Chapter 1: New Rules
In an alternate dimension, two residents lounged by the side of the hotel pool.
One of them said, “Have you ever wondered if maybe there’s an alternate universe where we, and all our girlfriends, are a slightly-magical dance troupe trying to protect each other from the toxic fallout of poor romantic decisions?”
Her companion blinked at her in salmon-colored confusion. “No. Why?”
“Just something I thought I saw reflected in the pool,” said the first. “Probably a trick of the light.”
“I hope so,” shuddered the second. Imagine, the horror of a world where they didn’t get to be flamingos.
Chapter 2: Sinbad Jr. and his Magic Belt
Salty was voiced by Mel Blanc, and in this 5-minute short he literally does the "Ehh, it's a living" line.
On a quiet afternoon out at sea, in between adventures, Sinbad asked, “Hey, Salty, did you always know you wanted to be a sailor’s parrot when you grew up?”
“Gosh, no,” said the parrot. “I’ve told you before about growing up in Bedrock, right?”
“Well, I knew I wanted to do something different from my parents – Mom was an alarm clock, and dear ol’ Dad was a TV remote. But before I did a few internships and settled on sailing, I wanted to be just like my cool cousin. He dropped out of school to become a record player.”
Chapter 3: The Big Country
“Yes, dear?” asks McKay, coming to stand by Julie’s shoulder.
“Do you remember how…back at the Big Muddy…all of us locals kept making a point of reminding you what a big country it was?”
“I remember.” One more card in the full deck of meaningless angry posturing that passed for social interaction back on those ranches.
“Well,” says Julie, leaning over the railing of the honeymoon cruise ship and gazing out at the days’ worth of endless ocean all around them, “not that I need to tell you this, I suppose, but...we were so wrong.”
There’s families in these parts who’ve been cat herders going back generations, and all of them have a tale to tell about this one feral cat up in the hills. Sometimes when you’re driving a herd through its territory you’ll notice it watching, up a tree or inside a cave, but nobody’s ever brought it in. Anyone who tries gets nothing but scratches for their trouble.
One time the Man With A Hard-To-Pronounce Name rode into town, heard the stories and went to the hills. He came back unscathed – but empty-handed.
All he would say is, “It’s a good kitty.”
Chapter 5: And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side
Based on this short story by James Tiptree Jr.
The wide-eyed, fur-faced Procya lurked outside the door of the empty loading bay, listening to the rise and fall of the alien voices. The engineer did most of the talking. The visitor must have been as transfixed as the Procya itself was.
Such beautiful, hypnotic cadences they spoke in. Like a courtship song, except they even did it when they were scolding you, so much that it took new arrivals on the station a while to figure out the difference between chastising and praise.
Both were equally thrilling. The Procya sighed and shivered as the alien engineer talked about dancing.
Chapter 6: Long Time Gone
Based on the Dixie Chicks song, which might have a heterosexual explanation but it sure is not the most obvious one.
Delia’s at the church piano after-hours when the sanctuary door opens, and is all ready to get a stern talking-to for playing With His Hot And Blue Guitar instead of practicing Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee, when she sees who it is.
Wavy blond hair, soft pink lipstick, fluttering dress that shows off her calves. “Hi, Delia.”
“Been a while,” says Delia. It doesn’t come out as sharp as she meant it to.
“You want to maybe… go out somewhere?”
“Sorta depends on how far ‘somewhere’ is.”
Those petite lips curve into a shy smile. “As far as you want.”
Chapter 7: Suradanna and the Sea
Futurefic for this lovely free novella by Rebecca Fraimow.
The Quantum Fountain pulls smoothly into the space station dock. Two couriers unload the first passenger’s bags, scanning the ID chips. Last name is still from the original 500 that were mandatory in the Archipelago until the destandardization of 2759 – must be a traditionalist. And her face! Sure, they’re doing wonders with gene therapy and microsurgery these days, nobody in her 70s needs to look it, but come on.
Still, everything this woman is doing, it’s clearly working for someone. The wife’s ID is obscured, the security code far above their pay grades… but the marriage license is decades old.
Chapter 8: Thinking Sideways
“To be fair,” said Steve, watching the video of the little investigative party approaching the Overtun bridge, “when you mentioned a dog whisperer, this is not what I thought you had in mind.”
“I don’t see why not,” said Joe. “How come we haven’t hired them before, anyway? Maybe not for the hundred-year-old mystery-code type of cases, but when it comes to modern-day possible hauntings, they’re the best of the best.”
“Jinkies, gang!” Devin pointed at the screen. “I think they found a clue!”
The guys stared at her.
“Sorry,” she said sheepishly. “I just always wanted to say that.”
Chapter 9: Space Exploration
Crossover with Sailor Moon.
Cassini was all finished taking its photos, and was supposed to be sailing its merry way out of Saturn’s orbit when it crashed into a floating space castle.
Dammit, Cass, thought the spirit of Saturn, that belongs to my princess! Who died a couple of thousand years ago, but she’s due to be reincarnated any day now.
Titan Castle quickly reconfigured its magitech systems to interface with Cassini, and relayed the message.
Cassini’s software absorbed this new information, converted it into ones and zeroes, ran it through some algorithms, and replied:
>When she comes back, can I get a picture?
Chapter 10: The Fairy Chronicles – J. H. Sweet
No idea how this would fit into canon, except that the characters are from "Sparrow and Edelweiss's Ghost" and "Harlequin and the Pebble of Spree."
The nursery isn’t set in the tropics, so there’s a greenhouse for the plants that need the extra heat and light. It isn’t in the mountains either, which is why, at the start of spring, Harlequin takes a bag of seeds out of the freezer.
“Sorry I can’t fly like all the other fairies,” she says to the ghost hovering over her shoulder, as she plants them in the soil. “This would go faster if I could.”
“Well, I can fly, and it doesn’t help because I can’t touch anything,” counters Edelweiss. “So I think we make a perfect team.”
“Oh, I get it!” says Rudy. To my complete bewilderment, he seems happy. “You’re possessed by an evil force! Seriously, Tobias, that explains so much.”
A thousand questions crowd my mind. He believes me? He isn’t scared? He--
The flash of light and ribbons adds a thousand more. Also, my eyes hurt.
“Didn’t you wonder why I was so pink and sparkly?” asks Rudy, now wearing a jewel-studded minidress and pointing a heart-shaped wand at me. “Or maybe nobody even told you about magical girls, and boys, when you were being homeschooled in the woods? Hold still. I’ve got this.”
Chapter 12: The Ripley Scroll
Crossover with Harry Potter.
“Your human is keeping the Stone IN the school?” demanded the Bird of Hermes, aghast. “My George was never this careless, I can tell you that right.”
The phoenix sighed. “He’s very smart, really. He has a plan! It’s whimsical.”
“Whimsy, my tail.” So saying, the Bird of Hermes started nervously biting at its wings, pulling off feathers and crunching them in its beak.
“Stop that,” scolded the phoenix, bopping his fellow magical bird’s head away from the injured wing. “You don’t have to do it anymore, remember? He’s gone! Also, I’m not sad enough to heal you right now.”
Chapter 13: Ralph Waldo Emerson - Poems
Tonight, Beauty is the guest of Nature. (In more than the usual sense in which they’re always a guest of Nature.) “You’ll never guess who’s gotten it into their head that I’m one of the lords of life founded by Humanity, instead of one of its creators like you.”
Nature scoffs. “Do they think humanity invented the frailest leaf? The mossy bark? The acorn’s cup? The...”
“No,” interrupts Beauty. “They claim there was no objective concept of beauty to apply to those things, until a sentient species existed who could conceptualize them as beautiful.”
Nature sighs. “That’s Pedanticism for you.”
Chapter 14: The Pirate Balthasar
The Pirate Balthasar is a webcomic about five identical quintuplets, and the pirate who accidentally kidnaps all of them.
“I think, maybe, Cat has feelings for me?” fretted Callista to her four identical sisters. “But I can’t just ask!”
Castalia grinned. “Here’s a brilliant idea! I’ll dress up as you and find out!”
“You’re not subtle enough,” scolded Cassandra. “You’ll give it away. I’ll do it.”
“You’re the better liar,” sighed Calliope, “but your hair’s longer than Callista’s. I’ve got this.”
Cassiopeia shook her head. “Knowing you, you’ll actually sleep with him, and then where will poor Feetsie be?”
“So… you can do it!” said Castalia brightly.
“Goodness, no. It’s a terrible idea,” groaned Cassiopeia. “Seriously, Callista! Just ask.”
Chapter 15: Cathy (Comic)
Cathy’s daughter has been very clear that it’s “weird” and “uncool” for a kid to have Mom leaving comments on their Instagram. “Do you think it’s safe to ‘like’ them?” she asks Irving, scrolling through the feed.
“Maybe err on the side of caution,” says Irving. “You can always just tell her in person, next time she calls.”
“She never calls!”
“Visits, then? She’ll be here at Christmas.”
Cathy gazes wistfully at a photo of a magazine-worthy dinner spread. She could never cook something this delicious at that age without at least twenty calls to her mother. “Christmas it is.”
Chapter 16: Galaxy High
“Seriously?” blurted Doyle. “You’re dating Gilda Gossip? Isn’t she a...”
Blabbermouth? Underachiever? Particularly scaly nonhuman?
Aimee groaned. This was the Space 1980’s, but sometimes Doyle acted like he was stuck in the Space 1950’s, and hadn’t learned anything in Space Sex Ed. “Technically her species has twelve different reproductive sexes...”
“I mean, does she have the ‘parts’ to do...y’know...” Doyle made a few incoherent gestures with his hands.
“You’re not dating her. None of your business what she looks like naked”
Doyle sighed. “Yeah, I guess. Sorry.”
“Besides,” said Aimee smugly, “even with clothes on? She has five mouths.”