Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Flight of the Cosmonaut by David Wright

Now this looks promising. Flight of the Cosmonaut by David Wright, available for Kindle via Amazon or any e-pub format via Smashwords.

Historical fiction by David Wright
Georgi Petrov is a brave, young Soviet test pilot recruited into the secret cosmonaut corps to make history as the first man in space, or die trying. But after a few short weeks of training behind the Iron Curtain, he quickly finds himself caught in a dangerous world of volatile rockets, lethal KGB agents, tyrannical commanders and mysterious rocket scientists. How many lives are they willing to sacrifice to achieve their ambitious goals and who will be the next to die? But if Georgi ever hopes to escape his violent past and start a new life with the green-eyed girl of his dreams, he has to take this one desperate chance for glory. He has to make this last flight of the Cosmonaut.

Rethinking the Familiar Book Tour | By Joanne Kaufman -

Rethinking the Familiar Book Tour | By Joanne Kaufman -

'via Blog this'

Thanks for finding this article, Kathe Koja.

Monday, November 28, 2011

"Hollow" by Chris Castle

Sheriff  Tusk made up his flask of coffee as the sun came up. No more ‘whiskey drips’ though; that was a thing of the past. Tusk had made a promise to himself to keep a clear head. He made his way to the car, dropping the bag in the back seat, the murder file on the seat behind him.
He drove along the interstate, thankful the traffic was light. The radio was playing, although he gave it little attention. Eventually he clicked the dial off. On the back seat the file lay sprawled; after a while he felt the static from it fill the car; the screams, the restless chatter. He pulled off the interstate and headed into the woods.
They said he worked as a landscape gardener. The press, always so keen to jump on any quirk, seized upon that, over everything else. The killer’s actual history, his upbringing, teenage years, all paled to that one line. The lurid nicknames began, the macabre jokes were told. Even before his guilt was confirmed, his history was established for the lurid paperbacks and cultural references set for the future. Tusk had always been indifferent to the newspapermen, but now it left a dark, metallic taste in his mouth. A nightmare, one of the few he ever had, set in. It was not the killer that haunted him; he was more a solitary, secondary figure. No, it was the hacks that circled the bodies that caused him to jolt upright into life at three in the morning. ‘The ghouls’ with their notepads open, their pencils ready. Bu it was their fingers that flavoured the nightmare: Long, wiry and hungry.
Edward Delbee was such a humdrum name for a murderer. Perhaps that’s why the newsies were so desperate for a nick-name. An unremarkable man whose voice was low and drifting, almost sounding on the verge of sleep, no matter what it was that he said. His eyes were not lit; there was no manically charismatic smile. He was simply a plain, greyed man who had chosen to kill twelve innocent people. Tusk wondered if it was just that, the sheer mundane nature of the man’s life, which had driven him to it, rather than some blazing, murderous impulse. Perhaps, it was the only way he could be alive. 
Tusk parked the car and paid for the ticket. The park itself was a sprawling, beautiful thing. Once, before he had been sheriff, he had made love to a girl named Laurie Rocks amongst the conifer trees. Tusk had never told anyone; that one afternoon with the girl he hardly knew had been the finest love-making of his life.  As ferocious as it was temporary and like no other feeling in the world. Tusk lit a cigarette and smoked it in the car park, then lifted the bag from the trunk, jamming the file from the back seat in as best he could amongst the tools.
Delbee simply waited until the evidence was overwhelming, then simply agreed with what he was being accused of. Tusk had been in the room, though had not asked the questions leading up to his final statement. The feeling of anti-climax was overwhelming. Even the blow his partner landed on Delbee’s cheek was a half-hearted, almost apologetic thing.
And then came the sketches.
Delbee was not a talker. He said ‘thank you’ for his meals and that was it. So when he the paperwork was being filed and the recurring motif of a tree appeared on whatever paperwork had been issued for him to sign, Tusk jumped on it immediately. His partner raised his doubts, claiming Tusk simply wanted something more, some gloss, to the whole sorry affair, in order to give it more meaning. Foakes had said, good naturedly, that nothing upset Tusk more than a boring murder. But it shook him all the same, the neat, careful, sketches, in a way he could not quite fully articulate.
This was when Edward Delbee changed. Whether he showed his true colours, or whether it was simply another layer to an already broken mind, it was hard to say. All Tusk really knew, was that something revealed itself in Delbee when he showed him the sketches, all copied and cut and pasted into one montage. It was as if something else, something primal, tore out of the grey skin and into the light. The body of the killer remained the same that much was certain. Scientifically, nothing had changed. And yet…and yet when Tusk stood three feet from the man, clutching the sketches, it was like standing in a room with another man; no being trapped in the same room. He mumbled at first, as if the words were bubbling out of his throat, out of his control. Tusk had an idea if it had gone on much longer, he would have foamed at the mouth. His eyes remained flat and cold, but for once they were full of movement, scanning each picture as if it retained codes in each tidy branch.
And then there was his skin.
It retained its grey, dull texture, all right, but Tusk saw something else underneath the surface, that in his mind, burned bright. It was almost rippling under the surface, trying to break free. Tusk had the idea the man’s whole body was on the verge of something, on the point of tipping over into something else entirely. Tusk drew the paper back and folded it back into neat squares. He watched the killer the whole time; for a moment he had the feeling of being one of his victims, such was the naked fury and hunger in the man’s eyes. If he had taken his eyes off him, he would have seized on Tusk, he had no doubt of that. He pushed the paper lower, out of sight into his pocket and like a spring shower, everything slipped away in seconds and the pallid skeleton returned to the seat. The host gone, Tusk thought.
Tusk asked the man where the tree was. He asked casually, not wanting to reveal the need he felt to track it down. Somewhere inside him had the idea that this place was terribly important and that he needed to see it and maybe, deal with it in some way. The man looked him over and just as casually told him the location, where the tree was, down to the nearest inch. Tusk held his eye and got a good sense he was not lying. Another cop would have asked more questions, the whys and wherefore questions. Hell, the real questions. Instead, Tusk simply nodded and turned out of the room, his mind playing over the image of the man he had finished speaking to and the wholly different beast that reared up inside him with the sketches.
It was evidence.
What they had discussed was evidence, or at least pertinent to the investigation. Tusk knew that and kept walking. The paper in his pocket itched, almost burned against him. He signed out for the day, tossing idle chit-chat back and forth as his brain played with his career. Tusk drove home, talking himself out of going to the park, letting sleeping dogs lie and all the rest of it. He parked the car and immediately started loading his tool bag.
The walk into the woods was bracing, almost pleasant. Tusk tried to keep himself calm; even as he twisted off the recognised paths, he told himself his heart stayed on an even keel. As he stepped into the mulch, his feet slipping slightly, he noted how the angles of the branches cut-off a good deal of the sunlight. He walked on, tumbling out of the day and into the darkness of the woods. Tusk acknowledged that his heart surged a little. He gripped tighter to the bag, trying not to shiver as the shade rode over him.
‘What they felt, we could not say.’
The words Tusk had issued to the press half-way through the investigation. Some quarters took him to task with the statement, others praised the non-sensational tone. In truth, it summed up everything he felt about the case. The slim, perfect divide between being a victim and being a witness to such cruelty. It had always been that way, Tusk felt.
Until now.
Standing before the tree, Tusk froze. It was not quite fear, not quite panic, either. It was dread, pure and simple. He looked up to the monster and saw everything that was wrong and dark taken shape. The bark was a thick, pus-like tone, oozing without dripping. The nooks and crevices were empty, terrible places; not natural indentations as much as scars, scooped out and left to weep, rather than heal. The branches were distended paws, hungry and reaching, the twigs more like blades, needy and sharp.
But worst was the hollow.
Somewhere towards the center of the thing was a space. It had not been carved, nor had it been emptied, not in any natural way. Instead, it seemed simply…vacant, as if waiting to be stuffed and sated. It was a gaping place; slack jawed but twitching and ready. The monster pulsed; Tusk understood then, as eager to be fed, as certain as it was that it would always be supplied.
The other, unnatural sensation that shrouded tusk then, was pain. The pain of the twelve the monster, through Delbee, had taken. The fury of their pain, the rush of how their lives had been seized so unfairly, so coarsely, blazed over him. It rocked Tusk onto the balls of his feet, almost toppling him back onto the thick, wet ground. He kept his balance, pressing against the force, knowing that to fall, to succumb, to the sodden place around him, would be the end of him. No wind shuddered, no rain fell; it was as if the world had been cut off from this one, secluded, dirtied place. It was, Tusk understood, a sliver of Hell, sustained and gone unchecked, unnoticed for too long a time.
A small part of his mind felt the insanity of the situation and almost made him laugh. It was the stuff of poorly developed fairy tales, spook stories drafted to warn off the young and vital lovers. Yet the darkness was overwhelming, a current he had only ever experienced before in the hum before a storm. Though he had stood his ground, Tusk became aware that the hollow seemed to be closer; the void loosening all around him. It would not be long before it was over him and then he would simply cease to be, he understood that. Tusk forced himself rigid, buckling against the black, thinking of the victims, the families and the anger that crackled through him at being lured here into Delbee’s trap.
One hand gripped onto the tool bag, then another. Amongst the stilled rage that gathered around him, Tusk pulled the tools from the bag; he roared in pain and felt something, a bone snap someplace inside him. Still, he pushed on. Even though he was inside Hell, Tusk did not lapse into any mode religion; he did not go cap in hand for prayers. Instead, he repeated the names of the twelve over and over; the motion of their names gave him strength, the grind of each letter propelled his body forward. He screamed as he uncapped the fluid, recoiled as the lighter latched onto the liquid.
It burned.
No, not quite burned; it died. Tusk stepped away, not to a safe distance, not by any means; he had to be close by. The flames tore into the ripe bark, setting onto it like hungry dogs. The fire crawled over every aspect of it, wearing it like a cloak. Tusk did not want to see what came next, but knew he had to, all the same. He was something else then; a witness to the victim’s revenge.
The tree was pared down in the heat. From it, each of the twelve burst into life, racing across the timber of the monster, each of them party to hauling it down and dismantling its frame. There was no emotion in their faces, no savage joy in what they did. It was a task, he thought, brining down Hell in order to restore any trace of heaven. On and on it went, the vapours of the twelve bodies racing through the smoke, tearing strips and clutching broken limbs. On and on it went; as a final statement the pages from the murder file drifted casually into the hollow of its heart, clogging it up with substance before searing it to nothing with the flame. Then it was done.
Tusk allowed himself to fall onto the ground; with the monster nothing but ashes now, the ground surrounding it returned to its natural state. The fire had not spread; there was no risk of it latching onto the real, thriving flora. The flames had contained themselves to dispatching one terrible item and one alone. Tusk listened for sirens that did not come, policemen or passers-by that did not materialise. Soon, he would pick himself up and walk back to the daylight. Something inside him understood that far from the forest, Edward Delbee had slipped away; his heart stopped short, the last link removed. There would be no more chains to lead to this place. But still, he pulled the last remaining sketch from his pocket, the copied montage, and held his lighter under it. As it burned to ash, he thought he heard a faint trace of a scream, little more than whisper, then nothing. It was over. But still he sat and waited, circling the patch with his eyes; he looked for any ash that looked as if it could flicker into something else, something more than dead matter.
Tusk sat.
Tusk waited.     

 The End

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Third Coast Publishing

Third Coast Publishing:

Recently heard about a new e-publisher called Third Coast Publishing. Big advantage over doing it yourself is the active promotion. Short and long fiction and non-fiction imprints. My understanding is they supply the Kindle market and are exploring Nook options, too. Competitive rates. Check them out and see if they are right for you.

Guide to Writing Competitions, Literary Agents & More | Poets & Writers

Guide to Writing Competitions, Literary Agents & More | Poets & Writers:

'via Blog this'

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Heath Lowrance on blog radio (TODAY!)

Heath Lowrance, author of The Bastard Hand, Dig Ten Graves, as well as some terrific short weird westerns and weirder zombie tales, will be interviewed today on blog radio.

Here's the link:

And here's his mug:

Look at him.  Listen to him.  Read him.  Then find something else he wrote and read him again.  Here endeth the lesson.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

Angelica's Fire by Chris Castle

Angelica’s Fire
Diary: 19/08.
When I helped Angelica up the last rung of the ladder I remembered when I was a kid, playing with my brother. I was always sad and climbing that last step felt like I was readying for the hangman’s noose. Today’s the first time I scaled the tree and didn’t feel frightened. It’s all because of Angelica, I guess. She doesn’t know that and I won’t tell her, but somehow we still both know when we look into each other’s eyes. And that’s what Love is, isn’t it? When we reach the top and look out to the fields, I look into her eyes and it’s all I can see, all I can think about. Her eyes fill my heart up so much; I don’t even notice the first plumes of smoke trailing up into the sky behind her face.
No-one builds tree houses anymore, do they? That’s why it’s the perfect place for the two of us to lay low for a few days. I never imagined running away, much less being an outlaw! Angelica has a way of making me do things that I would never normally imagine doing-see above, about Love!-and then after I’ve done them, I wonder why I didn’t do it before. Does that make sense? I’ve never been the brightest, but then I’ve always been pretty and done things for people, so it’s never been a problem.
Before I met Angelica, I never stopped doing things for people; chores, favours, smiles. It seemed like I helped out everywhere, too; my family, the church, the school. I don’t know when it started, but then I did things for people in the night, too. I knew what I did was bad even when everyone whispered it felt good; the same way I knew it was wrong and they had no right. But when you’re pretty it seems like everyone feels like they own you and want a piece of you. And by the time you’re suffering and hurting and don’t want them to do what they do anymore, it’s already too far along and too many secrets have been built around you.
That’s how it felt like for a long time, you know? Like I was wrapped up in everyone else’s dirty secrets and I was…cocooned in them, or something. One set of guilty eyes looked at another set of hungry eyes, while I was somewhere in the middle. You know what it felt like? I felt like a net, when the shuttlecock sails over the top and out of touching distance: not that I was ever out of anybody’s reach. That was the strange thing about how they all acted; no-one looked in my eyes when they did what they did. Everywhere else, sure, but never in my eyes. I think someone said that the eyes were the window to the soul. Maybe it came from the church or the bible, or something, like that… but I don’t much believe in that sort of thing anymore.
Then Angelica found me.
Hmmm. Maybe that stuff I just mentioned about not believing in religion isn’t strictly true. Maybe, it’s more that I believe in something…like fate; because as soon as I saw her, I knew she was an angel! Not with wings or anything crazy like that, but just in the way she looked at me; always straight in the eye, dead centre. That was how I knew I could trust her. It’s funny the way the world works, though isn’t it? After all the times people hurt me and used me, damaged me and broke me up so bad and then, POP! Angelica lands in my little world and saves me!
Sometimes, I think about how lucky I am to have her in my life but sometimes it makes me sad, too. It makes me think about all the other people who get hurt and who wait for someone to come and save them and…no-one does. They go into the grave still looking, I think, still searching for someone to take them by the hand and lead them away from all that misery. That’s why I think so many people die wide-eyed and crazy looking; because they’re still searching. I don’t know for sure; I never was a big one for science or anything, but that’s what I think.
So, Angelica! I won’t describe her or anything like that, how she talks or how she walks. I mean, everyone likes different things, right; that’s why those guys created so many ice-cream flavours! I won’t go all sentimental or gooey, either. I’ve been through too much to hear the orchestra swell in the background when it comes to the heart, but I know what I know, all the same. All I can say, is that she never once tried to strike up a conversation and it got so bad that that all I wanted was to keep her talking. She never once tried to touch me and that made me crazy for her like nothing I’ve ever known. It was like whatever she did was real, you know? She didn’t have any…motive. That’s what all the rest of them had, with their greedy, hungry fingers and their down at the body-down at the floor-but never in the eyes looks the other folks all had; an agenda. Angelica never wanted anything from me and that made me want her more than the world itself.
And what about me? Well, I guess you’d have to ask her that, but I get the idea that Angelica needs to be with someone she can save. I don’t know if that’s because she needs to feel good, or remind herself there are some things worth saving, I mean, hell, I can’t read her mind, but I can read her eyes well enough and that’s what they tell me. Sometimes when she’s sleeping she’ll talk about things; the crazy part of it is, is that from time to time I’ll speak and she’ll answer me, too! Sometimes it’ll be things from the past and other times it’ll be taken straight from that very day. I never tell her in the morning what happened-as far as I know, she doesn’t even know she does it-but it frightens me a little, to think that we talk most true in her sleep. But I think it’s okay to have a little Fear in with your Love, to make it seem stronger. If you don’t feel anything else, then how do you know what’s best, right?
So how did we end up here, in this old tree house, with all this smoke billowing behind us in the sky? Well, it was Angelica’s idea, sure, but I won’t say I wasn’t part of it, to be sure. I guess one day we were talking and well, I kind of confessed about some of the things that went on between me and the folks back in our town. I think I’d been wanting to tell her for a long time, ever since we first came together really, but I never knew how…I mean, how can you? Is you’re ice-cream nice? Oh, by the way, one time, this dirty old man with a Zippo lighter…You see what I’m saying?
But then, on this one day, we were sitting under our favourite tree and the sun was low and warm and spreading across us like a blanket and I just told her. I told her everything, down to every last skirmish in the dark, every last bit of skin under the nail. I don’t know how long I was talking for, but I remember the sun had turned to shadow by the time I took my head away from her lap. I felt weird, sure; light, like I was still filled up with the sun. I told Angelica that and she told me that I felt lighter because I’d left behind my burden. I smiled and I didn’t know if it was true but it made me feel happy all the same. I told her I felt so light she’d have to hold my hand to stop me floating away, like some guy made of balloons. She held my hand for the rest of that day, that night and all the way into the dawn of the next day.  -See Love above!-
I thought things might be a little different between us after that day, but if anything, it made us stronger. I thought Angelica might recoil when I tried to touch her, or flinch when I kissed her lips, but instead it made us need each other more. We went on and then, the same way I told her my secret, one day she spoke of her plan. It was the only time I’d ever seen her look nervous and I couldn’t believe how young it made her look; like a kid! So, she told me this plan of hers and I listened and when it was over, we stood staring at each other like a couple of dumb kids trying to figure out a maths question and then I grabbed her and held her tight and we never looked back.
So, much like Love, I won’t tell you the ins and outs of Revenge, apart from to say our plan worked. The cabin where all those people hurt me is what burns outside now. I’m sitting perched on the edge of the tree house and dangling my legs over into the air-something else I was always scared of doing before I met her. I feel fearless now and that same sensation of lightness is washing over me. I look out to the burning cabin and then I take turns closing one eye and then the other, as if I’m winking to the smoke. With my left eye open, I see the memories and the evidence of what they did to me burning; the clothes they made me wear the photos they took, the rope that seared my skin. With my right eye open, I see their bodies burning, one in each room, drugged before, but now wide awake. I think I read somewhere that one side of our brain is for storing facts and the other side is for our imagination, but I could never remember which was which. But then, like I said, I never was for science.


The fires nearly out now and there’s nothing but smouldering ashes left. In a few minutes, we’ll be on our way and off to another town for our next adventure. The sirens haven’t drifted our way yet, but it’s only a matter of time, now. Angelica’s just finished carving into the wall of the tree house, next to my own, wonky message. Mine says: ‘Everything that is good is in you.’ Angelica’s says: ‘We will draw a veil across out sins.’ Apparently, hers is from the Koran, while mine’s from the heart. We look at them, standing side by side, and our hands link together. The smoke’s cleared now, so we can both see the letters in the summer evening. Satisfied, we turn and face the now empty field and start to descend the ladder, being careful and looking out for one another.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Psycho-Noir: No Rules: RON WARREN

Psycho-Noir: No Rules: RON WARREN:

I'm the guest-blogger over at Heath Lowrance's "Psycho-Noir" today. Check it out if you can. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cosmic Log - How strange can space-time get?

Cosmic Log - How strange can space-time get?:

'via Blog this'

This should be awesome! Brian Greene is quite the thinker.

Cosmic Log - City lights could point to E.T.

Cosmic Log - City lights could point to E.T.:

'via Blog this'

Turn on your heart-light.....

The End by Michael Priv

By Michael Priv

“Life is a circle, you know, the end is the beginning. I bet you didn’t know that, hah?” The stranger lifted his grimy Giant’s baseball cap and scratched the sweaty bald spot.

Giants’ fans are all crazy. And no, I didn’t know that life was a circle. How did he know? And who’d know these things anyway? They are unknowable, they are all extracurricular... I mean extra-whatchemacallit... anyway, darn complicated stuff. If it was easy, every stray dog and his mother would know this, including me.

“You an angel or something?” I croaked through my oxygen mask—slightly sarcastic and kind of witty.

“No, I am no angel,” the stranger laughed, “I am the cleaner from the cafeteria. Name’s Ed.”

“Go away, Ed,” I wheezed, “You shouldn’t be here.”

“I know, man! It’s just that you are kicking the bucket and somebody’s got to tell you things. Doctors don’t know and don’t wanna know. They want to believe that you’ll die. You are not going to really die, you hear me?”

I heard him. I felt weak and disoriented—complements of the drugs. All my insides ached.

“Go away, Ed.”

Ed continued as if he hadn’t heard me, “Listen, it doesn’t matter if you believe me or agree or not. Just listen. When you kick the bucket, you’ll be so damn confused that you’ll thank me for my instructions. Can you hear me?”

“No, I can’t.”

“Good. Rule number one: Don’t panic.”

I suddenly realized groggily that I was clutching the nurse’s call button in my hand, so I squeezed it. I had to get the crazy bum out of my room. What if he unplugged or unhooked something?

I heard the nurse outside the door. Thank God!

“Yeah, remember not to panic. Just figure things out, work them out. You’ll know what to do, you’ve done it all before. Rule number two,” Ed muttered low now—hurrying, “When you are ready, move to the ninth floor maternity ward and get a new body. You are on the fifth floor now. Go to the ninth. You did it a zillion times, just decide to be there and you’ll be there. You’ll know what to do when you get there. It’s easy, kind of like sneezing.”

Like sneezing? What a lunatic.

“Ed, what are you doing here? You know Mr. Smith?” The middle aged Philippina nurse asked Ed with her usual smile. Most of the care takers seem to come from the Philippines. They must know something we don’t over there.

“Yeah, Lilly, he’s a friend of mine. I’ll see you later, Mr. Smith, you’ll do great!” Ed patted me on the hand and shuffled off.

The nurse Lilly pocked around in the cluster of IVs and all the other gadgets they had me hooked up to, talking to me soothingly. I didn’t listen. I was dying. Damn pity, too. It seems dying never hits you at a good time.

I’d be seventy-six this March. A somewhat ripe age, although nowadays old geezers are clocking nineties and hundreds. Not me. I was never lucky in anything. Damn life was a bitch. Good thing my wife was dead already. Would probably be gloating now, looking at me. Kids were a drag, the job—waste of time. Driving a bus all my life! I never even had a proper hobby or anything. Just work-work-work. Sometimes drink-drink-drink. Where did the life go? Now dying from cancer. Bummer.

A tremendous wave of pain suddenly hit me, brutal even through the narcotic fog. The next wave that hit me was my own blood gushing from my mouth. I suddenly felt really high, really intoxicated. I vaguely perceived the commotion in the room, kind of looking from aside—doctors and nurses rushing every which way. I was drowning in my own blood. What a great frigging ending to a great frigging life. Shouldn’t I be terrified? Shouldn’t my life flash before my eyes or something? I was just numb.

I was dimly and apathetically aware of my lifeless body below. I felt vaguely ashamed and accountable for the utter failure of this life-time—all apathetically and emotionless-like, kind of dead.

I hung by the ceiling in the room I died in, morose, numb, overwhelmed with emotionless, dead self-pity. Time has stopped. Was it a day later now? Two days later? Or nights? In my present state time was meaningless. In my present state? What the hell WAS my present state? I definitely felt an emotion now. I was curious as to WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON? I remembered reading somewhere that emotions were a product of various chemicals in the brain. With a nostalgic ping I reminisced of good ol’ days when I still had a brain.

Then startled, I realized that I had a 360-degree vision—a highly disconcerting condition. Additionally, I was constantly moving, vibrating and oscillating. Panic and giddiness overwhelmed me. Ed told me not to panic. Got to love negative instructions! “Don’t catch cold!” or “Don’t get pregnant!” Brilliant.

I had no front or back, top or bottom. I had a 360-degree spherical vision and no sense of gravitational pull. First of all, I had to get used to the idea that I wasn’t “facing” in any direction. Having conquered that concept and hanging over the bed, I kind of reached to the upper corners of the room and fixed my position the best I could in relation to those corners. That stabilized me.

There was another patient in my bed now, a young, athletically built man with a broken leg, which did not seem to faze him very much as he was chattering away on his cell phone and hooting loudly. Lily was pattering around as usual.

I was suddenly taken by the lightness of my senses and by the beauty of everything I perceived, unfiltered through the crude body machinery. And not having to drag the old bag of bones around was pure joy. Somehow I was not surprised—it seemed the feeling of lightness, freedom and joy was not by any means new to me.

What’s next, the Pearly Gates? I suppose I was as ready as I’d ever be for the Pearly Gates except I clearly remembered Ed’s maternity ward instructions. That’s on the ninth floor. And the Pearly Gates? Who knows! At least I knew where the ninth floor was.

Let’s start anew! Let’s do away with the stupid, wretched John Smith’s life and the sooner the better! Back-breaking toil and thankless, loveless existence devoid of any joy, affection or gratitude—the nightmare of injustice instead of a life; the nasty, ungrateful hag for a wife, who held me to scorn as the blight of her existence. What of the relentless succession of days, months and years saturated with suffering? My wife... Christy... that monster! Of course there was that time when I was happy on a vacation with her once, for about two minutes. Actually that entire vacation was not completely unbearable. The wedding wasn’t entirely awful, either...The birth of my no good daughter... and son. Come to think of it, my childhood was fairly decent, too, except for my domineering and pompous parents.

It felt as if the floodgate had opened and waves of my last life-time memories washed over me. My parents, being a child, surrounded by comforting care and love, the Christmas presents, the warm hands and gentle hearts. Yeah, but what about..? Nope, that one was my doing, come to think of it. And with my wife Christy also, I guess, things went just fine till about the time I hooked up with that waitress, what’s her name? Linda? Lisa? Lucy? A total slut anyway—a trashy, greedy slut. Of course no denying that she was always there for me, even when later I got involved with that student chick, what’s-her-name, on a side.

What about driving that bus, all the hard, thankless and purposeless work? I seem to remember that I considered it kind of neat at first to help people get from where they were to where they wanted to be. Where did that go? And the hard, back-breaking labor? Honestly? Not really. As for the work being thankless, well...But what about the total lack of recognition from my peers, the ungrateful back-stabbers, and the stupid, greedy management?! Well, there was some of that... I probably should have injected a little more love into my work... a little more LIFE.

Actually, in retrospect, I had a somewhat decent life. Bearable. I remembered the prom night, ball games, parties, friends, my wife—so young and beautiful, so trusting and hopeful that she’d find happiness with me. Sorry, Christy, I loved you too, I really did... I still do! Hey, what do you know! I still do! No idea how it all slid sideways straight to Hell, honey, I am sorry. So very sorry... Tammy and little Nicky... Come to think of it, I had a great life as John Smith! I had it all! If I had just... I could have probably died a happy man. Hell, I could have probably LIVED a happy man!

I realized I was still in that same hospital room. The young stud with a broken leg was gone, replaced by an old lady. Geez! Did I look this bad too before I conked out? There was a bit of a commotion in the room. Oh, yeah, the old lady was covered in feces, they were washing her off now. Bodies! Nobody was noticing—or giving a rat’s ass—about me. I was gone forever as far as they were concerned. Not so as far as I was concerned. I was, in fact, very much alive, albeit immaterial and invisible, and felt new, fresh and rejuvenated.

Time to go. I decided to be on the ninth floor and there I was—thanks, Ed, old buddy! Where is my little bundle of joy? There! I saw a woman breastfeeding a baby. I put my “feelers” out on the baby’s head and decided to assume that body. It felt like a sneeze and there I was, working the new lips awkwardly. Was I a boy or a girl? Who cares! Food, m-m-m-m! I felt comfortable and sleepy now. My new daddy was standing over me, gentle smile on his face. Nice people. They were talking. What were they saying? Just noise to me, irrelevant, really.

“Who would you like him to be when he grows up, Stan?” asked my new mother dreamily.

“A bus driver like me, Jen. He’d be set for life!”


More on Michael Priv can be found at

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Glow Stones by Robert Spalding

Glow Stones

by Robert Spalding

“Marco, can you hear me?”

Coughing the dust from his lungs, Marco tried to gather enough spit to wet his lips so he could make the sounds to cry out for help.

“Marco?” Jack’s voice was getting desperate. Any second now he’d leave to go get help and Marco would be left in the dark, surrounded by tons of unyielding rock.

“Just stay still, I’m going for help.”

“no.” Too late and too little. His voice barely a whisper in the creaking darkness.

Jack’s footsteps retreated down the tunnel, the shaft they had spent so long digging.

Marco could feely every pulse of his heart send a pain flowing through his right leg. It had to be broken; nothing could hurt this badly and not be broken.

With a hiss of breath he tried to pull his leg free of the rock that held it down. It moved, only a little, but enough that he had hope it would come loose. After all, what else was there to do? The roof fall had filled in his way out. Only a tiny crack let through a wisp of fresh air and the light from Jack’s forgotten lantern. Even with help, it was going to take his friends a long time to dig him out.

He braced his arms, large and powerful from days on the building site and nights in the gym, against the wall behind him and levered himself upwards. The rock shifted some more and he could twist his leg. Doing so sent a fresh pain shooting up it, but at least he could move it.

Again and again, uncaring of the pain and the time, Marco pushed and pulled at himself until finally his leg came free. He had only a moment of joy until there was another rumble like the one that had trapped him in the tunnel. This time he curled himself into a ball as the dirt rained down.

When all was quiet, he picked his head up to look around. He could see nothing. For one horrifying moment, Marco thought he had gone blind. Then the truth dawned, even more terrifying, he was completely enclosed. His crack to the outside world was gone.

He was utterly, utterly alone.

His breath was the loudest thing he had ever heard. It filled the tiny space around him. Ragged and desperate it made more noise than a hurricane. But when he held his breath, the silence was oppressive and sinister, just trying to burrow its way into his mind. He began to breathe again.

His fingernails must have come away at some point in the previous minutes work. He didn’t remember a pain of tearing them out, but then he could barely feel his fingers any more. He had scrabbled and clawed at the dirt around him, trying to make his dirt coffin just that much bigger. At first he had meant to dig his way back to the tunnel, but he quickly realised that he was all turned around. He no longer knew which way was out and which way was in, deeper into the earth. So he scrabbled and clawed and begged and screamed at the walls until his fingers lost all feeling and he knew that stopping was the better choice.

He cried like a child denied a treat. He wailed like a baby desperate for a nappy change. He screamed and felt his nose fill with snot. He begged with the universe, pleaded with God and made promises to himself. He wanted out; he wanted to not be alone. He wanted something to hold on to.

Marco didn’t know when the stone near him had begun glowing. The darkness simply stopped being so impenetrable and started to be a deep red.

Picking up the stone, he watched as the colour within it grew stronger with each passing minute, a pulse would pass through it and then it was brighter. He began to laugh. It started as relief but quickly shifted gears to become hysterical before calming down once more to genuine humour.

He had found another and now he was going to die.

Such a stupid thing to die for, a rock that glowed. But he had been searching for it ever since they had found the first one last week.

It was Jack who had spotted it first. They’d been sat on deck chairs in his back garden, watching the night sky and shooting the shit with a couple of beers in hand when his friend had pointed at the ground.

“What’s that?”

“What’s what?” Marco had replied automatically, but he’d already spotted what Jack had meant. The patch of earth that his dog Rusty had dug up a bone from earlier was glowing. The same red colour as the stone he now held in his hands.

Marco had reached in for it despite Jack’s numerous warnings that it had to be hot if it was glowing that colour. But Marco could feel the cool air around the hole. If the rock had been hot, he’d have known it by that point. It was smaller than a tennis ball, but a bit larger than a golf ball. Almost an ovoid with some jagged edges where time of sharp force has broken pieces off.

He pulled it out, cool to the touch and the colour was soothing. He stared into it, absorbed by the colour, the light that filled his vision. It was only when Jack roughly shook his shoulder that he snapped out of his reverie.

“You ok man?” Jack asked.

Marco felt the smile grow on his face “Better than ok. Take a look at this stone. Look at the colour, it’s really soothing.” He proffered the stone but Jack turned his head away.

“No chance. It took me five minutes to get your attention. You keep that away from me.”

Marco shrugged and put the stone in his pocket. Together they had gone back to the chairs and the cooler of beer between them.

After half an hour or so of quiet drinking and wonderment a thought came to Marco. It was so clear and so obviously true he didn’t know why it had taken so long.

“There are more down there.”

Jack coughed halfway through chugged a can and ended up spraying beer foam everywhere. “What did you say?”

Marco pointed to the hole “There are more of these down there. I know there are.”

Jack had snorted, but kept a wary eye on him for the rest of the night.

The next day Marco had begun working on Jack, getting him to help loot some supplies from the site where they worked.

“I’m not getting the sack because you want more glowing rocks.” Jack was not happy with the very suggestion.

“Think about it, just think.” Marco had been at his most charming. “Rocks that glow. Natural, no power source. Just think of the money we could make. Just think of the money.”

It had taken another ten minutes to fully convince his friend, mostly of describing the kinds of girls they could get, but Marco knew that with the talk of money Jack was already in.

They’d started that night after work, skipping the gym for more physical labour in his back garden.

The tunnel had started small, but as they found nothing and Marco insisted more strongly that something was there, they dug down.

Marco held the glowing stone to the roof of his little bubble. There was maybe seven feet of dirt between him and air. But not just dirt, hard layers and plenty of scattered rubble. Could he dig his way up?

The thought of going head first into the cloying darkness where he’d be unable to breathe was devastating. It was debilitating. The idea started him hyperventilating and he could only calm himself by staring at the stone.

The stone was a great source of calm to him, it was a shame he only had the one because Marco was quite certain that if he had another then he would be even calmer.

The idea that he needed a second stone to survive being buried came to him then, strong and undeniable. Just one more stone and he’d be fine.

He began to hunt around his little cave for any sign of another, using the one he already had as a torch. On his third circuit around the floor he noticed that the stone began to glow brighter in on particular spot. Not much, but noticeable if he took it away and then brought it back.

It had to be sensing another stone. It was showing him the way.

With a sense of hope in his heart, Marco tucked the stone into his jeans’ pocket and began to dig with his hands. Amazingly the earth here was soft, it was easily scooped out until he had the beginnings of a tunnel, well, more of a burrow. Without a thought for the fear that had gripped him so recently, Marco went headfirst into the hole and began to dig his way down.

How long or how far he went, Marco did not know. He didn’t care too much when he risked a glance behind and couldn’t tell if he could get back to his little enclosure. He didn’t care because there were stones back there, no calming influence. His way was forwards.

He kept his hands mostly as scoops now, not even bothering to separate his fingers as he pulled the dirt away from him. He was almost swimming through the dirt, down an old route, lightly filled to keep away the nosy, but not so much that those who knew of it could not find their way through.

Ever deeper he pulled himself into the dark, pausing only occasionally to hold his stone in his cupped hands and wonder at it.

When he finally saw the glow of the second stone Marco almost wept with joy. He fumbled the first stone from his pocket, hard to do because his fingers were now crusted together with dirt and other substances. Holding the stones together Marco marvelled at their identical colours. He felt such peace and such belonging was over him that he knew he needed more. Two stones were good, but he knew now that it would take at least three, maybe more, to keep him safe and alive.

The stones went into his pockets and he began his journey onwards again.

Time passed without his notice, there was nothing but the travel and the stones. Eventually his pockets were full and he started to keep them in his mouth. Pushing his cheeks out like a hamster to fit as many as he could in. The glow infused him from everywhere, it was in him and around him and it was good. He ate the glow, drank the glow, breathed the glow and swam in the glow. The glow was all and the glow was good.

When had he last drank or eaten? He didn’t know. Didn’t care. The light of the stones filled him and sustained him.

The stones had been appearing so fast and so often after the first few that when they stopped, he was confused. The glow was all he sought, but now there was no glow to find. The more he went down, the more he found nothing but dark.

Still he burrowed down, wriggling his whole body to increase his speed. Suddenly he came upon solid rock. Too hard for him to dig through. He twisted to the right and found only more of the hard. To the left as well. That left only back, back the way he had come. But that way there were no more stones, no more beautiful glow to sustain him. He couldn’t, he wouldn’t.

An old feeling came to him then, recognised but unnamed. A shaking in his stomach, a terrible desire to be elsewhere. It was a feeling he disliked so he spat out a stone to bask in its light and banish the feeling.

The stone was just a stone, it had no glow. He spat out another. Just another stone. Now panic engulfed him; that was the feeling, panic. He spat out stone after stone but none of them glowed. His once hands, now little more than flesh scoops dug desperately into pockets that now hung much looser along with the rest of his jeans. Handfuls of stones that did not glow spilled from them. He tried to cry but his throat would not make noise any longer.

In terror he slammed against the walls, finally realising that he was beyond lost, he was trapped deep beneath the earth and no-one knew where to find him.

He pawed at the walls, kicked with his skinny legs that had lost all of their muscle. He raged in the darkness at the folly of his obsession.

The thought came unbidden that if he had never seen the glowing stones, if he had never laid eyes upon them, then he would be safe and warm. He would be drinking with, with… The name of his friend was gone, and now he tried to bring it up, so was his own. No name, no hope. If only he hadn’t seen them, hadn’t let himself be tricked by their colours, he would be safe.

With a desperation that finally brought a ragged, inhuman scream from his throat, he dug his flesh scoop against the walls. Scraping and mashing until he had exposed the hard bone of what were once fingers. Then without hesitation he jammed the bones at his face, missing his eyes in the darkness at first and gouging deep wounds in one cheek and across his forehead.

Using the pain as a guide, he traced his bone knives down to his eyes and stuck them in, levering his betraying orbs out. He felt them dangle wetly on his cheeks until he could find the nerves that held them in place and cut them.

Two damp plops signalled his eyes were on the floor.

Satisfied, he curled up in a corner. His breath slowed until it stopped all together, having nothing to feed them, his lungs closed down. His heart and brain followed and the thing that had once been Marco died.

On the floor, among the stones, his eyes began to harden and glow with a deep red colour.


Author Bio

Robert Spalding has had a few short stories published by the now defunct fiction site Whispers of Wickedness. He has written comics for FutureQuake Press and been published 4 times by them.

Robert has a flash fiction story appearing in the forthcoming anthology Out of Place, Out of Time.