Author: stephenhemmer

I am a diabetic who is teaching English in Japan. I write speculative fiction and post the really short and sweet stuff here.

The Accident on Titan

Do you know about the motor pub? The one on Vine Street? It’s a little hole in the wall, but it’s popular with people just passing through the area. 

I was there last Thursday, a bit early in the night. I had finished my research for the day and decided to celebrate before the place got too many customers. Well, when I was there I saw a man sitting alone at the bar, and you know me, I just had to chat with him. I love to chat with anyone I can and there is no one better to talk to than someone drinking alone. 

He looked like he was passing through. I had never seen him at the bar before, so I didn’t think he was a regular.e had a suitcase sitting next to his stool, with his foot wrapped around one of the handles. I admired his determination to keep his belongings safe, but honestly, all he’d get out of that situation would be a broken foot if anyone with any determination tried to take his stuff. But I digress.

I sat next to him and offered to buy him a drink. He thanked me and ordered a whiskey straight. He drank the whole thing in one gulp. Told him, “You didn’t wait for me, but I’m not buying you another.” I laughed.

He didn’t.

(more…)

Dragonfly: Goodbyes

Sean stood in the door frame and crossed his arms. He looked in and stared at the back of Ricky’s head, tried to open his mouth to speak but stopped himself before he said anything stupid. As he leaned against the old wooden door frame, it let out an audible creak. 

Ricky turned around and Sean finally saw his fresh black eye. It wasn’t the first one he’d seen on him. Ricky paused for a second, looking at Sean’s tightened jaw and freshly crew-cut red hair on pale freckled skin. 

The two young men just stared for a second, considering the first words of what would assuredly be a difficult conversation.

Ricky spoke first.

“What are you doing here?” Ricky turned his head so his black eye was no longer visible.

“I…” Sean paused.

“Yeah? Spit it out.” Ricky’s eyes started to dart across the room to find something, anything else to look at than the man in the doorway.

“I…I’m going to leave. I just wanted to let you know.”

Ricky forced a laugh. “Then go. No one is holding you here, Sean.” Ricky flicked his wrist to shoo away Sean as he said, “The door’s that way.”

(more…)

Ripple

Passing by a picnic bench, Elise leaned a little to the side so she could run her hand across its rough wooden surface. She continued toward the pond just past the pavilion she was walking through. As she left the pavilion’s cover she began to feel light rain kiss her skin.

She stopped at the water’s edge and sat on a large stone. Taking a deep breath, she could smell the smoke of charcoal grills burning close by. The smell of the rain mixed with the smoke made her smile. She took off her shoes, set them on the stone, and stepped into the pond, wading just deep enough to let the pond reach her knees. 

She turned to the grills running along the side of the park’s pavilion and stared at the smoke gently wafting from the unmanned stations. Elise tilted her head and frowned a little before closing her eyes tight. She thought of her father and uncles before opening her eyes.

Standing before the grills were now a row of men wearing khaki shorts and brightly colored button up shirts laughing and waving to each other, repeating the same basic movements of flipping burgers, turning hotdogs, and looking back up to wave again. At the edge of the row stood a nun doing the same synchronized cooking routine.

(more…)

Remember, Me and You

Bea woke up and blinked. She took a look around her room: cold and sterile, fake wood panels and linoleum floors. She blinked again, rubbed her eyes, and tried to orient herself. The bed was…comfortable, but not her own, or probably not her own. She sat up and felt a tug on her chest.

A cord ran from her thin, white and blue dress to a screen of some sort propped up on a metal stand. The idea, the words, the thoughts, the meaning of the screen, it tickled her brain, begging her to think just a little harder, a little longer, but the purpose, the meaning, it slipped past her. 

Next to the stand was an end table, sparse and utilitarian, matching the fake wood panels that ran along the wall. Sitting on it was a picture frame. In the picture were two figures, laughing. The one on the left she knew, or was fairly certain she knew. It was a woman with short cut hair and prominent laugh lines around her round dark eyes. But thinking about it for too long upset her, caused the tickle to grow.

(more…)

Meet Me at the Gates of the Cemetery

Peter Grange walked past the fake marble pillars that flanked the sides of the large wrought iron gate. He took a moment to appreciate the ornate flourishes of the metal flowers. If you couldn’t bring flowers, these would never wilt.

Peter turned to walk to the street and back home, brushing off some dirt from his jeans. As he looked up towards the road he saw a figure leaning against a street lamp, standing just between the two cones of light from the lamps bulbs. A faint cloud of cigarette smoke wafted away from the figure and into the leftward patch of light. 

The figure spoke up, “You don’t see many people here this late.”

Peter smiled. “Guess I could say the same.” He stopped halfway between the gate and the street lamp.

“So what are you doing here then? Paying your respects?”

Peter wanted to laugh but instead came out with, “Not exactly. More like, I was just doing some cleaning up.”

The figure shifted its weight, still resting entirely within the shadows. “Oh? You make a lot of messes.” The figure vaguely gestured towards the dirt stains on Peter’s workman jeans. 

(more…)

Broken

Giovanna wiped the sweat from her brow, smearing a thin layer of half dried clay across her forehead. She looked into the door of the cooling kiln, careful to only touch the handle. The bright yellow light within was finally beginning to dim. As she waited, she walked over to her work table and leaned against its messy surface, covered in tools and knives and rags for sculpting and shaping clay. The clock in the corner of her desk clicked along and Giovanna smiled at her notes and formulas. Her wastebasket was full of failed recipes that used to come more easily to her, but this, this recipe was sure to work. The roots she used to use had been wiped out after a year of blight and an unexpected cold snap late last spring. 

Reaching for her notebook, she recognized the remaining wet clay stuck on her hands was slowly dehydrating in the heat of her workshop, so she walked toward the wash basin. With the cool spring water flowing across her hands she took a moment to look out the window, down the cliff and across the coast. Down the path, at the bottom of the cliff was the local community. At least half a dozen of her creations were living full and engaging lives with the rest of the population. It was hard at first. People were hesitant, but now they are just people.

Giovanna turned the valve, shutting off the spring water, and faced the clock. It needed repairs, for sure. It’s gears would occasionally slip, and the pendulum definitely wasn’t calibrated properly anymore, but it worked well enough as a timer. Her clay should be finished.

She stepped over a few tools strewn across the floor and towards the kiln’s valves and knobs. She let in a surge of brisk air from outside to speed things up. The kiln would still be hot for a minute, but she was too excited to wait. She put on a thick cloth mitten and opened it up, staring at the yellow glowing embers that surrounded her creation.

(more…)

Step Mother’s Note

Dearest daughter,

I know when you went to sleep you still didn’t consider me your mother, but I hope you know that I always considered you part of my family.  By the time you read this, you will have woken up from your rest. I hope that you are feeling better. I know things haven’t been easy, and I hope when you wake things will finally be easier, fairer.

I know that this situation has taken a deep toll on you. It’s taken a toll on me as well, but I don’t mean to make this about me. 

What I am trying to say is, I hope that by the time you wake you can find it within your heart to forgive me. I never wanted to hurt you. I never wanted to do this, but… I hope you can at least understand why, even if you can’t forgive me.

(more…)

Summer Loll

Isaac leaned against the fence post that marked both the edge of the neighbors farm and informally the edge of town. He flipped the dagger in his hand, letting it rest on the back of his palm, before throwing it into the air. It spun a full rotation before landing blade first into the soft dirt. He bent down to pick up the dagger and do the same with his other hand. 

His father was more of a show off. When he taught Isaac how to play with blades, he would always do two, or even three rotations in the air before the dagger would bury itself into the ground. Isaac was much more utilitarian with his knife games. 

His father taught him several summers ago, back when Isaac was only maybe six or seven. Isaac wiped the summer sweat from his brow back then just as much as he did now. He hated the drills his father had him do; alternating stance and form at a moment’s notice. Forward grip extended his reach, his father would say, and back handed grip made boxing more lethal. A downward thrust had more force, good for armor or a thick shell, but it made him vulnerable to someone with longer reach. 

Isaac grabbed the dagger, flipped it underhanded, and stabbed it more than inch into the post behind him. 

(more…)

The Broken Key Part 1

Mikaela turned the corner and began to run down the hall, away from the skittering coming fast behind her. She turned around and still could not see…that thing, whatever it was chasing her. She turned back around and realized the hall was stretching away from her. Her breathing grew ragged with exhaustion, and yet the door at the end of the hallway simply grew further and further away, but the skittering, the sound of metal on tile, and then wood, it kept getting closer. She turned back around…

She gasped as she felt wet warmth across her face.


Mikaela woke up to the feeling of her secret stray licking her face. 

“Christ in heaven, Checkov, nearly threw you across the room.” She lifted the cat, easily, despite the pain in her hand, and although Mikaela was still quite young and small, Checkov was even smaller, the best kind of cat to train to hide in a bag under her bed. The next trick was getting him to stay still for even a minute.

Checkov wiggled out of Mikaela’s hands and fell on her chest, mewing once, and licking her face. Mikaela pulled him closer. “Shush boy, don’t want dad to know!” she mumbled with intensity. Intensity undercut by another disarming lick.

“Ugh.” Mikaela set the affectionate boy down on the hardwood of her bedroom floor and gently rolled out of bed. She sneaked towards a large bag next to her dresser. It was just out of sight from the door to her room, and fortunately she was just at the age where her mom didn’t find her sudden interest in privacy strange. 

(more…)