Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nerdy Christmas Cards #6

This will be my last nerdy Christmas card of the season, mostly because I'm at my parents house and I don't have photoshop on my laptop. It's also December 2nd; if you're STILL looking for the perfect Christmas card for the nerd in your life, you might be out of luck. 

Anyway, enjoy! And if I don't post between now and then, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Double-Header!

In celebration of my 29th birthday (and because I didn't post anything over the weekend because of said birthday) today I've got a Christmas double-header! Consider this a little Christmas bonus. A fourth nerdy Christmas card:

and a little something special; a hand-drawn cartoon for your amusement!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Nerdy Christmas Cards #3

Three! Three! Three nerdy Christmas cards! Ah-ah-ah!
This one practically wrote itself.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Nerdy Christmas Cards #1

Do you guys remember my nerdy valentines from last year? Something strange happened that I might or might not have posted about.

After I posted those to my Twitter account, a very popular geek culture website ripped off
of them. Even my personal favorite, which I thought was a stroke of comic brilliance:

 ...I know, brilliant right?
But will I let a little creative plagiarism ruin my day? NO SIR! This year I'm making nerdy Christmas cards for you to share with your friends, loved ones and guildmates. So feel free to share them, but don't claim them as your own (or, as happened to me last February, copy the words line-for-line and add a few new effects). 

Also, I'm going to post them one at a time for the next week. So if you see someone posting cards like these in the order I'm posting them... remember, you saw them here first!

Also, call them out on it. Because seriously, not cool. Anyway..... enjoy!

Saturday, November 19, 2011


A fresh "drabble" (ultra-short-story) today, based off of a supposedly true story I heard once. It was from an anonymous source, so take its veracity with a grain of salt. Still, makes for a pretty good story.

Nov. 19th, 2011- Aaron Matthew Smith

We shoved through the bare trees, frozen grass and underbrush crunching beneath our boots. After hours of hiking I could finally see the clearing up ahead.
“I’m tired, Justin,” Chad said. “Are we there yet?
“It’s right here!” I’d told Chad I’d found something weird out in the woods. I knew he’d never believe me unless I brought him here. I ran out into the clearing, aware that Chad was still standing in the treeline. I listened carefully, and in the center of the clearing I heard it. My footsteps on the frozen dirt were suddenly replaced by a hollow metal clang in the chill afternoon air.
“What is it?” Chad said, too scared to approach.
"Don't know," I said. “I didn’t want to look by myself.” I bent over and tore the weeds away, revealing one of hundreds of metal drums I’d found buried in the Arkansas woods. I scraped the dirt off of the round, rusted top, my gloved hands fighting the corroded cap free.
Noxious fumes hit me like a tidal wave and I feel onto my butt, colors swimming in front of my eyes. I leaned over and puked, splattering my gloves. Chad was shouting something, but I was too sick to even turn to look at him. He must’ve dragged me out of the clearing, because the next thing I knew we were running, Chad half carrying me.
“What was it?” Chad gasped.
I started to talk when another wave of nausea rolled over me. Whatever it was, it wasn’t supposed to be there. We needed help.

Friday, November 11, 2011


I love writing short stories, but much of the time it can be really difficult.

This was not one of those times. This story seemed to leap right onto the screen! It's an expansion of the story I wrote last week, which is a sort of novel-in-progress (like a whole lot of my work). The first part is here, and the second is here; as per usual, it's not totally necessary to read the first parts but they'll help set up the world a little more clearly. Enjoy! 

Aaron M. Smith- Nov. 11th, 2011

I should’ve known I was in for trouble as soon as I saw the apartment number. Thirteen. I don’t consider myself a superstitious person, but the job gave me an itch as soon as I took it.
The cold November wind threatened to tear my ears off my head as I approached the building. Whitaker-Jones Agency had sent me on a fairly straightforward case today. Some rich guy was behind on his alimony payments and liked to hide out in a little hole in the wall he thought nobody knew about. But his ex-wife knew enough about it to give me the address. All I had to do was see if he was there and then call her attorney. Easy in, easy out.
The address was one of those little hundred and fifty year old brownstones that are all the rage with the kids and cost more to live in now than they did back before the paint was falling off the walls. I flashed the PI badge to the doorman and he let me in, after making me pass through a weapon field. I’d left my gun at home, luckily; in most of the places downtown, if you’re detected with a weapon they won’t let you on the premises. Forget using the subway.
And there I was standing in front of number thirteen. I had my hand raised to knock when the door to number fourteen, right behind me, exploded into a thousand pieces.
A city bus in the shape of a man slammed me to the door of thirteen so hard I heard the wood splinter. Or maybe that was my ribs. I gasped for breath while the man on top of me sprang to his feet. He grabbed the collar of my shirt and lifted me into the air with one hand like I was a newspaper he intended to swat a fly with. His ice cold empty hand grabbed me under the chin.
Blue spots danced in front of my eyes as he growled, “I am not your property!
My vision cleared for a fraction of a second; I got one glimpse of his face before he tossed me down the hallway like a scrap of trash. The titanium fibers in my coat saved me from lacerations but did nothing to blunt the impact of the hardwood floor. I skidded and rolled like a foul ball, finally coming to a rest thirty feet and several bruised ribs later.
I looked up; a man with glasses and watery blue eyes was peeking at me from Thirteen, his door scattering splinters of wood. Whoever had just thrown me out was gone. The strange thing was, I recognized his face, sort of.
I groaned and got to my feet as quickly as I could without sacrificing my last scrap of dignity. Apartment fourteen was abandoned, not a scrap of furniture in the place. The view from the window looked down onto the front stoop; the guy had seen me coming from here. Had he been hiding out in here? If so, from whom?
A flash of shining steel sprinted from the door of the building, sending the poor doorman tumbling down the short stairs. No wonder most door minders were automated nowadays. The guy who clobbered me moved faster than any human could have, leaping twelve feet straight into the air to grab onto the train line overhead, naked metallic body reflecting the dismal grey light of the New York afternoon. In moments he was out of sight.
I slumped against the wall of Fourteen, too sore to question the guy across the hall. A minute later I heard voices and a pounding on the stairs. A short woman with a head full of curly brown hair spun into the room, NYPD-issue firearm pointed at my melon.
The angry combat mask on her face fell when she saw me, disappointment causing her almond-shaped eyes to narrow.
“…Toby?” she said.
“Afternoon, Casey.” Two other officers stepped into the room around her, guns trained on me. I didn’t recognize either of them.
“He’s fine guys,” Sergeant Sandra Casey said, indicating with her free hand for them to sweep the rest of the apartment. She holstered her weapon and crossed the room to me. When we were alone, she said, “What the hell are you doing here, Toby?”
“Singing telegram,” I said.
“What’s a telegram?”
“Nevermind. I was here on a job when I got the stuffing knocked out of me. Probably by the guy you’re after.”
“We’re not after a guy,” Casey said, her voice guarded.
“Forgive me. The thing you’re after.”
She narrowed her eyes farther, her brow creasing. “Toby, what do you know?”
“More than I should, I’m beginning to think.” I grinned. Somehow, it made my ribs hurt.
“Damn straight.” Casey knelt and whispered, “This is supposed to be top-secret, Toby. People could get hurt.”
“I thought you weren’t looking for people.
“You know what I mean.” She got right in my face. “You got a good look at it, then?”
“I sure did,” I said. “The smart plastic their faces are made out of makes an impression. Same with the carbon-fiber skeletons.” I winced. “No doubt about it. It was a full-human Auto.” Casey didn’t say anything, but I could tell from her silence that I’d guessed correctly. “Except they’re not supposed to exist. Nobody’s been able to get a full human prototype to work.”
“Autos are nothing new,” Casey said, helping me to my feet. “They’ve been doing manual and tedious labor for years.”
“Until now?” I ventured. “Who made this one?”
“Proscor,” Casey said after a moment. “And they reported it stolen thirty hours ago. Nine years of work, gone.”
I looked out the window, down the mag-lev train line the mechanical man had just used for his getaway. “I think ‘stolen’ is the wrong word, Sergeant. Looks to me like it escaped.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

New Cartoons!

TWO POSTS in two days?! I know, I can't believe it either. Two things happened this weekend, both of which inspired me to cartooning.

The first, the uniquely American scam that gets people to get up an hour later to get more work done in the sunlight during the winter. Yup, it's daylight savings time!

"You've earned the achievement: All The Benjamins"

This weekend we lost America's greatest professional curmudgeon, and a darn talented writer and contributor to "60 Minutes" to boot. Farewell Andy Rooney, 1919-2011.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


It's November, which means it's National Novel Writing Month! I tried to participate in NaNoWriMo last year and did pretty well. I wrote nearly 20,000 words, which (while less than half the 50k "goal" that NaNo'ers shoot for) was more than I'd written in a single month, and is still my 30-day best.

This year I'm going to make a resolution not to write more content but to do more to make my name known to agents and publishers; push my blog a little harder (as well as update it a little more often), write more agent letters, tweet with more connected people.

In that spirit, this story is a sort-of sequel to the entry I wrote for last June called "Awake" which you can read here (new window). While it's not totally necessary to read it first, it might make this story a little easier to follow. It's a working idea that I'd like to develop into a novel one of these days, as soon as I flesh out an actual story from it. Enjoy!

"Who?" (1700ish words)
November 5th, 2011
Aaron Matthew Smith

My eyes flew open and I was again blinded by white light.
My stomach did a sudden flip and I leaned over the edge of the bed and puked all over the floor. Which was how I found out I was in a bed. I felt a hand on my shoulder as I coughed and spat.
“Easy, easy. Take a breath,” a woman’s voice said, and then shouted, “Orderly!”
“I’m okay,” I said, leaning back up, my paper hospital gown crinkling as I moved. Someone pressed a cool glass into my hands, and I took a drink. Whatever was in it tasted like orange Tang, but I managed to keep it down. I looked up to see a pair of almond-shaped eyes.
“You’ve been asleep for nearly two days,” the woman said. “Are you feeling better?”
“Better than what?” I sipped the drink. It was too sour.
She shrugged. “My name’s Sandra Casey. Do you remember me?”
I nearly said no but caught myself. Something about her eyes was familiar. “Maybe,” I decided.
“I was there when we found you. Do you remember that?”
I tried to focus, but it felt like I was trying to remember a particularly raucous bachelor party the morning after. “I remember being cold, and then all this light. And then the puking.”
Sandra Casey shook her head. “I was afraid of that.” She touched a pin on the lapel of her suit jacket. It made a tiny chirp noise. She whispered, “This is Casey, we’re going to need someone from psychology for the John Doe we brought in the other day. Send to my current location.”
“John Doe?” I said. Cold truth hit me like a sock in the gut a second later. I tried to recall my name, or what kind of car I drove, or my wife’s name. Hell, whether I was married or not.  
“Why can’t I…” I said, the panic in me threatening to boil over like an unwatched kettle.
“We’re not sure,” Sandra said, holding her hands up in what I suppose she thought was a comforting gesture. “We’re still examining the equipment.”
“What equipment?”
“The canister that we found you in.”
I laughed. I actually laughed. “Canister? What’re you talking about, like a sardine or something?”
She made a confused face, then her eyebrows rose. “They still sold them in cans back then.”
“What’re you talking about?” I said.
“Sir… do you know what year it is?”
“Listen, I heard you call your shrink a minute ago, but I’m not totally cracked.” I wrinkled my nose, the smell of bile reaching me. “I’m sorry, but can we get someone to clean this up?” I pointed at the recent paint job I’d given the floor.
Suddenly a tinny buzzing reached my ears from the door to the room. Something like a doggie dog flopped up at the bottom, and a little thing that looked like a halved soccer ball slipped into the room. I watched mesmerized as it sniffed out the pile of vomit on the floor, a tiny red light on top of the white object going nuts. It glided across the puddle, leaving sparkling white floor beneath it until the job was done. There was a ding! like someone’s microwave dinner was finished. The little light on top turned blue and the thing let itself out the way it had come.
I turned to look at Sandra Casey, pointing at the doggie door.
“That was an orderly,” she said calmly.
“That was a Roomba, and I’ve seen one before.” I sniffed, a sharp scent now present in the room.
“That small is nitrogen,” Casey said. “That thing sublimated the puke.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yes,” she said. “It’s a sublimating maid.”
“No, I mean are you seriously going on with this?” I said. “It was sort of cute at first, the whole reanimator thing, but it’s getting old. Who set you up to this? Did someone drug me and pay you to freak me out when I woke up?”
“Sir, I know this is hard to understand, but according to the machine where we found you, you’ve been asleep since 2010.”
“Look, I’ve had enough. I’m calling the nurse.” She seemed nice enough, but this was serious; I couldn’t even remember my own name, for crying out loud. Whoever was pulling a fast one on me had done a good job. I looked to each side of the bed for the nurse call button, but didn’t see it. In fact, the metallic hospital bed didn’t have any controls on it at all.
A foot square area of the wall just above Casey’s head blinked to life suddenly, like a hidden TV screen. A woman’s face appeared.
“What can I do for you?” She asked.
I blinked. “Uh.”
“Nothing right now, thank you.” Casey said. The screen blinked off. “Be careful, it’s voice activated.”
“…where am I?”
“Roosevelt Hospital, New York City.”
I shook my head. “I don’t remember much, but I remember that building’s old. This place looks like the damn space station.”
“That’s what I’m saying,” Casey whispered. Her brow furrowed, her mouth set in a tiny frown. She wasn’t letting up.
I stood up from the bed, making sure the gown covered my kibbles and bits and crossed to the window. Sunlight filtered in through frosted glass. I leaned in, trying to make out some of the shapes on the other side. As my fingers touched the cold glass it suddenly changed transparent, filling the room with direct sunlight.
The first thing I noticed was how blue the sky was. I’d never seen a sky that beautiful before. Building rose like glittering arms into the sky, each trying to reach a little farther than the others. Each of the buildings was covered in scales that reflected the sunlight like fish scales, making the whole city look like some gaudy piece of rhinestone jewelry. There were no telephone or power lines, no clouds of smog clogging the air, no constant railing of car horns drifting up to the window.
I blinked twice. Then I leaned one way, then the other, watching the perspective from the window change as I moved. It wasn’t a picture, and if it was a fake it was the most amazing special effects I’d ever seen.
I looked at Casey. “How’re you doing that?”
“…and get psych up here right now,” she was whispering into her lapel again.
“No, no. You tell me right now what’s going on!” I stuck my finger in her face, my patience completely gone. “I can’t remember my own damn name and you’re playing movie magic? This is serious!”
The door to my room opened suddenly, and I screamed.
The little floor cleaning robot was back, except it was bigger, and flying. And this time it had a woman’s face on it, stretched out of the white surface like it was made of latex and a women behind it was trying to press her way out with her face. It’s non-eyebrows moved in a horrible mockery of concern.
“It something the matter, sir?” It said, formless mouth moving as it spoke. And I lost it.
I dove past Casey for the door, knocking the white levitating head for a loop as I shoved past it into the hallway. I hung a left and charged down the completely empty hall. Which distantly struck me as odd- weren’t hospitals usually full of people running all over the place?
The hall ended at a sort of hub with a reception desk and three other passages branching off. Another levitating head stationed behind the desk turned to look at me as I approached. My bare feet slipped on the tile floor as I slid to a halt.
“Something wrong, sir?” It said in a maddeningly human voice.
No time to hesitate; I took another left as I heard footsteps pounding down the hall behind me. Casey’s voice shouted “Police! Stop that man!” but it was too late. I was already down the next hallway, its antiseptic white surfaces identical to the last.
Something sprang suddenly from the floor; I barely had time to throw my hands up to shield my face before I crashed into it. The thing gave with my weight and sprang back like a semi-transparent trampoline. A expected to hit the tile floor but the crash never came. Another of the membranes had appeared behind me, and no sooner had I hit it than I felt the first clinging to my back. In seconds I was sandwiched between the two resilient surfaces, its soft surface pressing against my face. Through it I could see Casey jogging down the hall toward me.
Oh god, I thought. They’re going to cut off my face and turn me into one of those horrible floating things.
Someone turned the corner behind her and ran up to meet Casey. He wore a white lab coat and looked like he’d just jogged up thirty flights of stairs.
“Is something the matter, sir?” I heard the floating face call after him.
“About time,” Casey said as the guy came up next to her. Her voice came to my muffled, like my head was stuck under a pillow. “He just went ballistic.”
What was I supposed to do? I struggled, but it felt like I was held in a bear hug by a particularly impassioned professional wrestler.  I was completely helpless. Through the murky skin I stared at Casey’s almond-shaped eyes. Was she really going to let them do whatever it was they were going to do to me?
“Help me,” I said, as loud as I could manage.
She came within inches of my face. Her brow might have been furrowed. Or it might have been the gummy film holding me like fly paper.
“Don’t worry,” she said finally. “We’ll find out what happened to you.”
Even if I would’ve noticed the syringe in the other guy’s hand, I couldn’t have done anything about it. He plunged the needle right through the binding and into my shoulder. I barely felt the prick, and a moment later I didn’t feel anything at all.

Friday, October 21, 2011

"Saunder's Journal"

First of all.... funny how the brain works. I wanted to write a chilling story for Halloween, and one of my favorite stories is HP Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu". With a little Lovecraftian inspiration and a few days of work, the story was ready to post. So I thought I'd like to my original review (new window) of Call that I wrote for this blog... and realized that I wrote it a year ago today. 

Almost makes me wonder if I wasn't somehow... inspired?

"Saunder's Journal"
Aaron Matthew Smith- October 21st, 2011

Day 1:
I’ve never traveled by freighter before. I’m really excited, because I hate flying and I love the water, plus an airliner wouldn’t let me on with half of my gear. If it turns out to work for me, I might travel by boat all the time.

Day 6:
I hate boats.
I’ve barely kept anything down for the last week, and I can hardly sleep I’m so nauseous. The crew keeps laughing at the sick white guy on board. I guess it’d be funny to me if I were them, too. I hope my sickness doesn’t interfere with my work.

Day 9:
I the dream last night. This time, the island was clear and cold. It’s never cold this close to the equator, but in the dream I was shivering as I was walking to the mountain. All the time, the only thing I could hear was the voice. The same voice that’s haunted my dreams, or maybe my subconscious, for months.
“I wait for you, Dr. Saunders. The king of the stars waits within the queen of heaven.”

Day 10:
We finally arrived at Tristan Da Cunha today. When I could walk again, I was greeted by the head of the Island Council, Christian. I was told that all of the island’s 300 inhabitants were evacuating; Queen Mary’s Peak hasn’t erupted since 1961, but those who were alive for it recognized the signs. I don’t know whether to be honored or intimidated that these people were effectively turning over their whole island to me. There’s plenty of food, and the radios seem to work well enough. I instructed the freighter to come back for me in three weeks time whether they’ve heard from me or not. And unless the volcano goes off, I suppose I’m stuck here until then.

Day 13:
I’d hoped that being on the island would awaken the dreams, but since arriving I haven’t had the slightest premonition. I’ve been monitoring the seismology equipment, but it hasn’t reacted at all. If the indigenous peoples hadn’t all left I could at least fulfill the anthropological portion of my visit, but I’ve had nothing to do since arriving.  I’d rather not been expecting a vacation.
The voice said “The king of the stars waits within the queen of heaven”. I saw this island in my dream, and I identified Queen Mary’s Peak. But am I wrong?

Day 14:
In the home where I’ve been allowed to stay, I’ve found many books and drawings referencing Queen Mary’s Peak. Most are historical or geological in nature, but I’ve found at least two that appear to be religious texts. What English passages there are in the book talk of a great and angry spirit that lives within the volcano. Fairly standard folklore and mythology, but it piqued my interest. I’ll read more deeply into the matter.

Day 15 (morning):
Finally, last night, I had contact.
It was the most vivid dream yet. I found myself lying in the bed on the island, and for a moment I thought that I’d  been roused from my sleep, until the voice spoke to me. I couldn’t follow what it said; it sound more like a series of bass notes on a colossal amplifier. I followed the sound outside. The sky had turned completely red, and as the voice came to me again, I could tell clearly that it was coming from the volcano.
I awoke find myself standing in the doorway of the house, looking at the sun rising across the ocean. I believe it was the first time I’ve ever sleepwalked.

Day 15 (evening):
After the dream last night, I had to go the volcano today. I hiked up the shortest face of Queen Mary’s Peak that I could reach. I was going to set up camp at the edge and study for the day, but I was there only a few minutes when something overcame me. Looking down into the dark, smoking depths of the mountain, a dark chill climbed my spine despite the heat rolling from the mouth. Did I actually hear the voice, or was my dream last night so vivid that I simply relived it?

Day 16:
If I dreamt last night, I don’t remember doing it. But I awoke outdoors again, surrounded by scrawlings in the dirt. I had dirt on my hands and under my nails.
It took hours, but I finally found meaning in what I wrote. The passage was repeated over and over again in the holy book. It took a little cross-referencing, but it said “The king of the stars waits within the queen of heaven”. Somehow, I knew it even before I finished.
I went back to the volcano today, as if compelled. I couldn’t get it out of my mind; no matter which way I turned on the island, I could see it. When I closed my eyes, I could see it.  At the precipice, I could hear the voice again, nearly audible this time. What does it want? How am I supposed to know?

Day 17:
I must have woken several times during the night. I remember climbing the face of the mountain several times, each time finding myself back at the base just as I was sure I’d gotten to the top. One moment I thought I was awake and then found myself back in my bed, covered in sweat and dirt. The sky never seems to stay one color for very long. For a time I forgot what color it was supposed to be. Finally, the sun is rising; I’m at last sure that I’m awake.

Day 22:
I write days now only as a formality; I can’t remember sleeping recently, though I frequently find myself laying in my bed as if I’d just spent a full night there. I can only gauge how much time has passed by phase of the sun and moon, and they seem to move without any sense of chronology, flying across the sky one moment, frozen in place the next. I’ve woken in my bed five times now; I suppose that means five days have passed.
The voice torments me constantly now. It mostly speaks in a language I can’t understand, possibly the same language I wrote on the ground earlier, the sound so loud it rattles dishes in cabinets. I know where it’s coming from; I can’t even look at the mountain now. It only speaks one phrase in English, and always when I least expect it.

Day 24:
I’ve been awake for more than two days now, or I feel like I have anyway. It seems like a better gauge of how much time has passed. Whenever I find myself in the bed, I don’t let myself sleep- I have to stay awake, always moving. Inevitably, I find myself moving toward the mountain. It compels me, not like a moth to flame, but more like iron to a magnet.
I can fight it no longer; my strength is gone. The voice encompasses me like a coffin. I’m going to the mountain. Even in admitting it to myself, the roar seems to laugh at me. It knows it has won. Today, I will meet the king of the stars within the queen of heaven.

The volcano is screaming, like the world itself is crying in the pains of labor. I can feel something down there, as sure I can see the sun in the red sky above me. I can understand it now. I know what it wants. It only wants to be freed. It wants to be born to this world, and I am to be its midwife. I can delay no longer; it waits.

Friday, October 7, 2011

"Man's Best Friend"

So, I tweet. A lot. The other day, a Twitter friend of mine (who also loves Halloween) posted this:

Which, naturally, got me thinking. Hmmm....

....."Good dog!"

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Have I mentioned how much I love Halloween? Because I do. I love pretty much everything about it. Especially Halloween parties. I never went to a Halloween party quite this interesting, but maybe I ought to be glad for that. 

Aaron Matthew Smith- October 2nd, 2011

“How did I let you talk me into this?” I said.
“Will you calm down? It’ll be fine. How are my wings?” Dave turned to show me his bare back.
“They’re crooked. Here.” I tilted the plastic bat wings until they were straight, smearing some of the red paint on his bare back in the process. “I don’t know why you didn’t wear a shirt. You look like a total jackass.”
“Because it’s the only way this costume would work!” He snapped as we approached the house.
“’The Devil’ isn’t really a complicated costume, Dave.”
Dave adjusted his plastic horns for the hundredth time. “Shut up. It’s part of my plan. Angie’s coming dressed as an angel.” He dug into the pocket of his black Dickies and pulled out a crumpled flier. It read, ‘Sigma Gam Halloween Bash!’ and in smaller letters at the bottom, ‘Private Party!’
“How did you get that?” I asked.
“Found it,” Dave said. It was then that I noticed the shoe print on the flier.
“And you’re going to just walk in, find Angie…”
“And then use the old devilish charm!” He waggled his eyebrows at me.
“Uh huh. And it seemed like a good idea to bring a guy as your date?”
“….well, yeah! Mark, you’re my wing man! Plus, think of all the hot girls in skimpy Halloween costumes that’ll be at this party; I’m doing you a favor.” He glanced at my costume. “And by the looks of it, you can use all the help you can get.”
I straightened my bolo tie and tugged at the fake beard. “This was as good as I could do on short notice, ok? And how often do you find a white suit that fits at Goodwill?”
“It’s just… Colonel Sanders wasn’t known for his ability to pick up chicks.”
“Dude, pick up chicks was all he did!” We both snickered.
“Okay, okay. Game time,” Dave said. He bypassed the sidewalk and cut across the yard, heading up the driveway to the little back yard.
“We’re not going inside?” I asked.
“The party’s always out back.”
He was right- and he was also going to have a hard time finding Angie. The backyard was shoulder to shoulder people in costume, and I counted among the crowd at least four angels. Little flickering tiki torches gave the crowded scene a warm orange glow.
When I turned around, Dave was no where to be seen.
Great. We’re at this party less than a minute and Dave vanishes. You’re my wing man, Mark! Yeah right. I glanced around, trying to see if I could find a red guy chatting up any of the angels, but the crowd was too thick. Somebody near me was smoking something foul-smelling, and I briefly wondered if I could be an unwitting accessory to something just by being here.
Well, we rode together, so I guess I’m stuck, I thought. Might as well try to have a good time. I nudged through the crowd to a long table at the edge of the patio topped with a punch bowl the size of a small swimming pool.
“Hi!” Someone squeaked, and I dropped the wax paper cup into the red liquid. I turned to see a short girl wearing a blouse cut off jut below her breasts and parachute pants, her silky blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail. She giggled as I attempted to fish the cup out of the punch bowl with a spoon.
“Hi,” I ventured, dropping the soggy cup onto the concrete.
“I don’t think we’ve met,” she said, a broad smile crossing her round face. “I’m Jeanie.”
“Jeanie?... oh, genie. Ha.”
Jeanie cocked her head at me.
“Uh, I’m Mark.”
“Hi Mark. You here with someone?” The bracelets on her wrists jangled as she reached for a paper cup.
“Just a friend,” I said vaguely. I filled both our cups.
“That’s cool,” Jeanie said. She sipped her drink. “So hey, I like your costume. Yosemite Sam? Cool.”
I was going to correct her, but stopped myself. “Thanks.” I took a sip of my drink- and nearly spit it into Jeanie’s face. The red, foamy punch seared my throat going down, followed by a hot wind that roared through my sinuses and brought immediate tears to my eyes. I hacked and coughed into my beard.
Jeanie grinned that huge grin. “You like the punch? It’s Sister Special Brew, only Sigma Gams know the secret recipe.”
I suddenly suspected that the woman who invented toilet bowl cleaner was a Sigma Gam. I forced my first mouthful to stay down with an effort of will and choked, “It certainly is unique.”
“You’re a blast, Mark. Come on!” Jeanie said, grabbing my hand. “I want to introduce you to my sisters!” She dragged me away from the table and into the crowd, giving me an opportunity to drop my cup onto some guy’s shoes. I doubted he noticed.
We stopped in front of a girl dressed in a green gown the approximate size of a dinner napkin. Her hair was dyed a slightly darker shade of green, and I might or might not have noticed copious amounts of body glitter on her chest and shoulders.
“Hey Abby! This is Mark.”
“Hey Jeanie! Hey Mark, awesome costume. Pecos Bill? Sweet.”
“Abby’s a fairy,” Jeanie explained.
“Whose godmother are you?” I said. Abby threw her head back and laughed for about twenty solid seconds.
“Where’d you get him, Jeanie? He’s great!”
Over the course of the nest half hour I was introduced to a sexy witch, a sexy ghost, a sexy vampire and two sexy kittens. I had just decided to change my major to ‘female Halloween costume designer’ when someone grabbed my unoccupied hand.
“Mark!” Dave’s frantic voice caught my attention. I turned to look and jumped back; half the red paint had been smeared off of his chest, and what was left was streaking down him.
“What happened to you?” I asked.
“Got punch thrown on me,” he said.
“Uh huh.”
“Look Mark, we’ve got to go. Now.”
“Now!? But I’m having a good time,” I argued, and I was. Jeanie must have noticed that I stopped being so draggable, because she turned back to us.
“Oh hey. Are you a friend of Mark’s?” She asked Dave.
“Yeah,” Dave smiled, but the mask of seriousness fell back into place when he looked back at me. “Something is seriously wrong here.”
“Oh what, just because your angel shot you down?”
“Which angel?” Jeanie asked, but she needn’t have. Just then a woman wearing a white bedsheet wrapped around her body shoved through the crowd, stopping when she found the three of us.
“There you are!” Angie pointed at Dave, and Dave withered under her gaze. “I thought I told you to get out of here!” Angie put both hands on her hips, and for the first time I noticed the huge costume wings folded against her back.
“No no, we’re going! Really!” Mark whimpered. The crowd had begun to part around us. I suddenly felt very, very conspicuous.
“Is this the friend you came with?” Jeanie whispered to me.
“He’s not a great friend. Not even a good friend. Hardly a friend at all, really. More of an acquaintance.”
“These two weren’t invited, Jeanie.” Angie’s words were as cold and sharp as an icicle knife, and her wings moved.
No, they didn’t move exactly. The unfolded a little bit, shimmering white feathers catching the flickering tiki torch light.
Wow, that’s an impressive costume, I thought, an instant before hard, stupefying reality hit me like a sledgehammer.
“You don’t just crash a Sigma Gam party, Dave,” Angie continued. “We’re the oldest TSS on campus! It’s an invitation only event!”
“TSS?” I whispered to Jeanie.
She looked at me as if I’d just asked her what color the sky was. “Traditional Supernatural Sorority. Duh.”
Angie sighed, ignoring mine and Jeanie’s conversation altogether, her eyes locked onto the quivering shirtless jackass covered in smeared red paint. “I guess I’ll have to be the bouncer tonight.” I looked around and noticed that the crowd had suddenly retreated to a safe distance; Angie’s wings opened to their full length, radiant white light emanating from her outstretched feathers like heat from a radiator. “Prepare to get bounced, boys.”
The world was suddenly upside down, and I watched as the party began to fly farther and farther away. Dave’s screaming voice sounded hollow and tinny as sky and ground flashed alternately in front of my vision. For a brief instant the world stopped spinning, and I was treated to a breathtaking view of the clear, starry night sky.
And then I looked down, and saw campus two hundred feet below me.
The dorm quad was streaking up at me faster than I could scream. Terror yanked the breath from my lungs. I wanted to close my eyes but I couldn’t look away as the unforgiving ground rushed to meet me.
I expected everything to go black all of a sudden, followed by either pearly gates or a pit of fire (I figure I’ve got about a fifty-fifty shot either way). Instead the lawn in front of my dorm gave way like I’d landed on a huge trampoline, flinging me unceremoniously back into the air. I bounced twice more before landing flat on my back on the grass, and what air I’d managed to suck back into my lungs was knocked right back out.
I laid there for a few moments when I heard a groan next to me. Dave rolled over onto his back, grass clippings and a stray cigarette stuck to the paint on his chest.
I wanted to get up and kick his ass, but I had aches and pains in places I didn’t even know could ache or pain. Instead I said,
“…Traditional Supernatural Sorority?”
“I swear man, I had no idea.”
“You jerk,” I gasped, finally struggling to my feet. “I was having a good time, too. I wish I’d gotten Jeanie’s number.” I stuck my hand into the pocket of my suit to get my dorm key, but my fingers found a little folded square of paper there.
I unfolded it. It read:
576-783-3398 You have two wishes left. ;) ~Jeanie.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"Grace" (100 word flashfic)

I really like "flashfics"- tiny little stories that can be written and read quickly. The 100-word fics are especially challenging to me, since my general strategy is to throw as many words as possible onto paper and hope something good comes of it. These stories really help me to focus and stay on the topic. Interestingly, this is the first one I've ever written where, when I was finished writing, I counted the words and had exactly 100. Neat!

"Grace" (100 word flashfic)
September 24th, 2011
Aaron M. Smith

“And thank you for grandma and grampa,” Gracie continued, her eyes pinched closed over her supper, hands placed together, “And thank you for mommy and daddy even though they spanked me yesterday and I didn’t do anything,” her parents shared an uncomfortable look across the table, “and thank you for uncle Tony because we only seem him at Thanksgiving, and thank you for Uncle Bruce and his friend Mike,” Bruce and Mike winked at each other, “and thank you for this food, and for the dessert even though I like chocolate better. Amen!” Her little hands snatched up her silverware.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"By The Way..."

I drew this cartoon today. It features a woman I work with who, bless her heart, always seems to get stuck on projects at the worst possible moment. We all have days like that. This one is for you, fellow cubicle jockies.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

"On agent letters and the working man"

I have a delima.

I desperately want to be a published writer. One day, I want to be a professional novelist. I love writing, and my head is so full of ideas right now that I feel that, given the time and motivation to do so, I could write new stories forever.

I'm also terrified of failure and incredibly insecure in my own abilities. I have a manuscript for a novel that I think is pretty good. I've read and re-read  and edited it about a dozen times, and I'm mostly ready to start sending it to agents. I've even started writing a template agent letter. But the more I try to summarize my novel, the stupider it sounds. The concept, the characters, the ending... when I try to condense it for an agent letter, it all sounds so stupid.

I have a day job right now. The safe thing to do would be to just concentrate on my day job, try to move up the ladder in my corporation and just stick to writing as a hobby and share it with those who read my blog.

My problem is here. I can't decide which prospect scares me more: putting myself out there and potentially failing at what I'd love to do the most, or staying at my day job for the rest of my life and never pursuing it at all.

Maybe I'm just having a down day. I hope that's it.
Okay, no more moping. I promise a story or cartoon later this week.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Hostile Territory"

It's been a month since the wedding, and I'm back to writing!
It inevitable that as soon as it starts to feel like fall outside my imagination begins to prepare for Halloween. I say this because, for the last three years, I've written a zombie story in the first or second week of September. I can't help it; I LOVE Halloween. It's one of my favorite holidays. I also love being scared (horror movie scared, not plane-dropping-out-of-the-sky scared). You're probably better off reading the first part (new window) and the second part (new window) to fully understand what's going on, and look for more scary fun as Halloween approaches. Enjoy!

"Hostile Territory"
Aaron M. Smith- September 6th, 2011

“Clear,” Donny said, peeking through the shattered remains of the gas station door. Sam and I stepped carefully through the broken glass littering the linoleum floor, my flashlight playing over the scene of chaos inside. Sam had a submachine gun in his hands. I couldn’t think about using a gun since we took the Explorer back in New Bethlehem. I carried a crowbar instead.
That was nearly an hour ago, and I still couldn’t shake the image from my brain. The thing (it didn’t seem right to call it a person anymore) with the red eyes climbing out of the back seat, coming for me. I’d plugged nine rounds from a glock into it before I’d even thought about it.
I never thought I was capable of that.
“Mike? You with us?” Donny’s voice snapped me back into reality. I nodded. “You’ve hardly said a word, dude. You okay?”
“We got jerky.” Sam said, stuffing as much Jack Links as he could carry into a nylon duffel bag.
“Come on, we have to get supplies and get back on the road,” I said. Focus on the task at hand. Don’t think what happened, or what’s going to happen. Stay alive right now.
I started filling my bag with bottled water. Donny walked around behind the counter. I thought I saw him eyeing the liquor bottles.
 “Donny, we don’t have time to go on a bender,” I said, loud enough for Sam to hear. I turned and saw Sam with a case of Bud Light under each arm. He pouted like a six year old before he sat the beer down on the floor.
“How far until we get into Pennsylvania downtown?” I asked.
“Not far, like nine miles,” Sam answered. “I just wanted to stock up now, in case everything is already gone when we get there.” I’d known Sam for a couple years, but never very well. He’d always walked around with a chip on his shoulder. What the three of us had seen in the last twenty-four hours had changed him. I wouldn’t say he was nicer, exactly. Just more serious, I guess.
A sudden scraping noise made all three of us jump. In the darkness at the back of the store, one of the display shelves had toppled over. Something was moving beneath it.
I prayed Sam and Donny couldn’t see my knees shaking as we fanned out, surrounding the overturned plywood shelf, bags of chips crunching under our feet. I trained my flashlight on the shelf. Donny gently laid his shotgun down and gripped the shelf, and Sam had a white-knuckle grip on his gun. Donny mouthed a silent three-count: Three, two one…
He hefted the shelf upright.
The creature beneath it hissed as the weight was lifted off of its mangled body. She was, or used to be, I guess, a middle-aged woman. Both her legs were shattered, bone protruding at horrible angles. She didn’t seem to notice, though, as she struggled to get to her feet, arms flailing in Sam’s direction.
And those horrible, totally red eyes, like all the blood vessels had ruptured at once.
She didn’t stand a chance. Sam’s little submachine gun barked a dozen times before I could count, the muzzle flash blinding in the darkened store. The monster fell back on the linoleum, still. Red-black blood, not enough to have come from anything still alive, dribbled lazily across the floor.
“Did anything hear that?” Donny asked.
“I don’t know,” I said, eager to look away from the grizzly scene. I walked to the window and looked out. And suddenly wished I hadn’t.
“Oh, shit.”
“What’s wrong?” Hissed Sam.
“They found the car.”
“Who did?” asked Donny.
I turned to him and rolled my eyes. “Who do you think?” I pointed into the parking lot, where we’d left our “borrowed” Explorer. There were six or seven zombies staggering around it, most of them pressing against or leaning on the hood.
“What’re they doing?” Donny asked.
“Looks like they’re drawn to the heat,” I said.
“Shit,” Sam grunted, cocking the SMG again. “I didn’t want to have to blow all my ammo on this run.”
“Don’t!” I hissed, trying to keep my voice down. “If you hit the car, we might have to walk downtown!” I glanced around the station, my eyes landing on the liquor behind the counter. “I might have an idea. Hang on.”
I don’t drink, but I played enough video games to know how a Molotov cocktail works. I fished around behind the counter to find the bottle with the highest proof and a little plastic lighter. I found a dry towel in the utility room and screwed off the cap, cramming the rag inside. Whatever I’d picked up, it smelled like paint thinner and pine needles. I sat the bag that I’d filled with bottled water and my flashlight near the side door of the station and looked out into the darkness.
“Get ready to head to the car,” I whispered over my shoulder. Donny and Sam started to argue, but I was out the door and didn’t hear them.
Around the side of the station, I found what I was looking for. A huge tank of kerosene sat at the back of the lot. There wasn’t a zombie in sight; I tiptoed over to it, suddenly wishing I hadn’t left the flashlight in the station. The liquor bottle in my back pocket, I took two steps back and swung the crowbar with all my might into the tank, where the hose met the metal body.
The clang! Was a lot louder than I expected, but the hose tore free from the tank. A sharp, pungent odor filled my nose as the fuel began to slosh out across the parking lot. I turned around to get clear before lighting it up.
And found myself face to face with a huge man wearing blood-smeared coveralls. He grunted and lunged at me in the darkness.
Fear like a living thing leapt in my stomach, and I cried out. My shoulders reacted before I could tell them to, swinging the crowbar like a baseball bat. The hit was clumsy, but it did the trick; there was a sick, wet thud as the tool shattered some of the zombie’s ribs. The blow was so fierce I lost my grip on the crowbar and it spun from my fingers, clanging to the concrete. The zombie didn’t seem to feel any pain, but the blow staggered it.
“Mike!” Donny cried from the station, no longer worried about keeping his voice down.
“Get to the car!” I screamed. I yanked the bottle from my back pocket as I ran. The monster I’d just clobbered was shuffling in the darkness to my left; I had only seconds. My thumb fumbled on the plastic lighter. A weak little flame flicked into life on the third try, and I lit the soaked rag hanging out of the little glass bottle. In the flickering orange flame, I saw the mechanic take a step toward me.
I chucked the bottle overhand at him.
The flaming bottle bounced heavily off of his skull but didn’t break. It tumbled down his belly, dribbling flaming liquor across the corpse in a blazing salvo. When it hit the concrete at the base of the kerosene tank, it shattered.
The kerosene ignited into brilliant blue flame, the heat searing the back of my neck even as I dove back into the abandoned station.
Donny and Sam didn’t say anything as we snatched up the items we’d packed away. Sure enough, the zombies that had gathered around our car were starting to shamble in the direction of the kerosene blaze. They totally ignored us as we slipped past them.
I heard the whistling sound just as I was closing the back door and Sam started the engine.
Drive!” I screamed, and Sam stomped the gas.
Our tires squealed as we peeled out of the parking lot, leaving the zombies and the flames behind us.
And that was when the whole place exploded.
The whistling rose to a piercing shriek, and then a sound like a rushing waterfall and a wave of heat that could’ve fried eggs rushed over the whole car. I felt the force shove us across the road and Sam fight to maintain control of the Explorer. I turned around and looked out the back window; the plume of smoke and flames lit up the night sky like daylight.
We were two hundred yards away when the pumps went up. Columns of smoke, shifting eerily in the dancing orange flames beneath, began to engulf the whole station until I couldn’t see anything but black smoke and yellow light.
I turned back around and leaned on the seat, exhausted. The three of us drove in silence for several minutes before Donny said,
“Hey, look at the bright side. If anyone’s alive, they had to have seen that, right?”
“Yeah, Don,” Sam said, his voice tired, “We just sent up a big damn smoke signal.”
“Who got Ho-Hos?” I said, pulling the cellophane-wrapped cake from one of our duffel bags.
“Those are mine, hands off,” Sam said.
“I earned this,” I said, and I made a show of slowly tearing off the wrapper and cramming a whole cake into my mouth. Neither of them seemed willing to argue.