Twice the Trouble


She walked up to me, her finger wagging in the air like an excited puppy, but she was anything but happy. “Ooooh, I am so mad at you right now.”

“Me? You’re the one who decided it was a good idea to go outside!”

“Ugh! I can’t even with you right now!”

“Bitch, please. Had you stayed inside like I told you, they wouldn’t be hunting us down.”

“Whatever, I could turn you in as the fake, and then I wouldn’t have to hide, like ever.”

“You can’t do that, they would know.”

“How? Unless your ass grew three sizes too big since I last saw you,” she said, eyeing me. “Look, we both know you created me to be perfect. Better than you’ll ever be, so I’ll never be the one they figure is the clone.”

I gasped, and looked out at the ocean. Okay, maybe I was looking at the profile of my ass in the shadow. She didn’t know that, though. A good thing, too, because it meant I would be inadvertently admitting that she was getting to me.

“Don’t you look away from me when I’m talking to you, Missy.”

“I created you,” I said, and finally met her eyes. “I’ll do what I want.”

“I’d like to know how you plan on doing that?”


Now she was the one gasping. “You wouldn’t.”

“I would.”

She eyed me, as she usually does when she doesn’t trust me. “How do I know you’re telling the truth?”

I smirked and pulled a small device out of my pocket. It was about the size of a car remote, but instead of alarm buttons, it had a small screen with buttons to set a date and time. It was Chronos, a time-travelling device I created for emergencies. Just then, it seemed like a good time to use it.

I started typing the new time, and she said, “You can’t do that or I’ll use the black box!”

“The what?” I said, and looked up.

With wild eyes, she produced her own small device, and started typing on it. I said, “No, you can’t do that! It’s not fair!”

She laughed maniacally as the sky started to darken. The wind howled through distant trees, and the clouds raced across the sky. Then, just above us, as the black sky gave way to purple, the clouds swirled as if the small epicenter of a hurricane.

I returned my gaze to her and then to the device in my hands. If I could just get back in time to stop her and destroy that black box, then none of this would ever happen. If I failed, then the world would perish.

After a moment, I finally entered the time, three weeks prior to this day. The small red button in the center of my device blinked in and out, and just before my thumb pressed the button, she knocked it out of my hands.


“Yes!” She screamed, and looked at the sky. The winds descended upon me, the clouds reaching down like large hands. They grasped me, soon to take me to unknown places. I had lost the battle here and now, but the war was far from over.

I screamed, “Mom!”

“What are you doing you little brat?” Loretta said.

I called again, “Mom!”

“What, honey?” she said from under the shade of a nearby picnic umbrella.

Loretta tried to cover my mouth but I fought her as I said, “Lori’s not playing fair!”

“What did she do, honey?”

I didn’t know how to explain that my bitch of a sister had cheated, so I said, “She said a bad word!”

She gasped. “Ugh! I did not!”

“Did, too!”

“Uh, huh! She said it! I swear!”

“Did not! Momma, she’s lying!”

“Both of you stop it right now!”

By then, Loretta had me laying in the wet sand and was trying to push my face into it. We both looked up, and our mother was staring at us over the rims of her dark sunglasses. Loretta quickly crawled off me, and started playing in the dry sand. I stared at my mother, who continued to stare at me. I scowled, puckered my lips, and then after picking my Tamigotchi off the ground, I ran off to play in the tide pools. There was a giant sea creature living down there, and I didn’t have time to pay mind to my mother’s neutrality. The world needed me.


War of the Cupcakes

Below is my official entry into round 1 of the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. In this contest, they give us a genre, a subject, and a character to write about. The challenge, usually, is that we must use these things in the story (to what degree appears to be subjective per whatever judge reads our work).

My Group: 51
Genre: Comedy
Subject: Artificial Intelligence
Character: An Executive Assistant

Synopsis of story: Many people died on January 29, 2015, and anyone who survived that horrible day called it The Dawn of the Pastries. They survived only to face a worse nightmare, one people would later come to know as the War of the Cupcakes.

War of the Cupcakes

If you had known me before the end of the human era, you wouldn’t guess I was only a quiet executive assistant. You wouldn’t guess that I set appointments, ordered coffee, or helped my boss harass employees about remembering to put covers on their TPS reports. You wouldn’t think any of that.

What you might think, on first glance, is that this girl was military. I have seventeen scars, three of which take residence on my face. I hadn’t smiled in five years. However, if I did show my grin, which only happened when I needed to keep the rattle of the mini-gun from shattering my teeth, then you’d see that there were four missing pearls from my mouth. My muscles aren’t large, but they’re well defined. I no longer set appointments because I set battles. I long ago ceased to order coffee, and ordered hits. I no longer bugged employees about unnecessary reports, but instead killed cupcakes.

My name is Alyssa James, and I was the leader of the human resistance. The people elected me to that position because of my unique knowledge of sweets. Long before the war, I had dreamed of owning a bakery, and had even won awards for my baked goods in local competitions. As a result, when the cupcakes showed up during a baking event, I responded with the precision of an assassin and dispatched them by using warm milk. Softened and rendered harmless, I conquered those sweet beasts. From then on, they needed someone to look to, and so I became the resistance leader. I was their hope. I was promise of a better future.

On October 15, 2021, five years after the pastry revolution, I had one last battle. A battle to end the war and bring humanity the future I had always promised.

As the sun kissed the western waters and set the horizon aflame with varying degrees of tangerine and periwinkle, soft clouds floated languidly in the sky alongside threads of smoke highlighted by the recent fires. The air, now thick with the stench of charred sugar and soured milk, grew heavier as we approached the concrete canal leading to the bunker in which the mother of all cakes resided. The system we all knew as Grub-Sugarwrath.

We were resilient, but unease befell us as we looked upon that entrance because we were only four strong. The rest of our ranks fought far enough away to keep the enemy occupied. I only had a small team to complete this mission, but it was the best damn team I could have asked for.

To my right was Christa Cameron, a tech engineer with the knowledge to take Grub’s artificial intelligence systems offline. She was the one who discovered that the nanotechnology inside the batter ran from a single central location. Therefore, it seemed best to bring her along.

Standing next to her was Adrien Voorhees, our demolition expert, and to my left, was our infantryman Jack “The Gnasher” Jordan. He got his nickname because he loved to eat the cakes he killed. Revenge does strange things to men, and while most people lost their taste for cake, Jack only grew hungrier as his rage rose like leavened bread.

I turned away from the dying light, and looked at my crew. They watched as if waiting for me to say something. I cleared my throat and gave them the best damn speech I could give, “So, uh, when I was a little girl, I used to stay after class and help the lunch ladies clean the cafeteria. One day, after cleaning the tables and sweeping, I grabbed the mop and wheeled the bucket to the center of the room. The lunch lady, a large busty woman who reminded me of Mrs. Butterworth, snatched the mop from my hand and stared down at me. You know what she said?”

Jack inspected the barrel of his weapon while slowly chewing his gum. The others stared intently waiting for me to say something meaningful. Maybe even brilliant.

“She told me, ‘You ain’t allowed to mop here.’ ”

“I said, ‘Why? I always help out.’ ”

“She said, and I shit you not, ‘You might slip, fall, an’ get die.’ ”

Jack was now looking up at me, one eyebrow tugged north. The other two didn’t make eye contact with me. I couldn’t blame them. I had no idea what any of that had to do with our mission. I may have been their leader, but I never claimed I was any good at giving speeches. This was especially true when I was under pressure from nervousness, which has never been kind to me.

“So, okay,” I said, and scratched the back of my head. “Just don’t do anything stupid, or you might get killed. This is our only chance.”

Nailed it, I thought, as they nodded in agreement.

I continued, “All right. Let’s get this done.”

The approach to the door was quiet. I suspected it was too quiet, but not in the way that heroes in movies suddenly get a bad feeling when things are too silent. First, I’m no hero. I’m a regular woman who did what needed to be done. Second, the distant thunder of explosions from the battle boomed and we could hear the shouts as our valiant brothers and sisters fought hard to protect their loved ones from the cupcakes. To say it was loud would be an understatement. It was actually quiet in the way that there was no movement. No sentries keeping watch. Nothing.

Jack and I stood watch over the area as Christa worked her techno-magic on the door. A moment later, a metal clank signaled that she’d succeeded, and we cautiously entered the tunnel.

As Jack readied his gun, a modified flamethrower that projected boiling-hot milk, he said, “I got a bad feeling about this.”

He wasn’t alone. I don’t think any of us felt safe, and now that we were in the master’s den, it seemed we were tempting fate to lead us to everlasting sleep.

The tunnel was deep and dark, so we couldn’t see anything at great length. The width spanned twenty, maybe thirty, feet. The ground was wet and slippery, and the air had a musty, sweet malodor tainting it. The walls appeared to have some sort of crystal layer forming on them, which I guessed was sugar. In areas where the cupcakes nested and duplicated, it was typical to see those types of formations on surfaces.

As we traversed that murky tunnel, Adrian said, “Tell me again how all this is supposed to work? I don’t really get how this is gonna end the war.”

He had a pleasant velvety voice that was easy to listen to, and even harder to ignore. I said, “Christa?”

“It’s just a theory, but…”

Adrian said, “Whoa, wait. We’re here on a theory?”

I said, “Yeah, a damn good one. Now shut it and let her finish.”

Christa took a deep breath. “Okay, so, you all know how the first batch of cupcakes were made right? Hostess was trying some new nanotechnology that was supposed to collect data from people and help them build the best treat the world had ever tasted, but instead it brought the pastries to life. What I hope to do is hack the main computer that controls all the nanotechnology and shut the cupcakes down for good.”

Adrian said, “I’ll admit, that does sound like a pretty good plan.”

“You bet it does,” I said. “Okay, guys, we’re here.”

Illuminating the door with my flashlight, the writing indicated we’d reached Hostess’s secret laboratory they cleverly named after their acclaimed Twinkie.

This was the location where it all started. Standing before it, I felt the sudden weight of the mission crushing me. If we died there, if we failed, then humanity would likely never get another chance. Our mission was secret, and therefore, no one knew about it. We made no effort to document anything, either. If there was one thing we learned in our time of war, it was that you could never trust people to resist the temptation of baked goods. A person’s own folly can lead to ruin, and we didn’t want to take any chances. Not with so much on the line.

I said, “Ready?”

Jack said, “Yep, let’s get this over with.”

I turned the door handle just as an access gate behind us exploded open. We whipped around, and watched as cupcakes poured into the tunnel. They rolled over each other, bouncing and tumbling. The sound they made was distinct as if produced by babbling babies with their tongues hanging out. Indeed, if you looked at them long enough, you’d see a mouth-like hole stretched across the corrugated wrapper, and a small, flat, and maroon piece of toffee flopping around that opening as if they in fact had a working tongue.

Their initial lack of sound surprised me. It was as if they quieted to hide their approach, which was unusual given their often-careless, robotic behavior.

Jack started spraying the cupcakes with hot milk. Some dissolved, but even more replaced them. We had expected resistance, but we didn’t expect so much. It was as if they knew we were coming.

I said, “We gotta run for it!”

Christa kicked some of them away from her and growled through clenched teeth, “Where?”

“Deeper,” I said, “our best bet is to find our way to Grub-Sugarwrath’s central system and barricade ourselves in.”

Adrien said, “Doesn’t sound like a good idea.”

I watched a thousand more cupcakes flood into the tunnel. “Only choice we’ve got.”

Adrien was the first through the door, ever the gentleman. Christa followed close behind, and I told Jack to head on through. He refused, arguing that since he was the only one with a milk gun, he had a duty to hold them off until everyone was safe. I couldn’t argue with him, so I fled through the door. A moment later, the babbling cupcakes were too much, and overpowered him. As their pink acid-like icing smeared across and melted his tormented face, I took one last sorrowful look and slammed the door.

The team wanted to go back, but I couldn’t let them. We went to that place for a reason, and we all knew the dangers. We had hoped nothing would happen to us, that the mission would be as short and sweet as all the others we’d completed together, but nothing can ever be perfect or last forever. We were fools to think otherwise.

With Jack’s demise heavy on our hearts, we pressed on through the complex. We passed several doors and vents, but nothing attacked us. When we finally reached the giant room housing Grub-Sugarwrath, the artificial intelligence system, we realized we were far more unprepared than we originally thought.

According to the old blueprints we consulted before the mission, the computer was at the center of the room. However, as we looked into that place, we couldn’t know for sure anymore. Tall glassy walls rose from the floor and reached toward the ceiling. They appeared to be made of the same material as the crystals in the tunnel, but they had a pearlescent sheen.

As the familiar babbling sound rose outside the door, Adrien said, “What are we gonna do?”

We had intended to use Christa to hack the system and shut it down, but that was no longer an option. I chuffed, “Fuck it. Let’s blow the whole room. You got enough on you?”

Adrian said, “Enough to level the whole complex, but—”

I interrupted, “No, ‘buts’, man. Let’s end this. Set the charges around in a circle. Make sure the concussive force is directed toward the center of the room.”

“Got it,” he said, and started working.

“Christa, I need you to find us a way out of here,” I said, but she appeared to be lost in fear. “Christa?”

I crossed the room and grabbed her by the shoulders. She seemed to look right through me, and so I slapped her.

She rubbed her cheek. “Ugh, bitch.”

My face turned hot. “I just… I thought, you know…”

“You don’t just smack someone across the face. Ow, man, that really hurt.”

“Sorry, I just needed to you to find us a way out of here.”

“I know, jeez. Just, stay over there and let me figure it out. And keep your paws to yourself.”


She glowered at me, and then tapped away on her computer. After a short while, Adrian announced that he completed setting the bombs.

As the noise grew increasingly louder outside the door, Christa said, “Found a way out!”

I said, “You lead!”

Christa squeezed through a gap between the wall and the crystal structure, carefully stepping over one of the bombs. Adrian followed her, and I tried, but got stuck. It was a moment where I wished I hadn’t been a nervous eater. Strong as I was, defined in the muscles I might have been, skinny in the booty I was not.

Christa and Adrian snared my arms as the door crashed open. Babbling cupcakes rolled into the room, and I felt the small of my back tighten with fear. Oh, how I wished I had butter or oil to help squeeze me through that gap. Fortunately, I didn’t need either. They managed to pull me through just as dozens of cupcakes encroached on me. I wouldn’t be their buttercream snack that day.

Following Christa after that wasn’t so difficult. The hardest part was staying ahead of the cupcakes. They weren’t round but they were definitely fast, and they exploded from every orifice in the building through which they could fit.

Christa said, “Over there! Through that pipe.”

As I looked at the horde behind us I said, “Are you sure?”

She jumped into the pipe, slid down, and said, “No choice!”

We followed her. I feared we’d end up in a room full of hungry cupcakes; or worse, in the vats below that stored their acidic buttercream topping, but it dumped us out into the parking lot at the back of the building.

We ran hard and fast, moving far enough to be safe from the blast. We guessed the debris wouldn’t travel that far, but we wanted to play it safe. We turned toward the building, and Adrian offered me the trigger. I waved it away, knowing he’d enjoy it more than I ever could.

With a smile on his face, he blew the building. It was powerful, even a little beautiful. The dark sky lit for the first time with hope as the pastries that followed us through the pipe fell silent, unmoving, and dead. It was finally over. Our war with the cupcakes was won.

Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

A man wants what he cannot have, and will do anything to get it, even if it means committing suicide to do it.

As the mayor of a small town, I had everything I could ever want. They literally gave me a book full of blank checks and the power to sign them. As long as I took care of the town, they allowed me to use the monetary resources as I wished. However, as all men know, money can’t buy everything.

It happened as I was watching a late-night marathon of MacGyver in the living room of my discreet four-story mansion. I didn’t much care for commercials, so I surveyed the dark room. During the day or in full light, the decor appeared regal, stately. In the TV’s soft gloomy glow, however, the ornately knobby furniture felt more like grinning beasts.

I returned my attention to the tube just as some maniac with a super-absorbent towel finished screaming at the camera. The screen faded to black, and when the picture returned, it was of a man sitting in a reclining chair. The room looked a lot like mine, and though I knew it certainly wasn’t, it earned my interest.

In the commercial, the man walked to his freezer, opened it, and realized he had nothing in there but an empty ice-cream box. He dramatized this by shaking it upside-down, and of course, nothing fell out. He looked sad for a moment, until he saw a child outside his window with two ice-cream bars. After 20 seconds of crazy antics, he finally stole one, bit into that delicious candy bar, and I suddenly wanted one, too. No, I needed one.

I looked at the clock, and it was too late. All the stores had closed hours ago. Living in a small town had some perks, but all-night convenience wasn’t one of them. Therefore, I had to use my powers of political persuasion to get one.

After picking up the phone and dialing my assistant’s number, I waited.

Kurt answered with a yawn, “Hello?”

“Do you have Alex’s number?”


“Alex. The guy that owns Quickie Market.”

“You mean James, and yes, I do.”

“Okay, can you call his phone and have her meet me at the store?”



“Him. Remember. He’s post-op. You’re mayor. You have to remember how to say things right.”

“Okay, can you just have him meet me at his store?”

“What for?”

“I need something.”

He yawned again. “Well, you’re just gonna have to wait until Saturday.”

“Excuse me?”

He suddenly realized how insubordinate his comment sounded and replied, “No, I just mean that he’s at a funeral in Larimore. Won’t be back until Saturday.”

“Jesus. This won’t do,” I said, and then I stood. I paced back and forth, thinking of some way I could get in there, and then I thought of Adrianna. “What about that young blonde that works there on the weekends? Adrianna surely has a key.”

“Lindsay, sir,” He said, and I could hear coffee brewing in the background. “She got married a month ago, moved to Texarkana. You remember? You even officiated their marriage.”

“Oh, that’s right. She married, uh,” I said snapping, “what’s-his-face. The, uh, the kid that brushes the horses.”

“Sir, Jimmy is the one with the horses. She married Victor, the lawyer from Chattanooga.”

“Oh, right. That guy.”

“Anyway, the only way that place is opening up is if Jenkins need in there.”

“Jenkins… yes…” I still had no idea who he was talking about.

“Sheriff Jenkins has a key in case they need to store someone for the morgue.”

“Oh, God,” I said, realizing I bought all my food there. “Why the hell would they do that?”

“Sir, the morgue is under construction. You knew about this.”

“I did?”

“Yes. The ‘renovations’ are there to make room for the gym.”

“Well, shit.”

“Yes, sir.”

As he slurped his coffee, I sighed. Defeat never suited me, but naturally, I accepted when it got the best of me. “Okay. Get some rest, then. I’ll probably be in late tomorrow.”

“Okay, sir.”

I hung up the phone, and sighed again. I had always had this insatiable drive when it came to getting what I wanted. It was how I became the mayor of that small town after all. I hated not being able to get what I wanted.

I plopped down on the couch and watched ten minute of MacGyver. Despite my disappointment, I still found pleasure in how he could get out of just about any situation by being clever. I didn’t know anyone who could take an impossible situation, and MacGyver the shit out of it. I knew I couldn’t… or…

That was when it hit me. I could be that man. Hell, I was already used to getting everything I wanted, why stop now? All I had to do was think of some way to get into the building, and then I’d have my good eats.

I thought about breaking the window, but then realized immediately how bad of an idea that was and how unlike MacGyver that would be. After that, I considered ways to get the keys from Jenkins, but he wouldn’t just give them to me. He was a man who stuck to the book, and I liked him that way because honestly, it kept me straight. However, he was the only way I was going to get into that store. That remained true, anyway, until I realized I didn’t have to get in there directly through him or by making him break his oath to uphold the law.

I smiled, unable to believe that I’d come up with such a perfectly devious plan.

I stood and walked across the room to an old oak credenza once owned by Malcom something-or-other. I don’t really recall his name, obviously, but I do remember the story behind it.

Sixty years ago, Malcom owed a lot of money to some very bad men. Although people considered him stupid for having acquired such dangerous debt, he was also very smart. One day, he decided to escape them by faking his death in the same way that Juliet did. He used his knowledge of chemistry to come up with a household mixture that would put him in a deep sleep. When the mob found out, they’d release the debt and he’d be free. It worked a little too well, because he’d passed out and woke up buried alive.

Fortunately, the credenza came with the recipe when I bought it. Perhaps I wasn’t as smart as Malcom was, but I knew enough to make it work. Well, I hoped, anyway.

I opened the drawer, removed a sealed frame, and looked at the list of ingredients and the recipe contained inside. I had everything in my kitchen.

I quickly gathered the ingredients, and double-checked to make sure everything was right. The last thing I wanted to do was poison myself to death—no pun intended.

After taking a deep breath, I mixed them. I fully expected to die from inhaling the smoke that feathered out of the glass on the table, but the only thing I could complain about was the smell. It was awful.

With cup in hand, I dialed my Assistant, Ralph. He answered just as he did before, with a yawn. “Hello?”

“Help me…” I said with a pathetic whine, and then dropped the phone.

I looked down at the concoction, took another deep breath and I asked myself, “What would you do for a Klondike bar?”

I downed the disgusting mix, holding back the urge to barf it all over the kitchen floor. A moment later, I became drowsy. Another moment passed, and I woke in darkness.

I don’t remember much about my father because he was never around, but I do recall him telling me that drugs were bad and I should always make good choices. I found that funny because he was a drug addict and a shitty father. I suppose, if anything, he did a good job reinforcing his own advice even if it was in an incredible example of irony. This is the information I should have reflected on before drinking that shit.

When I woke, my body felt numb, and I thought I could move but I wasn’t sure. What I was sure about, was that it didn’t stay dark for long. Soon, I was basking in the warmth of the summer sun, smack dab in the middle of a grassy meadow. Butterflies danced languidly from flower to flower as birds twittered from the trees. I took in a deep breath of the sweet vernal grass, and a cool, clean breeze, passed through, chilling those blades, and they shivered, though more with delight than with resentment.

Because of where I lived (in the desert) and because I knew I wasn’t crazy (debatable), it meant I was hallucinating. The stuff I drank, though effective, was apparently also a drug. Well, I mean, yes, it was a drug to begin with, but I had no idea it would cause me to hallucinate.

Anyway, I was back in the darkness eventually. The smell of plastic and polyethylene nauseated me. I tried lifting my arms, expecting them not to move, but they did. I patted the cover that was over me, and I suddenly realized I was inside a body back.


Although I still felt a bit numb, I molested the bag until my knuckles scraped along the metallic zipper. Following it was difficult, but eventually my fingers found the internal zipper tag, and then I unzipped the bag.

A sudden rush of cold blasted me as I sat up. I was, as expected, in the freezer of what’s-his-name’s store. The first thing I saw was beer, and damn it looked good. I figured no one would notice if I had just one to warm me up. After all, I was nude and needed something to keep the chill at bay.

I tip-toped across the walk-in freezer, and plucked a bottle of alcoholic Root Beer from one of the crates. Luckily, the cap twisted off, and I started sipping. Then I was chugging.

Looking down and taking in a deep breath to abate the burn of carbonation, I saw a crate of Heineken to my left. The bottlenecks swayed back and forth, and there were tiny human faces on the caps. They sang a song in German. I didn’t even know German, but somewhere deep in my subconscious, my hallucinations found a song from the beer’s homeland and sang it to me.

The beer continued to serenade me as I looked around the freezer for those delicious little Klondike bars. For a while, I saw everything except those things I desired the most. What I needed the most. Then, at last, I spied that silver box of minty chocolate goodness near a stack of vegetarian ice cream.

I waddled over to them, and tore the box open with a kind of carnal voracity only found in hungry animals and those addicted to sex. It was, after all, a small love affair. The Klondike bar needed me, and I so very much needed it.

I detected a hint of peppermint as I sniffed the aluminum exterior. Those perfect square shapes hinted at the pleasures beyond, and I ever so gently pealed at the wrapper. The beer sang me another tune—or maybe it was the same one—as I bit into it. The flavor was so divine that I felt like I might be risking my salvation, my entrance into heaven forfeited because of this one… tasty…

I heard a door slam open. It was Jenkins.

He screamed. I screamed. The Klondike bars screamed. I think Jenkins then shot me in the chest.

I woke up several nights later in a hospital bed. A machine softly beeped, and my chest hurt as if someone had shot me. At that point, I wasn’t sure because I had been hallucinating. It wasn’t until I looked down and saw the bloody gauze on my chest that I was certain it had actually happened.

There was a sour taste in my mouth, but there was no water nearby. There was, however, a remote to the television hanging from the wall. I turned it on, and watched a commercial for Brisk lemon iced tea. In this Claymation rendering, an international spy went through hell to obtain a top-secret bottle of iced tea.

I was thirsty. I needed something to quench it. I knew what I needed to do.