That sounds like a darn good reason to have another contest this weekend.
Write a story using 100 words or fewer.
The story should contain these words:
The whole word must appear le in the story. It can be part of a larger word but not divided: monopoly but not Mon Oncle Henri'. Proper names are fine, but you should be aware that using the prompts as proper names is viewed as slacking off by the beady-eyed malcontent who judges these little bouts of blood sport.
Post the story in the comments section of THIS blog post.
If you need a mulligan, a do-over, delete the comment and repost.
Don't post anything but entries: no comments, no kudos, no questions, no opinions. Those
ONE entry per reader.
International entries are allowed but the prize might change if we have to order from Book Depot.
Contest will open today June 27 at 9pm (Eastern Shark time)
and run for 24 hours.
Contest closes Saturday June 28 at 9pm.
Don't wait till the last minute in case you have problems posting!
If you have questions, tweet to me @Janet_Reid
ohhh...too late! Contest closed at 9pm Saturday 6/28.
A flash fiction contest by the QOTKU is it own particular brand of evil. You open your browser to find a pearl of wisdom about swimming in writing’s shark infested waters and there it is, glaring.
Drool slips from your mouth as a piper’s tune, or perchance a virus, slides past your eyes and into your brain. As joyfully as the first blush of mono it scrambles your outline of chapter 27 and sticks five unrelated words in its place. They refuse to be ignored until you find a way to put them into a coherent hundred word story.
Mon Oncle Henri feels sick. He says it's zee evil virus, yes? But non! It's Macallan, mais oui!
Henri is so in love with Mademoiselle Janet, but Mademoiselle, she doesn't know.
One night she asked Henri to dinner.
He asked, "What do I bring?"
Henri thinks she must like bagpipers. He told Macallan, "Mon ami, we are invited to Mademoiselle Janet's."
Mademoiselle sees Macallan in his kilt. She is curious, non? So she peeks. "Oh mon dieu! Magnifique!"
Macallan blushed. "Why yes, it is!"
Henri asked, "Ma cheri amour, what about moi?"
"Sorry, Henri, I'm strictly a monogamist."
She is my virus.
She's in my veins, my mind, my every breath.
She's my monomania.
She is the piper, and I her rat,
Following the aroma of her presence.
My body aches to be near her.
It's the blush of her cheeks when she's home from a run.
It's her silk-soft hair she brushes by her window.
It's the curve of her firm, young body lying on her bed.
I press the muzzle gently to her temple.
The only way to rid the world of this evil infection.
And I will join her.
Because I can't live without her.
At first blush, Operation Beta Sigma looked promising, but the lethality seemed low for a bio-weapon.
I pointed to my rank insignia. "Explain it to the birds."
"We spread it via Piper Cub. Respiratory distress starts within minutes. After we monopolize the media and plant some Army guys in bunny suits, deaths start by nightfall."
The two scientists looked at me in disbelief.
"No. It's that evil stuff in Chinese restaurant mustard. People think they're dying, so they do. Real germs are too dangerous. Don't you read Stephen King?"
"Bullshit virus, sir."
The devil’s in the details:
You see, it was no bacteria or virus that felled our victim.
Nothing so innocuous; indeed, the cause of death was more insidious.
While blush of cheek and bulge of eye suggest a poison,
Notice the unfortunate man dined alone, impromptu. He had no reservations.
None at all, in fact: a simple lack of good taste did him in.
Had sodium chloride (salt) and pepper (piper nigrum) at the table but sufficed,
He’d be still living, none the worse.
Our victim sought a much more vulgar spice:
An allergy to monosodium glutamate brought the hearse.
Pepper, according to her name-tag, looked stunning in the kimono, but her piperine stemmed from her infectious charm. Just a glimpse of her smile transformed me into a cobra.
She waited on the boys in the back of the bar, whose flirtatious laughter infiltrated the air like a virus.
A clang from the kitchen cast her glance across the room.
Finally, their fifteen minutes of fame was up. I beckoned her over with a finger, and then attended to her sashaying hips with an evil grin.
“What’ll ya have?” he asked.
“Nothing.” I blushed. “Think I’m in the wrong bar.”
The doctor’s droll monotone fills my head. The futility of resisting.
My vision’s barely returned. I feel my wrists and ankles, unshackled.
I’ve only been alive again for moments, but the retrovirus has hit my bloodstream with the adrenal force of a mother whose child is pinned under a car.
I leap from the lab table and snatch a scalpel from the metal tray, poised to attack. No one should have to follow this pied piper psycho, no matter what the elders say.
I slash the devil blush from her cheeks. Her skin weeps crimson.
Then I turn and run.
This sky was no blush-red romantic postcard with wisps of feather clouds and silhouettes of couples holding hands, it was a monochrome of toneless, soundless, evil, spreading deeper and deeper, virus like, into the horizon.
Neither Chernobyl nor Kashiwazaki-Karwa prepared us for this. Not even George Orwell foresaw how unequal some animals truly were, yet here we stand, dying at our own hands while the rich and the infamous watch our once blue sphere implode on itself…they, the deserters, look on from their new palaces in space… and the bagpiper on the hill never sounded so lonely.
I blearily exit the bipedal species waiting area, the monotone “zzz” of my sounding buzzer drawing jealous looks. In the examination room, the translator screen instructs me to strip naked.
“You’re a piper?” the tentacled doctor asks.
“Plumber.” I blush when her feelers probe below my waist.
She glances quizzically at the translator screen.
“I work on pipes,” I explain. “At the Earth embassy.”
She grunts, then consults her pad. “Scans indicate you’ve possessed the devil. Report for quarantine.”
“What’s that? Jesus, is it terminal?”
“Quarantine, not transportation station.” She turns her pad to me.
Diagnosis: Human-infected virus. Treatment: Extraction.
She cuts through the tiny jersey in three strokes, the crooked shears neatly bisecting the team name: Sandpipers.
“Was there any trauma?”
I stare at the white of my son’s chest. The faintest blush of sunburn at his neck.
“Trauma? A virus?” Her face too close. Fingers tight on my arm.
“Baseball,” I say, stupidly. “A pitch.”
Monitors wail. I am shunted to the corner. Doctors materialize and join in the frenzied dance, like some gruesome vaudeville act.
Finally, a terse soliloquy.
“Time of death: 3:23. Ruptured spleen. Suspect mono.”
Riley showed up with a pipe. A goddamn pipe. Always has to be the most hipster, with his vests and his 500-pound bike with the goddamn basket.
By the next Saturday, they all had pipes - sleepy-eyed Ted with his banjo over his shoulder; Morgan, who filled his with some evil hash he picked up at the flea; even Amy, whose new girlfriend carried a parasol over Louise Brooks bangs and pale skin that blushed scarlet.
I couldn't take it anymore. "What is it with you people? Goddamn pipers. It's like a virus."
Then Riley walked in. With a monocle.
“Go to jail, go directly to jail. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200.”
~Sigh.~ I hate monopoly. I picked up my thimble and placed it behind bars.
Mandy waved a Get Out of Jail Free card in my face. “I'll trade ya.”
“Bra!” Gina shouted.
“We're not playing strip poker!”
“Up to you.” Mandy shrugged.
“I'll catch a virus.”
“Don't be silly,” Diana said.
~~~Thirty minutes later~~~
“I hate monopoly.”
“Bra! Bra! Bra!” the chorus echoed.
I blushed and paid the piper.
Sara’s eyelashes fluttered as she gazed over the rim of her white zinfandel, the faint blush liquid running in rivulets on the other side of the glass as she tipped it down her throat. She had grown used to evil, the way it clings to her like a virus, erupting at those most vulnerable moments, rippling into her life in monotonous waves of infection taking hold of anyone who happened to be near. She winked at the man across from her as she left the bar, her silhouette in the doorway like a lonely piper waiting for him to follow.
After returning home from the family bbq, Maggie found herself hunched over a toilet vomiting. The site that lay before her resembled the 6 deviled eggs she had seen sitting under the glare of the sun but consumed nonetheless. She was sure she had a virus of some sort. The monotone ringing in her ear caused by standing next to the blaring speakers earlier didn’t help. Looking up in the mirror at the site of her blush cheeks increased her desire to just go lay down and watch a marathon of Piper and the girls on Orange.
Her kimono fell open as she heaved the body into the smoldering pit.
She steeled her nerves for the last one and lumbered back to the house. The shovel gouged the wood as she dragged it behind her to the bedroom."Better the devil you know," her dad had always said before the virus took him. She knew that wasn’t true now.
Kenneth lay face down on the bed, hog-tied. She remembered how she blushed the first time he tried to kiss her. She had been twelve.
"Time to pay the piper, motherfucker."
Kenneth screamed like a little girl.
“Where's my mask? I need it before the pied piper gets here!”
“How am I supposed to know, when these containers of 'evil virus gas' are making my back sore?”
“Oh, I don't know, just help me find it!”
“Okay, okay fine. Why are we even doing this? Pied pipers are monotone these days anyway. Just don't hire anymore.”
“Don't say that in front of him, he might blush.”
“Suuurrree. Hey! I think he's here!”
“Great! Are you ready?”
“Here he comes. 3,2,1, NOW!”
“Ewww, he’s so-“
“…beautiful. The most beautiful-“
“…dork! He makes me-“
“…blush. I see her and I turn red, go-“
“…ballistic! In music class I wish he’d sit with the pipers and leave me-“
“…wanting to be near her. Does that make me-“
“…vomit. He’s like a virus; mono but worse! Why doesn’t he get-“
“…lost in her eyes, the way she tilts her head when she’s-“
“…vile! What does he think-“
“…she’s talking about? You think she’s-“
“…evil to SUGGEST he likes me. You think he likes me? Like, really likes me? You think he-“
“Heard every word? Yes.”
Light reflected off the doctor's monocle, giving him the evil aspect of a black and white movie villian. Ruth liked that. It felt right.
But when he spoke she felt a sharp pang of disappointment.
"The virus," said the doctor, hesitating, "it..."
The monocle slipped from his eye and he fumbled to replace it. A blush ran through his wide, soft face. Not evil then, just a silly old man trying too hard.
"It what?" Ruth asked and scratched at the rash on her arm. She knew but she wanted to hear him say it. She wanted the doctor to be the pied piper that lead her over the cliff.
"It will kill you," he said. "Two weeks. Maybe three."
He let out a breath, as if the effort had cost him. She smiled. That was better.
A blush of sunset fills the yacht’s porthole. Her naked husband, twenty-five years younger, sleeps soundly. Photos proved he’d broken his promise—fidelity for a generous allowance. The needle slips easily into his flesh. Her contact had assured her it would result in instant death. “For a few thousand more, I can inject the chick with mono. It’ll mimic the virus, but won’t kill her.”
Topside, she drops the syringe overboard. Evil? No. He lied. He had to pay the piper. She takes the martini offered by the cabin boy. Her pulse races. His Speedo leaves little to her imagination.
It started innocuously enough, as such events usually do. Ornithologists reported that a sandpiper colony in a Floridian coastal town collapsed. At first blush it appeared an isolated event. But then the die-off became state-wide, and shortly thereafter, nation-wide. Causal theories abounded, with most believing a novel virus was to blame.
A demonologist named Signy knew better. The prophecies told of such a massive die-off. It heralded the ascent of evil spirits clawing up from hell. But Signy wouldn’t allow the demons to come. Not yet. It was her turn on Earth. Those upstarts would just have to wait.
“Evil is its own reward,” said the grand duchess.
“I don’t know,” the executioner said. “I kind of like getting tips.”
The chopping block gleamed, stained with the virus of discontent. How clever of her enemies to hide it in their monochromatic blood. “Did I miss anyone?”
“No,” the executioner mumbled. “But this fell out of the last victim’s pocket.” He held up a sack of coins.
“Cash back bonus!” A blush of satisfaction bloomed in the duchess’s cheeks. “Now, call that piper, will you?”
The executioner sighed. “Everyone here gets paid but me.”
Mum was packing.
“I’m hungry,” Brother sniffed the corners of our nest. “When they stop moving, can we nibble?”
“No, it’s a virus,” Mum scurried, nervous. “When humans blush like cheese rind and moan and stiffen, we leave.”
Then, I heard the music. A Flute. Swinging in low, luscious tones and rising to the skies in a delicate trill.
I scampered to the door. Just to see, to smell that melody. Sweet as cupcakes.
“Girl!” Mum screeched. “Close your ears to that evil!”
The piper danced away, trailing a squealing, monochromatic cape.
Brother ran past me, and I followed.
I’m not in the running for a prize in my own get well contest, but I sure had fun playing with the words. Can’t wait to see all the great entries and good luck!
“Is your spouse cheating on you? Do you need help? Operators at Evil Ends, Inc. are standing by to take your call. We offer a wide range of services. Need a sharpshooter? A deadly virus? A fall from the monorail? Call today. Our satisfied customers range from blushing brides to wily widowers. And when it’s time for you to pay the piper, we’ll work out a payment plan to suit your needs. Just don’t try to stiff us, or we’ll stiff you.”
I memorized the 800 number and told my husband I was off to bed. I took the phone.
Bobby tried the first key on the ring, but it wouldn’t fit. “Can you read that, Piper?”
She blushed. “I can read the letters.” Piper held the torch closer to the placard. “M-O-N-O-N-U-C-L-E-A-R.”
“I think it means robots.”
He pounded on the metal door. A moment later, random thuds answered from the other side.
“Dad says this place is evil,” she said.
“Then why are you here?”
She read another word. “V-I-R-U-S.”
Bobby sighed after trying the next key.
Piper grinned. “I can read the last word – lab.”
“Hey! I think this one works.”
Bobby turned the key.
My Lord Baron,
My name is Pied Piper. I run a music-based pest control business – i.e. piping weevils from flour, de-ratting middens, parting wolves from sheep.
Unfortunately, Hamelin’s crooked tick-virus mayor chiseled my pay. So I piped the kids out of town, per my contract – it’s laid out in plain calligraphy – and now I’m in prison.
I’m not some monomaniac trilling toddlers into the Weser for kicks. I blush to imagine. I respectfully request you correct this injustice and release me from the Wicked Stepmother Booby Hatch forthwith. (Or I’ll pipe your beard full of lice. Just kidding!)
“You need to man up, you’re blushing like a girl, Rudy.”
“Man up.” I repeat in a monotone.“Do you even hear yourself, Jay?”
He grabs a handful of peanuts from the bar.
“Just calling it as I see it.”
“Don’t eat those! You’ll catch some evil virus and grow hair where you don’t have any.”
“That’s what tequila is for.” He answers, downing his glass.
“Patrón. You follow it like a pied piper.”
“Shut up. You ready?”
“Yeah, I’m ready.”
I take my gun out of my jacket, point it at the bartender.
“Hey, Vinnie says hi.”
The bagpiper played as the blushing bride left the church. I tugged at my too-short monochrome dress as my mother insisted I smile for the camera.
“Try not to look evil, dear.” I photograph badly, but so does she.
As the happy couple drove off, I wondered at the space between a wedding and a marriage. I thought about how happy they were, and whether they’d still be happy six months later. Whether love is a virus, and if some are immune. I’ll get drunk and flirt with unsuitable men, and see if it all works out for me somehow.
Black hat means never having to say you're sorry. Not that I'm evil. The shrink said I had certain sociopathic tendencies. I told him it wasn't a real diagnosis, and besides, he just wanted to sleep with me. Very Freudian.
But that kind of binary morality doesn't last past the first blush. Maybe I am a socipath, but it doesn't mean I don't want to hold hands in this monochromatic monotone drone of a Gibsonite future. None of my viruses were damaging, per se. After all, who doesn't like bagpipes? I thought police did especially, until the handcuffs snapped shut.
It was like that summer when the dog, devil that he was, picked off a sandpiper and left his trophy on the porch. How the hound had managed to sneak up on the thing mystified. I see it now, our house like so many lined up on that beach, Monopoly pieces dropped in sand. Mother appears with my bucket and shovel. Toys until now.
"Damn dog." She stoops, and the hound cries. I finger a wing. "Uh-uh," Mother says. "Thing coulda been sick."
By virus or villain, the bird is gone. The sun follows suit, sky blushing as it goes.
“Somewhere Outside Las Vegas”
Dr. Evil was not pleased.
“Mini Me!” he shouted. “Get in here.”
The one-eighth-size clone hurried in.
“Yes, Dr. Evil?” he said.
“What’s wrong? I did exactly as you said,” Mini Me pleaded, blushing.
“Oh, did you?”
“Yes. I spiked his soda with a virus.”
“A deadly virus. You gave him mononucleosis. This is Austin Powers. He gets that disease every week.”
“But what about--”
“I said to hire a sniper. Not a piper.”
“I'm bigger than you and higher up the food chain. Get in my belly,” bellowed Fat Bastard.
“I need new help,” sighed Dr. Evil.
An evil virus stirs within my soul. I take copious amounts of monocycline to control it. Does wonders for my acne.
It tells me to do things. Bad things. I almost blush.
No, I say. That would be embarrassing. I could get in trouble.
Do them anyway, it says. Pay the piper. You’ll feel better.
Go away. More pills. I’m starting to bleed.
I’m making you bleed. That’s me. In here.
I’ve got a knife.
If I poke a hole in my heart, you will go.
Then here it comes.
See you in hell.
It’s a stupid breakup song. I wanted a retro sound so I recorded it analog, in mono. Even that couldn’t mask the cloying melody and blush-worthy rhymes. After it spread like a virus among the kids and their parents, these details no longer mattered.
Dissenters coopted it for their demonstrations, the Family took notice. In my corny lyrics, they heard evil intentions against their regime. They called me a pied piper and placed me under arrest.
Now soldiers drag me into the Square with millions watching. They’ve promised me leniency if I read the confession they wrote.
I start singing.
Loretta watched her ex-husband and his blushing new bride pilot the Piper Cub onto the runway. It was bad enough that he’d left her for his twenty year old student. But getting their restored monoplane, now renamed Red Devil, in the settlement was too much.
When he asked if Loretta would drive them to the airport for their honeymoon on Maui, she said yes.
She waited until the plane’s wheels left the ground and raised her iPhone to the sky.
“Take that, you twerp”, she whispered, pressing send, and uploading the virus to the plane’s controls.
“They should’ve paid the pied piper,” the devil said. “Now, God’ll judge them. Godliness is such a virus, and it’s killing them. They forget it’s God who plagued them, killed them, and demands love or they’ll face eternal torment.” He poured a glass of blush wine. “Tyrant. I’m a Tester of Men like He and His angels, yet I’m the evil one?” He drew deeply from his chalice. “It matters not. They’ll see God for the monster he is, and when I end His tyrannical reign, the world will be monotheistic and realize that I fell only to save them.”
It's an evil virus does no one good. Me, I've always favored preparedness; if there's a piper to be paid, I want my cashback bonus *and* my change. And so years before the world bled down from monoculture to emptiness, I found myself a cabin, food, weapons, a blushing bride. (Though it might have been the beatings turned her rosy pink.)
Six years gone, I haven't seen a soul in months. Could be I'm the last. Certainly the missus hasn't made a sound.
I remind myself I've never been happier.
So why do I feel so alone?
Viruses are smart, not evil.
There was no monotonous moaning for braaaaiiiins. Only screams, tearing throats, blushing red eyes, then the whispering. Always whispering as they hunted.
The zombies preferred eating each other. When they came for us the ones still alive were the smartest, fastest, biggest.
Worst part was…their memories stayed. They could use them against us.
“Mommy, I’m hungry again,” Piper whispered from the cage. No god damned vegan options on her menu.
I slid another finger in. She bit down. Warm blood sluiced down her cheek as I cried. Maternal love hurts.
A cloud of pink dust settles everywhere, infecting the space like a lethal virus. It’s not the first time – not even close – but I’ll never get used to this evil. It haunts me, turning calm thoughts into an impotent monomaniacal rage.
There’s no improving the situation. No piper I can force this villain to pay. Circumstance forced my hand and the course is set.
I tear my gaze from the bathroom sink just in time to see Kim roll her eyes.
“Chill out. It’s just blush. I’ll clean it up later.”
Life with a roommate. I won’t survive it.
“Hey Doris, check this out.”
“Says here, Reverend Neville Pitney died.”
“Good ole Pastor Pinkeye.”
“Now Doris, be nice.”
“Why! He gave it to his whole congregation.”
“He’s in God’s hands now.”
“Not likely…he got the adenovirus from that singer in that monotonous Christian lip-sync band…what was their name?”
“The Karaoke for Christ Quartet?”
“Jesus, it makes me blush, the thought of him getting caught with his bible belt down round his knees.”
“Doris, you behave now.”
“You know he’s gonna have to pay the piper, sure hope they buried him in asbestos underwear.”
“Darlin’ you crack me up.”
The words rumbled like honey over fidgeting ants.
It was easy to shut out the evil when the world inside was so much quieter. And peaceful. There hadn’t been much peace on the outside. Life tended to deliver joy on swords point these days, edging the virus deeper into the soft tissue of the rock beating inside her chest.
It was better that way.
“Are you even listening, Mother?”
She blushed and nodded at the piper. His monologue drifted and settled on the aged pictures on the mantle.
Maybe it was time to advance in her dementia again.
Darcy deserved the serial-killer story, but her prick editor gave it to a guy. “It’s nasty business, Sweetums. The killer injects paralyzing agents, then beats them. The last vic was shredded to ribbons with a bottle of blush wine. You cover the mono outbreak instead. We’ll headline it: Evil Virus Is Kiss of Death for Prom.”
He winked, caressing the lead-pipe paperweight on his desk. According to bathroom wall gospel, it was the exact size of his erect penis. Word was, he called himself "The Piper."
Darcy fingered the hypodermic in her pocket. I’ll be the one laying pipe tonight.
The bar's history could be read in the virus trails left in urine puddles on the floor, some soaking since the 1970s, but Derek never complained. He loved this place; the off-key, monotone singers, like underpaid, lazy pipers in a city with no rats––not that SkidRow didn't have its fair share of those. The evil little monsters had bitten him more than once as he'd talked to women more blush than cheek. He'd thought all that testicular swelling was a good sign; turned out it was meningitis. Now he was the only one brave enough to run the place.
The blush of dawn came and summer stretched before them, along with the thought of endless, monotonous hospital treatments.
She watched a sandpiper scurry after a crab, one hand over her chest where evil grew, virus like, insidious.
She said, “Promise?”
He nodded, “Promise.”
Helpless, he watched her grow weaker, until one day, she said, “Today.”
He carried her to the beach, waded in and lowered her down.
She struggled, only a little, but he could see her smiling through his tears.
Later, the doorbell rang, interrupting his anguish.
He answered, and the doctor said, “I’ve made a horrible mistake.”
The deviled eggs are ready. The sandpipers are picking down by the water and their monotone chirps are making my head hurt. I call the kids up and they sprint in a race, collapsing all sprays of sand and red sun blushes. I caught some virus and I’m redder than they are, I think. I need to lie down. The kids get quiet and eat and I dig the top layer away and press my cheek down into the cold sand. In ten minutes I hear the kids run back to the water, their shrieks drowning out the birds.
Kara blushed as the piper stepped from the stage. He had watched her all night and now came towards her with delightful purpose in his step.
She glanced at her husband, checking the devil hadn’t noticed, but he was preoccupied with the kimono-clad virus, scribbling a number onto his palm.
Kara smiled at the piper. His eyes burned into her as the final obstacle of people stepped aside. She looked from his face to his chest, trailing down to his dog. Her mind froze. His dog? Her heart sank and she let the blind man pass.
We were on the monorail from Basra when I saw her. The Virus had left its stamp, pockmarking her arms, but her cheeks held a hint of blush, an expensive rarity. I stood up, pushing past Corporal Jackson, but she arose and 'ported out.
Next time was in a Tulsa field, Jackson and I pinned by Weevil rockets. She walked through unscathed, directly to the HQ lander, and pulsed the command staff into slag. The Weevils slaughtered us, their ghastly pipers skirling victory songs as blood fed the stubbled wheat.
Me, she captured and kept alive. For now.
Story Within A Story
""""When the usually monochromatic sandpiper gets infected with the rotavirus, it blushes, making it reviled by the other birds," said Mark finishing his dissertation speech. He stole that thesis from me, I could just kill him," said Sally to her friends. And that is why I believe she did it," said Khalil in the interrogation room. The show went to a commercial. Now was as good a time as any. Luke turned to his girlfriend and asked, "Will you marry me?" And that is how your grandfather proposed to your grandmother," said Andrew to his children.
He shouldn’t have looked in her medicine cabinet.
His earlier question about her health had only received a blush in reply. He’d guessed it was a stomach virus from the camouflaging run of water on her persistent visits to the bathroom. His curiosity had demanded confirmation, though; the pride of new monogamy had also reared its head. He was her boyfriend, now. Didn't he deserve to know?
The bottle stared back at him.
When she pressed her body against his later that night, he thought he'd felt the worms moving inside her, like weevils in a bag of flour.
“You’re pure evil and it’s time to pay the piper,” the detective said.
“Pure?” Malcom smiled. “You are going to make me blush.”
“You admit what you’ve done?”
“Admit what?” Malcom withdrew a monogramed handkerchief from his pocket. He lay the cloth in front of him and began smoothing it flat.
“If you want any kind of leniency,” the detective said, “tell us how you spread the virus.”
Focused on his task, Malcom diligently worked a particularly stubborn corner.
The detective snatched up the cloth. “Answer me!”
“My good detective, you are holding the answer,” Malcom said, “in your hand.”
I think the devil created illness. It kills people, therefore it's evil. Makes sense, right? I despise being sick. I think it's a virus this time.
I get ill too often. It's starting to become monotony. I end up with a high fever and it looks like I'm blushing a cherry color as if I were thinking dirty thoughts. Which I am not.
Speaking of cherries I want a cherry pie. If I had a pie piper I would try to make it myself. Is that a thing or a person? Maybe it's both.
What was I thinking, now?
“It’s never easy to say goodbye. To miss our friend.
Some may say he was born of the devil’s magic. But this was no demonology. His birth was pure, from a child’s wish. Ironically, that purity also spelled his death.
For it was no disease, no virus that took him from this world. Rather, the simple warmth of a maiden’s kiss, a blush of cheek that spread out of control.
But be not sad, raise your snow cones high. Take a lick, and say goodbye. We’ll miss you old friend. You corncob piper. You’ll be back again some day.”
They litter the sidewalk outside my BBQ joint. Their verbal protests ringing out, shrill as a sandpiper's call. Crude signs bob in their hands like dinghies tied to a pier.
MEAT is MURDER
And today, an amusing new one,
Animals R Our Friends
Would U EAT a Friend
Smiling, I walked out to the veggie virus and pointed at the curvy redhead's dictum. “Depends what she looks like.”
Ms. Peta didn't even blush. “You own this pit.”
I nodded. “Yep. I'm him, Mr. Lettuce is the Devil.”
That's when she kissed me … passionately.
Now, I got mono.
On patio clay tiles, I searched for the hairstick. Sultry air clung to my skin. In the distance, the grating call of a sandpiper stopped.
I jerked, bumped my head on the glass table. Numb with disbelief, I stared. Blood pulsed from a steely knife in my ribs. Red stained my blush pink kimono.
“Oh my dear,” she said, “so sorry.”
She swiped my vaccine research notes for the hepatitis C virus then left as silent as she had arrived.
On the dark river highway, I had stopped for the night.
Welcome to the Hôtel deVille.
King Thag of Mung awoke one afternoon, retching the previous debauch’s wine and mutton, and ordered his piper to play “…something soothing.”
The piper, a recent convert to monotheism and an amateur inventor of makeup for animals (lipstick for pigs, blush for hairless goats) suggested, “Sire, perhaps if you renounce your gods and embrace the one true God, you will no longer suffer the afternoon-after ‘virus.’”
The king asked, “Is your god evil?”
“Like you wouldn’t believe,” the piper answered.
“Great; I accept it as my only god. What is this god’s name?” the king asked.
“Boehner,” said the piper.
The sun rose. It reached across the pale sky, casting a violent blush of tangerine and magenta over the desert below. A sandpiper skittered by, breaking the monotony of sand and brush as she watched the world come to life.
She came from the city, a land where concrete spread like a virus across once lush landscapes. A place she reviled.
She’d forgotten this moment when sun, earth, and sky collided in a cacophony of color, unfolding from orange to pale pink to brightest blue.
She closed her eyes, drinking in the warmth of a new day. She was home.
While other kids played Monopoly and video games, Wallace collected wild mushrooms and French recipes.
“This one’s a Blusher because it turns pink when touched and often is mistaken for this one - the poisonous Cleft-Foot.”
Joey rolled his eyes. “Hey, let’s crash your Mom’s computer. I can download a virus.”
“That she-devil’s not my Mom. Plus, she’ll tell my Dad and I’ll have to do chores until I’m forty.”
“The Playboy Channel’s got a group of hottie bagpipers who play naked.”
“No. Julia Child’s preparing mushrooms Bordelaise on PBS.” Wallace eyed the fungi. “Time to start earning my keep.”
You might think I was born evil. You would be wrong. Evil crept up like a virus—as insidious and undetectable as mononucleosis.
Lost and lonely, I perched on the bar stool, watching the ice melt in my bourbon and water until it was more water than bourbon. I saw my miserable face reflected in the mirror. All I wanted was for someone to pay attention. When he did, I blushed then looked away. He beckoned. I followed. Cautiously at first, then merrily, until I learned the piper’s song of death and plunged over the cliff to embrace evil.
The spindly legs of the sandpiper skittered hurriedly across the sand, rushing away from an imaginary evil in the blush-colored dawn. The water pulsed gently against the shore, its monotony disturbed only by the murky blooms of jellyfish that had slowly seeped into the bay like a virus.
No one saw the girl go into the water, disappearing beneath the nightgown left floating around her shadow.
And only the sandpiper saw me walk away.
“ Get well soon you evil squid.” You're shark bait for another time, right now just kick the
virus going around the station. I need you out there.
The hive’s mono pole is bleak and getting bleaker without a chum sucking squid using the only entrance. Let me break it down for you, even if you blush. If those pretty little arms and legs wrap around another torso you’ll have to pay the piper.
I can only hide a snitch for so long without real results. Find a hook and pull a name off the hive I can bust for this.
Broken shell and yolk lay scrambled on the ground.
“I don’t get it. Humpty wasn’t evil,” Cinderella said. “BTW. Thanks for switching genres to investigate this, Mr. Holmes.”
Sherlock adjusted his monocle. “Always willing to attend to an attractive lass.” Cinderella blushed.
Dopey leaned over the mess. “Careful, lad,” Sherlock cautioned. “Mr. Dumpty frequented the Smurf house. Wouldn’t want you catching a virus.”
“Was he pushed?” Cinderella asks.
The dwarf reaches down, then holds up something round and shiny, like a flat bowl. Sherlock points to it with his pipe.
“No, madam. He was pied. The mark of the Piper.”
"We need you."
"No! I'm sick of this long, monotonous song and dance. I'm done with that evil woman and her virus of a boyfriend. It's all so pointless. I mean, how many partridges does a grown man need? She has enough money to make Donald Trump blush, and she wastes it on this crap? It's ridiculous! This is so not worth my time. I am out of here."
"But we can't have 11 Pipers Piping with only 10 people."
"Not my problem. Have a Merry Christmas, gentlemen. I got a job offer in Hamelin, and I'm gonna take it."
"You look pale. Want some blush?"
"You said the virus would make him sick, not kill him."
Alyssa picks at her nails. "We talked about this."
"Yeah, we agreed to leave him alive."
"Blaire, the people we deal with have targets on their backs. After this long, that's all you should see."
Maybe, but it's hard to ignore a bagpiper with a cute smile.
"Is your conscience bothering you? Don't worry, dear, villains monologue. And that's not really your style."
"That’s not it -"
"And bad is a matter of perspective. Good, evil… I'd rather think in terms of paychecks."
So many voices, the madness, none making sense, thundered in my ears, louder than an evil pied piper. The sky blushed, I gazed out, sitting up I could see what lay before me by the light of the moon. And then morning, the hazy December morning, the misty walk to the beach, the frigid return, the fainéant adolescence when I couldn’t keep my eyes open, the climacteric wasteland, and finally life’s revenge, mono, the virus, a sickness like the universe, edgeless and ever expanding. The sound of hundreds of souls deafened me, and in a blink, it was gone.
Lord Fescue adjusted his monocle. “How long have these been outdoors, Arabella?”
“Are you concerned about catching a virus, dear?” Arabella nervously smoothed her linen skirt and squinted against the sun.
“A virus!” Lord Fescue’s smile was as cold as the gooseberry sorbet. “Good heavens, woman! Salmonella is a bacterium, not a virus!”
Arabella blushed. Her gaze wandered to the bottom of the garden, where a red-haired piper began to play. He was wearing a kilt, and his legs were muscular.
She passed the eggs to her husband. She smiled.
"How do I look?" she asked, turning her head from the mirror to stare her husband down.
"You look great, sweetheart," he said. "I’d do you."
"You're evil, you know." He hadn’t even looked.
"Okay." He looked this time. "Nothing a little blush wouldn't help."
She snapped up her purse. "If you were a virus, I’d squash you like the bug you are."
“Why do you even ask?" he said with a trace of a smile. "You already know."
"Sometimes I want to hear it."
Now, he frowned. "You’re like a bagpiper with mono. Can you play a different note?"
An hour from the deadline the anti-virus software flashes its warning.
YOUR COMPUTER IS INFECTED
“No,” I whisper, blushing with fearful apprehension.
I click the “Ok” button blinking before me and immediately realize I’ve made a terrible mistake. The internet evils have hid in the ether waiting for this moment to attack. A message appears on my screen.
YOU HAVE PAID THE PIPER
I watch my paper on the Monogenesis of Humans from Africa vanish before my eyes, along with every email, photo, and song I own.
Mr. Donaldson won’t believe why I missed his deadline this time.
I felt a blush infect my flesh, like a virus. I should have known this monomania would take me to the devil.
"Yes, mother." I said, entirely contrite. "I am the secret piper."
"We will pay for some lessons", she said.
“The evil that men do lives after …’” said the man in black robes.
“You mean like a virus?” said the man in bed.
“Well, that’s not bad, but no.” The voice reverberated.
“Do you mean that after all, you have to pay the piper?”
“You have mononucleosis, the ‘kissing disease.’”
“Kissing’s not fatal,” said the patient, blushing.
“Hardly ever.” He swung a long handle with a gleaming, curved blade. Thunder.
The patient snatched the sheet.
“More of a stage prop really.”
“I don’t want to die!”
“It’s not so bad. We’ll have time to chat.”
The evil Fish and Game are toying with me. Double limits! What are they thinking? The entire of Alaska will empty out and fill up my river. The virus is running rampant as it is. I finger the spool of monofilament line. Facebook, yes, social media will save me. What? Guides are hiking tourists in at 4am. No, no, no… Mama bear, cubs, and sandpipers had better vacate Russian Falls. Armed with blush flies and snag hooks, I will slay them. The salmon are mine.
Did it ever come to your mind that evil might be a consequence of good? That the existence of positivity infers another, darker, pole? This universe is not ruled by monolithic principles. I hope you blush when you read this and hope you realise what misfortunes you brought upon your race by creating a good that demands such an evil. The piper’s will stop playing the melody of peace, the artists will put down their brushes and the writers will set aside their pens in shame, when our ships come. You are the virus of good, await your cure soon.
She cursed her lassitude. “Let me suck your blood and you will live forever.” His seductive whisper made her blush. Piper knew he was evil, but the temptation was overwhelming. If only she’d thought it through. Anyone who makes his living by infecting others is bound to pick up the most horrific stew of STDs. Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, herpes. But of all the viruses he transmitted to her, why did it have to be this debilitating case of mononucleosis? She was so damned exhausted she hadn’t left the house in two hundred years. And the fucking TV was broken.
The room was dank and shabby and its monochromatic wallpaper obliged it not in the manner wallpaper was supposed to oblige rooms. Above the mantle was a portrait of a devilish creature with a beady-eyed sandpiper perched tranquilly on its thistly tail. The woman in the hazmat suit did not know what to make of the painting or the room in general. Not that it mattered. Nothing in the room mattered other than the boy in the corner, neck and face ablush, believed to be the last living host of the virus that had untenanted the town.
Dr. E. Vile rubbed his hands anticipating the release of his masterpiece on the world. His evil eye locked on the mutating virus he painstakingly coded.
"Bwahaha! Once and for all I'll be rid of obnoxious stereophonic systems. No more realistic helicopter sounds vibrating my bones when I watch cartoons. No more thumping base from cars. So what if I have to pay the piper. A calm, monophonic world is worth it!"
He pushed the 'send' button. His blush grew to a full-fledged red face when his plan backfired. His computer crashed, shutting down everything electrical in his lab.
Why, I imagine I blushed that first time. Just, laid up with the evil virus, my only distraction from despair and nausea these trips to the bathroom. Oh, what relief what pleasure,and what defense against the rigours of the monovirus. Incredible, the piper, whose hand lives up the u-bend. He strokes my bottom, that day, and ever since.
I hate bars. But I'm a good bridesmaid.
At 11 I was ready to go. At 11:30 another round of shots hit the table. At 11:45 I saw him at the bar, sexy as hell and triggering thoughts sinful enough I blushed hotter than a bagpiper in a windstorm.
At 11:57 he saw me. He cocked an eyebrow and gave me a devilish smile, an antivirus for anything good and pure left in me that night.
"I think I'll use 'is that a monolith in your pocket?'" I told the girls.
It wasn't. Sigh.
‘Jack? Look at this.’
He stepped over. Light on his feet despite the bulk of his hazmat suit. I felt the habitual pull of longing, and ignored it.
Jack leaned over to examine the deep blush that now shaded our patient’s face. The Pied-piper had so long been a legend of evil, it was hard to reconcile with the figure on the bed; diminished by the virus to skeletal weakness.
I poured out half a glass of water. The mono-syllabic queries were the most he could manage in his disease-ridden state. Teach him to hang about with rats.
To work in a blood bank is one thing, but to work there and be called Dracula sends the wrong message. Dracula is the embodiment of evil and I am nothing like that even though a virus had changed my complexion to pale. I had used blush for the interview at the blood bank. A bout of laryngitis had made me sound monotonic - like you know who. So I introduced myself as Drake. My teeth are rather large and my ancestry is Romanian, none of which helped in dispelling the obvious connection people would make. Still, I needed this job which just goes to show that one who pays the piper calls the tune.
"The evil men do lives on..."
Mark Anthony will not deliver that monologue tonight. And you will do no further evil-- you virus, you stain, you slime on this theater's reputation. These many years we have trod the boards. As Caesar, I have fallen a thousand times. Tonight 'tis Brutus shall die.
"Et tu, Brute?"
You brandish the fake dagger; I drive home the real one. In an instant the blush flees your cheeks; a ghastly piperade of innards spills to the stage. The audience applauds until the stench of blood hits their nostrils.
“Jesus H. Christ. Leading him on like that is pure evil.”
“So what if I get a thrill out of making him blush?” She grabbed a strand of dark, silken hair and wound it around her finger.
“I see the way he looks at you.”
“He’s a distraction. I’d rather catch the hantavirus than have him try to monopolize all my time.”
“I’m just saying that you might want to be careful. A man like that.”
“A man like what?”
“Nevermind. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up having to pay the piper someday, and you’re not gonna like it.”
The evil virus left Gilbert at a disadvantage: his breathing wet, a plugged ear that delivered the world to him in mono, rendering the operation fuckuppable. But there she was: glasses perched on the end of her nose (itself a bewitchingly pert triangular frustum) heavy-lidded eyes that gave her a remote, nearsighted, subterranean look. Shoes from Zappos, a dress from Piperlime. “I’m Gilbert,” he said, blushing involuntarily. “I’ve been watching you for weeks. That makes me sound creepy, but fun fact: I’m not.” She peered at him. “I totally shouldn’t believe you,” she said. “But I do.”
You think I’m evil. You’re wrong. I’m no different than you. No, I’m better than you. I only want to live, and for my offspring to carry on when I’m gone. You want to kill me, sending your monocytic monsters after me. Your obsession with me makes me blush. I welcome the challenge. I thrive on it because it makes me evolve, improve. Who would have thought, something as simple as sandpipers could carry my offspring, incubate them, spread them? I’m a virus spreading on ocean waves. You are nothing but the host I allow to live.
The piper screeched an evil, monophonic howl, loud enough to wake the dead and me, two hours into crashing after a forty-eight hour debugging marathon. My anti-virus software used bagpipes to announce it had detected intruders, probably hackers after ILIUM, my current software project.
I checked online news sources as the gray dawn blushed into a new day.
"The Arabian Peninsula's super power grid has collapsed," the anchor intoned. "Utter chaos." "Months to repair."
Do I write brilliant code or what?
Just not what the thieves had expected.
“And now she’s laid-up?”
“Any more ‘laid’ she’d be pregnant with triplets.”
“Man that’s evil.”
“Was brutal, bro. Hit her like a downtown bus. A virus woulda been kinder.”
“That kind of shit leaves more than a blush on your face. And it was Renaldo?”
“Damn straight. That boy’s got a monopoly on ‘bad-ass’ and ‘crazy-ass’.”
“So how’d this go down?”
“The broad’s screamin’ and yellin’ ‘cause Dante commented on her fine ass. Then Dante whispered to Renaldo… Hyper.”
“Renaldo picked up a rusted two-footer and smashed it in her face.”
“Bro thought the man said, Piper.”
The old man seemed made from bones wrapped in leather as he stooped over his clay pipe. He had greeted the detectives monosyllabically until they mentioned ‘the piper’.
“Anything! Anything to help you find those poor children.” He slowly rocked his chair, the aged wood creaking. “Strange night that was, his music like a …" he struggled for words, and the detectives could hear the stroke in his voice, "like a virus! ripping through us! Bedeviled us."
His hands began to tremble and he wiped tears from his cheeks. "First blush of dawn was the only thing that drove him off."
*Disclaimer: The following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event.*
I've come to tell you that I'm evil.
The first time he struck me like a virus—a punch to the gut.
(I'd like to hold his head underwater.)
The second time knocked the blush right off my cheeks.
(I want to burn him alive.)
By the third...there was no fucking third. With the flash of his monogrammed robe, I acted. A vase to the head, sliver to his throat.
Now the piper's calling him home.
El El, you can burn in Hell Hell.
I'm glad you're fucking dead.
(Goddamn right I enjoyed it.)
Yes I'm evil, most definitely.
My instant message window flashed. "It's ready."
I immediately logged into the system to confirm delivery. The code awaited there, small and insidious, fresh from Romania. It was a beautiful virus that hid in the headers of a .jpg, an invisible devil to lurk in every family photo. When executed, it would slowly monopolize system resources to crunch my bitcoin payloads. Instant wealth.
With a click, I deployed it into the wild and popped some benzylpiperazine to celebrate. The drug was stealing over me like a blush when another message shimmered on my screen.
"Put your hands up, Mr. Aunicz."
“Sad, the poor devil didn’t get the antivirus in time,” Brigadier Scott said. He adjusted his monocle and looked around. “Still, you escaped, so the world remains a beautiful place.” Katherine blushed, and wished she hadn’t. Her tears hadn’t yet dried on her cheeks.
“Thank you, sir,” she said. “We’ll not see his like again, I’d wager. We haven’t won yet, either. Some virus is still loose in the wild.
He turned to watch the piper in the corner playing the coffin out with Flowers of the Forest, so he didn’t notice Katharine empty the vial into his drink.
It's always disappointing. Those little future-diabetics at birthday parties are always going to scream when I refuse to do that Criss Angel, levitation bullshit.
When I told my boyfriend what I did, he asked if I was a weirdo. Like a mono-browed-goon-jerking-off-in-the-basement-with-elf-ears weirdo. I said no, I do card-manipulation. I smiled. I'm in the women-wriggling-their-panties-off-like-they've-caught-a-virus business. I had him blushing and panty-less an hour later, so I suppose this pied piper business works both sides.
Getting a livable wage is a different story. That takes sleight-of-hand and at today's party, it took a Gucci watch with my fifty dollar check.
The monofilament lines of a dew-covered spider web are evil only to the fly. To everyone else, they are exquisite. That’s what photography can do, he thinks: transform darkness to reveal its light.
The shutter clicks, capturing the fevered blush on her smooth cheek.
Deadly viruses can be magnified to expose the truth of their mathematical magnificence.
She is rousing, one small hand clenching into a protesting fist.
He understands himself not as a predator, but as one who unearths hidden beauty.
The Pied Piper killer has time for three last shots—his favorites—before the screams grow too loud.
The blush faded from her cheeks as she stared at me through her monocle. "I know what people are saying. But I didn't catch anything from the piper."
The man in question had died from a virus so evil it disfigured its victims in a matter of hours.
I reached for my twin sister's hand. "Then how did you become infected? I was the one who gave him what he deserved. And I was careful."
"I guess I wasn't." Her features contorted, causing spittle to fly from her ravaged lips.
"Yes," she whispered. "I think we overpaid him."
I moved into the quiet little farmhouse when hay stalks whiskered up through the snow. Next door, as part of the old farm, a weathered barn stood testament to the past.
It was a perfect place to rest and recover from the world’s first monogenic virus. An answer to evil, some said, causing fatigue, ferocity and sensitivity to sound.
As the blush of spring awakened hope, the barn filled, not with newborn livestock but with practicing bagpipers thinking it was remote enough as to not draw ire.
During Amazing Grace I set the barn ablaze and went back to bed.
I need to get the hell out of here, fast. My contemptuous relationship with the bride’s father makes my presence, shall we say, undesirable. The man’s hate for me runs deep.
“All rise,” says a clergyman in a proper monotone. The congregation obeys, boxing me in.
That’s when I lock eyes with the blushing bride. A bagpiper’s demonic tune escorts her and her father down the aisle straight for me. Her blood red dress and desolate black fingernails perfectly match her devilish grin. She whispers something to him. Fear rips through my insides like a virus. This is it.
Sandy witnessed her husband’s inimitable handiwork for the private conglomerate many times before, but she hadn’t prepared for this display of maniacal jubilation. When she entered the garage, Jerry stood reflectively in his knee-high black socks and a red satin kimono embellished with sandpipers. Oblivious to her presence, he resumed hacking his assigned target into bits with the zeal of Norman Bates suffering a demonic possession.
Jerry finished, turned, and spied his spouse. After first blushing, a devilish grin revealed as he asked, “So, what’d you think?
“I don’t… uh.”
“Relax; it’s just a day’s work for an antivirus programmer.”
If this was a story, I would be the bagpiper, capable of controlling everyone through music.
But this not something one tells another to pass the time.
This is reality. And I’m much worse.
I am the presence that everyone fears.
But you may call me the Puppeteer.
I pull the strings of your every action.
Even devil himself wishes he were me.
Watch as I monopolize my hosts with my power.
"Achoo!!" Lindsey shouted, a blush creeping upon her face.
“Bless, you. Are you catching a cold?”
Time to inflict my virus onto the next.
There stood what I thought to be my kid brother, but that was impossible, He was sick in bed with mono, right?
Yet right there were the bloodshot eyes and pale face that appeared when the virus hit. He was foaming at the mouth with the blush red blood from the expired body laying only inches from Michael’s lifeless face. This was when I realized he was truly evil and I would have to kill him to protect my family and myself. This was not my brother any longer and it was time to pay the piper.
I’m not evil. Well, I cheated at Monopoly once, but I lost so I don’t think that counts. I certainly don’t deserve to be locked up, feared and avoided like a virus. I’m unique, just like everyone else. Yes, I was the only one who was naked. But he was the only guy wearing a skirt. I wanted to be like him without stealing his individuality, so I stripped off my tailored suit and saluted the bagpiper. He didn’t even blush until the secret service frisked me.
“You’re gonna’ catch a nasty virus, lettin’ that devil dog kiss your mouth.” My grandmother’s wisdom, based on old wives’ tales, both comforted and amused me.
“Granny, everybody knows a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s.” The speckled hound fought the monotonous delta heat by rolling in the dirt before flipping over. His blush-pink belly begged for a scratching. I answered his calling like a child to a piper. My fingers drew tight circles on his warm skin. “Why did Mama leave Mississippi?”
“She got caught kissin’ the wrong dog. Now, go wash that dog off you. It’s suppertime.”
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