Flash 2000: Bridesmaid

Photo by Brands&People on Unsplash

The cement stairs carried echoes of footsteps throughout the unfinished floor of the abandoned structure. Members of your group freeze, ready to scatter, until someone with your face pokes their head through the fraying plastic saying with your voice, “It’s only me.” You go over to Mirror-Mirror to get the materials she had scavenged. Bouncy slides down your body and hops over to Thornskin’s two youngsters; the weasel more interested in playing than in watching you cook.

“What’chu got?” you ask as you take one of the four small plastic bags.

“Not much.” Mirror complained, her face shifting to Sickness. She had been in your form for most of the day, exhaustion forced the change. “They sprayed the fresh vegetables to prevent homeless from taking them. I managed to get a few cans before they came out though. The rest I got from dumpster diving before it got too dark to see in the alleyways.”

“I hate you risking like that, but thank you,” you say. You and the others needed the food, but your face would have been picked up by any cameras in the area.

Sickness glared at the metamorph from the nest the group had set up for her in one corner, away from the children. The strongest power of the group, she hated the other taking on her face. Mirror-Mirror winced. Sickness could give food poisoning or other bacteria disease, like pneumonia, if she put her power behind her glare.

Slowly, reluctantly, Mirror modified their form into Thornskin. Mirror preferred to look like a normal whenever possible, but he had run out of options for the moment unless Sickness nodded off. He helped you get the food cooked but held back while you delivered the food to Thornskin and his family. You choose to ignore the wife’s eyes skidding over Mirror Mirror in uncomfortable fear, a doubleganger of her husband.

You nod and smile at the children as they slip Bouncy some meat and vegetables, the dark-furred weasel distracting them from the innate adult horror. After making sure Mirror is eating, of all you, he needs calories after using his abilities all day, you take a can of warmed soup and some bread to Sickness.

“How can you stand him wearing your face?” she hisses.

You shrug. “It’s the only way you believe that I have power.”

Mirror can only copy people who have powers, but he can’t copy their powers, thank the universe for small favors. When you first hid with the group, they had immediately taken your form, proving you had abilities even when you refused to show them other than the ability to control Bouncy’s actions, somewhat.

Right now, he appeared to have thorny growths over all his body which on Thornskin were sharp enough to draw blood and transmitted a mild paralyzing agent, but Mirror’s bumps carried no danger. What Mirror couldn’t do was duplicate normals, like Thornskin’s wife, or return to their original appearance. They used to carry a picture of their original form, but at the last hidey hole a pyro had hit the group and burned the memento up.

“Well, I don’t know why you don’t register. They would take Thornskin’s kids and they kill the plague-givers on sight since COVID, but you barely got anything. Just register as a one or two with your animal control and go home.”

“Home is a long way away.” You smile at grouchy old woman, pulling a spoon from your pocket to give her, being careful to touch her hand while you do so. You are the only one in the group, even before it got cut down by the pyro and hunters, to touch her regularly. Her eyes simmered with a combination of confusion, hate, and thankfulness. “And it comes with complications.”

“Everything does now-a-day.”

You stay by her until she finishes her soup and drifts off, burying herself deep in the grimy blankets to hold off her perpetual fever and chills. Her emergence had given three city blocks food poisoning; it was a wonder she had survived the Regional Acquisitions. Sixty-eight is a horrible age to lose everything you ever known.

So was thirty-four. Twenty-six for Thornskin, the youngest of the lot, and thirty-two for Mirror Mirror.

You check the propane, making sure it is off for the night, then head to your nest. The others didn’t like you near them for at least an hour after you dealt with Sickness. They continued to be amazed you never got sick dealing with her. You shrug and say it is just a byproduct of your powers, claiming many animal handlers develop immunity to bacteria and viruses. It’s true about the developing immunity and about it being a byproduct of your powers, just not that particular cause and effect.

Night in the building carried eerie shadows from some of the skyscrapers nearby, making taking a piss in the middle of the night a long debate of crawling out of the blankets into the weird. But eventually the bladder won, as it always does, and you stumble toward the staircase. Bouncy curled deeper into the warm fabric, the traitor.

The hand covering your mouth woke you up immediately and got rid of the need to piss instantly. You bite the hand, making someone yelp.

“Fucking bitch.” The brick yanks you easily away from the stairs, three other people coming in behind him. The pyro was back with his sidekick and two new people.

“Where is the witch?” The pyro asks one of the new people, who points to Sickness’ nest with a drawn gun. The female of the group makes a beeline toward her.

“No,” you shout, leaving your flannel behind in the brick’s grip, stumbling into the gunslinger, trying to knock the gun out of his hands, hanging onto his wrist to throw off his aim, among other things.

The brick drops the jacket and grabs you back. “None of that you. Leave Gunner alone.” You squirm until you get skin-to-skin contact. “Don’t know why you even bother, it ain’t like you had power. All that hand waving last time pretending you got big voodoo and you ain’t got shit.”

“Unlike that morsel over there.” The pyro says. “She owes us after killing Mabeline.”

Oh, did their infiltrator die of something bacterial? So sad. Hope it was slow and painful after they killed JackieBox and took the rest of the refugees away.

The outside supers manhandle everyone to Sickness’ area. Thornskin is easy to direct when the pyro threatened his family of normals. There you discover the woman is a Suppressor. For the duration, Sickness has no powers, but Mirror Mirror has taken on your face and Thornskin’s thorns were black and green evil dripping goosebumps. You slip Mirror a sleepy Bouncy and tell her to cover for you before curling down and starting summoning.

The supers pull out black cuffs. You’ve seen them on television when Regional Acquisition Teams collect emergers unable to contain their powers.

With the energy forming into another weasel under your hands, you dare some distractions as they work on getting the old lady out of her blankets. She wasn’t going quietly, bless her. “That is some mighty fancy equipment.”

“Shut up,” yells the brick, taking half-hearted swipe at you. The angle is all wrong and he misses by a mile.

Mirror gets the hint though, and takes up the question, proving once again why her day job before emergence had been an elementary school teacher. “Where did you get those? I thought that was restricted technology.”

The brick turns to the new talker and realizes there is two of you, dressed different, but two. “You … you shut up too.”

“I don’t think so,” you say, feeling the fur become reality as you pet the new animal winding around your arm just like Bouncy is winding around Mirror. “You got a capture, not kill action here. But you ain’t doing nothing like a Regional. Who you working for?”

“Shut up!”

Gunner and the suppressor finally got Sickness out where they can put on the cuffs. You are running out of time.

“I’m betting someone collecting powers. The question is it a government, corporation, or another super?” Mirror strokes her weasel.

“You really want to know?” teases the pyro. “Let me burn off a finger and I’ll tell you.”


The weasel is fully formed. Do you wait for names or keep Sickness free?

“You are the one I burned last time, right? Lit you up like a torch. Yet you look perfectly fine now.” The pyro leans in, his hand lighting up. “The Charmer would love to know how fast you can recover, shifter.”

You got the name. Charmer. Fuck.

That is someone you really can’t fall into the hands of.

You look into the black eyes of the newly created weasel. “I’m sorry,” you whisper before breaking its neck. Gunner and the brick both fall like puppets with their strings cut. The black cuff in Gunner’s hands sinks into Sickness’ pile of blankets.

“What?” “Are they okay?” “Who did that?”

Mirror had been waiting for the opportunity and jumps at the energy super. But a fireball sends her dodging to the side. Bouncy slides off the arm a little singed but continues to move. One less death on you conscious for now. You don’t know how long your weasels live, but the normal creatures they mimic live three to ten years and Bouncy is four and the life she is tied to continues to breathe somewhere far away from you for now.

The suppressor manages to grab Sickness and removes her powers again.

“Who. The Fuck. Knocked out my team?” The pyro goes full flame and rises on the heat waves. Fortunately, the unfinished building is nearly all cement and there is nothing to catch fire.

“That would be me,” you admit, unwilling to let him have any other targets.

“She touched them earlier.” The suppressor points out.

Mirror is learning against a column, her arm hanging at an odd angle, her form switched to the suppressor, the closest being using powers near her. The pain reverting her abilities to the least effort. She raises one red plucked eyebrow.

You shrug then nod. “No cap.”

“How soon will they wake up?” The pyro asks, floating toward you.

“Who says they will wake up?” You smirk.

“You killed them?”

“That would be saying.” You toss aside the dead weasel and stand. “Go away, and you won’t have to find out the hard way.”

“Well, it is nice to know you got something too. Something useful. We collect a bounty for every power we bring in. And potential assassins get bonuses.” He lifts his hand and starts forming a fireball. “Now you have given away too much about your powers for me to worry about it. You have to touch to do it. It takes a long time for it to take effect. And,” He looks to the weasel body, “you have to sacrifice a life for it. Now you pick up the black cuffs and put them on everyone, then yourself.”

You let fear crawl across your face and slope your shoulders inward before shuffling over to where Gunner had fallen. The suppressor gives you a dirty look when you bend down to dig out the cuff. She tightens her hand around Sickness’ throat; bruises will be visible in the morning. “Uh, uh. The shifter first. Don’t try to be clever. No touchy touchy,” she says when you approach with the cuffs in hand. “or I will drain her. Can she handle that? Yes, that is my secondary power,” the suppressor whispered in Sickness’ ear, “I can take you down to a coma. Can you handle that?”

The angle was wrong for the suppressor to see the fire in the old woman’s eyes. Sickness may be tired and the cancer she had before her power emerged is still killing her, but she plans to live every second of life she can until the end and woe be to the beings who try to make her life end early.

You stumble over to the column where Mirror Mirror is leaning. Bouncy is curled in a ball away from you as he always is after you kill one of the life weasels. Helping her, you move her behind the column in an apparent attempt to put on the cuffs without hurting her broken arm, once she is as safe as you can get her, you stand tall and spin to face the pyro who had landed near Thornskin and his family, but banked most of his fire, leaving only a small fireball hovering over his palm.

“You know, making assumptions is bad. Makes an ass out of me and you.” You grin and toss the cuff far away. “And I love being an ass. One last chance. Leave now.”

“What are you going to do, kill the other rodent?” The firemaker laughed. “Think you can do that before I burn you and everyone here to a crisp?”

“Yep, well, nope. I’m sure if I was doing another weasel, you can beat me. But all I really want is for you to…Die.” Taking out groups without collateral damage takes finesse, but killing a single person is simple for you. The fireball and the light in the pyro’s eyes both wink out when you say the last word and he falls on the cement like a pile of rags.

“You have Powerword Kill as your secondary?!?” The suppressor screeches, sending her power rushing at you.

Unlike you, who had only seemed to give away how your power works, the suppressor had showed it title, book, and chapter. Only one high level power could be suppressed at a time. Unfortunately for her, you were a 9 and would take all her concentration, and Sickness was an 8, an aura you had been hiding in the shadow of. An eight who the suppressor still had in a choke hold, giving full skin-to-skin contact, and a powerful super which was no longer suppressed.

A biohazard, not a body, fell into the old lady’s nest.

You collapse, shaking, dropping your heartrate so blood drained from your face. All those years of yoga at the gym were useful for something.

Mirror comes over, her face now yours again, back to the limited choices of the group now that the invaders were all dead. “You okay?” In their eyes was raw fear of you for the first time.

Shaking in your piss smelling pants, you lie in a soft, harsh whisper, “I can’t do the verbal too often. It takes everything I got. Last time, the only time, it took months before I could even make a weasel. I’m just glad Sickness could take care of the last one.”

If Mirror upset them with faces and Sickness kept others at bay just by breathing, how would everyone react to know you could kill with a touch, a word, a single look, whenever, wherever you wanted. Your power was only about death, and there was no reprieve. The only death you could not arrange was your own, and you tried after the horror of your emergence. Drowning, COVID exposure, burning, jumping off a building, guns. Didn’t matter. They hurt, but they weren’t permanent.

You were the bridesmaid, never the bride to Death.

(words 2,564; first published 6/30/2024)

Hold Me Against the Dark series

  1. I want you beside me… (12/31/2023)
  2. Someone who cares if you come home (3/31/2024)
  3. F is for First and Foremost (4/7/2024)


  1. Bridesmaid (6/30/2024)

Other Cool Blogs: Medium (Lip-Sync Acting)

Photo by Guido Fuà on Unsplash

I discovered TikTok about a year ago. I was aware of it before then, but I started participating in late May 2023. It’s been a year and I need to decide if it is worth my time as a creator. I love making memes, and the BookQuotes I do there (under @erinpennbooks) are really fun trying to find a balance between the book cover, a quote and its font, the music, and a special effect. But it does take time, to find the quotes, create the posts, and participate in the community.

As I well know, any thing I do is time away from other things, like writing. So is TikTok really worth it?

One of the cool things I have been able to do, not much, but I want to do more, is Lip-Sync Acting – taking words from somewhere else and put my own personal spin on them. I created a few skits for this (see the below YouTube link, where I transferred them over).

Anyway, the cool blog talks about acting out a scene using someone else’s words, explaining how it is legitimate. Having watched the performers grow over time only confirms the bloggers comments for me.

And the concept of “defamiliarization” where the original performance is completely changed in the new presentation, creating a new meaning, is exactly what acting is all about. I especially adore when creators add things like “POV: Writer at their desk” – and the original sound bite of someone spiraling into madness from a horror movie is meshed with the person typing and “talking” to themselves. Watching someone taking words from the Friends sitcom and applying it to a bard hitting on a barbarian warrior on the RPG-side of TikTok can make me laugh aloud.

See “In Defense of Lip-Sync Acting” by Morgan Pryor. Published on Medium on October 4, 2021.

Here is one of my Enabler skits where I did Lip-Sync Acting (you can find more on my YouTube channel (Erin Penn)) where I defamiliarized by creating a different story using the same exact words:

And here is a skit where I jumped off from the original words, but printed my own on the screen. “To be fair, I was in a bookstore unsupervised”

A couple times I’ve even gone as far as duet … I haven’t transferred all of them from my TikTok. If you would like to see more, be sure to follow me on YouTube and TikTok. And comment below about anything on my TikTok which catches your eye. Let me know what, or even if, I should continue to create on this playground.

Writing Exercise: Self-Care Time

Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

I constantly talk about BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard). This is essential for production writing. Telling stories to myself in my head makes me happy, but if I want to publish, they need to come out of the fingers.

The challenge is not only finding time to stay in the chair working, but stay HEALTHY while staying in the chair. Sun, food, water, movement, and friends keep the body and heart moving. Today’s writing exercise is to develop a self-care reward or routine.


  1. Spend five to ten moments outside during daylight hours. Feel the sun on your face.
  2. Use a smaller water glass, to make yourself get up from the desk regularly.
  3. Make a meal at least once every other day that is worth eating, not just fuel. Eat it away from screens (TV, phone, computer) – maybe on the porch or with friends. No phone; no doomscrolling. Concentrate on the experience of eating.
  4. Get up and stretch once an hour – up on tiptoes, out to the bookshelves either side, down to the floor (might have to bend at the knees). Turn around in a circle and sit down.
  5. Text or email three friends or family today, just because.

Which of these do you think will feel like a reward for you and which a chore? Any other suggestions on simple pick-me-ups or ways to keep the mind and body healthy while writing? Comment below.

Flash: Even when the trees are apart

Image from

The artificer had her umbrella partially unfurled, making Lorelless pause where the wooden pier abutted the rocky shore. Unable to spot any danger, as the elf slowly rotated her magic’ed paper and bamboo shielding device, he stepped on the wood. More like stomped. His sensibilities grated at being nosy, but Jasmine ability to perceived her surrounding rivaled rocks.

She didn’t even turn around. The girl needed a keeper.

“Hey, Jasmine, you okay?” the half-elf said, just out of range of her preferred gadgets of choice.

She startled and turned. “Oh, hey, hi Sticky Fingers.”

“Hey, yourself.” Lorelless let an easy smile escape across his face. No one else could call the thief by that nickname, but she meant it in an entirely different manner after the time he helped her build something and she hadn’t explained exactly how the glue created specifically for that project would work. “What are you doing out here? The village is blowing it out in celebration, and I’ve never known you not stuff yourself to bursting when real food is available, especially all the elven stuff like greenie grubbie and fermentia.”

“Yeah, I’ll be there. It’s just that,” her slanted green eyes studied the elven script she had inscribed around the edges of her umbrella as she twirled it one way then the other, “we had been with humans so long I had lost track of the date.” Tears hovered at the edges of her young eyes. “It’s Ring Day.” She tilted her head to the side and wiped her eyes with her ungloved hand. “At least it would be ring day if I was back home. Each community has their own aur-o nimloth taith.”

“I guess that is an important day.” Lorelless sat on the end of the pier and patted the wood beside him to the left. “Could you explain it for an abandoned city rat?”

With a watery laugh, she closed her umbrella completely and sat down beside him, placing the, now, walking stick within easy reach of her dominant naked left hand. To show solidarity in caution, Lorelless pulled out his most obvious dagger and placed it beside him, easily able to be grabbed with his right hand, and scooted closer to her until their shoulders touched.

“So why does aurko minnylothtait make you cry?”

Cin prenan’tion na-deleb.”

A giggle danced in the air and alit directly in Loreless’ ear as Jasmine bumped his shoulder. He was well aware of what that phrase meant; you can’t speak elvish worth shit, although Jasmine inflection was much more polite about it. The underlying growl and the rising final note he could not replicate were missing, changing it from the insult said to him by most pure elves. For her, the words were just a statement of fact and some amusement, with the physical touch indicating that the amusement was meant to be shared.

Elves never touched unless their words were meant to be communal.

“I try.”

“You do not,” she protested, “Not even a little.”

“I haven’t had a reason to learn it before.” He turned his head to look at her, his nearly black eyes meeting her green ones. “But knowing you does provide some incentive.” He shifted to face her, a bent leg resting just behind her, not touching but close enough for her to feel the heat if her prosthetics were magic’ed to experienced temperature. Something he didn’t know but wanted to learn. Unable to leave his weapon outside of easy reach behind him, he moved it to lay on the leg still dangling over the pier with just a bit of the two-foot blade landing her right thigh. “Now, tell me, what is ring day?”

Jasmine looked at the knife, taking a second to touch his hand holding it with a gloved finger, curious about the weirdness of touching when not touching. Using a created-metal object instead of natural physical naked touch. The mixed signal had no meaning in elven communities, but Lorelless said many things without speaking if she could just figure out what he was saying. She drew back her hand and turned her face up to his to answer his question. “Aur-o nimloth taith, or Ring Day, marks the day the Home Tree has gained enough growth to have another ring. It is approximately every eleven or so years.”

“It sounds like a big deal.”

“Yeah, it is. A huge community thing, everyone spends the entire spring of years with Ring Day weaving new clothes, carving decorations of gifts, practicing old songs or crafting new poems. About a week out, the bakers start the seed pancakes, brewers add finishing touches to last winter’s syrups, vinegars, and brews, and the calen harvest early berries. The last two days of prep are non-stop decorating and cooking.” She nodded to the lights and music drifting from the riverside village behind them. “When it finally comes together, that night makes what is happening there seem like bas a nen.”

“And you are missing it.” He tucked an escaped blond curl from her bun behind her ear.

Her face fractured into a thousand expressions. “For the first time ever.” A sob rushed out. “I’ve never been away from home for aur-o nimloth taith. Even when at the academy, they always let me go home for it.”

Loreless sheathed his weapon and pulled her against him, as tears poured from her.

“It shouldn’t be important. I’m an adult now and left home for real and ever.” She wept into his shoulder, words filtering through his shirt in a mix of human and elven he barely made out.

Patting her back, he reassured her, “It’s always important. Home and family always is important.” Personally he had no clue, but he had hungered for the concept of it more often than for food while stealing on the streets of Forever. “Nos bang-golas ir nimloth rucs. Kin share branches even with the trees are apart.”

Laughing, she pushed away from his shoulder but kept her right hand on where her tears had soaked the linen. “Where did you learn that?”

“An elf once said it to me, claiming to be a relative.” Loreless lips thinned and he dropped his eyes to the small bit of bleached wood between them, shifting back a little. “They were the first words I had ever heard in elven, and I engraved them into my heart.”

“Oh,” Jasmine cupped his chin and raise his face, “I take it she wasn’t.”

“He, and no. I was maybe ten or twelve, the years blend and I didn’t age like most of the kids around me on the street.” He pushed his face into her gloved hand, closing his eyes. “I had hoped so much.” Loreless pulled back, reaching up his left hand the one cradling his stubbled cheek before dragging it down, and rearranged his face into an earnest smile. “But enough about me, I’m here for you. How can we make a Ring Day for you?” He stopped, dropping her hand, then held up a finger. “Correction, do you want a Ring Day or something like it? Would it help?”

Her eyes grew soft as she handled the thought, looking at it from all angles, like it was a gadget. “No, I think I just needed to … rin glir, sing of its memory. Thank you for listening.” She patted herself down.

“Your umbrella is beside you. Your goggles are on your head. And your bag is back in the village with the horses.”

She touched her goggles then reach for the umbrella. “You are the best.”

He gracefully stood and offered his hand, which she ignored, using the umbrella and her gloved hand to leverage up. Her replacement leg creaked, and Jasmine made a face. Tomorrow she will have it spread out on a table, figuring out where the noise came from.

“After recovering from a hangover,” Loreless muttered.

“Hmm, what?” Jasmine looked up to where he towered nearly a foot taller than her.

“Oh, just thinking about how much you and I are going to drink tonight.” Loreless looked at his hands, and pretended to juggle them before stepping to her right side. “May I escort you back to a party, keep your cup and plate full, and fall asleep in your arms tonight?” He extended his hand to her gloved one, holding his breath.

(words 1,396; first published 6/23/2024; created 11/19/2023)

Lorelless & Jasmine Series

  1. Dragonfly (5/26/2024)
  2. Even when the trees are apart (6/23/2024)

Geeking Science: Self-burying seeds

Image from the Carnegie Mellon University

Humans have been sowing seeds for generations; sometimes digging holes with fingers, dropping the seeds in, and burying them in the dirt, and other times following the more traditional method of plants themselves – scattering them in the wind and hoping for the best. One is labor intensive and the other is just a play against statistics, praying to the capacious weather gods that the birds and weather will be on our side.

But what happens when you absolutely must plant things in hard to reach areas, for example, reforesting an area after a fire? Today’s drones answer half the equation with accessibility – flying easily to places that could take hours and remarkable physical danger – but that doesn’t get the seeds planted.

Wouldn’t it be nice if seeds could plant themselves?

Scientists recently stole an idea from seeds and upgraded it. Erodium have a stalk that taps into different moisture reactions to create a screw action for burying its seeds. It works okay – the plant exists in nature after all, but the natural best results depends on uneven soil with crevices because up-and-down for the one tail seed changes with each flip until the bury is successful. Once buried, the one-way directional hairs keeps the seed from popping back out and the stalk continues to wind and bury the seed deeper.

To upgrade the design, engineers at Carnegie Mellon University found that three coiled tails create nearly a 80% success rate. In a world with birds, rain washes, and rocky soil, this is amazing.

The device is made from biodegradable wood. And the carrier area can hold pine and other tree seeds, or crop seed. Plus it can been used to deploy and bury “nematodes (worms used as natural pesticides), fertilizers, and fungi.” (Spice) Other real-world applications outside of farming is reducing landslides by increasing deep-root vegetation and using the corkscrews “to implant sensors for environmental monitoring.” (Spice)

The inventors are still working on how to create and deliver these carriers at scale needed for farming crops and reforestation, but the device itself works great.

Two important questions for any invention – 1) can it be done and 2) how do we make enough for the invention to be useful. We have the “yes” for the first, now we need to Geek the Science on the second.


Nature video. “This device corkscrews itself into the ground like a seed.” YouTube. February 2023. (video imbedded above)

Science Friday. “A New Twist on Sowing Seeds.” 24 February 2023. ( – last viewed 11/10/2023)

Spice, Byron. “Engineered Magic: Wooden Seed Carriers Mimic the Behavior of Self-Burying Seeds.” Carnegie Mellon University. 15 February 2023. ( – last viewed 11/10/2023)

Theresa, Deena. “This bioinspired seed carrier has a 80 percent success rate.” Interesting Engineering. 15 February 2023. ( – last viewed 11/10/2023)

Williams, Mary. “Inspired by nature: Self-burying seeds.” Plant Science Research Weekly. 24 February 2023. (,is%20hygromorphism%20%E2%80%93%20movement%20in%20response%20to%20water. – last viewed 11/10/2023)