The idea was born of my short attention span in 2012, during a trip to Norway. Tiny, postcard-sized stories written on the backs of the postcards that inspired them. Here they all are, newest to oldest:
Hiking in the Alps, I come across a fox, a pheasant, and a deer smoking from a glass pipe. Naturally, I joined them. The smoke was strong, and soon the clearing spun. I woke some time later with an itch in my wings, flapped them, and with horror realized they would no longer bear my weight. For I had clear memories of flight. And of digging deep into burrows my antlers would now prevent me from entering. And what would the owners of the hostel think of me? I wondered. It wouldn’t do to dwell on it. Fortunately, though my woodland companions were nowhere in sight, the pipe remained.
I’m writing in regards to our community’s alphorn blower: please send a new one. I’m aware this is the 7th such request we’ve made in two years, but it’s not our fault that two of the fellows you sent were drunks, another took a nasty tumble getting up to his station, one fell ill, one rushed off to care for an ailing relative, and the last simply abandoned his post. There is no truth to the rumor that we have a yeti problem around here. But send a replacement post-haste,
because only music can calm the
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.
My mild-mannered alter-ego was on vacation when a giant started attacking London. Stomping through the Thames, kicking bridges, climbing Big Ben like King Kong. Really boring stuff, honestly. Still, a job’s a job.
I couldn’t believe my luck, finding a whole row of phone booths in this age of mobile phones. But while I was changing into my superhero costume, the giant decided to play dominos, and I found myself in a tipped-over phone booth with the door stuck shut! No problem, right? I should be able to burst out of here easy using my super strength.
Well, it didn’t work, okay? Send help.
A not-so-super hero
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 she would find her own way home. I didn’t account for a 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
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
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.
You’ll be the most popular woman in Dublin, they said. Never really wanted that, but they also said my wee ones’d never want again. So I let them dress me in up in giant fluffy sleeves that are forever in the way yet fail to cover the twins? Really?
Statuification starts at the feet, so when the bloody sleeve falls down again my hands have already brassified. I can only glare, and of course then my face sticks like “Really?” And the worst part: while my own children and theirs knew who I was, these newer ones don’t—so their grubby fingers polish the very tits that fed their ancestors. Really?
With eternal irritation,
It’s so cliché to go out for groceries and…
So I’m walking to the store and I kick a Pepsi can, and it goes “Hey!” I pick it up and this genie puffs out and says “Thanks, bro. You get one wish.” One? Cheap-ass genie. But okay. So I wish for riches, jewels & stuff. The genie fucks off, and I trash the Pepsi can and go shopping. I pick up some cereal; it turns to jewels. Ice cream; jewels. Oh, shit, I think. I heard about this Midas shit before. I go back to the trash & look inside all the empties until people point and stare. No luck, except all the freaking trash turns to priceless bejeweled artifacts. So…
Hug your ma and stay human. I’ll miss you!
Easter started out pretty much as expected. Religion, brunch, an Easter egg hunt. I let Millie join the other kids and enjoyed an Irish coffee. But she returned crying that the eggs had run off. Run off? Had someone given her an Irish coffee? We went onto the field and where there had been colored eggs, now there were colored sheep. Pink ones, yellow ones, green and blue and orange spotted ones. One egg remained, and on closer inspection it clearly didn’t come from a chicken. It was huge, and getting bigger. Until—you guessed it!—it hatched into a fluffy sheep. Who knew?
I’ve returned home, to Narnia, to our little burrow, at your request. I hope you’re enjoying the rest of the vacation we saved and scrimped for all our lives. It does not bother me that you sent me home so early. After all, you did tell me to check one last time that I hadn’t left the gas on. “I’ll worry the whole trip,” you said, and I laughed at your silliness and hurried you into the cab to the airport.
What bothers me is that you were right to worry. Stay in Austria. Of our burrow, only ashes remain.
Your loving husband
Multi-headed dinosaurs, titanic snails, plodding yet hungry cave bears, and giant humanoids used to maraud into our village, stomping homes and eating whoever they came across. No one knew where they were coming from, until one day a group of us stumbled upon a rock face and saw the monsters in the rocks going about their slow lives. As we watched, a hungry head on a long neck emerged from the wall and swallowed up George in one crunchy bite.
Now we send animals out toward the rock face to graze. Some return, and some do not, but the attacks have stopped. It’s a good trade.
Visit soon! It’s safe now!
Peter always had a thing for Baby Jesuses, stealing them from nativity scenes. The one from Bethlehem would be ultimate souvenir, he said. I worried about him getting shot. Ha!
Despite the crowd of true believers, Peter grabbed Baby Jesus and started to pull him away. But the thing didn’t move. It stretched until there were two heads and two sets of prayerful hands and when the mitosis ended there were two Baby Jesuses. Peter tucked one under his shirt.
Outside, he tried to move his prize to his pack, but it had melted to his flesh, which now seemed made of plastic. He screamed as we pulled on Baby Jesus’s legs, but they just sucked into Peter as plastification spread. In the end, the rest of us stared in horror at the plastic Baby Jesus lying beatifically where Peter had stood.
Nothing lives in the Dead Sea, right? No fish, no plants, not even any microbes, or so they say. So when the … masses … started to rise, we were assured that it was only salt, that it had been there all along, formations growing just under the surface. But we could see them changing, shooting up faster than the water level was dropping It’s as safe as ever, they said. Just protect your eyes.
By the time the scientists arrived it was too late.
The rest of the tour group will not be coming home. But the good news is that we’ve discovered a new species.
When I was a kid caught a magic fish. It wasn’t very big; it could only grant small wishes. I wished to be friends with it, and after that I caught it again and again, wishing for things like sandwiches and good weather and luck as a fisherman. As the years passed, technology let us catch millions of tiny fish, but I stopped seeing the magic one. I did, however, once release a magic dolphin from our nets. In return I asked him about my fishy friend. The dolphin said, well… he’s in one of these tins.
Will we know him if we eat him? I’ll keep trying until I find out.
The fires burned for so long that we prayed for rain. Flooding drowned other countries and states, but here in the west we burned. So despite having lived through the most depressing winter of punishing gray, drizzling and pouring precipitation that stole all color from the world and sapped our will to live, we collectively turned our faces to the heavens to beg for its return.
Did the heavens smile on us? It’s hard to say. The rain is … different from before. At least it’s not gray.
We’ve seen the unimaginably bright flash of ignition, so I only have a few seconds to write you this pointless postcard, which will surely turn to dust even if the time machine’s flux field deflects the nuclear blast around us. So I’ll just say this: they found us. Even the past is not safe from the invaders, and running to it will only further disrupt history. Already I fear we’ve destroyed the Hanseatic League. Stay away from Mohenjo-daro!
Deer human frend:
I m riting from total normal vacayshun to say hello. I saw many sites. Did fun things. Ate gud fud.
Met total normal kat hoo challenge me to Fiddal contest. You no I m best at Fiddal, so wun easy and definat lee did not trade boddys with kat. Kant wate to play Fiddal for you wen I get home. Lerned a new song that will make you loos mind.
luv yor human frend
First we heard its ominous footfalls. Remember how Snowball used to STOMP her little kitten feet? That, times 1,000. We knew we were going to die, eaten by a cat the size of a schoolbus. Even if it was friendly, it would still probably kill us, just playing. The cat puffed up its haunches, opened its mouth, revealing sharp teeth… and said, “Pleased to meet you; have you got any food?”
We were shocked, but sis managed to produce our matpakkes, and thank god for the herring. The cat was so happy she floomped over purring, and even let us pet her enormous belly.
Always pack a lunch! good advice!
“Get a room” doesn’t begin to cover my roommates on this trip. They made out in churches, during hikes, on busses. They snuck behind statues and museum exhibits, and were constantly taking “bathroom breaks” together. And every night. I was only one bed over, but did that stop them?
We visited a temple that’s supposed to grant wishes. I didn’t believe it, and anyway what I said wasn’t exactly a wish. All I said (channeling your parenting!) was “If you keep doing that you’re going to get stuck that way.”
The doctors say there’s nothing they can do. Their mouths are stuck so they can’t eat (or even scream), but they do look happy, for now.
It started innocently: we took some LSD. Don’t pretend you never tried it; I’ve seen pics of you from the 70s. But maybe it was safer back then?
We had a great time! Everything turned surrealist, then impressionist. We finally understood the appeal of lava lamps and blacklight posters and “Revolution 9.”
When I woke and saw Ed he still looked all crazy. We thought we were still high, but the walls and the windows and the world outside were normal. It was only Ed—and my reflection—that remained psychedelic. You’ll see when we get home. Try not to have a flashback!
There is a lot of debate, these days, about access to Norway’s “geological formations,” as these modern folks see them. Hordes travel to them, and it’s becoming unsafe. People need rescue. It’s expensive. Some are never seen again.
No longer do we need to make up a song and dance to lure humans to the altars. We just call it a “tourist attraction.” With thousands visiting per year, some are bound to be virgins, pure of heart and body and soul.
The gods have never been better fed.
A humble servant
Dear Alma & Stacy:
The locals have myths about spirits that inhabit the swimmin’ holes here, with specific gifts you’re supposed to bring them. Jimmy sought a beautiful sprite who, according to legend, would “make the world seem infinite.”
The sprite didn’t look like we’d imagined, and it regarded Jimmy with disdain. Maybe the candy he brought was the wrong kind. “I’ll grant your wish,” the being said with utter scorn.
Jimmy started shrinking rapidly. His tiny head dipped below the water, and I tried to scoop him out before he drowned, but he shrunk so fast that soon I couldn’t see him. If he’s alive, I’m sure the world seems a lot bigger to him now.
Once upon a time you said you had ridden a reindeer, and oh, was your mother mad at you! “You’re lying,” she screamed! And you were, I bet.
She’s gone mad. “I’ll do it,” she said. “Just get me a reindeer.” She started to search for one. “Why not ride that pig instead?” I asked her. And on she climbed! “Take my picture,” she said. “Send it to my useless son.” And so I did.
And then the pig took off! And she held on somehow, even without antlers to grab.
And she is gone, Per. Come home and help me find her.
I appreciate what you’ve done. You used my own vanity against me: I did think I deserved to be the first human to step foot on this new planet. A giant leap for me and who cares about the steps of mankind.
So I got what I wanted. Thanks!
I thought you’d be right behind me. I didn’t hear the hatch slam shut—sound travels differently here. But I saw it. I saw your faces through the portholes. And I saw the ion blast of the engines tear red wounds across the sky as you left.
Good joke. Very funny.
Come back any time now.
They lay in wait for eons. Silent, eerie, beautiful. Science said they were just some ionized something or other, harmless. But ancient people knew better. They knew they weren’t always silent. The noise is unbearable & alien, & though I do not know the language, the malice behind it is clear.
Nordlys observers in the mountains were the first to go. When it touched them they just dissolved. We saw it on their webcams.
It’s getting lower. Soon it will meet the sea and there will be no escape. Already I dare not fly home. You were right. Should have gone on a tropical vacation!
I’m not sure when we are, because the gauge snapped off the time machine along with the reverse gear. Thankfully, we were in the past at the time. We’d wanted to see Jesus preach, but by the time we stopped it was all bird-headed men, and slaves were constructing the amphitheatre. Did you know the gods of ancient Egypt were real?
Real and really terrifying. We jammed the lever into fast-forward, heading home. When we stopped, the ancient city was a ruin. As it was in our time. But the parking lot was a ruin too. Our home was gone, and the college, and the only humans we saw were slaves again.
I think we overshot. Too bad about reverse gear, huh? Here’s hoping time is a circle!
There are trolls in the rocks, we were told. Take care not to anger them. But your husband scoffed when our guide said there was a spirit in the archway.
It was a beautiful day, but suddenly clouds blew in from nowhere. The sky darkened and the ocean roiled. The archway started to look like the maw of a beast, and the rocks above like squinty evil eyes. We all took a step back.
All but your husband.
I’ve never seen the ocean move the way it did. The tide rushed through the arch like it had been sucked. Your husband went through too, but we never did see him come out the other side. There was a small search effort, but once the locals learned he’d angered a troll the case was closed. You will never see him again.
I see you everywhere. With your orange feet, your black tail feathers, your tiny, tiny wings, and beak full of silvery fish.
No one told me you’d be so hard to catch! I asked Mario, in his woollen hat. He shook his head and pointed this way, and all the furry Pac-Men he was herding only baaed at me the way they do.
So I kept walking, and I came to this final level. I’ve tried, but the rules keep changing! Tetris now? It seems I must climb to reach you in your sea-side rookeries. But the blocks won’t stop moving!
What do you mean I need a phone to play this game? What game?
We aren’t sure where to send this, actually.
We thought it was just another volcanic eruption. A mound rose and cracked open with fire. Point after point of fire, a ridge of it.
But then it got strange—the whole ridge reared up, shook, pushed itself up on giant fiery limbs. The points of flame now stretched vertically, a titanic spine.
We feared the creature would ravage our cities, but it strode right over Reykjavik and into the sea. It sniffed the air with a crackling black maw, and headed southeast into the ocean, water boiling behind it.
So beware, cities of Europe. The creature hungers for more than we could provide.
Dear little brother,
Do you remember Bestefar? He loved us with all his icy heart, before he died.
It snowed last night and this morning I felt compelled to trudge through the knee-deep wonderland to visit him. The snow covered the tombstones, but I still knew where Bestefar’s was. I dug down. Instead of the familiar plaque my mittens brushed a pane of glass. A window.
And there he was, standing behind it. He slid it open, and the snow didn’t fall in, it fell down. The world was sideways, and I had to climb up to get through the opening.
We are waiting for you, and the next snowstorm.
End the embargo, they said. What could go wrong, they said.
There is a remarkable resourcefulness to a little island country that’s been starved for years, forced to make due. Cubans make MacGyver look like a useless dilettante. We let them have access to the internet and new cars. Seemed so simple.
Now the Cuban flag hangs in Washington, DC. Tomorrow we learn how to roll cigars.
Dear Ms. Goose,
The story you’ve been telling about us isn’t true. “House of straw?” How dumb do you think we are? We had three little houses. All made of brick and fully wolf-proof. The wolf loped off with his tail between his legs. We thought for many happy years that was the end of it.
But the wolf returned with a champion, a flying reptilian beast. “I’ll huff and I’ll puff,” the beast said. We didn’t believe her–her fiery breath took us by surprise. I barely got out in time. My brothers crisped like pan-fried bacon.
Moral? There isn’t one. Build your house of anything you like, it won’t save you from a dragon.
One Little Pig
I think there’s been a misunderstanding. I’m a big fan of your work. I mean, really. You’re like the king of the angels! I was coming over to tell you so, and you got all aggressive with me. The swords! The holy rage! But I think now I see the problem. See, all of us serpent types have kind of a bad reputation, but it’s really a broad overgeneralization. I’m just a fancy snake.
Please don’t slay me.
I need some advice. I have tried everything to catch this little pest, but boy is he fast—and lucky! He evades all my traps, no matter what I do. He’s led me from the desert all the way around the world. Seriously, there’s snow here!
Anyway, you seem like the same kind of lucky as this little bugger. So how can I catch him? Right now, I’m thinking that I can dislodge a boulder from some of these cliffs when he runs under. Seems like a pretty solid plan, right? Nothing could go wrong, right?
Wile E. Coyote
My time travel adventure is going very well. I’ve watched pyramids being built and Stonehenge assembled. Following the builders has been tricky—wouldn’t have managed it in the old DeLorean time machine, even with hover conversion, so thank you for souping this baby up.
The builders are about to move on from this site. I overheard one of them tell the locals they were heading to China to build some more of these churches, and maybe a big wall. At least I think that’s what they said. It was hard to hear over the whirring of their warp drive.
This is the last known photo of the skiers. They’d lived in Norway all their lives, but even they could see that the snow was deeper than usual, piled sky-high along the sides of the road, turning the road itself into a mere pathway in an ant farm.
Have you ever seen what happens when you shake an ant farm?
The avalanche that buried the road was ruled a natural occurrence. But no one has ever satisfactorily explained what happened to the skiers’ bodies. Or what made those large prints in the snow—bigger than a man, bigger than a bear!
I will always wonder what sort of creature is toying with us insects.
I guess the mission was a success. Save the arctic, right? Sea ice, polar bears, all that good stuff. The tech was experimental but it had worked in test applications from Coast Guard icebreakers. Icespreaders, they now were.
Maybe it was something to do with the wooden hull of this old relic that caused the reaction to go all Ice-9 on us.
Polar bears love it. We hear them stalking around on the frozen expanse. Good stuff.
I hope the Coast Guard icespreaders can still break when they need to. Otherwise it will be a long winter.
Dear Time Travel Tours,
I tried calling your toll-free number, but my cell phone just wouldn’t connect. I must have the wrong type of sim card. Anyway, I wanted to tell you that I am not a happy camper. Sure, Bergen’s Bryggen is impressive this way, bustling with traders instead of troll figurines and moose underwear. But the accommodations leave much to be desired, and the tourist activities are tedious and repetitive. Back breaking, one might even say.
I know it may take you centuries to get this postcard, but when you do, please send for me right away.
Ready to go home,
A dissatisfied customer
My family came over from Norway some 100 years ago. I don’t remember that. I live in the U.S., and the time before is only a story told so many times I now believe it.
So back I went to find my family. They weren’t what I expected. Norwegians on TV are always beautiful, sleek and smiling. These… weren’t. They laughed at me: “What has America done to you?” But what were they—or I—to do? Family is family. So we go over the hills to meet the rest. Or so they say. I can’t shake the feeling that something is amiss.
With mild trepidation,
Nils Anders Wik
Day 10 of my surf Norway trip, and we came upon a coastline with strange rock formations. Theorizing that they were caused by intense tides, we got ready to shred some surf. The water was calm, but we waited. We paddled out and enjoyed the area’s placid, bewitching beauty.
One wave swelled in the middle of the bay.
An odd wave, pushed from below. “Whale!” I shouted, for I’d seen that before. This I had not.
The creature was longer than a whale, sinuous like a snake. It tore through our group and right up onto the shore, slicing through rocks like a hot knife through “smør” (as the locals say). When it had eaten its fill of us it disappeared back into the glassy water, never to be seen again. Only I survived, and only by luck.
I will be returning home soon. The ocean no longer seems inviting.
You’ve seen my 3 brothers: they pose eternally, bewitched by the same sprite that cursed me. You see, one day they saw a bear chasing a monkey. My first brother gawked, enjoying the spectacle. The second couldn’t stop blabbering long enough to hear the monkey’s screams, while the third egged the bear on (the monkey owed him money). The bear ate the monkey, and the sprite wept (they’d had a thing). She blamed my brothers. All of us, really. See, I would’ve been there, and I would’ve helped, but … something distracted me. So now they don’t see, don’t speak, don’t hear. And I? Well, I got the best of the bewitching.
A monkey whose relationship to evil shall remain undefined
Has it happened where you are? I woke up the other day in black and white. Everything was in black and white, I thought: my house, my clothes, my bicycle. Out on the street it was the same. The old cars and the once-bright buildings were stark as an old photograph. The only thing still in color was the flag–everywhere a flag hangs, the red white and blue remain vibrant. Is it the same in America? Are you left with only the primary colors of patriotism?
If not, this month instead of money, please send some colors home.
Your loving father
Dear Señora Nunez,
You said I was crazy! But I always maintained that the minute you stop having canons ready, that’s when the hordes will invade. Just look what happened when the earthquake knocked down a section of the Great Wall of China: Mongols everywhere. So what if it’s been 200 years since we last saw the invaders? So what if most of the townspeople have moved away and there’s little left to defend?
Recently I announced that I was decommissioning the canons, and within a week the place was swarming with attackers. Good thing I’d lied.
Please come home. It’s safe now that our enemies have been defeated.
I love you. This time apart has proven to me the lengths to which I’m willing to go to keep you in my life. It’s true that I came here on a dalliance. Nevermind what I told you about traveling for work; I had a lover. We spent a few days kissing and rolling on the white Caribbean sand. But I soon grew tired of her. When she “suggested” that we do away with you, it pulled at my heart strings. I told her that of course we would, and I embraced her as tightly as I ever had. And then I dashed her head against a low stone wall and pitched her into the waves.
Now nothing will keep me away from you.
Your Devoted Husband
Today they took us on a “tour” of a cigar factory. They promised it would be fun, and educational, and we’d leave with a free, freshly-rolled cigar. But then we heard squealing tires as the bus pulled away, and a heavy slam as the door was bolted shut. We were told that we live here now. Fortunately I had bought this postcard in the giftshop on the way in. I’ve rolled it into the leaves, and I can only hope that whoever buys this cigar will notice the flawed texture before lighting it on fire, and furthermore that that kind soul bothers to pay for postage.
If you’re reading this, please send help.
Dear Mr. Powers,
We’ve had high seas this week, obscuring the line between land and water along the Maricon to the point that, if not for the lamp posts I might have driven right into the ocean. The lamp posts, and the fearsome waves. And . . . something else. At first I wasn’t sure what I was seeing; the spray seemed to detach, as though animated. I came to believe they were ghosts. One of the spray-ghosts drifted to the roadway and enveloped a car, which then veered right off the road into the surf. The ghosts had gotten a taste for blood.
If this keeps up, the waterfront will become a ghost town–literally. I’ve read your books, and I feel you may know how to face this menace.
a fan in need
My Dear Love,
Writing this is pointless, as you will never read it. If you had lived long enough to receive it, I’m sure I would have seen you already. The car stalled. I am marooned in what must be a dystopic future. This apparently once-great city is crumbling, as though this were not the future. The locals are familiar with automobiles of the sort the time machine is built into, but they cannot help me repair it. I will keep trying, but time being what it is I know that I have already failed. If I had not, surely my breakthrough—time travel works!—would have changed the world for the better. Surely, it could not have produced this world.
Yours in time,
This postcard is the only proof I have.
I was there on December 21st 2012, and as the Baktun ended, the sky started to tear apart. Stone figures moved ominously. And my friends and I understood that the world was really going to end this time, unless those crazy old gods got what they wanted. And we’d read enough plaques at ancient sites to guess that what they wanted was blood. So we grabbed some stray dogs and ran to the top, and threw them off into the widening rift.
I swear the sky belched, and then things shuddered, and we found ourselves back on the ground. Apocalypse averted.
And you said I’d never accomplish anything.
Dear Mrs B.
Today we swam in a cenote, a type of sinkhole related to the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, found only in the Yucatan. Amy didn’t want to go, afraid of the monsters that might lurk in those inky depths, but we convinced her.
I’m so sorry.
An enormous tentacle reached up and grabbed her before we knew what was happening, then disappeared with a splash and wave that nearly dashed us against the side. We tried to save her, but as deep as we dove, we saw no trace. Divers went in, but found no sign of Amy, the monster, or, weirdly, the bottom of the cenote. It’s a huge discovery for science, or so we say to console ourselves.
I am watching you. I’ve looked over this vista for centuries, and you may think me immovable, inert. Today my children hawk wares under plastic tarps; masks and blankets and noise-makers mimicking primal screams. Hear the calls of the jaguar issuing from the jungle? You jump at first, then become inured.
The sun sets behind my pyramid, and when it does my children change. I watch you dawdle, imagining a young man’s heart pulled beating from his chest, blood wearing grooves down the many stairs. You think modern life dull in comparison. You thought the jaguar’s screams were false. But you were wrong.
When the sun sets, you will see.
I shouldn’t be writing this. We’ve all been sworn to secrecy about the zeppelin assault; Hitler has ears everywhere. In this frozen wasteland, it’s easy to believe. You can hear a rock falling miles away. Or a gunshot. Our squad is down to a handful, barely enough to crew this beast. Worse, most of our munitions are “missing.” But I am determined to carry this bag of hydrogen onward to victory. The Nazis may delight in their unsinkable helium Hindenburg, but we’ll give them something spectacular. Even if it kills us.
1st Zeppelin Div.
I’m worried about Dorothy. Ever since we got free of the Nome King she’s gone a little crazy. She keeps talking about these red shoes she used to have, & yelling for someone called Auntie Em. She thinks she’s from another world, and that in that world someone was trying to zap memories out of her with electricity, which I guess is some kind of magic. So lately I’ve been trying to keep an eye on her. Today I was looking after her as she bathed in a lake. When she saw me she screamed and tried to run and slipped under the water. She hasn’t come up yet.
So anyway, I’m worried.
p.s. Why do women run from me? I’m a nice guy!
I was about to break up with Dumbass. Yay, right? We walked near the cliffs, & I said, “We need to talk,” & like a DUMB ASS he shouted, “NO!” I heard a rumble, & I was sure he’d started an avalanche, but instead of rocks coming down, a strange silvery ship hove into view. With an unearthly light, these beams shot down all around us. They looked like shiny icicles, but they soon turned as solid as steel. It looked a bit like a dance club. We were left alone for hours in a cage made of the things. And we didn’t end up talking, much.
Anyway, your nephew will be born in six months. Here’s hoping he’s not a little Dumbass.
The Iceland trip was going great. We went on nature walks, sat in blue hotsprings, ate exotic food (like puffin!). One night, it was barely dark enough to be called night, but we saw a bright shooting star. Jeremy said, “I wish we could stay here forever.” The next sensation was weird, like being squished & exploding, & I thought I was passing out or dying. But then it stopped & I looked at Jeremy, & his big nose was even bigger, & bright reddish-orange. It was a beak! We were puffins. So I guess we will be staying in Iceland forever. I just wish I hadn’t eaten that puffin meat. I know how tasty I am, & I don’t expect to survive for long.
I stand here apprehensive, looking up at the alien structure towering over this snowy land. Logic tells me to trust them. They’ve come all this way, after all, so their launcher must work. The human scientists assure me it will work. The math is like none they’ve seen before, but it’s solid. And of course my sense of wonder urges me onward. To go where no human has ventured before. But perhaps not boldly. Among other things—a whole planet full of things!—I’ll miss you. Thank you for all your support. I fear I won’t be back.
Ambassador to the galaxy
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
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.
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,
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.
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.
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,
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
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.
At first we thought it was just a rock. It glowed a little, but in the midnight sun no one noticed. The rock was odd, pointy & rough. So we studied it, & that’s when the suicides began. First Jones, who dug the thing out of the ice. He sliced his own throat. Then the doctor ODed. Then Caldwell. You don’t want to know. I know they’ll send you to investigate when we’re all gone, but don’t come! I have the thing now & I am finding my pistol hard to resist. I want to get rid of the rock, bu– All is well. This is funny joke, HA HA.
From your friend
I told you sending Sammy on vacation with us was a bad idea. He basically wouldn’t stop screaming & throwing temper tantrums unless he was eating candy. So despite misgivings about feeding your son an all-sugar diet, we sent a steady stream of chocolate & lollypops his way. In a strange little shop we bought lollipops that sparkled. Actually, they were almost luminescent. Sammy sucked on one for a while, then threw it down & launched into another fit. Exasperated, I said, “If you don’t stop that, you’ll freeze that way.”
And damned if he didn’t.
We think Sammy looks good this way, & he’s certainly a lot quieter. We’re getting quotes today on shipping him home.
I’ve been meaning to write for eternity. I’m well established now in my new home. Things get more interesting with each trainload of new residents. I confess I’m surprised by the variety of souls who end up here—musicians, dancers, & writers keep the place lively (why don’t you want them?). People seem basically good. Mostly they’re sorry for their mistakes.
How are things with you? Forgive me for saying it sounds awfully dull there, with only bible-thumpers around. If you get bored you can come visit me. I can barely remember what we used to fight about. Surely it no longer matters.
Say “hi” to the other angels for me,
I’ll be home a bit later than planned. Another two months, maybe, with good behavior. Prison is pretty nice here, though.
I can sum up Oslo in a few words:
See you (relatively) soon,
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.
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
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.
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)
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!
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.
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
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.
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
I’m an Icelandic horse. Or “horsey,” if you prefer. They call me Dreamer because I have a dream. They call me lots of things, actually, & some of them are not very nice. But that’s another story. You see, I need your help to fulfill my dream. Oh, but I haven’t told you what it is yet. Promise you won’t laugh?
I want to be a unicorn.
As you know, all horsies can turn into unicorns if only girls love them enough. But you have to really, really love me. I promise if I turn into a unicorn I’ll fly to California & you can ride me &—
WHAT!? Unicorns can’t fly?
p.s. don’t I look cuddly? love me!
My name is Clyde, & I’m an arctic fox. I came from a faraway land, but one day a foxy lady fox swished her tail & I chased it across the frozen sea. Thick snow came & I soon lost her. Sometimes I wonder if she ever was real.
The ice made my paws cold, so when I saw some land I stepped off onto it. And then—wouldn’t you know—the ice retreated, & I was stuck here. I am the only mammal on this entire island.
I am lonely.
Will you be my friend?
I’ll share some of this tasty puffin with you.
Clyde the Arctic Fox