Friday, December 27, 2013

"Christmas Gifts" by Cora Buhlert (Short Story)

Genre:  Contemporary Romance

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  Waiting until closing time on Christmas Eve to get a present for his Mom certainly wasn’t one of Tim’s better ideas. Especially not since the store only has a self-service wrapping station and Tim is utterly hopeless at gift-wrapping. Lucky for him, the lively and unconventional Shannon is there to lend a hand.


Christmas Eve, shortly before closing time. Tim stood in line at the Fragrance Emporium, impatiently tapping his foot to the umpteenth rendition of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” he’d heard today.

He glanced at his watch. Only ten minutes or so until the shops closed down for the holiday, the line was moving slow like molasses and Tim was not even near the check-out yet. He just hoped that the staff would continue to ring up purchases regardless. Because if he ended up without a gift for Mom just because some salesperson couldn’t be bothered to put in a bit of overtime on the busiest day of the year… well, that would truly suck. Mom would never forgive him.

In his hand he held a bottle of Chanel No. 5. Yeah, so perfume wasn’t the most original of presents, but Mom liked it. Plus, she had been using Chanel No. 5 ever since she was a young girl and bought a bottle with her very first paycheck. Not that the paycheck of a bakery counter girl would have bought Chanel No. 5 these days, cause the stuff was damned expensive for a small bottle of alcohol laced with artificial aldehydes.

Tim sneezed, his nostrils irritated by the scent of perfume, not just a single fragrance, but every perfume in the whole damned shop assaulting his nose all at once in an olfactory orgy. He needed air, fresh air, even if it was only the too warm air of a typically wet Christmas. However, the line was still moving forwards at a glacial pace, as half the city waited to pay for their last minute gifts.

Finally, he reached the head of the line. A saleswoman, who had apparently decided to slather the entire cosmetic offerings of the store into her face all at once, rang up his purchase and swiped his credit card.

“Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays,” the saleswoman said, completely oblivious to the redundancy. The smile plastered onto her face threatened to cause cracks in the layers of her make-up.

“I’d liked that gift-wrapped, please,” Tim said, because the woman hadn’t asked, contrary to usual store policy.

“Of course, sir,” she said, that moronic fake smile still frozen on her face, “If you’d just proceed to our gift wrap station over there.” She pointed at someplace in the distance that might just as well have been the cell phone store across the corridor.

So Tim grabbed his perfume, credit card and receipt and proceeded to the gift-wrap station. He almost missed it among the crowds of shoppers thronging near the entrance to the store. In fact, he had to ask a security guard to point him to the station.

Dejected, Tim found himself standing in front of a table with several rolls of colourful wrapping paper, spools of ribbon, Scotch Tape and a pair of scissors, secured against theft by a long chain. Everything one could possibly need to wrap a present was there — except for a clerk to do the wrapping.

At first, Tim thought that the gift-wrap clerk had simply gone for a bathroom break. But then he noticed the sign above the table. “Self-service gift wrapping”.

An entirely unseasonal curse escaped his lips.

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Friday, December 20, 2013

"Ghost Dust" by Nicolas Wilson (Flash Fiction)

Genre:  Science Fiction, Fantasy

Type of Short Story:  Flash fiction collection

Summary:  Fifteen short stories featuring Ghost Dust, Hang Around, Colossus, Suicide Spear, and others. 

Hypotenuse: A detective and a witness become acquainted as he investigates the death of one of their neighbors.

Colossus: An arctic scientist explores the habitat of the Colossal Squid, and finds a secret even larger than the cagey mollusk.

Support: An Explosive Ordinance Disposal officer connects with his family as he wrestles with an especially difficult day in Iraq.

Something To Say: A forensic tech examines the body of a woman murdered outside a police station.

Why There Are No More Dragons Or Unicorns: A father's tale of the last dragon and unicorn.

Turing's Test: A computer with a personality disorder mulls its own idiosyncratic existence with its human roommate.

Only Numan: A young man with a genetic predisposition toward unstable genes is given the opportunity to become a part of governmental experiments to develop superhumans.

Prisoners Of War: A forensics anthropologist and a left-for-dead Marine track a war criminal, in post-war Vietnam.

Raider: A woman comes to grips with her own identity and mortality while breaking into an Egyptian pyramid.

Dante's Infirmity: An old man and his family struggle to preserve his humanity and independence, navigating the medical establishment, as he approaches the end of his life.

The Ghost Club: Mr. Houdini and Mr. Doyle explore the question of life after death.

Suicide Spear: Humanity takes the battle to an alien homeworld's doorstep, after decades of a devastating war of attrition.

Hang Around: A cowboy, a Buddhist monk, and others relive the results of one choice.

Ghost Dust: A patient reflects on the aftermath of 9/11.

Bloody Hands: A community shares responsibility and blame after a young boy's call for help.

Sample story from collection:

"Hang Around"


I always hated wearing neckties, or buttoning my shirt the whole way to the top; it weren’t only that it made me feel like a prick, but it was constraining. I don’t think there’s a man alive, though, who wouldn’t exchange a bolo for the rope around my throat. It's not tight- not yet, and every time I move my head it rubs raw against my skin. But I can’t stop moving and looking around, because I know it’s the last chance I’ll get to.

She’s there, near the back, Charlotte, with our little Robert. She’s holding his head into her skirt, so he doesn’t watch, and her eyes are leaking more water than you’d find in the rest of this whole dry county.

And then I see red, because her no account brother Bill’s standing behind her; his arm’s bandaged from where I shot him, and that makes me even more pissed, because the doc didn’t saw it off. He’s got his other hand around his sister, but he’s glaring at me the way he’s always glared at me- with the sole exception of last week.

Last week that two-faced son of a bitch came crawling on his belly to me. One last score, he said, even though I’d been clean all these years. He owed bad men large bills, and there wasn’t no other way clear through it but this. He acted all apologetic, like he knew he’d been a donkey’s ass all this time, since he was a lousy outlaw and I hadn’t been.

But he sold my ass out. That train car was full of more tin stars than bankers, and I knew the moment I laid a boot on it, what he’d done, and he knew I knew it, I could tell by the way he went yellow. I turned and shot him as he ran, and all them tin men fired at me.

A surgeon pulled lead out of each of my limbs, and there’s a ball he couldn’t get to in my guts, but he said that don’t matter, since I wouldn’t live long enough to get surgical fever. He was dead stinking drunk, too; “Why waste my best work on a goddamn corpse?” he asked me. At the time I hadn’t much of a rejoinder for him.

“It’s time, son,” somebody says, though I can’t be sure if it’s the sheriff, the mayor or the priest because I ain’t been listening to any of the three prattling on. The rope goes taut, and I hear a hand, gentle as an angel’s, alight on the wooden lever to the trap door beneath my feet. I beg the lord not to let me shit myself in front of my wife and boy- but I know that son of a bitch ain’t answering prayers today.

I fall and there’s a crack, a sharp pain in my neck, but I don’t die right off. I can hear the gurgle of my breath barely scraping out of my torn throat. I’m swinging in the wind, now, like a stud horse’s balls in the heat, and each time I reach the end of the rope’s swing that twinge in my neck feels like I’m getting shot again. I don’t know how long that goes, cause I’m drunk from the pain of it, but I get sleepy, and drift off.


I’ve never been comfortable mentoring. “Why have you decided to take refuge in the triple gem?” I remember when someone first asked me the question, and I feel like I’m wearing his clothes and playing dress up.

“Wow. I know exactly what you mean, but could you have said that in a way that made this sound any more like a freaky cult?”

“Yes,” I said, smiling.

“Fair enough,” he smiled, too. “My parents are both Buddhists, but they aren’t that spiritual about it, really. So I was raised with all of the aspects of the religion, but in kind of a hollow way. I realized my life wasn’t what I wanted out of it; and I think I was happiest when I was young, and first really embracing Buddhism. I think finding out I was adopted, that was just the cherry on top.”

“Peace does not spring from without, but from within.”

“I know, I totally get that. But that inner peace, getting to it, that’s the point. That’s why I’m here.”

“Then I think you’ll be happy here.”

“Good. I was worried for a second you were going to tell me there’s no room at the inn.” He paused. “You know, you walk funny for a monk.” I looked at him- no anger, no sadness, no anything, and he realized on his own what he’d said. “No, I, I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just you walk like somebody more comfortable on a horse than his own two legs. My uncle has that same kind of walk, and he’s spent all his life sitting on a plow horse.”

I smiled. “I’ve spent many lives on a horse, and spent a few being ridden. Perhaps that explains my gait.”

“So you definitely believe in reincarnation, then?”

“Most prefer rebirth, since that implies difference and change in the person’s consciousness. But I recall things from before this life. I like this metaphor: as one candle ignites another, their flames are not identical, neither are they completely distinct.”

“Hmm. You sure I didn’t accidentally wonder into a Branch Davidian compound?”

“No. Unlike a cult, you are expected to find your own truth here. The only one I would insist is paramount is that craving is the origin of suffering. I said you would be happy; perhaps I should have said contented, because peace is the one thing I believe everyone can achieve. Because peace is the absence of suffering, which is the absence of craving.”


It’s a strange thing, growing up near your son, but not being his father, not being anybody he’d recognize. Stranger still, knowing he’s older than you are, and he always will be. I grew up believing I was nuts. Past lives? I just couldn’t square that circle. And feeling like I was related to some Buddhist monk? Yeah.

I tried to kill myself, twice. Apparently, parents groups got search engines to put up improper information on the internet as the highest results, so I slashed my wrists across, deep, but across. Lost a lot of feeling in my hands, a lot of mobility- but not nearly enough blood.

In a different time and place, I would have starved to death, but these days anything electronic responds to thought commands through a chip behind your ear, and anything that’s analog, well, it’s either in an antique store or the crappiest parts of war zones in Africa.
By the time I found out what I’d been doing wrong with my razor blade, I’d started reading about reincarnation and people who felt they’d had past lives. It wasn’t anything scientific, just not feeling alone anymore, knowing that you know maybe I am crazy, but that there are other people with my crazy out there, too- that I wasn’t alone. It helped.

And the more I tried to remember about my past lives, the easier it got. I remembered being that monk- it was the first real conscious thought I remember having. No, even before that, when I was a baby, my mind would just stroke off, and it would be like I was watching somebody else’s home movies.

I started not just remembering, but I was picking out details, really specific details, about people who’d really existed (and people who, like the monk I lived near, still did). And it became clear that I knew more than I should, more than logic and reason dictated I could, barring me being some kind of international spy or psychic.

I remembered the monk’s son. I was his dad but I wasn’t. Then at some point he moved away, to a different monastery, and even though I didn’t really ever see him, let alone talk to him, not being close to him made me sad. So I moved to be near his new monastery. I even thought about joining up, or at least being one of the lay believers. Instead I used an old memory.
The monk liked apples, but where they were in the mountains, it was hard to get apples. So I started up a distributor, but I ran the cart near his monastery myself. It gave us a chance to talk, though rarely did he say more than how, “Apples might be my last attachment.”
We buried him this week. And I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do with my life now.


I remember it like the day before, Charlotte, breathy from passion, rolled over in our bed to tell me I was going to get a son. I laughed at her. “You ain’t even swoled up, how can you know it’ll be a boy?” She just smiled and said she knew.

It weren’t the first time a woman told me she were with child. Several times they’ve been mistaken, once, I think she fixed to keep me with the lie. So at the time I paid it no mind. But then she didn’t bleed for three whole months, and she was tired and sick, and got big. I ain’t been a religious man since I was a boy- I don’t think an angel flittered down to whisper it to her- but it felt all miraculous none the same.

The time hadn’t seemed real since the moment near two seasons back, when I recognized I was going to be somebody’s daddy. Seemed like a vivid dream. For the first time I had a string of breaks in my direction: got the farm for a song, and the loan for the land on the cheap from the bank. The horse I’d had for too long got sick, then got better.

Only cloud on our horizon was her brother. I knew her from him, though how that came to be seems a mystery. I never liked him. I suppose there’d been a time when I tried not to dislike him so much.

But I’d gotten away from my outlaw roots, figuring that his sister deserved better- hell, demanded better. He’d seen the both of those facts as betrayal, and spent most of this last year in a bottle. He was propping up one of the walls in my house, a bottle all that was propping him up. “That your bastard?” he asked.

“If I weren’t holding my newborn son I’d punch you square in the jaw; I ain’t going to bloody the day up just because you feel an asshole. And I ain’t going to tell you to lie to your sister about being happy, but if you’re going to be sour and drunken, you ain’t going to do it in my home. Not today.”

He moved to put a hand on my shoulder, but I got a hand on his gun still in his belt, twisted til it pushed into his belly. “I’m not fixing to take you out of this world the day we brought Robert in, but you so much as give me another sideways glance while I’m holding him and I swear I’ll fill you full from your own six shooter.”

He took another long hard pull from the bottle to kill it, gripped the neck like he might swing it at me, then thought better of joining the bottle among the dead, and dropped it. The bottle shattered on the floor, and Robert started crying as Bill stumbled away.


“So you remember being a cowboy? In the old west? Spurs and six-shooters and all that? And you were an outlaw who got hung? And you had a son?”

His tone was mocking, and I knew that it was my wounded pride that begged me to recite the proverb about tongues causing wounds as grievous as knives. But suffering is craving, even if it’s only craving respect. “I have one now,” I said.

“Wait. How do you have a kid?”

“I was married. In the flesh, I still am, though I do not see her often.”

“What happened to that whole, ‘Attachment is craving that which you already have’ shtick?”

“None of us are born into the Sangha community; I had another life before this one.”

“So you’re being flowery this time, not meaning a past life.”

“Yes. Not a past life, a different one. I had a wife. We had a son. I discovered the man who murdered me in that past life had become my son. I could not kill my son despite the consciousness that lived within him, but neither could I look past that consciousness and love him the way he deserved. So I sought a third way, a life without craving for revenge or for love.”

“And how’s that worked out for you?”

“Bumpily. The Sangha is invaluable in keeping me on the good, upright, knowledgeable and proper way, but I am not always as detached as I wish. As an example, I miss my wife at times; I miss the life we shared. I miss past lives, as well. Not always, but enough that I suffer for my craving. That is why I am not in Nirvana.”


I ended up back home. I sold controlling shares of my fruit distributor to a local businessman. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t settle into doing anything, ever. I found my way into finance, banking actually. Normally they wouldn’t hire someone my age for an entry level posting, but because of my distribution experience, they talked about grooming me for bigger things.

Then, this last Thursday, a man came in. He handed me a money card and told me to route it through an account and then into his, but when I checked the ownership of the money card, it came back with a woman’s name on it. He made a hurried excuse, how he “Must have grabbed my girlfriend’s card off the counter instead of mine.” I wrote down his name, thinking I’d forward it to the cops, but instead I filed the number in my personal memory.

When I got home I realized why the man seemed so familiar, not in his look, or his voice, not even in his walk, but something about his manner, bent over, mumbling, a bubbling anger. He was Bill. He had to be.

And I thought to myself, I had to be crazy. Getting flashes of memory from dead people was one thing, but meeting up with a man who had you killed was another- especially with what I found myself fantasizing about doing to him. But there was one thing, one concrete thing that I knew couldn’t have come from anywhere else, that would prove once and for all I wasn’t sizing myself up for a straight jacket.

See, I knew where the hanged man’s gun was. Because after he was reborn, the hanged man grew up, and dug the pistol out of his old body’s grave, then he tracked his killer down. See, Bill got to die in the 20th century, by the gun of the man he’d killed. And that man, that time, had buried the pistol again. This time, he put it in Bill’s grave.

Or at least that’s how I’ve rationalized standing out here, in the damned rain, shoveling away mud off a hundred and fifty year old grave. I hope I don’t get caught out here; I can’t imagine it’s fun trying to convince the police that you’re not a necrophile.


Bill started life as a horse thief, and I remember knowing him when he was old enough to know better but still too young to know it. I told him why they hung horse thieves- why even outlaws looked down on them that took horses- because taking a horse was abandoning a man to the elements, and a long, slow, hard death.

We took him in from a pup, on the thinking that a wolf in a pack ain’t as dangerous as a lone, rabid dog. He seemed grateful for that, but every day, every job, I question the wisdom in it. Just this Tuesday he smashed a teller’s teeth out for the sole reason that he weren’t hurried enough for Bill’s liking.

As I said, though, the boy’s been grateful. And tonight, as a show for it, his family broke bread with me. Seems he’s told them I gave him a job at my stable, at a good wage, to explain his recent excess; quite a feat, seeing as I don’t own my own stable, or even room for my head.
His father’s a nice old man, though he eyes me suspicious; mother’s a sweet, plump thing, who eyes me worse than the old man, though you’d never know it by the look. But I couldn’t be forced at the end of a gun to care for either, or Bill, for that matter, because across that table was an angel Bill’s parents named Charlotte.

She didn’t talk much over dinner, and neither did I, but there was something in those big blue eyes I couldn’t keep from looking into. And at the end of dinner she mouthed one word to me, “barn” before she told her parents she was slipping off to bed. She met me out back a few minutes later.

She didn’t say a thing, but stole a kiss before I could, and I’m an old hand at that sort of thing. Then she told me, “Good night,” and went to bed. Now I’m certain the only thing of worth Bill’s ever done is to have a sister. I could die a happy man tonight, but if I live just one more day, I’ll never be able to let her go. God himself will have a difficulty shuffling me off this mortal coil without her.


I’m dying. I’ve known for months, though I’ve tried to hide it. I tried to hide the truth, as well, always dangerously close to violating the fourth of the five precepts. But my son is clever. He woke me in a panic this morning, and I found I could not move. “You’re dying,” he told me.

“I know,” I replied. He’d known for some time; I wondered if he sensed the hour as I did, felt the King of Death’s wind blown against my neck.

He was silent for a time. “I’m a lousy student. I’ve become attached to you; I suffer because I will miss you when you pass.”

“The fault is mine,” I said through lumped throat. “I’ve been a lousy teacher. Through my craving, I insisted your mother adopt you to Buddhists. To feed my craving, I watched you grow from afar. For my craving, I insisted I teach you the Sangha’s ways. A good Buddhist would have given you away to someone else, as your mother and I did once before, but I craved time with my son. You suffer for your father’s failures, and I’m sorry for that, because I can’t suffer enough to compensate.”

I expected surprise, but he was, as I said, clever. He had deduced his lineage, as he had my frailty. “I suffer for the loss of my father, my teacher, and my friend. And I suffer gladly.”
I smiled. “I am not lost. I will be again- but I hope my rebirth does not become your attachment. Let this be the last we say goodbye.”


Bill’s a bastard. Maybe I’m rationalizing again. I spent a little time sneaking around, following him, until one day he confronted me and kicked the hell out of me; took my wallet, too, just to be a bastard, I think. I let a PI do the rest.

He beats his girlfriend, who pays the rent. He’s not a drug addict, only because he can’t afford to be, and he’s too lazy to make small-time breaking and entering a career to pay for it. But that’s not justification. All that means is I should cripple the bastard before he hurts someone seriously; no, what it is… is confirmation. If I needed anything to tell me this was Bill, a few lifetimes removed, this is it.

The gun was in old Bill’s grave, packed in a cigar box. It’s a Colt Single Action Army. I’ve spent time cleaning it, learning it, getting so the weight of it and the recoil come as natural. One of the men I asked for help getting it ready offered more money than I’ve ever seen for it; apparently it’s a collectible.

My daddy from a different life had tried to buy it from an Indian (or Native American, I suppose) who claimed he got it from a dead soldier at the Little Bighorn, but he wouldn’t sell it. So my daddy got the Indian drunk, then won it off him in a game of cards; my bad apple didn’t fall far off that tree. It was friendly if mean, or it was supposed to be, but the Indian, once he’d sobered up, came at him with a knife, and got shot with his own gun. Out of shame, Dad put that gun away, and I never saw it until he was dying of cholera. That’s when he told me the story, and gave it to me.

I’d used it for no good, at least until I used it to put a bullet in the old Bill; that was an undertaking long overdue. So’s this. New Bill’s curled in a ball, whimpering like a broke-legged mule. He thinks I’ve got him wrong, that I don’t see him for what he is. But I’m getting tired of his blubbering- not that I expected him to man up.

“Figured you wouldn’t remember any of this; if most people did, that would change the nature of the world. I know I’m supposed to be seeking enlightenment, searching for a grander purpose to existence, but I don’t want it. Only thing I want is to hunt you down and kill you, over and over and over again. You’re not my son; y'ain’t even Bill, just pieces of him, stirred up and reset. But you’re built from bad parts; I’ve seen enough already to know more often than not, the bastard you’ll come back to be. I think the point of this here life is letting go, just not yet.”

I pull the hammer back; it all feels like a dance I know, with a girl I’ve loved, and that brings back Charlotte and the life that son of a bitch took from me, so I take this one from him.

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Friday, December 13, 2013

"Some Christmas Camouflage: A Short Story" by Elisabeth Grace Foley (Novelette)

Genre:  Historical Fiction, Christmas

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary:  On a snowy December evening during the Great Depression, a high-spirited college student impulsively decides to do some spying on a quiet classmate—with unexpected results. A short story both funny and touching, in which mischief brings about a small Christmas miracle.


He looked across toward the other side of the street, less well lit, where Philip had gone. A wild idea darted into his head. Had it not been for his unusual elevation of spirits, and the curious incident of the shop window, he might not have entertained it. But in his present mood it seemed like another splendid joke—to follow Philip Brown and see exactly where it was he did go in those evenings away from the campus.

It was almost too easy. Wesley crossed the street, and in a few moments again had Philip in view in the dimmer light of the now sparse street lamps, walking along with his head slightly down, the idea of an irrepressible classmate flitting from house to house like an amateur detective behind him evidently the furthest thing from his mind. Philip walked on steadily, turning down narrower streets where the snow was still crusted on the sidewalks, only trampled in a line down the middle by passing feet. They were getting into a different section of town now, made up mostly of cheap rooming-houses and apartments. Wesley hovered about a block behind, by this time brimming with suppressed glee over the sheer novelty of his escapade. At last he poked his head from behind the combined shelter of a tree and trash can to see Philip turn into the dark lower doorway of a small brick apartment house. Wesley waited a few seconds after his disappearance, then came out of hiding and crossed to the door himself. He examined the cards on the mailboxes in the entry and found the name ‘Brown’ on number 9. From a glance at the numbers on the doors in the ground-floor hall, he correctly calculated the position of number 9 at third-floor back, and darted back outside. The window at the back corner in question was lighted—and a fire-escape that doubled intricately back and forth over itself up the back of the house provided him easy access. Wesley was too far gone in adventure by now to even think whether he was doing something quite right.

Buy this story on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Friday, December 6, 2013

"Reborn: The Uxel Herum Saga" by Alain Gomez ( Novelette)

Genre:  Young Adult Science Fiction

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary:  Book 1 of the Uxel Herum Saga 

To any Imperium official that asked, Uxel was a simple fruit merchant. She makes enough to make her business appear legitimate, nothing more. The real money was in selling weapons and information.

She encounters an intriguing stranger in the marketplace. One Uxel hopes will be interested in making a lucrative trade. But this stranger is not all he seems and the deal he offers Uxel has nothing to do with money but a chance to become a powerful tuner.


Master Achushet stopped when she said this and turned to meet Uxel with an unwavering stare. "No, tell me about yourself, Uxel."

Uxel was taken aback. No one had ever bothered to ask her this question before. She considered lying but something told her that this human would know if she did. "My family died when I was just a hatchling. I lived most of my life scraping to get by. I sell fruit as a cover. Most of my money comes from selling arms and information to the Rebellion. It's easy work for me since up until recently I was often overlooked by the Imperium authorities. What I crave most is respect. That is the one thing money cannot buy. I want others to look at me and not see a lowly merchant from an inferior race."

"To earn respect, you must respect yourself."

Uxel fell into silence as she digested this and they continued walking until they came to a metallic door imbedded in the rock.

"This is my home. You are welcome to stay here with me for the time being and, if you prefer, I can arrange for you to have your own quarters since training will take quite a bit of time. And I think you are wrong, Uxel."


"You do not come from an inferior race. You come from a race that has lost its sense of purpose. There's a difference. I think that you have the potential to become one of the greatest tuners the galaxy has ever seen."

Friday, November 29, 2013

"New Dreams" by Annie Turner (Novelette)

Genre:  Western

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary:  Book 3 of the Nathaniel Porter trilogy.

Nate Porter thinks his luck might have finally changed when a mysterious woman decides to buy some of his mustangs. In an effort to learn more about his beautiful benefactor Nate discovers that they have mutual acquaintances... none of them good. Nate realizes that he must face the demons of his past in order to save his future and the woman he loves.


Consciousness slowly peeked into the dream. Nate squeezed his eyes shut and tried to capture just a few more moments with his wife. He missed her so much it hurt sometimes. And he hated the fact that she was becoming more and more of a foggy memory. He remembered the essence of her more than specific details.

Even more acute than missing his wife was an unending sense of loneliness. He had his friends with him to help run his ranch but he was still their boss. An invisible barrier always lay between them to maintain order. Nate hoped he was never put in the situation, but if he had to he would make decisions based on the good of his business. More than one livelihood was at stake.

Buy this story on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Friday, November 22, 2013

"Loving Scarlet" by Fritz Douglass (Flash Fiction)

Genre:  Drama

Type of Short Story:  Flash Fiction

Complete Story:

The island on the far side of the passage was thickly wooded and dark in the night save the glow in the windows of the houses along the shoreline. It was late in August. There was a light westerly wind and the clouds that had plagued the day were long gone. Beside him on the balcony overlooking the water the girl kept her hands tucked under her arms. He said to her, “See how the sun shines on the moon and then from the moon on the water?” and he took a long sip of wine thinking You fool. Why must you always teach?

“Yes,” she said, “on the ripples. How many do you think there are?”


“Yes, that we can see.”


“Not billions?”

“Probably billions.” He looked at her wineglass on the balustrade. The glass looked in danger in the wind. You have no idea, he said to himself. You don’t talk to her in how many years and now you are with her and there is an uneasiness and you think it is something. He looked over at her not moving his head and it suddenly struck him she was a woman of nearly thirty years and not the girl of sixteen. He saw her eyes were on the water and the play of the rippled light was on her eyes. He said quietly, “Scarlet.”


“I thought about you, all these years. I think about you.”

“I’ve thought about you too,” she said lightheartedly and her eyes stayed on the water.


“Please don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“Say things that are not true,” and her eyes had not moved. But it is true, he thought. I never embellish. The only lies I tell are understatements. He said, “Your birthday is April first. Your favorite color is yellow, because it reminds you of summer.”

She laughed. “How do you remember that?”

“I just do. I remember a lot.”

“Your birthday is November …”

“December fifteenth,” he said and wondered if this meant she did not love him.

“December fifteenth,” she repeated passively. She was standing to his right and she turned to the right and looking inside at the party said, “I’m pretty chilly.”

Alone on the balcony he peered down at the wide river of water moving through the passage. The moon glimmer on the water acted as a charm and he saw Scarlet spread across the water as he had seen her spread across his bed on a night years ago. When you were eighteen, sixteen seemed old enough, he told himself. Now you see her out there as a girl and you feel ashamed looking at her. But you will die with this. He took up the wineglass she had abandoned on the balustrade and he tilted it to his mouth and tasted the cool glass and bitter drops.

What is it, man?” said an old friend. They were at the table with the food and the punch and the bottles of wine. James kept peeking at Scarlet on the far side of the room. The man she was talking with touched her elbow. She was smiling. “I’m sorry,” James said.

“You look lost,” his friend said.

“I think I am.”

“You know it happens all the time.”

“What’s that?” asked James.

“I mean, it’s boring—you not being over Scarlet. How long were you guys a couple, like two months or something?”

“Excuse me.” James got up. In the bathroom he washed his hands and then dabbed his face. Scarlet was at the door when he opened it. Their eyes met for a blink. “I have to go,” she said. “It was nice to see you.”

“You too.”

“Walk me to my car?”

Out by her car she said, “I should be in bed and asleep. My flight leaves really early.”

“I'm sorry.”

“It’s my fault. It was good to see everyone.” He went to open her door. She touched his hand. “James, if what you said is true, if you’ve really thought about me over the years, what have you thought?”

“That I wished I knew you," he said. "Every day I regret what did not happen between us.”

“You took my virginity. What else did you want?”

I love you, he thought. I love you. Let me kiss you. Let me tell you.

“Goodnight,” she said and opened the door. She got in. He stood there feeling a calm like still air.

The long driveway was narrow and tunnel-dark under the tall evergreen trees that leaned over it. She drove fast up it and onto the road. You are a liar, she thought. Have I thought about you? Of course. Ten thousand times. But you hurt me once. No man will ever hurt me more than that. Who are you, James? She wanted to go back and ask. Yet she had to get to bed. Her flight departed incredibly early. “And we never really knew each other,” she said softly to herself. “What I feel cannot be love.”  

Read more by this author on his blog.

Friday, November 15, 2013

" The Collector" by Terri Wallace (Short Story)

Genre:  Horror, Southern Gothic

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  When ten year old Junie Rae Campbell wakes up in the parking lot of a seedy motel, and her mother is found dead inside, she has no choice but to go with the social worker who comes to collect her and take her to the tiny, sun-baked Oklahoma town of Crankston’s Landing to live with Granny Enid. But when lies and lechery threaten Junie and the people she has latched onto, secrets are exposed, untapped abilities reemerge…and a weapon for vengeance is born.


I started collectin' secrets when I was just ten years old. The summer I went to live with Granny Enid, I collected a lot of secrets. Been collectin’ them ever since. It took me a while to learn the power of secrets. Not havin’ secrets yourself, of course, but knowin' someone else's. It's like carvin' out a piece of their soul and carryin’ it around with you. You can either choose to keep it safe, or you can tear it to pieces and scatter it to the winds—your choice.

The first few secrets, I kept. But some secrets are too big to keep; they spill out no matter how hard you hang on to 'em. One of these took hold of my Mama--that's why they sent me to live with Granny Enid. The secret took root inside her and devoured her. When it was finally through with her, she was dead in a motel in Memphis, and I was found asleep outside in her idling car.

Granny Enid didn't want to take me in at first. I’d never met her before, and the social worker really had to work at her to get her to agree to it. I thought it was me—maybe she thought I was bad luck or jinxed or somethin.' But it wasn't me; it was just one of those secrets that I didn't know about until much later. Granny was right, though. It would've been better if I had never came to stay with her.

Buy this story on Amazon.

Friday, November 8, 2013

"The Cabbie" by Kirstyn (Short Story)

Genre:  Supernatural, Suspense

Type of Short Story:  Short Story


"You ask too many questions. I'm not what you need to worry about right now. Listen, in about 5 minutes, a man is going to come out of that Mexican restaurant across the street and I want you to follow him. Take these cothes and put them on, and follow him on foot. And whatever you do, do not take your hand off your gun. One mistake, and it's your life."

Read the entire story here.

Friday, November 1, 2013

"Deception" by Brad Maynes (Short Story)

Genre:  Fiction

Type of Short Story:  Short Story


He closed his eyes and concentrated on the one fact he couldn't ignore. The darkness. The darkness that is Connor Brice, or Simon would say. Something inside of Peter was yelling out to him and that voice urged Peter to take drastic action soon.
Check out more work by this author on his blog and website.

Friday, October 25, 2013

"Sight Unseen" by Erin K Kahoa (Flash Fiction)

Genre:  Fiction

Type of Short Story:  Flash Fiction

Complete Story:

There were only three left: Two Feathers, Hungry Bear, and Bending Tree. All other men had been chosen, had walked the path at dusk, had returned with a deeper look in their eyes. The wind that called had been silent for a full turn of the moon, and yet the three remained. Although they were fierce warriors, and brought back as much meat as their brothers, the tribe couldn't help but think of them as lesser. Not that anyone would ever speak of these thoughts, but neither did they need to.

Those that the wind had called could not speak of their journey. Their face tensed and their eyes narrowed when they thought back to it, but they could not give voice to the experience. It was as if the wind would not allow it. This, more than anything else, caused Bending Tree to suffer.

He never saw himself as a proud man. Always trusted in the spirits that guided his people, and was quick to read the signs and quicker to hold their truest meaning. His vigilance brought many gifts. He was the first to lay eyes on the white buffalo. The first to feel the great storm. The first to see the difference in Little Bluff, who was the first to be called. And yet, the wind did not call his name.

The three that remained took different paths in their seclusion. Two Feathers sought visions. Hungry Bear danced for the moon. Bending Tree did nothing. He believed any change in his actions would be a concession to the wind, an agreement on his state of lacking. Not that he saw himself as perfect, but his life was spent in service to his people. To concede to the wind was to say his service was for naught.

When the second turn of the moon passed, the three that remained began to forget the wind. It seemed those that were called did not profit from their journey. Their arrows did not fly truer, nor did their battle cry ring with more power. All that remained was the furrow on their brow when a breeze caressed their skin.

Sensing the coming chill, the tribe began preparations for the separation. Each family was to head to their ancestral respite and await the sun’s return. A great feast marked their last night together, and the fire was as large as it had ever been. As the fathers taught their children how to dance respect for the snow and the mothers sang of warm beds and hot meals, the wind crept in from the east.

At first, Bending Tree thought it was the storm, the same threat he felt before, but as the wind curled around him and reached up into his eyes, the thought of the storm and the image of the fire faded from his mind.

His feet pulled him forward and his arms stretched out in a greeting to the zenith. His head tilted back, and though his mind was void of reflection, he began to drink in the sky with breaths as deep as the earth itself. Their attention full on the feast, his exit from the camp was unseen by his brothers, nor was his absence noticed for the separation. Since Bending Tree had yet to choose a wife, there was no definite place for him to be.

The sharp bite of the cold air briefly pulled Bending Tree from his trance. At once he was consumed with joy and anger and relief and despair. He had finally been called, but only after he had fully given up. He could only see this as pity. The wind dove back into his eyes and his mind was once again washed clean.

The body of Bending Tree wandered into an open plain. The grass at his feet grew still, and remained so until the various sounds of life that normally pierced the night fell silent. The wind, which had gathered itself at Bending Tree’s feet shot up to the sky, and the empty frame it left behind crumbled to the ground.

When the tribe gathered back at the first sign of spring, a night of mourning was held for their missing brother, who they could only assume had succumbed to the winter chill. The wind had moved on to another tribe, and crept among its people. It had survived the winter, but another one always came.
Be sure to check out Kahoa's website!

Friday, October 18, 2013

"Killgrace and the Singular Situation" by C.Price (Novella)

Genre:  Science Fiction

Type of Short Story:  Novella

Summary:  Solar winds and steel chains are a difficult way to rescue a creature the size of a planet from the grip of a black hole. When the creatures in difficulty are something neither Susan or Cet have seen before, staying uninvolved is not an option. Gravity and relativity are not the only problems they face: there's also getting the would-be rescuers to work together.


"I see your species is unfamiliar with stellar fauna, and interstellar mega-fauna," the woman said, pulling her glance from the viewing window with some reluctance and turning to her companion. Even though they were along in the huge lounge, her voice was hushed. The dark blue, metal form next to her was stationary, staring fixedly out of the floor-to-ceiling window at the light of the nebula beyond.

Her companion did not have eyes in the strictest sense, nor hands or legs. Instead it had opened its 'eyes', sensor lights glowing with increased intensity through the armour as they focused on the dark shapes outside. Then, to her delight, beneath the armour a second set of membranes retracted and the lights brightened.

"Is that the equivalent of a double-take or rubbing your eyes?" she asked, pushing a stray strand of hair back into the severe style that held her greying curls.

"You have encountered these?" The flat tones of the mechanical translator could not express emotion, but the sleek, almost featureless, metallic shell had all seven blue sensor lights shining fixedly forward through the metal of its dome in fascination.

"No," she admitted, "I read about them. Interstellar mega-fauna are more common in universes where space is not a vacuum, but they aren't unknown elsewhere." She looked out of the window again, at the two creatures floating a quarter of a million miles away within the nebula.

Buy this story on Amazon and be sure to check out the author's website!

Friday, October 11, 2013

"Space Case" by Dan Fiorella (Novella)

Genre:  Fantasy, Humor, Detective

Type of Short Story:  Novella

Summary:  Nick Flebber, a PI with a knack for landing unusual cases, gets hired to follow a husband suspected of cheating. Instead of finding a mistress, he winds up dealing with corporate espionage, street crazies and very illegal aliens.


4:37 PM, Offices of Flebber Investigations

Frankly, business had suffered an uptick as of late; I had just finished up the DesRoches affair. Man claimed someone had stolen his wife’s identity. Wanted me to find that person and stop her. Found her and brought her in. Mr. Desroches decides she makes a better Mrs. DesRoches than his wife, so they ran off together. He actually skipped out on me but I still had his Social Security number and bank information, so I just wired myself my fee.

Then there was the Cariello business. A movie studio called me in to track down some internet troll called “The Spoiler.” Kept posting reports on their latest movies to the web and giving away the endings. Was really cutting into their receipts. Had to do a lot of leg work and check a lot of mothers’ basements before I found him and presented him with a “Cease & Desist” knuckle sandwich. Heard he’s now pushing language courses online, offering studies in Nigerian to better communicate with spammers. This is the kind of work I do. My name’s Nick Flebber and I’m a private eye.

Things were getting busy and I lost a lot of my “me time.” Since your more upscale (read “successful” and/or “reputable”) private investigator firms have a “staff” of “employees” who keep an eye on “things” while the detectives went out and detected stuff, it was decided I had to go and hire myself a secretary what doubled as a receptionist and visa-versa.

Yeah, yeah, it’s not what you think. Now that I was in a mainly monogamous match-up, I wasn’t about to hire some professional party girl. Not with my dear Sandra Claus and her uncanny ability to know when I’m sleeping and know when I’m awake. Not to mention that whole naughty/nice paradigm. She gets that from her dad, a Christmas icon whom I met on a case not so long ago. Yeah, I managed to rescue him from a crazed retailer. Got me in good with the lassie. Sandra’s a wonderful gal but she still lives with her folks up north. But she’s a wonderful gal. So there would be no femme fatales lurking about on her watch. Anyway, that’s what Sandra told me on her last visit down.

“How many people applied for the job, Nick?” Sandra asked.

“A lot more than I thought would.” I knew times were tough, but I didn’t think they were so tough that people were looking to hook up with a one-horse detective agency.

Sandra worked her way through a pile of resumes and cover letters. “Why do some of these include head shots?”

“I think I posted the job on the wrong Craig’s List. Some of them might think it’s an audition for an acting job.”

“That might explain why this resume says she’s willing to work au naturale.”

“It might be.”

Sandra began gathering her stuff together. “I have to get going, Nick, or I’m going to miss the 5:20 sleigh.”

“You brought the sleigh??”

She gave me a hug and a peck on the cheek. “For a hard-boiled P.I. you are so gullible. No, I didn’t take the sleigh. But I have to get back. Now then, you have that list of names?”

I nodded. Again.

“Good. Vader needs them checked.”


“Vader Kersfees.”

“Who calls him that? Luke Skywalker?”

“South Africans. As I was saying regarding the list; apparently there are a couple of border line cases and he’s trying to cut back on the coal. You know, improve his carbon footprint.”

“I’ll check ‘em. Twice.”

“As per usual,” she smiled back.

We both had our jobs to do: Her back home, me down in the states. Talk about your long distance relationships. I did miss her (and frankly, I still couldn’t fully comprehend our relationship: she’s a Scandinavian sweetie, and I’m a rough-hewn mug who resembles an extra in an old Warner Bros. gangster movie), but there were a lot of people that needed my help here. Not to mention that the Big Guy liked having a pair of boots on the ground points south. We shared one last kiss and she headed out.

A nanosecond later I heard voices in the small reception area I was preparing. Peeking out, I saw that a woman had entered. The term that leapt to mind was “hausfrau” as I was in a rather continental mood. Not exactly the type you normally found in this part of town. She had timidly approached Sandra, clutching her cloth coat to her neck and keeping her pocketbook tight in her armpit. She looked out of place and out of sorts.

“May I help you?” Sandra asked her.

“I need to hire a private investigator. Are you a private investigator?”

Even I could make out the lines of worry etch-a-sketched across her brow. “Not I, but we have one. A very good one. He’s in his office,” Sandra responded. “Is everything all right?”

That’s when the woman started weeping. “I don’t know. That’s why I need to talk to a private investigator.”

Sandra turned and called, “Nick!”

I was out before she could finish the syllable.

Buy this story on Amazon.

Friday, October 4, 2013

"Broken Dreams" by Annie Turner (Novelette)

Genre:  Western

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary:  Book 1 of the Nathaniel Porter trilogy.

Nate Porter returns from fighting in the Civil War to find his wife dead, his ranch falling apart and a rich neighbor that seems to have no qualms about calling Nate's land his own. Despite his battlefield nightmares, he realizes that his own war has only just begun...


“Don’t give up on me, Peters! Stay with me!”

The words could barely be heard over the booming of cannons and rifles. Nate tore off a huge piece of cloth from Peters’ coat, trying, in vain, to stop the massive amount of blood loss. Peters was writhing on the ground, his leg hanging together only by a few tendrils of muscle fiber.

Peters was screaming and delirious with pain. He grabbed Nate’s coat and pulled him close so Nate could hear. “Kill me, Sergeant. Kill me now.”

Nate recoiled. He had never mercy-killed a man before and had no intention of starting now. “No! You’ll make it! Just hang on and I’ll find something to—“

“No.” Peters’ eyes became lucid. He understood it was his time even if Nate did not.

Nate took the knife Peters held up with trembling fingers. Ammunition was in short supply and couldn’t be wasted. Nate would have to be quick and efficient so the poor man didn’t suffer even more.

The hand gripping Nate’s coat tightened. “Do it.”

Nate lurched awake, his face coated with sweat and his mind disoriented by the surroundings. His throbbing temples made piecing together reality a bit slower than usual. He had fallen asleep in the armchair after drinking a half bottle of whiskey. Apparently not drinking during the war had taken a toll on his alcohol tolerance.

He took a quick nip to help ease his massive headache as he considered what his next move would be. His prospects were almost hilariously grim. He had no money. Every cent had been spent on the land and buildings. Elaine’s family had not been rich and he was fairly certain that any money he had sent her had been used to buy food.

He had exactly $20 in his pocket from the last time he was paid by the Army. Somehow he was going to have to find a way to make that money cover the looming mortgage payments that would be called in soon. Elaine had written to say the banks had been willing to extend the deadlines due to the fact that he was fighting. But Nate was not fool enough to think that the generosity would last too much longer.

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Friday, September 27, 2013

"Confessions of the Cuckold" by J. David Core (Novelette)

Genre:  Noir, Mystery 

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary:  The last person Eric Dadjov would have expected to confide in was the bounty hunter sent to take him to court, but his wife has betrayed him leaving his life in shambles. A careless moment purging his anger has led to formal charges, so when he learns that he might have more in common with the forlorn bounty hunter than he thinks, a frustrated Eric just begins venting.Gradually, the details of Dadjov’s story begin to suggest that he has a sinister plan for revenge brewing. Is the bounty hunter complicit, a dupe, or is he the next victim of the cuckold?

When I first met Eric Dadjov he was thin and his eyes, set back in his skull, were rimmed in dark rings. His hair was overgrown and unkempt. His pants were dirty and his hands shook. If I hadn’t known why he was being taken into custody, I might have assumed it was drug related. As it was, he had simply missed a court date on a charge of vandalism.

I walked up on the porch and knocked on the door. Eric said, “Hello,” when he saw me with none of the usual suspicion that normally greeted my presence.

“Eric Dadjov?”

“Yes,” he said.

“I’ll need you to come with me. You missed your court date, and I’ve been contracted to make sure you appear before the judge this afternoon.” I turned so that he could see the weapon I had holstered on my hip.

“Are you going to handcuff me?”

“Should I?”

“You may as well. That way my humiliation will be just about complete.”

We drove in relative silence for the first several blocks. It was not until we had left his neighborhood that he began loosening up. “I know you probably don’t care, but I didn’t skip court because I was trying to run.”

“That’s pretty obvious,” I said. “I assume you were just too embarrassed to go in. That happens a lot.”
“It just bothers me that I am going to have to make restitutions to that asshole.”

“You smashed his car window, right?”


“Then why shouldn’t you have to make restitutions?”

“Because I have no legal recourse to demand the restitutions he owes me.”

“Sure you do. I mean if he destroyed something of yours …”

“He destroyed everything of mine.” Eric said as tears filled his sunken eyes. “He destroyed my life. He broke my future, so I broke his windshield. I shouldn’t have to pay for that.”

“This is beginning to sound like a domestic …”

“That’s exactly what it is. Let me ask you something, if somebody stole your wife, wouldn’t you feel justified in smashing his car window?”

“I’d probably feel justified in smashing his knees, but the law …”

“Of course the law; I understand that. But if I’m justified in smashing his window, shouldn’t he just man up and pay for it?”

Buy this story on Amazon and be sure to check out the author's website.

Friday, September 20, 2013

"The Shattered World Within" by Patty Jansen (Novella)

Genre:  Science Fiction

Type of Short Story:  Novella

Summary:  Like three space stations before it, Zhiminda Station has fallen silent.

Zhyara and his crew travel to the very edge of settled space to investigate. Will they find the station dead, its corridors exposed to the vacuum of space? Will they find bodies? Will they run into the unknown killers? Or is the reason much more sinister than that?


The ship glided into the dock, into the care of grappling arms and snaking robotic leads.

Clang, click, contact.

The navigation hub flashed with the station control override. The screen showed a logo, but no inbound or outbound communication.

Seated next to the pilot, in the bluish glow of the controls, Zhyara didn’t realise how tightly he’d been gripping the edge of the seat, all the way while they’d drifted past the scratched surface of the station, all the way while he listened to the pinging of their unanswered broadbeam probes. His instinct, after being cut off from his associates on Zhiminda station for so long, ached for confirmation that personal networks were still intact.

“I think they could have provided some better damn light in here.” The pilot’s voice pierced the tense silence. The remark, no doubt intended to be light-hearted, fell flat. Everyone aboard the ship was tense.

“But I guess things could have been worse,” the pilot added into the heavy silence.

“Much worse,” Zhyara confirmed.

He breathed out tension. At least someone was still alive aboard the mining station. At too many other stations, they’d found nothing except dead husks of metal, where the emptiness of space had erased evidence of the living.

The floor shook and juddered in time with harsh metallic clangs.

“They’ve used hard-dock,” the pilot observed, unnecessarily; the team knew all the sounds.

“Certainly, we’re not going to get out in a hurry,” Zhyara said.

The pilot glanced aside, a reflection of blue light in gold-flecked black eyes. “Do you think we need to?”

Zhyara didn’t reply to that. Right now, he feared anything was possible.

“Damn,” someone behind him said. “We’re the only ship in this place.”

* * *

The dockside image feed, when it flickered into life, showed that three people waited outside.

Zhayra glanced over his shoulder at his seconds, and behind them, their seconds and the third layer of associates behind that. A neat pyramid of order. Eight technicians, four supervisors, two leaders, and him at the top. They were his people, his small branch of the loyalty network. They knew their places and functions down to the smallest flick of an eyebrow.

Aboard this station, his equal, his zhayma, was a woman called Emiru. She would fill him in on the station’s running. Both of them as a team answered to Asha Domiri, the stationmaster; that was how his part of the network slotted together.

But the people out there were all male.

“Who are those guys?” The unease in Zhyara’s mind grew.

“They’re not our associates,” said a technician at the back, reading data from the ID tags on the screen. “Names are unknown. No rank or affiliation known.”

“What happened to Asha Domiri or Emiru Azimi?”

“Truly, anyone’s guess is as good as mine.”

That held no good promise. An unknown man meant Zhyara would have to trace matters of superiority. A normal stationmaster would have been Third Circle, like Zhyara, and there would have been some prior contact, some precedent through which to trace rank. By rights, a stationmaster would have superiority over Zhyara. That was the way things were supposed to be.

The air lock flashed ready. Zhyara got up from his seat. “Is there anything good to report besides that the station is not completely dead?” What if we’ve disturbed the killers of the station halfway through their grisly job?
Purchase links may be found on the author's website.

Friday, September 13, 2013

"Lights in the City" by E.M. Noble (Short Story)

Genre:  Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fiction

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  On a normal run through a big city, a runner swats a fly. The fly grows in size and becomes so big that it blocks the sun. The people in the city are under attack! Rayna, a Recovery and Reevaluation technician, must decide if the city is worth saving. Will the humans prove themselves worthy of continuing life? Or will they doom themselves to a terrible fate?


The road before Rayna lay desolate and abandoned. Skyscrapers surrounded her. The moonlight reflected on the shiny buildings and allowed her to see ahead of herself. No artificial lights were on. The buildings had broken windows and the one on Rayna’s left had scorch marks.

She kept moving forward, searching for an object that had seen the destruction unfold. The scorched door had been a victim of it, but it wasn’t in the center of it all. She needed to know the entire story, not a small piece.

A running shoe, sprawled on the sidewalk, was a likely candidate. Rayna approached the shoe, taking note of its melted sole. She held her hand out and in the second that she made contact with the shoe, Rayna also made contact with the shoe’s owner. The lingering memory of the runner training for a marathon stung her with feelings of fear, determination to survive, and awe.

The runner was almost finished with her run when she swatted a fly and rounded a corner. The fly disappeared, but another one took its place. She swatted the fly and that fly, instead of leaving, grew bigger. The horsefly buzzed in her face and she waved her arm and it grew to the size of a large horse. The fly rose high in the air and then dive bombed the runner. The people around her screamed and ran. The runner stayed still. By pushing the fly away, she had caused it to become angry. Her strategy worked: the fly veered away from her at the last moment. She took the opportunity and ran away.

Rayna broke from the runner’s memory and released her touch on the shoe. Her job, as a Recovery and Reevaluation technician, required her to listen to the human’s thoughts and see if the city was worth saving. Rayna’s recent upgrade to FieldBot technology had wiped her past feelings and opinions. A new start, the supervisors said.

She had agreed to the upgrade because, well, she didn’t remember. It was interesting: Rayna felt like the same person she had always been, but she didn’t know who she had been. Did it matter? Perhaps, and perhaps not.

Rayna reached for the shoe and was transported back to the runner’s memory. The runner had made it to a nearby grocery store.

“Giant fly! It’s attacking,” she gasped.

A man buying cereal boxes at the checkout gaped at her.

“Are you all right?” said the cashier, with a concerned furrow in his brow.

The runner pointed to the door. “There’s a giant fly!” she said to their confused stares. She gave up and grabbed a water bottle, bought it, and left.

Pandemonium ruled the streets. The fly was now the size of the building she worked in and hovered over the city, blocking the sun. A toddler waddled past her as his mother was distracted by the fly. Everyone shoved as the sky became darker and darker until it was as if noon was really 2 o’clock in the morning.

In an hour, a task force had been created to defeat the monstrous insect. The news that people had made the fly by hitting it had spread. Volunteers on the task force shot, threw knives, and attempted to tie it down. Or, at least that’s what it looked like was happening. Before the runner could get a good look, the power went out on the block she was standing in.

No one knew she was the first to swat the fly and she intended to keep it that way. A fight had broken out between someone who accused another of causing the catastrophe. The victim had been rushed to the hospital with a twisted leg and squished nose, blood everywhere. Rayna left the memory. If the runner was scared for her life, why should the city remain? The city was currently in a limbo state. Left like that for a couple hundred years, it wasn’t a particularly important city, according to her supervisors. That’s why she had been given it as her first Recovery and Reevaluation recovery and reevaluation. If she messed it up, it wouldn’t make a big effect on the other cities on Earth.

Buy this story on Amazon or Smashwords.

Friday, September 6, 2013

"Warden" by Kevin Hardman (Novella)

Genre:  Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror

Type of Short Story:  Novella

Summary:  Part lawman, part tracker and part magician, the Wardens are monster-hunters - tasked with protecting the people from the various, nightmarish creatures that have invaded the world of men. However, despite being descended from a long line of Wardens, 16-year-old Errol Magnus believes it to be the absolute worst job on the planet: How could a single occupation simultaneously be the most boring, abominably stupid and extraordinarily dangerous profession imaginable? 

But when his older brother Tom - the current Warden for their region - goes missing, Errol has no choice but to enter the Badlands, where monsters abide in mind-boggling numbers, to find him. During his search, Errol crosses paths with - and finds himself stalked by - the legendary Wendigo, a monster with preternatural strength and speed, as well as enhanced senses of sight, smell and hearing…and an insatiable hunger for human flesh.

Now Errol must do the impossible and not only escape from the monster (something no one has ever done before), but also avoid the unearthly legacy it leaves on all its victims - a terrifying curse known as Wendigo Fever.


“Good Lord!!!” Gale shouted, going pale and bug-eyed, as well as placing a hand over her heart. Errol followed her gaze to the window, where he caught a quick glimpse of something…horrid. Ruinous, desiccated flesh clung lazily to a nightmarish, skeletal face. Small wisps of gray-white hair hung in random clumps from a dome-shaped skull that housed two lidless eyes.

It was only in the window for a second, and then the thing - some sort of ghoul - was gone, its footsteps clumping audibly as it apparently walked down the porch towards the edge of the house.

Errol grabbed his crossbow, already cocked and loaded, and raced out onto the porch. The skeletal thing was almost at the corner of the house when he fired. The bolt took it in the upper right shoulder, sinking in deep. Knocked off-balance and sent spinning by the shot, the creature fell off the porch and into the dirt.

Errol stood still, breathing heavily, with Gale behind him as the ghoul started to get up. He could now see that the bolt hadn’t just gone in deep; the head had travelled all the way through and was actually sticking out of the monster’s chest.

The thing reached up and gripped the arrowhead. With a grunt, it yanked the bolt out, spewing an arc of green ichor from the wound. Still holding the arrow, it began walking towards them. Belatedly, Errol recalled that he hadn’t brought any more bolts outside with him (not that he would have had time to cock and load the crossbow anyway). Reaching down, he pulled his throwing knife free of its scabbard and threw it in one smooth, seamless motion.

The knife flew true, straight at the monster’s throat. Almost absentmindedly, the creature batted the blade aside with the arrow it still held. The knife went into one of the porch’s supporting posts with a metallic twang, vibrating.

The thing closed the distance between them in surprisingly quick fashion, so fast in fact that Errol only had time to place himself protectively between Gale and the monster before it was standing right in front of him. It thrust the arrow at Errol…

Buy this story on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Friday, August 30, 2013

"Leah Wrestles with God" by A.J. Kandathil (Short Story)

Genre:  Inspirational

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  Leah Wrestles with God by A.J. Kandathil is a short story inspired by Genesis 29:20-25, the story in which Jacob marries Leah. Kandathil, a Pushcart Prize nominee, currently writes about the cross-sections between literature and television for Ploughshares, and she is at work on her first book. This short story focuses on the story of Jacob, and is an imagined account told from Leah’s point of view. “In the Bible’s account, the story belongs to Jacob, and he is--by many measures--a hero. But what of the people who became little more than detritus on his journey to father the nations? What of the wife he didn’t love?”


He’d asked those words, but they didn’t form a true question. If I didn’t marry Jacob, then I’d either never wed, or I’d be wed to an outsider who might take me away. This was the only home I knew, and I didn’t want to leave it. In that brief moment, I saw my father’s deceit for what it might have been—a kindness to me, his eldest daughter, who had always been overlooked. Even he thought of me as the other sister. I’d never find a husband like Jacob on my own, and my father knew it. It was this kindness, even in its deceitful cradle, that undid the tangles of my integrity. This action, for better or worse, would hold our family together. I took a timid step toward Jacob’s tent, and I touched my father’s cloak.
Read the complete work here.  Also visit the author's website.

Friday, August 23, 2013

"Flight of the Kikayon" by Ryan Kirk (Novelette)

Genre:  Science Fiction

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary:  Clones, motherhood, and a luxury spaceliner. What could possibly go wrong?

With five million credits in her pocket and a nanny-clone to take her place, Lydia thought walking away from her marriage would be easier than sipping cocktails at a society party. But Lydia's plans didn't include an illegal sport-fishing expedition on an interdicted waterworld, and her husband has a scheme of his own.

FLIGHT OF THE KIKAYON is classic sci-fi with a side order of adventure.


The alien skies of Jannah IV stretch above me, infinite as time itself. This is day six hundred forty seven since the Kikayon's departure, but no one will come for me because no one knows I am missing. Well, no one but Cara.

It is an hour before dawn, and I am standing on the beach fantasizing about bread. Dreaming about the warm, yeasty aroma, the crisp surrender of the crust under my teeth and the yielding whiteness inside. I imagine dinner rolls torn in half and filled with melting butter, then licking my finger to dab runaway crumbs from the tablecloth. Pungent sourdough. Crusty baguettes. Small, sweet loaves dark with molasses.

I turn over a lump of seaweed to reveal sand fleas bigger than my thumb. I've learned to crack their shells with my teeth and suck out the insides. They are cold, slimy, and nothing like bread. When the sand fleas are gone, I slurp down some of the velvet kelp fronds, grumbling over their fishy stink. I spit grains of sand and look to the sky.

The edge of the horizon glows an incandescent pink against a cloudless, indigo heaven.

I shield my eyes with my hand. My once-manicured fingernails are splitting and caked with grime after my breakfast.

The coming heat warms my palm, and my eyes water in anticipation of the harsh light. The planet's twin suns will rise soon, and I must return to my cave to wait for the next dark.

On the sandbar some four hundred meters distant, the Kikayon's looted airskiff lies mired like a mastodon in a tar pit.

Squinting into the foredawn, I turn away from the water's edge. My bare feet leave footprints where the sand is wet, then shallow craters where it's dry. The trail ahead of me is hard to see in the gray light, but my feet know every rock and root from two years of nightly pilgrimage.

I gave the tissue sample to make Cara nearly seven years ago. With that amount of time to plan, you'd think I might have done a better job. If not for the accident, I'd be on Cirrus now, probably sipping a glass of wine at a cocktail party.

Buy this story on Amazon or Kobo.

Friday, August 16, 2013

"The Founders" by Short Fiction Writers Guild (Short Stories)

Genre:  Science Fiction, Fantasy

Type of Short Story:  Short Story Anthology

Summary:  Four stories. Four voices. Four different points of view. From the founders of the Short Fiction Writers Guild (SFWG), an organization dedicated to the celebration of all genres of short fiction, comes their first anthology, THE FOUNDERS.

Paranormal Romance from C.C. Kelly: VAMPIRES NEED PEDICURES TOO
Holly lives in Iowa. She likes books and works at the Library. She is a simple girl with simple tastes and wants. But, her best friend Deb is convinced Holly needs to get out for a change and get a real date. Tonight she has convinced Holly to attend an evening of speed dating at the hottest underground restaurant in town. After a day of shopping, they are both dressed to kill, which is a good thing, because Holly's first 'date' is a vampire. A simple vampire with simple wants and tastes.

A fierce battle with a hated enemy leaves a warrior dying. Only in the fated delivery of a chronicler will he find solace in relaying his story. The fate of the Kingdom of Rothesia depends on it. Thus begins his story of honor, vengeance, and love. Through the recorded account, his legacy as a hero may pass through the ages. This fantasy fiction novella (about 52 book pages), the prequel to The Legacy Series, tells the courageous tale of the life of a warrior. This prequel sets off the chain of events that place the throne of the king, and the kingdom itself, in peril. Book one in The Legacy Series, a novel entitled King's Reaping, is now available.

Science Fiction from Alain Gomez: WORTH THE RISK - BOOK ONE of the CALEN NATARI SAGA
The assassin profession is proving to be more difficult than Calen anticipated. Not exactly overwhelmed with job requests, Calen is forced to land on a nearby planet to repair her badly damaged ship. A stranger she runs into at the local cantina may be the solution to her problems. He lost his honor but is rich enough to pay Calen to help him regain it. All she has to do is risk her life...

Science Fiction from Casper Bogart: GIFT FROM A MAGI
In 2150, if you need a replacement lung, kidney, liver or ticker, you'll need to go through Kong Magi, a mobster controlling the lucrative parts trade in NY-Samsung City. Normally an unsentimental businessman, Kong's life changes when a client makes a very unusual request.

Buy this anthology on Amazon or Smashwords.

Friday, August 9, 2013

"Tears of the Goddess" by R.M. Prioleau (Novelette)

Genre:  Fantasy Romance

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary:  Celestra, Goddess of Beauty, aspires to leave her home of Siyr, the god-realm, to travel the cosmos and create a new world of her own. But her dreams cannot be fulfilled unless she is one of the seven chosen to undergo a trial put forth by the Genesis Spirit—a trial in which she alone must nourish a Genesis Seed with tears from her heart.Tydus, God of Chaos, is renowned and adored by many in Siyr, but his heart has always yearned for only one—Celestra. Unlike most Siyran goddesses, Celestra is unyielding and determined, but Tydus’s attempts to win her heart go unnoticed as she keeps her attention focused on her trial. 

This fanciful tale of romance and determination tells the story of two lovers who strive for happiness and realize how much they need one another.


Siyr, the realm of the gods, was made up of the delicate fabric of time and space that housed the seeds of life. The realm existed within the vastness of the plane of astral beings. Siyr was the gateway to the beginning and end of all existence—a place where chaos and peace became one. Often, the gods would embark upon their own journeys, creating worlds and new realms that connected to their home plane. All gods aspired to rule over their own domains, but such privileges were only granted by the god king Aetern to a select seven, and even then only on the seventh tier of every seventh transition, when the Genesis Tree bore fruit that contained the seeds of creation. It was Aetern’s intent that those selected would succeed in their endeavors, and they would keep the boundless energy of the act of creation flowing into the home realm.

Celestra blinked, her reflection in the silver mirror swimming back into focus. Her thoughts kept drifting to the Genesis Tree and the moment when she might finally be selected. With a sigh, she resumed brushing her silken hair. When she finished, she braided several long plaits, which she arranged around her head in intricate designs, letting the remainder flow loose down her bare back. She completed her coiffure by tucking fresh, fragrant honeysuckle blossoms into her white tresses.

King Aetern had announced a formal gathering that would bring all of Siyr’s inhabitants to Zenith Palace. Like most gods, Aetern loved a good party and hosted them often. This particular event, however, not only promised an eventide of entertainment and bountiful melomel—the most coveted drink of the Siyran gods, a honey wine infused with the sweetest pomegranate and edenfruit picked from the Wilderness of Paradise—but Aetern and his queen, Myria, were to make an important announcement.

Celestra was hardly interested in socializing at the gathering, but she would do her duty as formalities and proper protocol demanded. Her mind continuously raced, dreaming about the moment when she would hopefully be given the chance to set out on her own. The seventh tier of the seventh transition—the Seventh of the Seventh—was rapidly approaching, and she couldn’t wait.

As she stood from her vanity, the sheer material of her long, white gown flowed around her voluptuous form like water, while diamonds scattered across the material sparkled like the prismatic spray from a fountain. Around her neck, she wore a small, empty glass vial secured on a crystalline chain. Matching diamond bangles adorned her forearms. She stepped into white, diamond-studded slippers and gazed at her reflection a final time. She twisted slightly, turning her back to the mirror. Slowly, gracefully, two white, feathery wings unfolded from her shoulders. She stretched the wings and flapped them gently a few times, sending a few tiny feathers fluttering to the ground. Satisfied, she folded them around her body and departed her home.

As she walked the grand arcade that circled the cool, crystalline walls of her home, the scent of her signature flower, the honeysuckle, wafted from the trellises, filling her senses and calming her nerves. She glanced at the city streets, which were crafted of pure marble inlaid with abstract golden designs that glistened and shimmered in the light of Solis, God of Radiance. But as he rested, his light was slowly eclipsed by the presence of Luna, the eventide goddess, who filled the sky with her presence, marking the coming of the sixth tier of the sixth transition—the Sixth of the Sixth.

Find out more on Prioleau's website!