Thursday, September 29, 2016

Another Story from the Vault

Here's another one I dug out of my files. Shane, a supernatural cop with psychic powers, tracks a killer shifter to his hideout in a traveling circus. But which one of the circus animals is his quarry? Or could there be more than one?

# # #

Shane stalked among the tents and vehicles and kept a cautious distance from any people he spotted. Let the protesters think he belonged to the circus, and the circus folk vice versa. As long as no one suspected he might be other than he seemed. Something his quarry was no doubt also thinking right now.

He paused behind a Job Johnny and let his psychic senses do a recon. Somewhere, probably in a cage, was an animal that wasn’t an animal. The claw marks on the victims had suggested a big cat, so a cage would make his job much easier. He moved his hand beneath his jacket, to the butt of his gun with its load of silver bullets, and waited for the zing of connection.

Instead he got hit with a tidal wave.

For a moment he nearly lost himself in psychic overload. Just in time he cut the connection, before it knocked him cold. He clung to the Job Johnny and struggled for breath until the echoes faded, leaving scrapes across his mind like nails across a blackboard.

Damn it to hell. More than one.

In his entire ten years of hunting shifters he’d only ever had to take on one at a time. It was usually the solitary ones that turned to killing humans in the first place. Shifters in groups policed themselves.

That blast hadn’t been any solo act. That was a whole damned orchestra. Could he be dealing with a family of rogues, all hiding out in a travelling circus? There would be one for the books.

One thing for sure, he didn’t dare use his psychic senses again. He shoved away from the Job Johnny and aimed for the nearest tent, with his hand still in his inner pocket, locked to the grip of his gun.

Fifteen minutes later he finally let it go. Fifteen minutes of furtive searching and dodging circus personnel hadn’t turned up his elusive killer shifter. Or animals of any kind, actual or not.

The sound of frustrated voices sent him ducking behind the wall of a tent. He peered around the edge. A group of protesters had been rounded up by four beefy roustabouts and were being herded toward del Rio’s RV. “But there have to be elephants!” a scrawny young man with a scraggly beard kept wailing. His T-shirted fellows all nodded.

The roustabouts remained unmoved. “Ain’t no elephants here.”

“But I heard one when we pulled up!”

“Maybe they hidin’.”

“Yeah, thass it. They hidin’. Lemme go check under my bed.” The men laughed and gave the activists a shove to activate them faster toward the office.

With all their backs to him, Shane slipped into the tent. And found his animals.

There were three of them, all cats. The lioness was sprawled out asleep on the floor of her cage. The tiger scrambled upright and pressed his muzzle against the bars. His lips pulled back as his nose took in the scent of stranger. The male lion gained his feet in one graceful bound. His ears flattened and he bared his fangs at Shane. The lion was not in a cage.

Three things happened at once. Shane experienced the psychic zing that told him he was in the presence of a shifter. His hand dove for his gun. The lion charged.

In the race between gun and attacking shifter, the lion came in first. It knocked him to the ground and pinned him with its weight. Its paw came down, deliberately, on the wrist of his gun hand. Eyes of green, not lion-yellow, glared murderously into his own. The hot breath that fanned Shane’s face smelled of fried eggs and pancakes.

The lion’s muzzle blurred into a youthful human face, brown-skinned and topped with messy blond hair that almost obscured the green eyes. Now a lithe, muscular but no longer leonine body pinned him to the dirt floor of the tent. The hostility in the shifter’s eyes gleamed unabated as he leaned in close to Shane’s face. “I know what you are,” he snarled, in a voice like the growl of a predator. “Hunter.”

“Not quite. But thanks for showing me what you are,” Shane said, and punched him. Lions posed a problem, but humans he could handle. The man lost his balance, just enough for Shane to throw him off. He delivered a kick to the shifter’s midsection that landed him on his naked ass with the breath knocked out of him. Before he could think to switch back to lion, Shane regained his feet and aimed his gun at him.

The tiger roared and circled in its cage. The lioness raised her head and blinked at them. Neither of them changed into anything else. Shane risked a quick scan. No zing. “Are you the only one?” he asked the lion-man.

“Bite me.”

Shane studied him. He’d taken the shifter for a kid at first, but at second look put his age at mid-twenties, not much younger than himself. That fit the profile. Shifters who went rogue were usually the young ones, feeling their power, and the older ones, feeling helpless as that power waned. This wouldn’t be the first big cat he’d had to put down in order to save human lives.

Pity. As a lion he’d been magnificent, all supple muscle with a thick blond mane. In human form he was just as beautiful, practically vibrating with passion and power. Instead of shooting, Shane took a moment to savor that beauty, and regret the need to end it. Such a waste.

Those eyes burned at him. He found himself groping for some excuse not to put that fire out. Of course. There were other shifters here. What if this one wasn’t the killer he hunted?

“You get three seconds,” he barked at the lion. “How many other shifters are hiding here?”

“Get fucked.”

Just shoot him already, practicality demanded. And still he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger.

Just in time he spotted the telltale bunch of muscles in the lion-man’s thighs and knew he was preparing for a suicidal charge. No choice now. Shane took reluctant aim at that broad, naked chest.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Scifi Story

Today's post is the first chapter of a scifi story I wrote a while back. I did edit it a bit but it still has some roughness to it. Enjoy!



"Wanted: bionic dog with opposable thumbs."
“Eh, no,” Stormy Macklemore replied, not bothering to look at the ad being pointed out by her younger brother by seven minutes. She took a big slurp from her protein slushy, brain freeze be damned, because there was no way she was going to look at the listing that was currently highlighted on Duke’s e-reader. Looks wise, the only difference between the twenty-eight year old twins was their gender and the eight inches duke had over her 5’3” in height. Both had straight, dark brown hair, dark blue eyes, and pale complexions. Both had square faces, clefts in their chins, button noses, and athletic builds. Stormy’s hair was a little longer than Duke’s crew cut, but only by a couple inches and only on top. Personality wise, they almost weren’t related. Duke loved absurdity in all its forms and Stormy would rather be doing something useful with her time.
“You sure about that?” Duke asked, his tone implying great mirth at her expense. “Says here that the buyer is looking for an animal capable of—”
“I don’t care,” Stormy cut in before Duke could get momentum going. He had developed a deep love of reading the classifieds as a teen back on Earth, looking for oddball listings. It hadn’t taken long for him to figure out how to get them on his tablet once they’d found their way to the planet Thespis. He had been rewarded for his effort, as the population of Thespis was equally in love with posting odd things in the classifieds.
Thespians were an odd sort. Mostly humanoid looking avians, they were highly intellectual and hadn’t a mean bone in any of their feathery little bodies. There also didn’t seem to be any common sense. Really, what would bionic dogs with opposable thumbs even do in an avian population group? She slammed that thought down fast, not wanting to know the answer to that. One of the joys of having ADHD, a syndrome Duke had been spared, was that once something like that got stuck in her head, it wasn’t going to go away until something else came along to dislodge it. She was currently sitting behind the controls of their shuttle, the Icarus, at the beginning of a run that would take four days. She didn’t really want to spend the next four days pondering cybernetically enhanced pets.
What she really needed to do was figure out how to get back home. Or at least figure out where home was in relation to Thespis. About six months ago, she and Duke had been testing out their home made shuttle craft to see how fast they could go. They had already been ahead of the curve in ground launched, reusable space craft but to be able to sell the design, they had needed to know the full operational envelope.
They'd been flying loops around the Earth when Duke had suggested trying to use the Moon as a gravity sling shot. It had been a good idea, unfortunate side effects notwithstanding. In the five laps they’d complete using the slingshot method, they’d gotten up to more than 300,000 kilometers per hour, roughly three times the speed of what the plasma engine was capable of by itself. That last leg between Earth and her moon had taken only forty-eight minutes, where it had taken Apollo 11 three days to make the same trip. That had been exhilarating! And then they hit a terminal speed barrier no one knew about at 314,159 kilometers per hour. Duke had named it the Pi barrier and traveling beyond it the Speed of Pi for lack of a better name. Neither of them had any idea what Pi had to do with astronomical travel, but the end result was irrefutable.
It was also repeatable once she’d upgraded Icarus’s nozzle velocity modulators with a replacement Thespian unit, the original having been damaged in their first accidental jump to hyperspace. That, combined with the hyperspace generator she’d scavenged from a wrecked mining ship on an outer debris ring, allowed the Icarus to travel one parsec every 28 hours. She’d also had to adapt the conventional jet engines to run on fuel other than JP5, since that simply wasn’t an available fuel source in the outer reaches of space. Hydrogen was much more plentiful than fossil fuels and if she planned her route properly to swoop through a known gas pocket, it was free.
In the six months they’d been in this region, they’d made thirty-two round trips in what they’d been calling Hyper-Pi, ferrying passengers between a dozen worlds to earn a living. They had a thriving business because Icarus was faster than anything else that was small enough to make an atmospheric landing. It wasn’t the fastest ship around, of course, but you had to charter a space cruiser to go faster and those were too big to make planet fall.
Today’s run was taking an Arbitrator and his support staff to Pranthos Prime for a trade dispute. The Pranthos system had three planets that were Earthlike enough to have bentonite deposits, which form when volcanic ash is weathered in the presence of water over the course of millions of years. Aluminum bentonite, if it was present, was exactly what she needed to 3D print another Icarus class shuttle. Because what she really needed more than to find Earth was to build another shuttle or three. She loved flying, but she was a ship builder at heart. And there was definitely a market for building more shuttles in this corner of the universe!

Nothing is truly free, not even scavenged hydrogen gas. When they’d dropped out of hyperspace that first time, they’d found themselves floating in deep space with a damaged plasma engine and only limited oxygen. As luck would have it, there had been a large transport passing through the area. Stormy wasn’t sure if it was good luck or bad luck because the beings on that transport were alien to her and pirates besides. In exchange for their lives and the cybernetic translator implants which had been installed in Stormy and Duke’s skulls without their permission, they were expected to forfeit the Icarus and their freedom, to serve as crew members until they worked off their debt. Thorak, the insectoid captain of the heavy transport Ebony Star, the flag ship and namesake of the Black Star Syndicate, never did explain just how long that would have taken. It hadn’t mattered.
The “debt” changed when it became clear that no one in the pirate syndicate had any clue how to fly the Icarus, thanks to the touch screen technology Duke had used when he designed Icarus’s internal electronics. While Stormy was the engineer behind the hull and engines, it was Duke who’d outfitted it with computers, navigation, climate control, and everything else that made the Icarus more than a flying lump of aggregate. By mutual unspoken agreement, neither Stormy nor Duke had mentioned to Thorak and his cronies that they could have used a stylus or special gloves to interact with the touch screens. They were stranded, not stupid.
Instead of forced servitude on the pirate ship, they had been “leased” their own ship and given twelve black-marks, a type of crypto currency similar to bitcoins only good in syndicate channels, to cover their expenses in starting up a shuttle business. In exchange, they would be allowed to take whatever jobs they could find, with the syndicate getting seventy percent of the profits. All they had to do to get out of the contract was return the Icarus or a similar ship and repay the initial twelve black-marks, because clearly, none of the seventy percent of the profits collected by the syndicate could be counted towards those expenses. This arrangement was almost exactly like the company store model back in the 18th century America. It would be almost impossible to work off the debt incurred by the “loan” of the twelve black-marks, never mind the idea of letting the bugs have their ship.
The Syndicate was just one of many entities that issued currency and black-marks were not good with anyone but the Black Star syndicate. A black-mark’s value was highly flexible, depending on what you were trying to pay for. For instance, one black-mark bought them berthage in the Ebony Star’s forward docking bay for thirty standard days. This included nothing but a place to park. It cost another black-mark for 30 standard days’ worth of provisions for the two of them, a black-mark for the parts to repair the Icarus’s plasma engine and the software pack update their navigation computer, and a black-mark for enough fuel and condensed air for one round trip. They had also been charged a black-mark for their rescue and recovery and a black-mark for their cybernetic translators. Stormy and Duke had been down to only seven black-marks before they even landed their first job.
By the time they started breaking even, that number had dwindled to only two black-marks, but they hadn’t needed any for anything but berthage since those initial expenditures, due primarily to the siblings’ frugal nature. They lived on the shuttle, ate yummy things like protein slushies, which tasted every bit as flavorless as they sounded, and they were still using the same three sets of mechanic’s coveralls each that they had embarked with for their two week cruise six months ago. A week ago, they had saved enough asser, a universally accepted commodities based currency, to maybe purchase a hanger or warehouse of their own, so Stormy had high hopes on them never needing to use those last two black-marks. Now, it was time to start implementing their plan to free themselves from the pirate syndicate. And find a place to call home. Yeah, that did need to come first, she mused.

Friday, September 23, 2016

So Dreadfully Sorry...

Here I sit, once again without a blog post, but I have a really good reason.  Though I have been incredibly busy with school, I've also been mainlining Penny Dreadful on Netflix!  I'm working on season three now and can I just say...loving it!

Here's why...

And this...
And this...

And definitely this...

And mostly this...

So, are you watching or have you watched Penny Dreadful, and if so, who was your favorite and why?


Have a great weekend!


Thursday, September 22, 2016

This Little Piggy

The feral razorback had been a monster even before its demise. Now it was just plain hideous. To its three hundred pounds of muscle and sour temper had been added glowing red eyes and hooves preternaturally sharp. The tusks in its lower jaw had morphed into a set of upthrusting fangs. It was covered in a bristly brindle hide except for a bare patch on its neck, where scabbed bite marks of more humanish origin were just barely visible.

It lumbered out of the scrub and stopped dead. Make that “undead,” Ash decided. The pig was close enough for even his poor human nose to pick up on the mixed scents of blood and decay that heralded a vampire. Human vamps covered it up with cologne. This pig probably hadn’t had a good wallow since it lost its little porcine soul.

Whatever it had been looking for, it clearly hadn’t been expecting Ash and Dusty. It glared from one slayer to the other. Its beady red eyes got hotter. With a high, grating squeal, it charged.

Ash shot it through the skull. And dove aside, because even silver wouldn’t do shit to a human bloodsucker, other than maybe slow it down. The wild pigs ransacking Texas didn’t stop for bullets, humans, or anything short of a nuclear warhead. Pumping bullets into Porcula here would only piss him off.

The razorback wheeled with unnatural speed and came at him again. Before it could reach him Dusty charged in and whacked it over the head with a length of fence rail he’d picked up God knew where. Like the silver, the wood didn’t do jack squat, other than make the pigpire madder than all goddamn get-out.

Ash grabbed for his stake, even as his brain berated him for the futility of it. Pigs weren’t built like humans. They were too low to the ground, for starters, and their chests and necks were sheathed in fat and muscle missing from human anatomy. How the hell was he supposed to ram a stake into that?

Meanwhile Dusty and the pig were engaged in a twisty tango of flying feet and thrusting fang-tusks. Only Dusty’s shifter speed saved him from getting his legs, or his belly, ripped open. He couldn’t even get close enough to use the machete. “Little help here?” he yelped at Ash.

Ash saw an opening and leaped in. He couldn’t get anywhere near the vulnerable chest, but the monster’s skull was wide open. Ash took aim and rammed the point of the stake into the bullet hole in the vampire porker’s skull.

The pig stopped still. It shuddered. It made a questioning grunt.

“I don’t think it’s working,” Dusty said. “How often do pigs use their brains?”

“I know something that always works,” Ash said. He grabbed the machete from Dusty and swung at the paralyzed razorback’s neck. It took him a good minute and a lot of hacking to cut through all the muscle, but the head finally fell free from the body. The body remained standing for another good minute before it finally collapsed.

“What the flaming hell?”

Both Ash and Dusty whirled. Drawn by the ruckus, the rancher stood behind them, a rifle in his shaking hands. His wife and daughters clustered in the kitchen doorway, armed with kitchen knives and, in the case of the youngest girl, a spatula.

Dusty, a coyote shifter and therefore the more skillful liar, smoothly took command. “Rabid pig,” he said, without missing a beat. “Probably got bit by a bat or a raccoon or something. It’s been goring your cattle. You’ve been burning the carcasses, right? Tell me you didn’t try to eat anything.”

“’Course not,” the rancher said. “Tore up like they were, by God knows what … Hell, even the dogs wouldn’t touch ‘em.” He stared at the decapitated pig. “Rabies?”

“Yeah,” Ash jumped in. “Best you burn any dead animal you find. Cut the head off too.” The rancher stared at him. Ash shrugged. “Couldn’t hurt. And pass the word around to your neighbors. There might be other infected animals out there. You see anything that acts weird, especially at night, don’t hesitate to kill it.”

“We’ll take care of this one,” Dusty said, jerking his chin at the pig. “No extra charge.”

“Thanks,” the rancher said. He put up his rifle and walked back to the house.

Dusty nudged the pig’s head with his toe. The jaws and their tusk/fangs champed. Dusty leaped back hastily, but it was only muscular reflex as the nerves passed from undead to real dead. “Okay, how the hell did this happen?”

Ash scowled at the head. “Goddamn hipsters.”

“Huh? As your sister always likes to say, come again?”

“Hipster vampires. Those sanctimonious metrobats. You know the ones I mean. The ones who make it a point of pride not to suck on humans. They feed on animals only. Except some a-holes always glut themselves no matter what they’re drinking. This is what happens when a vampire feeds on an animal without killing it outright first. Especially if it fights back, like a boar would, and gets bat blood in its mouth. The animal crawls into a hole or den or some other protected place and dies. Three days later …” Ash kicked at the razorback’s body. Unlike the head, the body didn’t react.

“Scat,” Dusty said. “Why didn’t it dissolve?”

“Too recently dead, would be my guess. Maybe it hadn’t had a chance to infect too much of the local wildlife.”

“I got this,” Dusty said. Cupping his hands to his mouth, he sent a powerful howl echoing out over the scrub. “There. If Lou’s still in earshot, or any of her pack, now they know what’s up. They’ll clean out anything the ranchers don’t get. So, you up for pig barbecue?”

“Not here. Let’s take it over to Annie’s. She’ll want to see this. Anything vampire related gets her full attention.”

Dusty growled under his breath at the thought of having to lug three hundred pounds of undead pork to their pickup. Then, slowly, he grinned. “After Annie studies it and before we torch it, let me do a little cosmetic work on it and take a couple of pictures. Send ‘em to that cryptozoologist over in Barnard. Shots of a genuine Chupacabra ought to make his day.”

“You don’t even believe in Chupacabra.”

Dusty chuckled wickedly. “He does.”

“I worry about you, man.” Ash shucked his shirt. “To wrap the head in,” he explained. “Soon as I get this secured, I’ll be back to help you with the rest of it.”

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Something from the Files

I really do plan to get back to the serial story at some point. I've been caught up in other stuff lately. Here's something I'm kind of fiddling around with, with a possible series in mind.


For the fifth time in twice as many minutes, Ashford Colt checked his weapons—the pistol in its holster with its load of silver bullets, the machete strapped to his back, and the stake in his belt. He patted his pocket one more time. The flask of holy water rode there as firmly as it had two minutes ago.

He frowned at the horizon, his eyes narrowed against the glare of the setting sun. Dusk was only minutes away, and they hadn’t found the vampire yet.

And where the hell was Dusty anyway?

He turned to the right to study the barn. When they’d questioned him, the rancher had admitted he’d lost a couple cattle, but he put that down to mountain lions. Ash had examined two of the most recent kills. Pretty well mutilated, all right. Also exsanguinated. The work of a really sloppy vampire, maybe one freshly turned. Or a desperate one.

Oddly, none of the human residents reported being or even feeling threatened, even though the rancher had three daughters, two of them in their teens. His wife seemed more upset over the wild pigs that had been rooting up her garden than any possible preternatural threat. A sloppy, desperate, freshly-turned gay vampire? That’d be a new one, though Ash had heard of stranger.

Dusty’d given a thorough sniffing to the range where the cattle had died. He’d picked up the scent of undead flesh and cow blood almost at once, but without finding a den or any clear trail. In fact, the scent was far stronger here, at the house. Maybe the vamp was working himself up to an attack on the people? Livestock might be an easier target, but vampires always went for humans in the end. It was in their nature.

The sun slipped out of sight and tucked itself in for the evening. Ash muttered a curse at the growing gloom and headed back toward the ranch house. He spared a passing glance for the decimated garden before he circled the barn.

No vampires here. Just a pair of coyotes humping like mad out in the scrub. The big male wore a blue bandanna around its neck.

Shit. “For Christ’s sake, Dusty,” Ash said. “Do you mind? We’re on a job here.”

The canine couple grinned at him without a hitch in their frenetic activity. At last they parted, and shifted. A naked man and woman lolled in the dirt, panting with their tongues hanging out, still grinning. “Let me guess,” the man said. “No sign of bats. Not even guano.”


“It’s a false alarm, bra. Lou here says this whole area’s been vampire-free for months.” He nodded toward his recent paramour. The woman shook blonde hair out of her face and giggled. “So I figured what the hell, we came out all this way, might as well get a payout. Just so the trip wouldn’t be a total loss.”

The woman looked Ash up and down and ran her tongue over her lower lip. “Join us?”

“We’ll even stay in human shape for you,” Dusty added.

“For starters,” the woman amended, with another giggle.

“No thanks.” Ash didn’t mind working with shifters. Hell, he trusted Dusty more than he did most humans, even other slayers. But sleep with a shifter? Forget it. “If it isn’t vampires, what ripped up the cattle?”

The woman’s giggle dried up. “Chupacabra,” she said solemnly.

“Oh, please.” Dusty made a face. “It’s never Chupacabra. That’s all fake. Bigfoot’s real, but Chupacabra’s a myth. My guess would be Satanists. Or aliens. Or kids pretending to be vampires.”

“You said you smelled the undead.”

“Yeah,” Dusty admitted. “Yeah, there’s that. Recent, too. But not human. That’s what’s got my hackles up. Even the old bats, the ones with centuries behind them, still have whispers of human scent on ‘em. Rancid, but human. It doesn’t go away. I didn’t get that on the cattle. It was more … ”



Ash frowned. “Kevin Bacon’s killing cattle?”

“No, you dumb ape. The smell was undead, but it wasn’t human. That’s all I know for sure.” He shrugged. “Maybe it was a mountain lion. Those bodies were ripped up enough.”

“Torn up,” Ash agreed. “Not carved. No knives. That leaves out playacting humans. And not bitten, either,” he realized, recalling the depth and angles of the cuts. The lack of fang punctures on the neck. “More like … gored.”

“Rival bull?” Dusty said. “Some rogue taking out the competition, trying to get to the cows?”

“Think lower down,” Ash said. “Most of the wounds were in the belly. And where’d all the blood go?”

“Could be—” Dusty’s jaw snapped shut. He thrust his nose up, sniffing the air. “Company. Headed our way. The uninvited kind.”

The woman also tasted the breeze. Her pale face stood out in the dimming light. “Chupacabra!” she cried. She leaped up, snatched up a rumpled dress from the ground nearby, and fled into the scrub.

Ash pulled out his pistol. Dusty hastily knotted his bandanna over his dangly bits. “Borrow your machete?” he asked. “I’m not sure where I threw my gear. Lou came up on me kind’a sudden-like.”

Ash unbuckled his scabbard and tossed the blade to Dusty. He himself couldn’t smell anything, but he heard something heavy coming toward them. Something … grunting. “Still no human smell?” he asked Dusty.

“I’m getting blood,” the shifter said. “Definite undead.” Sudden he leaned forward and squinted into the gloom, beyond Ash. “For Chaos’ sake. You gotta be kidding me.”

Ash turned around …

To be Continued...

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A bit of random flash fiction

Semi-random bit of flash fiction for you today. Have fun!


The caption under my picture in my senior year book read, “Gary Marcone, most likely to get in trouble.” That wasn't a tough vote for my former classmates since I'd already been arrested twice for bending a few laws by the time I was seventeen. In fact, I had been arrested the day I discovered all was not right in the world.

I'd been brought into one of those rooms with a two-way mirror, supposedly to talk about the garbage sack of tax-free smokes I'd been hawking down by Central Park, when I saw it. There was no way my eyes were registering what was actually in front of me. The shadow didn't match the form, for starters.

 Actually, that was my only clue something was amiss. The “person” questioning me was backlit by a blinding white light that was at a forty-five degree angle, shining right into my eyes if I tried to look directly at him. So I looked down instead. The shadow on the floor between us wasn't man shaped.

That moment of shocked realization cost me. I should have looked away, played it cool, but I didn't. The thing wearing the people costume must have noticed me staring at his disobedient shadow because he went from being cop to playing monster in an instant. Maybe he hadn't been “playing” at being a monster, but the thing he changed into hadn't matched the shadow, either. That shadow had wings while neither of the forms he’d let me see did.

My whole life flashed before my eyes at that point, so I don't know happened next. I was soaked in my own piss and shaking, being frog marched back to the general hold cell between two regular cops the next time I registered my surroundings. I knew they were regular cops because their shadows matched their forms. I've become a bit obsessed with checking shadows since that day.

Most things do match their shadows. Not everything, though. The Chrysler Building doesn't. To the eyes, it looks like a stately Art Deco skyscraper. It’s shadow says it’s a pyramid with a base much wider than the eye can see. The Brooklyn Bridge has all kinds of extra blips and bumps on it’s shadow, like there’s a flock of invisible birds the size of Volkswagens hanging out on the guide wires.

I don't live in New York anymore. Younger cities are less prone to have mismatched shadows. I was in Denver almost a whole year before I saw one. I make a point of never having run-ins with the law now, either. Selling illegal smokes my have paid my rent back then, but it also led to my whole life being ruined. I drove for one of those find-a-ride apps for a while because it allows me to leave if the shadows start getting too strange. That gig only lasted while my car was less than ten years old.

I deliver pizza now, though I'm still in Denver. Pizza joints don't care how old your car is, only that you got insurance for it. And I kind of like Denver despite the occasional wrong shadow. The people here are more inclined to mind their own business.