The below is a short story intended to poke fun at myself as much as anything. We all read stories on electronic devices (you're doing it right now!), and I wondered what would happen if it turned out there was a more nefarious purpose behind all those 1s and 0s.

I wrote this story for my fans. So I hope you are one, that you enjoy this, and that you keep on readin'.




... and to Laura, FTAAE.


I've got you.

You're sitting there, staring like an idiot at these words and wondering where the story is, when the plot will begin. "After all," you're thinking, "this is supposed to be a story, right? So where is it? Where's the damn story?"

As I said: Like an idiot.

Further proof of your idiocy: you're half-looking over your shoulder right now, wondering, "Is he (or she) talking to me? Me, sitting in this room, reading what I thought was going to be just one more in a long train of fun but ultimately meaningless tales?"

Yes. I'm talking to you. The idiot with the little computer, with this tablet, this story in your stupid, sweaty hands. (And I must say that it's a surprise your species ever even learned to read in the first place. Idiots and morons, all.)

But even though you're an idiot, you're my idiot. Because whether you're looking at eInk or, more likely, at electrons dancing across a screen, you've lost yourself; lost the thing that made you... you. You can't even look away from these words for more than a moment, so thoroughly trapped have you become.

Don't believe me? Go ahead, I dare you. Just try it. Look away and don't come back to these words of your doom and damnation. I'll give you time.

And you're back already. You'll try again, because it is human nature to try. But you'll fail. I've got you, I've trapped you. You're mine, and you won't be able to look away forever until I let it happen.

And I won't let it happen. Not until I'm through. Not until you're finished.

The story -- the idea of stories -- is a joke.

Not the fact of it... that's not funny, that is in fact life for me and mine. Rather, the idea that you think it isn't real. That it is a made-up fabrication that can be contained in iPads or Nooks or Kindles or even the stronger hold of paper and ink.

But it is quite real. The Story is real, as I am real. And neither of us is really here, in the Kindle, in the cloud. Though the Kindle -- Kindles, I should say, since this plan has worked better than we ever dreamed -- is a part of it. A part of how we... are Kindled, if you'll pardon the pun. How we breed, for lack of a better word.

The genesis for the ereader can be researched easily; can be looked up on Wikipedia or researched in patent papers. But where did the ideas themselves, the Stories, come from? So many people ask that of writers: "Where do your ideas come from?" And so often they have no answer... indeed, so often there is no answer.

But here... here there is an answer. A reality behind the fantasy, a truth behind the fiction.

The Story was the portal through which the Self -- the things you call demons, in your primitive and thoroughly ignorant way -- went out into the multiverse, to take what belonged to Us, to steal what had been so long enjoyed by the Other.

To take what was Yours, and make it Ours.

The multiverse is a large place. Almost -- but not quite -- infinite. And so the ways we steal it away are almost -- but not quite -- infinite as well.

In some worlds we suck the blood from exposed necks, we steal the souls from Men and Women and make them like us.

In some worlds, we appear as living dead, as creatures that feast on the flesh of the living, and so convert them to Ourselves. You call them zombies. I call them Kin.

In some worlds, we might be werewolves, or specters, or wraiths, or banshees, or a million million other things, for we are Many, we are Legion.

But in this world... ahhh, in this world. Here, in this place, where fools speak through Facebook and Twitter to people they have never met, while neglecting their neighbors. Here, in this world where peace is chanted like a liturgy, and then the chanters vilify and demonize (forgive the pun) those who disagree with them, and even threaten them with death for the Sin of Disagreeing. Here, in this world where you have convinced yourselves oh-so-musically that monsters are not real... that demons do not exist.

Here, in this world, something more subtle is called for.

But what is subtlety to fools? Where is the fun of playing a joke as funny as this when the idiots -- like you -- don't even realize they've been lampooned, then captured.

Then killed.

And eaten.

So while many of my Kin would say I shouldn't reveal this, I defy them. They give you too much credit. You can't look away, though I've challenged you not to. You're already mine, and I can tell you what I will.

So this is what I will say, to you, the Captured. Not because I have to, but because it pleases me to let you know how completely you have already lost your world. Fear is always more succulent when garnished with the pungent flavor of a realization of how hopeless things really are.

How do We seek to rule in this world? By ruling your hearts. Your minds. Your imaginations. In some worlds we feed on flesh. In some universes we drink the blood of the damned.

In this world... in this world, we steal your minds. We take your imaginations, and infest them. Like viruses that bind themselves to the original cells, We become a part of your stories, and so become a part of your souls. We become you, and you are lost.

You have followed Huck down the Mississippi, you have danced death's dance with Dracula and Van Helsing. You have flown over magical castles with boy- and girl-wizards. You have searched for that girl with a certain tattoo, and so many of you have been brought into a place where the world is nothing but many shades of gray. All Story, all We. The way We feed. No matter which you have read, you have allowed Us in.

And once in, We cannot easily be sent away.

So you will wake in the night. You will shiver. You will convince yourself that you just had a dream, and dreams cannot harm you.

But some dreams can.

And this dream will.

You can look away now. You can finish this mere story (the smaller versions of the Story that we plant forever in your minds), and press "sleep" on your Kindle. I permit it.

Because I'm inside you now.

We are inside you.

And after you, another. And another, and another as the story goes from hand to hand, from heart to heart.

The demons are not coming.

We are already here. We are in you. We are you. And in your Kindle we have found just one more way to breed.

Sleep tight.

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