lost time incident 34 – mannequin head delivery service


lost time incident 34
Hey, everybody! What’s the good word? What’s the rumpus? What’s the happs? What’s the skinny? What’s going down? What’s news? What’s … what’s… what are we doing?

Let’s start with what I’m doing. When I started this newsletter, the idea was that it would force me to sit down at least once a week and write something. At some point, the hope was that I would stumble across something I was really enjoying writing and that would lead me to my next project.

It’s taking a while, but I did see something inspirational this week: A book calledBABY HATER on Amazon that looks self-published. I haven’t read it yet, but it came along at just the right time to remind me that there’s no barrier keeping any writer from pursuing and publishing a pet project. Maybe that project is a story that opens with a baby getting punched in its dumb face! Who knows!

It’s been 2 years since THE SPIRIT LEFT ME (my previous fiction collection) came out. But it’s encouraging to remember that my next project doesn’t have to be that involved. I could be inventing short story ideas with attention-grabbing high concepts and putting them out as stand-alone projects. In theory. (See also: The works of Chuck Tingle, the Bizarro scene of Portland, OR, and the marketing geniuses at Horrible Vacuum)

That’s where we’re at today. Keeping myself from getting intimidated by how much work might be ahead of me by focusing on smaller, more attainable goals. Just need to keep typing.

typing typing typing
The two of them came through the detective’s office door: a pair of heavy-set aliens, holding translator rigs to their ear and mouth equivalents. Arm in arm. Wearing red lipstick.

“Well, don’t you two look like trouble,” muttered the detective.

“We have trouble, yes,” said the aliens. “We want to hire your services.”

“I can do that,” answered the detective. “But by law, I’m required to point out that I’m a robot.”

“That makes sense,” said one of the aliens, “as here in the future, robots are commonplace and have assumed many of the jobs that humans used to have, freeing them for leisure time activities such as designing cosmetics for my race.”

The creatures’ red lips caught the light from the dangling overhead light bulb.

“What’s the job?” asked the detective.

The aliens looked somber. Possibly. With their weird alien faces it was hard to tell. “We would like you to tell us how this short fiction piece ends.”

The detective scratched his titanium forehead carapace with the tip of an antique pistol. “You fellas are looking for a fortune-teller, not a detective.”

“No,” said the alien. “Everything in our lives, from the moment we started to exist outside the door of your office to this very moment has propelled us here, to hire you. Our instincts are true. You know how this piece will end. Look behind you.”

The detective swiveled his office chair and looked at the framed embroidered words hung behind his desk. It had been one of the first pieces of decorative art that he’d hung when he set up his practice and was such an established part of the office, he didn’t really notice it anymore. The irises in his eye units whirred to bring the needlepoint text into focus.

“Huh,” he grunted. “How about that? It was here all along.”



it works: candlewick
This fragment is set in The Beulah Candlewick School for Young Magicks. Candlewick is a dangerous institution for students, with a distressingly high rate of injury and death. Magick education comes with a high mortality rate, it turns out.

“Oh my god, I can’t breathe,” said Ms. Beak, the Candlewick Headmaster, bent over with the effort of trying to stop laughing. She held the hood of her cloak closed in front of her face so that any shell-shocked students who looked her way wouldn’t see her giant smirking grin. With her face hidden, she might get away with it, as her shaking shoulders might pass for convulsions, or nausea, or some other more sympathetic reaction to what had just happened. “This fucking school… oh my god, what are we— I can’t believe it.”

Nearby, the object of Headmaster Beak’s mirth stood in the school hallway, stock still, wand extended, in the epicenter of what had been a mystical explosion. The hallway was scorched in radial patterns centered on her, and a meaty smell in the air. Her clothing was covered in blood. The hallway walls resembled the inside of an uncleaned microwave primarily used to heat up chili.

Those students who weren’t wiping blood off themselves, or patting down flames, left a respectful but curious distance between themselves and stock still student.

Lemoyne Wills, a faculty member, pushed through the students. “All right, show’s over,” he said, wondering which student this was, underneath the blood and burn marks. With their hair slicked back and smoking, he couldn’t even be sure of the student’s gender.

As he leaned in to the student and used his thumb to brush their closed eyelids clean, he could hear them mumbling something.

“What’s that?” he said, leaning in.

“It works,” she was whispering. “It works. It works.”

Lemoyne looked around at the nearby students, kicking aside what looked to be a former student’s leg. “Anybody see what happened?”

A young man with a blue, asymmetrical haircut raised his hand. “She, uh… she was just talking to some upperclassmen who were making fun of her wand. Saying she made it herself, or something.”

Lemoyne sighed. “Why would that matter,” he said. He addressed all the students. “Everyone, listen up! Where your wand comes from is unimportant, okay? We make you buy wands from the school store if you don’t have one because, to be honest, it’s a revenue stream and it keeps the lights on.”

The Headmaster let the hood of her cloak fall open. “Lemoyne…” she said in a tone of voice clearly meant to curtail this burst of honesty with the student body.

“But magick is mostly about technique, and will power. The particular stick that you point when you cast something… it’s just something to focus with. And yes, that means that you can blow up a small crowd of bullies with a homemade wand. As has been demonstrated.” He gestured around at the gore-flecked hallway for evidence.

“So be nice to each other. Magick’s not going to be nice to you, so you have to be nice to each other.”


ending theme song
We’re going to close out this week with the usual stuff:

A reminder that there’s a Facebook page for the lost time incident where there’s still an e-book giveway for SEXTRAP DUNGEON going on. Tell your friends!

Thanks to my wife Amanda for the Candlewick illustration of a blood-spattered hallway.

And I’ll end with an informal poll:

How much have you historically paid or would pay for a work of short fiction, like a “Kindle Single” or short story or mini-novella e-book? Nuthin’? A buck? 3 bucks? A small-ish gold nugget? A velvet painting of a sad clown that has eyes that follow you?

Let me know! See you next week!

—Michael Van Vleet