Stressful Fiction for Diverting Occasions

The Age of Moss

by Nick Hoins


“Which do you choose?”

“What will happen if I don’t choose?”

“You and everyone you know will have nothing.”

“But why?”

“Again, clouds or sun?”



The strange woman walked away. Occo stood on the tablerock, not really moving. An owl hooted somewhere in the dappled sequoias.  Trying to look at the noise, Occo noticed grey clouds moving quickly in from the west. He scrunched up his face to look near the sun and the clouds extended to a solid line down to the horizon.


The clouds swept over the sky and Occo felt the warmth disappear from his face.

“It can’t be.”

The billows continued to move until they covered all the sky.

And his face had been marked with the scales, one under each eye. Years later he was still being asked the same questions in interviews.

“What did she look like?”

“How do you think it would be different if you had chosen the sun?”

“Why did she do it?”

“Why did you do it?”

“How could you do this to us?”

There were some who thought he had done the right thing. They made him rich and powerful. He also received daily death threats and hadn’t gone without a permanent security detail in eight years.

“Did you not care for the sun before SAD Day?” an anchor asked him on a talk show. Occo sighed.

“I love the sun. I loved when the sky was clear, intensely. But it’s simple. There was no other way. One option, you get light and heat. Other option; light, heat, and water.  Choose the first, everything dies. Choose the second, some things live.”

“And why didn’t you just refuse, again?”

Occo sighed.

Security behind him, he hiked up to the tablerock for the first time since it had happened ten years ago. He had requested only the captain and the new rookie. An impromptu walk in the woods. Standing on the rock, he tried to look at the memory of the noise of an owl’s call. The rookie’s phone rang and echoed through the canyon.

Occo took out his vitamin gummies and offered some to the guards. Chewing one, the sweet, rough texture of the supplement hit the blistered spot on the inside of his cheek and his eyes felt tired. He bent down and felt the thick moss covering the surface of the stone. It was thriving.


Diverting Fiction for Stressful Occasionings

The Nature of a Giant

by Nick Hoins


The face of the Giant was changing. It didn’t matter how many times the Flower Kids planted flowers along the roots and crevices of the Giant’s Spine, somehow, the next day, they were always gone. They planted weed in the Giant’s Nostril, just where the sun shines in that green cave. The seedlings were pulled out and destroyed.

I yanked them out. I did it at night.

Did those Flower Kids not fear that one day the Giant might wake up? That digging orchids into his trees was like shooting him with a poison dart?

The Giant might wake up. It hadn’t happened for ages of eons. Far worse had been visited on the Giant: clearing the land for cattle, building roads, weird aquaculture experiments. The flowers themselves, well they were innocent.

The first time was awkward. Alone at night, hiking the Giant with a headlamp, taking a swig of alcohol, ripping out blossoms that were definitely not endemic, and all the while getting scared by some noise in the depths of the eucalyptus. More alcohol. Finally, taking an oath that I would personally watch over the slumber of the behemoth. I know Giant.

I felt awkward and nervous.

Then again, I felt that way when I first met Angie Airplant too. And now—it just took me a little while to get the timing right.

Now every week, once a week, I scour in obsession to find invaders. I discovered that a week is the appropriate increment of time. Some Flower Kid will have hauled something up there.

Angie and I were walking down the street one day holding hands, and a Flower Kid is standing on the street corner singing. It kind of goes with the rhythm of the ocean. Huge smile on his goofy face, some silly song and won’t desist…the smiley turd. I wanted to ask the dude if he ever planted a flower up there. But damn. However Angie? Angie. Angie hauls off and slaps him in the face.

Angie Airplant.

The airplant is really neat because it doesn’t need soil or liquid water to thrive and be chlorophyllish. They get what they need from the air, pulling in nutrients like a goldfish sucks a pebble into its mouth to search for food. Spitting out bursts of tiny oxygen.

Angie is a transplant local with inexplicable roots. She was often sad and cold. I met her one day in a row of lettuce.

She was stealing my produce!

I finally found a breed I could grow that was native and this girl was a yanker! She was sure standing there eating it. Angie is a skinny person who likes being called chubby. At least she liked having her tummy rubbed, like an inverse-Buddha-thing. She had a temper. Like getting mad at me for telling her not to eat my greens. I wouldn’t let that nice, farmer’s market guy take all my coconuts either, even if I was very impressed by his climbing ability.

Listen Angie: I was charmed by your brazen love of soft, crunchy vegetables. But don’t steal them, that’s all. She slapped me when I snatched the half-chewed leaf out of her hand. Our friendship took a while to grow. Like native lettuce.

Angie had lots of opinions about Flower Kids, Locals, and Oddballs. She lost a lot of her friends because of her explosive exclamations.

So she slaps this man on the street. The way he takes it is interesting. At first, he really does look hurt. Then he tries to grin. Then he seems to want to give in. In the end he kind of shakes his dreads about like a porcupine and goes off down the street, staring out to sea. I just can’t seem to forget about that guy. His smile haunts me.

Whydja do that, Angie?

She still hasn’t told me.

Eventually I told Angie about my mission. She reacted like it was nothing special. Angie had huge gauges in her earlobes and sometimes wore live airplants in them. As long as her hair was up it worked fine and didn’t get too tangled or itchy. It also made me wonder if airplants have some secretion that may affect hearing. Angie was a Libra.

“I said I crusade for the Giant’s Spine, I rip out flowers like they’re acupuncture needles. Like, not to be trifled with.”

“Come on, Blackstone.” She shrugs, tired of this already. “That’s a great legend. But all the stuff about the king and the girl and the magic and the giant? It’s a metaphor for the political instability of the period. The king has to use religious fervor to magic fear into the hearts of the opposing kingdom so he has his priests circulate this rumor about this big-ass giant who comes alive at night and is gonna steal the girl if they don’t hand her over in marriage. What better story to spread when the people look up and see the shape of a person in the hills, complete with nostril! There’s tons of them all over the world. The reality is, that one is just a little mountain.”

Oh, Angie. How you chew on my mind!


“What do I have to do to convince you this is real?”

“Bring it to life. Let the flowers grow.”

“I know it’s alive. It’s just sleeping.”


“Just come with me at night. It’s different at night. Will you?”

This took a lot for me to do. Normally I’m a very solitary person. Angie and her frustrating, brazen words.

We went up the Giant at night. My plan hadn’t been totally rejected by the Locals. They got their food from the sea. When I told the plan to the few I knew, they responded with tales of strange, ghostly beings forever walking from the shore to the Giant’s Nostril, locked in an eternal task for which the purpose was unclear. I was always on the lookout for them. I really hoped me and Angie would see one together. I think that would be romantic. We hiked the entire Spine. We didn’t see any spirits and we didn’t see any transplanted Flower Kid power-ups. Instead we ended up on that one bench that someone nailed into a side-rib. It was a full moon. We kissed.

We were happy.

People say the Giant’s Forehead is an energy vortex. I think it’s a third eye. It was a day-hike the next time we went up there. Someone had planted zinnias. In rainbow colors. All over the place. I am about to freak.

“It’s okay,” Angie says, rubbing a soothing hand over my shoulders. “See? Nothing. Let’s go down now.” I start to trample the colorful clumps, way down there. All of a sudden I don’t know why I’m doing it. It was an idea. I’ve never seen the Giant awake. I don’t know if it’s real anymore. There are other things I can focus on. Maybe the Ghosts will take care of it. All my recent hikes have been with my girlfriend at daytime.

“Let’s go down. Okay.” Why am I crying?

Okay, the danger has passed. Still, I sometimes wake from dreams, terrified that the Giant may have finally felt something, way down in the ancient catacombs of its bloodstream. I can see the mighty beast awaken and can picture it as both man and woman. The trees and bushes will be long locks of hair and the nostril will spit gravel meteors that precede a deadly calm before a destruction event. If the Giant were to wake, our land and sea here would be done. It would rip me and Angie apart and the whole world would feel it.

I don’t do it as often, it’s true. There’s not as many blooms to hunt. Maybe the Flower Kids woke up. Or just saw the Ghosts and got scared. Either way, ripping up orchids is my prayer. I want us all to live. I wish I could send all of the flowers back to where they came from, instead of killing them. But there are laws about that sort of thing and it’s expensive.

One day I walk out into our garden. Sipping coffee, and there comes a deep rumble.

Over the valley ridge rises the long, arboreal vines of hair. The sound of spitting gravel. The sun is really shining through the Nostril now. I hear car horns and bird shrieks. Up and up it rises, ascending until the Spine is straight up, hundreds of feet up. The Oddballs in the house up the hill are running for the cover of the old cemetery on the other side. I’m in the long shadow, in our garden. Meteors of gravel flying into trees and the birds don’t like it. The Giant stretches long arms; dirty, root fingers flexing. A roar like a thunderstorm. Angie comes out of the house.

“What’s happening?”

I point with my cup of steaming coffee and it spills a bit.

“I don’t want to move again,” she whispers.

The Giant is looking at us and swaying. Can it even walk? Does it have legs? Yes, it does, and they are made of stone. In a few steps it’s right over us. It reaches down to Angie and yanks.

I’m climbing up its leg, furious and fast. It starts moving again. I can hear Angie screaming in its hand, way up by the Nostril.

I’m up its Spine, climbing like a monkey. Eucalyptus depths? Steps and holds for my ascent.

And now I’m standing on its shoulder.

“Give her back!” I yell. I’m not sure if it can hear me. Fine. I scramble up its neck. Why wasn’t I more vigilant? Why did I ever look out for you, Giant? What was I doing, really? Under and over the chin. Into the Nostril. There she is, still out screaming and thrashing. I’m on the bridge, staring into its forehead. It has no eyes. But the forehead is drawing me in. The zinnias are like an eyebrow. I shake my head. I shout. The forehead draws me in. I stare it down. Ah, energy vortex! Then I’m off my feet.

I’m in its other hand. Spitting, flying gravel, hitting me in showers. It dumps her next to me. We’re in the same hand and the hand is going up. Rising up farther, above the forehead.

The Locals are all in their boats, out beyond the shore-break, bobbing and waiting. The Oddballs are all streaming about, running, driving, not really going anywhere. The Flower Kids, well, from up here, they’re just kind of dotted about. Me and Angie look at each other. We grab hands. It’s very terrifying. The Giant steps back and hurls. We’re flying through the air, holding hands.

I can hear the Giant roaring behind us and the sound is dying away. Why am I laughing? We’re going to go beyond the boats. We look at each other. I can see the clear blue of the sky through Angie’s open earlobes.

Part 2 of a story sketch at a pizzeria

The girl felt like she should talk to the guy in the corner who was fiddling with his phone. She idled…twirling the ends of her hair with her fingers. He didn’t look up. She edged closer. He took a sip from his drink. She was just bending down to say hi when someone tapped on her shoulder. 

“I like the flower pattern on your backpack. Hi, I’m Ken,” said the professor.   

Part 1 of story sketch at a pizzeria

The girl had a flower pattern stitched on her backpack. She waited by the cigarette tower thingy, one foot planted, the other bent so only her toes touched the ground. She had a beer. The student-alumni mixer she had attended was starting to break up…the pizza was slow coming out of the kitchens and people were starting to pay cash at the bar for extra drinks because their tickets had run out. A professor had spoken for five minutes from a little podium.

“Don’t talk to people you know. For the next hour I’m going to play hall monitor and if I see you talking to someone you know, I’m going to say ‘Stop it. Talk to someone you don’t know. Cut the shit’.”