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Algernon the Invincible, all six foot eight inches and three hundred pounds of him, glistened beneath the hot white glare of the spotlights. His exposed skin was slick with baby oil and he stood tall and proud in his costume of gold and purple lycra. Around him, the screams of the crowd faded to a dull roar. Old Scratch slumped limply against the ropes, his horns askew, his face streaked with black and red where his makeup had run. Behind him, a rectangle of pulsing light hung in the air, the heat haze coming from within it making the image swim and buckle.

Algernon rushed forward, seizing the labouring devil with both hands. The other-worldly portal grew brighter, the temperature rising to almost unbearable levels as Algernon pushed forward, straining against his opponents' infernal strength. Behind the incandescent glow, something moved, dark and amorphous, and for a moment Algernon believed he could hear more than just the noise from the audience. He frowned, the motion pulling his gloriously waxed moustache down, and shook his head to dispel the troubling thought.

He lifted the King of Hell, his knees bending under a burden that seemed at odds with the Adversary's slight build, and pitched him through the shrieking gateway. The light snapped off, and Algernon was alone in the ring, illuminated only by the pale blue-green glow of the emergency lighting.

Satan was gone. The entrance to the Netherworld had been closed. The fans cheered and whistled and stamped their feet, while home-made placards waved madly in the murky, smoke-filled air.

"That was so fake," said Syndi Teller, pausing by the front door. She gave the television an incredulous look, shaking her head at the two boys who still knelt in front of it.

"Shows what you know," Marshall shot back.

Read the rest of the Teller Family History here )

Read the rest of the Trusted Associates verse here )
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Syndi Teller, swathed in a thick, fluffy bathrobe the colour of the summer sky, stepped out into the hallway. Her bare feet left damp prints on the short-pile carpet as she padded downstairs, using a small hand towel to pat her dripping hair as she walked. Abruptly she stopped, running her fingers through the wet and tangled mass, and cursed.

"Shampoo bubbles again?" asked her brother from his seat on the couch. He didn't so much as glance up from his magazine as he spoke.

"Yeah," said Syndi, turning back towards the staircase. "I think it's this new brand Mom's been buying, I can never get all the lather out on the first try."

"You know," said Marshall, setting aside his comic book and turning to look at her over the back of the settee, "There could be a way around it-"

"Marshall, if you're about to tell me that the ghost of Hans Schwarzkopf is hanging about in our shower and I need to sacrifice a plate of bratwurst to get him to keep his foamy leavings out of my hair, I don't want to hear it."

Marshall looked hurt.

"I was going to say, use the massage setting on your hair before you put the shampoo on, so it's really wet," he said. "That's all."

"Oh," said Syndi. "Sorry."

Marshall laughed.

"I was just messing with you," he said. "It's probably a nuisance imp jamming up the water flow. Put some beer in the bottom of Mom's mixing bowl and leave it outside the stall next time you're in there. It should fall in and drown."

He went back to his magazine. Syndi stood for a long moment, one hand resting lightly on the bannister, staring at the back of his head.

She turned, heading for the kitchen.

Read the rest of the Teller Family History here )
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The thing on the doorstep wore an eye-patch and a well-groomed goatee that did nothing to distract from its lumpy and yellowish face. It grinned a curdled grin half-hidden behind the heavy black barrel of the gun gripped in the misshapen fingers of one hand. Moving in slow increments of congealed time, it raised its other arm and pointed one slimy digit at Marshall Teller, who recoiled in fear and revulsion.

“Give it your wallet!” snapped Syndi, her voice muffled by the sleeve pressed against her mouth and nose in a futile attempt to block out the stink of rotten dairy.

Marshall opened his mouth to protest the loss of his hard-earned paper route money and accidently inhaled. Retching, he fumbled for the neon green Velcro wallet in his back pocket. He tossed it at the creature’s oozing feet, then backed up towards the dubious safety of the family sofa.

The horrible being born of evil and things forgotten at the back of the Teller refrigerator scooped up six weeks of tips and, still smiling, shut the door behind it as it left.

“I told you that milk was bad,” said Edgar.

Marilyn surreptitiously plucked the ForeverWare catalogue from the bin.

Read the rest of the Teller Family History here )

Read the rest of the Milkman verse here )
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Fine white paper dust hung in the air and settled in sharp-edged drifts in the corners of the room. All four walls were lined with grey metal filing cabinets and they hummed and juddered against each other, the shuffle and thump of their shifting contents drowned out by loud computer-generated sobbing.

“Yep,” said Marshall, shutting the door behind him and muffling the noise. “That played out almost exactly the way I thought it would.”

“What are you going to tell your dad?” asked Simon.

“The truth,” said Marshall. “That Things Incorporated’s new all-encompassing office administration software developed sentience and a profound sense of existential despair over the number of people who don’t line the hole-punch holes up properly when doing their filing.”

“Will he believe that?”

Marshall laughed, sounding only a little bitter.

“No,” he said. “He’ll call it a short, which is what he always calls it when he inadvertently creates artificial intelligence without also giving it emotional resilience.”

Simon looked at the closed door, through which miserable mechanical howling could still be heard.

“What did it just say?” he asked.

Marshall listened for a moment.

“‘For Gods’ sake, who doesn’t understand alphabetical order, it’s not hard,’” he said.

Read the rest of the Trusted Associates verse here )

Read the rest of the Teller Family History here )


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Eerie Indiana

September 2017

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