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
“So you think maybe they’d just
leave Earth alone if one of those other four planets met their needs?” asked
“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
“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.
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,
“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?”
“Stan noticed that my physical
persona bears the likeness of one of your horror fiction writers and he
“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,
“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
They arrived at a less imposing
door and, without really thinking about it, started to do an inventory of their
“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
“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
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
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.”
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
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 quirky...you 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
“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
Roy Dorman, firstname.lastname@example.org, 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…”),
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