short fiction

Flash Fiction from Regan W. H. Macaulay: The Kiss.

This week is another piece of short fiction from Regan W. H. Macaulay whose children’s picture book, Mixter Twizzle’s Breakfast, launches September 1st. You can learn more and pre-order this book here

The Kiss

His heart raced when her full, parted, lips touched his. His mouth welcomed her warm breath, her soft tongue.  From deep inside his stomach, he felt the familiar feeling of falling.  Every muscle in his body contracted as, eyes closed, he pictured her face that was so close to his right now.  His body collapsed in on itself while his heart thumped maniacally, exploding, like birth.  He saw her wintry skin in his mind’s eye.  He watched her hair flow before him like blood from a wound. It was burnt amber, like falling leaves in autumn.

He was sinking.  He felt small and insignificant next to her.  She could cradle him in her hands.  She could crush him.  He opened his eyes hesitantly and watched her hazel eyes deepen before him into a green as deep as a dark, fabled forest.  She was watching him, too.  He could not break free from her enduring kiss.

He shut his eyes again and remembered.  It seemed like he had watched her over the course of a lifetime.  She had ignored him as if unaware of his obsessive observations.  She sat in the lecture hall, her gentle form bent over her notes as she stared at them with the intensity of a marble statue.  Her willowy form strode through the halls with an air of absolute entitlement.  He could see she had the world by the short hairs – the world and all the people in it.

But Marianne saw nothing impressive in her.  His friend warned him that type of woman would never need him.  Would she even want him?  He had said he didn’t know.  And what difference did it make to Marianne, anyway?  He must know her.  He bent all his will towards that end and let everything else slip away into a vortex spinning in the back of his mind.  He built his confidence a little every day just to gather the strength to say hello.

Now she shone down on him like orange twilight or burnt sunshine, so far away.  And he was still sinking.  No, shrinking before her.  Was he falling?  Why did she tower over him?  He was hard all over, tense with panic.

He experienced a waking reverie of the time he spent trying to woo her, all the while staring at her far above him.  He recalled their first words for a fleeting moment, but that was soon gone.  His mind was falling in on itself.  Imploding.  He remembered the name of her cat – Sookie.  She was the darkest cat he’d ever seen.  Like a deep forest with bright eyes, like her mistress.  He remembered the first time he ever stepped into her apartment, which was where he stood now.  No, he was sitting.  His limbs felt springy.  They flopped around, spaghetti-like.  They slapped on the floor.  His fingers felt nubby.  He gazed down at them.  They were alien to him.

His frantic mind turned over images around the room.  He both saw and recalled his first time noticing all the terrariums in her apartment.  They glowed at him with a green-tinted fluorescence.  They were decorated like small jungles.  He wondered then, as he did now, why she would have so many pet frogs.

His lips had left hers now.  His eyes felt plump as he gazed up at her.  Surely they would bulge out of his skull if these strange sensations continued.  She gazed back at him with an expression he could not discern, but it made him feel helpless.  Like loving her had made him feel hopeless.

She smiled and her expression changed.  Her eyes sparkled and in those last moments of rational thought, he knew he had obtained her love at last.  She doted on him, bending over him, gently picking him up off the floor in her enormous, pale hands.  Her fingers cupped his bloated stomach.  She pulled him out of his crumpled clothing.  Now he had her!  He could see she would obsess over him, now.

She carried his orb-like form to one of the terrariums and opened the door on the front of the tank.  Gently, she slipped his gelatinous body onto the soil.  His mind grew dark.  He stared about and noticed the other gargantuan frogs sharing his new habitat.  He gazed at his golden, bulbous eyes, tomato-like form and twilight orange skin reflected in his water dish.  He matched her hair.  Perhaps that made him special.  Then it dawned on him that she had had a lot of first and only kisses, and his awareness slipped away with the click of the terrarium lock.

rhcmacaulay-headshot

 

Regan writes novels, short stories, children’s literature and scripts. Writing is her passion, but she’s also a producer and director of theatre, film and television. She is an animal enthusiast as well, which led her to become a certified canine (and feline) massage therapist.

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“Envy” Flash Fiction by Regan W. H. Macaulay

You may already be familiar with Regan W. H. Macaulay. We introduced her a while back as a member of the Mirror World family. She’s a children’s author and has two upcoming Children’s picture books with us. The first, Mixter Twizzle’s Breakfast launches September 1st, 2018 and we’ll be revealing the cover and some of the art around the beginning of August.

Mixter Twizzle is an odd, red, round-shaped, mischievous creature.  He lives in a hovel, beneath a rustic barn, underneath the chicken coop at Riverdale Farm.  He’s a snoozing sneezer and a snoring barker; a peculiar sort that both annoys and pleases. At first, Mixter Twizzle is thrilled by his egg-gorging fests, delighting in his own wickedness, but he soon realizes he is lonely. He longs for companionship, but the hens will have nothing to do with him. Can this fiendish creature learn to make friends at the farm?

The second is another Children’s picture book called Beverlee Beaz, the Brown Burmese, and this one’s about a curious and adventurous cat who uses her imagination to get herself both into and out of trouble. Beverlee Beaz, the Brown Burmese, will be launching sometime in 2019.

In the meantime, we’ve got some flash fiction to share from Regan W. H. Macaulay. So, here goes:

ENVY

The woman pauses and heaves a sigh. She clutches a live cricket with her index finger and her thumb. It wriggles for its life, which will end shortly. Not like her life. Not like theirs.

She is the woman at the end of the universe and her time will never come. They are the creatures she looks after: the last of the Moca salamanders, the final pair of Bumble Frungit toads, a single Royal Fish of the New Siam government, and three mammals whose names are long forgotten. There are more–feeding them all is an endless and repetitious task. They are suspended in perpetual time. Immortal. Trapped. And they all eat crickets. That’s all that’s left to eat.

A Frungit toad laps the cricket from between her fingers. Squish. The toad gulps, swallows hard. The cricket is gone. The woman’s envy swells inside her like an angry flame.

rhcmacaulay-headshot

 

Regan writes novels, short stories, children’s literature and scripts. Writing is her passion, but she’s also a producer and director of theatre, film and television. She is an animal enthusiast as well, which led her to become a certified canine (and feline) massage therapist.

You can connect with Regan on her website: https://reganwhmacaulay.weebly.com/

 

The Silent Serpent by J.A. Dowsett – FINALE (part 6)

Nell banked left, into the laser fire. The Silent Serpent rolled and Claw fell on top of Xendri, knocking her to the wall, which was now, or at least for the moment, the floor. There was another shudder as the laser-fire struck the ship. Xendri closed her eyes, thinking this was the end, but after one heartbeat and then another, they were still flying.

Claw was climbing off Xendri as the ship righted itself once more.

“What happened?” Xendri questioned struggling to her feet.

Instead of answering, Nell simply tapped the scanner screen with her metal-tipped tail. Xendri climbed onto the back of the pilot’s chair to be able to see over Claw’s shoulder. Below them, or was it above now? Xendri could never really tell, in space, and besides, Nell was still pulling them away and maneuvering deftly to keep any of the rest of the shots being fired from hitting them. Somewhere away from them, a mangled-looking version of their cargo bay dropped with what seemed like agonizing slowness toward the Delkrit city.

There was a moment of anticipatory silence and then the scanners lit up, reporting the explosions, one after the other, as the bombs caused a cascade reaction within the Delkrit vessel. Captain Claw let out an unexpected whoop, breaking the silence as he thrust his fist in the air. “Good job, Nell! Now get us out of here as fast as you can!”

Nell nodded, trying to catch her breath now that adrenaline was no longer ruling her. “Got it, Captain.”

Xendri just blinked, feeling shaken. The turret’s laser fire had come within inches of hitting their armed cargo and blowing them all to bits and pieces, and instead it had hit the stubborn clamp, freeing the bombs and saving their lives.

It occured to her in that instance that out in space, survival was balanced on the head of a pin. And if nothing else, Xendri intended to survive.

***

Two days later, the Silent Serpent landed safely on Mars with only a skeleton crew left, the rest having been asked politely to depart at the last station they’d passed through.

“I’m selling the ship,” Captain Claw announced to the few of them that remained. “Vox, excellent work setting up the gold exchange on Denain. With what we’ve made, split up evenly between us, plus the sale of the Silent Serpent to the scrapyard, I’ll have enough to retire.”

Xendri blinked a few times, confused. “What about the rest of us?”

“Well, that’s up to you, of course,” Claw allowed, “but I’m thinking that with your cuts combined, you might just have enough to buy a ship of your own, or cobble one together from used parts, at least. I’d be willing to help put you in touch with the right people.”

“But who’d be Captain?” Quattro asked the pertinent question.

“Not me,” Nell said. “I’m not the ‘Captaining’ type. I’ll happily fly whatever, wherever you tell me to, but I’d just as easily catch a ride on the next ship out of here.”

Vox, Xendri, and Quattro looked around at each other, but when Vox said nothing, Quattro and Xendri both spoke at the same time, drowning one another out.

“Listen, you don’t need to decide now,” Claw suggested. “Why don’t you sleep on it for the night? We can meet in the morning at the scrapyard to go over the options and the numbers.”

Claw’s authority still ingrained in them, they filed out, talking amongst themselves. All but Xendri. She lingered behind, watching Captain Claw. Finally his eyes fell on her and she mustered up the courage to ask, “What makes a good Captain?”

Claw smiled, his expression wistful, “The best kind of Captain is one who asks questions like that,” he told her, adding after a beat, “You’ll figure it out.”  

“Me?” Xendri was taken aback by his endorsement.

“Vox and Nell don’t want it, and Quattro really wouldn’t make a good Captain, so that leaves you. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not only that you’re the only logical choice, you’ve got the spark, I can see it. You want to know what’s out there, what lies beyond the next Jump Gate, and the one after that.”

Xendri found herself nodding. “That’s why I left home.”

Claw put a hand on Xendri’s carapaced shoulder. “I think ‘Captain Xendri’ has a nice ring to it, don’t you?”

To be continued… 

The Silent Serpent by J.A. Dowsett – Part 4

If you missed Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3, follow the links. Otherwise, read on! (This is a sci-fi short story by J.A. Dowsett that you don’t want to miss!) 

***

The Silent Serpent surged out of the Jump Gate into regular space and slowed immediately, though still moving far faster than the well-worn ship could have managed under its own power. Nell was back in the pilot’s chair and Xendri stood behind her, eager to see another new region of space. However, no sooner had Nell caught sight of what awaited them in this sector did her gold-flecked black fur stand on end. Whipping her tail around, she used the metal tip to tap the button that allowed her access to the ship-wide communications system, setting it to high-alert, while every other part of her remained focused on the ship’s controls.

“Xendri,” Nell said, tension making her voice clipped, “get the Captain. We have a problem.”

Before Xendri could so much as turn around, Nell knocked the controls forward and the old cargo vessel lurched, nose pointed downwards. Weapons fire was visible in the cockpit’s narrow window, but it made no sound until it grazed the side of the vessel, where it sounded like metal grinding against metal and sparks.

Xendri’s breath caught in her throat, but she didn’t let the stop her. “Captain!” she yelled into the rest of the ship as she exited the cockpit, clinging to any handholds she could find on the ship’s metal interior.

Captain James Claw stumbled into view just as Nell was righting the ship once more, sending the Terian shoulder-first into a metal wall. “What’s the prob-” He stopped mid-sentence, cleary able to see the issue for himself.

Xendri turned around to see what he was looking at and she finally was able to understand fully what Nell had grasped in those first few seconds out of the gate. It wasn’t just one ship firing at another or some sort of defense system they were on the wrong side of. They’d entered into an active warzone.

Ships of all shapes, sizes, and descriptions flew this way and that, defending the gate and the nearby space station from the largest ship in the area, which looked less like a ship and more like a floating platform atop which sat a silent, technologically advanced city. It was massive, as large as the space station itself and oddly square in shape, not like most of the vessels that flew around it. It was also…lifeless-looking. There were a few minor lights here or there, mostly near the guns, but otherwise the vessel was dark and unornamented as it drifted slowly through space.

“Delkrit,” Captain Claw whispered as he pushed absent-mindedly past Xendri.

Even being from one of the more remote corners of the galaxy, Xendri recognized the word. Everyone had heard of the Delkrit, though it was rare for anyone to have seen one, let alone survived to tell about it. They were the modern-day boogeyman. Tales that were told about the horrors that lurked out in the black of space to keep pilots and captains from venturing too far out into the uncharted parts of the galaxy. Not exactly a race, or even alive in the traditional sense, the Delkrit were machines with an AI hive mind programmed for one thing: to destroy all organic life. They were said to be the scourge of the galaxy.

Despite herself, Xendri followed the Captain back into the cockpit and squeezed herself beneath the wall and his arm so she could see what was going on. Nell had brought the ship around to join with the multitude of ships that were arrayed in a semi-organized fashion in their united goal to keep the Delkrit from destroying the gate. No matter which race this sector belonged to, the Delkrit were everybody’s enemy, and if the gate fell anyone within it would be stranded somewhere between here and the gate they left from, with no way to know how far they’d been tossed off course. And that was if they survived the gate’s collapse at all. It wasn’t lost on Xendri that had they not exited the gate when they did, that could easily have been their fate. As a spacefaring vessel, they owed it to whomever might be travelling through that gate to do what they could to ensure it didn’t shut down unexpectedly.

“Captain?” Nell questioned.

“You have any skill with guns?” Claw asked her and she nodded without taking her eyes off the task ahead of her. “Then use your best judgement,” he told her.

Xendri held her breath as Nell brought the Silent Serpent within firing range and strafed to the left, using the ship’s lasers for all they were worth. She left a few small explosions in her wake and managed to avoid being shot out of the sky. Xendri allowed herself to breathe again only when they were again skirting away from the horrifying cold and impersonal-looking Delkrit city, which fired at them only because its sensors detected their proximity, not because it ‘felt threatened’ or even felt anything at all. Xendri shuddered.

Just then, a team of Enbi ships swooped past them, so close their sudden appearance took Xendri’s breath right back out of her and Captain Claw swore audibly. Tiny one-man vessels, the Enbi fighter-ships were like a swarm of bees compared to the Delkrit city and just as angry, but as Xendri learned a moment later, they weren’t what had Nell or the Captain’s attention.  

“Shit, is that a Terran dreadnought?”

Between one breath and the next, by far the largest ship Xendri had ever seen popped into the sector, blocking out her view of this system’s sun. It was easily the width of the Delkrit vessel, if not wider, and it towered upwards as well, like a giant ark without sails. The words, ‘The Olympus’ were painted on the side, each letter easily the size of their own meager cargo ship.

“Wait, that gives me an idea,” Claw declared. “Nell, open up a communication to that Terran vessel.”

Nell’s eyes went wide at the command, but she followed it and hailed the Terran ship, even as she kept them moving, so as to make a difficult target for Delkrit guns.

The Silent Serpent by J.A. Dowsett – Part 1

It’s time for another short story! This one’s not a pre-quel, or attached to any book at all, it’s a stand-alone sci-fi adventure following a group of characters that have been bouncing around in my head for a while. Please, enjoy! For more about me, just look around, or check our authors page here. 

***

The Silent Serpent hurtled through space at a speed only made possible by Jump technology. The old cargo hauler shuddered in protest at the velocity, but the pilot, Nell, paid the vessel no mind. Instead, her golden-green cat eyes were narrowed lazily over the cards in her hand as she deliberated her next play, her metal-tipped tail twitching idly.

Xendri watched her carefully, but the black and gold tortoiseshell cat, or Pentaurii as her race was called, gave nothing away by her expression; she was good at this game. Nell played the Queen of Spades, placing it on the foldout tray between them in the cockpit. Xendri frowned, looking between the cards at play and the ones in her hand before realizing all of a sudden that she’d been outmaneuvered. There was no way she could win now.

Xendri clicked her tongue in displeasure, speaking a few less-than-polite words in her native language before standing. “I’m going to check on the cargo.”  

“Cargo?” Nell questioned. “We’re mid-jump. It’s not going anywhere.”

“Yeah, but I haven’t seen it yet.”

Nell rolled her eyes. “Suit yourself.” Yawning, she put her hand of cards down as she turned to inspect the ship’s controls, absently going through the motions her job as thes ship’s secondary pilot required.

Xendri left her there and swung out into the main body of the ship, nimbly making her way to the ladder that led down into the detachable cargo bay.   

“Hey, Kiddo,” a deep male voice rumbled, catching her off guard. “Where you goin’?”

Looking up, Xendri found one of the loaders, a human man named nicknamed Quattro, looking at her curiously. He was much taller than her, six feet to her four, well-muscled, and he wore a impressive-looking pistol on his belt. Despite all that, there was no malice in his expression or in his glowing purple eyes, so she decided to let the ‘nickname’ he’d chosen for her slide, for now.

“Looking around,” she answered briefly. “Stretching my legs.”

Quattro nodded. “Yeah, gets a little boring in Jump-space, doesn’t it? Alright, go on then. Can’t hurt nuthin’.”

But Xendri wasn’t listening to him any longer; her eyes had fixated on the other device his belt contained. “Hey, can I borrow that?” she asked, gesturing with her chin.

Quattro looked down, confused. “You mean the scanner?” He unhooked it and tossed it to her. “Sure thing, Kiddo, knock yourself out.”

Xendri nodded, catching and pocketing the device before scurrying down the ladder, dismissing the burly loader from her thoughts. She took the ladder rungs two at a time and jumped the rest of the way to the floor of the cargo bay, landing gracefully on all fours before standing and making sure she was alone. The cargo bay was quiet; the only sound the occasionally creak to remind her that they were still moving very very fast, even if the floor beneath her feet felt stationary. She tapped the metal-plated floor with her foot as if to test the artificial gravity, but it felt the same as standing on any other surface. Space travel was weird that way, the universe had no up and down, but people made their own. Xendri wasn’t sure she’d ever really get used to it. She shrugged and pulled the scanner device out of her pocket, fiddling with the dials and buttons until she got the display to show what she wanted.

Walking slowly between the long cargo containers that filled the bay, Xendri let the scanner device do its thing, even going so far as to climb on top of one of the massive containers to scan closer to the middle.

“That’s odd,” Xendri muttered after some time spent in contemplation of what the hand-held device was telling her.

Eyes still on her findings, Xendri climbed back down off the crate, then back up the ladder to the rest of the ship. There was no sign of Quattro, but she wasn’t looking for him anyways; she went straight for the Captain’s quarters.

To be continued… 

Unmoored by Justine Alley Dowsett – Part 2 (of 6)

Part one of this short story is here. If you want to know more about the author, click here. If you’d like to learn more about the novel Uncharted for which this is a prequel to, click here. Otherwise, read on!

“Poker’s a Lord’s game,” Dagan sneered as he turned his seat over to the stranger. “Do you even know how to play, Renaud?”

“How hard can it be?” Renaud demanded jovially, noting the barest of smiles on the face of his new opponent. “Watch and learn, Dagan, watch and learn.”

The newcomer busied himself shuffling the cards he fished out of his pocket, but Ginny was quick to put a stop to that. “We don’t allow people a chance to cheat here, mister.” The round-bottomed barkeep slid a fresh deck of playing cards onto the table. “You use house cards or you take your game elsewhere. This is a reputable establishment.”

The man scowled but didn’t hesitate in swapping his own cards for those provided to him. That’s why I love coming to this place. Gives everyone a fair shake. Renaud watched the man shuffle again and deal the cards out, keeping a close eye out for foul play. Hmm, he either wasn’t planning on cheating in the first place, or he’s all set to rely on his skill as a poker player to best me. Either way, that means he’s going to be a challenge, and I’m already what, three drinks in? Four?

I’ll just have to make my new friend catch up!

They played for a couple of hours, Renaud plying his newfound friend with drinks while drinking less and less himself. Dagan watched for the first hour, but thankfully wandered away when neither side was making much headway against the other. Renaud wasn’t daunted, however. He still had winnings left to bid, and as it turned out, it didn’t take ‘Lord’ Christian Vellaire long to lose himself to liquor.

“An Ismeran Lord, eh?” Renaud clarified. “What brings you to the Crow’s Nest? I thought lord-types usually stayed up at the big house on the hill.”

“Turrell Manor? Not my style, friend,” Christian replied. “I just came from the Casino in Wilkesport.”

“All the way from Welland?” Renaud exclaimed. “That’s a long trip, but it does explain how you’re so good at poker!”

Renaud had learned from his wife, a minor Ismeran noble herself, but there was no sense in telling his opponent that.

“Yeah,” Christian slurred. “I won a boat my last night there. Decided to take her up the coast, but I don’t know the first thing about sailing!” He laughed. “Cost me more to hire a Captain than it did to win the damn thing.”

A boat. Renaud sat up straight at the word. Does he mean a ship? A real ship?

“Oh?” Renaud aimed for nonchalance and fell just shy of it. “What kind of boat?”

“Oh, you know,” Christian shuffled and dealt the next hand as he spoke. “One of those tall ships. Not very large, but a proper boat and not a fishing vessel, I made sure of that!”

Renaud put his hands flat on top of the other man’s cards before he could pick them up. “If it’s a Captain you’re looking for…” he said with all hint of triviality gone.

Christian narrowed his eyes shrewdly, despite the large quantity of drink he’d consumed. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll bet my boat against everything you’ve got left there; winner keeps all.”

“Are you serious?!” Renaud looked down at his pile of winnings, which really had grown somewhat since he’d started playing against Christian and hadn’t been inconsequential to start with. Still, it paled in comparison to what a real ship would cost him.

“As a sword through the heart,” Christian told him. “You see, the real reason I wanted that boat was a fast trip out of Southern Ismera. Things are heating up down there, with Vance Chappelle struggling to hold the throne he stole. I didn’t want to get conscripted, or killed,” he added with a conspiratorial wink, “by either side.”

“So you came to Turrellin, which has declared neutrality,” Renaud finished for him.

“That’s right,” Christian nodded, “and now I’ve got no reason to be paying to dock, nor man, a boat I have no intention of using again. So,” he moved Renaud’s hands away from his cards so he could pick them up, “you win this next hand, and the tub’s all yours.”

Come back next week (or subscribe to this blog) for part 3!

The Terrible, Mighty Crystal by Sharon Ledwith – Part 7 (of 8)

Have you been keeping up with this serial short story? If you’re just getting started, Part 1 is here. If you want to learn more about Sharon Ledwith, here’s her website. Sharon Ledwith has two great series worth checking out. This short story is a prequel of sorts to her The Last Timekeepers time travel series. The character of Shu-tu reappears in Legends of the Timekeepers.

Amiee rushed after Shu-Tu, tackled her to the stone floor, and then straddled her thin body. Shu-Tu hit the back of her head, yet still held the firestone tightly to her chest. A sharp pain went up her neck while Amiee tried to wrestle the six-sided crystal away from her, bashing her back against the cool, hard stone floor. Suddenly, Shu-Tu lost her grip and the firestone was in Amiee’s possession.

“I…I saved you from the wyvern, and this…this is how you repay me?” Shu-Tu wiped away her tears. “How…how could I have been so blind not to see this side of you or Segferd?”

“I wouldn’t worry about it, Shu-Tu.” Amiee smirked wickedly. “In a moment, you won’t be able to see anything.”

Amiee raised the firestone over her head and whacked Shu-Tu in the middle of the forehead. A pain she had never known before seared through her eyes to the back of skull and down her spine. Shu-Tu started twitching as soon as Amiee got off her. Suddenly, she felt her eyes move around and around, as if they were immersed in a goblet of water. Warm liquid, she knew was her own blood, dripped down the sides of her face. Panicking, Shu-Tu slapped the cool stone floor repeatedly, trying to fight off the pain, trying to understand what was happening to her. She sat up, roughly wiped away the blood from her face, and placed both hands over her eyes. Shu-Tu’s skin tingled all over. She could feel her eyes moving quickly, spinning around in their sockets, juggling and bouncing, until they both crossed. Her purpose, the reason why she had been born, everything became crystal clear. Her sight became her insight, her sacrifice became her gift.

Shu-Tu inhaled deeply, and pointed at Amiee. “You will bear a dark-hearted son named Belial who will teach Atlantis to worship pleasure and ease over love and respect. Unfortunately, Amiee, you die during childbirth, and will never know him. And you—” she pointed to Segferd, her eyes spun around and around “—were responsible for preparing a tainted crystal pellet to give to your father to poison the water my father drank. That is the reason why you away from class last week. You, Segferd, will be swallowed by the earth by the next full moon.”

“Have you gone mad, Shu-Tu?” Segferd asked, squeezing the rod.

“By the looks of her spinning eyeballs, I’d say she’s half-way there,” Amiee said, snickering. “Maybe you should put the poor child out of her misery, Segferd.”

He nodded sharply just as the ground started to shake again. The crystals above vibrated to such a degree of high intensity, Shu-Tu swore a chorus of the best singers in Atlantis were in the room with them. She reached out to stop herself from shaking. Surprisingly, she wasn’t afraid.

“If you both want to live to use the firestone for your noble acts, I suggest you leave now,” Khem said calmly. “I will take care of Shu-Tu for you. After all, hybrids are here to serve.”

Segferd shoved the rod’s forked end under Khem’s throat. “Now you’re getting the idea, baboon-breath. Kill the girl with this rod and leave no trace of us being here, or you’ll wish you were never created.”

Khem put his hands together. “As you wish.”

Segferd sneered, then tossed the baboon-headed rod at Khem’s feet. Shu-Tu jerked at the metallic clanging sound.

“Come on, Segferd!” Amiee yelled from the bottom of the stairs. “Let’s get out of here before the chamber caves in!”

The last thing Shu-Tu heard was the sound of hurried footsteps running up the granite stairs before the world as she knew it turned pitch black.

Wrapping up 2017 – Here’s what you have to look forward to!

November 1st, 2017

images3‘Tis the season… for Submissions! Here’s another reminder, we’re opening our submissions season November 1st, so if you have a manuscript you think we’ll love, send it our way! We’ve written a whole blog post on this topic and what we’re looking for this year here, so go over and check that out or head over to our website to read over our submissions page. Our whole team is itching to start reading what you have to send us! Submissions will remain open until we’ve found our 2018 line up or the year ends, whichever comes first!

 

November 4th and 5th, 2017

This weekend we’ll be in London, Ontario for the Southwesto Book Expo! We’ll have our entire collection with us, so if there are any books you are looking to pick up and you’re in the region, this is a great opportunity to come out and see us! Also, we’ve been asked by the Expo and the London Writers’ Society to make ourselves available to listen to queries and pitches from authors, so if you’d like to speak to us or hand your submission in IN PERSON this is your opportunity to do so! Either way, we look forward to meeting you!

 

terriblemightycrystal-5101 (1)November 9th, 2017

If you’ve been enjoying the short serial fiction stories on this blog lately, you’ll be pleased to learn that Sharon Ledwith is the author of the next one starting November 9th! Titled The Terrible Mighty Crystal, Sharon’s short serial is a prequel to her well-loved time travel series, The Last Timekeepers.

 

wg1November 13th to 17th, 2017

As you may or may not know, we’ve recently released the finale to Joshua Pantalleresco’s epic series, The Watcher. The third and final book is called The Wandering God and is now available in our store and online wherever you buy books. And, on November 13th, we’re kicking off a blog tour for The Wandering God, so you can learn more about it, read excerpts, get sneak peeks at the art, and read guests posts and interviews from Joshua Pantalleresco about his epic journey in writing this epic series.

 

November 17th to 24th, 2017

Following the blog tour for The Wandering God, we’re pleased to be able to celebrate the launch and blog tour for the fourth installment in the Nikki Landry Swamp Legends Series! Nikki and Snooper are back and this time they’re on an adventure THROUGH TIME in The Mystery on Lost Lagoon! We’ll reveal the cover for this book next week on November 6th,  so keep your eyes open for that!

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Date TBA, 2017

We haven’t yet hammered out an official release date, but we’re pleased to announce that Nate Friedman, author of The Coffee Monster, has another book coming soon! The Last Hockey Fight is a short chapter book for children who like both reading and hockey! Illustrated and written by the author and set in our hometown of Windsor, this book is sure to be hit this holiday season!

 

The Months of November and December, 2017.

It’s that time of year again! We’re hosting our very own holiday SALE!!! So if there are any titles you are waiting to pick up, December is the time to do it! Use code HOLIDAY2017 in our bookstore for 25% off ALL TITLES, paperbacks and ebooks alike!

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Death Takes the Highway by David McLain – Part 6

My apologies for this being the only post this week. I’m just recovering from a short illness. As always, you can find part 1 of this short story here. Or if you like David McLain’s style, please consider his hilarious time travel fantasy, The Time Traveller’s Resort and Museum

Then, keep reading… 

They stopped for dinner in Gary, Indiana, at a place that specialized in Fried Chicken. William felt better than he had in weeks. Checking his reflection in the bathroom mirror, he noticed that his eyes were clearer looking, and that his shoulders looked a little broader. His hands were distinctly less gnarled, and his fingernails didn’t have that yellow quality that they’d had in recent years. He looked like a man of seventy, maybe sixty five. Death looked better too. They looked less like two men at the end of their lives, and more like two guys in their golden years who were enjoying life. There was no doubt about it, the car might be going forward, but the miles were rolling back.

“Where are we staying tonight?” William asked.

“We’re near the city,” Death said. “I thought we’d find someplace nice.”

They stayed in a beautiful hotel in Downtown Chicago, where their room had a giant flat screened television and a little kitchen. They had a few drinks and some dessert in the hotel restaurant before heading upstairs. A young waitress with crooked teeth took their order, and was very nice to them. William found himself in a good mood.

“You’re a good guy,” he said to Death after his second drink.

“Thanks,” Death said.

“Most people don’t like you,” he added. He probably shouldn’t have said this, but it seemed like a fairly obvious point.

“It’s never a good day when I come around,” Death said. “But that isn’t my fault.”

“Is this just what we do now?” William asked. “Drive around from place to place, having a good time?”

“No,” Death said, and he had a serious look on his face. “This is merely the journey.”

This sobered William up a little. “Then what comes next?” he asked.

“You’ll see,” Death said.

In the morning William was pleased to see that some of the hair had filled in on the top of his head. It wasn’t so much that you’d notice, or really care, but it was nice to see. Some of it, he noticed, was brown instead of gray. The veins which had seemed so close to the surface in his hands and his feet seemed more subdued.  Death was still getting younger too. They got up early, had breakfast in the hotel, and headed for downtown Chicago.

Death was clear that they didn’t have a lot of time to waste, but Chicago is a beautiful city, so they stopped and went to the art museum. William had never been there before, and he enjoyed wandering around, looking at priceless works of art. Somewhere in between an Edward Hopper painting and a Suerat, William thought of something.

“All these painters,” he whispered so that only Death could hear. “They’re all dead?”

“Yes,” Death said, “I suppose that they are.”

“So you met them all?”

“At one point or another,” Death reflected.

“How’d they take it?” William asked.

Death considered this. “Most came quietly. A few fought tooth and nail. One or two grinned at me like I was a long lost relative. I tell you one thing though- none of them seemed surprised.”

“Is that so?”

“Not even the ones I had to drag out of bars,” Death said. “Although I suppose if you spent that much time in bars, you shouldn’t be surprised.”

They spent the morning looking at paintings, then had lunch at a tapas restaurant downtown. William had never had tapas before. It was nice. After that, they headed south, toward Saint Louis.

Death Takes the Highway by David McLain – Part One

You may recall us featuring some short stories. Here’s a quick list to where you can find them:

The Hunting Dog by Rita Monette
The Queen’s Intent by Justine Alley Dowsett
The Arranged Marriage by Justine Alley Dowsett
The Eye of the Storm by Justine Dowsett

And now, we bring you Death takes the Highway by David McLain, author of The Time Traveller’s Resort and Museum

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

-Emily Dickinson

Although no one knew it, William Hershel was going to die at three fifty-eight on January the thirteenth, at Wilson Hospital in Johnson City, New York, just after his daughter stepped out of the room for a minute to go to the bathroom and freshen up a little. The hospice nurse would tell her that this was very common. In as much as people had a choice, and it wasn’t really clear that they did, they seemed to choose to die when their relatives were out of the room, even if there had been someone with them all day, and they had only been left alone for a few seconds. It wasn’t clear why they did that, but the nurse said she had seen it time and time again.

If anyone had asked William Hershel, at say, three fifty four on that same day, why people choose to die during that one moment when they were alone, he would have been glad to tell them. It was for the same reason that you closed the door when you were going to the bathroom, or taking a shower, or making love. When we are forced to show our biological side, we prefer to be alone. Since the age of fourteen, William Hershel’s daughter had closed the door while brushing her teeth, she could hardly expect William to shuffle off his mortal coil while she watched, for goodness sake. If his wife had been there, that might have been different, but William Hershel had no wife. He’d been married once, but that had been over for almost a decade, and his ex-wife had declined to visit him, which was just as well. That left him dying, at three fifty-fifty eight on January the Thirteenth, exactly two weeks shy of his eighty-first birthday.

To look at him was less like looking at a man, and more like staring at an empty husk. His body was broken, his bones were gnarled, his hair was gone. His teeth were rotten, and his organs were failing quickly. There were tubes coming out of every conceivable part of him, and he smelled terrible. Dignity had been the last thing to go, but when it had gone, it had left completely. All you had to do was take one look at him, and you knew it was time. He had heard his daughter making the sorts of plans that you didn’t want to here being made about yourself. He knew that she had been in touch with a funeral home, that she’d talked to the hospice nurse about what would happen next. He’d heard her say something about how he’d worked hard, so very hard, all his life.  He knew that she had her own life and she wanted to get back to it. He felt bad that he had taken up so much of her time these past few years.

In real life, last words are rarely significant in any way whatsoever. In fact, in modern medical terms, just being able to say last words often meant that you were not really ready to die just yet. The closest thing William Hershel had to last words was an unheard gurgle at roughly three fifty-five. It was indicative of a small amount of air leaving his lungs as his organs shut down.     

     ‘I’m still here,’ William thought. ‘I’m still here.’

It is, or at any rate, it should be, a great privilege to be coherent during the last few minutes of your life, and, technically, William Hershel was. He hadn’t opened his eyes for three days, but nonetheless, his thoughts were still there. When his daughter had held his hand and cried earlier that day, he’d felt it and he’d heard it and he knew what was happening. Three fifty-six came and went without as much as a flicker. That left three fifty-seven. What do you do with your penultimate minute on earth? It turned out William Hershel celebrated by feeling his heart stop beating. It was the strangest feeling, a little bit like holding your breath, only much, much worse. His daughter would be on her way back to the room in just another minute or so, but it didn’t matter. He wasn’t going to wait that long.

William Hershel, born in San Clemente, California, died at three fifty-eight, almost exactly, but this was just the beginning.

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Join us next week, or subscribe for the rest of this short serial fiction!!

David McLain is the author of the novel Dragonbait and The Time Traveller’s Resort and Museum. He grew up New York, California,  Transylvania, and France. He studied writing at The University of Massachusetts and at Purchase College, where he also directed a production of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. He lives in New York with a female painter and a small dog.