End of week update.

Well, this week has not exactly gone to plan in a number of ways. It’s actually been a very strange week. My ability to not only post a thing of the day for all the preceding days of the week but keep them on a creepy theme was helped inestimably by the fact that a lot of the things in my trunk file are fairly creepy (though the story I posted last night just before midnight was brand new).

We had a sort of extended family situation that ate up a lot of time in the past couple days, and on top of that we just realized yesterday that trick-or-treat night on the civic calendar is tonight, on account of the Mummers’ Parade that’s always held on Saturdays, so we’ve had less time to get ready (and none on the weekend… I was really counting on being able to do a lot more Saturday.

So with that in mind, rather than half-assing everything, I’m doing a little castling maneuver with my calendar… today’s all holiday stuff, and then over the weekend I can take some time to write and post. Talk to you more then!

FLASH FICTION: The Other Child


By Alexandra Erin

The first time you notice the child, two groups of trick-or-treaters have converged on your porch at once. It’s twenty-two minutes past six and the smaller children are out in full force, guided by grown-ups or older siblings pressed into service.

The monsters are pretty thin on the ground right now. At this hour, it’s mostly mutant turtles and cartoon princesses, Sith Lords and Jedi Knights… and at the pack of the pack, standing just off the edge of your small patio-like front porch is one tiny child, painfully pale and painfully thin.

If those dark circles are just makeup, it’s a far more subtle job than the usual Halloween face paint. The brief glimpse of gray you get beneath the neck doesn’t look much like a costume, but then a taller child in wizard school robes shifts in front of you and you lose your train of thought.

By the time the crowd has thinned out, you couldn’t exactly swear that the pale child in the back never came forward to grab a handful of Smarties and Sixlets with the rest, but you didn’t see it happen.

Well, some kids are shy, you tell yourself. Probably someone else in the group was an older relative, tasked with the perilous task of going up to the door and actually collecting the candy.

When you open the door a few minutes later to see the same child, dressed in a shapeless gray sweater and dingy white pants, standing at the edge of your porch behind a pair of children dressed as superheroes in tutus, you manage to summon up a smile and a remark about how glad you are to see they found the bravery to come back, but somehow the words catch in your throat and the smile dies on your face when you meet the child’s eyes.

You can’t be sure—after all, it was only a glimpse before—but you’d almost swear it was standing in the exact same place as last time. Head at the same angle, eyes staring ahead in the same fixed way. You hold out the candy bowl for the first two visitors and then make a valiant effort to thrust it out towards the strange child at the back of the porch for several seconds. When it doesn’t move or react in any way, you step back and quickly shut the door.

The next time there’s a knock on the door, you take a look through the peephole. No one there but a pirate. You step back and open the door in the same motion, and find yourself looking at a child you’re sure wasn’t there before, as though the door had been a screen wipe transitioning to a fresh scene.

You give the pirate the due booty and barely manage to restrain yourself from screaming at a child for being spooky at Halloween.

“Nice trick,” you say to the other child. “Bet you don’t get much candy that way, though. Come up and have some!”

You know the child won’t.

When you close the door, you look through the peephole and then through the side pane and see nothing. You try to convince yourself that if you were to open the door, your front step would be deserted. You don’t quite manage it.

When the next knock comes, you take a long time to answer it. You know what you’ll see before you open the door, and of course you’re right. When you close it this time, you briefly flick off your porch light, then you look at the candy in your bowl and think about the decorations all over the outside of your house. No one would look at your house and believe that you’re not at home to trick-or-treaters.

Anyway, would be any better to hide out alone in your house with the lights off, waiting for the children knocking to go away disappointed? It’s not like the other child would leave.

You do your best to ignore its continued presence as you go about your holiday duties. Surprisingly, it works. No one else mentions the other child or gives it much notice, and after a while it just becomes a background part of the routine.

The crowd changes a bit as the sun finishes setting and full dark sets in. The older kids are out now, the ones who go all out on their costumes. The little kids are cute, but you’ve always loved the scary side of Halloween, the ghosts and goblins and things that go bump in the night…

And just like that, you’re thinking of the other child again, and suddenly you’re noticing that at some point he took a step up and is now positioned just inside the bounds of your porch. He’s changed the angle of his head, and the look on his face is… less vacant. Hard to quantify, though.


Official trick-or-treat hours for your town run until 8:00, though you’ve always kept the light burning a bit later for people who don’t read the community calendar.

Tonight, though, you start giving out your remaining candy multiple handfuls at a time, and as soon as your phone says 8:00, you lock your door, turn out your porch light, close all the blinds, and turn on every light inside your house.

You pour yourself a glass of wine, and you’re just in the process of trying to decide between going upstairs to drink it with a book or sitting down with something light and fun on the TV when you hear the unmistakable metal screech of your storm door being opened.

You freeze up. The porch light is off. Everybody knows that’s the universal signal of “no candy here”, right? You’ve closed up shop for the night. All you have to do is be quiet and ignore it…

A knock.

“Trick or treat.”

It’s a child’s voice, a tiny voice, yet one that is remarkably piercing in the stillness of the moment. Your blood pounds in your ears as you try to decide what to do. Answering the door seems impossible, even if it seemed like a good idea, but you’re not sure how much longer you can stand to ignore it…

“Hello?” another voice says, an older one, and you both jump in surprise and then relax so completely you practically deflate. It’s your next-door neighbor. They always come by your house last, after doing a driving tour of other neighborhoods. They must have been running a bit late tonight, that’s all. You remember now that you didn’t see them among the press of costumed bodies at your front door. It might have seemed weird at the time, if anything so normal had the power to seem weird.

“Coming!” you shout, almost laughing with relief.

You run-walk to the front hall, where you reach for the door before realizing you have empty hands. The last remnants of the candy are in the bowl, which you set down on the little foyer table just behind you.

You turn around…

First Published: October 29th, 2015

Word Count: ~1200

Flash Fiction: Seven Days Without Spiders


By Alexandra Erin

It has been seven days since I saw a spider within the house.

Knowing their propensity for squeezing within tiny spaces and scurrying under things, I have spent most of the week searching in vain for their new hiding spot, or spots. I examined in minute detail the cracks between the floorboards and all the seams in the walls. Realizing their ability to move in three dimensions coupled with their keen senses and quick reflexes could allow them to follow my own movements through the house while staying just outside the arc of my vision, I tried on several occasions to whirl around quickly and catch them off-guard. I never saw them, though.

After seven days without a single solitary sighting of a spider, I have begun to suspect something. Do spiders count in base eight? Do they attach some special significance to the number of their limbs and eyes? Do they ? I cannot see how it would be otherwise.

If this is so, then whatever they have planned for me, it will be tomorrow.



First Published: October 28th, 2015

Word Count: ~200

POEM/SONG: How the Minotaur Lost Her Way



By Alexandra Erin


Well, she lit out from Kellisport
so many years ago
bound for Hulmouth Harbor
before the winter snow.
Her holds were packed with cargo,
her sails were full of wind
and not a mortal living
knows where she met her end.

Who can know? Who can say
where the Minotaur lies today?
She started out so swiftly
but somehow she lost her way.
My heart was packed inside her
when she went down that day.
Oh, my heart was packed inside her
when she went down that day.

She carried tonnes of cotton,
and barrels full of rice,
casks of hearty wine
and sweetly scented spice,
treasures from the conquest
and priceless works of art.
and one lonely young sailor
I trusted with my heart.

Mermaid-snared? Tempest-tossed?
They only know that she was lost.
The bankers know the value,
but no one knows the cost.
Now my heart lies under waters
no ship has ever crossed.
Oh, my heart lies under waters
no ship has ever crossed.

It happened of a sudden,
one calm and moonless night.
My sailor left his watch-post
and doused his lantern-light.
Urged on by the promise
I’d etched upon his skin
he drew steel and crept astern
and did the captain in.

Who can know? Who can say
how the Minotaur lost her way?
Only one man’s certain,
and he will never say.
He took my heart down with him
when the ship went down that day.
Oh, he took my heart down with him
when the ship went down that day.

The Minotaur lies quiet now
in the darkling deeps,
and prowling round about it
my sailor never sleeps.
In the ribs of the wreck
a light no depths can kill,
and at the center of it
my heart beats even still.



First Published: October 27th, 2015

Meanwhile: An update regarding Angels

Okay, folks. Back in the spring I started an ambitious project to help the beloved friend of many in the community, Elizabeth McClellan (Pope Lizbet) with mounting expenses relating to an accident. Many talented poets and authors joined me in this action by contributing their work to an anthology. There have been a lot of ups and downs along the way for both Lizbet, myself, and the project, but the long process of turning these acts of charity into a finished product is coming to an end.

About this time next week, I’m going to be sending out proof copies to the contributors so they can check their work and verify that it’s being presented to best effect, and also update their bios if they desire. I’m going to try to turn things around from there in a week, meaning that we’ll start sending the finished e-book out to those who’ve sent Lizbet aid on Monday, November 9th. To allow for life happening, we’ll have a fallback date of November 16th.

That’s the good news.

I mentioned that there have been ups and downs along the way. Things have continued to be tough for our intrepid Pope. She’s been dealing with illness, a broken ankle, and more car-related woes in the months since we started this. Coupled with the desire of many participants in the project to not see such a wonderful collection of poems and prose be a one-shot that fades away, we’ll be asking the contributors for permission to keep selling the e-book in a more permanent fashion, and looking at options for a print-on-demand version.

In the meantime, if anyone wants to help Elizabeth out, we’ll add them to the list to receive the e-book.

Email Address (For Delivery)

(Remember, delivery will be between November 9th-16th.)

FLASH FICTION: Watching Over Us All

FIRST PUBLISHED: October 26th, 2015



By Alexandra Erin

The cold, pale, slightly irregularly-shaped orb that rose over the horizon that pivotal first morning was not the sun, not our sun at least.

It gave off enough light to be seen, but only just. It was nowhere near bright enough to blot out the stars, but they disappeared in its wake, just the same as if it were drawing a shade behind it as it traversed the sky. The moon was nowhere to be seen.

It had been getting smaller—farther away, astronomers said—for days before, lighting out for parts unknown. No one knew what was keeping the tides going. We’d have to rewrite the physics books entirely when we found out, assuming that anyone could and that anyone would be around to write it all down.

The temperatures plunged, but not as much as you would have expected. Things got chilly, but not icy. Plants kept growing, though they were observed to grow away from the pale new sun rather than towards it. Flowers that had once tracked old Sol’s progress across the sky now turned their faces away from his replacement.

The fire-and-brimstone preachers all screamed that they’d warned us, but as time went on with neither deliverance for them and their followers nor devastation for the world, they sort of settled down and found a new rhythm, a new routine. They said to anyone who’d listen that the end of the world was imminent, that all the signs and portents proved this, but they’d been saying that for as long as anyone could remember.

The really surprising thing was how quickly it all became normal. The government pushed through a lot of new travel restrictions and emergency regulations right away, supposedly to preserve readiness—readiness for what, no one knew—and prevent panic. Some of them were relaxed when no actual crisis materialized, some of them weren’t.

Habits changed more quickly than language, with idioms about daylight and sunshine maintaining their currency years after anyone had ever seen such things.

The world had changed. We just changed with it. Things had been scary for a while, but we came out the other side okay. If anything, it just went to show you how resilient we were, as a society. As a species.

Maybe that’s why there was as little reaction as there was, the day the pallid lid finally opened and we found out what the thing in the sky really was.

STATUS: Monday, October 26th

The Daily Report

Been a while, but we’re back. A few different things happened in the past few weeks that I’m not about to get into with the public, but the end result is that I’m doing better than I have been in just about every way, probably since before I moved.

I’m going to be resuming posting a creative Thing of the Day immediately. Tales of MU will resume this week and be posted towards the end of it. There will be a major update/announcement on the long-awaited Angels of the Meanwhile anthology this afternoon. I am putting the finishing touches on a “Sad Puppies Review Books” compilation e-book with some additional material (including several not previously published reviews).

The State of the Me

Best sleep last night in weeks. I did not get up early enough this morning to do my walk before work… I’m going to take a walk in the afternoon instead, and try to pick that up as part of my routine tomorrow.

Plans For Today

This morning I’m noodling around with ebooks. In the afternoon I’m going to be alternating brainstorming and writing.

A personal note.

I’m taking this week off for personal reasons, the first and least personal of which is that I had some of the worst insomnia of my adult life for most of last week and I’m mentally and physically exhausted. I need some time to recharge, which I think I can do best by disconnecting more from the internet and social media and re-connecting with what’s really important to me. I’ll see you all next Monday.

Millennial Pledge: Trouble Edition

Millennials, either you are closing your eyes to a situation you do not wish to acknowledge or you are not aware of the caliber of the disaster indicated by your demographic cohort’s entry into adulthood. Now, I admire and adore the Millennials. I consider the time I spent coming of age on or around the turn of the 21st century is golden. That doesn’t mean Millennials haven’t got trouble. Below is a pledge that’ll help you cultivate horse sense, a cool head, and a keen eye.


  • I will not sip medicinal wine from a spoon.
  • I will not then sip beer from a bottle.
  • I will not play for money in a pinch-back suit.
  • I will not listen to some big out-of-town Jasper talking about gambling on horse racing.
    • Not a wholesome trotting race, no sir!
    • But a race where they sit right down on the horse.
  • I will not fritter away my:
    • Noontime
    • Suppertime
    • Choretime, too.
  • I will get the dandelions pulled.
  • I will get the screen door mended.
  • I will get the beafsteak pounded.
  • I will pump water so my parents don’t get caught with the cistern empty on a Saturday night.
  • I will not try out Bevo.
  • I will not try out cubebs.
  • I will not try out Tailor Mades, like a cigarette fiend.
  • I will not brag about how I’ll cover up tale-tell breath with Sen-Sen.
  • I will not leave the pool hall heading for the Armoury Dance.
  • I will not re-buckle my knickerbockers below the knee the moment I leave the house.
  • I will not have a nicotine stain on my index finger.
  • I will not hide a dime novel in the corn crib.
  • I will not memorize jokes from Captain Billy’s Whiz-Bang.
  • I will not let certain words creep into my vocabulary, words like:
    • “Swell”
    • “So’s your old man.”

Jonathan Franzen at the Laundromat

The first time I meet him, I’m in an almost-empty laundromat. It’s the height of the August heatwave. I’m folding my towels when he comes in. His hair is tousled. He wears a rumpled, button-up shirt with a ten-year-old blazer that was already ten years old when he bought it from a Salvation Army.

I know this, because he tells me it. I haven’t asked. He tells me he’ll forgive me for not having asked, this once.

He has a laundry basket full of damp clothes he’s brought with him. He makes no move to unload it.

“Oh, these are already clean,” he says. “Insofar as anything can be that has been touched by the detritus of a human life. I wash them by hand, one sinkful at a time. I could pay someone to do it, and it would probably be better. The first sinkful, I thought went pretty well. The second one, I enjoyed. From the third onwards, it was torture. Sheer torture. I dry them on the line afterwards. There’s something almost painfully authentic about a shirt that has breathed the same air as the city, don’t you think?”

“I have literally never thought that,” I say.

He gives a nearby front-loading washer an apologetic look.

“That was a quotation from James Joyce,” he says.

“No, it wasn’t,” I say.

“I’m a little embarrassed for you that you didn’t spot it.”

“It wasn’t Joyce,” I say.

“It was Joyce,” he says. “Joyce Carol Oates.”


“Jonathan Franzen,” he says. “Just now. When I said it, just now. Hi, I’m Jonathan Franzen. You might well ask, what is Jonathan Franzen doing in a mid-town laundromat with a load of already-washed, partially-dried laundry?”

“I’m really just here to…”

“I admire the fact that you feel you can do better with your half of the conversation on your own,” he says. “Most people would be too intimidated.”

“Fine,” I say. “What are you…”

“What is Jonathan Franzen…”

“What is Jonathan Franzen doing in a mid-town laundromat with a load of… of already-washed, partially-dried laundry?”

“I like the experience of freshly-dried laundry,” he says.

“Have at it,” I say, waving at the row of empty dryers.

“Of course, I feel a wave of crushing guilt and despair every time I fire up one of the dryers,” he says. “That’s what we’re all supposed to do, right?”

“I think I missed that memo,” I say.

“Because of the carbon emissions. So why should I feed that machine?” he says. “I don’t believe in paying for something to do what I could do myself. It’s how I maintain my essential connection to the struggle of poverty that defines America in the middle class teetering on the fulcrum of extinction.”

“Aren’t you an actual millionaire?”

“Only in a literal sense. You are burdened with a rather pedestrian and limited view of poverty,” he says. He gives a helpless look to a nearby empty cart. “Most people do, in my experience. I have had the humbling advantage of having explored what it is to be poor at a multitude of tax brackets.”

“That’s the opposite of being poor,” I say. “The exact opposite.”

“Sometimes you can only understand something for the first time when you see it from the outside,” he says.

“And sometimes the only way to understand something is to see it from the inside,” I say. “Being poor is like that.”

“Ah, I thought as much,” he says.


“I knew you were going to find something to hate in what I said no matter what happened, so I made sure to give you something to latch onto,” he says. “What’s the point in fighting? I can’t take who I am and mash it down into a package you’ll find palatable, so I might as well just say what I mean. I cannot live an artificial life, and that is why the world hates me.”

He delivers this last line to the glass door of a nearby dryer, as if he’s speaking to his reflection, or possibly believes a camera is hidden there.

“So…” I say, trying to find the actual thread of the conversation again. “You bring your clothes into the laundromat for a while because you like the experience, but you don’t actually put them in the washer or dryer because you also want to experience poverty?”

“No, that would be silly. Don’t be ridiculous,” he says. “What I do is I wait for someone to take his or her clothes out of a dryer with time left on it, and then I put mine in.”

“So you’re going to sit here until I’m done with my laundry and hope I don’t run the dryer out?”

“I can count on it,” he says. “You have no book with you, nothing to distract you from the insufferable, oppressive reality of this place. You will be checking your garments every ten minutes.”

I hold up my phone.

“Got my books right here,” I say.

“Ah,” he says, giving a skeptical sidelong glance to the detergent vendor.


“One of those.”


“I shall take my leave of you,” he says, hefting his laundry basket. “Good day.”

And that was the first time I met Jonathan Franzen.