I used to, back when I had good habits and regularly wrote, use writtenkitten.net to write little 500 word-length stories. Every hundred words (or whatever you set it to) you get a new picture of a kitten. Hence, I have a kitten dispenser! I've since posted those and a bunch of other writing exercises on my writing blog elsewhere. But these are some of my favorites of the stories, and any and all comments welcome! Some of these have a bit of cussing and whatnot, as warning. "Baseball" "Desert Drunk" "Between the Lines" MacCullen slouched down and picked up a rock. It was smooth from the deuterium sea’s constant erosion. And round. Like a baseball. He hefted it a few times. Heavier, denser definitely, but it felt good to hold in his hand. He tossed the rock back and forth, resuming his walk along the grey shore and thinking about home as he often did, because there was precious little else to think on.In the distance, MacCullen had erected a hovel against the storms that blew in. It was made of stone sheets that jutted up from the ground, a stone’s throw (MacCullen had quite the arm, so that was far) away from the ocean. More slabs, broken and moved by sheer force of will and application of some basic physics, functioned as the roof and walls where necessary. MacCullen had only a tiny door barely big enough for himself in some futile hope of keeping Leslie out."Mr. MacCullen! Mr. MacCullen! Harry! Hey, FTL! Wait up!" Speak of the devil, and he shall come. MacCullen turned around.Leslie flew over the beach, skipping through waves and leaping over larger rocks. Like the ocean and sky, Leslie was a murky sort of blue-grey. He was hard to look at, to be honest, his camouflage made it hard to focus. MacCullen raised a hand in tired greeting."What’s that?" Leslie asked, coming to a halt too close to MacCullen. A watery tendril wrapped around his wrist and pulled it down to eye-stalk level. "Do you want to play some baseball? A bit of back and forth, just you and me?""Who else would I play baseball with?" MacCullen asked, voice long-suffering."I know, right?" Leslie asked, smirking with his mouthless face. The small creature could be down right malicious, though usually he was chipper and happy and horribly excited about baseball. MacCullen almost hated the sport.Leslie was already off, bounding down the beach. MacCullen tossed the rock a few more times to get a feel for it as a ball, then called out, “Ready?”"Ready!"The ball was flying, straight, fast enough to crack skulls. Leslie dove out of the way, then appeared next to MacCullen after a moment’s lag. He always lagged a second just before the teleport."Woah, careful there, slugger. I’m not a pro like you, buddy," a curled tendril punched MacCullen’s arm lightly. Leslie liked to overdose on lingo. "No harm no foul though, right? I’ll go get the ball." Instead of re-materializing it or simply teleporting to the rock’s final resting spot, Leslie ran after its course like a child, calling out impressed praise and laughing at the distance, at the furrow’s length and depth where the ball’d met beach.Leslie wasn’t looking at him, and was right in line. A quick glance afforded him another rock, smaller and lighter, but just as dangerous. He tossed it a few times, got the feel for it, then threw.They didn’t call him Faster Than Light MacCullen for nothing. The day them creatures came to town, the town just went straight to hell. Mainly being as most of it was on fire, their ship dropping flames cross all the rooftops. The wood burned fast and warmed up the night air something awful with the stink of burning livelihoods. That weren’t getting fixed any time soon. It took miles of track and the luck of the draw to get trains and supplies through here, and luck had run out long ‘fore the creatures came crashing through the church’s steeple and a great shaking boom blew out all the glass bottles in the saloon.That’d get a lynching when the cowpokes found who to blame. That’s why I keep my liquor in my blood.The church caught the ship right to its ribs, a bullet made of gleaming metal, and dropped it down on the preacher’s podium. While everyone else was trying to save their homes and jobs, I went investigating. Weren’t like any of those buildings were mine, anyway.I’d been stranded here months back, higher and drier than my funds after gambling with those drifters on the train. I hoped a few had been sleeping in the pews. But hope weren’t much when the holy house of God was aflame.The entire church belched smoke and was full of the crackling screams of an inferno. I got down real low and slunk across the floors. Didn’t have to worry about the roof falling in — most of it was littered all around already, lighting a merry little path toward the ship. I didn’t know it was a ship at that time, of course. I didn’t think much about what it was at all, actually. Just knew it was weird. I ain’t never seen nothing like it before.As I got closer, belly to the ground and slithering like the serpent in the garden of Eden, a seam appeared and cold, cold air rushed out of it with a hiss. It frosted the ground just in front and put out the flames and pushed back the smoke. Something from the ship dropped out onto the church floor."Mother Mary, what the hell!" I skittered backwards ‘fore it could touch me. It wasn’t pretty. Another fell out.Neither was moving. They looked like jelly fish, maybe with a bit more substance and clothing, but mushy and melted and blue. They trembled like they were breathing, and there weren’t much in the way of time ‘fore everything collapsed right through the floor. A tendril rose and reached toward me ‘fore dropping down weakly."Shit," I said, then coughed on the smoke pushing back against the cool air. That sure did seem like a grasp for help and though I weren’t too religious, I also weren’t a complete monster (couldn’t say I knew for sure these things weren’t).I have, however, always been a shit gambler. Didn’t mean I didn’t try, though, so threw the dice and hoped for anything but snake eyes. The cough echoed through the library, and Sandrick’s head snapped up. That was the sixth time. The other monks kept their heads down, scrawling diligently away at religious texts and illuminated letters. He couldn’t focus with that raspy, phlegm-filled sound emanating from all around. They had all taken vows of silence, so he could do naught but grind his teeth together.Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto, Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum... Sandrick though. Then repeated as another hacking clearing of the throat sounded. It was his personal meditation, the Gloria Patri, to keep him focused on his Lord’s work and not that hellish devil sound by God he was going to kill whoeverkeptcoughing!Sandrick stood up abruptly as several coughs tumbled over one another, startling his brothers for a moment, before they quickly averted their gazes back to their transcriptions. A silent pact within their vows. They won’t tell if he doesn’t.Amen. Amen. Amen.He stalked into the labyrinthine shelves, woolen robes scraping across the cold floors, rustling up eddies of dust. The quiet, calm sounds of their workplace and the candle light of it faded away the further he strayed in his hunt.As it grew darker and cold enough to seep through his robes, Sandrick slowed. He couldn’t figure out who would be back here. All the other monks were at the table, or in the cloister proper. There was no reason to be this far isolated.A courage borne of anger quickly flickered and died, and he wished he’d brought a light. “The Lord is my light,” he muttered, breaking his vow where no one but himself and God would hear. Sandrick figured He’d understand and be forgiving."The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?"What if it wasn’t a man? It certainly wasn’t a monk. A cough sounded close by in the gloom, deep as thunder, and Sandrick slammed himself against a bookcase, musty leather and dust comforting scents. Sandrick covered his mouth guiltily with ink-stained hands, eyes darting either way for the originator.The wood above him creaked, and he lifted his gaze heavenward. A form larger than a man made the shelf creak under its weight, head pointed, arms far too long, back stooped, and eyes somehow black even in the darkness. Its head tilted on a long neck, like a bird’s, and it gazed down on Sandrick with one eye.Sandrick couldn’t think of any prayers or protections against demons. He couldn’t think at all. Trembling under the blank stare, he sank to his knees, nails digging into his cheeks.The demon heaved and hacked and spit up a dark mass that splattered against the books across from Sandrick. It caught him again in its gaze, and rasped out, “You are forgiven,” before leaping away, another cough already in its throat."My God?" Sandrick whispered uncertainly as his hands clasped in prayer.