Short Fiction

Iago Didymus knew immediately he was in a dream. This increased, not decreased his fear. Wizards have many more dangers in dreams than in waking life.

He was walking down a country road, through deserted fields. The sky was gray, everything was gray. He could see no one. As he walked, he came to a small, squat church. The steeple keeled over. Holes stared through the stained-glass saints in the windows. Next to the church lay a graveyard, surrounded by a waist-high wall. Inside the graveyard stood himself.

No, not himself, but a thing that looked exactly like him. The thing stared at him with hollow eyes. When he reached the wall, Iago could see its feet were ankle-deep in an open grave.

The thing bore no expression. But Iago knew it was filled with hatred for him. He knew that the wall was the only thing keeping him safe. So why was he moving toward the graveyard gate?

His feet inexorably padded toward the gothic arch of the gate. The thing’s head moved to track him.

Wake up, he told himself. Wake up.

His hand emerged from his pocket and fumbled toward the brass latch of the gate door. A tiny smile appeared on the thing’s face.

Wake up. Wake up.

His hand grasped the latch and began to turn.


Iago found himself face down in his pillow smothering himself. He convulsed backward, gasping for air. He pointed toward the candle on his bedstand and conjured a flame, a light to keep away evil.

There didn’t appear to be anything there. He curled up against the head of his bed and recited the Three Great Spells of Revelation. Nothing appeared.

Trembling, Iago retrieved his pipe and tobacco from the bedstand. There would be no more sleep tonight. He lit his pipe, sat in bed, and wondered why his brother wanted to kill him

The thing in the dream had been his brother. “Didymus,” he took as his nomme arcane, The Twin. For he had been born a twin. His brother had died in the womb, and Iago had only seen him in dreams. Twice before, he had dreamed of his brother. The first time was during the plague that carried off their mother and sisters. The second had been during a dark time that every aspiring wizard must face, a time when he must decide whether to pursue necromancy and worse arts or reject them. On both occasion, the dream had presaged baleful things.

Why did his brother hate him? Had Iago wronged him somehow, even before they were born? Or was it simple jealousy that Iago had lived and he had not? What was dread event was he happily presaging?

Eventually, dawn came. Iago feel back asleep, and did not dream.

[I’m not one for alternate histories. I think there are no ifs. But I’m not oblivious to the attractions of the genre, and, after recent thoughts on Jimmy Carter, visions of what might have been flitted through my mind.]

Election Day 1976: after a grueling primary and a difficult election, Ronald Reagan, former governor of California, sweeps to victory, bringing with him a cohort of new Republican congressmen. In his victory address, he promises to restore America’s power and moral standing. Read More

The New Dems were in power in Manitoba. The election changed everything and nothing. So sick was Harold of Winnipeg, of this company. Everyman a liar. The petty bourgeois of little Canada.

Well the girls are out to bingo and the boys are gettin stinko
We think no more of Inco on a Sudbury Saturday Night

“Goin’ south, then?” said Sam, his hippie friend. Sam sucked up acid by the handful, smuggled across the border—he knew all the draft dodgers.


The grain company, the railroad—one more mile for progress, one more dollar for the company man. He’d get his paycheck and have another beer.

We’ll drink the loot we borrowed and recuperate tomorrow
‘Cause everything is wonderful tonight-we had a good fight

Slip across the border to Chicago or Minneapolis. Lines of jobs out to the suburbs and back. Kiss a little ass and make your fortune. Go on down to Miami and Fort Lauderdale, get the sunshine, let your cares burn up with your sunburn.

“You know why Canadians don’t make trouble, don’t you?” Sam was high as a Manitoba wind.

“Because of the fucking British. Got to bow to the Queen.”

Sam’s mouth curled into an acid-laced smile. “No. It’s the cold.
Can’t tell the boss off. Half the year you’d freeze. Got to be polite, got to keep warm.”

From the top of the building, Harold look out past the Winnipeg
limits. To the prairie, the infinite flatness.

Any sane man would go South. To America. To warmth.

Harold descended the building. Started the car. Already it complained. Stompin’ Tom on the radio.

The songs that we’ll be singing They might be wrong but they’ll be ringin’
But all the lights of town are shining bright-and we’re all tight

Drove towards Grosse Isle. Drove further.  Out to where it was cold, it was hard, but he’d know who he was. Not south. Never south.

North. To the Shield.


    The Bermuda Triangle

    Illuminati: Cosmic Trigger

    Man, Myth and Magic

Bryan placed his plate on top of the stack of books. Danielle had insisted they eat at the dining room table, but she wasn’t around any more.

He forgot his coke. He walked back out to the kitchen. The house echoed with his footsteps. The place was really too big for one person. Four floors including the basement. Bryan knew he should move, but since Danielle had moved out, he didn’t feel much like doing anything except reading, working and watching TV. Fuck her; he could afford it. The rent was dirt cheap. The neighborhood was all crumbling pre-World War I brick, and nobody wanted to live here.

He got his coke and went back out to the living room. Only the aquarium light of the television lit the room. He adjusted the rabbit ears on the Zenith and planted himself on the lawn chair next to the front window. Danielle had taken the real furniture with her, but he hadn’t let her claim the TV.

Out the open window he could hear children playing in the June twilight and police cars going to meet a call. He turned up the volume on the set.

      Trapped. Trapped in a maze of hallways, without beginning or ending, alone.

Read More

Tom’s house was shaped like a sandwich, between a flat, white roof, and a flat white floor on struts over concrete pilings. The living room filled the front half of the house, walled with windows showing the sea and covered with thick white carpet, save for a portion of the center floor that was glass, through which could be seen a tongue of sand that connected with the beach, making the house part of the beach. The only furniture was his father’s drinks cabinet, pressed into the back corner.

Behind the living room ran the single white hallway, and the first room was the kitchen. Besides a white stove and a white microwave, there was a small, circular white table and two white chairs. There Miss Thomas, his governess, made Tom his morning soldiers and his jam butties for tea.

Next to the kitchen was Miss Thomas’s room, and therein sat things Tom did not care for, like Miss Thomas’ photographs of her family in England, and so that door was always closed. Next to Miss Thomas’ room was Tom’s room. White, with the same white carpet as in the living room, and no windows, but a skylight. His bed was white and there was a white chest of drawers, with one drawer for his collection of shells, one drawer for his collection of rocks, and one drawer for his clothes. Atop the dresser stood a small, round white television set, and on that set he watched The Bugaloos and Space Ghost and Bugs Bunny, one hour every day and, in indulgence, two hours on Saturday.

Next to Tom’s room was his father’s room, sometimes. Tom’s father was a musician, like the Bugaloos, and most of the time he was off someplace making music, and that was very fine. When he was home, men would come to see him, reporters, from places like Rolling Stone and Creem and Crawdaddy. His father sat in a white chair shaped like an egg and the reporter tried to sit on the precarious sofa, and they would talk. The reporter asked a question and his father talked for a long time about whatever he wanted to and then stopped and the reporter asked another question. Tom sat by the edge of the doorway to hear his father’s voice.

His father would say

“I didn’t want to go solo. That’s a lie. The band was my life. But they forced me to choose…”


“I find California to be a much more open place than Britain. People are more willing to talk here, to question. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back…”


“Possessions are chains. I realize that now. Every time you own something, it’s as if you’re clamping a manacle on your leg. I’m getting rid of mine…”

and suchlike things, until it was time for his father to take the reporter out back to the garage, to see the gold records and the Rolls-Royce and the recording studio.

The only other time Tom heard his father’s voice was late at night, when his father would come in and sit on his bed, the moon shining through the skylight. He would take Tom’s hand, and Tom could smell the drinks cabinet, and shake it until Tom shivered, and say “Who’s my wizard little boy?”

Tom would reply “I am! I am!”

They would be together in the dark for a while, laughing. Then his father would leave and he would go back to sleep.

In the morning, Tom walked out on the beach. Sometimes Miss Thomas accompanied him, but more often he went alone. He dragged his feet through the sand, shifting between beach and surf, chasing gulls. He enjoyed being in the sea and on the land; he liked the in-betweenness. When he saw an interesting shell or rock, he kept it, but his standards had grown high, and there were few such now.

Sometimes he arrived at people. Down the shore, men and women in bathing suits, with dogs and frisbees, swimming and surfing, laughing and talking. He watched them from afar. Miss Thomas urged him to go closer, to talk with them, but he didn’t care to. He waved to them, and they smiled and waved back, and that was very fine. The afternoon was taken up with his collections, or television, or looking very closely at the sand under the floor of the living room. Eventually he returned to the beach, to watch the sun sink into the welcoming sea, and often as he did he would fall asleep, and Miss Thomas carried him to bed.

Shaking awake, in the dark. He could smell the drinks cabinet, and knew it was his father, and was glad. What noise was this?

“Forgive me,” his father said. “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m couldn’t help her. I’m trying my best. Please forgive me!”

The moonlight glinted off water on his father’s face, soaking into his beard. His father was crying.

Tom didn’t understand. There was no crying in the house. He himself had given up crying long ago. He waited for his father to stop, to ask who his wizard little boy was, but his father never did.

“I’m sorry,” his father repeated. “I don’t know what to do.”

Tom could not say “I am!” to that.

Tom did not return to sleep. In the morning he walked into the kitchen, pushed aside his soldiers, and demanded an explanation.

Miss Thomas threw up her hands and said “You father was upset, is all. One of those reporters came, to write an article about the new album, only he wrote it about you. ‘The Loneliest Little Boy in California,’ was the title, and he talked about you, and the house, and what happened to your mother, and-oh, everything. It’s a shame, it is, that they can write those things.”

“The Loneliest Little Boy in California?” But he was not lonely. He was with the sea and the beach and the house and his father, and it was all very fine, or had been fine until this outsider had poked into things that didn’t concern him.

Tom was wroth with this reporter. For the first time, he was angry.

He resolved to be avenged of his anger.

When the tutor arrived, he looked like the Fonz in a long black dress, or I guess Henry Winkler in a long black dress. The dress was a cheap polyester and hung off him oddly, but took away none of his essential dignity.

“Which class are you studying for?”

“Dream studies.”

“Now does that mean studies about dreams or studies in dreams?”

“Both, I think,” leafing through the table-sized volume that contained my notes. “The point of the class is to combine the two.”

“All right. Let’s talk about this while walking in the lake.”

The lake was right off campus, and remarkably warm for December. We waded in up to our necks.

“Now the important thing to remember,” the Fonz said, “is Perez’s six theoretical structures of dreams. What’s the first?”






“Name the rest.”

“I can’t remember.”

“We’ll make them up: historical, erotic, and purgatory. Now, in which structure do birds feature prominently?”


“Exactly. See those herons?”

On the shores of the lake stood a flock of herons, wading in the surf and pecking frogs. They made me nervous.

“The herons are a mnemonic. Their names are, left to right: Perez, Hauptman, Smith, and Evers. That way you can remember the major dream theorists.”

I had never looked at it that way, but he was right. I guess that’s why he was the Fonz.

Nothing is easier than to get lost in American exurbia. Unless you know your precise location among the franchises and strips, you will quickly find yourself herded by one-ways and cul-de-sacs to the unknown. Accidentally mount a limited-access highway, get off on a random exit, take a right by the A&W, straight through three lights, then a left at the dark Kiddy City sign, and you will arrive in the parking lot of the Mall of Life.

The Mall has two anchor stores, on opposite ends: Birth and Death. They generate massive foot traffic, everyone visits, although oddly, no one can remember either. In between can be found dozens of smaller stores: a hot tub retailer in whose wares one can see your True Love, a comic shop that can provide every issue of everything ever published, a used book store with an infinite back, and a Kay Bee.

In a courtyard in the center stands the famous billiard ball sculpture “Memento Mori,” in which human skulls revolve on sprockets and bounce down xylophones. Shoppers plop gratefully on the benches surrounding it, resting their feet, staying as long as they can stand it, which isn’t too long. Some say the management put it there to propel customers, keep them from resting. No matter how exhausted, after a few minutes of watching the constantly moving craniums, shoppers find an excuse to carry on, always down the mall, towards the last store.