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Monthly Archives: January 2017

You Are Mine

KATIE: Jimmy? Jimmy, oh my God! Where the fuck have you been? Everybody’s been looking for you!

JIMMY: I’ve been around.

KATIE: Around? Did you have your fucking phone off? What?

JIMMY: Lost it.

KATIE: You lost your phone? Shit. I’m sorry.

JIMMY: Yeah, I lost my phone when I crashed my car.

KATIE: Holy shit. Jimmy, I’m so sorry. What happened?

JIMMY: What do you care, anyway?

KATIE: What do I—what do you mean “What do I care?” I’m your girlfriend!

JIMMY: Oh, are you?

KATIE: Jimmy… Jimmy, you’re scaring me.

JIMMY: Yeah, I bet. I bet you’re scared. You prob’ly should be. See, I uh… I had a little talk this morning.

KATIE: A talk?

JIMMY: With Karl.

KATIE: Carl? Which Carl?

JIMMY: Don’t play dumb with me, you know damn well which Karl. He had some stuff to say.

KATIE: Like what kinda stuff?

JIMMY: He actually had some stuff to say about you.

KATIE: Well, Karl Damien is a fucking liar!

JIMMY: You gonna tell me you didn’t fuck him?

KATIE: Yeah. Actually, that’s exactly what I’m gonna say.

JIMMY: You’re really not good at this, you know. This lying. It’s your body, I think it just, I don’t know, maybe it’s whatever’s left of Karl that’s still inside you and wants to, wants to like—

KATIE: All right! All right, it was one time. I don’t know.

JIMMY: Oh! Oh, just one time. Oh, I see.

KATIE: It was one. Time. Jimmy.

JIMMY: It was three times. Hold on. You wait a second. I might even be able to tell you the dates, you ready for this? Don’t you walk away from me!

KATIE: What do you want from me?

JIMMY: How ‘bout some loyalty? How ‘bout some goddamn fidelity? How ‘bout you not sleeping around behind my back just ‘cause I got an internship the other side of the fucking country? How ‘bout that? How ‘bout that?

KATIE: I’m sorry. I wanted to tell you, but—

JIMMY: I didn’t want you to tell me! I wanted you to not fucking—Goddammit, Katie! Why?

KATIE: I don’t know why. I just… I’m sorry. You weren’t here and I needed…

JIMMY: Oh, you needed to. Oh, I see, now you needed to fuck some other guy?

KATIE: It just happened, OK? I’m sorry!

JIMMY: Listen to me. Listen to me, Katie, all right? Are you listening?

KATIE: I’m listening.

JIMMY: I’m the boss here, you got that?

KATIE: Excuse me?

JIMMY: Shut up when I’m talking to you! I am your man! You got that? I am your man which means you do not fuck any other men—

KATIE: Get off! You’re hurting me—

JIMMY: Oh, I’m hurting you now, huh? Oh, you like that? It’s not fun, is it? It’s not fun getting hurt.

KATIE: I’m sorry! I’m sorry, Jimmy, I’m so sorry!

JIMMY: Sorry isn’t good enough! God, do you have any idea…

KATIE: Jimmy…

JIMMY: You’re mine. You’re my girlfriend. You hear that? Do you feel me? You’re mine, means I can do what I want with you. Just like that. I can do what I want, and when you fuck me over like that, oh baby. Oh baby. I don’t need you anymore. And nobody else matters. Nobody else gets an opinion. You got that? You got that, Katie? ‘Cause you’re mine! Always.

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When Brandon Kostley started at BertHold, he thought he had it made. Investment supervisors may lose a lot of money sometimes, but they never starve, least not the way he figured it. And on top of his great fortune getting that gig, practically his first day in the city, he happened to be seated at a restaurant next to Hank Hunt.

BertHold was a great company, don’t misunderstand, but Hank Hunt ran the city and had for like twenty years. that was what Brandon thought. Never mind Hunt’s twelve bankruptcies—after all, he always managed to get back on top. So with this man as his mentor, as he was after only a brief conversation, Brandon was confident he would soon be rich beyond his wildest dreams.

But then old man Bentley, the owner, died, leaving controlling interest and more to his grandson: Damian Bentley-Hoag.

If Hank Hunt was the most powerful man in the most powerful city in the world, Damian Bentley-Hoag was the most dangerous. Oh, most people wouldn’t think so, of course. Most people later on would insist he was a champion of the people, a real stand-up guy with a lot to offer, who offered it freely.

Here’s what made Damian Bentley-Hoag dangerous: he actually believed trickle-down economics, but not the way his peers wanted people believing in it. When he got an influx of money for the company, he turned right around and invested it—but not in the stock market, not in the banking system. He used it to actually buy new and better equipment, to hire more people, to give raises to the people on the bottom—and one time, he even used the extra cash to lower product prices. “We got a good product,” he said, “Not just somehting people want, but something they’ll use, something that’ll actualy work. i want people to buy it, real people. And I don’t want them going broke to do so.”

“But Damian,” one of the board members condescended, “What about us? What do we get out of this?”

“What exactly have you put into this?” asked Damian.

What followed was an enumeration of every one of that board member’s personal contributions to the company. It was very detailed, but for every monetary scheme, Damian had a moral riposte, until finally the board man insisted “I have put my soul into this company!”

“No,” said Damian, “you have put money into this company, and have gotten money in return. Your soul, as far as I can tell, is on a golf course in Hilton Head, and you are free to retrieve it at any time. The people who have put their souls into this company are the ones who found themselves too desperate to keep looking for something better and settled for working for my grandfather, and for you, who didn’t pay them enough.”

“You’re not going to get away with this,” the man on the board said.

Damian only looked at him, his elbows on the table, his left hand covering his right fist covering his mouth.

That board member was not invited to any more meetings.

“He can’t do that,” Hank Hunt insisted when Brandon brought the news to him.

“Actually, I’m afraid he can. He still owns the company, so he’s free to do whatever he wants with it.”

“Well, he’s not gonna get away with it.” Hunt’s face darkened. “I can tell you that much for sure.”

Then he dipped his fork into a mountain of kaviar.

The problem was, Damian did get away with it. He had been barely 21 and still in college somewhere overseas when he took over, but the boy had a knowledge of business and of politics that woudl drive most men mad. Maybe it had driven him mad, at that—but every decision he made was successful.

Meanwhile, the boy himself lived modestly, in a converted tenement in the Bronx, and commuted to Manhattan. The security in his apartment was supplemented by the fact that most of his bodyguards lived there, too, with their families, and even some of his low-level employees. He said it kept him honest, kept him in touch with the people who actually ran the company.

Most of his personal wealth, meanwhile, went directly to building the company.

“Who the hell does he think he is?” Hank Hunt asked, staring out the window of his Manhattan Penthouse past the gold-plated columns. “He’s a loser, that’s what he is. And he knows it, that’s why he lives like he does—he knows he can’t keep this up. He knows it!

“Somebody oughtta teach that asshole a lesson.”

Three days later, there was an explosion at the tenement, just over Damian’s own apartment. He wasn’t home—fortunately, neither were the folks above him. They were a nice Puerto Rican family he’d been sponsoring for citizenship, and he had taken them out for Chinese. No one else was hurt.

At first, it looked like a gas leak, they said. That was the police. But the fire department had a different story. Brandon Kostley didn’t come forward, though. He told himself he didn’t really know anything. It was all just speculation, after all. Second hand. Subjunctive.

There was an investigation, but the trail went cold.

But that was when something happened that was really unexpected.

Hank Hunt disappeared.

It was actually the perfect, classic locked-room mystery. He was shup up in his office, “Do Not Disturb” and all that, secretary outside the door, and suddenly no answer. He was just gone.

That was when Brandon Kostley came forward. It got him in a bit of trouble, not having revealed that Hunt had made his threat against Damian’s life, but the judge decided he was a good kid, who just didn’t want to tarnish the old man’s reputation. He was certain, though, he said, that Damian had something to do with the disappearance.

Well, based on that, there was an investigation, but the trial never made it past a hearing. There just wasn’t any evidence. After the trial, Damian was heard remarking a few times on the fact that Hank Hunt hadn’t even been put through that much, although there was some evidence there. But of course, it didn’t really matter.

Brandon had already left the company by then. He did it voluntarily; Damian insisted he wouldn’t fire a man for following his conscience.

One night, though, Brandon came home to find Damian in his kitchen with a very expensive bottle of wine Brandon couldn’t pronounce the name of.

“How did you get in here?” Brandon demanded.

“I thought it was high time we talked,” Damian told him, and poured the wine. Then he proceeded to make dinner.

“You see,” he told Brandon, “the business world, as it seems to me, is at odds with democracy. We stand on high here making decisions, and the people? What do they matter to us? They are trees our money grows on, and trees are not meant to make decisions. Our employees depend on us for their livelihoods, and our customers for the actual things that they need. But I’m here at the top. I’m the monarch. The way my grandfather put this company together, I get to make all the decisions. No one can stop me. My power is absolute.

“Does that mean I can get away with murder? No. It shouldn’t. But it does mean that I have every right to treat my employees fairly.

“You know what the best form of government is, Mr. Kostley?”

“Benevolent dictatorship?”

“I prefer the term ‘Enlightened Despotism’. That’s how I like to think of myself—which is a dangerous line of thinking, of course. But I figure it’s better than only thnking of myself, and not about the consequences of my actions.”

Whirlwinds of responses soon overwhelmed Brandon’s brain. Was he thinking of the consequences for his board members? For the business community at large? But then he remembered the kaviar and the gold-plated bathroom and his own childhood in the bad parts of Detroit.

It’s been quite some time since anyone’s heard from Hank Hunt. Now and then, it’s said he’ll be spotted by an associate or a member of the press in Thailand or Mogadishu or the Sarajevo slums. But the witnesses are never able to reach him, never even get close.

And in New York, Damian’s strategy is catching.


Freedom from Religion

JEAN-YVES: Adèle! Adèèèèle! Où es-tu?

ADÈLE: Qu’est-ce qu’il y a?

JEAN-YVES: Come down. Please? Please come down and talk to me.

ADÈLE: I can’t right now.

JEAN-YVES: Adèle, I swear to you—

ADÈLE: Mais putain! All right! Connard, va! What? All right, come on, spit it out.

JEAN-YVES: You can’t be with him.

ADÈLE: You’re gonna tell me what I can and can’t do?

JEAN-YVES: Yes!

ADÈLE: Oh, well, then, you’re the boss, I guess. Guess I’ll just swing by your place and walk around naked all day, cooking you snacks?

JEAN-YVES: This is not funny.

ADÈLE: Am I laughing?

JEAN-YVES: He is…

ADÈLE: What? Muslim?

JEAN-YVES: Adèle, he doesn’t think of you as a person.

ADÈLE: He’s not l’espèce d’islamophobe misogyn standing on my doorstep telling me who I can and can’t date. Va te faire foutre, Jean-Yves.

JEAN-YVES: He doesn’t love you.

ADÈLE: And you do? Look at you. I must be the luckiest bitch in the world, to have you here to save from the big, bad muslim who’s gonna stand up to his own parents, who do not want him dating a non-muslim.

JEAN-YVES: And you think that’ll work out? You think you’re gonna stay non-muslim? You think he’s gonna put up with that forever? Oh, or do you think you’re going to change him, make him abandon his faith, stop practicing—

ADÈLE: I don’t need him to abandon his faith! I like his faith! His faith gives him morality—what have you got?

JEAN-YVES: You want to talk about morality? I don’t attack people just for believing in a different God!

ADÈLE: No, just for believing in a God at all.

JEAN-YVES: What, so now you’re suddenly religious?

ADÈLE: I’m not a bigot.

JEAN-YVES: But your boyfriend is.

ADÈLE: This, coming from you?

JEAN-YVES: What if there were more of them? Huh? What if there were more of them than us? You don’t think they’d be the ones persecuting?

ADÈLE: You really need to read up on this shit: Muslims aren’t allowed to persecute—

JEAN-YVES: Jews of Christians or Sabians, yeah, sure, that’s what they keep telling us, but look around—

ADÈLE: I am looking around, and I’m seeing Jews and Christians attacking Muslims, after which I’m seeing Muslims getting fed up and fighting back. They didn’t start this cycle of violence—

JEAN-YVES: But what if I’m not Jewish? Or Christian? Or whatever the fuck a Sabian is? What if I’m an Atheist? Their religion explicitly tells them to kill me—

ADÈLE: Where the fuck are you—Look it up! It says “anyone who kills another human being, it is as though he has killed all mankind”—

JEAN-YVES: And if you’d actually read that verse, you would know that you’re leaving something out, it says “if you kill someone except for murder or for spreading corruption”—so then you look at other places in the text, where it uses that word, “spreading corruption”, you know where they use that? Any time they are talking about people speaking out against Islam. That verse is blanket permission for Muslims to kill all the infidels who dare to defy them.

ADÈLE: Like Muslims are the only ones who do that!

JEAN-YVES: Atheists don’t!

ADÈLE: You’re telling me no atheist in the history of the world has ever killed someone for being religious?

JEAN-YVES: Name one!

ADÈLE: Josef Stalin!

JEAN-YVES: Putain de merde, va ! Josef Stalin was a dictator!

ADÈLE: And an atheist!

JEAN-YVES: C’est pas le même chôse !

ADÈLE: Ah, non? And how’s that? Bin Laden was a terrorist, but now suddenly all Muslims are terrorists, alors?

JEAN-YVES: You’re not going to be happy with him.

ADÈLE: Well, I’m definitely not going to be happy with you, donc…

JEAN-YVES: This is not about that.

ADÈLE: Isn’t it, though? If I were hooking up with a white guy, would you accept that? Or would you be jealous?

JEAN-YVES: Jealous? Sure.

ADÈLE: Alors, quoi ?

JEAN-YVES: I’m not jealous for you, Adèle. I’m afraid for you.

ADÈLE: Then I’m telling you it’s none of your business.


Blackthorn

She calls herself the Rainbow Chaser
The suit she wears is a multi-colored maze of silks and kevlar,
Her shield against the terrors of the world,
A promise to the world that she will bring them peace and understanding,
From the first time, meting justice to the cop with his gun at the kid,
To this latest time, gaining media attention
For high-profile world-saving.

But who is this light of justice
Who shines through after the Rains of Terror are ended?
Why is it that so many of the people she saves are members of minorities?
That first kid, the fourteen-year-old, was black.
There was a girl, too, a while later, who was white
But she was a lesbian. And then there was a muslim.
And then later a man who was trans, who made a fuss about not needing help
Until he realized what she could do.

The Telekinesis was just the beginning.
That was just what people could see when she was out and about, saving.
But some bullets still struck home.
How did she keep on surviving?
Some said that her skin was impenetrable, but that wasn’t it, quite.
She could bleed–and, in fact, did.
Every punch, every stab, every kick, hurt.
But she had learned to roll with them.
And she also had superhuman healing.
It led many of her fans to ask each other “How could you Not like this girl?”
But of course, you can’t be a hero
Without making enemies.

“You’re a thorn in my side,” said one of her first victims,
“But I’ll still crash and burn my way through this briar patch.”
It was the first time she’d heard the term,
Thorn, applied to her,
But she brought him down anyway,
Uncovering the truth of his sweatshop operation
Using orphaned children of illegal immigrants,
And so the Senator was brought to his knees.

But conventional media saw through all her disguises
(Not that she was hiding much)
And what did they find?
Not just a woman.
Not just a woman who was black.
Not just a woman who was black and happened to love other women,
But also one, it seemed, who worshiped Satan.
“There is no Satan in pagan religion,” she explained to one accuser,
“Just a multiplicity of Gods.
If you believe your way is the only way that’s right,
You will see the Devil lurking behind every corner.
But I see no devils–only the Angels of other Gods.”

The Headline: “Blackthorn Worships the Devil.”
“There is no Devil,” she, “and I am not ‘Blackthorn’.”
“The woman worships Satan and has sex with other women.
She wears a rainbow because even she knows her black skin’s sinful.”
“Is my mother’s black skin more sinful, then, than my father’s?
His skin was white, but that didn’t stop him from being a rapist.”
“That is why she hates white people,” says the blonde on TV with impossible teeth,
“That is why she hates men–especially white men who are straight.”
“But who will save us?” say the white men who aren’t yet dead.
“Who will save the Straight White Man from this Thorn of Darkness?”
She buries her face in her hands.
“She wants equality?” they ask, “What about equality for Him?”

She reaches for her coat of many colors
As Miss Impossible-Teeth and her gardener, Uncle Tom,
And the boy at her Church who pretends not to look at the Reverend’s backside,
And the Christians with their pitchforks,
And the Atheists screaming that all religions are equally unseemly
And all bring corruption to the human heart,
They all rally against her, from every possible front,
And she unfurls the blanket with her spangled mind,
She unleashes the rainbow,
Cupcakes and glitter and witticisms shower down like so much confetti
Leaving no room for darkness of soul.

All are welcome at the feast but those who will not share with others.
Will she dine alone?
Or will you join us?


The (Girl)Friend Zone

IRIS: Ronan? Ronan! Hey! Stop! What’s up?

RONAN: I can’t do this anymore.

IRIS: Oh, come on, I’ve seen you dance longer and harder than that.

RONAN: No, you know what I’m talking about!

IRIS: What is up with you?

RONAN: You! I’m sorry, I keep trying. I try to be okay with it.

IRIS: You try to be okay with me having a good time? Well, thanks. Hey! Ronan Westley Carroll, don’t you dare walk away from me!

RONAN: Is that really the kind of man you want?

IRIS: Excuse me?

RONAN: What do you—Are you seriosly… Seriously?

IRIS: What? Just ‘cause he beat you at chess?

RONAN: Why were we even playing in the first place?

IRIS: Because you like chess! Because you’re good at it! But he beat you, so what? Get over it.

RONAN: Do you really not get it?

IRIS: You’re threatened by him. That’s fair. He’s classy.

RONAN: What kind of a name is “Valdemar” anyway?

IRIS: He’s German! So fucking sue him! What, are you gonna add bigotry to your mess of whatever the hell this is?

RONAN: Oh, you mean he’s a sophisticated European? Oh, I hadn’t noticed—

IRIS: Oh, grow up!

RONAN: Oh! Now I’m the bad guy, huh? Now I’m the one slobbering over every woman on the dance floor!

IRIS: Oh, what, like you’re not?

RONAN: I don’t slobber over you! Do I? No, seriously, do I?

IRIS: … No! No, of course not. We’re… friends.

RONAN: Good night, Iris.

IRIS: Ronan, wait. Stop! Ronan!

RONAN: Good. Night. Iris.

IRIS: Just tell me, OK?

RONAN: Fine. I have been in love with you almost since the moment I laid eyes on you. There. I’ve said it.

IRIS: I thought love at first sight was a shallow poison. Isn’t that what you’re always saying?

RONAN: That’s why I said “almost”. I didn’t fall in love with you because you’re beautiful, OK? I fell in love with you because you read Fiona Dugnot and you caught my Dragons’ Will reference years before they started making the series. I fell in love with you because instead of ganging up on me for being a dork, you embraced me, OK? To the point where other people could take me seriously, too. I fell in love with you because… because I thought you might fall in love with me. That doesn’t happen to me. I’m the guy who doesn’t have a girlfriend because “girls don’t watch Stardancers or play Gift of Hades, but you did! But I waited too long. And you wound up with Jeff. And then Tommy. And Seth, and now… Did any of them… You know what? It’s none of my business. None of it was ever any of my business.

IRIS: Why didn’t you say anything?

RONAN: Because I was young and stupid. OK? And almost as inexperienced then as I still am! Given that chance again… Well, given that chance again, I’d probably make the same choice as before, but for a different reason.

IRIS: What do you mean?

RONAN: Back then, I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to feel rejected. Now… I think I wouldn’t say anything because I wouldn’t want to hurt you. I wouldn’t want to put that burden on you.

IRIS: Shouldn’t that be my decision?

RONAN: Don’t do that.

IRIS: Don’t what?

RONAN: Don’t pretend like you’d actually…

IRIS: You didn’t tell me! Why are you telling me now?

RONAN: Because right now, I do want to hurt you! I want you to know how I feel about you, how I’ve always felt about you, because I need you to know that I am not your friend. I never have been.

IRIS: Because you were using our friendship to seduce me? Original.

RONAN: You want to tell me that hasn’t worked on you? Come on, Iris. How long have I know you?

IRIS: Yeah, well, fool me once—

RONAN: Three times, Iris.

IRIS: On a scale from one to Lindsay Lohan, how drunk are you right now?

RONAN: Tony Stark.

IRIS: Oh, you wish.

RONAN: And you need to stop flirting with me.

IRIS: Seriously? How the fuck was that “flirting”?

RONAN: Because you did that thing…

IRIS: That thing? What thing?

RONAN: That thing with your… with your eyebrow.

IRIS: That thing with my eyebrows? Are you fucking with me?

RONAN: Oh, you know what I’m talking about!

IRIS: What could I possibly be doing with my eyebrows that would make you think I was good to go?

RONAN: See, and this right here is why we can’t be friends. Because no matter how hard you try to act “normal” by your own standards, no matter how little encouragement you give, I will always read more into it.

IRIS: Is that my fault?

RONAN: No. No, you’re right, it’s not. But it isn’t about fault. You really can’t help being like catnip for me. I can pretend that you’re a good bag of treats I can use to sharpen my claws and improve my game or something, but in the end, you’re nothing but a toy for the muse of fire to dangle in front of me and it’s driving me crazy!

IRIS: Sometimes I just don’t even know what you’re saying—

RONAN: Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m saying. I’m gonna go now—

IRIS: No, please.

RONAN: Why won’t you let me leave? Why do you keep pulling me back into this?

IRIS: Because I…

RONAN: You almost said it, didn’t you? Something real sweet; maybe not “I love you”, but, like, a sweet little “I don’t want to lose you”?

IRIS: But I don’t want to lose you.

RONAN: How the hell can you not understand that’s the worst possible thing you could say to me right now? Or ever? Because it means you do love me. Platonically. And I’m just now finally coming to grips with that. You love me like a brother. You’ll never love me as anything else. But that’s just not how I feel about you. And this isn’t about blame. This is just… I can’t do this anymore. I’m sorry.

 

Author’s Note: I have posted a different version of this before on the old blog. This version has different characters for reasons I don’t want to go into right now, and has been cleaned up and adjusted a bit.


The Wolf and the Fox

Diana had always thought of herself as a wolf. She’d always had a pack that she’d run with. First, it was her family; then she made friends as the tomboy at school; in high school, she was on all the sports teams.

But now she couldn’t have a pack anymore.

Being a wolf didn’t seem like all that much fun anymore.

She had friends, though, here at college. Jenny and Kelly were great, even if they did seem like polar opposites. Sarah spoke her mind and kept things interesting, and Tanya did an awesome job of keeping them all together. Meanwhile, Mike and Noah were always getting into it about politics and religion and Hairy cracked really lame jokes about what a bad idea that was.

She even had a boyfriend: Mark Dixon.

But none of them could ever really know her. And that bothered her a lot.

Mark was suspicious, of course. She wasn’t bothered so much when she thought Kelly or Tanya had figured her out, but the idea that Mark might know, that they might tell him or, worse, that he would figure it out for himself… She wanted to keep him away from all that, to keep it separate. That part of her wasn’t part of the real world, after all. And he was.

Then there was Shirley.

Everyone insisted to Diana that Shirley meant well, that she was a sweet girl who was not —“I absolutely promise you,” Tanya added—that she was not out to steal Diana’s boyfriend. And they were probably right. She was probably overreacting.

But there was something just a little bit entirely too cute about Shirley. It wasn’t just the ridiculousness of her insisting on being called Vyxen—with a fucking y—why? Who does that? Who does any part of that?

It wasn’t just the way she was always so scatterbrained, the terrible perverted things she did to English sentences when she was nervous—which, of course, was when she was at her cutest, and of course, that was all the fucking time. It wasn’t just the way she was always flirting with everyone—she acted differently around girls, but it was still flirting.

But then she didn’t flirt with Mark. Out of respect, or something. That’s what Tanya said, anyway. But it was how Diana knew.

Mark wouldn’t flirt with her, either. He wouldn’t even talk about her. If she came up in conversation, she wouldn’t. He would make damn sure she didn’t. If she asked him questions about her, he wouldn’t even get defensive.

Maybe she was just overreacting. Maybe she was insecure because she knew that it was wrong for her to be with Mark in the first place—what if Shirley really did deserve him more; I mean she was such a Fox, right? It was right there in her name, the name people called her. She was Vyxen and Diana was a Wolf. Wolves shouldn’t be around people.

The pack wanted to have a bonfire one weekend at the full moon. Well, there was no way Diana was going to make it. She could tell Mark wanted to go—but how could she tell him? What excuse did she have? Homework? She was sick, she insisted. Couldn’t make it. He called her on it, showed up at her place unexpectedly—it was all she could do to get the chains back into the closet without making too much noise before opening the door.

But she had to turn him away. She knew it was the wrong move—at least if she wanted to keep him. But what else could she do? He offered to stay—she could tell him. But who in their right mind would still want to stay after being told? Why would she even let him?

The sun was setting and she could feel all rationality and inhibition seeping out of her, melting her humanity away and evaporating into the stale dormroom air.

It was the smell, she decided. Something about the way Shirley smelled, like a vixen, a real one, one without the y, without a “why”, without a purpose, a carrion-lover snatching prey from stronger teeth.

There was hair on her skin already by the time the next knock came. Five more minutes and the sound she made in response would have been quite different, but through the muzzle, Diana managed a “Go away!”

“Are you a werewolf?” Shirley asked in a scolding tone.

Diana was speechless.

“It’s okay,” the Vyxen continued, “it’s just me out here and I completely understand if you are, but if you are, you have got to tell Mark. You owe him that much.”

It wasn’t fair, Diana thought. It wasn’t fair that Shirley got to be rational and insightful on top of being so despicably adorable.

“Look,” Vyxen continued, “if it makes you feel any better, I’m actually a Changeling and I can turn into a Fox. I know it’s not the same as being a Werewolf, but I know what it’s like to have to keep a secret.”

It wasn’t the kind of thing Diana would have responded to anyways, but by that point, her limbs were thinner, her neck was thicker, her snout was growing into its muzzle and she had a tail.

“OK, well I can see it’s getting dark outside, so… Talk to you tomorrow? By-e.”

The Wolf lunged at the door, fighting the muzzle all the way, but her collar kept her chained tight to the closet. Even the furniture was pushed back against the far wall, too far away for her to pretend it was the fox as she sharpened her skills.

It was going to be a long, frustrating night.


The Amazon

Tamora Thomas had never felt comfortable with her breasts.

When she was a girl, breasts were something women had, but then suddenly they were there, intruding: bouncing when she ran, misbehaving when she did cartwheels and calling unwanted attention from boys who had been her friends.

When she finally started dating, these protrusions were rivals for the affection of her boyfriends, who could hardly seem to bear to look her in the face, but also didn’t know quite what to do with them once they were bared.

When she joined the marines, it was partly to serve her country, but it was mostly to prove herself, to prove to her breasts, that they couldn’t stop her from being the best.

And she was. They called her the Amazon, which, if you know anything about Greek Mythology, is somewhat ironic. The other soldiers, the men at least, were distracted by them, and she used that to her advantage, to best them in training. All except one: Gabriel Hammond. He always looked her in the eyes, and she found his lack of interest in her pectoral rivals arousing. She cornered him one day and jumped his bones, pressing her bosom upon him, but he still wouldn’t touch her.

That was when he told her about Rosalind Furrowes, his fiancée, whom he had loved since childhood. And he spoke of her with such tenderness and love that Tamora couldn’t be angry with him anymore—indeed, couldn’t help but fall in love with Rosalind herself.

Gabriel married Rosalind during the furlough after boot-camp and despite his imprecations, his insistence that his bride would want her there, too, Tamora refused to meet her, and spent the time instead with another man, who appreciated her breasts more than he appreciated her.

In time, both Tamora and Gabriel were invited to join a special program. It was a super-soldier program, like the kind you always hear about in conspiracy theories and bad action movies—apparently, they were real. But perfectly safe, of course. Perfectly safe.

It was there, in close quarters, after many years and many false starts, that Tamora finally managed, in spite of herself, to seduce him. It was her breasts who had done it, she told herself in the morning. They had been responsible, had tricked her somehow—just look at the evidence: it was them Gabriel had focused his attentions on and under his attention, they had thrived as they had never thriven under any other’s care. He had proved himself so adept at manipulating them, in fact, that she had almost started to think of them, these intruders on her own torso, as allies, if not quite as friends.

But she was still angry with herself, not to mention him, especially when he tried to tell her “No, no, my wife actually wouldn’t mind—in fact, she’d be thrilled!” And that kind of angry is the last thing you want to be with someone when you’re about to go into battle.

Which is probably why she felt she could blame herself when he was killed that day by a South American insurgent with impenetrable skin who called herself The Marble Jaguar.

She had to go to the funeral. She knew she did. Her breasts knew she did. She had to face Rosalind Furrowes, whose husband she had slept with and possibly killed. She didn’t think she’d be able to look her in the eyes, but standing there with her dead husband between them, she actually found it hard to look away. They both did. Just kept staring at each other. Not angry, even. Not even hostile. No negativity at all.

She was surprised she even managed to get out of there unscathed, but she tried to put the whole thing behind her by letting one of those idiots from her first platoon marry her for her chest. His name was Patrick Langley and he was going into politics, where it helps to have a “hot young wife”, apparently.

But she didn’t like it, and none of the other wives liked her. Her breasts felt too engaged, too much under fire, and she felt too restless, so she used her serum-induced super-strength to strong-arm her way into a job in construction. This was frowned upon, as her breasts could hardly be seen under a jumpsuit, and their number one fan objected strongly. Fights ensued.

She had almost found the courage to leave him when Rosalind Furrowes showed up on her doorstep and said “I know you slept with my husband.”

This was supposed to be earth-shattering. This was supposed to be the start of a fist-fight, at least according to the mores of the other politicians’ wives. So why was Rosalind smiling through tears?

She soon explained that while she had always adored Gabriel Hammond, she was more moved that he loved her and realized too late that she didn’t feel quite the same way. But she loved the way he spoke to her and about her, and she loved hearing him talk about the Amazonian woman he went to boot camp with. So she, even as his wife, expected him to sleep with this other woman, and was glad that she acquiesced.

Hearing the wife of the man she had loved tell her what he had said about her, Tamora felt a whirlpool of conflicting emotions and soon realized that the only one that really mattered was the realization that both she and Rosalind had each fallen in love with the other, based entirely on Gabriel’s description. This was weird, but as undeniable as the way she now felt about Rosalind.

The divorce was ugly. Congressman Langley was forced to drudge up the affair she’d had with Hammond while still enlisted to change her discharge to dishonorable, but by then she was just relieved to be rid of him. Harder was her transition to the Hammond-Furrowes household, earning the trust and love of Gabriel’s two daughters, whose respective nascent adolescences served to remind Tamora of the issues she had always had with her own body.

But she didn’t have those issues anymore. Rosalind had cured them, had, with tender loving care, reconciled her mamaries and made friendship out of scorn.

She was, however, also the one who found the lump.

How do you pay for cancer, when you’ve been dishonorably discharged from the military? When you gave your husband the quickest possible divorce to avoid the press just so you could be with the woman you love? And Rosalind’s insurance couldn’t even cover it, because their relationship wasn’t even recognized in that state.

Maybe she could have sued the government, the military, but there was no way to prove that the serum used on her even existed, given its classified nature, let alone that it had in any way caused her condition—even though she was not by far the only one experimented on who developed complications.

Unable to afford chemotherapy, she found her only option was a double mastectomy, but they didn’t even have the funds for that kind of operation, the state of healthcare being as it was. What she did have was a katana, a bottle of bourbon and the heart of a marine.

Now, thirty-four and the flat-chested envy of her twenty-year-old self, she fights for a cure (rather than mere treatments), for affordable healthcare and for gay rights.

Having carved off her own breasts to continue fighting injustice, Tamora Thomas has at last become The Amazon.