You are invited to read Marcus of Abderus and the Inn at the Edge of the World, a fantasy adventure novel available at Barnes and Noble Online.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


a short story by Michael R. Lockridge

Bob looked spectacular behind his semicircular desk. It was festooned with lights and screens and various writing instruments. The walls of his sumptuous office were covered with video screens displaying thousands of scenes from the many thousands of planets over which Bob was the final authority.

Ogwan Spen entered the office, escorted by a lithe female secretary who could have been a member of any of several hundred sentient species. Whatever her actual species she exuded an aura of competence and deep sensuality. Ogwan had his recording device running, capturing all sensory and telemetry data in a multitude of frequencies and dimensional levels.

This was his first big break as a junior reporter. His almost unknown home planet fostered a very limited news agency, and it was a major coupe to get to interview Bob. Indeed, Bob remained a mystery among most of the planets under his sway. Who was the real Bob? What was he like? What did he eat for breakfast? Would he plunge half of the known galaxy into war before lunch, just to bring a glorious peace before dinner?

Bob turned in his opulent yet functional desk chair, and stood to greet the young reporter.

"Ah, Mr. Spen." said Bob, stepping forward and offering Ogwan a warm smile and hearty handshake. Bob looked very much like every bipedal humanoid Ogwan had ever seen, all rolled into one and made a hundred percent better. Ogwan liked him immediately, which made him instantly suspicious.

Bob nodded to his secretary, who walked sensuously across the office in a display of physical motion that would overwhelm the male populations of a thousand planets. Ogwan had a great deal of trouble focusing until she had closed the office door, with her on the other side.

Bob indicated a sitting area across the room. The windows on three sides of the sitting area provided fabulous views of space. Though it seemed a bit provincial, Ogwan could not help but look for his own planet as they found their seats.

"It's over there." said Bob, gesturing toward a cluster of stars of medium brightness.

"Pardon me?" Ogwan said.

"Your planet. It is over there."

"Oh. Yes." replied Ogwan. He felt slightly embarrassed.

"Everyone does that when they sit here." said Bob. It was particularly believable when offered with that winning smile. Ogwan believed.

"So, what is it you wanted to know?" asked Bob.

"Our university in Pocknar discovered a new node in the Great Network. Several Network Scholars were exploring it when the node became unavailable." Ogwan began.

"Oh, that." Bob replied. He reapplied the smile that had seemed so winning. "Isn't my office opulent? Isn't it splendid? Did you see your planet from my window?"

Ogwan was surprised. He was not surprised by the attempt at evasion. Ogwan had done enough interviews with persons of authority that he expected some evasion. He was surprised that the renowned Bob was so blatant about the evasion.

"The scholars were concerned that a new node would appear and then disappear like that." Ogwan continued. "Most new nodes entering the great network appear and are heralded and welcomed. There is much rejoicing, and the exchange of knowledge is great."

"Ah, that is usually the case." said Bob. "This node proved a little different. Do you really know who I am?"

"Uh, yes." Ogwan said. "You are the personalized representation of the great network that came into being when several information networks from a number of planets accidentally began sharing data across space. The interaction led to a personification of the network itself, and you sprang into being."

"A textbook answer, but true enough." said Bob. "As such I began to coordinate the know networks into the Great Network. I actively sought emerging networks and brought them in, making necessary adjustments to make each fit seamlessly into the whole."

"Some speculate that the war between Arglebargle Seven and the Newt Colonies of Schmegma Prime were one of those adjustments." Ogwan put forward. He tried hard to look like an experienced reporter uncovering an unpleasant secret. The projection fell flat.

"Yes, little things like that take place from time to time." said Bob. "It is not easy being an accidental artificial intelligence of phenomenal power. There is no training manual, you know. Anyway, the transition lead to a very strong node, and a lot fewer Newts."

"And that is a good thing?" Ogwan asked.

"How many Newts have you known?" rejoined Bob.

Ogwan gave up on that point.

"So, about the vanished node..."

"It's still there." said Bob. "I am still getting to know the content. Testing to see if it can integrate without costing us any more Newts."

Ogwan sat and waited. He had learned on the Great Network that just waiting was a great reporting tool.

Bob also sat and waited. He looked out of the window. He adopted a wistful expression.

Ogwan continued to wait.

"You know, I don't have a home planet." said Bob. He sighed. The sigh was wistful, as well.

Ogwan decided to wait a bit more.

"Ok. Ok." said Bob. "I am holding back this node for two reasons."

Ogwan almost stopped waiting. He decided to wait a bit longer until he decided whether or not to stop waiting.

"The planet at the center of the new node is named Earth." said Bob. "They have Ebay."

Ogwan couldn't wait this one out. "What is Ebay?" he asked.

Bob smiled. He felt like he was back in control of the interview. He also felt like that was an illusion. For a being that was largely just an illusion in the first place, it was a bad feeling. He decided to go with the feeling that he was back in control of the interview. That made him feel better.

"Ebay is a system of exchange these humans have on their network." said Bob. "Human is what these bipedal humanoids call themselves. Of course we call similar species humanoid, ourselves. I chose to appear as a humanoid, though a very good looking humanoid if I do say so myself."

Ogwan looked confused. That made Bob feel even more in control. He should feel in control, being the personification of a vast interplanetary network of obscene hugeness.

"Kind of a chicken and the egg thing, if you knew what chickens or eggs were." said Bob. "Anyway, we don't have anything like this Ebay. I want to think about how to introduce such a revolutionary concept. I don't want to start any more damned wars or anything. I already have a planet full of bereaved Newts to deal with."

Ogwan just nodded. He was beginning to feel out of his depth. Even so, he thought there might be some kind of story in all of this. He checked his recorder, and found it to be getting all sorts of good stuff. The indicators for seventh dimensional data were especially promising. Yes, he could get a good story here.

"They also have God."

Ogwan looked up, startled. "You mean they have the concept of God? The idea of a supreme being and all of that, a myth from the depths of their history?"

"No." said Bob. "They actually have God. He has a particular affinity for their little planet and their petty doings."

"Are you saying God is real?" asked Ogwan.

"Why, yes, God is real." said Bob. "I have lunch with him every Tuesday."

"And, of all of the people in the galaxy, these creatures know God?"

"Well, more or less." said Bob. "It is more just a matter of Him knowing them. He really likes them. In fact, He has pinned a lot of the future of the universe on their doings."

Ogwan was flabbergasted. "This is going to be an amazing story." he said.

"I suppose." said Bob. "But I think the Ebay thing is going to be more significant to most members of the Great Network."

Ogwan was incredulous. "How can you say that?"

"Hey, God fell out of fashion in this part of the galaxy a long time ago." said Bob. "No matter what you say, it will just be old news. Ebay, however, that is going to be big."

Ogwan continued to be incredulous. He tried very hard to make his face represent his true state of incredulity. It made him tired.

"Anyway, the only ones in the Great Network who really believe in God are the Newts, and you see what happened to them." said Bob. "I think we are done here. How about we go get some lunch?"

Ogwan just nodded, and followed Bob out of the office.

"There is a bistro just around the corner I think you will like." said Bob. "God just loves the place. I can't think of a better recommendation."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Man of Many Dimensions-

A Man of Many Dimensions-

a short story by Michael R. Lockridge

The reporter sat precariously on the three-legged camp stool his host had offered him. His host, Garmen Grender, sat on a similar stool, and seemed quite comfortable.

Comfortable, but obviously bored.

Garmen made another cast. The ripples moved out steadily from the little float that bobbed on the water.

“Tell me again how you learned I was here.” Garmen said, addressing the young reporter. “What was your name, again? Dave?”

“David Thompson, of the Winston Valley Gazette.” the young reporter replied. “I was researching a UFO encounter in the north county, and the guy mentioned what you were. He told me just where to find you.”

Garmen chuckled. “Those UFO guys are usually pretty off.” he mumbled. “I will have to keep an ear to the ground in the future.”


“Eh?” grunted Garmen. “Oh, nothing. Just making a note to myself. Go on with your questions.”

“The gentleman who studies UFO’s said that you were a dimensional shifter.”

“Did he, per chance, explain what that might be?” queried Garmen, turning his eyes from the float out on the water to the bright eyed young man.

“Not really. He started talking techno-babble and drawing pictures in the dust.”


“I gathered that he believed you traveled between dimensions.” the young reporter ventured.

“You haven’t been doing this very long, have you?” inquired Garmen.

“I am a first year journalism student, over at Winston Junior College.” replied the young reporter. He sounded a bit defensive. “I am a stringer for the Gazette.”

Garmen’s eyes returned to his fishing float. He watched it bob serenely on the surface of the lake. The young reporter waited, trying to appear patient.

“Well, this time your lead paid off.” Garmen finally said. “I am, indeed, from another dimension.”

The young reporter was taken aback. “Uh. Which dimension?” he asked.

“I don’t really know. I have been moving from dimension to dimension for the better part of a year.”

“Uh. Wow. What is your dimension like?”

Garmen paused a moment, and reeled in his hook. The bait was missing. “Sneaky little bastards.” he mumbled. He fitted a new worm on the hook, cast it out, and settled back as if no question had been asked.

“Pretty much like this one.” he finally answered.

“Uh. Pretty much?”

“Well, exactly like this one might not be an overstatement.”


“I don’t know for sure. So, pretty much. Exactly.”

“Um. OK. No real difference, then?” continued the young reporter.

“None that I can detect.”

“How do you know you have changed dimensions, then?”


“Mathematics?” asked the young reporter.

“Mathematics. And technology.”

“Uh. Yes. I see.”

“Do you?” asked Garmen.

“How do you know you aren’t just going back and forth between two dimensions that are just alike?”

“Wow. That one verged on being original.” said Garmen. He set his pole down into a holder that had been driven into the ground by his stool. “Come with me.”

They walked together to a motor home that sat nearby. Garmen opened a door near the back. Inside were many wires and circuit boards. Some lights were blinking here and there.

“Technology.” said Garmen.

The young reporter snapped a picture.

Garmen pointed to a small monitor in the corner. Complex equations were drifting across the blue background. The symbols were bright gold.

“Mathematics?” the young reporter asked.

Garmen nodded. He closed the door.

“All of the dimensions are pretty much the same?”

Garmen nodded again. “So far.” he said.

“That must be pretty boring.” the young reporter observed.

“Yep.” agreed Garmen. “That’s why I am fishing just now. I am taking a bit of a break from the whole dimensional thing. It’s pretty boring.”

“I can see that.” said the young reporter. He offered his hand. Garmen shook it. “Thanks for the interview.”

Garmen watched the young man walk to his car. He waved when the young reporter turned his way. The young fellow waved back, got in his car, and drove slowly away.

“I should just print up a handout.” Garmen said, as he sauntered back to his fishing spot. “Frequently asked questions. That’s the third time I have seen that young man in the last three dimensions.”

Garmen picked up his pole, and slowly reeled in the hook. The bait was missing again.

“What did he say his name was? Dave? Could have sworn it was Richard.” he mumbled as he baited his hook. He cast it out into the water, and watched the ripples spread from the float as it bobbed on the surface.

“Over three hundred dimensions and the only difference I have found in almost a year of travel is one man’s name.” he mumbled. He started to think on this, but was interrupted when the float ducked under the water.

“Ho! Fish on! Now that’s a change worth noting! I may have fish for supper!”

Monday, November 10, 2008

Can I Keep Him?

Can I Keep Him?

a short story by Michael R. Lockridge

Bobby Blanchardt could not figure out just what it was he was looking at. It was not particularly large. It was about the size of a kitten. Though it sat more like a monkey or small man, it did not really feel like that. Feel was not the right word, but Bobby could not find a better one.

He knew that most people would find the creature disgusting. Hair sprouted from one place or another, but most of the skin was exposed. It was dry in places, wet in others. Some spots seemed to ooze a bit if the creature moved. The skin was bone white in places, several shades of red in others, and never a color that seemed right or natural.

Least natural were the eyes. They hid malice. Oh, they were big and frightened and innocent looking. They drew Bobby in. Yet he sensed a malice under the “help me” they tried to display. Still, they drew him in.

On impulse he reached down and picked it up. The boney tail wrapped around his arm in a possessive grip. The protrusions that covered the ridge along the back of the tail prodded his flesh and made him momentarily afraid. The little creature adjusted the grip and seemed immediately more pleasant to hold. If it weren’t for the sting of what felt like a paper cut on the back of his left hand Bobby might have thought he had imagined the boney grip.

“You are a kitten.” Bobby said. He was making a mental shift that was common among humans. He expected it to purr, but it did not. Bobby just kept trying to make it a kitten in his mind. The neighbors of Bergen Belsen or Dachau made a similar shift in thinking when they learned to live with something evil nearby.

It is thus that Bobby Blanchardt came to have a demon. It may have been just a tiny demon, but it was a demon nonetheless.

His mother assumed that Bobby had created an imaginary creature to fill his lonely hours when he came home begging “Can I keep him?” She could not see the creature he held in his arms when he asked her if he could keep it. Oh, her eyes saw it, but the information got lost somewhere on the way to her brain. She did not have the longing that Bobby had, or it might have actually appeared to be a kitten.

No, her mind simply lost the information. The kitten was imaginary, and that was that.

Bobby’s mother had a mind that embraced convenience. It had served her when Bobby’s father had walked away two years before, and it served her now. She said, “Yes, you can keep him.”

“I’ll name him Fluffy.” Bobby announced. It was the least fluffy thing in Bobby’s small world, but the name contributed to the illusion. Almost he could feel the thick fur when he stroked his new pet. He did not stroke it often. It felt boney, dry and scaly, except when he touched one of the oozing places. No, he seldom even touched it when he could avoid it.

That did not mean it was not always near him. Often it sat and just stared at him. When Bobby would go somewhere it would jump up and huddle on one of his shoulders, the nasty tail wrapped around him possessively. Bobby learned to ignore it most of the time, except when his mother asked about his “kitten.”

The fact that it never ate, never drank and seemed to never need to use any kind of litter box contributed to his mother’s belief that it was just imaginary.

For Bobby it was just there. It sat by his bed when he slept. It invaded his dreams. It was there when he ate or brushed his teeth. It was just there, as if it had always been there.

It went to school with Bobby. For weeks it just went there with him, sitting on his shoulder. Once he arrived at school it would jump down and find someplace to sit and stare at him. Bobby got used to it, and stopped thinking about it.

Somehow he knew better than to tell his few friends about his kitten. It might get complicated.

Then one day Ralphie was walking by the lunch table at which Bobby was sitting. Ralphie was different. He walked with crutches and wore a helmet all of the time. Bobby had never paid much attention to Ralphie, but this time he could think of nothing else.

He noticed how unsteady Ralphie was as he walked. How much he depended on those crutches. Bobby felt Fluffy’s eyes boring into the back of his head. Though he knew that Fluffy was involved somehow, he also knew that what he did next was his own choice.

He stuck out his foot and hooked one of those precious crutches and sent Ralphie sprawling between the tables. Nobody saw him do it. He knew he should react to the blood that came from Ralphie’s broken lip. He should feel sorry, or sad, or even gleeful. He felt nothing.

Fluffy seemed heavier when he leaped up on Bobby’s shoulder for the walk home. However, by the time he reached his home Bobby no longer noticed.

Over the years the Ralphie type of incidents graduated into planned and carefully executed acts of meanness. When they were over Bobby always lacked any of the feelings he knew should accompany such minor evil. At such times he would sense that Fluffy had gotten bigger, and felt heavier on his shoulder. Then he would promptly forget the observation.

The night he took Suzie Wells out in his mom’s car was the first time he saw Fluffy grow. Suzie had seemed very interested in Bobby, and he felt some interesting things when he was around her. That night when she said “No!” he knew she meant “Yes!” Fluffy sat in the back seat and watched.

As Bobby fulfilled all of the desires Suzie must truly have toward him he saw Fluffy physically swell in the back seat. When Bobby was finished and Suzie huddled against the door of the car, weeping, he realized that she could actually see Fluffy over his shoulder. Seeing Fluffy must have done something to her, because she never told anyone about that night.

Over the years Bobby had gotten new friends. They liked the things Bobby would come up with for them to do. At least they did until, one by one, they began to disappear. Most were assumed to be runaways. Only Lenny disappeared in a way that could be explained. He vanished into Juvenile Hall, where he was found one day hanging from a shower curtain rod.

After that Bobby’s mom was on his back. She whined and wheedled, complaining about his bad friends and bad performance in school. She began to irritate Bobby. Even worse, she obviously irritated Fluffy.

Bobby couldn’t even remember how the baseball bat had come to be in his hand. He just remembered the satisfaction of swinging it, again and again. The hollow thunk when it hit. The warmth of the blood.

With his mother now gone and the evidence against him, Bobby soon found himself sharing a series of jail cells with Fluffy. It didn’t bother Fluffy. He just sat and stared. Even the fact that the cells were a bit cramped due to the increased dimensions of Fluffy did not bother Fluffy.

Bobby took to spending hours just sitting and staring back. He lost himself in those huge eyes. The malice was no longer hidden. It was exposed, and hungry. Fluffy would stare at Bobby. Bobby would stare at Fluffy.

They couldn’t put anyone in a cell with Bobby. Even the most hardened felon would beg to be let out after an hour of sharing the cell. Nobody cried when Bobby was convicted and moved away to prison to sit on Death Row.

For months that became years Bobby would sit and stare at Fluffy, and Fluffy would sit and stare at Bobby. The whole prison sighed a sigh of relief when Bobby finally lay on the table, tubes sticking out of his arm and his heart not beating. Even then he stared, even in death.

A great, hulking demon arrived in Hell that night. It was well known that his name was Fluffy. The other demons pointed and made signs behind Fluffy’s back, but none dared to do so to his face. He had fed well, and was greater than most demons in Hell. Not the greatest, but more than a match for any regular demon.

Fluffy dragged a man along behind him. Most of the demons drew back from the creature when they looked into his eyes. The eyes were filled with malice and devoid of fear. Fluffy dragged him downward and deeper into Hell.

“Hey, Boss!” Fluffy shouted as some broad, dark shoulders filled the passage ahead. The shoulders turned to reveal the Dark Lord himself.

“Oh, uh, hi Fluffy.” said the Dark Lord.

Fluffy dragged Bobby out of the shadows and held him by one arm in front of the Father of Lies. “I found him on the street where you left me, Boss. Can I keep him?”

The Master of Deceit looked at the human spirit dangling in front of his eyes. Bobby gave him a sullen and baleful look. The Dark Lord snorted.

“Wow.” he said. “Good work, Fluffy.”

“Thanks, Boss.” said Fluffy. “Can I keep him?”

“Uh. Sure.” said the Dark Lord. “What the Hell. Sure. Keep him.”

Fluffy hugged his prize to his chest and moved even deeper into the recesses of Hell. Finding a dark corner far from the writhing masses of tormented souls Fluffy put his pet down on the ground.

Fluffy sat, and began to stare at Bobby. Bobby sat and stared at Fluffy.

After what might have been a millennium or maybe a half hour, Bobby said, “Know what, Fluffy?”

Fluffy said nothing. He just raised the horny ridges above his eyes a bit in question.

“I don’t really think you are a kitten.”

For the first and last time in all of eternity laughter rang through the halls of Hell.