No Hope for Gomez!
By G. Parke

Saturday. Decided to do a little detective work. Headed over to the hospital and queued up at the front desk to ask about visitor's hours. The nurse told me they'd just started.

"Great," I said. "Can I just walk in?"

"You can," she said. "Who did you want to see?"

"Mr. Joseph Miller. He was brought in two days ago."

The nurse consulted her computer, frowned, then shook her head. "No, I'm sorry," she said. "Mr. Miller's dead. He died late last night." She looked up from her screen. "Would you like to see somebody else?"

"What? No! I really need to talk to Mr. Miller. Are you absolutely sure he's passed away?"

"I can recheck if you want." She typed away. "Sometimes this program mixes up some of the... ah, I see what I've done now." She gave me an apologetic smile. "Stupid little me," she said. "I had the stats of several files mixed up."

I breathed a sigh of relief. "So, he didn't pass away?"

"Oh, no," the nurse said, shaking her head, "he's still dead, but he died this morning rather than last night." She held up her hand with a small amount of space between her thumb and index finger. "You missed him by that much."

"I see," I said. "Does it at least say what he died of?"

She browsed her screen, bit her lip, and mumbled, "Yes, no, wait a minute. I saw something about.. Ah, yes. Yes, it does." She looked up again. For a long moment we stared at each other. When I finally arched an eyebrow, she said, "Are you a relative? I'm not supposed to give out this kind of information to just anybody."

I tried to think fast. I really needed that information but I didn't know Joseph other than from the clinic waiting area. We'd never even spoken. Then, out of nowhere, the perfect answer just came to me. I told her, "Yes."

"Okay then." She was about to tell me when her face clouded over again. "You really should be getting this information from his doctor, though."

I waved it away, told her it would be fine.

"Well," she said, reading from her screen, "it says here he died of dehydration and malnutrition."

"He was found passed out in his apartment," I told her. "Apparently he'd been out for a while. Does it say what caused him to lose consciousness in the first place?"

The nurse perused the file for a long time, then shook her head. "No, sorry," she said. "I'll have to get the doctor for that. Just a moment." She reached for the phone.

"That's okay," I said. I didn't want to get into trouble for impersonating a relative. "I need to go. Pressed for time. Thank you."

As I turned to leave, she called after me, "Are you sure you don't want to visit anyone else? There are some really nice people up on the second floor. Much nicer than Mr. Miller. They'd love to talk to you."

No Date for Gomez!
By G. Parke

Ran into Gretchen in the hallway. My head was buzzing with thoughts, but when I looked into those hazel eyes, everything went quiet. It was like a power outage in my brain. All synaptic activity slowed and my inner voice went dead. In fact, I wasn't even entirely sure I was still there.

I could remember talking to people. Knowing the kinds of things one said in polite conversation. I could remember making people think and laugh. But, at that very moment, I couldn't put my finger on any of the words one might use when running into a fellow human being in a hallway.

Gretchen smiled and said, "Hi!"

Which was one of the words one might use.

"How are you doing today?"

Which, I now recalled, was a bunch of others.

Unspent Time
By G. Parke

Sunday brunch; the table overflowing with food and drink, the fine china and silverware laid out, the clock ticking away painfully slow minutes before father finally speaks. "Well son," he says, "isn't it about time you got yourself a job?"

John looks up from his plate. "Dad," he says, "I have a job."

Father nods thoughtfully, chewing his medium rare steak. "I guess it's about time you moved out then. Found a place of your own. Planted some roots."

John is baffled. "But dad, I moved out five years ago. In fact, this is the first time I've been back." He looks over at mother, who shrugs and says, "You know dear, your brother has his own business. He set up an accountancy firm."

John rolls his eyes. "That's me, mom. I set up an accountancy firm. John Williams and Associates."

"That's good to hear," father says. "Always said you should run your own business. You have a keen business sense. You always had."

"I just wish he'd find himself a girlfriend," mother complains.

"What do you mean?" John smiles apologetically at Annabel. "I have a girlfriend, mother, she's sitting next to you. She gave you flowers at the door, remember?" He points at the vase. "You put them in water."

Mother waves it away with a warm smile. "Sorry dear, I meant a proper girlfriend." She squeezes Annabel's hand. "You know what I mean, don't you dear?"

Annabel opens her mouth, but can't think of anything to say.

"Didn't you used to have dark hair," father says suddenly, "and not quite so many arms?" He looks John over carefully. "Yes, yes," he says, "you definitely look different. Did you get shorter?"

"That's enough!" John gets up. He gestures at Annabel to do the same. "If you cannot behave like civilized human beings, then we're going! I can't believe you'd treat Annabel and myself this way. It's appalling!"

Father throws down his napkin and stands as well. "Serves you right, young man," he says. "Serves you right for not going home for five years and then ending up in the wrong house!"

The tentacles hovered in the air for only an instant, then came crashing down again, straight at her. She could only stare at them in fear; there was no time to react. And yet, they missed again. Only by millimeters, but they missed. However, she felt pain all over her body. Her back and head throbbed as if she'd been beaten.

Then the tentacles withdrew. They disappeared behind the precipice silently. That's when Kiala realized she was lying on her back, several meters inland from the jetty.

"That was close," said a breathy voice.

Kiala whirled round to find a boy standing behind her. He was tall and slender, handsome in a mysteriously odd kind of way, with pale skin that was close to translucent and eyes that were bright and piercing. As she struggled to get up, she felt the boy's gaze move right through her. The boy's eyes were also red-rimmed with deep, dark rings around them.

Truth be told, he looked a bit sickly.

"Are you alright?" Kiala blurted out.

"Me?" The boy caught his breath. He brushed some imaginary dust and some very real tentacle slime from his cape and said, "I just saved your life. I should be asking you that question."

"I know," Kiala said. "And I can't thank you enough for what you just did, but, well." She gave him a sympathetic smile. "You look awfully pale, as if you might collapse at any moment. "

The boy snorted. He made his cape catch an invisible breeze so it wrapped around him dramatically. "Are you kidding me?" He lowered his voice to a menacing whisper. "I'm Waywick III of the flying cannibal clan of the lost city of Vark. I'm a creature of dusk and twilight. I'm an unholy spirit of death!"

"No, you're not," Kiala said. She rubbed at her back, where he'd apparently dragged her over some pretty pointy rocks.

"Excuse me?" Waywick gave her a baffled look. "Of course I am!"

Kiala rolled her eyes at him. "Well, you don't look all that dead and unholy to me. You just look a bit pale, that's all."

"I never said I was dead," Waywick bristled. "I just said I was a flying cannibal and an unholy spirit of death. That doesn't mean that I am dead." He shook his head at her. "It just means that I'm very, very dangerous."

"Sure," Kiala said. "Again, though, you don't look all that dangerous."

Waywick opened his cape wide and puffed out his chest. "Then perhaps you should take a closer look."

Kiala decided not to, instead she searched for her rod. She'd dropped it during the attacks. It lay wedged between two boulders a few meters away.

"I don't know," she told Waywick. "Anyone can look pale, thin, and sickly, that doesn't automatically mean that they're dangerous." She checked the rod for surface damage and was relieved to find it in good condition. "In fact," she continued, "it usually means exactly the opposite."

Random Acts of Senseless Violence
By G. Parke

Blog entry: Arrived at the store late, found a homeless guy sleeping in the doorway. Hicks was already inside but gave no indication he'd noticed. I nudged the homeless guy and asked, "How are you doing down there, fellow? You okay?"

The homeless guy grumbled something in his sleep.

"It's getting pretty cold," I said. "Don't you want to come inside?"

"Inside?" He coughed and opened his eyes.

I pointed out my store, not convinced he'd actually noticed where he'd crashed the night before. "This is my antiques store," I told him. "We've got the heating on inside, shame to waste it on just two people. And it looks like it might start to snow soon."

The homeless guy gave me a suspicious look. "You want me to come inside? With you?"

"Sure, if you'd like."

"Is that because you think that if I come inside with you, I'll let you touch me?"

"What? No!"

"Okay, because I can tell you right now, that's not gonna happen."

"Well, I suppose it is good to get those kinds of things clear beforehand. But no, I was just thinking you might enjoy the warmth, maybe a cup of cocoa."

"A cup of cocoa you say." He scratched his stubble. "And you'll be charging me for this cup of cocoa?"

"No, the cocoa is free."

"I see. So, are you operating under the assumption that if I come inside with you, and I drink your free cocoa, that I will touch you?"

"What? No!"

"Okay, because I can tell you right now, that's not gonna happen either. Just because a guy is down on his luck, that doesn't mean he goes around touching people in exchange for cups of cocoa."

"I understand completely. And thanks again for pointing that out. But no, my friend and I noticed that you were sleeping in our doorway and, well, we'd like to invite you inside."

The homeless guy turned and peered through the window in the door. He made eye-contact with Hicks, who panicked and went looking for his broom. "That your friend?"

I followed his gaze. "Yeah, that's Hicks. He's a bit peculiar, but he's okay."

"I see." The homeless guy pulled on his collar. "And this friend of yours, will he be drinking cocoa also?"

"I suppose. I'm not entirely sure, but it seems likely."

"I see." The homeless guy considered this. "So," he said, after a long moment, "will this friend of yours be expecting me to touch him?"

"No! There is no touching involved in any of this!"

"Okay, calm down," the homeless guy said. "There's no need to get all homophobic."

"I wasn't!"

"You sounded homophobic to me."

"Me? You're the one who can't stop talking about touching people!"

I noticed people stopping in the street to stare at us. This made me very uncomfortable.