The Skeleton Overlord

As the afternoon drags on, I turn to my choose your own adventure book to fill the hours. Nearing the end of my search for the skeleton overlord, Thorax, I find myself resuming the quest in a poorly lit cavern deep inside Skeleton Mountain. The imposing figure of Thorax inches forward from the shadows; his booming voice exclaiming “Choose your fate, warrior! Run away or stay and fight my skeleton army.” You hear the distant clattering of skeletal feet getting nearer; Thorax’s army is almost upon you from the dark tunnel to your right. Do you stay and fight the skeleton horde (entry 3), attack Thorax (entry 4) or run down the tunnel to the left (entry 9)?

1. Your energy slowly diminishes with each blow you receive. The skeletons are controlled by Thorax; the necromancer’s magic too powerful to break. Your last hope is the ashwood staff stolen from the warlock, Jorvik. In the throng of combat, you have forgotten whether the staff should be tapped once or twice on the rocks to unleash its power. Do you tap once (entry 10) or twice (entry 6)?

2. The skeletal opponents engage you in combat. They are many in number but quite weak individually so you manage to smash their bones easily with your sharp blade. However, as soon as you defeat one their bones rise from the ground, weave back together, and they attack once more. Go to entry 7.

3. You jump into position ready for the final duel with Thorax’s undead army. They funnel into the cavern, wave after wave, their animated bones hungry for hobgoblin flesh. As quick as you can defeat them, their smashed bones rise from the ground, stitch back together and they attack you again with renewed aggression. You will soon be overwhelmed. Turn to entry 1.

4. Leaping forward you draw your sword from its scabbard and engage Thorax in a duel. You score a few early blows but it’s soon clear that the overlord has superior strength, possessing a demonic fury. With considerable agility, he backs you into a corner. Do you surrender (entry 11) or continue to fight (entry 5)?

5. Your tired arms parry and thrust with the overlord, but his undead power is too much for you to resist any longer. Go to entry 12.

6. The staff doesn’t respond to your taps. It’s merely a worthless piece of ashwood you think as Thorax towers over you, his tall shadow masking your shaking limbs. Turn to entry 8.

7. The battle continues; the clink of swords resounds against the dripping walls of the tunnel. Vanquished skeletons continue to rise from the ground though, bones reforming ready for action. You are beginning to tire and will soon be defeated by the undead army. You have failed in your quest and Thorax will rule over the kingdom of Thalucia forever.

large or small…
childhood choices
don’t matter now

8. “I have a use for you as a slave on my battleship, Talus.” You will spend the rest of your days in the miserable conditions on board, travelling the ocean. Your adventure has reached a tragic conclusion.

captured by
the flickering light…
spider’s web

9. You dash into the tunnel entrance, closely pursued by the skeleton warriors. After running for a short while you reach a dead end; there is no escape from the chasing horde. Turning around, you have no choice but to fight. Go to entry 2.

10. The headpiece of Jorvik’s staff begins to glow brightly. Thorax scuttles towards you, eye sockets red with rage. Orange fire streaks from the staff into the overlord’s eyes, shattering his skull into a thousand shards. Thorax’s bones crash onto the cavern floor along with those of the skeleton army. Defeating the overlord has broken the spell he cast over the undead horde; their bones will not rise anymore. Go to entry 13.

11. You wave your hands in a gesture of surrender. “Do you think I will show mercy, pathetic warrior?” rasps Thorax. Upon his words the skeleton horde bursts into the cavern and quickly surrounds you. Go to entry 8.

12. With a fearsome swing of Thorax’s sword, your blade is sliced in two. You are now defenceless against the overlord who begins to chant some kind of spell. Your flesh begins to decay rapidly, exposing the bones beneath. You will soon be just another skeleton warrior in Thorax’s undead army, fighting to protect your master for eternity.

story’s end
even words
are not immortal

13. You have defeated the evil overlord and his undead army. The kingdom of Thalucia has been liberated from Thorax’s tyrannical reign and peace is restored to the land.

1 in 3 chance…
no way of knowing
the path to take


Tim Gardiner

The Skeleton Overlord

Well, Obviously

The answer is always “aliens.” Every question, every query, every pondering—”aliens.” He is a man obsessed. He watches “Ancient Aliens” every night, says it’s the best documentary series on television. He attends UFO conventions every month, armed with his double-sided lightsaber, ready to spread the logic of the Vulcans to nonbelievers. He even owns a blow-up doll of a green-skinned alien with bugged-out eyes and takes it to bed with him every night. Not that he does anything weird with it.

conspiracy theorist
why is his hair so messy


Elizabeth Alford

Well, Obviously

Buffalo Wallow

Swamp night in frowsty summer. At Kutsu’s house, his great-grand’s three-room prairie villa, smoke sleaves out our tight wet leers. Rosemary royals the hose harsh. Crozzled schwag ashes tongues tin-brined with near beer blech, ponged by blue Solo pyramids. In the morning, church, Welch’s communion to burn off the chaos spirit, the florid bloom of free defiance.

shadow clowns
mingling dust
Seth Copeland


Buffalo Wallow

Not So Wunderbar

I read somewhere that an as-yet-undisclosed brand of artificial sweetener is manufactured by Oompa-Loompas, captured and enslaved by the U.S. Government in the heart of an as-yet-undisclosed location (but I’ll bet my Monopoly salary it’s Area 51). They say everyone is paid in packets, with a few cacao beans here and there as incentive for overtime. Even the little ones labor 18 hour days. They say the Oompa-Loompas are overworked, sleep-deprived, and so strung out from snorting their crystalline rations they can’t even wiggle free from their infant-sized shackles.

And all to compete with the coconut sugar industry. Those poor little Loompa babies. For shame. Won’t someone please think of the children?

intelligent design –
does my wallet look fat
in these jeans


Elizabeth Alford

Not So Wunderbar


By the next evening, it was undrinkable. The heat wave had done its work. I flinched and turned my head. Yes, I thought. Undrinkable.

Still, I fancied, as I stared into the mug still three-quarters full with mushroom coffee, that I could see a new civilization of fungi forming islands on the surface. The coconut oil was nutrient-rich, dense, but of course, limited.

I wondered: might the life forms sprung from this brown ocean be intelligent? Might they walk, dance, sing? Fall in love? Write poetry? Build homes, have jobs, families? Tell tall tales of their heroic ancestors’ deeds around a campfire? Might some fight for rights to the oil as others strike and strike back in protest? Might they slaughter their own without mercy on dark, decaying streets? Might they be the instruments of their own destruction?

I hesitated at the sink for only a moment and sniffed the moldy coffee again—allowed the unique, dank smell of life itself to wash over me one final time—then dumped the mixture, resolutely, down the drain.

suspension —
this place between
atoms & eve


Elizabeth Alford