Unidentified Funny Objects 4 cover and table of contents

 

The fourth annual Unidentified Funny Objects anthology will contain 23 stories totaling approximately 86,000 words. Cover art by Tomasz Maronski. Interior illustrations by Barry Munden.

image description

“We Can Get Them for You Wholesale” by Neil Gaiman

“The Time-Traveling Ghost Machine of Professor Jaime Peligrosa” by Andrew Kaye

“Please Approve the Dissertation Research of Angtor” by Caroline M. Yoachim

“Match Game” by Esther Friesner

“The Transformation of Prince Humphrey” by Brent C. Smith

“In the End, You Get Clarity” by Laura Pearlman

“Project Disaster” by Tim Pratt

“Hello Hotel” by Piers Anthony

“Bob’s No Kill Monster Shelter” by Ian Creasey

“Board Meeting Minutes” by Oliver Buckram

“Armed for You” by Anaea Lay

“The Unfortunate Problem of Grandma’s Head” by Karen Haber

“My Mother Loves Her Robot More than Me and I Feel Bad” by Eric Kaplan

“The Worm that Turned” by Jody Lynn Nye

“Department of Death Predictions, Final Notice” by Tina Gower

“Champions of Breakfast” by Zach Shephard

“Keeping Ahead” by Mike Resnick

“So You’ve Metamorphosed into a Giant Insect. Now What?” by James Aquilone

“Confessions of an Interplanetary Art Fraud” by Michael J. Martinez

“Texts from My Mother about an Alien Invasion” by Tina Connolly

“Support Your Local Alien” by Gini Koch

“Topics to Avoid on a First Date with Yourself” by Jonathan Ems

“The Monkey Treatment” by George R. R. Martin

Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories

cover-hi-res[Buy direct: Paperback | E-book]
[Amazon]
[B&N] [Smashwords] [Kobo]
[Audio Book]

Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories, a collection of 40 short stories by Alex Shvartsman is now available in print and e-book formats.

Audio book, narrated by Tina Connolly,  is forthcoming from Audible. You can listen to the title story now:

And here is “Fate and Other Variables”:

Unidentified Funny Objects 3 cover and table of contents

image descriptionThe third annual volume of UFO contains 82,000+ words of fiction, cover art by Tomasz Maronski and interior art by Barry Munden. It will be released on October 1, 2014.

Table of Contents:

  1. “On the Efficacy of Supervillain Battles in Eliciting Therapeutic Breakthroughs” by Jim C. Hines
  2. “The Right Answer ” by James Miller
  3. “The Gefilte Fish Girl ” by Mike Resnick
  4. “Master of Business Apocalypse ” by Jakob Drud
  5. “Carla at the Off-Planet Tax Return Helpline ” by Caroline M. Yoachim
  6. “Why I Bought Satan Two Cokes on the Day I Graduated High School ” by Nathaniel Lee
  7. “Company Store ” by Robert Silverberg
  8. “The Door-to-Door Salesthing from Planet X ” by Josh Vogt
  9. “Picture Perfect ” by Matt Mikalatos
  10. “The Discounted Seniors ” by James Beamon
  11. “That Must Be Them Now ” by Karen Haber
  12. “Notes to My Past and/or Alternate Selves ” by Sarah Pinsker
  13. “The Real and the Really Real ” by Tim Pratt
  14. “An Insatiable Craving ” by Camille Griep
  15. “Live at the Scene ” by Gini Koch
  16. “The Newsboy’s Last Stand ” by Krystal Claxton
  17. “The Full Lazenby ” by Jeremy Butler
  18. “Do Not Remove this Tag ” by Piers Anthony
  19. “Super-Baby-Mom Group Saves the Day! ” by Tina Connolly
  20. “The Choochoomorphosis ” by Oliver Buckram
  21. “The Fate Worse than Death ” by Kevin J. Anderson & Guy Anthony De Marco
  22. “Elections at Villa Encantada ” by Cat Rambo
  23. “Infinite Drive” by Jody Lynn Nye

Company StoreTwo reprints are included (stories by Robert Solverberg and Mike Resnick). The rest are original material.

E-Book: 5.99 – Click here to pre-order now.

Paperback: 15.99 (includes free ebook) – Click here to pre-order now.

Our New Online Store

UFO Publishing finally joined the 21st century by having an online store!

Up until now, we used a PayPal button to accept orders and had to fulfill them by manually e-mailing the e-book files to the reader. No more! The new store will automatically fill e-book orders. We still have to manually ship the physical books, but we’re working on that problem next.

Click here to visit our shiny new store!

 

 

Coffee Table of Contents & 2013 Holiday Bundle Sale

Coffee_Cover_v1r2

UFO Publishing is thrilled to present our next anthology, Coffee: 14 Caffeinated Tales of the Fantastic.

Coffee plays a major role in each of the stories collected in this book. Brewed from such fine ingredients as magic, wonder, humor, and romance, Coffee serves up a unique blend of the fantastic you won’t be able to put down.

Release date: December 9, 2013
MSRP $9.99 (trade paperback), $2.99 (e-book).Buy it now.

Table of contents:

Coffee_Cover_v1r2Foreword by Alex Shvartsman
At the Everywhere Cafe by A.C. Wise
The Perfect Book by Ken Liu
Toilet Gnomes at War by Beth Cato
The Seven Samovars by Peter Sursi
The Civet Whisperer by James Beamon
From the Shores of Tripoli by Jonathan Shipley
A Darker Brew by Teri Babcock
The Cup of Truth by Matt Mikalatos
Dungeons and Dental Plans by Tim McDaniel
The Man Who Heard Doughnuts by Oliver Buckram
The Coffeemaker’s Passion by Cat Rambo
Caution: Contents Hot by E.C. Myers
Sexiest Fun Time Drug by Katherine Sparrow
Ghost in the Coffee Machine by Charity Tahmaseb

2013 Holiday Bundle Sale

We’re offering a holiday sale through December 9 for the bundle of all three UFO Publishing titles.

Buy trade paperbacks of Unidentified Funny Objects, Unidentified Funny Objects 2, and Coffee for only $29.99 including shipping ($41.97 MSRP) or $49.99 shipped outside of the United States. Or get the e-book bundle for only $11.99 (14.97 MSRP).

Click here to take advantage of this offer. All physical bundles will ship on or before December 10. E-book bundles will be delivered by Dec 9 (the release date for Coffee).

 

UFO2 cover and table of contents

Unidentified Funny Objects 2 table of contents:

Foreword by Alex Shvartsman
The MSG Golem by Ken Liu
Service Charge by Esther Friesner
Item Not as Described by J.W. Alden
Stranger vs. the Malevolent Malignancy by JIm C. Hines
How to Feed Your Pyrokinetic Toddler by Fran Wilde
A Stiff Bargain by Matt Mikalatos
The Girl with the Dagon Tattoo by Josh Vogt
Improved Cubicle Door by M.C.A. Hogarth
On Safari by Mike Resnick
How You Ruined Everything by Konstantine Paradias
Insider Information by Jody Lynn Nye
The Haunted Blender by K.G. Jewell
The Retgun by Tim Pratt
The Diplomat’s Holiday by Heather Lindsley
Congratulations on Your Apotheosis by Michelle Ann King
One Thing Leads to Your Mother by Desmond Warzel
Class Action Orc by James Beamon
The Wiggy Turpin Affair by Wade Albert White
Hannibal’s Elephants by Robert Silverberg
You can order UFO2 here:

 

UFO2 Kickstarter Launched

Unidentified Funny Objects 2 is being put together over the next few months with a target launch date of September 2013.

We’re excited to announce the headliners for volume 2: Robert Silverberg, Mike Resnick, Ken Liu, Esther Friesner, Jody Lynn Nye, and Tim Pratt.

In the month of April we are going to be running a crowdfunding campaign to help fund this volume. Please check it out and consider pre-ordering via Kickstarter:

 

Morte Cuisine by Kara Dalkey

“No! No! No!” Chef Galbadon Fleece beat back the aproned, toqued, zombified brigade-de-cuisine with a rolling pin. “The brains are not ready!”

“Braaaains!” intoned the apprentice kitchen staff gathered round the counter. They were drooling appreciatively at the glistening, gray hemisphere Chef Galbadon had just pulled from the oven.

“The honey glaze, you’ll notice, has just begun to settle and form a nice crust,” Chef Galbadon instructed them, “and only now is it ready for the cranberry compote, thusly.” From the stovetop behind him, Galbadon took a saucepan holding a reduction of cranberries mixed with sugar and a dash of Tokay wine. He poured this liberally over the brains and the result was, well, he would have thought it visually revolting back in his living days but now the presentation was absolutely perfect.

There had been many changes since the plague ravaged the world, changing eighty percent of its people into post-thanatotic humanity. Chef Galbadon was once a famous pop-culture gourmet followed around by television cameras as he harangued hapless would-be restaurateurs. Chef Galbadon, too, had died and was resurrected into rotting, ichorous flesh, but somehow his mind had stayed intact, more or less. He sometimes wondered if it was due to those rare herbs he’d sampled in Madagascar. Or perhaps it was his signature stubbornness that refused to succumb to undead stupor. So he continued to focus on his vocation of bringing good food to the masses. Even if the dishes were now almost entirely protein-based and he was preparing it for drooling, brain-dead cretins. Which, now that he thought on it, wasn’t so different from his living days.

But Chef Galbadon despaired of getting anything useful out of this crew. His sous-chef, Charles, reached a grasping hand toward the brain and Chef Galbadon had to slap it away. “Not yet! Our lesson is not over! Now, who can think of anything to add, an appropriate garnish to complete the dish?”

“Uhhh, eyes?” suggested the junior cook, Henrico.

“Eyes? Eyes? Have you lost your bloody mind?”

Henrico felt around his somewhat exposed skull and then blankly shook his head.

“Eyes would be entirely too garish a garnish,” Chef Galbadon explained, “not to mention their difficulty of procurement. They would have to be absolutely fresh. Which would drive up the price of the dish prohibitively.”

Indeed, just getting ingredients was becoming harder and harder, not least because his kind were in competition with the remaining livelies. To his chagrin, Chef Galbadon now wished more people had listened to his annoying TV competitor, Chef Jessica Greenleaf, and become vegetarians. “All right, anyone else?”

Clarissa, the soup cook, tentatively raised a hand. “Uhhh, bone meal?”

“Bone meal?” cried Chef Galbadon in dismay. “Dry, dusty, musty bone meal? Have you lost all sense of taste?”

Clarissa obligingly plucked her black and purple tongue out of her mouth and examined it. She shook her head attempted to put her tongue back in her mouth, but it wouldn’t stay and instead flopped onto the counter, dangerously close to the platter of brains. The tongue began to wriggle toward the dish like a fat worm.

“Get that off of there!” Chef Galbadon shrieked. He batted it off the counter with a spatula, which he then flung into the sink. “Do you want a visit from the health inspectors? I keep telling you and telling you, cleanliness is key, people!”

Clarissa looked down, ashamed, as Jimmy, the kitchen boy, dutifully swept up her tongue.

Knowing he could only push his people so far, especially given their current debased condition, Chef Galbadon threw his soup cook a bone. Literally. As she gnawed on it, he said, “Well, all right, a light dusting of bone meal mixed with powdered sugar over the top might have a place. But we don’t want too much sucrose in the dish and we already have the honey glaze. Modern cuisine must be healthy cuisine.” He realized the ridiculousness of that statement as he stared at the sagging, decaying faces before him, but why mess with a good motto.

There was a boom out in the dining room.

“We’re closed!” Chef Galbadon yelled. “Come back this evening! Henri, will you go send the customers away? Politely?”

Henri nodded and turned. The kitchen door banged open and two livelies stood there, one man aiming a shotgun, the other holding a fire axe at the ready.

“Ohmigod, Fred, we found a whole nest of ‘em!”

“This is not a nest!” Chef Galbadon shouted. “This is a cooking class, which you are rudely interrupting!”

“Who’s the mouthy one?” said axe-man.

“Dunno but you better get out of here, Mister, ’cause we’re about to clear this place out,” said the shotgun lively, waving his weapon around to prove his point.

“You will do no such thing!” protested Chef Galbadon. “Charles, will you please escort these gentlemen, and I use the term loosely, to the door!”

“Uurrrgh,” agreed Charles, and he turned, arms outstretched, toward the intruders.

The man with the shotgun fired, blowing Charles’s head off, spattering green and purple ichor all over the kitchen.

“You idiot, that was my sous-chef!” Chef Galbadon shrieked. “Do you know how hard it is to find a good sous-chef? You have to train them for years!”

“The talker must be one of them,” said axe-man. “Get him too.”

Chef Galbadon was hot-tempered but no fool. As Mr. Shotgun reloaded, he grabbed the enormous iron wok from the wall (thanking his undead condition for the required strength) and held it before him like a shield. “In no uncertain terms I demand that you leave or I shall direct my staff to be less than gentle with you!”

“Shut up,” said Mr. Shotgun as he fired. Not at the wok but at Chef Galbadon’s exposed legs. The chef and the wok dropped to the floor.

There was no pain. That was another gift of his undead existence. The only discomfort he felt as a zombie was a continuous, insatiable hunger, as though jagged rocks rolled around in his stomach. But frustration Chef Galbadon felt in abundance. He wailed, “You bastards! You shot off my legs! How am I supposed to reach the cupboards and countertops now?”

The kitchen staff stared wide-eyed at their chef-de-cuisine brought low.

“We told you to shut up,” said axe-man, raising his blade. But Mr. Shotgun still hadn’t gone past the doorway and the axe gouged his upper arm.

“Hey! Watch where you’re swinging that thing, Fred!”

The bright scent of fresh blood was as enticing as the nose of a fine port wine, and like the best of them, captured attention. It caused somnolent neurons to fire in the normally torpid kitchen staff, and they whirled into action. They grabbed kitchen knives and tenderizing mallets and descended on the intruders with a vengeance. Before Mr. Shotgun could get off another blast, he was surrounded by what amounted to an undead Cuisinart. Mr. Axe got no further than lopping off the pastry cook’s hand before he, too, was sucked into the vortex of cleavers and graters and tongs.

Chef Galbadon sighed at the opportunities lost, wallowing in self-pity to the soundtrack of the livelies screaming. He wondered what he would do now, with his movement so constrained. How could he keep up with his busy schedule? What matter, why bother anymore teaching those who couldn’t possibly learn?

But it was damned hard to off oneself once one had become zombified. Even now, the mostly headless remains of his sous-chef, empowered by some notochordal instinct, was crawling to join in the fray.

From habit, Chef Galbadon looked around for the cameraman, hoping he was catching the drama for the week’s show. But of course the cameraman was gone. They’d eaten him months ago.

Chef Galbadon was shaken out of his miasma of melancholy by the sudden silence and purposeful movement of his staff. To his amazement, before his eyes, a miracle unfolded. Over the next couple of hours, the apprentices worked in smooth, competent cooperation at the stoves and the grill and the mixing station. They picked up Chef Galbadon and reverently set him on a bar stool placed beside the central kitchen island counter. One by one, as if placing offerings before an idol, the cooks presented their chef with dishes carefully made from their would-be destroyers.

There was blood-marrow pudding with spiced rum icing; ligament linguine in a marinara sauce; bone chips with cheddar-cheese artichoke dip; brain chowder with potatoes and sweet corn; chargrilled flank steak with a sage-maple spice rub; fingers and toes in a light tempura batter stir-fried with onions and bell peppers; and even barbecued “urban oysters” with a kiwi fruit garnish. And, yes, Henrico had added their eyes to the top of the freshly baked, cranberry-glazed brains. It was perfect. Galbadon would have wept if his tear ducts still functioned. “Oh, well done, ladies and gents, well done. You see, fine cuisine is not dead, even if we are. I am so very proud of you all. You are all head of class. No offense, Charles. Now, let’s not let your excellent work go to waste. Everyone, please, dig in.”

The feeding frenzy that followed was magnificent.

Kara Dalkey is the author of sixteen historical and urban fantasy novels, and at least as many short-stories, both science fiction and fantasy.  Her most recent published novels were the Water Triology books, Ascension, Transformation and Reunion.  She has also published short stories in the Firebirds young adult anthologies.  She loves humorous writing and has fond childhood memories of bringing huge stacks of funny books home from the library to chuckle over.  

Although she was born and raised in Los Angeles, and honed her writing skills in Minneapolis, Kara now lives in the Pacific Northwest, along with a man, a boat and a very large pixie-bob cat.

Photo (c) Helen Meier

UFO Publishing brings you a free humorous story every month. Click here to read more.

If you enjoy our web content and wish to read 29 more such stories, please order Unidentified Funny Objects today!

A Midnight Carnival at Sunset by Terra LeMay

By Photo by Heather Abounader (www.abounaderphoto.com abounaderphoto.blogspot.com Heather Moreton from Louisville, KY, USA) (12/28/08 Sunset  Uploaded by Princess Mérida) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

So, you’re on your way home from work, and traffic is awful. You try an alternate route but it doesn’t help, and you’re not a confident driver. Or maybe you’ve been having car trouble and you’re afraid your car’s going to overheat. Hell, maybe you just had a bad day at work and are wondering if you should pull the car over and wait for traffic to die down before you experience some kind of freakish road rage and kill someone. Who knows.

In any case, just ahead, off to your right, you see a time-worn, hand-painted sign for a place called Kurious Kreatures. You’ve heard of the place, of course. It’s a zoo for fairy-tale creatures. Really, a kind of sideshow. You’ve even passed it before, though you’ve never stopped because you don’t want to be seen as supporting that kind of exploitation. A regular zoo full of regular animals is bad enough, but most creatures of legend are sentient and self-aware in a way that regular animals aren’t. Some of them can even talk. At least, that’s what you’re given to understand. You’ve never actually met one.

At any rate, it doesn’t seem right to you that someone should lock talking animals up in cages so that gawkers can point and laugh. But you have to admit you’ve often wondered about the place. You’ve never seen a unicorn before, not even on television. As traffic creeps forward and the setting sun burns your retinas, the park begins to seem like a good place to take a load off. If nothing else, it looks quiet. The parking lot is empty. You decide to stop and check it out.

You park your car, get out, approach the entrance. The first sign you pass reads:

“Caution – Kurious Kreatures is not a petting zoo. The Kreatures are free to move about their individual enclosures and free to leave them at any time. Please do not enter the enclosures or try to touch the Kreatures. If a Kreature approaches you or speaks to you, please treat him or her with the same respect and consideration you’d offer toward your fellow humans. Thank you and God Bless.”

This isn’t what you expected.

There’s no gate at the entrance, only an honor box style parking meter that’s been retrofitted to take the admission fee. A laminated sign duct-taped to the bottom of it says, “Please help us feed the Kreatures so they will consent to remain at our facility. Suggested donation: $5.00. Thank you and God Bless.”

At this point, you may choose to make a donation, or you may decide to wait until you see the sights. It won’t take long. There’s an illustrated map of the park on another sign above the donation box, and it shows the habitats running along both sides of a single lane, circling a cul-de-sac at the lane’s end. When you glance ahead, you can see the end of the cul-de-sac from the entrance. You’ll be in and out in fifteen minutes. Thirty, tops.

There are ten habitats, each containing a shed-style stall inside a yard bound by a waist-high picket fence. The grass inside all the habitats needs cutting and weeds are growing along the picket fences even on the visitor side of the fence, which is paved. Every painted surface is peeling. There are speakers mounted to telephone poles at the corner of every habitat playing, faintly, a poor approximation of “Sobre las Olas.”

The front of the first shed in the first enclosure on the left is covered with a large blue tarp, and the shed in the enclosure beyond it is stuffed full of hay bales. Because the enclosures on the left are clearly being used for storage, you move to the right to begin your tour.

Placards are mounted to the front of each enclosure. The first placard says, “The Imperial Basilisk,” and below, hand-painted letters explain, “Please do not fear our basilisk. He is harmless, having been blinded in his youth by the urine of a weasel. He is content to remain on display in our park, but do not attempt to touch him as his touch remains deadly as ever, and he may bite. Thank you and God Bless.”

An overlarge lump covered in scaly lizard skin rests on a bare patch of ground near the shed stall. It’s nearly impossible to tell if the thing is really a basilisk or just some kind of fat alligator, and no matter how long you stand at the fence and watch, you never see it move, not so much as the rise and fall of its sides as it inhales and exhales. Perhaps it has died. Or perhaps it’s just a painted rock.

And yet, although the weeds grow thick along the picket fence, all vegetation within a fifteen-foot diameter of the thing is burnt or brown or dying. Fake or real, dead or alive, you are afraid to risk investigating. You move on.

The next placard is blank, the enclosure overgrown, and just beyond it, the lane opens up. Counterclockwise around the cul-de-sac–widdershins, if you prefer–you make your way past a second empty enclosure, and then a third. You assume the three are empty, anyway. The placards are blank and the grass is taller than the picket fence.

The fifth enclosure you come to, deep at the end of the lane near the top of the cul-de-sac, appears to be well tended. You are relieved. It must be inhabited.

The grass is cropped short and a bucket near the enclosure’s closed gate contains fresh, clean water. There are flakes of hay stacked beside the fence, pulled apart and scattered a little as if something has been eating at them.

The placard on the front of the enclosure says, “The Unicorn of Legend,” and, “We are very sorry. The unicorn is invisible to most of our adult patrons. This comes as a disappointment to many but is unfortunately beyond our control. Please accept our apologies and God Bless.”

You shake your head and move on.

Beyond the “unicorn” is another “inhabited” enclosure. The placard says, “The Cursed Werewolf: Contrary to popular belief, a lycanthrope spends most of its time in four-legged form and is only free of its curse during the full moon. Thank you and God Bless.”

There’s a smaller sign below the placard with spaces in which someone has failed to fill in a date and time.

“See the next transformation at __:__ on _______ ___, 20__.

“(Not recommended for those with heart problems or weak stomachs.)”

You see no sign of any creature whether in the shape of man or beast. You move on.

You’re more than half-finished with the tour by this point, already around the deepest curve of the cul-de-sac and back on your way out of the park now. Perhaps you are annoyed. Perhaps you are baffled. Perhaps you are weary and wonder if you’ve wasted your time.

But the next enclosure is different than all the others. Its yard is paved and contains a shallow, concrete depression in the center. A swimming pool. It even contains water, tinted slightly green by algae. There’s a brownish lump resting at one end of the pool, and beside it, dry on the cement, a second lump. Both lumps raise their heads at your approach.

Is this life? Live animals, praise be!

The lump on the cement springs to its feet–it is a dog, you see–and then as if it you’ve caught it piddling on the rug or chewing the newspaper, it skedaddles toward the enclosure you just passed, squeezing through a hole in the fence between them. It trots to the center of the other enclosure, sits as perfectly as a trained obedience champion, and raises a paw, as if to wave.

Is it a dog? Surely it’s not a werewolf.

The lump in the cement swimming pool–it’s a seal–looks at you as if annoyed that you’ve caused the loss of its companion. The sign on the post says, “A Selkie of the Faroe Islands,” and, “Please do not ask our Selkie friend to remove his pelt for he is nude beneath it and very modest. You would not appreciate it if someone demanded you to remove your own clothing in front of strangers, would you? Thank you for your understanding, and God Bless.”

The “selkie” lifts a flipper, but you’d swear if it had hands that it was flipping you the middle finger.

The next enclosure contains a bird perch, and a bird on the ground beside it, pecking at the grass. It could be an ugly peacock or maybe some kind of lyrebird, but the sign tells you it’s The Sacred Phoenix:

“Also known as the firebird, this Kreature has a lifespan of five hundred years, at the end of which it spontaneously combusts and is reborn out of its own ashes. Our firebird has consented to allowing us to observe this amazing phenomenon. Thank you and God Bless.”

The sign to indicate the date and time of the phoenix’s rebirth is mounted below, but the pertinent information describes a date so far in the future as to be irrelevant. “Next show: December 28th, 2317. 2:00 pm.”

By this point you’re leaving the cul-de-sac and pointed toward the exit. The enclosure on your right is the one which contains the shed full of hay. Your tour is over. How boring.

You stalk toward the exit, muttering beneath your breath. If you haven’t yet put any money in the admission box, you resolve not to do so, and if you paid on your way in, you’re wondering if you could break the box open and get your money back without getting caught.

The only exhibit even remotely convincing was the basilisk, and only because someone took the time to liberally douse the enclosure with weed killer.

As you near its habitat, you can’t stop looking at the so-called basilisk, which you’re now sure is just a painted-up rock.

Admit it, you’re thinking of vandalizing the rock so other visitors won’t waste their time as you did. You’re remembering the can of spray paint that’s been rolling around in the trunk of your car for the last three weeks. You’re wondering if painting “God Bless” on the rock would be ironic or too subtle.

But you were on your way home from work when you stopped, and it’s getting dark. You’re annoyed, but are you really a vandal? Maybe you’ll just go home instead and laugh about it with your spouse.

You pass under the sun-bleached welcome banner stretching between the two frontmost enclosures (“Please come again, and God Bless!” it says on the reverse side), and the halogens all over the park come on at once. There are several atop each telephone pole and they illuminate the lane and each of the enclosures very well. Under the light of the halogen, the lizard-rock looks even more convincing. There is even the trompe l’oeil suggestion of a head.

You pause, admire the attention to detail, the creative way the artist has taken advantage of the shape of the rock, and you’re just giving up your last instincts to vandalize the thing when a voice from behind you startles you so much you almost jump out of your skin.

“He’s nocturnal, you know. Like me. But if you wanna hang around another twenty minutes, he’ll prolly give you a show.”

Standing in front of the tarp-covered shed-stall in the habitat across from the basilisk enclosure is a pale-skinned man. He turns away and drags down the tarp. Inside the shed, on a couple of pallets, is a glossy black sarcophagus, and near it, arranged on a Persian rug: an armchair and footstool, a bookshelf, a small table and an antique Victorian lamp.

The placard on the fence says, “A Damned Vampire: On exhibit only from dusk to dawn. Please cover all crosses and religious paraphernalia while viewing. Thank you.”

The “vampire” folds the tarp from the front of his shed and sets it behind the sarcophagus, out of sight. He goes to the armchair, makes himself comfortable in it, and turns on the lamp. “Is that better?” he asks. “Sometimes people complain they cannot make me out in the dark.”

You exhale sharply through your nose. You don’t believe for a minute that this guy’s the real thing. But before you’re able to come up with an appropriately stinging retort, your cell phone demands your attention with whatever familiar ring tone you’ve assigned to your spouse.

Your stomach drops. You suddenly remember you were supposed to meet your spouse for dinner at that little place where you two always go for birthdays and anniversaries. Which happens to be a few blocks away from your workplace, back in town.

You’re in serious trouble. You don’t even glance at the so-called vampire. You just hurry toward the exit while you dig in your pocket for your phone.

“Shoot! I’m so sorry, honey.”

“I’ve been waiting for you for forty minutes!”

“I know, I know. I’m sorry,” you say again. “I’m on my way.”

You drive against traffic, back into town the way you’d come, leaving the not-quite-a-zoo/not-quite-a-sideshow place behind you without a second thought.

Later, when you’ve soothed the ruffled feathers of your spouse, you recount your visit to Kurious Kreatures, tell all about the supposedly magical monsters and the guy at the end pretending to be a vampire. And you laugh over your plot to vandalize the basilisk rock with the words “God Bless,” but your spouse doesn’t seem to get the joke.

“Well, all the signs,” you say, “they all ended in ‘God Bless’ and I just thought–” but it doesn’t sound as entertaining out of context. Your spouse is merely puzzled.

That’s when you realize not every single sign had ended in “God Bless.” You wonder at the significance of that very last sign. It seems awfully subtle.

Perhaps you ought to go back. After dark, on a full moon. Check it out again.

And, you know, you’re pretty sure that guy in accounting is still a virgin. Maybe you ought to mention the place to him. Maybe he could tell you if there was really a unicorn.

Terra was born on top of a volcano. She’s fond of anagrams, hyperbole, and using extended metaphors to make a point. She writes every day, and a list of her published works is available on the ‘Fiction‘ page on her web site.

Terra has a Bachelor of Fine Arts and likes to paint, draw, and make handmade books. She’s also trying to teach herself how to knit and spin yarn. You can find her art on the ‘Fine Art‘ page.

When Terra’s not writing or making art, she can often be found on the back of a horse or reading a good book—or, sometimes, reading a good book from the back of a good horse. She also reads short story submissions for Clarkesworld Magazine.

She has a day job working in a tattoo studio where, for a small fee, she’ll happily poke a hole in you.

UFO Publishing brings you a free humorous story every month. Click here to read more.

If you enjoy our web content and wish to read 29 more such stories, please order Unidentified Funny Objects today!