These are the stories posted to Mastodon during August 2021.
The glossy dramas tell you that as a werewolf you turn when you’re hit by the light of the full moon.
Poppycock. it can be overcast, you can hide in a concrete bunker wrapped in tinfoil, and you still turn. Not once a month, but twice, once at full moon, once at new moon.
Lycanthropy is nothing but spring tides.
The pixie, had it been born in the age of roleplaying games, would be classified as Chaotic Good.
It had just finished visiting Leibniz in his dreams, having sown a seed.
Now it was off at superluminal speed to see Newton while he slept.
Thanks to special relativity, both had a valid claim to have discovered calculus first.
“Captain, we have scanned the planet. It is forty thousand kilometres in circumference.”
A pause. Then: “Curious.”
“It is exactly forty thousand kilometres in circumference, within the limit of our sensors.”
Another, shorter, pause. Then: “Q! Show yourself!”
We met over celebratory drinks. Our work was worthy of the Nobel Prize.
Only—Svetlana pointed out—there are five of us, and Nobels are awarded to at most three laureates.
The next morning, Svetlana was found dead.
The police say it was an accident, but I’m not taking any chances. Now I only meet with Harold, Keiko, and Gabriel in public. The silences are awkward: we all know that while there are still four of us, there will be no Prize.
This is why cicadas are so noisy:
“My brood passes a lot of knowledge from generation to generation. For instance, we know that between generations, trees add exactly 13 rings.
“I don’t know who you are, but your claim that trees can add 17 rings between generations is preposterous.
“Next you’ll be suggesting that there are other, parallel, broods that my brood can never meet because they breed ‘between’ our generations. Bug off!”
My dog has over 50 words for “walk”. Not in the way that Eskimos are reputed to; there’s no nuance in the words. Rather, she learns each word after I use it a few times.
“Perambulation” lasted a week. “Excursion”, ten days. “Promenade”, only three.
I learned a few foreign translations. “Procházka” didn’t even last one day. I don’t even speak Czech. Why does my dog?
It was the perfect swindle: memorize all the answers to past seasons of Jeopardy!, and then go back in time and compete.
So I bet it all when the final clue on the board came up as a Daily Double.
I can’t give Alex the correct answer—who is trans actor Elliot Page—and I refuse to deadname him. So I say nothing.
I come third. I may be a swindler, but I have morals.
I like humans. They’re my favourite alien species. I’ve been watching them for the last fifty thousand or so of their years. But I was getting impatient with their slow pace of development. So I started helping them along by lighting supernovas in their galaxy to spark their curiosity.
Then my parents found out and they grounded me for 400 years. The humans must be wondering why the supernovas stopped.
Anyway, I’m back, and boy, does Betelgeuse look tempting.
My husband and I are walking home from the market as the sun sets. We’d bought a goat and we’d sold all but one of our cabbages. The road is deserted.
He hops behind a bush and tosses his clothes over to me before the full moon rises. No probs, we’ve done this dozens of times. Out trots my husband (what a tail!). We continue on our way.
Soon we arrive at the river. There’s only a small raft. I glance at the raft, then my husband, the goat, then the cabbage.
“Damn it,” I curse.
King Harald had conquered the known world—at least all the bits worth conquering—but he was still worried that history would forget him. He summoned his advisor.
“I know that you have powers,” said the king. “Make it so that all the world knows my name, that it strikes fear into the heart of every man and woman.”
“It is done, Sire,” replied the advisor.
King Harald Bluetooth smiled.
I think I adopted an invisible cat.
The first sign was rustling in the bushes followed by a cacophony of angry birds. Then my dog started barking at a corner of the garden.
I left food out overnight and it was gone in the morning. This afternoon I left the door open, just in case.
And tonight, I was rewarded: there’s a depression on the quilt, and it’s purring.
Our next guest on the Antiques Spaceshow is Yawei, who’s brought along a planet. Have you had it long, madam?
I can see the hallmark on this northern glacier here, it’s a Magrathean design, an award-winning design.
It seems to be a bit tarnished, did you try to clean it yourself, madam? You immersed it in water 6000 years ago, yes, well, maybe don’t do that again.
I recommend that you get this planet insured as soon as you get it home. It’s probably worth at least eight Ningis.
When the moon is full, the dogs of the neighbourhood howl. They are actually telling each other ghost stories.
“Ruby woke up one morning and her humans were gone!”
“Bailey found himself tied up, covered in sushi, and surrounded by all of the neighbours’ cats!”
“Rex looked at the wrapper for the treat that he just ate, and it said: CHOCOLATE!”
There are downsides to being the world’s most famous movie producer.
Caption: 48 HOURS EARLIER
I step into the elevator car, and just as the doors close, a man rushes in wielding a ream of paper. He makes a beeline for me. “I’ve got this great idea,” he beams.
“…So in chapter 85, our hero, having evaded the zombies, discovers a secret city of Amazons…”
I slump further in my seat and pinch the bridge of my nose. Space elevator pitches are the worst.
It’s hard work being an astronaut. Sure, the views of Earth are spectacular. But you miss things.
I miss trees, and my cats, and silence, true silence without the soft drone of a machine keeping me alive 24/7.
But most of all, I miss “up”.
Su Song was proud of his teleporter. He demonstrated it to the Emperor, moving a dog from the docks to a spot before the throne.
Only the Emperor noticed the dog sway as it materialized. Educated, he suspected conservation of momentum: the dog had been on a different spot on the rotating Earth.
Next summer, the teleporter went on the Emperor’s campaign against Tibet. Rocks from Andean foothills came out of the teleporter at twice the speed of sound. The Tibetans had no chance.
“What is your first wish?” said the genie.
“Magnetic monopoles,” I declared.
“But they’re useless. That’s why we optimized them out of the universe to begin with.”
“I know, but I want Maxwell’s equations to be more symmetrical.”
A pause. “It is done.”
I felt nothing different, except the vicarious satisfaction of a million engineering students.
I’m still trying to find my home timeline. This one feels close. The only difference that I’ve found so far is that absolutely no one disputes the spelling of the children’s book series The Berenstain Bears.
Perhaps I can fix that with a bit of judicious online trolling.
The animosity between Boomers and Millennials, both now long dead, became legend. Then one scholar noticed that all the Boomers were born before 1965, and all the Millennials after 1985.
One researcher suggested that no one was born in the intervening 20 years. Another thought that they all died in early childhood.
A user in a forum posited a missing, undocumented generation, and gave them the standard letter for the unknown, X.
They were laughed out of town.
I have a habit of collecting paint sample cards from the hardware store, because of their silly names.
Get a load of this one:
Bottle o’ Beer
Or this one:
Or this one:
A Paint Can
I bought a sample pot of Release Me. It’s sitting on the table in front of me and I’m debating whether to open it.
Like many secondhand bookshops, mine has a cat, or I should say Cat, because that is her name. Cat is a dragon. She’s more useful than an actual cat.
Consider this paperback of Shōgun, which turned up yesterday in a box. Nobody wants that book, and I’ve already got two on the shelf. Cat! Take. Good girl. Bye!
She’ll take that airport novel onto the roof and incinerate it safely, giving me back precious shelf space for books that people will actually buy.
The magnate-turned-supervillain points his gun at me.
“Let me get this straight,” I summarize. “Time travel is banned, not because of paradoxes, or ethics, but because it’s a threat to your business model?”
As he aims, a sphere of light surrounds me, along with an older version of me. “Let’s go,” says Future Me. I must have a confused look on my face. Wasn’t time travel banned? “His business model wasn’t sustainable,” explains Future Me.
The world outside the sphere vanishes.
It’s a pretty ordinary house. Two storeys, five bedrooms, three bathrooms, and an interdimensional portal to another world in the basement.
I didn’t really know what do do with the portal until a friend who’s into fitness noticed that the world on the other side has slightly higher gravity than earth.
Now I make ends meet by renting the spare rooms out to weightlifters and marathon runners.
I found The Dictionary in an antique bookstore. Not A Dictionary. The Dictionary. The one that prescriptivists keep banging on about.
How do I know? I took a pencil and wrote a definition for “irregardless” into it, and thereafter no one complained about the word again.
My job now is to write every new word I hear into The Dictionary. Today, I’m finally making “fetch” happen.
No one is allowed to live next to the magic factory. There would be … side effects. So the factory is surrounded by meadows.
I first suspected that my bee hive was visiting the magic meadows when I watched their waggle dance. It was more elaborate than usual, almost choreographed. When the bees started making tiny tutus for their dance, I was certain.
I can’t wait to try this honey.
In California, all chocolate products are required to carry this notice:
From the Lycanthrope Care Society
“Chocolate is poisonous to werewolves during the full moon. If you have a werewolf in your life, please ensure that at least a day before full moon, all chocolate and cocoa has been removed from your premises or consumed.”
I don’t have any werewolves in my life but I’m totally using this as an excuse to binge that whole block.
My name is June. My mother’s name is May and her mother’s name is April.
You might think that this is cute and saccharine, but it’s an absolute pain when computers get involved. For instance, I’m making a family tree, and no, Excel, my daughter is not called July.
Her name is Julia.
Like a lot of people, I’ve been working from home a lot this year. My cat hates it.
I didn’t realize how much he hates it until I started getting emailed interview appointments for jobs I hadn’t even applied for. My cat has learned to type.
I asked him if these jobs were for me or for him. He deliberately curled up on top of my laptop keyboard and went to sleep.
I am in my one-bedroom cabin with my best friend. “It’s nice and quiet here but this little fellow—“ Orville swoops down from the rafters and perches on my shoulder “—means I usually wake up shaped like a pretzel.”
My friend says what everyone says. “He’s small, why don’t you just move him?” Orville is about the size of a chihuahua.
“Dragons fly using antigravity. He’s graceful now, but when he’s asleep, he has a deadweight of forty kilograms.”
When the Zombie Wars began, there was a lot of misdirected anger at the other Undead. The Mummy community bore the brunt of it. A lot of humans couldn’t or wouldn’t tell the difference.
There was a prolonged lawsuit and, finally, a court ruling: a Mummy was an Undead that got drier as it aged, and a Zombie was an Undead that got moister as it aged.
The Mummy community celebrated with a giant symbolic Jaffa Cake.
I taught the image-generating AI to invent human faces. Every day it would display the portrait of a random person who never existed.
One day it generated an image of a middle-aged black woman with tight curly hair. This was unremarkable, but the next day it drew a different picture of the same woman. From then on, the AI always portrayed this woman.
It’s impossible to know what an AI is thinking, but I like to believe that in this person the AI has found its self-portrait.