried it out of the store.
* * *
The glass felt refreshingly cool against Seren's fingertips, like the refrigerator had. She pressed her hand into the door, leaned into it, and slowly pushed the door open. Then she was through, and a satisfying "thunk" told her the door had shut itself behind her. She watched the hovercars speed back in forth on the street in front her for a bit. The second sun was just setting, and the air already had a delicious chill in it. The concrete under her feet was still wonderfully warm, so she sat down.
She lifted the apple up to her nose and inhaled, savoring its scent. She was nearly shaking in anticipation; she hadn't eaten anything in nearly a month. She raised the apple to her mouth...
"Miss?" Seren looked up at the voice, annoyed. It was yet another man in a business suit. He towered over her, even more so than most people. She couldn't even see his face, hidden behind a huge bushy beard.
"Excuse me madam, but you are blocking the way." He gestured at the door behind her.
"Oh, sorry," She started to scoot to her right, but bumped into a metal signpole. With a sigh, she stood up and moved around the pole. As she moved around the pole, the sign on top came into view. It read "No Loitering". Seren gave the sign a withering glare, but it didn't seem to care. She told her feet to kick the sign, but they turned out to be smarter than her and started walking away instead. She put the apple inside her sweatshirt while she walked. There was a place about a block away where she could spend the night, and more importantly, enjoy her apple in peace.
A cricket began to chirp in a nearby bush. Seren stopped to listen and see if she could spot the little insect. The moon was just rising, and the wind was starting up pretty strong. It blew the bush back in forth in the moonlight, and shadows danced on the wall behind. Seren moved her hands back and forth for a while, adding to the shadows, creating animals, houses, and the fat man who made her leave the swimming pool earlier that day. At last she tired of this and continued down the street.
The wind had really picked up now, blowing Seren's hair out wildly behind her. She turned into an alley and began feeling along the wall in the dark. Her fingers found slots in a wooden lattice and she began to pull herself up. A few more handholds and then she was hauling herself over the gutter onto a flat gravel rooftop. The rooftop wasn't very big, but then neither was she. The crunch of gravel underfoot was wonderful. She sat with her back up against the chimney, the only protection the rooftop offered from the wind.
Wind howled and rushed all around her, ruffling her sweatshirt and blowing her hair into her eyes. She pulled her knees up into her sweatshirt, something her mother would have scolded her for. Tiny hands found tiny rocks and tossed them off the roof, enjoying their noise. Something was pressing against her stomach. The apple! She reached inside the pocket and traced her finger around the apple's smooth surface.
Footsteps sounded in the alley below, interrupting her train of thought. She held her breath and listened. Someone was running through the alley, gasping for breath. She crawled, silently, to the edge of the roof and peered over.
A man, she couldn't make out any distinct features, was sprinting past. A few yards behind him a monstrous boar followed. It was a thing of nightmares. In the dark, one eye glowed red and the other purple. Footlong tusks gleamed like daggers in the moonlight. Saliva dripped from rows of shark like teeth not found on any boar created by nature. It's rear legs appeared to be constructed entirely of metal, and it used those powerful legs to hurl itself through the air, rather than charging. But the worst part, the very worst part, was the noise; there was none. Where there should have been animal grunts and the clunk of hooves on concrete there was nothing. It shot through the night in pure silence.
I chase the sun...
It chases me...
Seren was running, sprinting, leaping along the rooftops after the abomination. Her right hand changed as she ran, reshaping itself, skin pulling away, bone hardening, until all that remained was a wicked looking hook. Clenching her teeth, she hurled herself off the roof. She plummeted through the night and slammed into the boar's back. Using the momentum from her fall, she shoved her hook-hand deep into the boar's back and held on for dear life.
The boar completely failed to slow its pursuit or even acknowledge her. Seren struggled to pull herself towards the boar's head as it leaped through the alley. With a well calculated leap the boar's left side smashed into one of the alley's brick walls. Seren let out a piercing scream as her left arm was crushed. Seren released her hold on the boar as her world began to rotate. Her feet hit the ground as the boar rolled into the alley's right wall, smashing bricks and spewing dust into the air.
The boar righted itself while she backed away, her left arm hanging useless at her side. Her right arm changed again, forming a blade. Seren and the boar stood their ground, glaring at one another. An apple lay just in front of the boar...her apple! Even as she patted her pockets in horror, the boar scooped up the apple and devoured it in a single bite.
With a cry of rage, Seren charged. The boar leaped foward, intending to trample her under its hooves. Seren slid under it like she was going for home plate. She raised her sword-arm, slicing deep into the boar's soft underbelly as it passed overhead. The ground shook as the boar came crashing down behind Seren. It didn't get up.
Seren struggled to her feet, leaned against the alley wall, and tried to catch her breath. Her arm stop being a sword and started being an arm again.
"Well done, my lady. I owe you my life." She had completely forgotten about the boar's prey. She looked up, but saw only bushy beard. It was the man who had made her leave the store in the first place.
"You owe me an apple too." she told him. The flow of adrenaline began to ebb, and the pain in her arm was excruciating.
"Pardon me madam, but what are you? I have never met one of your kind before," he asked, ignoring her.
"Demon, Monster, 'just plain unnatural'. Thats what...Aah!" Pain screamed up her arm and her knees gave out. She sat down heavily
"Oh my! You are injured. We must get you to a medical facility at once!" He declared.
"No way. I'm not going to a hospital," she told him firmly.
"Oh miss! Please, your injury is severe!" seeing the look in her eyes, he changed tactics "Will you at least come back to my place? I have a first aid box," he pleaded.
She nodded, trying to hold back the tears.
"Would it be alright if I carried you? You do not seem to be in a very good state for walking." She nodded again, not trusting her voice. The pain was somehow burning hot and icey-cold at the same time.
He gently scooped her up into his arms. For the first time, she was able to see his face. He was older than she had suspected, probably somewhere in his early fifties. His eyes were tired; they were the eyes of a fanatic who had seen his god fail. And he smelled like pinecones.
Every step he took jostled her arm, sending waves of pain through her. Soon enough tears were sliding down her cheek. The man carrying her stopped for a moment, and withdrew a small earpiece from his pocket.
"Madam, I'm afraid these were designed for someone a little larger than yourself, and they may not match your taste in music, but I believe it will do you good to have something to focus on other than pain."
"Thanks." She took the earpiece from him with her good hand and held it up to her ear. Beethoven's 4th symphony wafted through. The last thing she remembered thinking was: If it takes 33 minutes to play Beethoven's 4th, then how many minutes does it take to play Beethoven's 7th?
* * *
Seren opened her eyes. She was propped up against a wall of some sort, in a tiny room barren room. A tiny toddler stood nearby, watching her with wide eyes. With one hand, she reached out and pulled the small child next to her.
"Where am I?" She asked, groggily.
"Whoa, don't hurt me, I didn't do nothin," it said in a man's voice. It was at this point she realized that her arms were thick and hairy, and her voice had sounded like a narrator for a movie trailer.
"Oh, one sec," she said. The room expanded around her as she resumed her natural form. Doing a quick checkover, she saw that her arm had healed completely. Instead of a child, a young man now stood over her. He looked to be in his early twenties. He was awkwardly skinny and although his hair wasn't very long, it was wild and unkempt.
"Whoa..." He reached out slowly and poked her in the ribs. She giggled, not surprised by his reaction.
"Yes, I'm real," she affirmed.
"No, uh. I didn't...I mean, I'm sorry," he babbled .
"Where am I?" she repeated.
"Uh...This is my dad's place. He brought you in like a week ago, and you were sleepin the whole time," he explained.
"I slept for a WEEK?" she exclaimed in disbelief.
"Yeah, we was gonna give you a bed, but you were too big and kept havin' nightmares and screamin' and tossin' and stuff."
"I'm sure I didn't scream that loud," she said indignantly.
"Yeah you did, dude, you kept me awake all night." he insisted.
"Yeah? Well you smell like dirty socks,' she retorted.
"I said you need to take a shower."
"I just took a shower, that's probably you. You've been passed out on the floor for a week."
"I don't need to take showers. I'm special that way."
He bent over and sniffed her.
"Huh. I guess you're right. You smell like plants."
"I smell like flowers." she said, folding her arms and glaring up at him indignantly.
"Uh, right, and I smell like dirty socks?"
He stretched out and rubbed the back of his neck, looking a bit embarassed.
"So what's your name?" He asked.
"Well, I'm Jack. Nice to meet ya Seren." He extended his hand. Seren examined it for a few seconds, checking to make sure it wasn't caked in mud, before she uncrossed her arms and shook it.
Fray the strings
Through the sheaves
Hold your breath
To: Captain Peligronor of the PEG force
From: Jack Rynd of Relic Research
Subject: You are a paranoid asshole
Here is the report on Ghyr's that you mistakenly thought was worth waking me up at 0300 for. It's a real general outline, because that's all we know. These things are rare as fuck, and I'm willing to bet that Prince could count the number of Ghyr's that are currently alive and accounted for on a single hand. I seriously doubt that one of them has killed and copied your wife, but hey, maybe you got lucky.
Attached document: RRJacobson#2213.
Title: Ghyr Threat and Analysis Report
Property of Relic Research TCO. "Innovation with Application"
We don't know how Ghyr (Prounounced "Gear") crystals are created. At the time this document was written, none of our technology is even close to being capable of creating this sort of thing. Ghyr crystals have appeared on many different planets, in many different climates, from frozen peaks to molten rivers to green jungles. The variation in the enviroments they have been found in leads me to believe we can rule out creation through specific enviromental phenoma. I propose that they are a more universal phenomenon, such as the black hole, but alien technology seems to be the more popular theory these days.
The stories we've heard regarding the crystal's size, shape, and color vary widely. The only fact that we've been able to pin down is this: All the crystals appear to have an electric charge. Bolts of electricity appear to crackle through the crystal, but even in cases where the crystals were in contact with conductive material, the apparent electrical charge remained inside the crystal.
If the Ghyr crystal comes into physical contact with any carbon based lifeform (which they always seem to do long before we find out about them), something happens. We don't have any idea what this something is, because the few witnesses we were able to question claim that they "blacked out" or simply don't remember. Although we don't know exactly what happens when a carbon based life form comes (Hereafter referred to as the "parent") into contact with a Gyrh crystal, we do know that it takes only a few seconds, and the result is a brand new life form: A Gyrh.
At first glance, the newly created Ghyr appears to be a duplicate its parent. The Ghyr has its parent's mental capacity, apparent physical form, and instincts, but none of its memories. The mind of a newly created Ghyr is completely undeveloped. This means that if a human touches a Ghyr crystal, you get an apparent physical duplicate of the human with the mind of a newborn baby. Its also interesting to note that unless a freshly created human Ghyr is cared for, it will die like a regular human baby. My research also shows that Ghyr do not tend to be any more or less intelligent than their parent form.
Although it initially appears that a Ghyr is physically identical to its parent, it simply isn't. Ghyr can alter their physical form easily, quickly, and dramatically. Gender, age, size, height, and weight are all easily changed in a matter of seconds. Ghyr animals often learn to grow larger when they feel threatened, and to change their gender when seeking potential mates. The degree with which a Ghyr can alter its original form varies, but its safe to say that a human Ghyr could not ever change itself into an animal, although they could make themselves appear animal-like. For example, a Ghyr could not change into a cat, but it might be able to grow fur. Some Ghyr are able to grow as large as double the size of their parent form, or as small as a quarter of the size of their parent form. This means that a human Ghyr could change from a young man to an old woman back to a young elf or dwarf in a matter of seconds. Ghyr are also capable of copying the appearance of others.
This incredible control over their physiology has a few other beneficial effects. Their bodies are simply more efficient in almost every regard. Human Ghyr require only a little water to survive, and produce no waste. They can hold their breath for an unreasonable amount of time because they require less oxygen. Ghyr are able to heal wounds nearly twice as fast as a regular person, and are actually capable of regenerating entire lost limbs.
Because of their ability to copy the appearance of others, Ghyr could be used as spies against us, but there are so few of them that I don't think they pose any threat to Prince. However, securing a fresh "unhatched" Ghyr crystal could lead to a scientific breakthrough. Therefore, I give my recommendation to raise the GCR project to level seven.
Bow down before the one you serve
You're going to get what you deserve