Friday, November 30, 2012

"Necessary Evil" by Tina Starr (Short Stories)

Genre:  Horror

Type of Short Story:  Short Story Collection

Summary:  Necessary Evil contains the terrifying "Oded the Merciless" (previously published in audio format at Pseudopod) and more dark fiction. Six horror stories, 22,000 words total:

Oded the Merciless
A relentless computer AI on a spaceship torments a woman to discover the nature of the human condition.

To Feed the Hungry
A lesson in be careful what you wish for.

Nature Boy
An angry young man is offered his heart's desire, but only if he can believe in magic.

Cold Comfort
An elderly woman is hiding something far worse than her menagerie of cats.

Red Tide
Bad things happen when a vampire bites a dolphin.

Necessary Evil
A real estate agent on Mars struggles with an ethical quandary when she tries to sell a house. 


“Meluna, you are beautiful.”

The electronic voice penetrated her from all directions, unwelcome.

Meluna hurled the instruction manual she was trying to read at the nearest recessed speaker. It bounced off. The information and the book itself, both useless. The control room could sustain more damage than she had the ability to inflict.

Her thoughts returned to her predicament, circled it.

The voice jarred her again.

“Meluna. Your scars are not unattractive. Your missing ears are no detraction from your beauty. Your sunken left cheekbone allows an aesthetic break from symmetry as does your partially amputated nose. Your lips have been sewn into small grooves and peaks that provide sensual variety in color and texture. Your body…”

“Shut up!” She put her hands over the holes where her ears had been. The movement made her tilt, off balance. She collapsed with a moan. The voice coming from everywhere like a god’s voice, saying such things to her. Obscene.

If there was a god, he’d abandoned her months ago.

She blinked up at the glare from bare white walls and bright metal. The control room looked so different from the labyrinthine hallways with their utilitarian grated gray floors and ceilings. Different, too, from the fourteen small bedrooms each painted a cheerful primary color. Candy colors. Melts in your mouth not in your hands.

Oded’s seat of power was a sterile white womb.

Her fellow-travelers, the twelve women Ulrich had abducted, were dead. Naked sculptures of his work in cold storage, most skulls like empty oyster shells, others new-cracked.

Buy this collection on Amazon or Smashwords.

Friday, November 23, 2012

"Flight of the Sugar Fairy" by Hudson Owen (Short Story)

Genre:  Children's Story

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  Young Meredith looks out her window one day and sees white stuff coming from the sky. It can’t be snow; it’s July! She goes off in search of the source of the white stuff and finds that it’s causing all kinds of problems: on the road, where it melts and causes an accident, on the golf course, where the golfer cannot find his ball. Meredith tastes the stuff and finds that it is sugar! Meredith, a diabetic, tracks down the source to the Sugar Fairy, who bakes for the town, and can’t seem to get enough of a good thing.


The Sugar Fairy stepped outside the kitchen and saw what a truly glorious day it was. Birds were singing in the trees and fluffy white clouds were floating across the brilliant blue sky.

"Sugar is such a treat it shouldn't be confined to the kitchen," she said aloud to Percy the Cat, who was rubbing against her leg. "I think I'll go for a ride."

Percy gave her a look, which she understood immediately.

"Well then, who will mind the kitchen?" she asked.

Percy looked around and saw no one.

So, the Sugar Fairy ran upstairs and put on her flying outfit... and took a large sack of sugar from the pantry...and her special silver scoop...and loaded the sack into her funky old-fashioned airplane.

She pressed the start button and the engine roared into life. Soon the propeller began to hum like a fan on a hot summer day, which it was. And she took off through the field in back of her house.

Up...up...up she soared, so that Percy the Cat grew smaller...and smaller... and smaller, until he appeared no larger than a ladybug. Then he could not be seen at all!

She flew up high into the sky...and then she swooped down

low over the town where everyone ate the cookies, cakes, sauces, and all the other delicious foods she made.

She reached into the back of the plane and opened the sack and filled the silver scoop with sugar.

"Every day is dessert day!" she proclaimed as she poured sugar from the plane.

Lots and lots of sugar.

Buy this story on Amazon.  Be sure to check out Hudson's blog!

Friday, November 16, 2012

""The Underrails #1" by Etherer Daz (Novella)

Genre:  Fantasy-adventure, New Adult, Speculative, Fiction

Type of Short Story:  Novella

Summary:  When two nomads (interworlders) open the green portal, they don't expect the acceleration of their 'talents' or the portal breach that let's a few unauthorized friends into the world. The adventure that lies ahead calls for some unusual maneuvering. Fortunately, Zya lives for this sort of thing, and the new nomad in her life provides just enough skill and mystery to keep her on her toes.


Nights without port work were growing more common than Zya cared to think about, but she utilized the Daily Cup, “researching” to keep herself busy. Not terribly exciting but useful; she guessed - even if the monotony of text in front of her made her eyelids heavy. She'd been at it for hours, and even the simplest of off-port retrieval orders would have been preferable to a night of seemingly endless text-tracing. But, no one was calling this week, and she'd have to get over that. Zya rubbed her temples, and let her eyes slip closed a second.

She saw him when she opened them and scanned the space. Another nomad. She hadn't noticed him enter the coffeeshop, but Zya could feel the vibrations of his portkey. He was probably headed for the port at the back of the cafe. Not that he'd get far with the current guard on duty. Taking a slow sip of her latte, Zya eyed him. He was new. Definitely not an easy read, either. She wondered what he was there for. Averting her eyes when he glanced up from the paper he was reading, she lifted the wide-mouthed mug in her hands to her lips and swallowed a substantial amount of gingerbread java.

It was always so cold in the coffee shop despite the heat Eliza paid a third of her profits for. A regular flow of discs was probably the reason the Watch placed a cafe in that quarter. Fuel and water fees keeping their governing devices afloat and all. Steady income keeps the machine running.

The other nomad was watching her now. Zya frowned at her foolishness, feeling his lingering gaze. She'd been too bold. Hopefully, she hadn't raised too much suspicion. But, she was sure she had. Sipping the last of her coffee, she folded closed the book of old reports and returned them to her pack, making to leave. The nomad caught up with her when she reached the door.

“See all you needed to see?” he asked, a searching curiosity glinting the chocolate brown lenses of his eyes.

“I just came for the coffee.”

“I felt you scanning me.”

“It's not like that.”

“What's it like? You're obviously nomadic. Carrying an illegal key, too? Does the owner know there's a dimensional door here?”

Zya's eyes narrowed.


The nomad looked her over, relaxing a little.

“We should have a talk. Elsewhere.”

“Sounds great, except for the fact that I don't know you.”

His gaze was insistent. “It might benefit your port access.”

Zya looked him over, her mouth flattening into a grim line, then gestured to him with her free hand to “lead the way.”

The nomad stole a glance at Zya several paces from the coffee shop. She didn't try to run. He'd spotted her fair and square, and if he'd wanted to turn her in for key fraud, he could have directed gate patrols to the coffee shop's video discs.

“How many gates do you know about?” He asked her, maintaining a brisk pace, eyes focused straight ahead of him.

“Where are we going?”

“I asked you a question,” he noted with a more conversational tone, completely ignoring her own inquiry.

“I know of a few. That one's the real hot bed though. It opens to a lot of scenic vacation spots. People pay a pretty penny for dimensional escorts these days.”

“That's not what you do.”

“Oh no?”

“No. I see the oath tattoos on your neck and peeking out from your sleeve. You're probably covered in them. I wouldn't doubt you have a load of protective metal rings as well.”

“You're quite the observer.”

“I have to be.”

The nomad reached an arm out to gesture her left to a building tucked into the heart of the fashion district. Zya raised a brow when he reached into his pocket and pulled out the key that unlocked the door. In seconds, he waved her through. Hesitating a moment, Zya stepped over the threshold and glanced back at the other porter. A chill went through her watching him bolt several locks and secure one with another key, effectively locking them in.

“Follow me,” he said, crossing the room and pulling open a door that led to the basement level of the building.

Zya did as he asked with the hint of a scowl.

They descended a very long set of stairs that wound down to a room with several antique typewriters at the bases of small, ornate screens. Zya suppressed the urge to ask what all of it was, but her curiosity burned. She was horrible at waiting. It would be nice if the traveler would get on with whatever he was working up to.

“Have a seat,” he told her when they'd reached the platform at the bottom of the stairwell. He motioned a hand toward a spindly stick-legged chair with a flat top by one of the typewriters and monitors.

Frown deepening, Zya did as he asked.

“Don't look so angry,” he told her, failing to lighten the mood.

“Who are you exactly?” Zya asked.

“Someone who needs to find something.”

“Thank you for the clarifier,” Zya uttered, shaking her head.

“I'm a kind of guard.”

Zya frowned.

“Not the kind you have in mind.”

“Then why am I here?”

“I happened upon something that I need another expert's perspective on before I leave Loreport. A box with inscriptions on it. It's not run of the mill code. It's more like an imprint. It looks like... It's better I show you. But, I need assurance you won't speak of it to anyone until I'm sure of what it is. And, even then...”

“I won't.” Zya agreed, meeting his eyes and leaning forward.

“I apologize for my lack of manners. My name is Akir.”


“A pleasure,” he said.

Looking her over, the nomad lowered his eyes to a drawer built into the wall nearest him. Rising from the stick chair, he made his way to it and rolled the lock's knob in the direction of an apparently secret letter combination (too quickly for Zya to memorize). The box he pulled from it was smaller than she expected and looked more like a stone than a manufactured container. He placed the stone box on a stand toward the end of the room and gestured her over. Zya rose and walked toward it at a cat-like, leisurely pace, tucking the thin twists falling from her upsweep behind her ear.

“That's the imprint.”

Zya squinted her eyes and leaned forward to inspect the code. Her eyes quickly narrowed. She turned to him with disbelief.

“Seriously? You could have just asked for my number.”

“You can't think I manufactured that inscription. I didn't engrave this relic and 'age' it to pursue you.”

Zya raised a brow.

“You see the imprint just as clearly as I do. It's ancient.”

“And, if it opens up a portal? Should we skip through it together?”

Zya grinned.

“I asked you here because of your fire. I was watching you just as much as you were watching me at that coffee shop. I know what I saw.”

Rolling her eyes, Zya extended her hand, trying to ignore the charge that shot through it when Akir's hand closed around it. Glancing at the imprint on the box, Akir stepped closer to her until their arms formed a sharp V, making a disjointed version of the letter H with their bodies. His eyes met hers then, but whatever attempted to linger between them was interrupted by the beam of green light that shot abruptly from the box. The pair watched it in amazement as it nearly widened enough to permit one person through it. It was definitely a portal. Zya's eyes glinted. She could make out the outline of buildings in the distance.

Check the story out on R.A. Library and Amazon.

Friday, November 9, 2012

"On the Clock in Vegas" by Brian Bergquist (Short Story)

Genre:  Noir Thriller

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  Professional gambler Benny Delgano is in Las Vegas to compete in a high stakes fantasy football tournament for one hundred thousand dollars, only to run into a demented criminal from his past with revenge on his mind. 

Forced into colluding with Tommy the Wolf at the fantasy football draft in order to spare his friend’s life, Benny finds out the stakes were higher than he originally thought.
A short story about fantasy football, crime and friendship, On the Clock in Vegas will grip you from the beginning to its fast paced ending.


My pick was coming up and when I made it, I was afraid Mikey would soon be dead.

Guys all around me were studying their fantasy football magazines and cheat sheets like they were some kind of mutual fund prospectus, which in a way, they were.

Some stared at laptops, using software to make the draft more organized and their picks easier, sucking down beers to ease their nerves.

I guarantee their next pick wasn’t as hard as the one I was about to make.

Tommy the Wolf sat next to the empty seat on my right, where my partner should have been. With his slicked back gray hair and puncher’s nose, Tommy grinned as he held up his drink to me. “To you, my friend,” he said. “Don’t worry about Mikey. He’ll be just fine.”

I nodded, swallowed hard, and went back to my cheat sheet. Trying to study the players who might still be available with the last pick in the first round, all I could think about was Mikey and if he would be alright.

Tommy picked right before us at the turn and had a plan. As any good fantasy player will tell you, you don’t go into a draft without one, and one part of Tommy’s was to have me pass on the players he liked. Or else.

In fantasy balling, you need some good luck while avoiding too much bad luck. All kinds of shit could go wrong. But the way Tommy saw it, at least he was giving himself a better chance, like the kid who always cheated at checkers.

But there was one big problem. We wanted that hundred grand too. Tommy made his pick at number eleven. He looked over at me and winked. The next two picks were mine.

“Roid Rage is on the clock!” the draft commissioner’s voice echoed in my ears, my heart thumping like a base drum. I had two minutes to make my pick. One hundred twenty seconds to decide the fate of our team. Or possibly the fate of my friend.

My name is Benny Delgano and I was on the clock in Vegas.

Buy this story on Amazon.

Friday, November 2, 2012

"Lancashire Hot Pot Loves Welsh Rarebit" by Ryan Thomas (Short Story)

Genre:  Adult Humor

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  Jake Tempest, an unknown and slightly unhinged indie author with an unhealthy passion for military weapons and a tenuous grip on reality falls for up-and-coming Welsh writer Morwenna Midnight when they meet via an online writers' forum.

Fantasy turns to obsession when he sees the garden gnome on the cover of her soon-to-be-published novel as his only rival for her affections. Throw in a cruise missile, a handful of clay sheep, long-distance-lust, and things can only go one way - completely tits-up.


Telephone conversation #2:

"Hi Doll."

"Err, Jake?"

"I just thought I'd call you for a chat."


"I'm busy working on 'Ruminants and Rubber Gear', is this important?"

"No, not really."


"Is that your phone making that beeping noise?"

No, it's my virtual pet."

Your virtual what?


"My virtual pet, it needs feeding, hence the beeps."

"Where is it?"

"It's on a key ring thingy that hangs from a belt loop on my jeans."


"And when did you last feed it?"

"About seventeen hours ago."

"Seventeen hours? That seems like a long time."

"Yeah, in twelve minutes it will croak."


"What type of pet is it?"

"Hard to say really."


"It's kind of a cross between an aardvark and a praying mantis."

Beep, beep.

"So it's a praying vark?"

"Not really, more of an aardantis."

"I should have known. What does it eat?"

"Hard to say really."


Beep, beep.

"Well the display is only about forty millimetres across and the image is kinda pixelated but with my reading glasses on its food looks like a cross between a human testicle and a wing nut."

"That doesn't sound very nutritious."

"I think I've seen them in my local deli."

Beep, beep, beep.

Jake, how long before it croaks?"

"I'd say less than five minutes."

"And are you going to feed it?"

"I can feel my paternal instincts kicking in, so I probably will."

Beep, beep, beep.

"Does it normally take seventeen hours for your paternal instincts to kick in?"

"It varies, I'm not really a natural father."

"Quite. How long now?"

"About three minutes - ish."

Beep, beep, beep, beep.

"Jake, I'm hanging up, feed that bloody thing now."

Morwenna puts the receiver down. She rests her face in the palms of her hands and considers that if Jake was her virtual pet she would do the humane thing - and let him starve to death.

Buy this story on Amazon US or Amazon UK.