Postcard: New job is a blast!

Retro-style travel postcard of a spitting volcano with rangers in the foreground.

Dear Nikki,
I really like my new job at the volcano. My coworkers seemed cold at first, but they warmed up after that busload of kids went into the cauldron. It was like something from a cartoon: a sign pointed straight off the rim instead of to the parking lot. Every year, it seems, there’s a bonkers accident and people fall in. Awful, right? Still, I can’t shake the feeling that locals are relieved it happened. Like they were edgy before and now they’re more relaxed. Anyway, hope you can visit next year. Bring the kids! We’re planning an amazing, up-close tour.

Postcards: three complaints & a love letter

image of a leprechaun crossing sign
Dear Council,
I’m writing about the recently installed Leprechaun Crossing. Yes, it has reduced the number of wee corpses local residents have to scrape off the tarmac, but it comes at a cost. The water’s gone green in the houses within 500 meters of the crossing. Food goes moldy in the refrigerators. Garden gnomes are found in compromising positions. And there’s been a sharp uptick in green turds. From time to time a golden coin is found, perhaps left in recompense for this mischief. But when we take those coins to the pub they turn to dust.
Please consider moving the Leprechaun Crossing to a less populated area.
Mrs. Murphy
image of a very not-amused-looking owl
Dear Bernadette,
This has gone too far. I humored you saying you were a wizard and your school letter was coming. I took you to the theme park and paid for a plastic wand you pretended was made of unicorn hair and gnome toenails (or whatever), but I thought you understood you weren’t taking any magic train to school—just the same orange bus. You waved your plastic wand at me and said some fake-Latin gibberish, and I was rolling my eyes when my whole head rolled backward and I saw my own feathery(!) butt.
You turned me into an owl? Not cool. Put me back.
p.s. You are SO not going to magic school.
image of several people in front of a sign reading "lost persons area"
To Whom It May Concern:
I wonder if you’ve found a person I lost. It’s been a while. A few decades, perhaps. In my defense, I thought the person would find her own way home. I didn’t account for the short in the compass in her left breast. How could I have predicted she’d attempt to feed a lost baby person? That wasn’t in her programming.
Please respond quickly, and I don’t want to hear you only keep found persons for 90 days or somesuch, nor do I care to quibble about the personhood of robots. I do not expect to be judged about the length of time elapsed. Not all experiments succeed and let’s just say that time travel devices short out easier than boob compasses.
Mr. William Meier
Image of weird bumps on a seashore
Dear Eldritch Horror of the Deep,
They used to say the earth had seven seas, all of them our domain. But they are all connected so why haven’t I found you in my millennium of searching? Alas, I must resort to the old way, using part of my precious one day on land to dry my hands, write these words to you, and stuff them into a bottle to toss into the waves. When waves return. It is peaceful now, the sky awash in blood. What a day! I only wish they were yours, these thousand pulsating eggs I’ve lain upon this unsuspecting shore.
With ineffable madness,
Your Eternal Monster Queen

Things that will eat us

1) Travel. Why is it taking me so long to get back into my regularly scheduled life? I don’t know. I guess I can’t complain about that.

2) Aliens?

Postcard of a volcanic plume erupting out of the ocean
Dear Mr. President,
I work on a derrick far offshore, & I seen something you should know about. We’re not alone. Humans, I mean. At first we thought the things were dolphins, but their faces weren’t right. Bobby tried to make contact. I didn’t hear what he said, but I think he offended them. Their heads went underwater. Then it was quiet. Then in a huge puff of steam and whatnot, the aliens zoomed right into space. I tell you, it was impressive. I thought we were about to explode or sink or both. so, I don’t know if they’ll be back, but maybe you should prepare, just in case?
p.s. I didn’t vote for you, but if you protect us from the aliens I will this time!
p.p.s. Bobby says he’s sorry, whatever he said.
p.p.p.s. I’m not crazy.

3) Injuries. This week has taught me that I am not cut out to be a caretaker. Get well soon, mom. For lots of reason, including that I miss my life. To the extent that I have a life right now it isn’t my own: I’m living at her house and driving her car. I miss my cat and my husband and my bed. I’ve slept in it shockingly little this summer.

4) Bears. No kidding; they will eat you.

Postcard of a polar bear on its hind legs

Dear human friends,
You didn’t have to run away. I won’t eat you; I only eat seals & fish. I only wanted to hug your friend. Bear hugs are awesome; everyone says so. It’s not my fault he struggled.
Please come back.
I saved your friend’s wallet & camera for you. There are some really good shots in there.
Clyde the polar bear

Family, and a poisonous corpse

It seems troubled family is on my mind.

Postcard of woman in red dress near a waterfall
Dear Tyler,
We’d hiked all day to get to the waterfall, like the guidebook said. It was supposed to be awesome. But we got there & there was no water. None. Like, the rocks were dry & there were dried-up fish bones in the riverbed. Then this lady in a bright red dress totally appeared out of nowhere. She looked creepy, man, right away. But Sam whistles at her. Her creepy eyes flash red & she spins around pointing at him & says, “Blood for water!” Then the waterfall starts back on like she opened a faucet. We all scrambled out of its path, but I don’t know what happened to Sam. We never found him. I think the witch got your brother.
Sorry, dude.
Postcard of tiny plane and huge volcanic ash cloud
Dear Dad,
You’ll be happy to know that Susie is still a virgin—or at least she had this tribe fooled. After your last letter I tracked her halfway around the world, to a beautiful little island. She thought she had it made, because the natives were treating her like a princess (like you). She told me to get lost. But I stuck around long enough to decipher some stone carvings: virgin, volcano, sacrifice. Standard stuff really. I got to her just in time, swooping into the caldera in my little plane to pluck her from mid-air (who’s your favorite child now?). We’re on our way home now.
To recap: The good news: Susie is a virgin.
The bad news: there’s one less island in the ocean.
Postcard of Edvard Munch's "At the death bed"
Dear Gramma,
I’m sorry you’re dead and won’t receive this card. But I want to thank you for a couple of things. 1) Your snickerdoodle recipe. Because of it I was in the kitchen pulling cookies out of the oven at your wake when uncle Dwight decided to open your casket. Moron. Which brings me to 2) whatever chemical or bacteria or voodoo curse you had yourself buried with. It actually melted them, the whole aggravating lot of them. I had just time to watch as they dissolved into ghostly wraiths before I ran for it. And now I am free.
I love you, gramma. Rest in peace,

What postcards have taught me (so far)

1) I can write really small when I need to.

2) A picture really is worth 1,000 words. Most of my mini-stories are meaningless without the postcard image that inspired them. This is fun, leaning on those images and letting them fill in the gaps between the lines.

3) Sometimes fewer words are better. At first I tried to cram a whole story into these little spaces (hence the tiny writing), but as I go on I see that sometimes the suggestion of a story is far more interesting. One of my favorites is only 43 words. Again, I’m not sure this works without the images to do the heavy lifting. Maybe in some cases?

4) I’m not really sure at what point something becomes a story. Am I deluding myself that these qualify? Probably.

Anyway, more to come. I am home now and recovering from a month of travel. Next on the priority list is revising the novel. But I promise to keep postcarding, too. This silly idea, born of the Clarion West Write-a-thon and sleep deprivation, has the feel of a lasting obsession.

Postcard of a seal's face
Dear humans,
You think I’m pretty cute, huh? You think my fur is soft? Yeah, I’ve got cousins in the zoo, & they tell me about your squeals. But guess what? I lost a brother the other day to one of you squealing bipeds. Dude took a club & just beat him like Rodney King. We don’t have video cameras up here, but don’t think you’re getting off without a riot.
We may look cuddly, but it’s only skin deep, & we won’t be your shoes anymore.
I am a baby seal. And I will f*ck you up.
You’ve been warned,

Want your very own postcard story? You can buy one here.

Postcards: two fishy love stories

Because most of the postcards at the Munch Museum were prohibitively expensive:

Postcard of Edvard Munch's Salome

Dear Sis,
I should have known better, but he seemed so nice & charming when I met him at the bar. He drank aquavit, which is disgusting, but he was paying so I had a few. I really am a mess! Now my passport & money are gone, & all I have left is this sketch he made of us. And I’ll have to give that to the police. Oh, I should have known better; his pickup line was, “Anxiety devours the soul.” I just thought he was artistic!
Please send money (& better taste in men!) And don’t tell mom and dad.

And, in case you ever wondered what happened after The Magic Fish ended:

Dear wife,
Or ex-wife, I suppose. They say there are many fish in the sea. And there are, but the only woman I want to reel in is you. You were greedy, yes, but it was only the lure of fishy magic that left you restless. I am sorry that I could not provide what you wanted. Please return to me. Our shack feels like a castle when you’re in it with me.
What are the odds of there being two magic fish in the sea? I don’t know. But for you, my love, I’ll fish until I find out.
Your humble fisherman

Postcard of a fisherman's boat full of fish

Want your very own postcard story? You can buy one here.

Postcards! Again!

I really am having a jolly time writing postcards to and from a variety of things.

Postcard of chapel at Nordkapp

Dear anyone:
I don’t know why I’m writing this. There’s no postman here to carry this card, & he’s not coming. We can’t even get to the nearest “town”—if anyone’s alive there. The virus hit Nordkapp hard, & the world (if it’s out there? Are you?) has forgotten us. But let’s not dwell on that. We’re safe for now, hunkered in this odd chapel under the rock at the end of the world. We have plenty of candles, & enough food for a few hungry weeks, courtesy of the cafeteria & gift shop (& other sources, but let’s really not dwell on that). We also have plenty of souvenirs. Would you like a stuffed baby seal? A magnet? A keychain? Will these sweaters & animal skins keep us safe and warm? We miss you, other humans
The Survivors (for now)

Postcard of creepy moon at Nidaros
Dear Mother,
It was a dark & spooky night, a full moon hanging above the Nidaros churchyard. Being a man of science, I knew the chill in the air had more to do with the northern latitude than with spirits walking the earth. But what of the other creatures? It was then I saw it: too large for a dog, too upright, too knowing in its malicious glare. Could it be, finally, a werewolf? The thing lunged at me, I drew my pistol, & after that I do not know what transpired. I woke in the morning, oddly full, but otherwise unharmed & totally myself. I’ve concluded that my sighting last night was a hallucination.
I’ll be home in a mere four weeks.
Your son,
Image of two polar bears
Dearest Mama Bear,
By the time you receive this note I’ll be gone. I know we always seemed like a perfect storybook family, but ever since that little blonde girl broke into our house, I’ve been thinking about things. Like, why do we live in a house? We’re bears! But you know I never wanted to be anyone’s Papa Bear. I’m not cut out for it. I’m still young, & there aren’t so very many of us polar bears left, & I’ve got wild oats to sow. Please tell Baby Bear that Papa loves him. And that I’m sorry we never gave him a real name.
Yours with love,
Clyde “Papa” Bear

Want your very own postcard story? You can buy one here.

Dear Postcards . . .

I haven’t always loved postcards. In fact I’ve downright hated them, for reasons that I now see are unfair. So, I’ve written a conciliatory postcard . . . to Postcards.

Postcard of an old building in Bergen
Dear Postcards,
This bad blood between us has gone on for too long. It’s not your fault that you rarely say anything meaningful; it’s just the nature of the form. You can’t help it if you arrive three weeks late, usually after the sender has returned home, & that your trivial information is thus always woefully out of date. You’re a faded image, a piece of the past.
Furthermore, it’s not your fault that—once upon a time—I received banal cards crammed with tiny, insignificant writing. Nor are you to blame for my pathetic analysis of those cards; the sender did not love me as I wished, & that is that.
It’s in the past now. Let’s forget it & move forward. Together, we can be interesting.

And now I’ve got the Beatles’ song, “Dear Prudence,” in my head. And the Internet here is so slow that I fear uploading any more photos will take approximately the time it took some glacier to form this fjord we’re in. So look for more postcards soon!

Want your very own postcard story? You can buy one here.

More Postcards!

Postcard of Håkon's Hall in Bergen

Dear mom & dad,
I found the church where you were married. Just like in the old photograph, the roof like a staircase leading up to God. The happy couple radiant in black & white. Flowers, & the imagined sound of church bells.
When I was young you told me, “Leave the past be.” But I’m only human. When the machine fired up, how could I resist? A simple trip, a chance to stop a war, to save lives. It worked.
So here is the church from the old photograph. I do not know what became of the happy couple, the flowers. The church bells are not ringing. I really hope you receive this postcard.
Your son, the time traveler

Dear mom,
Jeremy isn’t coming home.
First, dad dared him to wear a sparkly pink hat we saw. He said he’d pay 1000 NOK if he wore it for an hour (about $167 USD). So of course he put the hat on. But then people started shouting & running. There was a monster in Trondheim! I never saw the monster, but I heard something about snakes. We ran & hid in an alcove off the ground. I closed my eyes. When I opened them, Jeremy had turned to stone.
The doctors say there’s nothing we can do. And dad refuses to pay, saying that the hat is no longer pink or sparkly.
Anyway, I’ll be home soon. Love to the cat!

Postcard of stone dude at Nidaros

Want your very own postcard story? You can buy one here.

Postcard Madness, part II

As part of the beautiful blending of travel and Clarion West Write-a-thon, my 100-word postcard story project continues. I must be quick, as internet access is fleeting here in the scary world of my imagination. 

Postcard of illustrated giant trolls in a fjord with a cruise ship
Dear BJ & Zedd,
Our trip’s been interesting. The ship is nice, or at least it was when we boarded. The scenery is gorgeous, & the weather perfect. In hindsight, though, a cruise deep into a narrow fjord seems ill-advised.
First came a mighty wave that rocked the ship. Then another. Like the trembling puddle in Jurassic Park, only we’re in the puddle, on a boat that suddenly seems tiny. They towered over us, yelling in a lilting language. They roared. They stomped their feet and nearly toppled us. More came down from the hills throwing stones the size of busses. Between them they have our exit good & blocked, though it seems their quarrel is not with us.
It’s been days now, & we’re low on supplies—especially wine! We huddle belowdecks away from the splashing & bellowing, plotting our escape from here & hoping, desperately hoping, not to feed the trolls.
How are things with you?
Emily & Jeremy
Postcard of satellite image of Iceland, covered in ice
//begin transmission//
Reached the new planet. Reached it faster than anticipated. Attached find the last image we captured on the way down. Gravity is strong here.
Planet is covered in frozen H2O. Highest lifeform encountered is a mech with four bumpy wheels & 1-3 pairs of bright eyes. They emit a constant growl & occasionally disgorge a clutch of small bipeds from an orifice on their flank. Neither they nor the bipeds have detected us, flattened into warm crevices in the rocky hills. Sensors report pressure building, molten rock rising into the vents we hide in. Soon planet will explode.
We cannot move. Thrusters smashed in landing, & not powerful enough to lift us anyway.
Send help. Planet not fit for habitation.
//end transmission//

Want your very own postcard story? You can buy one here.