In the city of Isseran, everything is in its proper place. Society runs like a well-oiled machine… but the machine grinds unfortunates between its gears. Slaves and soldiers want more than their masters will give them; rebellion hangs in the air.

Alix Black-Eyes, a former slave with a dark secret, stumbles upon a small band of rebels called the Rat Runners. They hope to harness the endless power of dreamstuff to stop the cruel machine. Can Alix and her new friends build something better in its place, or will their differences tear their rebellion apart before it can truly begin?

Running with Rats is a dieselpunk dark fantasy webserial that posts biweekly (the second and fourth Friday of every month).


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1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11


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Thank you so much for reading.


The Aeronaut’s Dream: pt. 12

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They scattered like frightened rats. Alix heard Vashe bash into the door; Nvara ran for the window. She heard Svelen clattering in the next room over, and his voice cry “what’s going on?”

She knew the plan: get to the laundry chute. But that had been the plan when everything was going well; before she’d fucked everything up. If she tried it now, she’d probably get stuck behind Vashe.

Doors. There were three along the hallway. She grabbed the knob of the first- locked. Second- locked. Last one on the right opened, smooth as silk.

It was dark as sin and dusty as a tomb. She coughed, waved the dust out of her eyes. The room was full of long, flickering shadows and looming forms that turned out to be-

A crib?

No time for curiosity. There were two windows- one on each side of the crib. Her heart sank as she realized- both of them were barred.

Footsteps on the stairs. Three, four people, running. The static of radios, gabbled commands back and forth.

Vravesva. Security guards or police, it didn’t matter; she was doomed.

There was no closet. There was no window. There was nowhere to run.

Alix braced herself against the wall. If they didn’t have guns, maybe she could squirm between them. If they did- well, she was probably doomed anyway.

The door slammed open. Alix shoved forward. She heard a gunshot, distant, muffled as if through water.

Time slowed.

Between one breath and the next, she slid towards the floor. Her arms spasmed forward, turning into massive paws. Claws spiked out and skewered the floor. Her teeth jagged out of her mouth and a snarl tore its way out of her throat.

She looked down at the Vravesva. There were three of them- the one with the gun, the one with the gas mask, and the one with the radio. But she wasn’t scared. Compared to her, they were the size of kittens.

The one with the gun kept it pointed at her. His hands were shaking. The other two took a step back, back. The doorway was almost clear; if she could get them out of the way….

“Run,” Alix growled.

The one with the gun ran. The one with the radio followed close behind him; the radio clattered to the ground, spitting static.

The third Vravesva stared at Alix through their gas-masked eyes. Alix took a step back. Her hackles raised.

They pulled a small dark thing from one of the belts across their chest, flicked their finger, and threw. It clicked and rattled as it fell.

She barely realised it was a grenade before it exploded.

The ground beneath her gave way. Wood and concrete smashed against the polished tiles of the dance floor below. She caught herself on all fours.

A lady screamed. Glasses shattered against the floor, and a table crashed into the wall as the crowd struggled to get away.

The electric chandelier creaked crazily from one chain, groaning ominously as it swayed above the fleeing crowd.

And in the midst of it all, Alix stood, watching everything move around her, but doing nothing. She felt like time had started to flow again, leaving her frozen.

Everyone was looking at her. Everyone was afraid, and everyone was afraid of *her*. No, not afraid of her, afraid of what she was.


Running With Rats updates biweekly on the second and fourth Friday of every month. 

If you liked this post, and want to support my writing, consider donating to my Patreon?   For the price of a cup of coffee, you can get bonus content, worldbuilding notes, and free books.

REMINDER: The Unicorn’s Beard, my latest short story, is available to buy now on Amazon and Smashwords!   

Sawbones, a wandering veterinarian, is forced into the service of the queen. They must use their knowledge of goat diseases to cure her sick unicorn- or it’s off with their head. Can they discover what’s wrong- and can they save the Queen’s pet from Her Majesty? 

Thanks for reading! 

The Aeronaut’s Dream: pt. 11

(I have special news this week- scroll down after the chapter to read it!) 

<< previous arc | first | previous next | last | newest arc  >>

Alix fell.

The light shards broke around her, tumbling over each other into the void, dissolving into dust. Without the arcs of jagged colour, everything around her was hued in dusty sepia- except the glowing lio.

She heard static, like a radio turned to a dead channel. Voices broke and scratched around her. The words gabbled meaninglessly, but she picked out a few, they all jumbled together.

“I’m sorry, your son- can’t help but wonder- spinal structure’s interesting-
WORLD RECORD, first man to- within the next year- is it really a- fly across the Wild Sea alo- doctor says it- faces change, people sta- we may have an artificial heart-”

She squinted, trying to block out the sound. The lio was yards away, and it only drew closer as she fell. If she didn’t grab it, she’d fall right past.


It was her mother’s voice, in the gabble of static. Distorted, crackling, but it was her, clear as ice. Alix froze.

“Run. Don’t look back.”

It was the last thing she’d said to Alix before she — before–

The lio fell past Alix. It cast a long shadow as she tumbled down. Alix reached for it, too late- grasped at nothing.

“Nv-” she started.

Another spark of lio shone beneath her- in front of a thing which was and was not a person.

It was like the shards- flat as a pane of glass, cobbled together from shreds and patches of light. One eye sat slightly below the other, and its arms and legs stuck from its torso at strange angles.

Lio pulsed out from it in waves, and disappeared almost as fast- like lightning striking aimlessly, over and over again.  Alix’s eyes followed it.

The lio lit up ground beneath her. It was transparent- thin as black ice- but it looked solid. She braced herself.

“Alix-” Nvara said.

“Found the lio. Pull me out on my count,” Alix said.

She landed on all fours, and reached out for the lio.

The creature stared at her. Its eyes were glassy. She scrabbled back.


Its twisted hand grabbed for her face, long glass talons unsheathing from its knuckles.  The lio slipped between her fingers.

Alix dived away and landed, hard, on her elbows. Throbbing pain arced up her arm. She staggered to her feet, and grabbed again – lio dust coated her palms and forearms, glowing even through the goggles.

“Two-” she gasped.

The creature’s neck lengthened, curving around itself like a corkscrew. Its mouth opened, but its head was flat- it looked like its head was tearing apart at the side. It stretched to an impossible length, bending over Alix. Its jaws cast a long shadow- a shadow broken by many sharp teeth.


The electrodes ripped from Alix’s head, ripping her hair. She tore the goggles off and gasped for breath. Specks of pale lio glowed on her gloves.

Blankets rustled. Alix flinched back towards the wall. A shadow rose from the bed.

Vashe shouted, “He’s awake! Run!”

Running With Rats updates biweekly on the second and fourth Friday of every month. 

If you liked this post, and want to support my writing, consider donating to my Patreon?   For the price of a cup of coffee, you can get bonus content, worldbuilding notes, and free books.

SPECIAL NEWS: The Unicorn’s Beard, my latest short story, is available for pre-order now on Amazon and Smashwords! It’ll be available for purchase on the 28th, and- of course- Patreon patrons will receive a free copy. 

Sawbones, a wandering veterinarian, is forced into the service of the queen. They must use their knowledge of goat diseases to cure her sick unicorn- or it’s off with their head. Can they discover what’s wrong- and can they save the Queen’s pet from Her Majesty? 

Thanks for reading! 

[ADMIN] Welp.

I made a major mistake- I posted chapter 14 when I meant to post chapter 11.  And I didn’t realise until just now, when I went to fix all the chapter links.

(image from tumblr user googleplaysore)

SO. I just took down chapter 14. I’m going to post chapter 11 next week, and update as I normally would after that. Congratulations: you got a sneak peek.

Thank you all for your patience with my “posting schedule”. We’ll be back on track soon.


The Aeronaut’s Dream: pt. 10

<< previous arc | first | previous next | last | newest arc  >>

When she stepped through the door, Alix expected to see the front lobby of the Committee building.

She’d only been there in darkness, where it looked like a tomb. The Committee Building’s sharp, high ceilings and blocky Workers of the Future murals would have shown up in her own nightmares, if she’d ever had dreams of her own.

It would have hurt to step inside, but she’d steeled herself. She could have handled it.

But the door opened onto the same cloudy abyss that surrounded the building. The Committee Building was a shell made of wood, fake as a movie set.

Inside, the coloured light shone, hanging in the air like shards of a broken rainbow.

As she stared into the void, the committee building  started to fall.

It tumbled over itself like a leaf dropped into a hurricane. The platform dropped out from underneath Alix; the world spun and writhed around her.

Alix grabbed the doorframe. Her nails dug in sharp. It felt like she was clinging for dear life to the back of a giant animal that was trying to shake her off.

The glowing beams of light hardened to sharp angles of glass. They darted around her like crows mobbing an owl.

She shrugged her shoulders up, trying to shield her face without letting go. If you fell in a dream, you’d die when you hit the ground— everyone knew that. The building-shell hurtled through the air, picking up speed.

“Alix-” Nvara hissed in her ear.

“’M fine.” Her knuckles paled as she clung to the falling building. She felt her fingernails dig into the frame, and the wood splinter around them.

“Alix, I’m pulling you out.”

Alix felt something yank at the back of her head- the electrodes and goggles-strap tugging at her hair.

“No!” she said aloud. Glass stung the back of her hand. She tried to push herself back through the doorframe, flattening herself against the wall on the other side.

“Shhh!” Nvara’s grip tightened. “You’re vexin’ shaking.”

“I – I’m fine.” Alix said. “Give me the chance, ai?”

The shards of glass-light zipped back and forth like wasps.

“Chance? What chance?”

“I want to help. I’m not dead weight. Let me prove it.”

“You’re not proving anything if you wind up dead,” Nvara said.

Alix spotted something out of the corner of her eye- a faint glint, warmer and brigher than the glass-light. It fell through the air below her, tumbling over itself like a falling feather.

“Found the lio,” she muttered.

The glass-birds pulled back, flocking together. Glass scraped against glass, like nails on a chalkboard.

“Alix–” Nvara’s grip on her shoulder tightened.

“I’m gonna grab it. When I give the signal, pull me out,” she said.

“How long-” Nvara murmured.

“Five minutes. Maybe less.”

She heard Nvara sigh out. The tug on the back of her head loosened.

“Five minutes. Then I’m pulling you.”

The flock of glass shards rushed towards her– like a swarm of angry birds.

“I’m a rat runner,” Alix said, as much to herself as Nvara. “And I’l prove it. Let me run.”

She jumped.

Holiday Hiatus 12/18

Running with Rats is going on hiatus for the Winter Holiday Season.

Hope you enjoy your Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Solstice, Festivus, or whatever other holiday gets you through the cold and the dark.

EDIT TO ADD: I accidentally forgot to take The Aeronaut’s Dream pt. 10 out of the queue, so it can stay up.

Because of this, though, Running with Rats will pick back up on 2/1.

The Aeronaut’s Dream: pt. 9


When Alix woke to the dreamworld, her head spun and her stomach lurched. She’d made the mistake of looking down.

She was standing on a platform made of crumbling stone that hung over a vast, cloud-filled sky. A tiny propeller- ridiculously tiny, compared to the platform- sprouted from the center. It whined like a mosquito as it spun.

A rickety-looking wooden bridge clung to the edge of the platform. It connected to another- just like it, if not for the four bridges, one hanging off each side. Each connected to another block, with more bridges, stretching out as far as Alix could see. It was like a maze, but the walls weren’t stone or wood- the ‘walls’ were the edge of the platforms. If you stepped off, you’d fall forever.

No wonder Vashe couldn’t hack it. If she was afraid of heights, she’d be screaming too.

She squinted into the distance. Something glinted- was it lio?

No. No, it wasn’t. Alix bit into her fingers to keep from crying out.

At the centre of the maze was the Committee of Progress Building-four stories of gleaming steel that coiled around the old Palace like a parasitic vine. The Palace’s onion dome stuck out of the top, surrounded by bright mirrored triangles. Alix’s heart hammered against her chest like an animal trying to escape from its cage.

The Progress Building gave her waking nightmares. Its winding basements, glass cages, sterile torture chambers- they were branded on her brain. What was it doing here in someone else’s nightmare?

I don’t have to go inside, she told herself. She wasn’t here to explore the bastard’s mind; there was nothing here she wanted to see. She was here to grab lio and run. Maybe there’d be some in the maze and she wouldn’t have to get close to the building.

Alix felt a soft squeeze on her shoulder. She glanced behind her- but there was no one there. Someone had touched her in the waking world. Was it Vashe or Nvara, trying to calm her? Or was it something worse?

It had been a gentle touch. She took a deep breath and composed herself.

“I’m fine,” she whispered. She didn’t realize she was shaking until the words had left her mouth.

Alix started to walk.

She felt disconnected from herself- like she was piloting a machine, looking at a screen instead of seeing through her eyes. It was probably because she was in a dream. Everything was floaty and disconnected in dreams, wasn’t it?

She was standing on the bridge. It creaked and wobbled beneath her. She stuck her arms out to balance. Step, step, step. Forward, and forward, and forward, until she was on solid ground again. She let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding.

She picked her way across the swaying bridges. An aeroplane drifted by lazily beneath her. Its motor cracked and buzzed, the sound tearing through the silence. It passed through the clouds, and disappeared.

Arcs of light rose in the sky above her. They looked like the northern lights, but darker— like oil paint carelessly smeared across the sky. Even through the sepia-tinted goggles, it shone bright, gold and violet and crimson.

It started to rain.

The rain was deep blood red, and when it hit Alix’s hands, it stained them.

Creeeeeeeak. The bridge twisted beneath her. Alix reached out to steady herself – and the rope snapped.

Her foot slipped as the bridge tumbled down, hanging like a corpse. It swung crazily back and forth. Alix clung to one of the planks.

Vexfucking shit-

She scrambled up, reaching up to the next plank as if it were a ladder. The other rope groaned under her weight. Her knuckles burned as she pulled herself up.

Alix staggered to her feet. The platform sank under her weight. She looked back at the broken bridge, dangling uselessly from the edge of the platform, into the void below.

She’d made it across.

She caught her breath, and sat down. The propeller whirred inches away from her shoulder. She ignored it, and scanned the horizon.

There wasn’t a speck of lio, far as the eye could see.

Alix cursed under her breath. Svelen had told her that lio came from inside people, deep in their cores, and flowed outwards. That meant that the center of the maze was his core and she’d find it there. She’d find it in the Progress Building.

Why of all the thrice-vexed places did it have to be there?

Alix gritted her teeth and stood back up. If she had to go in, she’d find the lio and get out as quickly as she could.

The red rain pattered down on her hands and shoulders. She shielded her eyes with her stained hands as she crossed from bridge to bridge, looking for even the slightest hint of lio.

There was none. The Progress Building towered over her. The mirrored glass triangles reflected her face back at her- stained red, distorted. Her reflection’s mouth opened wide, even though hers was closed- letting out a long, silent scream.

Alix flinched. She had to get out of here.

She grabbed the handle and pulled. Half in a daze, she opened the door, and stepped through.

Running With Rats updates biweekly every second and fourth Friday. 

If you liked this post, and want to support my writing, consider donating to my Patreon?   For the price of a cup of coffee, you can get bonus content, worldbuilding notes, and free books.

Thanks for reading!

The Aeronaut’s Dream: pt. 8

<< previous arc | first | previous nexlast | newest arc  >>

In hindsight, Alix should have seen that things would go horribly wrong.

The first problem was Svelen’s job— cracking a safe on his own. He ducked out of the room through a big grey door. Alix felt twitchy and unsafe without him— he was her best friend, he trusted her, and he knew what he was doing. She didn’t.

There was no use worrying. She tucked her hair behind her ears and turned her attention to the rest of the room.

It was more deck than she’d expect from a Hero Of The Revolution. His whole house was vexing gaudy, sure, but she’d half-thought it would be plain inside, as bare as the houses she’d hidden in. But the bed against the left-hand wall was big enough to fit a whole family, if they liked each other enough. A curtain sagged over it in dusty beige velvet, and there was a duvet the same colour, but less dusty.

Taxasho was tangled in it like braided seaweed bread. For a second, she didn’t even recognize him, because he wasn’t wearing his aviator’s helmet. But that was his face- gaunt and angular, with pinched pale lips. It was strange to see someone she’d only seen in formal photographs asleep- with one foot sticking out of the blankets and a face squashed against a pillow. He clung to the blankets and muttered something she couldn’t understand.

Vashe knelt at the side of the bed, and Nvara crouched next to him. She stuck the electrodes to his temples; a strange hospital smell filled the room. Alix crossed her fingers and cracked the door open.

She stared down the hall. Time slowed. Every breath sounded too loud in her ears. The dark hallway was full of shadows. The shadow of a tree’s branches wagged from a window.

Something jumped at the edge of her vision. She flinched towards it, ready to hit. Then she realized it was her own shadow, and breathed out, slow and shaky.

Gods and vexing monsters. She needed to be more careful; someone could have seen her. She tucked herself behind the doorframe as much as she could while looking out.

For a long, long, long moment- thirty, fourty heartbeats- nothing happened. She heard Nvara breathing, and Vashe’s faint movements as he turned his head or raised his hand.

Then Vashe whimpered.

Alix looked back over her shoulder. Nvara shook her head, and stabbed her hand towards the door. Then Vashe cried out.

Nvara shoved her hand over his mouth and clamped down hard. Alix’s gaze flicked from the bed to the door, but nothing moved, and Taxasho didn’t stir. No one had heard them— yet.

Vashe’s arm curled in on itself. it twitched and spasmed like a dying animal. His face was queasy-grey, and sweat beaded on his forehead.

“Vashe-” Nvara said. “Vashe, talk to me.”

His eyes bugged, and he gagged against Nvara’s hand.

She ripped the electrodes off his head. For a long moment, he gaped like a dying fish. Alix bit her lip, and glanced back at the door- but the only thing outside was the tree’s shadow.

Nvara’s arms wrapped around Vashe. He slid the gloves off, slow and shaky.

“You living?” she muttered.

He nodded. His mouth still hung slack; he swallowed, hard, and and closed it.

“…..Can’t do it,” he finally said.

“What?” Alix’s hands clenched into fists.

“It’s- his head’s…” Vashe rubbed his temple. “It’s all up in the air. No ground. I panicked. Fell down. We gotta go.”

Nvara clenched her teeth.

“Fuck,” she said. “I’ll go–”

“Can’t-” Vashe retched, but nothing came out. He balanced himself on Nvara’s shoulders. “Can’t spot you. You’d be on your own.”

“Wire me,” Alix said.

“What?” Nvara blinked.

“I ain’t scared of heights,” she said. “Vashe can keep an eye on the door. You can spot.”

“You’ve never-” Nvara began.

“You want the vexing lio?”

Alix’s voice came out louder than she’d planned. She looked over her shoulder, and then back at the bed.

Taxasho stirred. For one horrible second, Alix thought she’d woken him. But he rolled over, eyes still closed. His arm dangled off the bed.

Her thumbnail bit into her knuckle.

“…Fine. C’mere,” Nvara said.

Vashe let go of her. He cradled his arm, like he’d broken it- but as far as Alix could tell, it was fine. He dragged himself over to the door and sat beside it.

Nvara stuck the electrodes to Alix’s temples, so quickly that she must have done it a hundred times. Alix pulled the gloves on and closed her eyes.

When she opened them again, it was to Taxasho’s nightmare.

Running With Rats updates biweekly on the second and fourth Friday of every month. 

If you liked this post, and want to support my writing, consider donating to my Patreon?   For the price of a cup of coffee, you can get bonus content, worldbuilding notes, and free books.

Thanks for reading!