Black Petals Issue #74 Winter, 2016

Doesn't Play Well with Others
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Beyond the Stars-Fiction by Brian McLelland
Doesn't Play Well with Others-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Killkenny Man-Fiction by Charles C. Cole
The Family F.-Fiction by George C. Economou
Masks of Innocence-Fiction by Dr. Mel Waldman
Trim Thought-Fiction by Chris Moylan
When the Sea Shall Give Up Her Dead-Fiction by A. M. Stickel, Editor
Anticipating Miracles- 3 Poems by Teresa Ann Frazee
Cemetery Haze-3 poems by Michael Keshigian
Seven Horror Haiku-by Denny E. Marshall
Four Zombie Haiku-by Denny E. Marshall
Love Letter (to L. W.)-Poem by Reyhan Qayoom

Fiction by Roy Dorman


Doesn’t Play Well with Others


By Roy Dorman


When the creepies come crawling



      “So, the Others seem to have an inexhaustible supply of nasty skittering critters, a lesser number of larger, tentacled monsters, and a few rather dull human henchmen to help them toward their goal of capturing me alive. How many of you, the loyal opposition, can I count on for assistance?”

     Stan Albright finds himself in another dimension, walking with an ally he has recently dubbed “Stephen” toward an imposing looking stronghold of those called the “Others.” The Others are a malevolent race from a dying world who have established some bases on Earth with the eventual goal of possibly taking the planet for themselves. Apparently they need Stan for the powers of rapid time and distance travel he possesses. Stan is just barely able to control these powers and doesn’t have a clue as to how he came to have them.  His memory of his life up to a few months ago is very sketchy. Since then, it’s been a whirlwind of meeting new friends and slaughtering new enemies. In addition to the time and distance travel abilities, Stan has also been a number of different people since this adventure started. He’s been both young and old, and once even female during one of his necessary recovery periods. That time he was his own long-dead mother. Another time he was the father he never met. What would Freud have to say about that?

     “Right now it’s just you and I, but maybe Alicia Goodman and John Doe will show up if we get lucky,” said Stephen. “My people, if you are willing to call us “people,” have pockets of resistance on four other populated planets that are being considered by the Others. We have tried negotiating with them in the hopes they would choose an uninhabited planet for their new home, but to no avail. We even offered to make a new planet livable for them; “terraforming” is the word your science fiction folks use.”

     “So you think maybe they’d just leave Earth alone if one of those other four planets met their needs?” asked Stan.

     “I see where you’re headed and that line of thinking is unworthy of you, Stan. We must…”

     Interrupting that thought, when they were now just a hundred yards from the stronghold of the Others, all hell broke loose as the crude roadway was covered with a dozen or more of the crab-like skittering things that usually accompany the larger monsters that are after Stan.

     “Shoot for their head area; they don’t have eyes, so shoot where their eyes should be.”

     Stan and Stephen dispatched five or six of them before they got too close, but it didn’t seem like they were going to get them all before they were overrun. Then, from behind the little beasties, two lines of fire from some boulders unerringly lased off the legs of the creatures closest to Stan and Stephen, enabling them to finish the nasty buggers off. It was Alicia Goodman and John Doe to the rescue. Ichor flowed in golden rivulets from the roadway onto both shoulders, pooling into hissing puddles of alien gore.

     After the last beastie was dispatched, the group met a little off to one side of the massacre and there was hugging, hand shaking, and back-slapping all around. The alien bodies began to spontaneously self-combust as they had other times, allowing our intrepid heroes to move further away from the stench.

     “Whoa! Alicia, John,” said Stan. “Nice outfits.”

     Stan and Stephen were dressed in T-shirts, jeans and work boots, but Alicia and John had really dressed for the part. They both wore swashbuckling outfits with open-at-the-throat white blouses, black balloon pants, and shiny, knee-high boots. The outfits came complete with swords and daggers.

     “Actually,” said Alicia. “The swords and daggers look authentic but they’re really lightsabers. They’re great for close work; cut right through those suckers.”

     “Yeah,” said John. “We’ve already had a little close work back near the Others’ stronghold and were running for our lives when we came upon your little ambush. You were ambushing them, weren’t you?”

     “No, ‘fraid not. Actually we were doing some woolgathering on the way to the stronghold and they kinda surprised us,” said Stephen.

     “How much left is there for Stephen and me to do up there?” asked Stan.

     “Stephen? Who’s Stephen?” asked Alicia.

     “Stan noticed that my physical persona bears the likeness of one of your horror fiction writers and he started…”

     “Oh, that’s great,” said John. “I get it. Sorta like Alicia and me in our hero and heroine outfits. Stan, you don’t look like the gangster you were the last time we worked together; who are you supposed to be?”

     Stan blushed a little as he was uncomfortable being in the spotlight. Also maybe because he thought Alicia was giving him what he considered “the look.” “I guess Stephen and I are in deep cover as insignificant nobodies. So, how’s it workin’?”

     Stan’s self-effacing humor brought on some collegial laughter, and Stephen suggested they head down the road and face what they had come to do. Stan noticed that, upon joining John and Alicia, Stephen had altered his appearance somewhat so as to be younger looking. He’d also appeared to have dropped a few pounds and looked a little more buff. What was up with that?


     Our group met no more resistance as they hiked the remaining distance to the stronghold. The party that had been chasing Alicia and John must have headed back to make a stand.

     “So I think I’ve had a look at all of the hired help, but don’t think I’ve ever seen an actual Other. Are they going to be more formidable then their stooges?” asked Stan.

     “Actually, you have met two Others,” said Stephen. “When your adventure first began at that grocery store it was an Other who posed as Norbert Miller, the grocery store proprietor from your youth. That was your first encounter with anyone involved in this nasty business, and the comparative ease with which you dispatched one of their own made them wary of risking more of themselves in capturing you. Since that debacle, they have only sent their servants or enslaved humans in their attempts to bring you to them. The slithering abomination that swallowed me whole was a servant—only a working-drone, but still a lower-caste Other. And, yes, Others with full powers will most certainly test our mettle.”

     Alicia and John had taken the lead positions and were walking about thirty yards ahead of Stan and Stephen.    

     “The portal at Mrs. Wilkins’ boarding house,” said Stan. “It was kinda like a story about Crouch End in London where the barriers between the dimensions had developed a thin spot, allowing…”

     “We closed Crouch End ten years ago,” said Stephen. “The portal at Mrs. Wilkins’ site is now also closed. Your bedroom at Mrs. Wilkins’ was just one of three portholes that we’re aware of on this planet. The two single rooms on the third floor and her apartment on the first were not involved at this site…until you fed the plant.”

     “What do you mean until I ‘fed the plant’? Did I somehow make things worse by feeding it to further my own plans?”

     “I’m going to tell you this to put things in perspective and also to keep you in the loop. When you fed the plant, it sent a single root straight through Mrs. Wilkins’ ceiling—and straight through her heart as she sat in her easy chair drowsing.

     “What? I killed her?”

     “No, Stan. They killed her. She had been in their way for months. If you hadn’t nudged them, they’d have sent a lackey for her.”

     Stan’s thoughts now drifted to Alicia. Was she a soldier or a murderer? He’d watched her smother George, one of the Others’ human henchmen in the Chicago hospital. As if reading his mind, Alicia turned and smiled at him. Stan decided he really liked that smile.

     Even though there was no longer any element of surprise, the group decided to walk around to the back of the stronghold and try and fight their way in through a rear entrance. The roadway had shrunk to more of a path and the path ended at the front door. The double door was easily thirty feet high and twenty feet wide. It looked to be impregnable without the aid of some sort of battering ram. The back might be less fortified, and the group was very soon going to find that to be the case. They were also going to find out why.

     “From here on in, let’s stay within five feet of each other at all times if we can,” said Stephen, as they duck-walked through some sparse shrubbery in the back of the encampment. “They rely on sheer numbers and brute physical force. Weaponry wasn’t a concept in their civilization until they were forced to expand from their home worlds. It’s unlikely any sort of missile will come from them before we get to the back doors. More likely it will be hand-to-hand combat. We would like to get this settled one way or the other before they decide to add weapons to their package.”

     They arrived at a less imposing door and, without really thinking about it, started to do an inventory of their weapons.

     “Okay, we’re here,” said John. “Now what? Knock? Kick it in?”

     The question was moot; the door swung open on hinges that might never have seen oil. It was quite possible the door had never been opened before. It was part of the architecture, but until today had not been functional.

     “I’ve seen enough gothic horror movies to know this doesn’t mean ‘welcome’,” said Alicia. “It usually means ‘we’ve been expecting you, and you’ve walked right into our trap’.”

     Stan checked the charge on his laser pistol. “Hey, cool. These things are rechargeable; I’m back to full strength.”

     “They do have a solar power feature for recharging. The sun in this alternate universe must be compatible with our equipment. That’s a big plus for us if we wind up staying here for a while.”

     The four stepped into a narrow hallway that lead to what appeared to be a well-lit amphitheater. That amphitheater was most likely where the battle would be waged. When they reached the end of the passage, they took a few steps into the arena. There was seating for more than a thousand, but there were only seven beings, all of them Others, in attendance. Two of them appeared to be female. Dressed in identical blue business suits with matching shirts and ties, they sat in what looked to be a dais for event judges.

     “I can’t believe it’s gonna be this easy,” said John. “Let’s just carve the bastards up without even saying ‘Howdy’.”

     From fifty feet away, they could easily do just that. “Remember what Alicia said when the door opened,” said Stephen. “They’ve been expecting us and no doubt feel they have the advantage.”

     “They look almost human,” said Stan. “I think we should let Stephen fire the opening salvo. Stephen, you choose. Words or lasers, we’re with you.”

     Stephen took two steps forward. “Representatives of the Others, we are here to continue the negotiations intended to find a new home system for your race. The system that contains the planet Earth is not on the table as a system for consideration or negotiation. Inhabiting a neighboring dimension allowing you to move back and forth between dimensions is also not open for consideration. You must accept one of the systems we will terraform for you or face annihilation. Those are your only options.”

     The door they had come through slowly closed on noisy hinges. None of the group acknowledged this, but rather seemed to stand a little straighter and each took two steps to be again in line with Stephen. The Others sat transfixed as if digesting Stephen’s words.

     “What he’s sayin’ is ‘Fuck you and the horse you rode in on’,” yelled John to the Others.

     “I take it you were never on the debate team in high school,” said Alicia.

     “Really, John, I have no idea what that is supposed to mean,” said Stephen.

     “It’s just some macho posturing to get them riled up; don’t overthink it,” said Alicia.

     It did indeed get them riled up. Tentacles slipped out from under sleeves and the human persona melted away from the faces of the Others. At different spots around the arena, interior doors opened and skittering beasties scampered out. Other doors opened and larger Cthulhu-type monstrosities slithered leglessly toward the group.

     “It’s your call, Stephen,” said Stan. “But we better open fire soon or get overrun. That group sitting up there like they’re in a Robert Crumb ‘Last Supper’ painting—I’m starting with them.”

     “Everyone; close ranks and fire,” said Stephen.

     Stan ran laser fire in a back-and-forth motion at the Others seated in the distance. The fire did nothing more than create a magnificent light show as it hit some kind of force field. Stan immediately lowered his beam and joined the others in his group at laying waste to the attackers. The Others would have to wait.

     The group’s fire power took its toll, but there were just too many of them.

     “Group hug, folks, and be sure to hang on tight,” said Stephen. 

     Though they questioned this tactic, hugging in the face of the onslaught, they obeyed. Stan thought maybe this was goodbye. He closed his eyes tight, expecting to feel the pincers of a dozen foe; instead, he felt a gentle floating sensation followed by the shock wave of a concussion bomb. A horrible stench followed them for a few seconds and then was gone.

     “I think Elvis has left the building,” whispered John. Alicia and Stan chuckled, and Stephen was once again left to wonder at the sense of humor displayed by humans.


     The group was sitting in a luxurious living room with beautiful furniture and carpeting, eye-pleasing art work, and a huge limestone fireplace.

    “The portal in that dimension is now closed; the stronghold and all those in it are no more,” said Stephen. “My mission was to attempt once again to broker a deal with them, but to call in for complete destruction if I wasn’t successful. Stan, I know that you wanted this trip to bring an end to all of this, and I let you believe that we could, but in a way they are like the Hydra from one of your myths; chop off a head and it grows two more. I’m afraid we must keep talking and chopping.”

     Stan was sitting next to Alicia and she had her hand in his. He thought of the sexual tension that developed among characters in books and movies and wondered if their group could withstand the complications involved if he and Alicia became a couple. Stephen was once more older, complete with crow’s feet and smile lines. He also once again had a bit of a paunch. John caught his eye and gave him the thumbs up. Stan guessed that answered that.

     “I think our group needs a name,” said Alicia. “Something powerful sounding, but know, kinda like the punk bands come up with.”

     “Once you put a name to something, it’s real. I read that somewhere and have always thought it was deep,” said John.

     “Who likes ‘Doesn’t Play Well with Others’?” asked Alicia.

     John and Stan groaned. Stephen sighed and stared into the fire. He liked this group but gave them a life expectancy of about the middle of next week.

     “Cute,” said Stan. “How about we think about it tonight and kick it around tomorrow. I’m bushed.”

     Stephen, Alicia, and John watched as Stan first became slightly transparent and then winked out of existence. Alicia’s hand dropped onto the couch and she softly said, “Catch ya on the flip side, Stan.”


More to Come


Roy Dorman,, of Madison, Wisconsin, who wrote BP #74’s “Doesn’t Play Well with Others” (+ BP #73’s “A Journey Starts with a Flower,” BP #72’s “The Beach House,” BP #71’s “The Big Apple Bites,” BP #70’s “Borrowing Some Love” and BP #69’s “Back in Town” and “Finding Good Help…”), is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and has been a voracious reader for 60 years. At the prompting of an old high school friend, himself a retired English teacher, Roy is now a voracious writer. He has had poetry and flash fiction published in Apocrypha and Abstractions, Burningword Literary Journal, Cease Cows, Crack The Spine, Drunk Monkeys, Every Day Fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine, Gap-Toothed Madness, Gravel, Lake City Lights (an online literary site at which he is now the submissions editor), Near To The Knuckle, Shotgun Honey, Theme of Absence, The Screech Owl, The Story Shack, & Yellow Mama.

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