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?”

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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.

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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…

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