Not the only game in town

Day 12: Helm
No Novel November 2020

Dragon Playing Cards

“Read ‘em and weep, boys.”

The entire room groaned as Vito fanned out his cards to reveal a full house. He chuckled loudly, sweeping chips, cash, and a couple of watches to his side of the table.

“C’mon, man,” Joey whined. “It ain’t fair you run the game and win every week.”

Saul gave the kid a friendly shove. “Get outta here. You want he should show you his other set of skills?”

Vito winked and fired a fingergun at Joey. “See you shmucks next Saturday,” he said as he slung the hefty duffel over his shoulder. “Hope you’re ready to clean out your kids’ college fund.”

It wasn’t until they packed up the table that anyone noticed Vito had left his leather jacket behind.

Being the youngest, it was Joey’s job to return it. As he walked onto the porch, the sinking feeling in his stomach dropped to his balls. Should he knock? Ring the bell? Is that how you got shot in this business? Maybe some reconnaissance first.

Joey peeked through a break in the curtains. His eyes widened, and he slapped a hand over his mouth to stop a laugh from giving him away before turning to run, already trying to forget what he’d seen. That kind of info on a made man was dangerous.

But the sight of piles of books, colorful multi-sided dice, and a polished horned helmet was forever seared into his brain.

Apparently poker wasn’t the only game Vito ran.

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.

Smooth move

Day 11: Vegan
No Novel November 2020

“You want to come back to my place for a smoothie?”

A tingle of excitement shoots up my spine and a few other places. Ivan joined our night-running club last month, and although the other women stare as hard at him as I do, I’m the only one he’s stared back at.

I play it cool. “Just a quick one. Gotta get up early tomorrow—board meeting.”

He nods. “Same. We’re on a crunch to finish a company-wide analysis of—” He stops with a chuckle. “Sorry. That’s even boring to me.”

It’s a short walk to his condo near the park. Inside, he tosses his keys on a table and bustles into the kitchen, grabbing produce and hauling a blender onto the countertop. I take a seat at the island.

When his back is turned, I stealthily raise my phone to snap a picture. Brandy will never believe I went home with Ivan without proof.

But there’s nothing on the screen except a handful of spinach floating through the air.

I look up to see Ivan smirking at me. Tiny tips of ivory peek through his lips. My heart pounds as icicles form in my veins, which I am suddenly extremely aware of.

“Don’t worry,” he says, accent thicker than ever. He grabs an apple and takes a giant bite, the juice running down his chin. “After three hundred years, I figured I can decide what kind of blood I want to drink.”

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.

More than one way

Day 10: Slink
No Novel November 2020

A silhouette of a cat walking along a fence at night under a full moon - blood moon 2018 cat by steffchep via Deviant Art

I saunter by the dumpster where Murray hangs out, making sure he catches my scent as I pass through. I resist the urge to rub against the corner and mark it for myself. That would be going too far. I just want to make him miss me, not follow me home.

Around the corner, I tiptoe across the ledge of the picture window at Wong’s. The diners on the other side notice me eyeballing their late-night crabfest and offer me tasty morsels, but I can’t stop. I hop down and pick up the pace.

Block after block rolls past as I pad across the city. Alleys, parks, thoroughfares. Each landmark an opportunity for adventure, each smell a new story. Another time. I’m cutting it too close as it is.

I’m scuttling beneath cars in a parking lot when the tingling starts. Why did I stray so far tonight? Stealth abandoned, I race along the sidewalk under streetlights. I can make it.

I think.

I barrel through the tiny doorway as the tingling turns to burning. Wet crunching noises quickly follow. I manage to heave my growing, stretching body all the way inside before the change is complete.

Made it.

Beyond exhausted, I climb onto the couch and fall immediately to sleep in full view of the rising sun, only twitching once when my collar slips onto the floor. Next full moon, I’ll make sure to add a watch.

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.

It’s elemental, my dear

Day 09: Jittery
No Novel November 2020

A drawing of a woman made of lighting in a storm

lightning elemental by vij 8 via Deviant Art

Hands shaking, Kael drew the sigil as wide as he could, its intricate overlapping patterns turning the cave floor into a glowing tapestry of gold dust in the firelight. It took hours as he checked and rechecked the schematics. Each line had to be perfect or the summoning would fail. Or worse.

By the time he finished, the storm outside had reached its full furor. The afternoon’s far-off rumbles had turned into a night of crashing gales, pushing Kael’s nerves to the breaking point. Everything in him screamed to run, to abandon this selfish undertaking, to let her go.

But he held his ground. He may never have another chance. It was now or never.

Kael raised his trembling arms, one hand over the glittering circle, the other stretched towards the storm. His incantation was drowned out by the wind, but no matter. The tingle of electricity in his fingertips let him know it was working.

The next bolt of lightning veered off course and passed through Kael’s waiting hand, across his heart, down his opposite arm, and slammed into the sigil, fusing the stone into golden glass and filling the air with smoke.

Kael hit the ground, his body finally still.

Until an electric hand touched his shoulder.

The wizard jolted awake. Then he smiled, shaking now not with fear, but with joy.

Kael took his mother’s crackling hand for the first time since she’d been banished from this plane. And they stepped out into the storm—together.

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.

Hominem ex machina

Day 08: Adjust
No Novel November 2020

NEAC 2203 Computer – CPU, console and tape drive; 1950's computer with reel to reel

“Just call Ed, will you, Seraph?”

“But Sir….”

“Do you know how to fix it?”


“Call Ed.”

After a moment that stretches for years, a man in a rumpled, oil-stained jumpsuit strolls in with a toolbox in one hand and a coffee cup in the other.

“Mornin’ Boss. What can I do for ya?”

“It’s on the fritz again, Ed. Care to take a look?”

“My pleasure.”

The handyman quickly nestles behind the enormous, silently overheating machine and starts to tinker. Wires, switches, buttons, gauges—he mutters kindly to them as he toggles and flips, occasionally slurping from his mug.

“There’s your problem,” he says eventually, holding up the offending object. “Was jammed in the hope matrix.” He drops a rusty, bent screw into the Boss’ hand as the machine sputters, rattles, then begins to purr softly.

A hearty clap on the shoulder sinks him deep into the cloudbank he’s standing on. “I can always count on you, Ed.”

“Happy to be of service, Boss. You call me if it shorts again. That optimism drive’ll get you to Christmas, but mind it after that.”

They watch him go, humming to himself. A beat passes.

“Why a machine, Lord? You can run all of reality with half a brain cell. Or have a team of archangels manage it.”

The Boss smiles and looks at the screw. “Because, Seraph, reality isn’t for us. And what better way of learning to be human than to have a hand in fixing it yourself?”

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.