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.

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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.

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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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