Tag Archives: Editor: John B. Rosenman

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.

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 * * *