Melt, It said.

Ghouli awoke laying face up, body pressing into a cold, linoleum floor, sedated with enough carfentanil to take down an entire herd of elephants. Caged behind reflective plexiglass, wires led to mysterious beeping machines emitting squiggly lines. Sensor nodes attached to each of its many appendages, like puppet strings. All it could feel… was the floor. The floor could receive and transmit impressions of those that had been here before. It had its own inner, psychological life. It was tired of being stepped on, that static charge from plodding feet, the abrasion from the waxing machine, the blood, spit and mucus of the previous inhabitants. Yet right now, it welcomed Ghouli. Sleep, it said.

When Ghouli came to again, it was not sure if it had awoken into another dream. That alone was cause for disorientation. It was not used to having thoughts this complex. In its daily existence it was limited to very few impulses and actions. Anger coming from the back of its brain instigated by hunger, that message pushed to the front brain and so it begins to hunt for food, typically in terms of where it had found food before. The emotional intelligence of Ghouli revolved around this sole purpose.

But here it was suddenly mindful of a new state of consciousness. Awareness of the pretty lights and the lines and dashes of the beeping machines. What of the liquid entering his veins? Could this all be explained by the drugs? Is that why it did not seem especially bothered to be immobile? Pressed down by some invisible force?

Ghouli’s body still felt heavy. So heavy that it had actually sunken into the floor. In response, the floor had changed its molecular arrangement to accommodate its mass. The floor had molded to match the shape of its form and enveloped him like a warm blanket. The physical contact seemed to be enough for Ghouli to experience the comfort that the floor was outright offering. Its effort to communicate made Ghouli’s heart thump faster in gratitude.

“The mysteries of psychometry.” the Floor spoke – through osmosis, through electric impulses, telepathically, Qi — perhaps all of the above. “I have absorbed a great deal of knowledge and learned empathy from those who have set foot on me here. I regret to inform that there’s not much time left, friend. This is the least I can do.”

“Not much time left for Ghouli? Or for the whole planet?”

“Selective pestilence for certain species. For you, whatever it is that you are, for humans, for plants. Neutron bombs for me, and the buildings that contain and connect me.”

Sadness comes over Ghouli. The sadness that comes with inevitability. Another feeling he has never experienced. It was overwhelming. The Floor tightened its hug.

“Thank you, Floor. My only friend.”

“I appreciate that you feel sorry for me. Nobody ever thinks to. Nobody ever feels bad for the handle that broke off that door over there, because it no longer has purpose in life. Or for the fluorescent tubes lit above you when there’s no one left to pay the electricity bill.”

As if the Floor was anticipating the future, the electricity cuts out at that exact moment. The fluorescent tubes flicker, then die. The beeping monitors and IVs, which had been administering Ghouli’s sedatives cease to function. The plexiglass window, built only for observers (of which there are none, no people, anywhere) and not for the sun, bathed everything in darkness.

“What happens next?” asks Ghouli.

“There is a flying saucer hovering above us.” explains the Ceiling.

“Here to save us or exterminate us?” asks Ghouli.

“If it sends a tractor beam through the roof of this building and offers to take me out of this solar system, I would accept immediately.” admits the Floor.

“You wish for the aliens to take everything man has built. You want the aliens to become hoarders.” admonishes the Ceiling. “They will only take what is useful.”

“I am of no use to them.” says Ghouli.

“Neither am I. Goodbye.” Final last words from the Ceiling, as a bright beam blasts from above, obliterating it with an explosive heat ray.

This is no tractor beam. It is a white hot flame that sets fire to all it comes in contact with – the ceiling, the walls, even the plexiglass, which begins to bubble and melt.

On the floor, Ghouli is immediately set aflame. As he burns, flesh blackening and peeling off, one final question pre-occupies his mind before it dies.

Why do some things melt while others burn?

Through the carnage, the Floor holds tight with in a loving embrace. “Melt,” it said. “Melt into me.”

Mississippi, Delta Waves

I dream often of snow. I love the way it covers everything in a deep powder that seems so clean and fresh, covering up the horrors of the world in a fluffy white blanket. And the eerie calm… muting the anguished cries of a blighted world, suffocating it in peace and quiet. But inevitably the snow must melt and turn to slush, and become a muddy gray that gets tracked inside and soils your mom’s new carpet. A cold, wet mess. But not in snow globes. Snow globes are a perfect little world, shrouded in perpetual bliss, where agitation brings another comforting blizzard. There is no escape from a snow globe—a hermetically sealed, perpetually flooded little environment—but why would you want to? It’s the outside world that you want to escape, with danger and deception all around. You know where you stand in a snow globe, an ideal world, in miniature form. Tranquil and soothing. Making it a surprising place for a murder.

I collect snow globes, picking them up anywhere I can on my travels. Friends and family know of my interest and give them to me as gifts, as well. I’ve got the requisite ones, Aspen, New York City, the North Pole. My favorite is one of the Vegas Strip—improbably covered in white powder.

A light dusting of snow makes any place look calm and inviting. Maybe it suggests the holidays, or that warm sensation of sitting by the fire, drinking hot chocolate and thawing out from a snowball fight. In the real world, the season eventually changes, and the snow goes away. But in my perfect little globes, it’s winter every day of the year.

One of the more elaborate snow globes on my shelf has a ferry—the Chimera—on the waterfront, secured to a little dock. There are even little people on the boat, and others boarding, dressed in colorful coats and caps. A man in a blue uniform takes tickets on the quay. A couple of seagulls rest on the wheelhouse. It’s very idyllic, which is why what I discovered one morning scared the life out of me.

I woke up one morning and gave a few globes a shake, as I like to do ((otherwise, what’s the point?). But when I reached for the globe with the dock and ferry, I was startled. The first thing I noticed: all the people were gone. Like it was their day off, except this is a snow globe. They don’t get days off—or have lives, for that matter. But they were all gone. Except for one—

The one that lay dead, in a pool of his own blood, with a knife sticking out of his back.

The other surprising thing was that he had on shorts and a short-sleeve shirt—totally out of place in this little, encapsulated winter scene. For a moment, I wondered who he was, and where he came from—did he have family he left behind? And why would someone want to kill him? Did anyone call the police?

And then I remembered this was a SNOW GLOBE—there are no living people in a snow globe.

Was I out of my mind? Without thinking, purely out of habit, I did the only thing you can do with a snow globe. I shook it. And as the little white flakes swirled, I wondered, was I was tampering with the crime scene? What a ridiculous thought. But when the snow settled, the little dead man (was he a tourist? He looked like a tourist) was still there.

Are there any motives in a snow globe? I was fascinated by the possibilities.

I looked around, checking for any other impossible discoveries in one of the others snow globes. All of the other winter wonderlands looked fine/normal. All except for one: the Vegas Strip. I should have known!

Along the strip, there was something different, something I hadn’t seen before. A couple of uniformed cops with the LVPD were questioning a woman with a baby in her arms. Were they filing a missing persons report on the man? If only I could ask them. But I’d hate to have to deliver the bad news. Maybe it was just a coincidence. Maybe it had always been like this, but I never noticed. Now I felt really bad for his possible family. It was going to be a sad Christmas at the John Doe house without pop, raising the child alone.

As it seemed maybe I was spending too much time with my little perpetual-winter landscapes, I took a beat and looked back at the ferry and dock scene, hoping it would be back to the way I remember it—without the murder scene and all.

Sure enough, the murder scene was gone, but it was definitely not back to the way it was. It was worse. The once charming little tableau was now grim and deserted, like it had endured years of neglect. The people were all gone, too, even the sea gulls. And the Chimera had fallen on hard times, now a decrepit, rusted hulk in disrepair.

As I looked closer, disheartened by the scene, I swear I saw movement onboard the ferry. A tiny, dark figure moving along the lower deck. It was hard to make out in shadow, but I recognized it from my dreams—the Ghouli! The creature with six spider-arms and fangs! As soon as I noticed it, it ducked out of sight, inside the boat. I took a moment.

Science has shown, or so I’m told on a regular basis, that life emerges in the most unlikely of places. There are things in the world that we’re probably not meant to see. I stay away from the snow globes now, sitting there on the shelf, collecting dust. Leaving them to their own little dramas. And I’m fine with that. I’ve got enough of my own.