Willy and Billy were identical twins, born to a nice Catholic couple.
They were raised in the church, baptized and taught all they needed to know.
They were good kids, and Willy and Billy never had anything to confess.
They didn’t even pretend to be the other twin to fool people.
“This is just too good to be true,” said Father Williams.
So, he tried to get them to snitch on each other.
But they had nothing to say.
“I guess they’re perfect then,” said Father Williams.
He tossed a coin to determine which to sacrifice for the Dark Mass.
You remind me of the dead.
They were once alive, and happy.
Then something changed.
Something always changes.
Life is change.
When change stops, when nothing changes, life itself stops.
And death is there.
Death is always there, when nothing changes anymore.
When you say you don’t want to change, you are saying you want to be dead.
The dead don’t change. They stay that way forever.
Oh, we might tell your story and stretch the truth.
A little. Or a lot.
But that’s not change.
That’s the truth, rotting away, just as you rot.
In the hands of death.
The Hairomatic is a brilliant device.
Put it over your head, push start, and it styles your hair perfectly.
You can choose from a dozen preset styles, or add more stylepacks with a subscription service.
Hackers modified the encryption locks to allow third-party hairstyles.
Dark Web sites offered thousands of styles.
Search a television show or movie, yeah, I want that style… and three minutes later, it was yours.
Hairomatic made billions, but there were the lawsuits.
Error-correction algorithms didn’t always prevent accidents.
And more than one customer found themselves scalped.
And the bald ended up with shattered, mangled skulls.
Massacres spread across the continent, across the ocean, and the new lands.
The Bishop-Prince, they call him Hexenbrenner: The Witch Burner.
In one town alone, hundreds of women captured, tortured, and burned.
And then, his greatest triumph.
The capture of The Witch Queen.
She cast a curse upon the Prince.
He took it as her confession, and tied her to the wooden stake himself.
The townspeople brought the kindling and laid it at her feet.
She laughed as she burned, and a thick black smoke spread from the town center.
People, clutching their throats, unable to scream, suffocating in waves.
Halloween before a major election is never fun.
The stores sell masks of the major candidates.
People go to bars in their costumes, get drunk, and a fight breaks out.
Or some kid goes door to door, someone says something snide, and the parents have at it.
At least Thanksgiving comes after the election, so the family can come together and be thankful that it’s over.
Until someone brings up the loser… or the winner.
And that explains the rise of electric knife “accidents” across the country.
Pass the rolls… so I can stuff one in your big fat mouth.
Who weeps for Merithne Grundle?
Not her mother, who bore her?
Or her father, who sold her into servitude?
Her brothers and sisters, glad to be rid of another mouth to feed when their stomachs were already rumbling from hunger before her arrival, and that much more afterwards?
She has no memory of them now, only the memory of the plow, the basket, and the fields.
To the master’s house.
To the master’s bed.
To the master’s embrace.
They find her the next day, covered with the master’s blood, holding a bloody knife.
Who weeps for Merinthe Grundle?
Danny Krupman was the first in his class.
Danny was the first kid to get a bike.
He was also the first kid to get a cast.
He broke his arm when he fell off of the bike.
Danny was the first kid to get a dog.
The dog ran away. Nobody ever saw it again.
He was the first to grow a mustache, get a girlfriend, get a car.
And he was the first to get cancer.
We visited him in the hospital a few times.
Then, they said we shouldn’t.
I’m dating his girlfriend now.
Like my car?
The living shadow wanders the void between the stars, thinking nothing.
It exists just to wander, floating in the endless cold and dark.
No memory of where it came from, and no thought as to where it goes.
A week? A year? A century? A millennium?
It has no idea, and does not care.
There is nothing to see it, so it has no form.
There is nothing to hear it, so it makes no sound.
You might think that I’m telling a ghost story, imagining things.
But the living shadow is there, drifting in the vastness of empty space.
We don’t merely encounter death at the end of our lives.
He is everywhere at all times, watching and waiting.
All that lives will eventually die.
From the tiniest bacteria to the greatest fish in the sea, death comes for them all.
Rolling across the land and the waves and the sky, striking all down in a never-ending storm of destruction.
Some quickly, others slowly… and painfully.
None can escape Death’s unrelenting grasp.
Sometimes at night, I listen for death.
Instead, I hear the barking of the goddamned neighbor’s dog.
And I can’t wait for death to come for it.
Every so often, the girls who stock the vending machines will remove all of the expired candy from the supply closet and leave it out on the table.
I obsessively sort it all out into baskets.
Considering my weight and my blood sugar, that’s as much as I should be doing with that stuff.
I love the aroma of it though.
So, every so often, I’ll put a Snickers bar on a warming plate and let the aroma fill the air.
I close my eyes and remember Halloween evenings, sorting out candy, years before I learned that I wasn’t immortal.