Monday, November 28, 2011

"Whispering Willows" by Patty Jansen (Short Story)

Genre:  Fantasy

Short Story Type:  Short Story

Summary:  Friends and family on the farm know that Loesie makes up most of the things she says about magic. So the one time she tells the truth, they don't believe her.

The river behind Granma's house runs deep. The water's like a vat of dirty milk, all murky, with eddies and floating sticks that twirl and twirl downstream.

From the top of the dike, with only green fields and willows around me, I can see the other side - just. Maybe I could make out a person if they stood on the bank, but I's not sure 'cause no one ever does. The other side is Gelre and them's bad as they come, at least so says Granpa in between stuffing his pipe and stripping willow twigs.

No one with half a brain would try to cross the river. No one ever could.

Except the man and his enormous horse.

I were cutting willow switches, and then I seen them in the middle of the water. Two heads, a black horse's and a man's. It seemed the horse was walking-like, on the bottom, but I don't know 's the river has a bottom. But whatever it were doing, the horse were coming straight for me.

I hid in the tree, which were pretty silly-like, 'cause a willow's no leaves in early spring.

The man didn't see me, or he pretended as much he didn't see me as I pretended to be a bird. Or something.

He had hair red as a fox, all curly, and the bit below his shoulders were wet and dripped water onto his jerkin.

The horse - it were huge, with a long mane and masses of fluff around hooves big as Ma's milking bucket. It were noisy-like, snorting and blowing and grumbling.

The stranger sat straight on the horse's back, no saddle, and grabbed a breath of wind in his hand. He whispered into it, and let it go. He were using magic. His eyes met mine and my cheeks glowed like they's on fire.

He kicked the horse's sides and rode off. The orange spot that were his hair grew smaller and smaller amongst the grass and the buttercups.

* * *

Annette looked at me, eyes wide like a rabbit's just before it got clubbed.

'I don't believe you.'

I shrugged. Annette's pale hands never stopped weaving willow twigs in-out-in-out around the leads. Apple baskets we was making, not that I'd a clue what city people want with those, seeing there's no apple trees in the city, but Granma said make apple baskets, so we made apple baskets. For taking to market, you know.

'I seen it.'

'No one can swim the river.'

'He did.'

'Then where is he now, that man of yours?'

Heat flamed in my cheeks. 'He lives in the reeds and he keens for me. He be hiding.'

Annette snorted. 'There was never a man. You and your stories, Loesie.' She tamped down the woven twigs with a piece of wood.

I said nothing, taking one lead twig after another and weaving them around the edge of the basket so it made a thick braid. The willow twigs sang out to me, showing me the fox-haired stranger and his giant horse. His eyes met mine and inside me something stirred I couldn't begin to describe. I never met anyone else who knew about magic.

Buy this short story on Amazon or on Smashwords.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Blog Drawing! Win a FREE Amazon Gift Card!!

Dear Readers,

This is not a usual Short Story Symposium post.  I've really been pleased with how this blog is going so far.  It's definitely gaining momentum.  I strongly feel that there is a community of short story readers out there it's just a matter of finding each other!

In an effort to find even more new readers and writers, I am hosting my first ever blog drawing.  Here's how it will work:

The Prizes:  I will be giving away three Amazon gift cards.  One $25 card, one $20 card and one $15 card.

How to Enter:  It's really easy.  Just Tweet or share a link on Facebook for any one of the stories that have been featured on the blog.  Your choice!  Just click on the blog post and on the bottom you'll see Twitter and Facebook buttons to share the post link.

The Rules:  If you Tweet the link, include @StorySymposium in your Tweet.  If you share a link on Facebook please share the link to the wall post in a blog comment or in an email (

If you are an author, the link that you share can't be for your own story.

You're welcome to share as many links as you like but I will only enter each person into the drawing once.

Please make sure that I have a method of contacting you in case you are the winner.  If you share a Twitter link, I can just send you a private message on Twitter.  If you leave a blog comment, be sure to give me your email address somehow.  If I can't get a hold of you, I will give the card away to someone else.

I will be using the site to randomly select a winner.

Deadlines and Winners:  The drawing will close on 12/8/11.  On 12/9/11 I will post a blog announcing the winners and send out the prizes.  The gift cards will be emailed that day.

Good luck to everyone!

Friday, November 25, 2011

"Dalston Junction" by MeiLin Miranda (Short Story)

Genre:  Science Fiction

Short Story Type:  Short Story

Summary:  Unwed motherhood in Victorian England spells the end--your chances of marrying, chances even of working, disappear. Unless you can somehow "disappear" the evidence...

That's where "baby farmers" Amelia and Margaret come in. They'll care for your unwanted infant--for a fee.

But what are they really doing with the babies? When the police find dozens of tickets for pawned baby clothes and no evidence of the babies themselves, Amelia and Margaret become wanted women, and the life of a newborn hangs in the balance.

Hackney Central, London, 1898

"Another answer to our advertisement," said Amelia. The sound of Margaret pouring boiling water into the teapot distracted her; she returned to the page in her hand. The handwriting jumped in its lines, as if the writer had trouble controlling the pen, and ink blots spattered the page.

"How many this week?" said Margaret.

"Three, with this one. No lack of sad cases."

"So much the better for us. Give." Amelia handed over the paper. "Boy," said Margaret. "Three weeks old. 'Discretion called for.' There will be no further enquiries, then. Perfect." Margaret stretched her tall, solid body until her puffy sleevecaps touched her ears. "I mean to loosen these stays. They're far too tight, damnable things, I'll never get used to them. Have you taken the last one's clothes to the pawn shop yet?"

"No," sighed Amelia. "They're still in their parcel. I'll sort them, shall I." A drooping, brown paper bundle tied with limp string stood on the trestle table. Margaret took up the tray sitting next to it, laden with cakes, cream, sugar lumps and the teapot, and strode through the kitchen door.

Amelia tucked the sad package and the end of her enormous pink challis shawl under her arm, and trailed after. "I do hate this part of it." She opened the package once they sat before the grate in the comfortable sitting room. Her thin hands moved among the tiny garments: two dresses; several flannel waists cleverly made to grow with the baby; two caps knitted in fine wool; miniscule shoes that shook in her trembling palm. "Shouldn't we ought to burn these instead of pawning them?" Amelia whispered. "The pawn shop's bound to get suspicious at some point."

"Then use another one. There are only several dozen in London," said Margaret. The dull gold signet ring on her right middle finger clinked among the tea things as she poured. "We need the money for housekeeping. And there's no baby to wear them here."

Amelia examined the fine seams of one of the little dresses, made in pale blue fine wool. Expensive fabric for a baby dress, and such care taken; Amelia winced. She wondered about the mother. She'd only seen her for a few minutes, but fingering the dress brought a closeness she shouldn't allow herself. "She must have made these. Pity the wee one won't ever wear them."

"Somebody's 'wee one' will." Margaret fixed her companion with a pinched eye. "I often wonder why you're here, Amelia. You're far too soft-hearted."

"I don't know myself, I suppose. Someone has to care for the babies the short time they're here."

"I don't see how it matters," snorted Margaret between bites of cake.

"No," murmured Amelia, "I don't suppose it does." She folded the tiny clothes into a neat pile, set the tiny shoes atop them, and poured herself a cup of tea.

Later, she would obediently re-wrap the bundle in different paper and trot down the street. She would wish for the great pink shawl around her meager, gray-wool-clad shoulders; she was always cold here despite the unfamiliar layers of clothing. She would pawn the little bundle and bring the money back to Margaret for housekeeping. Margaret would put the ticket in her little basket full of pawn tickets.

But now, Amelia threw the brown paper wrapper, the one with the baby's name on it, into the fire. It flared, then flew into ash.

Buy this short story on Amazon or buy it directly from MeiLin's website.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"Non Si Muove" by MeiLin Miranda (Flash Fiction)

Genre:  Fantasy

Short Story Type:  Flash Fiction

Summary:  This story was written for a story challenge: What if a discredited scientific hypothesis--humours in the blood, the four elements, etc--was actually real?

Flash Fiction Story:
Non Si Muove

"Were you frightened when they sent you up in the rocket, Grandfather Yuri?"

"Oh, no, not for a moment, my dear. As long as the Motherland knows where her son flies in the sky, a pilot is never alone."

"Is space very black, Grandfather Yuri?"

"Very black indeed, and the earth very blue. Wonderful blue, amazing blue."

"Did you see the moon? And the stars?"

"Oh yes, darling child."

"And the angels?"

"All the angels among them, their shoulders against the celestial spheres."

"And how many angels push the moon, Grandfather Yuri?"

"Just the one, though He has two faces."

"And did you see His faces?"

"The light and the dark, yes, though only for a moment. He is terrible to behold, and one must not gaze at Him too long."

"Is that how you lost your sight, Grandfather Yuri?"

"...Yes, child. That is how I lost my sight. And that is why we send no more men up in rockets. Now, take me to the house. I believe it is time for supper."

Check out MeiLin Miranda's other work on Amazon.  Also make a point to stop by her website.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"The Eden Effect" by P.J. Lincoln (Novella)

Genre:  Romance, Suspense

Short Story Type:  Novella

Summary:  If you had the chance to be nineteen again, would you make the same choices? Would you marry the same person? Would you choose a career over family?

For elderly couple George and Eve Adams, such questions become a reality. As the result of a romantic trip down memory lane, George and Eve stumble upon the fountain of youth in the form of an apple. A stunning transformation pushes their lives, linked together for more than fifty years, into unforeseen troubled waters.

After decades of raising her family and supporting her husband’s career, Eve is ready for change. It’s her turn and she’s determined to make the most of it. George, meanwhile, is content to continue on as before, perhaps even have more children! Sparks fly and where the dust will settle, well, only time will tell.

Chapter 1

George Adams took a lengthy lead off of first base with every intention of stealing second.

“Can your catcher throw?” he asked Genesis Manufacturing’s first baseman, a human stick figure of at least six feet seven inches.

“He’s got a rifle back there,” stickman said. “I wouldn’t risk it if I were you.”

George represented the winning run for Abel’s Pub in the championship game of the semi-professional Detroit Baseball League. The game was deadlocked in the top of the ninth, but he was never one to play it safe.

“Nobody in this league can throw me out,” said George, grinning at stickman. “Where have you been, under a rock, boy? You ain’t heard of me or what?”

“Oh, I’ve heard of you Adams. You’re a real legend—”

“Well, thank you.”

“In your own mind, asshole,” stickman said. “Go ahead, run. See what happens.”

After the first pitch to his teammate, George ambled back to first and kicked the bag. A few more rounds of jawing with stickman and his teammate had a two-ball one-strike count. It was the perfect count for him to put his money where his mouth was.

Dick Curtis, coach of Abel’s and the pub’s owner, wiggled his right index finger and gave George the signal to break for second base. Genesis Manufacturing’s Bob Burton, a.k.a. the rifle-armed catcher, called for a quick pitch out. In one motion he popped out of his crouch, stepped away from the batter, caught the ball and fired a rocket to his shortstop covering the bag.

The ball sailed high and the Genesis shortstop leapt in the air to stop it from going into centerfield. Running like the wind, George collided with the shortstop as he slid hard into second base. He was called safe, but his rival lost his balance and came down spikes first on George’s left knee. Blood began to immediately trickle through his uniform and out onto the infield dirt. His wife ran from the stands.

“Georgie, Georgie,” Eve screamed as she ran. She cradled him in her arms when she arrived.

“My knee, my knee,” he yelped like a wounded hunting dog. “Something’s broke, Eve, something’s broke.”

Players surrounded the couple. Eve took her thin white sweater off and wrapped it tightly around her husband’s swelling knee.
George looked to the heavens. In his heart he knew he’d never step back on the diamond as a player. His baseball career, which had occupied his free time as a child and Sunday afternoons and evenings as an adult, was over.

IT WAS A SCENE GEORGE ADAMS replayed for the next fifty years. If only he hadn’t tried for the steal. If only he hadn’t slid so hard. If only the catcher’s throw had been a fraction earlier or later. If only. His lamenting drove Eve to distraction at times.

On a muggy June afternoon, he was in full rant. He made Eve drive all the way to southwest Detroit from their home in Novi, some thirty miles away, to stare at City Park’s ball diamond, where the fated game took place.

“That damn Burton,” he grumbled, looking at the field from the passenger’s seat of the couple’s Ford Taurus. “If he hadn’t pitched out, I never would have wrecked my knee.”

“What difference does it make now, George?” Eve said, sounding agitated. She knew how much baseball meant to her husband, but wanted to tell him that he was never going to play in the Major Leagues anyway. Get over it, in other words. “Why don’t we go back home and get an ice cream?”

George shifted in his seat as Eve drove away from the park, which was scattered with children running around a playscape. The baseball field was empty, though, and he continued to stare at as if players might start running out onto it ala Field of Dreams.

“Ah, you’re right,” he said, his voice dry and a touch hoarse from age. “Thank you for indulging me, darling. Let’s not spoil the whole day. Let’s go to Cloverdale.”

It was early evening by the time the couple made it back to the northern suburb of Detroit. Despite the eighty degree temperature, George was dressed as if it was a cool fall day. A dark green turtleneck was visible inside of a heavy fleece pullover, which carried the insignia of his beloved Alma matter, Michigan State University. He rationalized his attire by telling Eve the ice cream parlor would be cold inside.

But they both knew better. At seventy-nine, George Adams was simply old. His once long and fluid stride had been replaced by a shuffle. Watching him walk into the ice cream parlor, so stiff, so slow, so timid, was increasingly painful for Eve to see each Saturday evening.

While age had chiseled away at his physical abilities, it also had also changed his demeanor. As an insurance salesman for Mutual Life, he had been outgoing and personable in his working days. He had an easy way about himself, a quiet confidence. It put others at ease and made him relatively successful as a pitchman. His love of competition also pushed him to outsell his colleagues, a trait the brass at Mutual Life loved.

Some of his charm remained. He was quick to smile and laugh with those that crossed his path, his barber, Charlie, the pretty young waitresses at Cloverdale’s, and even the emotionless clerks at the drug store. But home was a different story.

George was often terse and distant with Eve, seemingly uninterested in anything—news of their three children, politics (although he wasn’t above screaming at the television when the president’s latest sound bite was aired), or even sports. He had lived and died with the Detroit Tigers for decades, but his interest had fallen to almost nil the past few years. Nothing tasted good to him except for Cloverdale’s butter pecan ice cream.

So the weekly trip to the ice cream parlor, a ritual in the Adams’ household since Anne, Jenny and Richard were little, thankfully remained. In the winter months, it was often the only reason George wanted to leave the house.

But this June evening, George was able to set aside his frustrations with getting old, having a gimpy knee and assorted aches and pains. It was as if the trip to Detroit and his grousing about the “Play” had happened on a different day. Whatever the reason, Eve was just happy that her husband’s mood had lightened and the fussing had stopped. In the ice cream parlor, George and Eve sat side-by-side like high school sweethearts.

“What’s it going to be tonight, Georgie?” she asked, pretending not to know the answer. She was the only one, besides his mother, that had ever been allowed to call him Georgie. A boss at Mutual Life made the mistake of saying it sarcastically and got a fat lip for his trouble. He nearly lost his job for the poke, but was kept on because of his high productivity.

“You know, the butter pecan looks good tonight,” he said.

“Hmm. Butter pecan. I think I’ll try this new Mocha Delight,” said Eve.

“Coffee ice cream? Whatever happened to just ordering a cup of coffee with your ice cream?”

“Oh do not be such a stick-in-the-mud, Georgie,” she said, smirking at his mockery. Whenever Cloverdale’s introduced a new flavor, which was usually once or twice a year, Eve was all over it. More times than not, the new flavor was a hit with the silver-haired but surprisingly spry seventy-four-year-old grandmother of five.

“Feeling a little frisky tonight?” she asked.

“You didn’t see the little blue pill I took with my arthritis meds,” he said, letting out a raspy fit of laughter. “I thought a little later …”

“So you’re still a pig, even in your old age. Is that right?”

“Oink, oink, oink.”

“Oh shut up and give me some sugar,” Eve said, laughing, grabbing the old fart by a fluffy fleece collar.

A little boy in the booth next to the elderly couple protested the smooching.

“Oh, that’s gross, Mommy, make them stop,” he said.

George looked back at the boy and gave him a good-natured evil eye, which the ten-year-old’s mother caught. “Put a cork in it kid.”

George Adams’s friskiness was due to his plan for the evening, after he and Eve finished their ice cream. It was a plan that he hadn’t let Eve in on, and it was something he had thought about for a few weeks, since the weather had gotten warm in mid May.
Long before Walgreen’s invaded the corner of Ten Mile and Novi roads, an apple orchard stood as one of the city’s landmarks. People from the entire tri-county area came to Culver’s Orchard for the wide variety of apples, fresh cider and hay rides.

But by the early 1980s, old man Culver was too feeble to run the orchard and his lone child, a gym teacher, was more interested in coaching high school football than selling apples. So Culver, who had sold nearly half the orchard a few years before to developers, shut down the orchard. Michael Culver hadn’t the heart to sell the remaining land, even after the old man passed in 1989, until years later. A Walgreen’s popped up in 2004, where the little shop his father tended once stood.

But George Adams never forgot about the orchard. How could he? It was where he and Eve had met. She helped Culver run the shop every summer and fall starting with her sophomore year at Northville High School. George worked there, too, pruning trees and doing whatever else the old man told him to do after classes let out at Michigan State for the summer.

At first, despite their age difference, he was too shy to say much to Eve except, “good morning” and, “good night.” As a time went by, he gradually became more courageous and eventually asked Eve on a date. He had already proposed twice to her by the time she graduated high school. Eve resisted his proposals until she turned nineteen. The winning line came with a crumble of golden delicious apple stuck to the corner of his mouth. She thought he was so cute and sincere.

George and Eve married in a historic church in downtown Northville on June 15, 1957. Now, the day before their fifty-fourth anniversary, George Adams had an idea.

“Let’s get the heck out of this gin joint before the entire night is wasted,” he said.

George reached slowly into his back pocket and pulled out a wallet that looked like a remnant from the Eisenhower administration. He tossed a ten dollar bill on the table and then grabbed Eve’s hand and yanked on it.

“So soon, Georgie?” Eve asked. “Why don’t we stay and have another coffee?”

“No, no. Let’s go. There’s somewhere else I want to go tonight.”

Buy this story on Amazon or Smashwords.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Passages" by Emily Ward (Short Stories)

Genre:  Young Adult

Short Story Type:  Short Story Collection

Summary:  A brother and a sister dealing with their uncertain circumstances. A girl deciding whether to confess about her involvement in her friend's death. A mother and daughter talking over pasta, both of them holding secrets. These are just some of the images from this short story collection. Centered around young adults from all different walks of life, Passages is about the struggles we all go through during one of the more important transitions of life.

This collection includes seven different short stories.

Moments like this, when his world revolves around him and not his brother, are rare. Mom is holding back tears, and Dad watches with pride. Friends and acquaintances he has known for years, most of them wearing matching blue gowns, gather around to give him hugs, phone numbers, and smiles. This is the last day they will step foot in this building as students.

Ethan scans the crowd for Mya, wondering if she’s seen Brian yet. He doesn’t want to see their reunion. His brother has been in Boston for his freshman year of college, and it’s been the best year of Ethan’s life. Brian’s been back two days, and Dad has already commented on Brian’s higher high school GPA and Ethan’s disappointing community college choice.

Mya finds them as Ethan is taking a picture with his Health teacher. She watches with a smile, and when Mr. Greer walks away, she hugs Ethan. Their large graduation robes separate them, and the scent of her perfume fills his nostrils. “You know what I was just thinking about?”

“That time Mr. Greer tried to make us run a mile for passing notes?”

“Yes!” Mya exclaims and laughs. “I can’t believe we made it.”

“It’s a great feeling,” Ethan says.

Mya turns to Brian. “Long time, no see, Brian.”

Brian gives her a smile, small but affectionate. “Congratulations.”

“How’s college in Boston?” Mya tucks her hair behind her ear, takes a step closer to Brian.

He shrugs. “It’s good. Good football. Probably a better team than Hartfield Community.” He glances at Ethan, who thinks he should have stayed in Boston, if it was so great. “No offense.”

Mom must notice the jibe because she steps in and beams at Mya. “Hey, Mya!” she says. “Get together, I’ll take a picture!”

They pause, glancing at each other. “Go on, you three, get together,” Mom persists.

Mya stand in between the two of them. She wraps her arm around their waists. Ethan puts his arms around her shoulders, smiling at his mom’s camera. After Mom snaps the picture, they pull away slowly. She shows them the picture. Mya, as usual, looks stunning, her dark curly hair falling over her shoulders. Mya and Brian have taken so many pictures together, they naturally gravitate towards each other, and Ethan looks like a strange growth attached to Mya’s arm.

“I’ll see you at the party tonight?” Mya asks, touching his arm.

Ethan meet her eyes for a moment, nodding, and she disappears into the crowd of people.

Buy this collection on Amazon.  You can also check out Emily Ward's work on Smashwords.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"Heroes Die Young" by T. M. Hunter (Novella)

Genre:  Science Fiction

Short Story Type:  Novella

Summary:  Space pirate Aston West stumbles upon a derelict freighter, fresh from a recent battle, and can’t fight the urge to pilfer a valuable cache of highly illegal weapons. While on-board, however, one last stowaway fights back, thinking him part of an earlier boarding crew. Attack craft return to finish the ship off and Aston has no choice but to save her from certain destruction.

Who is she? What are the weapons for? Why was the freighter destroyed?

Aston discovers more questions than answers, and his life is put in jeopardy every time he stops to catch his breath. Aston’s life motto of never getting involved is put to the test, and he must decide whether to become a hero for people in need, or continue his path of self-preservation.

I awoke to a seductive female voice. “Aston...”

Too bad for me, it belonged to Jeanie, my ship’s computer. A cruel joke designed for mostly male pilots spending long periods alone. It was even worse when I ignored the fact she was simply a machine programmed to think.


“We’re entering the Toris system.”

Our current destination was my gateway to temporary financial security. I sat up from the hard, low-lying bunk, stood, and walked to the bridge. It was a short distance, nonetheless painful, as metallic floor panels clanked under my feet louder than normal.

As I walked onto my bridge, the hyper-speed engines disengaged and slowly wound down. I held onto my captain’s chair to steady myself until the ship reached a constant velocity. I sat down in my chair, reached into the side pocket, and pulled out the same bottle of Vladirian liquor that put me down.

“How are we doing on time?”

“Far ahead of schedule,” responded Jeanie.

The second of my four cargo hatches held a cargo container full of blue organic crystals. When I picked it up, the seller told me to take it to Toris, the outer planet in the system of the same name. I didn’t know why, but I’d double my pay if I made it to Toris fast enough ahead of schedule. They didn’t have to tell me twice.

“Let me know when we reach the station.”

I took a small taste of the light yellow liquid in the bottle. The storekeeper peddling the stuff at my last stop had filled me in with the full story behind the drink. A small animal called a Roshtu secreted the liquid as a defensive measure when attacked. The sweet smell and taste caused the attacking predator to lap it up and become intoxicated, while the Roshtu escaped unharmed. I took another drink, this one longer.

“So, Jeanie, what would you like me to buy you once I get paid?”

“I am currently running at peak performance, and have no requirements.”

I smiled and leaned back in my chair. I usually found scuttled and abandoned cargo, then sold it for profit. Scavenging was a less aggressive form of piracy, and usually safer, since you didn’t have to carry out threats of violence. Unfortunately, such cargo tended to be scarce, and had been more so lately. So, when I’d stumbled into an opportunity to carry cargo, I jumped at the chance. An extra bonus for speedy delivery didn’t hurt matters.

I took another sip of the Vladirian liquor and put it away. There needed to be something left to celebrate my fortune.


Jeanie ignored my question. “I’m picking up a ship on medium range sensors.”

The hair on the back of my neck rose. “Show me.”

My view screen lit up along the front wall of my bridge. A couple kilpars in length, the lines of the ship were smooth, tapering from the nose to a constant, rectangular cross-section around the first quarter of the hull. Near the back of the ship, I could see bell-shaped nozzles behind four embedded engines, darkened against the starfield. I recognized the configuration, but wanted some confirmation.

“Rulusian freighter?”

She gave the designation. “Green Three.”

I took another look at the sensor screen over my left armrest. “I don’t see any other ships out there.”

“There are none in the vicinity.”

A Rulusian freighter in an alien system, all by itself, made no sense. They often stuck together in vast convoys, to give themselves a better defensive position through sheer numbers.

“Status of the freighter?”

“Engines and main power are down, backup systems are in effect. No shields, no weapons charged.” She paused a moment. “No life signs.”

With the condition of the ship and no crew, I wondered what happened. Then a smile crossed my lips. I was a scavenger pirate at heart and wasn’t about to let a prime opportunity escape.

“Any cargo in the bays?”

Jeanie was hesitant. “Yes.”

“Well,” I chuckled, “what is it?”

“I’m picking up signs of cargo without accompanying records in the transport manifest.”


My smile grew. Rulusians were usually law-abiding. I had no idea why one of their ships would be hauling illegal cargo, but with three open bays on my ship and plenty of time to spare, there was only one thing on my mind.

Jeanie was too smart for her own good. “The logic of this situation does not compute.”

“It’s nice you worry about me, but I’ll be fine.” I nearly laughed at the thought of a machine with feelings.

She remained silent.

“Access their computer, and drop their cargo.”

“Unable to comply.”

If she wasn’t programmed to obey, I would have been upset. There had to be something wrong.


“The on-board systems were placed under a command-level lockout by the Captain of the vessel. Only the Captain can remove it.”

I clasped my hands behind my head and sighed as Green Three grew larger in the view screen. Finding the freighter made me think my luck was turning for the better. Now, the situation was tougher than it first seemed. My thoughts drifted to the state of the ship.

“Looks like they didn’t want anyone else gaining control. Maybe they abandoned her.”

“That theory appears plausible.”

I ran my hands through my dark brown, wavy locks, then massaged the tension out of the back of my neck. “I guess I’ll just have to go over and drop it manually. Move us to the starboard docking port.”

You can buy T.M. Hunter's work on Amazon.  Also take a peek at his website.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"Seeker" by T. M. Hunter (Novella)

Genre:  Science Fiction

Short Story Type:  Novella

Summary:  Space pirate Aston West has faced the law before, but never quite like this. Now they have a secret weapon, a mind-reader who could expose every crime he's ever committed. It could mean the end to his freedom, or his very life.

I was in deep crap. The white flash faded from my forward viewscreen, leaving me right in the flight path of an assault ship. The attack vessel took up my entire display and then some, its twin claw-like engine nacelles stretching out as if to crush my ship in their grip. There had to be at least a dozen automatic laser turrets I could make out. This definitely wasn’t what I’d signed up for in coming here.

My ship’s computer’s voice carried over the internal speakers. “They’re hailing us, audio only.”

I was glad someone had bought all my contraband during my last stop. Being arrested was the last thing I needed. “Put it through.”

“Sierra-tango-four-two-four, shut down your engines and prepare to be boarded.”

“Tell me what this is all about,” I told the screen.

The response was all business. “Random cargo check.”

With a sigh, I watched the dark gray structure approach, battle scars lining the outer hull. Odds were this wasn’t as random as they made it out to be. I reconsidered the idea of making a run for it, but another look at the assault craft’s firepower made my decision simple. There was no way I’d escape alive.
My innocence would get me through this. If that failed, Jeanie could sabotage them. I hoped so, anyway.

“Shut us down, Jeanie.”


Impending doom festered in my gut as our thrusters cut off. I responded to the assault ship. “I have important business waiting on one of your outer planets.” A blatant lie, though I almost convinced myself. “I hope this won’t take long.”

“We’ll process you as fast as we can.” His tone told me I could toss myself out the nearest airlock. “Prepare to be boarded.”

I cursed aloud.

“The transmission has terminated,” Jeanie responded.


The two engine nacelles passed off either side of my viewscreen. Even being innocent, I couldn’t stop the intense dread. A large access tube telescoped out from the nacelle on our port side. Bright yellow flashes shone all over the assault ship as its position thrusters lit off in random sequence.

Loud thumps echoed as their docking clamps ensured my ship stuck around. Another even louder clang right after made me cringe as the airlock tube sealed against my hull. I was sure they’d be disappointed if they ended up smashing a hole in the side of my ship, but I’d be the only one suffering the permanent consequences.

Jeanie’s voice returned. “Pressures should stabilize in a few moments.”

Once the atmospheres on either side of the hatch were equal, it would open.

“Take your time.”

“The process is automated based on a set schedule. It is not something I can adjust.”

Sarcasm was still tricky for her. “Never mind.”

I reached down and pulled a half-bottle of Vladirian liquor from my captain chair’s side pocket. Peace and quiet would both be running short, and as I faced the prospect of several unwelcome guests on-board, I needed something to take the edge off. Uncapping the lid, I emptied the sweet yellow nectar down my throat.
Passing through the doorway into my living quarters, I tossed the empty bottle into a clothes pile, crinkling my nose at the stench. The entry hatch popped open as the pressures between the two ships equalized. Six automatic blast rifles were pointed directly at my chest, giving me the usual welcome I received in these circumstances.

Knowing the drill by heart, I clasped my fingers atop my head. Troops piled in, yelling jumbles of words at each other and at me. Someone kicked the back of my legs and a rifle barrel was shoved in my face as my kneecaps struck the metal floorboard.

“Don’t move, scum.”

In my youth, I would have taken exception to such treatment. Age and more than my fair share of holding cells had made me wiser. I bided my time quietly, since I had nothing to hide. A pair of troops tore apart my quarters while others ducked off into my aft cargo hold.

Testosterone flooded the compartment, and all of it was wasted. They were going through this exercise and would end up with nothing to show for it. I smiled, knowing I’d have the last laugh.

“Wipe that look off your face, dirtbag.”

I looked up into the fiery green eyes of my captor. His helmet matched the metallic gray body armor he wore. His nose and mouth were covered in black fabric, but nothing muffled him from running his mouth, unfortunately. “Answer me when I speak!”

I frowned at his abusive attitude, just in time for him to club my head with his rifle butt. He jerked the barrel back at my chest, while my skull throbbed.

The only thing preventing me from jumping up and pummeling him was the fact this would be over soon. I forced words through clenched teeth. “Yes, sir.”

It was good my Mark II blaster was hidden in a secret crevice next to the airlock. Had it been holstered under my jacket, I might have been shot dead like a wild animal, instead of just beaten down like a domesticated one.

Those inside my living quarters finally gave up the search just before the other troops came back from my cargo hold. Their dejected facial expressions told me everything I’d already known; there hadn’t been anything they could find to implicate me. A smile almost crept back onto my face, but I refrained. I really wasn’t in the mood to end up with a concussion.

Another man entered through the hatch, absent any sort of body armor. His dark gray shirt bore a pair of silver ornamental bars on each shoulder. He looked down upon me with all the contempt I’d expect out of a ship’s officer. “Take him to the interrogation chamber.”

My heart sank. It wasn’t supposed to go down like this. “Why?” I protested, before my captor’s blast rifle tagged me again.

I brought my eyes back into focus while another man’s voice carried through the room. “Lieutenant, this ship’s completely empty. There’s no contraband on-board.”

“We’ll see what else he has to hide. The seeker should get some useful information out of him.”

My two-time attacker yanked me to my feet. “Up, scum!”

Already in a poor mood for this unsubstantiated detainment, I pulled away. “Get your paws off me.”

His eyes went wide. He shoved the barrel against my chest. “Give me an excuse to drop you, punk.”

“Enough!” We both faced the officer, whose stare burned into the armored guard.
“You have your orders.”

His eyes narrowed, nostrils flaring as he shoved me. “Move.”

The officer led the way. We ducked into the telescoping airlock tunnel, where I worried the spongy floor might bust through with each step. There weren’t enough words to express how thankful I was when my feet stepped inside the craft’s entry corridor. The rubberized floor panels and metallic hull were definitely welcome.

My senses were assaulted with an overwhelming aroma of honey. The mixture was a rare delicacy out here in the depths of space, something I’d only had a few times in life. I looked off to my left as the lieutenant started off in the opposite direction. A woman faced me, shimmering black dress brushing along the floor, her breasts jutting out against the fabric. A hand-crafted shawl was draped across her shoulders, the same color as her fire-like tresses, making it hard to tell where the garment ended and her hair began. Her eyes were two milky white globes against a face of smooth, pale skin. Her petite frame seemed as though it would break just by looking at her.

And look I did.

It wasn’t often I stood this close to such beauty, let alone caught a woman’s stare. At least I assumed she was looking at me. Those milky globes haunted me, somehow conveying warmth despite their cold, empty appearance. It was a shame she was so out of place standing between her escorts, a pair of tall, armor-clad monsters.

A bright flash blinded me. Quick glimpses, images, random visual fragments bombarded my vision. Two bodies, intertwined, slowly came into focus.

Then, blackness collapsed it all.

Massive pain radiated through my skull. My sight slowly returned to normal, and I found myself chest-down on top of the cushioned floor panels. I was back on-board the assault ship.

“Move, scum,” a familiar voice spat above me.

I climbed to all-fours and looked back at the red-haired vixen, fear in my eyes. What just happened? The woman’s forehead creased as I stood.

The armored guard gave off a deep belly laugh. “She’s already in your head, isn’t she?”

It finally made sense. This was the seeker the lieutenant had mentioned.

The bastard kept up with his jubilation, speaking to his comrades behind him. “She’ll crucify him.”

I kept my eyes on the woman and my mood turned from bad to worse. I had no idea what she was capable of, but she could get inside my head, and that scared me to death. I was privy to a lot of information not meant for anyone to know, much of it illegal activities. I’d mistakenly thought my present innocence would lead to freedom. Now, it seemed past misdeeds might be my downfall.
Fear building, I followed the officer, who watched with a subtle laugh under his breath. He hadn’t reprimanded his subordinate this time, which meant I’d used up my one get-out-of-being-assaulted-free card.

He let loose his chuckle. “Afraid of a pretty woman?”

I didn’t bother to answer, instead figuring out my options. I couldn’t fend off another mental invasion.

In other words, I was screwed.

Check out T.M. Hunter's other work on Amazon.  Also, take a moment to stop by his website.

Monday, November 7, 2011

"The Life and Times of Rebecca Walker" by Rachel Hanson (Novelette)

Genre:  Fiction

Short Story Type:  Novelette

Summary:  This coming-of-age story follows Rebecca Walker as she goes on a journey of self-acceptance following traumatic events.

"Hello, my name is Rebecca Walker. I used to be your average burger joint waitress by day; and by night (and my days off) I was a budding photographer. I used my time at the diner to give me ideas. Well, I guess I had plenty ideas. The problem is that nobody ever wanted to see my photos. I had a show about a year ago and it was so awful that my agent could hardly stand to stay for the whole thing. And yes, I know that not everyone wants to see kittens gnawing on flowers. But it really spoke to me, so I thought it would probably speak to at least one other person.

So, I was just lying low and trying to be a good waitress. I thought that maybe I'd developed an idea- but I decided to run it by my most loyal customer. His name is Stephen and he comes in to get a plain cheeseburger, fries, and chocolate shake every day right before the dinner rush starts. I've gotten to know him pretty well and his opinions of my ideas are usually right. I still think the kitten and flower idea will take off but Stephen thinks I'm wrong.

It was a Thursday night and Stephen walks in and seats himself right in my section. I walked up to him, pen in hand.

"Hey Stephen, the usual today?" I inquired with my usual cheery demeanor.

"Yeah, I think so. Thanks." This is Stephens' usual reply.

I walked away to give his order to our excellent chef, Big Dan. Big Dan is famous for his speed and seven and a half minutes later I was walking back toward Stephen's table with his plain cheeseburger, fries, and chocolate shake.

"Stephen, are you in an advice giving mood today?" I asked with some trepidation. Sometimes he won't give me photography advice.

"Yeah, I think I am. What's your latest idea?" He asked with genuine interest. At least I sure hope it's genuine. He's doing a good job of faking it if he's not.

"Okay, I'm thinking legs." I said with dramatic flair

"Legs? What about them?" Stephen was definitely interested now.

"Just legs, in different positions. Some of them could be walking. Maybe kicked up in the air. Some of them in stilettos, some of them barefoot. Women's legs and men's legs. Just all kinds of legs." I was getting pretty excited at this point.

"I really like this idea. Definitely better than kittens destroying flowers. I could see your idea being very cool, very edgy."

"All right. . . thanks for the advice," I beamed, "I'm definitely going to run with this one."

Customers started flooding in for dinner time and I have to go. I'm so excited about my legs idea that I'm way more perky than usual and I get tons of tips. I can tell that this is a good omen.

The next morning I went to my friend Aiden. He's a “real” photographer and sometimes he lets me use his models. He knows what it's like to be a struggling artiste. I tell him my legs idea and he got even more excited about it than Stephen did! He was so excited that he told me I should come to his photo shoot tomorrow and we can share his models.

"Ya know, this is way better than your kitten idea Becca," Aiden said knowingly.

"I know. . . but the cuteness and the destruction really spoke to me," I said in despair. Maybe everyone is right, kittens destroying flowers is not going to take off. I suddenly feel really sad and discouraged. Luckily, Aiden pulls me right out of my depression.

"Don't worry! People love legs, this will be awesome," Aiden says, cheering me up considerably.

I went in the next day after all the models arrived. Aiden has already explained my idea to them and that we'll be sharing them today. All Aiden's models are very relaxed and they didn’t mind that we were sharing them.

I decided to start with Tiffany. We've worked together before and she's really sweet. She started in her regular clothes (DKNY jeans, Chanel top, and Jimmy Choos. She does pretty well for herself) and I asked her to pick up her feet like she's about to take a step. We did a few of those and move onto some motion shots. She does a regular walk, a model walk, some dance steps (she's really good at swing dancing by herself) and some super awesome kicks. I then ask if she's comfortable taking off her (fabulous) jeans and doing some bare leg shots. Tiffany sportingly obliges. I asked her to lie down and lift her legs up. After a few of those shots we're done and Tiffany goes back to Aiden. I did similar shots with all the other girls before we're done for the day. I went home giddy with excitement.

Over the next few days as I was developing my photos I become mesmerized by the beauty of the legs. I was especially impressed that some of the models had slight hairy legs and they bared them for me anyway. Talk about courage! Unfortunately I'm superficial and Tiffany's lightly tanned and smooth legs are my favorite.

My next step is to talk to my agent. Hopefully he’ll like my legs as much as I do and he’ll help me get a show together. Wish me luck; I'm going to need it!"

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Friday, November 4, 2011

"End Behavior: Episode 1" by Alain Gomez and Aubrey Bennet (Short Story)

Genre:  Action Adventure, Humor

Short Story Type:  Short Story

Summary:  Manlier than Chuck Norris, suaver than James Bond... Agent Dustin Brass wakes up to find a mysterious package delivered to his expensive bachelor pad. The contents hinting at secrets that could change the face of history.

After having his breakfast spoiled by a volley of bullets and a high-speed car chase, Agent Brass decides that this is one mystery that may very well be worth looking into.

Join him on this first episode of the action packed serial, End Behavior!

Dustin pulled the body towards him. A quick but thorough inspection of his pockets and clothing revealed no identification of any kind. He glanced around at his surroundings. Schnablel’s unorthodox demise had sent the rest of the bistro’s customers fleeing outside in a state of panic. The cops would probably arrive any minute now and having to deal with the authorities was not something that Dustin had the time for at the moment. Hearing a car screech off, Dustin rushed to his Maserati and took off in hot pursuit.

The assassin’s car was not hard to miss. The beastly roar of the Ferrari F430’s V8 could have been noticed from miles away. Not what Dustin would describe as the best getaway vehicle. However, despite the obvious, the villain was exceptionally fast and was soon establishing a sizable distance between himself and Dustin.

“If I don’t do something quick, I’m going to lose him and my only lead to the Professor’s murder,” he muttered.

Reaching down to his armrest, Dustin activated the heat seeking rocket launchers and fired. Just as the twin missiles were about to incinerate the Ferrari, they abruptly reversed their direction and headed straight back toward Dustin.

“SWEET JESUS!” cried Dustin. “He has an anti-polar heat-sensitive chip destabilizer!” Bailing out of his beloved Maserati, Dustin barely had time to reach cover before the shockwave from the enormous blast knocked him unconscious.

He was going to need a little help.

Buy this short story on Amazon or on B&N.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"Unfamiliar Country" by T.S. Sharp (Short Story)

Genre:  Supernatural Crime

Short Story Type:  Short Story

Summary:  A short story about the grisly work of a hired killer whose work finally catches up with him.

A contract killer's work is complicated by an unwelcome visitation from his most recent job. Boyd's task was simple. Kill the man and bury the body. That was the easy part. Now Boyd has to grapple with his conscience, driving him to extreme measures deep in the Welsh countryside.

Boyd walked the man up the sloping woodland ground to the pre-dug grave. His head was covered with a rough hessian sack, tied tightly around his neck, his arms bound behind his back. Propelled forward by Boyd, the man stumbled on the rotting leaf litter and exposed roots, trudging silently toward his fate. The walk was awkward and Boyd had to keep yanking him in the right direction like a dumb beast, but eventually they arrived at the deep hole cut into the moist earth of a remote wooded hillside.

He positioned the man where he wanted him alongside the grave, then kicked at the back of his knees to force him into a kneeling position. Mute and defeated he sat there, head bowed, looking like a man at prayer. Boyd pulled at the cords and untied the sacking covering his head, then yanked it off. The man blinked in the sudden light, saw the empty grave before him and looked up at Boyd. His face was swollen and bloodied from the beating he’d received to subdue him, his mouth covered with several layers of duct tape. He breathed heavily through his nose, blowing out small bubbles of snot and blood that inflated and burst every few seconds.

The man’s eyes bulged and widened as he saw Boyd raise his handgun. He flicked the safety catch off and levelled the gun at the man’s head. He could hear his strangulated cries through his gag, see him convulsing with terror. The man looked down at the dark earthy pit of the grave. Boyd pulled the trigger and shot him through the head. The sound crashed through the trees and foliage, down the wooded hillside and back again, washing over both of them and then receded to nothingness. The man toppled over to one side and lay there like nothing more than a pile of ragged discarded clothes.

Boyd breathed out heavily. He smelt the faint whiff of cordite in the air mixed with the sweet smell of oak and ash trees, bracken and holly bushes. He bent and picked up the spent shell casing from amongst the decaying leaves and put it in his pocket. He returned to the man and pulled his body out straight so that it was lying lengthwise alongside the grave. The man’s lifeless face turned to look upward through the gently swaying ceiling of tree cover, looking past Boyd with eyes half closed, glassy and dull. The right side of his head was shot away where Boyd’s bullet had made its exit, leaving a matted gore of blood and hair and bone fragments. He stood there for a moment, alone with his handiwork in the cool stillness of the trees. His work was all but complete now. With his foot he pushed the corpse into the grave where it landed with a dull thud, perhaps the last sound it would ever make.

He retrieved his spade from the undergrowth and moved alongside the heaped earth, thrust it into the mound and heaved his first spadeful into the hole and its new occupant. In the depths of the grave, perhaps five feet deep, Boyd could make out the man’s face tipped toward the sky, as if taking his last look at the realm above. Again Boyd paused in his work, regarding the dead man in his final indignity, having the cloying soil of a Welsh forest thrown on top of him, devoid of ceremony and ritual. Boyd swallowed hard. His mouth was dry and his lips were cracked and sore. He continued filling in the grave until it was level, then stamped down the earth, making sure to disguise his boot marks by brushing the ground with a leafy branch.

He patted the gun in his waistband for reassurance, feeling its solid weight against his side, then put the spade over his shoulder and retraced his steps through the tree-crowded pathways to his car. He found the whispering murmur of the trees all around him comforting. The seemingly infinite variations of green and the gnarled and twisted boughs spoke to him of an ancient and all but forgotten landscape, as if he was the first to rediscover it in a millennia. The rich, sweet smelling air helped to clear his head too, for which he was grateful.

Arriving back at his hire car parked on a lonely Forestry Commission track, Boyd opened the boot and threw in the spade, wiped his hands on some paper towels and climbed behind the wheel. He pulled his mobile from an inside jacket pocket and made a call to his employer.

“It’s done,” he said as soon as it was answered, then the line went dead.

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