H.L. Pauff

Short Fiction, Thoughts on Writing, Chaos


An Orb for a Better World

red orb

Max sighed. Solving for x was boring, so mind numbingly boring that he didn’t notice the flickering blue light hovering in his room. It crackled and popped, growing until a shimmering rectangle stretched from floor to ceiling.

A hand pushed out from the rectangle, and a moment later, a man stood in his room, smiling. His grey robe hung loosely, hiding his small frame.

“Greetings, Max,” he said.

“You have one second to leave before I call the police,” Max said.

“Do not do that. Please. I have come a long way bearing a great gift.” He reached up one of his sleeves and produced a red orb. “It has changed my life and I hope it will change yours.”

Max squinted and studied the orb. “What is it? And… how do you know my name?”

“I seek disadvantaged people with good hearts, like you, to create better futures. This is a magical orb of ancient power. Focus its energy on another person and they will realize incredible wealth and power.” He handed the orb to Max who rolled it in his hands.

“Why don’t I just use it on myself and get the wealth and power?”

“The orb comes from another time when people were selfless. It will not work on your own person. If it is wealth and power you desire, then choose a recipient that will benefit you directly. Perhaps a parent.”

“Good luck,” he said and stepped into the portal. It closed behind him.

Max held the orb, unsure of what just happened. A car door slammed and he saw his father walking up the driveway in his suit with campaign signs tucked under his arm. “I’m home,” his father announced. “I almost raised money.”

Money had been tight since his mother died, and now every available penny went towards his father’s new aspirations. Perhaps this orb could help them.

As a test, he aimed it at a stuffed alligator on his shelf. A second later, the alligator erupted into flames.

The portal appeared once again and the mysterious man stepped through. “Hello. I just wanted to check in on you. Have you not give your father endless wealth?”

“Who are you, really?”

The man scrunched his face. “I am sorry?”

“This is not magical. It’s a killing device,” Max said, pointing to the alligator.

“I have told you. It can only be used on a person.”

“Last chance. Who are you?”

The man raised his hands defensively and backed towards the portal. “You do not know what is at stake. The future… You and only you must use it on your father. I – “

Flames engulfed the man, dropping him to the ground. A second later, his father burst through the door. “What was that?” He looked at Max holding the orb, the dead man on the floor and the blue portal, swirling in the center of the room. His jaw dropped.

“I think this man wanted me to stop you from winning the election.”

Photo By: www.theballbank.com






A Tennessee Swimming Hole

“What. Is. That?” Sid asked, staring at the shaggy ball of fur sitting in the living room. Its tongue hung out of its mouth and its tail beat against the carpet.

“This is Ranger,” his mom said. “I don’t know what breed he is, but he’s a sweetie pie.” She stroked the panting animal’s head causing its eyes to roll into the back of its head with delight.

“Uh, what is that doing here?”

Uh, he lives here now. Duh,” his mom said. “He’s your dog.”

“I don’t want that thing. Why would I want that thing?”

“Dogs are good companions. A boy needs a good dog. I thought that since it’s the first summer without your father that… you know. Go see Sid, Ranger.”

Ranger trotted towards Sid and sat before him. Its dark brown eyes looked up at him and it almost looked like it was smiling when it panted.

“What I want is to play ball with dad. Why can you bring him back here instead of this stupid thing?”

His mother sighed. “Your father made his choice. You know he’s not going to…”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever. It still doesn’t mean I want this ugly idiot.”

Sid avoided Ranger as best he could during the first few weeks of summer vacation. If he was out in the yard throwing a ball against the barn and Ranger came out, he would go inside and leave the dog out there.

When he rode his bike up and down the dirt road, he would make sure to ride extra hard to tire out the chasing Ranger. By the end of the day, Ranger would be too exhausted to bother him anymore.

At night his mom began to open his bedroom door and he would wake up with a snoring Ranger lying in his bed. There wasn’t much he could do about that except yell at Ranger when he woke up and yell at his mom over breakfast.

“I’m going to the swimming hole,” he announced one afternoon and tiptoed down the stairs so Ranger wouldn’t hear him up and about. As he pushed open the front door, he heard his mom yell “Take Ranger with you.”

Ranger’s little legs could barely keep up with Sid’s purposefully long strides. The shaggy brown mess carried a stick alongside Sid and begged for him to throw it every so often. Sid would heave the stick as far into the woods as he could and then start running when the dog was out of sight. Somehow, the dog always found its way back to Sid’s side with the same stupid stick.

“You can’t come swimming with me,” Sid told him at the swimming hole. This is my spot. Well, my dad showed me this spot so it’s only for family. That means you can’t come in.”

Ranger’s eyes were focused on the body of water twelve feet below them. Its ears were perked up and its tail was moving a million miles per second. “Did you hear me? Are you listening? You can’t go in there. I don’t want your stupid dog fur polluting it.” Its ears perked up and its plopped down on the ground. “Good. You stay there and don’t you dare move or I’ll leave you here and tell my mom a coyote ate you.”

Sid stripped down and took a dozen steps away from the ledge of the swimming hole like he always did to get a running start. “Now, you better watch this,” he said to Ranger. “This is called the Sid Special and dogs aren’t capable of doing something this cool. I bet I’ll make a big enough splash that you’ll get soaked all the way up here.”

Sid started sprinting towards the ledge and jumped. He tucked his knees in and folded his arms around them. The splash of water reached high into the air, but not high enough to splash Ranger.

Ranger stood and wagged its tail as Sid came up the trail for another jump. “Sit back down,” he said and the dog obeyed. “I bet I can splash you this time. I forgot to do the little turn that my dad showed me. Watch.”

He took off running again and at the ledge he tried to jump, but the loose dirt beneath his feet gave way and he tumbled forward, smacking his head against the ledge before plunging into the water.

Sid woke hours later with a pounding headache and a bump on his head to match. The sun had begun to set and his body had long since dried. He remembered slipping and falling. “How did…” He sat up and looked around and saw that he was lying far from the water. Ranger sat in front of him with its tongue sticking out and its tail beating against the ground.

Sid reached out and ruffled the fur atop Ranger’s head. “All right. All right.”

photo by:


The Shards of Jarn

the shards of jarn

The screams and roars woke Jond from his sleep. Peering through his frosty window, he saw twisting pillars of orange and red spreading over the city and licking at the night sky.

Downstairs he found his father strapping on his armor. “What is it, father?”

“It is nothing to fear, my son,” Jarn said. “Some goblins have foolishly broken through the city gate. Will you hand me Bearclaw?”

Jond grabbed the mighty sword from the table and nearly buckled under its weight. With two hands, he strained to get it to his father who grabbed it with one hand and strapped it around his waist.

“Into the cellar until it passes,” Jarn said.

“But father, I can help. I – “

“Into the cellar, Jond. Now.”

His father’s voice sent shivers through his body and at once he rushed downstairs. He knew it was that same voice that kept the ragtag Green Army alive when the Necromancer landed at Spiral Shore.

In the cellar, Jond stood atop a barrel and peered through the street-level window. He could see half-naked goblins with gnarled bare feet and wooden clubs chasing after terrified townsfolk. Other goblins snacked on the goods from abandoned food carts while others threw their torches onto thatched rooftops.

Jarn limped down the stairs of the house and into the street where several goblins came after him. With Bearclaw in his hand, he made short work of the menaces. A few more tried him and failed and the pile of dismembered goblins surrounding him kept others at bay. From afar, they hurled rocks and apples and yelled profanities, but they looked defeated.

“This city is under my protection. Leave at once and I will not chase you and exterminate your race,” Jarn shouted. “Have you no idea who I – “

A gurgling roar shook the house and sent the goblins scattering. A goblin, four times the size of the other goblins, appeared in the street. Atop its head sat a crown of twisted metal and in its hand it held a club that looked to be as tall as Jarn. Parts of its tattered armor were alight with flame but it did not seem to notice.

“Identify yourself,” Jarn shouted.

The goblin king roared something unintelligible and advanced. Jarn slashed at the monster’s torso, opening a wide wound. The goblin king laughed and with one mighty swing it shattered Bearclaw and left Jarn a crumpled, bloody mess.

Jond suppressed his urge to run outside. He spent the rest of the night watching the goblins run amok as they burned houses, stole valuables and carried women and children off to the forest.

He ventured out at daybreak after the goblins had left, the fires had burned themselves out and the ash had settled on the street like the white blanket of the first snowfall. His father’s corpse was stiff and he dared not look at the eyes.

Instead, he picked up every shard of Bearclaw and went to look for a forge.




photo by:


Painting Little Monsters

Writing is a great hobby but when I’m writing I’m stressing about what I’m writing and whether or not it’s any good. When I’m not writing, I’m stressing about not writing.

I’ve filled those periods of non-writing with a number of things – reading, playing sports, pretending to play the piano, and… drinking. My latest fun thing to do is painting little monsters.

Despite my lack of understanding of colors and my poor paintbrush control, I find painting these ugly monsters oddly relaxing. I can put on some music or an episode of some TV show and go to town on these hideous bastards.

Here’s the latest one I’ve worked on which I got from here. There are three others in the set which I hope to paint soon.

ugly monster before painting

ugly monster after painting


The Control Room

Parliament Clock

“Father,” the grunt at the computer console said, “The work day is about to begin in the Eastern Time Zone. Your orders?”

Ned adjusted his glasses and smiled as wide as his taut, wrinkly skin would allow. “Let’s see, let’s see… ah, trying to make it through the day in a good mood so you can get home and spend time with your family? I don’t think so! Slow it down!”

The grunt at the computer input a few commands into the console. “All done. Early indications are that people are already dragging their feet.”

“Excellent,” Ned said. “What else have you got for me?”

“Well, we’ve got a birthday party kicking off in London. Shall I run interference?”

“Do I want you to run interference?” Ned ran his fingers through his long white beard. “Do I want you to run interference? Hmm. Hmm. Of course I want you to run interference! Speed that up! I want that party to be over before they know it.”

The grunt clicked away at the keyboard. “Okay. That party should be speeding up.”

“Excellent. Can we check in on the Eastern Time Zone?”

“Yes, Father, it looks as though people are miserable.”

“Wonderful!” Ned cackled. “Can we pipe in audio?”

The grunt turned a dial on the console and a man’s voice came over the speakers. “I can’t believe it’s only eight thirty. I thought at least an hour had passed, but when I looked up at the clock only ten minutes had passed. This day is going to drag and drag and drag and drag. This sucks.”

Ned doubled over and wailed with delight. “What about the party? Please give me audio.”

A few twists of the dial and another voice came through the speakers. “Aw, man, I can’t believe it’s time to get going already. I don’t know where the time went. I did have a lot of fun even if it was short.”

“So wonderful. So wonderful and juicy,” Ned said. “What else do you have for me?”

The grunt scanned the screens. “Well, there’s a woman who is trying to work out, mow the lawn, take her mother out to breakfast and pay some bills all before noon. Should I let it slide?”

“Absolutely not. Not on my watch. She only gets enough to do two of those activities. Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir, and before we continue do I have time to run to the bathroom?”

Ned look down at the minion. “Normally you get three minutes to run to the bathroom. With the negative multiplier added, you’re down to two minutes and five seconds. Subtract the time I’ve been talking and you’re down to one minute fifty-nine seconds. Fifty-eight. Fifty-seven…”

The grunt jumped out of his seat and ran out of the control room.

photo by: Aldaron



hospital hall

Are you sure this is theirs?” Nurse Jackie asked, looking over the tiny, pink faced bundle.

Nurse Ray leaned over to examine the newborn. “Yes.”

Are you sure? Because if not – “

I’m positive.”

You really should have tagged them right away so we don’t have this uncertainty.”

Yes, I know. Stop rubbing it in.”

Nurse Jackie shrugged and took the baby down the hall to its “parents.” Nurse Ray picked up the remaining baby in the nursery and carried it down the hall. It cried and squirmed the whole way and he was more than happy to dump it into the laps of the exhausted, but amazed and happy parents.

I’m glad it’s quiet and empty in here now,” Nurse Ray said to Nurse Jackie back at the desk.

We’re leaving. Thank you!” a voice called from the end of the hallway. The two parents were dressed in black and the mother clutched the baby that Nurse Jackie had given them.

Okay. If you could just sign out…” Nurse Jackie started walking towards them, but the father opened up a window and the family floated through it and into the night sky towards the moon.

The two nurses looked at each other. “I really hope we got that right,” Nurse Jackie said.


Photo credit: Martin Howard



spotless floor

Joe worried he’d find the house on fire. Instead, it was immaculate.

“Fantastic for your first day alone,” he told Reginald.

“Pleasing being satisfy you,” the robot said.

“…We’ll work on your English.”



The Hotel Job

hotel at night

“Come on,” Zox whispered and pounded his forehead with his fist. Forty stories below, the city went about its celebrated nightlife unaware of the man pacing around the rooftop of the hotel.

“You can do it. You can. Yes, you can. Don’t say you can’t do it because you can.”

Zox double checked and triple checked that the repel line anchor was secure and then he fiddled with his harness straps. They were still caked with dried blood.

“You’re unlucky funk ends tonight,” he told himself. “No more botched jobs.” He didn’t have much of a choice. One more botched job and the Guild would chop him up and feed him to the pigs.

He dangled off the ledge and lowered himself until he was perpendicular with the building. A faint wailing froze him. A police cruiser sped through the street below. Only after it disappeared around a corner did he exhale.

“Thirty-seven floors down,” he said. “She’s just a woman. You will do it. You will do it because you’re the Goddamn best.”

Zox exhaled and plunged into the darkness. He sped past room after room, but in the darkness no one would see him. The clicker on his harness counted the floors until it reached thirty-seven and then it yanked him to a stop. His momentum thumped him against the window. He worried someone might investigate the noise, but no one came.

He quickly and silently cut through the glass and touched down on the hotel room’s plush carpet. He could hear the mark singing in the bathroom. Zox fixed the silencer onto his weapon. Sweat poured down its handle and onto the floor. He worried his exhales sounded like hurricane force winds.

“One shot. Send her to glory.”

He crept closer to the bathroom and saw her reflection in the mirror bending over the bathtub.

“I can. Nothing will stop me.”

The woman stopped singing. “All done,” she said.

“Is it story time now, mommy?” a little voice said.


photo by: Derrick Coetzee


Sixty Years Ago


Paul put the truck into park and killed the engine. Aside from the rust taking over and the broken windows, the warehouse looked the same as it had sixty years ago.

The walls of the inside were marred with graffiti, most of which was illegible, and the floors were covered with rocks and a thick layer of dust. Paul put down his cooler and set up his lawn chair.

He sunk into the chair and pulled a sandwich from the cooler. He looked at his watch and set the timer. “Two more hours,” he said.

The time flew as the memories the warehouse forced upon him flooded his mind. The polished floors, the heaps of lab equipment – all of it gone. There were successes, but there were failures. Too many failures. Unforgivable failures.

Paul stood and folded his hands as the timer drew down to zero. There was a crackling at first and then a flash of light that filled the warehouse.

And then she appeared. A ghostly figure trapped in a metal apparatus. She still looked the same as she did sixty years ago. He didn’t, but she didn’t seem to mind.

“I’m sorry, Kelly,” he said. “I still haven’t figured out a way to get you out of the loop, but I haven’t given up.”

She smiled, but it was a smile she always gave over the years no matter what he had to tell her. It was the smile she gave him right before she got into the machine, right after he told her that everything would be fine.

“I love you. See you next time,” he said right before she disappeared.

photo by: mjtmail (tiggy)


It’s Okay to Suck at Writing


Stop beating yourself up. No one cranks out a masterpiece on their first try.

It can take years for you to become comfortable with your own work and then it could take years after that for you to become comfortable enough to put your work out there in front of other people.

It takes time and you’re going to get discouraged, but if you enjoy writing, if you feel like you need to write, then don’t give up.

You can’t choose to become a smashing success, but you can develop good habits that will put you on the road to success. You can choose to write every day even if you don’t feel like it. Even if what you’re writing seems like Garbage. All you have to do is sit down at the keyboard and put something down and the rest will come. In time.



photo by: e-magic