Mentors … of sorts

The following is a not-so-random selection from my quote book. I hope you get as much enlightenment, enjoyment and inspiration from them as I have.

The birth of excellence begins with our awareness that our beliefs are a choice.
– Anthony Robbins

Our main business is not to see what lies directly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.
– Thomas Carlyle

Nietche’s formula for the superior man was “not only to bear up under necessity but to love it.”
– Dale Carnegie

Behold the turtle who gets nowhere until he sticks out his neck.
– Unknown

A Fable:
Long ago in a small village there lived a very wise man. There was a boy in the town who didn’t like the wise man and decided to trick him. He caught a small bird, and cupping it in his hands so that only its tail feather could be seen, took it to the wise man.
“Is this bird alive or is it dead?” he asked.
If the wise man said it was alive, the boy planned to give it a quick squeeze and open his hands to show the bird was dead. If the wise man said it was dead, he would open his hands and let it fly away. So no matter what the wise man said, he would have him.
“Is it alive or is it dead?” the boy asked.
The wise man looked, not at the boy’s hands but into his eyes and said, “It’s whatever you want it to be.”
– Charles Templeton

In their early and less opulent days, George Burns wanted to send some flowers to Gracie Allen, who was in the hospital. Having exactly enough money to buy eleven roses, he wrote, “Dear Gracie, here are eleven roses. The twelfth one is you.”
– Unknown
Courage is the capacity to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.
– Winston Churchill

The secret of success is constancy of purpose.
– Benjamin Disraeli

Attitude is more important than facts.
– Dr. Karl Menninger

Not what we have, but what we use;
Not what we see, but what we choose;
These are the things that mar or bless
The sum of human happiness
– Joseph Fort Newton
A man’s true greatness lies in the consciousness of an honest purpose in life, founded on a just estimate of himself and everything else, on frequent self-examinations, and a steady obedience to the rule which he knows to be right, without troubling himself as to what others may think or say, or whether they do or do not that which he thinks or says or does.
– Marcus Aurelius

If you tell me how you get your feeling of importance, I’ll tell you what you are. That determines your character. That is the most significant thing about you.
– Dale Carnegie

We can control our reaction even when we cannot control the problem.
– Dr. Robert Schuller

If you want a thing bad enough to go out and fight for it, to work day and night for it, to give up your time, your peace and your sleep for it… if all that you dream and scheme is about it, and life seems useless and worthless without it… if you gladly sweat for it and fret for it and plan for it and lose all your terror of the opposition for it… if you simply go after that thing you want with all your capacity, strength and sagacity, faith, hope and confidence and stern pertinacity… if neither cold, poverty, famine, nor gout, sickness nor pain, of body and brain, can keep you from the thing that you want… if dogged and grim you beseech and beset it, with the help of God you WILL get it!
– Les Brown
No one ever is defeated until defeat has been accepted as reality.
– Napoleon Hill

Acronym for FEAR: False Expectations Appearing Real
– Unknown
Negative attachments… If you really want to remove a cloud from your life, you do not make a big production out of it, you just relax and remove it from your thinking. That’s all there is to it.
– Richard Bach

… you can measure the size of a person by what makes him or her angry.
– Bits and Pieces, The Economic Press

What changes your life is not learning more, but learning how to take more action – to make decisions.
– Anthony Robbins

… You must look religiously to yourself for the cause of your problems, which means refusing to resort to transference… the act of looking to people other than ourselves, or circumstances perceived to be beyond our control, for the causes of our problems.
To succeed at this task requires tremendous commitment. It also requires discipline, intellectual honesty, and a willingness to subordinate our delicate egos to the pursuit of long-term success. It means that no matter what someone else did to you, you must ask yourself what you could have done to avoid the problem. If you transfer responsibility for a problem to someone or something else, you are in effect telling yourself that you cannot prevent it from happening again because the problem is beyond your control. On the other hand, you can control any problem if you are willing to analyze it from the standpoint of what you can do to avoid its recurrence.
– Robert J. RingerHappy the man, and happy he alone,
He, who can call to-day his own:
He who, secure within, can say:
“To-morrow, do thy worst, for I have liv’d today.”
– The Roman poet… Horace

When you are so focused that you no longer concern yourself with the obstacles, you simply overcome them and go on. When you no longer care whether anyone approves, then you have hit the wall and gone beyond. Your journey to your dream is done, fait accompli.
– Les Brown

Do all your worrying prior to making a decision, and after setting the wheels in motion dismiss absolutely all care or responsibility about the outcome.
– Attributed to the psychologist, William James

If you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today. As of this second, quit doing less-than-excellent work.
– Attributed to IBM founder, Tom Watson
Men are disturbed not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen.
– Epictetus

The measure of mental health is the disposition to find good everywhere.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

A human being always acts and feels and performs in accordance with what he imagines to be true about himself and his environment.
– Maxwell Maltz
A perfect example of a minority rule is a baby in the house.
– Unknown

The attitude of being immune to strangers or strange situations, the total disregard for all the unknown or unexpected has a name. It is called poise. Poise is the deliberate shunting aside of all fears arising from new and uncontrollable circumstances.
– James Mangan

Take the most difficult thing you do and make it look effortless.
– Tony Bennet

Did Moses have a secret Eleventh Commandment that said bosses have to be paid more than the people that report to them?
– Tom Peters

Every moment of resistance to temptation is a victory.
– Unknown

If one wishes to be a lover, he must start by saying “Yes” to love. He can do this by looking carefully and coolly at the words he uses when he talks to his wife and children, to his boss and co-workers, to his neighbors and close friends, to his salesgirl and the gas station attendant.
For the words you use will tell you what you are, what you have seen, what you have learned and how you have learned it. For you are your words and they can be a long and important step on the road to the discovery of love.
– Leo Buscaglia

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
– William Shakespeare

A man without a smiling face must not open a shop.
– Chinese Proverb
Talk to people about themselves and they will listen for hours.
– Benjamin Desraeli

A great pleasure in life is in doing what others say you cannot do.
– Unknown

A merry heart doeth good like medicine, but a broken spirit drieth up the bones.
– King Solomon

It is significant that both Judaism and Christianity prescribe joy, rejoicing, thankfulness, cheerfulness as a means towards righteousness and the good life.
– Maxwell Maltz

We are interested in others when they are interested in us.
– Roman poet, Publilius Syrus

Suppose we are so discouraged that we feel there is no hope of ever being able to turn our lemons into lemonade – then here are two reasons why we ought to try, anyway – two reasons why we have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
Reason one: We may succeed.
Reason Two: Even if we don’t succeed, the mere attempt to turn our minus into a plus will cause us to look forward instead of backward; it will replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts; it will release creative energy and spur us to get so busy that we won’t have either the time or the inclination to mourn over what is past and forever gone.
– Dale Carnegie

My real measure of a hero is I find myself a better man for having known him.
– Lonesome Dove: Television series
Measure your health by your sympathy with morning and spring. If there is no response in you to the awakening of nature, if the prospect of an early morning walk does not banish sleep, if the warble of the first bluebird does not thrill you, know that the morning and spring of your life are past. Thus you may feel your pulse.
– Henry David Thoreau

If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.
– Anita Roddick

It takes forever to maintain change; but it takes just a flash to achieve change of even the most profound sort.
– Tom Peters
Seek, above all, for a game worth playing. Having found the game, play it with intensity. Play as if your life and sanity depended on it. Because they do!
– Robert DeRopp

It is another of nature’s laws that only a habit can subdue another habit.
– Og Mandino

Successful people do the things that failures are afraid to tackle.
– Og Mandino

How important is language in shaping our experience of life? It is absolutely fundamental. Quite simply, the words we attach to our experience become our experience.
– Anthony Robbins

Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.
– Unknown

When a man understands that the aim of life is not material profit, but life itself, he ceases to fix his attention exclusively on the external world.
– Alexis Carrel

Most people are as unhappy as they decide to be.
– Abraham Lincoln

If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.
– Thomas A. Edison

Take charge of your thoughts. You can do what you will with them.
– Attributed to Plato

Those who live in the past, neglect to see the future.
– John F. Kennedy

Fear knocked at the door.
Faith answered.
No one was there.
– Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

I’ve never been a believer in closing… because my objective is not to close the sale but to open a relationship.
– Attributed to Hans Stenneck
When I work, I relax; doing nothing or entertaining visitors makes me tired.
– Pablo Picasso

It’s easy to be smart, just think of something stupid and then say the opposite.
– Unknown

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The Magic Called Focus by Clayton Clifford Bye

The wind and the waves slammed into us with icy indifference. Air temperature plummeted to near freezing in a matter of seconds, and numbness began to crawl over the exposed flesh of my hands and face. I saw a brief flash of white as terror clawed at the corner of Danny’s eyes, then he turned wordlessly back to his oar. He was right to be afraid.

Things had started out well enough. We stopped at the Big Trout Lake weather office, where we both worked as meteorological technicians, looked over the current reports, got an updated forecast and checked both the barometer and the wind recorder. Everything seemed to be fine. We’d be fishing for walleye on the Bug River within an hour.

And everything was fine—until our motor quit. Even then, we had no reason to be alarmed. The skies were trouble free, and the lake was calm enough for rowing. All we had to do was backtrack in the shelter of a couple of islands and cross the quarter of a mile of open water which lay between them and the mainland. This done, we would be in sight of the village. Rescue would simply become a matter of waiting to be noticed. Such was our plan.

We were about a hundred yards from where we wanted to land the boat when the storm caught us. And even though a fast-moving wall of water (extending from the surface of the lake to the sky and preceded by a seething mass of ugly white waves) is hard to miss, we really didn’t have much notice. It wasn’t just one cell either, but a whole line of thunder clouds. They can move with remarkable speed.

I’ll confess I was concerned when the storm first appeared, but I wasn’t frightened. The fear didn’t really surface until a few minutes later, when we found ourselves being tossed around in ten foot swells that were crested with white-caps which looked like they belonged on the ocean. In the space of less than five minutes, and without moving a single meter closer to shore, Danny and I were blown a quarter of a mile south.

It happened that fast. One minute we were thinking about landing the boat and starting a fire to warm ourselves, the next minute we were being swept south towards thirteen miles of open water. This was something we definitely didn’t want to happen. Big Trout Lake is a killer when rough weather sets in. We both knew that once we hit the main lake there would be no avoiding capsize or the near-freezing water that would seal our fate. By the time a search party thought to look for as at the south end of the lake, instead of the west end, we would be goners. Yes, I think Danny had good reason to be afraid.

I suppose it was because of this train of thought that I just happened to be looking at Danny when it happened. I think I had some sort of notion that by focusing on him I could keep my own fear in check. And I was very much afraid. You see, the waves had gotten so large we could see through the curl of the white caps as they raged down toward us. The sight made my stomach knot up into an iron ball. When our boat was in the trough of a wave, my friend had to stick his oar upward into the side of the thing and pull with a clumsy down and backward movement. Similarly, each time we found ourselves perched at the crest of a wave, I couldn’t draw water with my oar. As for the sudden slip-and-rush down the side of each succeeding monster wave? That’s something I still don’t like to think about.

Anyway, we were at the bottom of one of these boat-crackers, and I was monitoring Danny’s every move. I watched in awe as his oar pierced the wave at no less than an upward angle of 45 degrees. He bunched up into a ball, pushed hard with his legs, rose up off his seat a little and arched backward. The oar snapped.

I can still see it clearly on the screen of my mind: Danny’s feet shot up past the top of his head as if they had been fired from the barrel of a pistol. He did a 360 degree flip in the air and then stopped abruptly when the back of his head connected with the front seat of the boat. I thought his neck was broken. But I didn’t have time to make sure. I checked for a pulse and to see if he was breathing. Yes, he was alive. He was also out cold.

At this point, we were about 200 feet from shore and only 50 feet from the last point of land that could save us from certain death. I have a vivid memory of the sinking feeling I got in my chest when I saw how quickly the remaining shoreline was disappearing. I also remember how angry I got at that response. In fact, I was so angry with my lack of faith in myself that I forced myself upright, stood there with the storm raging all around me and literally willed myself to stare for a long moment at a rock on the shore. I didn’t pay attention to such things back then, but what happened next is etched permanently into my mind. I asked myself a question. I asked “How can I do this?”

As long as I live, I’ll never forget the answer that popped immediately into my mind. It was a crystal-clear picture of me rowing with the passion and speed of a fiend, followed by a phrase that rifled up from the depths of my brain … “Paddle like a madman!”

It’s amazing what a focused mind will do. With no one to lean on but myself, and the only options being death or not death, I found myself determined to do whatever it took to drive our boat onto the rock I’d chosen as a target. I used my oar as a paddle, reefing on it with superhuman strength and the crazed fury of a madman. I dug so deep and with such tremendous force that I was continually lifted off my feet and slammed into the side of the boat. It mattered not. Nothing in the entire world mattered except hitting that rock. And so, I did.

P.S.
Danny was only unconscious for a minute or two and, other than a headache, he suffered no ill effects. We spent the afternoon, cold and wet, working our way back to our intended landing sight – on foot. Shortly before dark, and long before we reached our destination, we were rescued by a native fisherman.

 

Clayton Bye is an eclectic writer, an editor, a ghostwriter extraordinaire and a publisher of strangely different stories in multiple genres. He lives in Kenora, Ontario on beautiful Lake of the Woods. You can find many of his books at http://shop.claytonbye.com

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INDEPENDENCE BLUE by Salvatore Buttaci

ZZ.Blue Planet

A hero had fallen. At least that’s how I regarded Spicio-Major Leonid Martinez. On Terra Rica 26, he had risked his own life saving my father’s from a spice slide. Did I hold Martinez in the highest esteem? You bet I did, but it all came crashing down with four little words.

“It ain’t our fight.”

Here we were, seven years already on Giallo Finch, and the tension between the Padronistis and the working miners honed sharply. The Padronistis, who ruled with the proverbial iron hand, had invaded the planet for its rich deposits of Independence Blue and staked a claim to what had been the natives’ for millennia. They took the land and enslaved the  wingless yellow bird-like natives who called themselves the “Xybo.” But revolution was in the air. I smelled it and thought of our own history five hundred years ago when brave men stood up and fought the good war for independence.

“It ain’t our fight, Spicio-Captain Stanton. We’re here to mine the Blue. That’s our job, remember? Don’t go soft on me, hear?”

My father, dead these past years, must have rolled in his grave to hear his old comrade bad-lip freedom. Spicio-General Tyger Stanton had died defending the home front against the Eastern Hordes. Had he known the war tolled the knell of democracy, ushering in its rhymed nemesis, plutocracy, he would’ve died a thousand deaths to prevent it. The old America of, by, and for the people was tossed into the past. Now the rich ruled. A council of seven trillionaires who controlled the galactic space trade the way a mother protects her newborn.

Time travel changed the irredeemable fate of Old America. The American astrophysicist  Gustav Brandt had discovered a formula to harness time portals, twist wormholes, create instantaneous shortcuts that shaved down millions of light years to a voyage lasting  minutes. The Earth we left was the same Earth to which we returned. Parallel worlds with its myriad strands of time channels was a myth.

Space travel was now irrelevant. Stars and planets not even telescopically visible could be reached by tapping one’s wrist to the proper spatial coordinates and the chrononauts could be landing with or without their ship on planets similar to our own Earth.

Then one of the chrononauts discovered unknown spices on these unknown worlds. Cargoed back to America, these spices attacked and killed deadly cells like cancer, the plagues, the Pyrenees Virus, and the Flux. These pernicious diseases remain gone.

Martinez and I were leaders of a spicer crew of twenty that mined Independence Blue on Giallo Finch. The same SpiceCorp mined Incardine Red on Turo Venida and Ghost White on Como Mars –– all three of which had become the new significance of Old Glory’s colors. Three color spices had replaced the valor of the old red, the purity of the white, and the justice of the blue. It had transformed America into the lucrative land of the greedy and the home of the depraved. I was glad to be light years away.

###

The fight that was not ours erupted one green-sky predawn when the Padronistis rolled out their tincan tanks into the highlands of the Xybo, firing away at anything that moved. They had already sent Padronisti assassins to SpiceCorp House, slashing the throat of Spicio-Major Martinez, then blasting away the entire spice crew in their beds.

I escaped.

###

With three Xybo eggs under my protection, I tapped my wrist in search of some faraway freedom-loving planet, far from spice mines, to start all over again.

#

 

Sal Buttaci is the author of two flash-fiction collections Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, both published by All Things That Matter Press and available at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Salvatore%20Buttaci

His book A Family of Sicilians… which critics called “the best book written about Sicilians” is available at www.lulu.com/spotlight/ButtaciPublishing2008
He lives in West Virginia with Sharon, the love of his life.

www.salbuttaci.blogsport.com

www.twitter.com/sambpoet

www.facebook.com/salvatore.buttaci

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Upon Waking by Monica Brinkman

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The first thing I recall was the sensation of floating, my body so light it seemed nonexistent. I took a large breath, held it for a few seconds and exhaled, noticing the coolness against my parted lips. My eyes fluttered from the glare of light and I peered between thin slits to take in my surroundings. Tears streamed from each corner as my baby blues grew accustomed to the brightness. I instinctively brushed the moisture away, squirmed in place, stretched my arms out and relaxed against the pillow of softness. So peaceful a morning, I sighed with contentment and wished I could hold this moment, this second, this instance for eternity. I glowed with the joy of being alive.

A voice interrupted my meditation, followed by a deep baritone chuckle. Memories of yesterday filled my brain. It was one of those rare occurrences when you recognized a smell, a thought or in this case, a voice and it flooded your entire soul with remembrance. You could taste it, feel it, relive each sensation until its brief appointment left you melancholy, wanting more.

“Michelle”. Wait, there it was again, calling my name, the voice drawing nearer. Why did it sound so familiar? “Michelle” rang out once more.  So identifiable was the utterance, yet I could not match a character to the tone.  I rose from my waist and scanned the perimeter. Wait. There in the distance was a movement. Though blurred I could see it progress, coming closer, calling out my name, “Michelle.  It echoed through the air and brought me tranquility of which I’ve never known.  My body automatically fell back into a prone position and I stretched each limb, curled each toe. This was magnificence beyond belief and I adored the feeling. I did not wish it to cease and sobbed with happiness.

The sensation of a firm grip upon my shoulders startled me, yet I was not afraid. I turned to one side and fingertips played a sweet song of endearment on my arm and brushed the hair from my face. I snuggled,

spooning against maleness without hesitation; it felt so perfect, so right. This was utter bliss as I’d never experienced and I was lost in pleasure.

Strong arms held me tight. “Michelle, I’ve waited for you”.

Pain, fear, horror rushed into my mind and body. I trembled against his grasp. No, make it go away, please, no, not this, not me. The visions came as flashbacks, one after the other, each more horrifying, all so terrifying.  I cried out from the memory, still fresh in my mind. There lay my body on the cold pavement, once gray, now full of crimson blood.

I shuddered in his arms, tears flowing swiftly down my face, hitting his hands.  Where am I?

He pulled me to face him. We kissed as we had done so many years ago, before the head-on collision. I held him tight and knew that my first love, Chet, was now my eternity.

 

Monica M Brinkman believes in ‘giving it forward’; reflected by her writing and radio show. A firm believer open communication is the most powerful tool to make positive change in the world; she expresses this in her books, The Turn of the Karmic Wheel, The Wheels Final Turn and in her weekly broadcast of It Matters Radio.

An avid writer, named a true storyteller, she has been published in several anthologies and wrote a weekly column for over two years at Authorsinfo. Her works can be found at various sites throughout the internet. Visit her blog @ http://itmattersradio.wix.com/on-the-brink

Monica resides in the Midwest with her husband, two dogs and five cats.

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Fragments of Dimension by Monica Brinkman

 

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 “Frankie! Come here boy.” Jennifer inhaled three whistles before continuing. “It’s me sweetie. It’s mama.”

The short-haired Fox Terrier’s ears perked, nose pointed forward sniffing for familiar scents. Finding none, he cocked his head, circled the corner and lay down, now content on licking the dust from his paw.

If only I’d been more careful, thought Jennifer. She recalled the first time it had happened. She was sitting on the sofa watching the dust twirl, dance and sparkle within the beam of sunlight pouring through the open window. It occurred to her that the sparkles weren’t actually dust particles at all but tiny dots of glimmering rays, each separated by a minuscule space of darkness. When she looked deep into the empty spaces, she found herself drawing closer to the light.  Yet her body was motionless and seated on the sofa, content on staring into the rays, not moving a muscle.  The emptiness drew her further and further into its space. The nearer she came, the wider the darkness opened as it pushed the shimmer and glittering particles of sunshine to the side. She felt the darkness widen taking over the entire area of the sunbeam and in an instance, the empty space sucked her into another dimension.  She soared above the sofa at will and as soon as she had felt fear, bam, she was back in her living room on the sofa.

Often, she had focused on the empty space, the darkness between the light. She recalled that in school they had taught her nothing is solid; there is always space between the molecules holding items or she supposed, even people, together. Somehow, she had mastered the ability to enter into the between and experience a dimension where the body was lighter than air and could float across space and time. So addictive a game it was and such fun that all fear of the unknown ceased and the incidents became more a habit than an exception.

Now she had gone and done it.

Jennifer pressed her Miren shaped nose against the hard surface of the window-like substance. She had not yet decided what it most resembled. The color was not as clear as glass for it portrayed a pearl-like radiance that changed color according to the angle one peered, altering from a soft glaze of white to an intense shade of gray.  Little flecks of light burst from its interior, rather as those of fireworks, but much tinier in circumference.  Somehow, none of these oddities interfered with the clarity of vision. She could make out every single object or being through this odd looking glass.

The surface began to roll and ripple. Jennifer stepped back.  She watched with curiosity and alarm, as the ripple grew large, towered over her head and scooped her up. It formed a large bubble that encased her body. She cried out in terror. Her wails turned into cascading foam and fell liquidating under her feet.

The bubble lifted Jennifer into the air and through a tunnel of blackness.

Frankie jumped on the king sized bed and licked tears from Earl Hanson’s face. Animals have that innate ability to sense an owner’s despair. Earl knew it was foolish to think his daughter would appear after all, nine months had passed. He might be losing his mind, but at dusk, just when the final light of day shined through the windows, picking up bits of dust, which swirled through the air, he could swear he heard Jennifer’s voice crying out “Help me. Father help me.”

 

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Hellecchino by James Secor

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Hellecchino, which means “little devil,” is the pre-popular, peasant name of (Harlequin) of Commedia dell’arte fame (most people will probably know this via Moliere). He came into existence because I saw the need for a new kind of hero, for our modern heroes, resurrected versions of old heroes, is just as violent and destructive and obsessed with his rightness as the villains. And, in the end, he never vanquishes the enemy; the enemy keeps coming back–or more enemies arrive to wreak havoc. I felt the enemy, the bad guy needed to be made to be ridiculous; and the good guy needed to be more non-violent. And, intellectually, a trickster is far more powerful than a big, brawny, masculine hero. Hellecchino follows directly in line with prior tricksters. I am sorry a female did not become involved; but a disabled guy did. Even more than women, the disabled are counted out of society. Hellecchino has affected my writing in general and, also, my life: I’ve watched myself lead “villains” on–and enjoyed it tremendously.

 

 

Out-take from a Hellecchino story

set in Chokepointe Piste in the

East Coahila Brazos River Basin

 

Nobody knows how it happened, but the next morning found Hellecchino perched atop the hitching post before the house of Hacienda loco plátano. In the dawn’s early light, Hellecchino was proudly beheld in all his pink-and-magenta-and-purple majesty by an incredulous Gyorgy Yabu.

“What the hell,” Yabu muttered from behind his big plate glass window and stepped out on the porch. He took a sip of his hot coffee from his extra big clown cup as if he owned the world and Hellecchino was a speck of dust. “What the hell you doin’ on my ranch?”

“Well,” drawled Hellecchino, “I come to talk to a man who done got some enlightenment. Ain’t never met one before.”

“Well, here I am.”

“You don’t look no diff’rent.”

“Diff’rent from what?”

“From anybody else.”

“Looks is deceivin’.”

“I must say. . .tell me about your journey.”

“Up Merengue Montaña?”

“You go anywhere else?”

“Nope. Nowhere else to go for enlightenment these days.” Hellecchino waited. Yabu shifted his teddy bear slippers on the porch. “It was a jolly good time. But Merengue Montaña was larger and higher than I expected.”

“It should be. It’s the most famous mountain in the world. Was there anything interesting at the top?”

“What a silly question.” Yabu sipped his coffee. “Nothing special, ya know. After we entered the state of Roswell we stayed over night at the foot of the mountain. There was a crowd of pilgrims, of course, and in the course of conversation, we younger men thought it would be fun to put a paper bag over Merengue Montaña. The older folks thought it was impossible and laughed at us. We said he could. So. . .” Yabu shifted his teddy beat slippers about, “we brought out bamboo spoons and, each holding one in his mouth, two in his hands and two more in his toes, we began to make paste. In no time, we made it as high as the mountain. Next, we collected all the paper from the provinces of White Sands and Truth or Consequences. I figured we were going to make a huge bag but my fellow journeymen began to paste paper on the mountain sides and, in no time, we were at the top of Merengue Montaña. It was all clothed in a paper bag. Ain’t that a unheard-of thang?”

“Nah! That ain’t so unusual. Last year when I went over to Wasatch-Cache province, the young’uns brewed tea in the Great Salt Lake and then drank it all up. The entire lake.”

“You cain’t trick me! How could anybody drink up an entire lake?”

“Listen. They said, let’s make tea in the lake and they gathered up all the tea leaves, irrespective of quality, from the five neighboring provinces. In no time there was a pile of tea leaves as high as Dante’s View. Well, they put it all into the lake using their mulberry brooms with handles one hundred feet long and began to sir it up. When they was done, they blew off the froth and drank it up just like that. In fact, they drank the whole lake dry but the froth they blew off still remains and it’s known as Plain o’ Froth.”

“What a yarn! The Plain o’ Froth appears in the tale of Paul Bunyan.”

“But you don’t know the new Plain o’ Froth right beside it, which appeared last year.”

“Lie!”

“If you think it’s a lie, you just go and look for yourself.”

“Wa-all. . .I ain’t about t’ argue with ya, but. . .” Yabu sipped his coffee and shuffled his slippers, “just you listen to this! A few years ago when I went over into the western part of the country, I saw a bull lay down in the Mojave Desert and feed on the Sandwich Islands. Imagine that!–feeding himself across mountains, rivers and the sea. Some big fucking beast, eh?’

‘That’s not so wonderful. Why, when I went over to the Black Hills, I saw a drum nine miles in circumference.”

“Circum–what?”

“Circumference. Around.”

Yabu nodded his head. Smiled out the side of his mouth. “That’s ridiculous, of course. You may be able to make a ring out’n wood slats but you’re not gonna find a hide nine miles large, that’s fer shur.”

“What th’hell do you know? I’m telling the truth. I can verify it was the hide of that bull you saw laying down in the Mojave.”

“Great Scott! You don’t say.” Hellecchino nodded his head. “Well, I’ll be. How come you know all these stories? You’re so clever.”

“Oh, tall tales come easy, though I never tell outsiders my secret.”

“What secret?”

“The secret to successfully makin’ a fool outa people.”

“Shore which I knew it!”

“Well, you got your enlightenment, I got mine.”

“Aw, c’mon. We’re brothers in arms.”

“Oh, alright. But ya gotta promise not to tell anyone.”

“Cross my heart and hope to die.” Yabu did it, spilling the remaining coffee out of his cup.

“There’s a special seed for stories anybody’d believe no matter how outrageous and unfounded. It’s called. . .” here Hellecchino leaned in conspiratorially, “Geoffrey Crayon’s Wives of old Burghers Seed.” Yabu nodded his head and waited. Then he leaned in. “Would you like to have one?” asked Hellecchino.

“Hail yes!”

“Just you wait here a few minutes, I’ll go off and get one.”

Hellecchino jumped down off the hitching post and sauntered down the trail out of the ranch. When he was out of sight, he picked up a round pebble, unlike any other round pebble beside the road, and spoke to it in all earnestness. “Pebble. . .can you believe this shit? He wants a seed of lies and I’m going to give him you. What do you think of this?” The pebble said nothing. “There certainly are some fools in this world, eh what?” Then he loped back to the Hacienda loco plátano hitching post and held up the pebble. “There it is. A Geoffrey Crayon’s Wives of old Burghers Seed. There’s more out there.”

“Where?”

“Buried it just outside your entrance gate, I been told.” He held the little pebble up to his ear. “You hafta dig it up or it ain’t worth nothin’.”

“Hot damn! You jest wait a sec, I’ll git my shovel an’ we’ll go on down t’th’gate and start diggin’.”

“We, white man? If’n you want the secret to tall story tellin’, you gotta dig it up yourself. I can’t help you.”

“What the hell! Fer a prize like that, I’d walk acrosst Kansas.” And with that, Yabu ran round back of the house, hunted around in the tool shed and came back with a flat edge spade. “Let’s go!”

Hellecchino shook his head sadly–this man obviously hadn’t ever been on the business end of a shovel. The ground out here was hard and a pointy-ended shovel was what was needed. But, who the hell was Hellecchino to tell a man what to do?

When they got to the gate, Yabu turned to Hellecchino. “Where is it at?”

“Right there, as I recall,” said Hellecchino, pointing to the right post foot.

“Here?”

“There.”

Yabu began digging. Or, rather, he jammed the shovel down onto the hard, hard earth and watched it jump right back up at him. He scowled and slammed the spade down on the ground again.

“Maybe you might try puttin’ the corner of the shovel into the ground. Gettin’ yourself a little hole.”

“Right.”

Yabu did this and, lo and behold, he began to dig himself a hole. But after an hour or so, he stopped digging. He wiped the sweat from his high brow. He leaned on the handle of the shovel.

“You shore it’s here?”

“Dig a little deeper.”

“Hell! I cain’t dig no deeper!”

“You don’t see it down there?”

Yabu bent over and looked in his hole. “No. I cain’t find nothin’.”

“Ah. Well. Perhaps it was over to this post.” Hellecchino turned around, stopping every once in awhile to consider. “Yes. That’s it. I was standin’ the other way round. It’s here. I remember now.”

“Okay.”

Yabu dug into the dry, dry earth, Hellecchino reminding him to put the corner of his square spade into the ground first. After awhile, though, Yabu stopped digging and looked into his little hole.

“I don’t see nothin’.”

“You ain’t dug deep enough yet.”

“The hell you say!”

“Well, if you want the Geoffrey Crayon’s Wives of old Burghers Seed, you’ll keep digging, even if you dig all the way to China.”

“You think the Chinese got it?”

“Could be.”

“Well, I’ll be damned!”

“You come get me when you found the Geoffrey Crayon’s Wives of old Burghers Seed. I got business in town.”

“Alright. I’ll do that.”

And Hellecchino went jauntily on down the road to Chokepointe Piste just a-whistlin’ Dixie to a shovel counterpoint.

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Living in the Absurd by James Secor

a

I’m sure being a battered child had something to do with becoming a social activist: I saw injustice everywhere, I saw punitive authoritarian behavior parading as beneficence. Although the art part of this equation began much earlier, it was only after leaving home and becoming involved in theatre that it blossomed. Good playwright, good director, bad, bad actor, I grew up in the theatre of the late 1960s and 1970s. Guerrilla theatre, street theatre, avant garde theatre. Most important, here, was my love affair with absurdism.

Neither the social activism nor the absurdism have deserted me. I still see connections between what’s seen, what’s said and what’s done as obviously absurd, sometimes ludicrously so. The irreverence via absurdity continued beyond plays into stories, as one might expect, and into essays and opinion pieces. I wrote (nothing absurd) for Sage Publication’s Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice. And I suffered for my disability advocacy and activism. Even my tanka shows a sharp tongue, side-swipes and conundra sprinkled amidst the aesthetic of mono no aware, the passing of things. The various forms of haiku allowed for more pointed commentaries clothed in motley.

My detective, Inspector Anthony Lupée, deals mostly with crimes that are not crimes. Some of them are absurd to the nth degree. He gets involved in man’s inhumanity to man, which seems to flower abundantly in a culture of abuse. RD Laing, 50 years ago, noted that the rules for an abusive family are the same for an abusive society. I did not discover this 50 years ago; 52 years ago I was still under the aegis of a “now” verbally abusive father. Fifty-three years ago the physical abuse had stopped.

Somewhere along the way, I had to study, ever so shallowly, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. But he truly came home to me when I began teaching Mary Wallstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein, A Modern Prometheus. Rousseau’s philosophy on family dynamics and society were prominent influences. Later, I read more of The Social Contract. I could not agree with him more: civilization ruined mankind. Erich Fromm concurs. RD Laing via the abuse road concurs. Jung. I attempted a horror story in which the antagonist (society) is the horror and the protagonist no more than the vehicle. It was an unmitigated failure. Surely there is a way. . .in prose.

Absurdism: as ridiculous as you might think. And, then again, following the hard logic of politics and movements, not so obviously ridiculous.

 

Jim Secor, PhD, worked for 11 years doing live theatre production before going on to write plays, produce films, commercials and a documentary. He even studied at the National Puppet Theatre in Japan. Jim’s recent work includes award winning Tanka, horror for the short story anthology The Speed of Dark and a book of mysteries, Det. Lupée. The impossible Cases. He can be found on Linkedin and at http://labelleotero.wordpress.com along with Minna vander Pfaltz. Jim Secor’s email is hellecchino@eclipso.eu

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From Here to Infinity—SciFi, Fantasy, and Beyond, Part Two

10

The Making of America: Old Country Baggage

by James L. Secor

We all know vampires suck the blood of the living to continue living, even though they are dead. The living dead. A curse.

We don’t know where vampires come from. They just suddenly appear in folklore. The most famous being European. Central Europe, to be exact. Though the Chinese had vampires, too, they did not travel to the West with their fabled RR builders and laundry entrepreneurs.

European vampires had not migrated to Britain before the 19th century, else they would surely have made their appearance at Salem, if not Jamestown or Roanoke Island, the Lost Colony. As it was, America had to wait for a later mass migration of Europeans.

George Calvin Brown and family and friends are prime examples of vampire baggage carriers. As always, the opening of the carpet bag was innocent, however traumatic. Very like Pandora’s box.

Ephemera Gladys Brown, George Calvin’s loving wife, died of tuberculosis one day. George and the children were crestfallen, as one would expect. Losing a caring, loving, thoughtful mother was not expected or wanted. While the family mausoleum was being built and readied, the family mourned. Mother Brown was en-coffined and discretely kept in a corner of the Ice House, which the Brown family owned and operated. With all but the carving of the alabaster monument completed, public mourning ensued with the requisite religious broodings and blessings.

And then life went on, albeit with Leonard Gardener Brown, the older son, coughing a wee bit more than usual. The grocery store side of the business suffered as Leonard’s coughing increased in frequency and intensity. In fact, Leonard was excluded from both the grocery and the Ice House. Left alone, his coughing and whitish pallor led to a drinking habit that wormed its way into the family’s profits. Eventually, he, too, succumbed to the wasting away disease and was laid to rest alongside his mother. Another name was chiseled into the alabaster and life more or less went on.

Lena Mercy Brown, the sister, was so distraught and beside herself and so very fearful of the future, specifically her future, that she became a frequent visitor to the grave site. Early in the morning just before dawn and well past the waning moon, Lena Mercy could be found at the cemetery. So regular and spectral was she, she was spoken of as a ghost. Lena Mercy haunted the graveyard with an unhealthy obsession. So said the town doctor. But Lena Mercy would not desist, even as her pallor paled and her eyes reddened. And then she died. She told her father, one day, that she didn’t feel so good, coughed once into her white, white hands and died.

The doctor said that Lena Mercy Brown also died of tuberculosis, no history of coughing notwithstanding.

What kind of curse was this laid upon the Browns?

Surely, some townies said, this was the result of a prior life-sin. Others pooh-poohed such a superstition. Still others believed that the family was particularly susceptible to invasion by minute, even unseen animalcules. Animalcules being animalcules, this was difficult to deny. Invisible things forever manifest themselves into life. People breathe air, don’t they? And they dig in the dirt. And wash and bathe in the water. Everyone does. Some few were more susceptible than others to invasion by animalcules.

11

George sold the grocery business. People were wary of infection. As long as he ceased operating the Ice House, he was able to hold onto it. The income was enough to keep him and his youngest, Edwin Prentiss. They could find no one to help around the house, though.

But tragedy again struck.

This new wrinkle to the family horror came via the cemetery grounds-keeper. This elderly gentleman began seeing the ghost of Lena Mercy wandering through the cemetery to end up hovering around the family vault, raising her hands and looking upward as if mourning her mother’s and her brother’s and her own demise or calling upon God. All in utter silence, of course, as ghosts make no noise, though their mouth holes be open. The old guy also reported the silence of the cemetery. That is, no scurryings of night denizens and no owl hootings. Not that owls tended to be very communicative to begin with or while hunting. The oldster’s repetitive sightings brought out the ghost hunters, ghost busters and ghost curious. The crowding of the cemetery brought about less Lena Mercy walking. This phenomenon led to a generalized exodus but for the curious, who tend to be quite persevering. Their nightly vigils paid off. Sightings were reported and substantiated. Though not by an outside, objective, uninterested individual.

Much to the discomfiture of the remainder of the Brown family, this ghostly appearance of Lena Mercy became a hot topic in the district. Curiosity seekers began visiting the Brown house. The worst of the lot were the various newspapermen. Rude and invasive, if they got no story they made one up. Eventually, George and Edwin shut themselves up in their house. Groceries and sundries were delivered, ordered by messenger. Eventually, interest flagged somewhat. At which time the true tragedy struck.

It was here that the European old world baggage was opened and spilled out its contents all over the ground. The soil was fertile. The horror grew like kudzu, choking the hell out of reason.

How could this happen?

The mind’s job, as it were, is to make sense of things. Make sense of the world. Make sense of chaos. Make sense of the senseless. For this purpose, pre-laid pathways in the neural network of the brain are activated, for your brain forgets nothing. This is how we can remember how to walk without thinking about it. The baggage that sometimes ought not to be carried with us is opened like this; that is, habit of mind. We are creatures of habit. Habit helps us cope with the world. Habit helps us find meaning. Some of these habits are deep-seated and enduring, enduring like fairy tales, folktales, folklore.

How the mind does this is by putting various happenings together and coming up with an answer. It is this solution that is most often influenced by deep cultural memories. Memories of explication. Memories that are connected to an answer and a solution. Habits of mind. Short cuts for thinking.

First were the deaths of the Brown family. Three out of five.

Second was the ghostly sightings by all and sundry of Lena Mercy.

Third was the haunting of George by Lena Mercy. She became a nightly occurrence, dancing around George in bed, George at the kitchen table. Lena Mercy was insistent. According to George, she harassed him. Eventually night and day.

Fourth was Edwin Prentiss’s illness. The same as his mother’s and his brother’s and his sister’s, though Lena Mercy had not suffered the coughing. Edwin began his coughing and increasingly wan coloring within two weeks of Lena Mercy’s haunting the house.

Surely there was a connection here.

Ghosts are not known to be benevolent.

George sought solace, sought answers with consultations of the town elders, the doctor, the various ministers and the travelling Chautauqua professors. Though not all were in agreement, those obsessed with their old baggage, those in the majority, convinced George that Lena Mercy’s hauntings and Edwin Prentiss’s advancing illness were connected. That is, Lena Mercy was responsible.

Something needed to be done. Proof was needed.

So it was that the Brown family tomb was opened. Of the three coffined bodies, only Lena Mercy’s was not decomposed.

A great cry rose up and it was decided Lena Mercy was a vampire.

What other reason could there be? Only vampires feed on the living. Edwin was declining while Lena Mercy was not. Not dying. So?

There could be but one conclusion.

The townies cut out Lena Mercy’s heart. They burned it, cringing somewhat as it sizzled. They made Edwin drink a concoction of ash of heart and red wine.

All was well. No more hauntings. No more coughing.

Edwin Prentiss died in silence two weeks later.

How could this be? Lena Mercy the vampire had been appropriately done in. Maybe Edwin Prentiss was too far gone by then. Maybe more needed to be done.

So, Edwin Prentiss’s heart had a Palo Santo wood stake hammered through it. Both the heart and the stake were burned. The remains were buried. Holy water was cast upon the ground.

Everyone waited, fretting. For lifetimes they fretted and worried.

Would it ever, really end?

Vigilance could not be relaxed.

And so it was.

 

Author BIO:
Jim Secor began his adult writing career as a social activist playwright utilizing absurdism and, later, after his studies in Japanese theatre and training at the National Puppet Theatre in Osaka, alternative alternative styles. Along the way, he learned how to write bad poetry except for tanka and haiku. Short stories, longer stories and the frustrating and emotional draining novels. He has published variously. He taught English, writing and drama in China and Japan. He is over-educated and might be considered an overachiever as he was told at age 16 that he was too stupid to graduate with a BA.

 

 

12

Thin Places

by Delinda McCann

There are thin places where distance between realms collapses. –Celtic Folklore

This morning, I picked five hundred daffodils before coming inside to rest my back on the sofa.  My eyes closed as I mentally reviewed my latest manuscript.

A rap on my sliding glass doors brought me upright.  The man beyond the glass looked familiar.  He smiled and dimples appeared in each cheek.  My heart lurched as I stared.  His bright blue eyes contrasted with his mocha skin and curly hair.  Feeling dizzy and disoriented, I slid open the door and whispered, “Jake?”

He nodded. “Celia sent me.”

Excitement vibrated through me as I threw myself into his arms.  “My sister, how is my twin?”

Jake kissed me on top of my head.  His accent sounded just as I’d always imagined. “She is well and eager to see you.”

“Why are you here?  How?”  I refrained from reminding him he was only a character in my stories and my sister had been dead since birth.  Jake felt real enough to my arms.

Jake held up his hand to show me a collection of forks wrapped in a napkin.  “Celia thought these might be yours.  When we discovered how they came to us, we thought we must try to see you.”

I nodded, dumbly taking the forks.  They matched my set, and I’d been missing some.  I absently set the forks on a table and motioned for Jake to sit.  As I moved my laptop off of the sofa, I felt my heart race.  “Jake, where in your story are you?  Are you still president?”

He nodded. “Celia thought you might know our future.  I must flee the country if Papadakos is elected.”

“You must flee before the inauguration.  Carter-Bowles is a traitor.  He will try to arrest and kill you.”

Jake shook his head, “No.  He is Mariah’s cousin.  He will win then, you think?”

Knowing the events occurring in the rough draft of my next novel, I nodded. “What does Leroy say about him?”

Jake snorted, “Leroy says he became a prosecutor in order to send that cheating scum to prison someday.”

“Trust Leroy.  He knows his cousin.  Mariah is too trusting.  Can you escape to Celia’s home?”

Jake drew his head back as he looked at me.  “I think you do not quite understand. Celia’s home is still within the reach of my enemies.”

“Oh, of course, I forgot.  You won’t be safe where you are known.” I paused then added, “In time, Peter will become president then Ruben, but your country still needs you.”

Jake ran his hands through his hair.  The lines at the corners of his eyes seemed to droop. “I’m old and tired.”  He took a deep breath and looked toward the forest.  “I will flee and let the young men have their turn at glory.”  He snorted as his voice filled with sarcasm on his last word.

I felt disconnected as I watched the familiar face I’d seen only in my imagination.

Jake sighed and admitted, “Peter and Leroy agree with you that I must flee somewhere beyond the reach of the oligarchs.  Celia longs to see you.  It has been a lifetime since she was able to touch you.”

My eyes filled with tears at the thought of holding my sister.

“Can we come here?  We are real in your world.  When the troubles are over perhaps we can go home.  I hope so.  I long to watch the sun go down from my ridge.”  Jake’s eyes focused on the wall behind me.

I suspected Jake was watching a sunset in another land.  “Of course you can come.” I bit my lip.  “I don’t know much about these things.  Can Celia come through and be okay?”

“The two of you seem to have an extraordinary bond.  As far as we know, she will be fine because she is alive at home and in your books.”

We made plans until Jake looked at his watch and pushed himself to his feet.  “It’s time for me to go.  We will leave before the inauguration.” His shoulders sagged as he moved like an old man toward the door.

“How do you get home from here?”

Jake’s forehead puckered.  “Where you do your martial arts.  I saw you there when I was exercising.”

I knew the place he meant.  I’d exercised there because I liked the feel of the energy.  I thought the trees made the energy.  Maybe they do, or maybe the energy comes from something physics cannot yet explain.  I walked Jake to the circle of trees at the edge of the woods.

Jake put out his hand to stop me.  “I’ll go from here.  Remember, we will come when we can.”  Jake flashed his dimples at me again, turned, and in a flash of red light disappeared around a corner into a quantum collapse.

Alone in my house, I collapsed on the sofa feeling drained.  I rested my head on a pillow and closed my eyes.

I awoke, smiling.  I felt peaceful and thought, “What a haunting dream.”  I had dreamed about my twin before and even wrote a life for her in my books, but the dream about actually seeing her touched my soul.

Hubby came in before dinnertime, kissed me, and asked, “How was your day?”

“I got all my flowers picked then took a nap.  I had the sweetest dream.”

He paused and frowned at the table.  “What are all these forks doing here?  They look like the ones we’re missing.”

I stared at the forks in my husband’s hand as he unwrapped them from their napkin.

Clearly stitched in one corner of the napkin, I saw the state seal from Jake’s country.

 

Author BIO:
Delinda McCann lives on a small farm near Seattle, WA where she raised her daughters and now runs a small organic flower business.  She enjoys singing with her church choir and playing the piano—poorly. A brush with cancer made her realize that she needed to slow down, so she turned to writing fiction inspired by her behind-the-scenes experiences of advocating for and loving the people who are just a little bit different.

 

 

13

 ETERNITY

by Bryan Murphy

You, too, eh? Yeah, you do look a bit fragile. As you can see, I’m strong and healthy myself, but, in my line of business, that doesn’t necessarily keep you alive for very long. It’s an advantage, though, with what we’re signing up for. I mean, you’re going to snuff it in that clapped-out body – hey, no offence – but when I get the bullet they’ll bring me back in my fine physique for the duration, the very long duration, right? Don’t look like that, you don’t have much choice, do you? Better than that ancient Welshman’s long night. Just imagine if they brought that body back!

Yeah, man of letters, me. Not just a thug. Philosopher, too. Don’t laugh. Moral philosophy, ethics, religion. You ever thought about the ethics of what we’re getting involved in? I mean, at the moment, it’s only those who signed up for cryo, in the dark ages, when people laughed at them because nobody thought it would ever be possible. The first ones didn’t really have the last laugh, though, did they, what with the agony of re-birth, and the brevity of their second lifespan? Glad they got that bit sorted out. Anyway, I can take a bit of agony, how about you?

The point is, who gets to decide who else can have the treatment? Can you bring back someone who hasn’t asked for it? Now, I’m a man of religion, and if you can’t trust the Church on ethics, who can you trust? It’s just that sometimes they’re a bit technophobic, you know, and it doesn’t always do us that much good. I mean we’ve been haemorrhaging members like San Gennaro ever since that ridiculous Church of the Second Coming started up. Yeah, born in Brazil and now it’s everywhere. Even here in Turin, where we keep the Holy Shroud that they based their hologram on. Some idiot digitalised it and put it on the Goo, where anyone could copy it. How come you don’t know all this?

Out of towner, okay, but don’t you drink the news? Anyway, you know the real Church is going through a real crisis, especially since the despicable murder of Francis II. We’ll avenge that for them, don’t you worry! But every crisis is an opportunity, like they say in Sicily. And now’s the time for the Vatican to listen to us faithful and bring back Padre Pio, I mean Saint Pio, as Pope. Pius XIII, he’ll be. The greatest and last leader of the Church, couldn’t be otherwise! But they say it isn’t ethical. Like, he’s with God now, which is obviously better than being Pope in this world. Even so, I think he knows where his duty lies.

Just imagine all the things he could tell us! None of the others have said a word, have they? I guess they were in Limbo, where there wasn’t much to report on. Or the agony of rebirth wiped out their memories. Or they took a vow of silence. I can understand that! But a saint … what a story he’ll have to tell!

Anyway, trust the Church on ethics, not me. My lot, our thing is not strictly ethical by definition. I mean, we cleared the mafias out of this part of Italy, but only to fill the vacuum ourselves, which some people might find objectionable. Stop twitching, will you? I’ve never hurt a fly, myself. My task is to see how this resurrection business can guarantee my people an eternal cashflow. Hey, your number’s come up. Go sign on the dotted line. I’ll tell you how it pans out next time we meet. You’re lucky: it’ll be a long story.

14

Author BIO:
Bryan Murphy is a British author of speculative fiction. You can find his work here: http://bit.ly/19vt7Ts and at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple and other major retailers. His first full-length novel, Revolution Number One, is due out this year.

 

 

15

Black Hole

by Cody Wagner

 

They say someone on the outside of a black hole can’t see another person getting sucked in. Light can’t break free. And what isn’t lit isn’t visible. And so the victim seems to freeze there, at the point light no longer escapes. He will appear to stay there, existing in that single moment, until the end of time. While his soul is gone, his face will live on. And on. And on.

That moment for me is when he stood at the door, dust floating in the sun around his head like a halo.

“So I’m gonna go,” he said, a bag filled with essentials – sonic toothbrush, toothpaste, hair gel, and an ancient copy of The Road – at his feet.

A red hover car parked in the drive revved its engine.

I ignored it and reached to his face.

He flinched.

I didn’t care, and stroked his beard for the last time.

That. That was my moment. The image etched forever in my memory.

They say that, in a black hole, time speeds up as you reach the center. The part of your body closer to that center moves faster. So your head travels faster than your feet. You’re literally stretched beyond your limits. Like toothpaste from the tube.

That happened when the messages stopped. No communication. Before that, every key was hope. Hope that I’d say just the right thing. His responses took seconds. Mine took hours. I slaved over every word.

Until I received this:

Soooooo, this will be my last e-mail. I just think, you know, our time in the sun is over. No use dragging it out, right?

Each word stretched me beyond my limits. His response so casual. And no more hope. I typed the following:

Four years is the longest sunset I’ve ever witnessed.

Plucking out the nine words, I remembered sitting with him in an old-timey boat on Lake Powell. The waves gently rocked us as we watched the sun falling. We saw images in clouds. Only there were no clouds. We were just making up invisible shapes, laughing and drinking Merlot. It was the perfect evening. Part of me hoped he’d get the reference in my message.

But I never sent it.

They say that, in a black hole, everything tries to fit into what’s called the singularity. It’s a dot or point sitting in the middle. Everything is sucked toward that point. The pressure there is so monumental, matter is squeezed and smashed to fit inside. That’s why black holes are so dense. So much pressed into so little. And that dot is so tiny, it’s one-dimensional. Three dimensions flattened into one.

My heart lives in that singularity. Crushed into an unimaginably small, one-dimensional space.

It happened when I saw the wedding announcement.

Can’t imagine spending my life with anyone else, it read.

The envelope contained a picture of the two of them. They were sitting on Lake Powell. In an old-timey boat. Holding each other as the sun set.

 

Author BIO:
Cody Wagner loves to sing, mime (not really), and create. He writes about topics ranging from superpowers to literate trees (really). His award-winning debut novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, recently “came out.” See what he did there? Cody dealt with bullying as a teen and wanted to provide a fun escape for all the underdogs out there.  He’s also handing out cookie dough to everyone who grabs a copy. Check out his writing and see more of his wackiness at www.wagner-writer.com or find him on Twitter @cfjwagner, Goodreads at www.goodreads.com/wagner_writer, and Amazon at www.amazon.com/Cody-Wagner/e/B016NYGV40.

 

 

16

Angels Unaware

 by Micki Peluso 

Hebrews 13: 2

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby many have entertained angels unawares.”

More than a year had passed since we’d visited the cemetery holding the remains of 14-year-old Noelle, the daughter whose comedic, endearing antics had woven the thread that held our family together. We couldn’t bear the grotesquely beautiful tombstones and mausoleums, the quietude — the finality of death. Since I had designed the headstone — a dove in flight, holding a rose that dripped a single tear –- the caretakers called me to announce that it was ready for my inspection.

I took my three daughters with me and drove up the steep, winding narrow road to the top of the mountain to confirm that the stone was acceptable. The sunny autumn afternoon was much like the day she’d lost her life. We searched everywhere but couldn’t find where the tombstone lay. Just as we were about to give up and go home, we noticed a middle-aged man walking his dog along the side of the road. I slowed the car and called out to him. As he walked over to us a smile lit up his face, an unearthly beatific smile that mesmerized us.

“You must be looking for Noelle,” he said, in a voice that was lilting, expressing great happiness. Before I could answer, he said, ‘‘She’s right over there under the large oak tree,” pointing to an area we had passed by several times. He smiled that incredible smile and continued on his way.

The grave site was no more than 50 feet from us. The headstone was lovely, a tribute to an amazing life but none of us took comfort from its setting, nestled among trees and hills that stretched for miles. We cried. We could not remain here, did not see the beauty surrounding us, only the loss — Noelle’s spirit was not in this place. We climbed back into the car, unable to speak.

Driving down the mountainside, I asked my oldest daughter, Kim, “Who was that man? He seemed to know us.”

“Mom, I never saw him before. I thought you knew him,” she said.

“Kelly, have you seen him before, while jogging in the cemetery?”

“No, Mom, I never run this far up.”

“Well,” 11-year-old Nicole stated firmly, “I know I never saw that man in my whole life.”

“Hmm, that’s odd. He seemed to know us and Noelle. Did you ever see a smile like that?”

We rode in silence down the one-way road through the huge cemetery. The sun was setting, casting shadows across this place which held only emptiness, bleakness, and sorrow. We should have passed the man going down. We didn’t. He disappeared as strangely as he’d appeared. We sensed we’d seen an “Angel unaware” — and it would be the first of many times.

The next angel sightings began when my grandsons were born. Several of them, only the boys, either saw angels or heard and saw Noelle, usually in times of distress. The three most open to these sightings and hearings usually stopped experiencing them when they went to grade school. So many natural things are ‘taught’ out of children and this gift was one of them.

Years before, as Noelle lay paralyzed and dying, I promised her that the world would remember who she was and her vehicular homicide by a drunk driver would be known. Life issues stepped in and it was 25 years before I was able to keep my promise by writing a memoir of her life and death. It was meant to be and throughout those last six months of actually writing it, there were many paranormal occurrences.

My first book signing was quite an adventure and I was scared to death. I had just recovered from the flu and wasn’t feeling too perky; the mall was crowded and hot, filled with hordes of people intent on finding Valentine sales. The bookstore ran a sale on every best seller, offering half price, buy one, get one free –- so even I would have preferred not to buy my more expensive first book. Still, as suggested by my publisher, I set up my table, looked pleasantly classy, and had great promo stuff set up –- along with a gorgeous poster of my book on an easel, standing outside the bookstore in the actual mall. Many passed by, admiring the poster, asking if it was for sale –- few stopped to buy the book. The bargain hunters, dressed in less than their finest, seemed harried and hungry –- proven by the way they sneaked valentine chocolate hearts from my crystal bowl as they dashed past my table. The candy was free, but it entailed listening to my book sales pitch for a book they didn’t seem inclined to buy.

After an hour I was getting dejected. This was not fun. Root canal was more fun. I forced family and friends to suffer through it with me but it still did not even border upon fun. I signed and sold about a half dozen books and was getting tired and bored, when someone ran up to me, all smiles and excited. I could not tell if it was a boy, adult or teen. He introduced himself as John, still smiling that amazing smile on his elfin face. “I loved your book,” he repeated over and over. “I cried and cried and cried.”

He didn’t have his book with him so I signed a book plate for him and gave him a bookmark and a chocolate heart. He leaned over to me, with both arms stretched out to me. I reached out and hugged him, something I would never do to a stranger in a Mall.

“Don’t you dare stop writing books!  You can’t not write books. You’re a good writer and you must keep on writing books!” I wondered how he knew that this was my first book and I didn’t plan on another.

“I’ll think about it,” I said, smiling at that wonderful face of his. I glanced away for just a second and when I looked back he was gone. He seemed to disappear as strangely as he’d appeared. I turned to my daughter and asked, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” She nodded. It was not the first time we had encountered an “angel unaware” concerning my book and the story it relates. There was no way to explain those beatific smiling faces both times. I had a feeling this would not be the last either. From the moment he left, my energy returned, all pain left and I was able to continue signing books for another hour and a half and sell all my books. I hope my angelic being shows up at all my future book signings. I want to tell John that I have started my next book — but somehow I think he knows.

 

Author BIO:
I began writing after a personal tragedy as a catharsis for my grief. This led to a first-time-out publication in Victimology: An International Magazine and a 25-year career in journalism. I’ve freelanced and been a staff writer for one major newspaper and written for two more. I have published short fiction and non-fiction, as well as slice-of-life stories in college and other magazines and in e-zine editions. My first book was published in 2012; it’s a funny family memoir of love, loss and survival, called . . . AND THE WHIPPOORWILL SANG which won the Nesta CBC silver award for writing that makes a change in the world. Two of my short horror stories have been published in an anthology called The Speed of Dark. I am presently working on a collection of short fiction, slice-of-life stories and essays in a book called DON’T PLUCK THE DUCK.

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From Here to Infinity—SciFi, Fantasy, and Beyond, Part One

1

Gentle Readers: Herein, for your enjoyment, are eleven writers of Speculative Fiction.  SpecFic is a broad term which embraces science fiction, fantasy, horror, paranormal romance, magical realism, etc.  Everything from aliens to angels, vampires to voodoo.  It can be wildly farfetched, or just a tad out of plumb, a subtle departure from what we commonly agree to be reality. ~ John B. Rosenman

 2

SCRATCH

 by Micki Peluso

A scratch, a scratch, upon my door
Old dog snoring, fat cat sleeps
Something out there wants, implores
Incessant racket—no relief

Alone with these ungodly sounds
I tremble as my fears unbound
Not cat, nor dog, can sense or hear
The scratches, scratching that I fear

Some otherworldly beast seeks entry
To the essence of my very soul
I, in turn, must stand as sentry
Lest spasms of fear take their toll

Scratches dig deeper, louder still
Draw me to it against my will
Tentatively, I reach for the lock
No! My mind reaches out to block

The subliminal urge to heed the call
Of the scratching, scratching at my door
Quaking, leaning back against the wall
I smell fetid odors of evil’s spoor

Lured seductively, I lift the latch
Succumbing to the horrific task
To confront a terror that knows no match
It’s two feet tall and wears a mask!

Night sky lit by blood-red moon
Face to face with an irate raccoon!
Its beady eyes reflect a glare
Unafraid, it stands tall and stares

I draw a breath, deep with relief
T’was just a critter gave me grief
Yet nights may come; how soon, how near?
When it returns to refuel my fear

And the hideous scratch upon my door

No longer animal—so much more
The coon dashes off across the lawn
Innocent creature, perhaps. . .

Mayhap, the devil’s spawn

Author BIO:

I began writing after a personal tragedy as a catharsis for my grief. This led to a first-time-out publication in Victimology: An International Magazine and a 25-year career in journalism. I’ve freelanced and been a staff writer for one major newspaper and written for two more. I have published short fiction and non-fiction, as well as slice-of-life stories in college and other magazines and in e-zine editions. My first book was published in 2012; it’s a funny family memoir of love, loss and survival, called . . . AND THE WHIPPOORWILL SANG which won the Nesta CBC silver award for writing that makes a change in the world. Two of my short horror stories have been published in an anthology called The Speed of Dark. I am presently working on a collection of short fiction, slice-of-life stories and essays in a book called DON’T PLUCK THE DUCK.   Micki Peluso at Mallie1025@aol.com

 

The Hero

by Ken Weene

 3

They had a big celebration, a parade to honor him: Alpha Zed Bravo Nine, the big hero.

Sure lots of folks called him a hero, but I saw him as just an android doing his thing, and that means killing Pintarians. That particular android model, the Seeker1, that specific Seeker1 android, the one they call Alpha Zed Bravo Nine, killed more Pintarians without ending up in the Saint Jackal Service Bay than any other android in the history of the wars, which didn’t entitle the guy to a tickertape parade—at least not in my book.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m as happy as the next person to see a dead Pintarian. Slimy trans-planeters. “We come in peace.” What a crock that was.

Sure, trade and friendship sounded good, especially when we needed their gorchenbock to fuel our industries. “Of course you can have an enclave.” That was reasonable. Not like they lived the same way as us. If you’re going to have peace, you have to let the other guy live his way. Live and let live. “You got your god and we got ours. No harm in that. Which one created the universe? Way beyond my paygrade if you get my drift. Maybe we just have different ideas of the same one. Who knows. You pray your way and we’ll just go on with ours.”

Where did they get off telling us we should stop making out in public? That’s like telling us to stop breathing. Sure we knew they didn’t make out. Heck, we couldn’t see what Pintarians did to reproduce, but reproduce they did—more and more and more. But it wasn’t like we could see. Not like us, they were secretive, covered up all the time. How come they didn’t want any sun on their bodies? Now, that should have been a clue.

But you know politicians. Long as their buddies could make good money trading our bean curd for Pintarian gorchenbock and as long as those buddies kept the money flowing into their pockets, too, the pols were happy to turn the other way. That was until…

It was a bloody war. We lost a lot of our people, more than we could afford, and we never did drive the Pintarians out. We ended up with a planet divided—us and them. I guess that would have been okay. I mean if they had accepted the peace, we could have lived with it. After all, gorchenbock makes the wheels go round. And, if they want to eat tofu, that’s fine with me; I never touch the stuff.

But nope. Give a Pintarian a foot and he’ll take a leg. The thing is no matter how they do it, those foreigners keep reproducing—more and more and more. What was our choice? We had to find a weapon or die.

The first robotic defender systems were a simple affair. A few chips, good programming, and basic weapons. The thing is, once you create a weapons system, you want to keep improving it. In a way you have to because the enemy will find its weaknesses. And the Pintarians are no dummies. Fierce warriors and smart, too. Willing to die; each one willing to blow himself to kingdom come if it will take one of us or disable one of our robots.

So you see we had to improve the systems, move up to androids. We had to or the Pintarians would take over—make us slaves. First it would be no more making out. Then maybe no more praying to our god. Maybe even no more of us. Maybe just make Earth another Pintar, their new world.

The androids had to be improved and improved again. Had to be faster, braver, and smarter. Had to be able to fight on their own.

Engineering is a wonderful thing. The Seeker1 is the best yet. Dr. Sieger is downright amazing. What he’s created!

The only thing is that parade.

They marched through the city with Alpha Zed Bravo Nine in the lead. Everyone was yelling and whooping and waving, and the Seeker1s didn’t look left or right, up or down, they just marched through the city—not to the government house, not to the president’s palace, but to Sieger’s lab. That’s where they stood and waited until he came out.

They shouted, “Huzzah! Huzzah!”

That’s when I knew we were in real trouble.

 

Author BIO:
Ken Weene is one of the editors of The Write Room Blog, co-host of It Matters Radio, and of course a writer. Find more at http://www.kennethweene.com

 

TUESDAY NIGHT SPECIALS

 by Sal Buttaci

 4

 Yosef’s favorite day was Tuesday: Family Night. He could feast and feast, fill his belly without a care or concern for what he would eat in the next three or four days. After the gorging, somewhere in the barn he could stretch his body atop a hay bale and dream Technicolor scenes of his rite of passage, that feverish night on his deathbed and that subsequent first bite from Uncle Aleksei.

Long absent in time and space from the homestead in Kiev and from his hospitable but eccentric uncle, Josef dreamed of the before-and-after days which at first he treasured but now too often despised. Had he died centuries ago, he would have found peace, but Uncle Aleksei, pitying his dying nephew, had bitten his shoulder. Since then, as in Kiev, Yosef hid in the woods of everywhere, currently Central Park, from where he ventured forth at nightfall looking for some fast food. A hapless sheep, a snarling dog, a malodorous swine––whatever was expedient to satisfy ravishing nighttime hunger.

And sometimes life was bearable, especially on Tuesday, the night of Big Deals at McDonald’s, Popeyes, Burger King, Chuckie Cheese––Josef loved Tuesdays. It was Family Night out.

Under cover beyond the fast food lights, he let his eyes first stalk them, then distending razor-sharp claws and restraining his victory howl, he loped quick hooves towards them in the dark parking lot. Confronting his happy meal, he released the howl from his throat. A family: two adults and a rather chubby boy.  Or one adult, two teens. An obese mother and plump daughter. Recurring experiences of digestive uneasiness had led him to adamantly decline old seniors. It served as his only culinary departure, a habit worth keeping.

Family Night Tuesdays kept Yosef’s regrets at bay. He wore his wolfdom like an amulet to ward off the enemy’s silver as he feasted away. No leisure time for nostalgic meditation. With his mouth full, he stifled the voice of his thoughts. He would not for the millionth time dredge those memories of his younger self lying good as dead there in a blazing fever, his dodomu, his home in Ukraine, a picture postcard of happy family ties. Josef would dwell in the here-and-now of this long good life Uncle Aleksei had so richly gifted him.

Now, set back on his haunches, Josef licked the long human bones so clean he could clearly see his hairy snout in their mirrored whiteness. His dark eyes twinkled in the light of the Tuesday-night moon.

 

Author BIO:
Retired teacher and professor, Sal Buttaci, writes everyday. His poems, stories, letters, and articles have appeared in The New York Times, Cats Magazine, The Writer, Writer’s Digest, The National Enquirer, and many other publications. His books Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts are both published by All Things That Matter Press, and are available at Amazon.com. Buttaci lives happily ever after with his wife Sharon in West Virginia.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1?ie=UTF8&text=Sal+Buttaci&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Sal+Buttaci&sort=relevancerank

 

Hooks in Behind the Red Door by Clayton C. Bye

Behindthereddoorebook
The following three excerpts are from my recent release of short stories in Behind the Red Door. The purpose here is to show the importance of “hooks” in writing fiction, especially short stories.  A hook is defined as an interesting beginning to a story, something that hooks the reader and pulls him in. Note: should you find yourself hooked by any of these story excerpts, you can purchase Behind the Red Door at Amazon.com

 

The Speed of Dark

Richard Bartholomew’s little brother sat on the bottom stair and studied the line bisecting the rock walled basement.

“What’s the speed of dark?” he asked.

Trying to ignore the sudden knot of pain in his stomach, Richard answered. “Doesn’t have a speed, Tim,” he said. “Darkness is just the absence of light.”

Shadows, almost lifelike in their furtive movement, crawled a few more inches away from the walls. Richard pretended not to see them.

“Light moves fast?” Tim asked.

“Nothing’s faster,” Richard said.

Small windows atop the western wall glowed with that special golden light which always seems to be reserved for crisp, autumn evenings. These tiny glass squares of life cast beams of airy gold into the spreading gloom. Billowing ribbons of dust danced along the slender rays, entertaining the watching boys, distracting them until the darkness closed in, until the colour of the light changed and took on the hue of blood.

Suddenly, Richard heard his mother’s voice within his head. “Somebody’s got to go.” She’d stood as a rock in the middle of the hall, blocking the way out to the world. Had taken her purse up before speaking and dug out the keys to the old Motor Cart. Then, casually, as if instructing him to do something as mundane as washing the breakfast dishes, she’d made her wishes clear. “You decide,” she’d said. “But I want somebody gone by dark.”

Mother had locked them down—as she always did when going out. The rumble of the engine as she eased along their gravelled drive reminded Richard of distant thunder. A cold shiver walked up and down his spine. Bile rose in his throat.

Richard wiped the memory from his mind and joined his brother on the steps. He could feel the younger boy tremble. The cool, dry basement air was sour with the scent of Tim’s fear. A centipede scurried across the floor, its serpentine movements and glossy red skin the perfect harbingers of this night.

This multiple award-winning story opens with the question “What’s the speed of dark?” Questions make great hooks. Did you not want to know the answer to young Tim’s question? But it doesn’t stop there. The entire excerpt forms another hook that poses the question “What’s going on here?” You, as reader, are pulled forward, suspecting something terrible is about to happen, but you aren’t sure as to “Why does one of them have to go?” or “Where will he be going?” or “How will he get out of the locked basement?” These kinds of questions are purposefully created by the author as a way to engage readers.

 

Retrovirus

Retroviruses make up 8% of human DNA. This includes the Ebola type strain.

The wind screeched over the desolate land, and the men huddled close against it. One of them, a stranger, marked the time with a quick glance at the moon. And because it was what he did, what he lived for and how he lived, the man said, “There’s just time for a story.” Then he waited for someone to speak up. They always did.

“You know the one about the end times?” an older man eventually asked. His hands were curled with arthritis, and he didn’t turn his gaze from the flames of their small fire as he spoke to the stranger. “About he who was the first,” he said. Not a question this time …

In this introduction a question is also used. The bard intimates he has stories to tell, and as the reader wonders about what those might be, one of the group asks “You know the one about the end times?” What end times? Is this a post-apocalyptic story? Who is the “first” that the man asks about? And there you go—you’re into the story.

 

The Last Unicorn

I DON’T SUPPOSE I’ll ever know where she came from or what she really was, but the summer day I found the unicorn on my grandfather’s farm my life was changed forever. She was black, about 16 hands tall and had one conical horn sprouting from her forehead. That was when she wanted to be her version of a horse.

She was often a man about my age who was interested in learning English and all else she could study. I named her/him Bobbie because that was as close as I could come to pronouncing her name in Unicornese.

Since she was a shape shifter, Bobbie could become just about anything she wanted to be …

The Last Unicorn doesn’t seem to use questions in the early paragraphs, either overt or suggested. But it does use them.  First, the author uses the novelty of the story subject (a unicorn shapeshifter) to draw you in and, second, he counts on you to ask yourself questions suggested by the comment, “my life was changed forever.” Why did the Unicorn’s visit change his life? How did she change his life? Is it for the better or does she make his life worse? Why is she here? Why him?

 

Questions are one of the most powerful tools a writer has. Why? Because once a question is posed, our minds are programmed to find the answers—it’s an automatic response. Where best do you find questions posed by a story? In the story. And so you read on.

 

Author BIO:

Clayton Bye is a writer, copywriter, editor and publisher. He has authored 11 books, as many ghostwrites, hundreds of reviews and is the publisher of three award-winning anthologies of short stories by other talented authors. You can find his collected works at http://shop.claytonbye.com/

 

Kali

by Stuart Carruther 
6

Many years ago, I made a promise that I would never lie to my grandchildren. I wanted to be the straight talking grandmother. No bullshit for my youngsters! I’d let their parents do the fibbing as they saw fit. So one day, when the youngest asked me if I believed in faeries and pixies and other mythological small people, I had to explain that it wasn’t a matter of belief: I knew small people existed and lived amongst us.

Of course, they’re not called Borrowers, Lilliputians, Hobbits or any other fictional name you’ll have heard. To me they were the Eten. But more specifically they were Kali and Lilith and I miss them as much today as I did 60 years ago when they died. There are other Eten of course, but they hide in the shadows, in plain sight in towns and cities around the world under your feet enjoying the same lives we lead but at a different scale. But Kali and Lilith were the protoplasts.

There is amongst the Eten, a mythology which explains how they came to be, but, as with all mythologies, that tale has become warped and distorted to such an extent that it no longer even resembles the true facts.

On the first day a bright light shone, and out of the darkness came Kali and Lilith. Trapped in cages, giants pricked and probed them for 40 days and 40 nights. One night after their torturers left them unguarded, Kali and Lilith escaped to a place called Bricks Town where they found refuge amongst the waste and detritus of the giants. In this new and frightening world they fought and tamed giant rodents, riding on their backs to fight off the cats that sought to devour them. Having purged their new home of felines, Kali and Lilith settled down and gave birth to the Eten.”

The truth, as they say, is a little more prosaic. Let me explain.

BioPrint was the first desktop 3D cellular printer, and in my lab we used it to produce new organs for patients that needed parts of them replaced. You can imagine the sort of thing: heart valves, intestinal tracts, retinas, basically anything that could replace worn out pieces of a person’s anatomy. One night, after a particularly lively Christmas party, someone decided to print an entire human body.

I didn’t know about this until I walked into work on Monday morning and I saw blood on the inside of the BioPrint’s clear Perspex door. As I got closer and peered in beyond the plastic, I saw what looked like a naked plastic doll sitting there with his head in his hands gently sobbing.

I’m not sure what my first emotions were as I stood there stunned, staring through the blood-stained screen for what felt like an age. In time, I slowly opened the door of the printer, reaching in with my palms open so as not to scare whatever it was that was crying. Removing his head from his hands, this naked miniature human slowly stood and warily looked up at me whilst all the time trying to back farther into the corner. Ever so slowly, he began edging towards my open palms, and with my heart beating ever faster, I waited for this creature to come towards me.

“Ouch! The fucker bit me!” I exclaimed to the empty room as I withdrew my sore hand and slammed down the printer’s door.

In time, and with the aid of my lunchtime sandwich, I coaxed him into a small cat carrier which, with its plaid rug, was slightly more comfortable than the plastic floor of the printer. I took the day off work and carried him home. Later in the day, I went to the nearest toy shop and bought some doll’s furniture and clothes, and transferred him into a bigger cage where he would be more at home. Don’t look like that. I didn’t know what to do with him. I didn’t know what he was at the time. Making a stand from some bulldog clips, I sat him down in front of a cellphone playing nonstop YouTube channels. He was a quick learner and within just a few weeks, had a full vocabulary and was able to communicate his wishes and have a conversation.

Within weeks, he made it clear that he was lonely and needed a companion his own size and asked that I provide one, because as much as I looked after him and treated him with kindness, I never treated him as an equal but more like a pet. His brain was that of an adult human, though, and he matured far faster than a child.

With no more drunken parties coming up, creating Lilith took much more time and many surreptitious late nights. It worked well: a perfect miniature woman with her own personality was born. But she and Kali hated each other and despite my protestations they put me under pressure to create another person. I couldn’t keep using the work machine, so I borrowed a lot of money and bought my own and created Eve. It was a much better match, but still they wanted more people.

So there you have it. I had my own little Eten factory, churning out new models every couple of days, getting DNA samples from any unsuspecting person in the street as I stole hair samples, coffee cups, or recently disposed food. I was a god! Although they were wise enough to know I was just a bigger, less intelligent version of themselves.

But like all gods, I didn’t create angels, I created monsters, and they forced me to pack my things, take my cat, and leave our home in Brixton forever.

I never saw them again. Except the once. I was in Brixton visiting a friend near my old apartment and I stood on the street corner, wistfully looking up at my previous home, and I swear I caught a glimpse of one of them through a gap in the curtains.

 

Author BIO:

Stuart Carruthers is an anti-theist, pseudo geek and frog herder. Having escaped British winters he now lives in Taiwan where he shares his house with his wife and two kids.

 

A Sketch in Time

by Monica Brinkman

7

The clickety-click of wheels turned from irritation to peaceful serenity, rather a chant of sorts. It brought Franklin a tranquility no other sound could replicate.

He’d tried to achieve the same sense of freedom via aircraft and car but found their movements jerky and unpredictable. Nothing could substitute for train travel. It was the perfect background for creativity.

He scanned the compartment, his eyes focusing on the pot-bellied, middle-aged man to his left who was shifting his weight in an attempt to find a comfortable position in tight quarters. The man settled in, unfolded a newspaper and set it against the back of the seat in front of him. The rustle of paper sounded with each page turn.

Franklin heard the distant cry of an infant and the faint shush of a mother’s quieting voice. His eyes caught sight of a young woman sitting beside a guitar case. Her hair flowed free with the exception of a thin braid running down one side. Specks of sunlight glistened against her face and auburn hair. The girl sat staring, at what he had no idea, simply a blank stare, perhaps of boredom or loneliness.

His creative juices stirred to capture the look in her eyes and exquisite beauty. He drew the sketchpad out of his briefcase, took a pencil from his pocket and began the process of drawing. Surely, this woman knew he was catching her essence, yet she did not stir. Those blue eyes piercing and blank contained a stare of emptiness. Franklin was lost in each moment. The shading and variety of grays produced subtle darkness and light until the sketch became the person and not a mere caricature. Yes, he had brought her to life with his mastery.

Franklin rose and approached the girl. He bent over to speak with her and show her the drawing.

“Miss, if I may be so bold. I took the liberty of capturing your beauty.”

Her trance-like state now broken, the young woman looked at the sketch. She raised her head, gazed into Franklin’s eyes, and smiled.

“Why, it is beautifully done. Sir, you have quite a gift.”

Franklin grinned with pride.

“Thank you Miss. If you don’t mind, I must give it a name.”

She paused a moment. “I suppose it won’t do any harm. As they say, strangers on a train.  My name is Audrey.”

Franklin felt a grasp on his shoulder then hands grabbed his arms and pulled him toward the exit door. He caught sight of the conductor’s badge. It read, STRATTON. The man seized the sketch from his hand and tore it into shreds.

“Look, I didn’t think anyone would mind. It’s only a drawing.”

The trains’ wheels shrieked to a stop. He resisted but could not fight the force. A final push and he found himself in the dust and dirt. He heard his valise’s thud against the platform.

Then it hit him. How stupid. The paper’s headlines! Double Homicide. Police Seek Daughter, Audrey Stratton For Questioning.

 

Of Ladies and Lore

by Monica Brinkman

8

“Ahhh,” a sharp, hot jolt of pain radiated knee to ankle. Lincoln panted and shifted his weight from left to right. The shackles molded to the metal table held him secure, allowing a mere fraction of an inch movement on either side.

His limbs held in place, his eyes bound, his auditory perception on alert, he heard the nearing scurry of rodents and the rustle of cloth echoing throughout the space.

“You Bastard,” rang out yet the rat stood its place and continued nibbling at his forefinger. Lincoln felt the warm liquid ooze from the tip and heard the faint drip, drip of blood hit the concrete floor. He flipped his fingers to fend off the offending creature, feeling repulsed at the touch of grimy coarse hair against his hand.

“Nooo.” He clenched his teeth when fang met bone, this time careful to make no movement.

The throb turned into agony. Small nibbles at his ankle grew to large bites of flesh. With one last groan, Lincoln gave into the merciful darkness of unconsciousness.

Lady Lynn jumped from the window perch, certain Lincoln could no longer sense her perfume or hear her rapid heartbeat.

Shame, she thought while walking all around his long, lean body. He did have a brilliant smile, pleasing laugh, and heavenly violet-blue eyes. Nevertheless, she’d been watching his dalliances for months, hiding her presence in the blackness of alleys and darkness of shadow, seeking the perfect time to act.

This night she’d walked boldly past him. He’d leaped upon her and pulled her frail body next to his. How shocked his face when this helpless lady punched his groin and grabbed the knife from his hand.

The second kick to his manhood took his breath away. Lady Lynn giggled at how easy it was to manipulate his large body. She’d leaned it on her own as she walked two blocks and brought him through the cellar door.

One last glance before she’d leave him to his destiny. The stench of blood filled the air and rodents covered the table. Lady smiled.

Jack Lincoln, you’ve ripped your last woman.

 

Author BIO:

Monica M. Brinkman believes in ‘giving it forward’; reflected by her writing and radio show. A firm believer that open communication is the most powerful tool to make positive change in the world; she expresses this in her books, The Turn of the Karmic Wheel, The Wheel’s Final Turn and in her weekly broadcast of It Matters Radio.

An avid writer who has been proclaimed a true storyteller, she has been published in several anthologies and wrote a weekly column for over two years at Authorsinfo. Her works can be found at various sites throughout the internet. Visit her blog @ http://itmattersradio.wix.com/on-the-brink

Monica resides in the Midwest with her husband, two dogs and five cats. 

 

Dallas

by John B. Rosenman 

9

            When Lee Harvey Oswald looked through his telescopic sight and pulled the trigger, nothing happened.  Just a dull click.

“I thought I saw someone up here!”

He spun to see a policeman pointing a gun at him.

“Freeze right there, Mister!”

Oswald debated only an instant, then threw his weapon, striking the officer’s arm.  He rose and the two men grappled, struggling for the gun, which pointed out the window.

There was a shot, then two more before he was subdued.  In the street below someone started to scream.

Ninety yards away, President Nixon turned in a convertible, which was part of a motorcade honoring him.  Seeing a Secret Service man leap protectively onto the car, he opened his mouth in astonishment.

It was not for some seconds that he discovered his right earlobe was missing.

 

This Poem

by John B. Rosenman

This poem is hypnotic.
Watch these words.
Your eyes are getting heavy.
You are getting sleepy.
You are beginning to feel at peace
with yourself.
Now your thoughts are a child’s.
Now you are inanimate,
a leaf on an iron wind.
Now you are the first thought
you ever had
closing like a bud in snow.

Now I am this poem,
each word a reflection
in your eye.
You are my reader
getting sleepy
beginning to feel at peace
with yourself.
Ready to join me
in my poem.

Author BIO:
A retired English professor from Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Va., John has published three hundred stories in The Speed of Dark, Weird Tales, Whitley Strieber’s Aliens, Galaxy, The Age of Wonders, and elsewhere. He is the author of The Turtan Trilogy, the first three novels of his Scifi-Adventure series, available at lrd.to/Turtan-Trilogy /

 

* * * End of Part One * * *

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Sometimes, Karma Can be a Dog Trish Jackson

 

 Karmas a Dog

Romney Richlieu cursed. Bad luck was following her as usual.

Her whole life had been one giant screw up, and now this.

She mimicked Mrs. Breiton’s words. “We’re so sorry. It’s nothing to do with your leg, Romney. The company is in financial difficulty and we have to let a few people go.”

Sorry, my ass. I don’t know why they hired me in the first place. I didn’t hide my leg. It’s all skinny and ugly and it’s totally obvious my shoe is built-up. They could see that from the time  I  went for the first interview. I suppose it’s because of that silly woman with the Chihuahua in her purse. How was I supposed to know it was there? I like animals. I wouldn’t have put the file on top of the purse if she had told me it was there. And anyhow, the dog is fine.

She dragged her personal items from her drawer and tossed them all in the trash can. Like her life, nothing in there was worth saving.

She walked out of that place with her head held high. It wasn’t totally a normal walk, but she didn’t limp so much these days with the new orthotic shoe. So now what? She couldn’t even claim on unemployment because she hadn’t been there long enough. Maybe next time she should wear long pants to the interview and they wouldn’t see her leg. But these days with the recession, it seemed that the only way she could get a job was because of the sympathy factor. The poor crippled girl. We should be nice to her.

She stopped in the park and flopped onto a bench. She hadn’t allowed herself to think about her circumstances, but now fear clutched at her stomach. How will I pay the rent? Will they kick me out? Oh God. I wish I could just die.” She held her head in her hands and cried quietly.

“What the . . .?” She looked up sharply when something wet made contact with her arm. A dog—and he was licking her.

“What are you doing?” She pushed him away. He stood there and wagged his tail—and his whole butt wagged with it. He showed her his teeth. But he wasn’t snarling. He was smiling. The mutt was smiling at her. She tried to keep the stern look on her face, but he looked so funny with his butt wiggling like that and the goofy grin, she laughed out loud. Then she noticed his leg. One of his back legs was all shriveled up, the muscles useless and wasted like hers, and he held it up off the ground.

It didn’t seem to bother him. He wasn’t pissed off with life. In fact, he looked epically happy to see her. He had matted, dirty white fur, and he wasn’t wearing a collar. When she looked closer she could see he was all skin and bone. She reached out and patted him on his head and his butt wagged harder than before. He made a whining kind of noise.

“I do believe you’re talking to me,” she said. “You must be a stray, and yet you look so frikkin’ happy despite your bad leg, and you probably haven’t had a square meal for a while.”

She jerked when she noticed an old lady sitting at the other end of the bench. Where had she come from? She was smiling at Romney and petting the dog. “This is Andy,” she said. “He was mine, but I passed, and he was left to fend for himself. He’s yours now.” Before Romney could even open her mouth to reply, she was gone.

Was she really ever there?

Romney shrugged and smiled down at him. Smiling did something to her. It made her feel hopeful. “Well, Andy, let’s go see what we can do to get back on our feet. The first thing I’m gonna do is get you a square meal. I feel like our luck has just changed.”

Andy barked twice, and they limped out of the park together.

Trish Jackson grew up on a farm in Zimbabwe, Africa, and lived through some crazy adventures that sparked her imagination; including having to keep a loaded UZI by her side every night in case of an attack by armed insurgents. She loves all animals and often includes them in her stories. She’s happiest with her wonderful family members, or in her country home in Florida tapping out a new novel on her computer. Find out more at http://www.trishjackson.com .

 

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