Ahead on Differential


(These are <500-character micro-stories that I wrote a while back for funsies. -DG)


“It's not technically tomorrow unless we go to bed.”

You squeeze my hand as you say that. I feel like we're in suspended animation. The city air is nippy. Moonlight is barely eking through an oil-slick sky. Hucksters on the hotel TV are hawking jasper jewellery that “filters your blood.”

In this moment we are gods. Our domain is the liminal space between today and tomorrow, and it is infinite as long as our eyes stay open. And so I squeeze back.


“Any last words?”

“A few, you rat bastard. I know a hypocrite when I see one, and you chip-chewing charlatans are a prime specimen. Are we not equals under God? Do we not prefer our starches crispy? You know not our joy because you know not the communion of the breakfast table!

And know this! Though you may subject us to the vilest tortures in the King's arsenal until we cease to be, we are mere mortals. Hashbrowns are eternal!”

“Take him away.”


Paul looked unkempt and unassuming, like an Old Navy ad on a bad day. The line to get in was empty save for the menhir of a doorman. Paul stood in front of him got out his phone. He checked his fly and queued up a song. He began to shimmy. He worked his way from a pedestrian shuffle into a vigorous full-body krump over the course of all 3:24 of “Super Freak.” The doorman then looked him over and extended his hand.

“Welcome to the Outsider.”


No one remembered all the rules. Sure, they remembered the broad strokes: swing at the ball, get it in the hole. But the finer points of it were lost to time. So eventually were the justifications for game's grip on the real estate. And so it went. Where once were little tire treads and manicured swaths of grass now stood a sea of sunflowers and asters. Kids were playing by the pond until sundown, trading theories as to what all those weird eggs were.


He cracked his knuckles and pointed down the barrel of the camera.

“So lemme tell you one last thing, brother. It's not a matter of if I toss you from the top of the cage onto the debris-strewn canvas at Weaponmania XIII, it's a matter of when. And when you land, and every shard and splinter on the mat gives you a lil' backyard phlebotomy, I will cover you, the ref will tap 1-2-3, and then I'll smack your ugly goddamn mug for good measure.”


The professor scanned the full, quiet room and scratched their horn with the claw of their index.

“I know some of you are intimidated. Or afraid. Or ill at ease. Whatever you want to call it. And if you think I can't tell, well, I can 100% tell. I've been doing this a long time. I've seen thousands of beings walk the halls of Ghoul School. And the best piece of advice I can give you about fear is…”

Their horns began to glow.

”...use it.”


“So here we have Justice reversed. So…”

“So what does that mean? Actually don't answer that. Please first answer why Justice is a ref in your deck.

“Seemed like an easy call. Enforcing the rules, force of order, objectivity, so on and so forth.”

“But aren't the rules written by a hired committee? Don't refs make bad calls and fuck up and what not? What I'm saying is that refs are the cops of sports.”

“You just answered your own questions.”


“This should do it.”

She had spent years acquiring every piece of gear she thought would repeat the results. What was in the room when it happened? Oscillators, gyroscopes, magnets, other stuff she had since forgotten, because even a photographic memory fades. While she stared at the wall of knobs, a tiny, iridescent tear in the fabric of the Universe appeared. It hummed. She started to well up.

“Hey there. It's been a while.”


Many express joy at the exploits of Fancy Hal Dancy, and because of this I weep. For he is a scalawag, a scoundrel! Bereft of honour! Bereft of decency! And as sure as the Sun will rise tomorrow, he will be bereft of this belt! The day he will be fit to hoist gold in victory will be a day of reckoning, because no just God would allow such a creature to be an exemplar of any sort! And if you disagree, well, I'll see you in the ring at Pugnamania!


“You misplayed your last turn.”


“You misplayed. Here.”

“Who the fuck are you?”

“Just saying.”

“Just saying, huh? Well I'm just saying you should use that very smart big boy brain of yours to reconsider needling strangers, how about that?”


“I don't know you, and I certainly don't want to know you now, you ultracrepidarian fuck! Now leave me be.”

She set her tiles out on the board.

“JETtISON. That's 194 points.”


The Hall of Famer faced his onlookers.

“Well, it kind of started like all these things do, with play. My brother and I … let's just say we weren't a family of means, so we had to make our own fun. We lived by a scrap yard and we just sort of took to huckin' hubcaps at the old fence post in the back there, and we just … never stopped, really. We both went off to school, joined the Ultimate club and, as they say, the rest his history. Now we're here.”


All my life, I was told the fear cellar goblins, that if I ever poked around down there, that they'd leap out of the shadows and yank all the hair from my body to make decorative blankets. But as I got older and as my mind sharpened, the muffled din I heard from the cellar revealed itself for what it was: a plea for help, a call to action, the rumbling cant of those driven underground.

They are not monsters, but allies. And now, we fight.