Friday, February 28, 2014

"War Zone" by Marian D. Schwartz (Novella)

Genre:  Military, Historical Romance

Type of Short Story:  Novella

Summary:  Meghan Danahy isn’t afraid to voice her opposition to the war in Vietnam. And when she falls in love with Dennis Kipphut, the political becomes personal. With his low lottery number, Dennis is sure to be drafted as soon as he graduates from college.

Meghan’s father’s connections can help keep Dennis safely at home. But Coyle Danahy wants his daughter to marry the son of a banker or a professional man, not the son of a night watchman. Seeing Dennis drafted seems like the perfect solution to end the relationship. Confident that it will play out as he hopes, Coyle underestimates just how far Meghan will go to protect the man she loves.


Meghan Danahy met Dennis Kipphut at an anti-war demonstration in the fall of 1969. Over five hundred students had congregated on the Broad Street side of the university, blocking the main entrance, to protest the Vietnam War. The roadway leading out of the school was plugged with cars, and traffic had started to back up on Broad Street. Gray-uniformed university policemen had surrounded the demonstrators, shouting into bullhorns to dispel the crowd. “Hell, no, we won’t go!” the students shouted, unwilling to concede an inch of ground.

Neither Meghan nor Dennis were participating in the demonstration. Meghan had just left the library and, attracted by the noise and the placards bobbing above the sea of students, had started to walk across the sloping lawn toward the crowd. Sirens from city police cars pierced the air. The chanting grew louder, as rhythmic as a heartbeat. “Hell, no, we won’t go! Hell, no, we won’t go!” Spurred by the insistent cries, Meghan started to run, unaware of a tall, strapping youth trotting behind her. Dennis Kipphut was also in a hurry. It was four fifty-five, and he wanted to catch the South Mills bus that would be stopping on Broad Street at five o’clock. He eyed her buttocks straining against her tight jeans and her dark brown hair swinging freely down her back, catching amber light from the late afternoon sun, and ran faster hoping to get a glimpse of her face before he veered left to the bus stop.

Meghan was near the fringe of the demonstration when the police riot squad alighted from their cars carrying gas masks. “Tear gas, the pigs have tear gas!” someone shouted. The chanting stopped and the crowd splintered, spilling in all directions over the lawn like a broken egg. Before she knew what hit her, Meghan was lying on the grass, dazed.

“Are you all right?” Meghan’s eyelids fluttered. “Are you all right?” a bass voice repeated. She blinked, trying to focus. There was a red plaid shirt directly above her. “You better not move for a few minutes.”

She had gone down almost directly in front of Dennis. He had immediately fallen on his hands and knees, using his body to protect her from students running blindly from the riot squad, although tear gas hadn’t been used.

“What happened?” she asked, pushing herself up on her elbows. Her eyes were wide open; they were green and had yellow flecks in them like miniature suns.

Dennis sat back on his heels. “You were whacked on the head—a two-by-four from a sign someone was carrying.”

“What did the sign say?” Meghan asked, tentatively touching a throbbing spot on the side of her head behind her right ear. It was tender and had started to swell.

“Bomb the Pentagon, I think,” Dennis said.

Meghan laughed, confirming Dennis’ instinctive decision to stay with her. Although she couldn’t be called beautiful—she had a stubborn chin and her cheeks, which were as round as a child’s, were splashed with freckles—her face was strong, and her smile generous and disarming. “I would have liked it better if they had gotten the Pentagon,” she said, struggling to get up.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

"Mary" by Edward Lange (Novelette)

Genre:  Horror, Urban Fantasy

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary:   Old Mary Roberson has never hurt a fly. That is until she blows up her neighbor and gets arrested. But Mary’s reign of terror is just beginning.


When he woke up, his head lay on the dead center of the steering wheel. The sound of the horn could be heard blaring all around him, as his skull pressed against it. He removed his head from wheel, and the horn stopped. His head throbbed, and he could feel warm blood trickling down his cheek.

“Michael, are you…” He turned to the passenger seat to see how his partner was doing, but trailed off when he saw it was empty. A large opening rimmed with jagged glass sat on the right side of the windshield. Through the broken windshield, Ellis could see the crumpled up hood of the squad car, and the bits of engine that stuck out the sides. They’d exited the thick canopy of branches, and the world around him was now illuminated by the dark blue moon light. The tip of the hood was partially wrapped around a tall tree. Its thick trunk had a large crack at the spot where the car collided with it. The tree sat in the middle of a bend in the road; a bend which Ellis had been unable to anticipate because he hadn’t been focusing on the road.

“Michael!” Ellis called through the broken windshield. He clutched at the bloody side of his head, while he listened for a response. He heard nothing but the sound of cold air whistling through the trees.

“Michael!” He called again, and still got no response. He scanned the area around the tree, and eventually spotted the pile of clothes and flesh that sat near the base of the trunk. The body of his partner appeared to be twisted in an unnatural, painful looking way. Ellis thought his partner could be seriously hurt, maybe even paralyzed.

Ellis opened his mouth to yell again, when he heard a soft growl behind him. He heard scaly feet crushing rocks on the unpaved road behind him. He turned to see the tiny glowing red eyes, which were getting bigger as the creature emerged from the darkness of the canopy.

It stood six feet tall, on four powerful legs that ended in lizard claws. Its black skin covered a muscular horse body. The hairy tail wagged in the cold night air. At the end of its horse head sat a mouth with fangs that overlapped the lower lip. And protruding from the center of its head, in-between the glowing red eyes, was a long white horn.

The beast neighed, and slowly walked around the squad car. Ellis watched the muscles move under the animal’s skin, as it made its way to the man that lay slumped on the ground. It walked up, and stood over him. With its fanged snout, it turned the man over on to his back. The unconscious face of Michael stared up at the beast, his eyes closed to the world. Ellis wanted to yell “RUN!” but the terror that gripped him stayed his tongue.

In the pale moonlight, the beast opened its mouth, revealing the white curved daggers that lined its jaws. It ripped off the front of the unconscious officer’s shirt, and tossed the black cloth to the ground. It lifted its front-right claws it the air, and brought it down on the exposed stomach. The unconscious body didn’t even flinch, as its warm guts began to spill out onto the ground.
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Friday, February 14, 2014

"The Sourwood" by Richard Wolanski (Novella)

Genre:  Fairy Tale, Dark Fantasy

Type of Short Story:  Novella

Summary:  Fig is an insect and in twenty-seven days he will die. He crosses paths with the nihilistic Fly King who offers Fig a chance--the promise of eternal life. With only the name Alice Abernathy and a crew of bug bunglers, Fig will discover a truth the Fly King has been hiding for over three hundred years.


In a most sudden and mysterious disappearance of man, there was no chaos, no panic, no outbreak of paranoia, nor cries for ideological upheaval. It sounds like a kind of apocalyptic disaster, yet the empty houses still stood. The buzz of the blender, the hum of the dining room fan, and the blinking red and yellow lights on the child's play things all remained. Not a living sound could be heard, except for the hopeless whimpering of the dogs they left behind. However, it was not deserted. Not every creature resigned to stillness instead of stirring.

They trickled in from behind the walls and from in between the panels on the red oak floors. They flew in pairs through the open attic windows. At first, they meandered around cautiously, aware of the phantom presence of their predecessors. They crawled only in the recessed cement cracks on the countertops and behind opened cereal boxes. For a time, they lived like scavengers, until one crept from underneath the shadows of a dusty faucet and the others followed. It became their kingdom. They ate. They ate the spoils from the warm refrigerators, stripped the wilted leaves from the potted plants, unwove the fabric in the sheets, pecked through the plush of limp teddy bears, and gorged on splintered dinner tables. Their numbers grew.

They flew in empty homes by the tens and then the thousands. They covered every inch until there was nothing but a sea of segmented beings. They devoured everything. Because of their short lives, they had no allegiances. The insects had only a single purpose—to multiply. They indulged in feckless fecundity. Out of the nothing, what remained was their perverse satisfaction with survival. No longer was there the threat of the flat palm of a hand or the broad reach of the kitchen broom. Their stiff bodies piled up backwards in the ceramic bowls. Empty cupboards and sticky plates surrounded them. The food was gone. Finally, with nothing left they mired in marasmus.

Then a sudden flame burst through the houses. A hellfire, known only as the Great White, turned fireflies into tinder, arachnids into ash, and left nothing unburned. With little left, they crawled back into the wilderness. All of the insects that survived searched for a new colony. For three days they traveled. Once again, they were forced to experience the horrors of their mortality. Their chitin cracked from the cold and desiccated under the heat. Natura was most unkind and left many to die by her elements. When all seemed lost, the wasted wanderers found themselves at the roots of a glorious organism.

It sat at the top of a hill, on a cliff far above the water. Its massive roots contorted into the soil underneath the grass. The trunk of the tree was immense and blocky at its lowest point, but narrowed like a neck far into the sky. The fruit hung freely from its limbs while its leaves provided thick cover from the watering mouths of winged predators. The leaves collected rain drops for the thirsty and the wide trunk stored food for the hungry. It stood impenetrable like a wooden fortress. They called it the Sourwood. In their new home they wanted a new beginning. The insects decided to design a pact—the Arthropoda Aeternus. This alliance was the foundation for their social hierarchy.

Their first creation was the Orders.

Hunters were the guardians and the brute strength of the insect kind. They had large limbs like wolf spiders and the horned mandibles of stout stag beetles. Their power and bravery knew no limits and their lust for violence knew no satisfaction. Second, were the Collectors, an order given exclusively to moths. They were the revered pallbearers that performed the last rites of the living. At the slightest hint of terminal illness or death they would collect you and fly you to their lair underneath the wet roots of the Sourwood.

Third, were the Gatherers. They provided food and water for all those who lived in the tree. Carpenter beetles and Harvestmen fumbled to and fro like lumberjacks of the six-legged and eight-legged world. They essentially were the workers. Fourth, were the Nesters, an order only given to aphids. They lived in the Nursery at the neck of the Sourwood. Every insect ever born would first see the face of a Nester. Finally, there were the Seekers. The ladybirds who tended to their gardens or the damsel and dragonflies that worked as prudent academics. The Seekers enjoyed being the diplomats, the architects and the priests that presided over all the others.
And yet, not all of the insects were interested in keeping with the pact. The insects called them the Parasites, the orderless. The dissenters came in many forms as ear wigs and louses, houseflies and wasps. They bore a divide between themselves and the followers of the Great White. After much deliberation, the Seekers banished them to the Wanderland where the fleas frolicked around the dead and scorpions roamed through the dirt. Because of their heresy they lived in the Great White’s shadow as leaderless vagrants existing beyond the safety of the Sourwood.

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Friday, February 7, 2014

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

Genre:  Young Adult Science Fiction

Type of Short Story: Novelette

Book 2 of the Uxel Herum Saga

Fearing retribution, Uxel Herum flees Gemshorn. Her escape is short lived when her ship malfunctions and she crashes to the surface of a neighboring planet, leaving her completely stranded.

While trying to explore her new surroundings Uxel is captured by the natives who are as formidable as they are fearsome. Their leader offers Uxel a chance to prove her skills, provided Uxel has any skills worth proving...


Everything was flashing red. Not good. Uxel Herum scrambled from panel to panel trying to assess all the damages to her ship but it was becoming more and more difficult to focus with all the alarms blaring. What could have possibly happened? Her ship, though old, had been in perfect working condition when she left Gemshorn.

It must have been those ramea…

She had left her ship unattended for several months. Who knows what they could have done in her absence? Scavenge for parts? Chew on the wires? Whatever it was that they did to foreign vessels when no one was watching. With the accidental death of her teacher she had been too frantic to check her systems before take off. Her survival instincts had overridden everything else and now she was paying the price.

More alarms went off. The fuel systems were malfunctioning, light speed was out of the question, and her engines had just decided to fizzle out. Her ship began to careen toward a large green planet, caught in its gravitational pull. There was nothing Uxel could do to stop the crash but she did have the presence of mind to pull up her star chart. Kortholt. The planet was Kortholt. And it appeared to be inhabited and had a non-toxic atmosphere.

Well, there could be worse places to crash.

She gripped the controls of her ship as gravity pulled the ship even harder. At least she still had maneuvering control. She flipped a few switches to direct every bit of her remaining power to her forward energy shields. The sharp angle of her decent made the ship’s hull glow. More alarms went off but with no engines there was nothing she could do until she broke through to the atmosphere.


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