2016 Excerpts

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Train Boxing
[speculative]

Timmy Henderson kicked the pebbles in the road, hands stuffed into pockets of the jeans, which showed signs of being too tight.  He muttered under his breath about Tom Owens and wondered what Mom would say when he came home with a cut lip and bruised cheek.  Worse, he wondered what Dad would say.  With a quick glance in either direction, he crossed the train tracks, and let his trainers skid down the embankment on the other side.  He heard the vibration of the 4:50 train in the air, long before he could hear it, and kept walking.

“Prolly tell me, ‘Stand your ground, son.  You’ve got to teach those bullies you’re not scared.’”

A scuffling sound came from behind him, and …

Child’s Play
[speculative]

Florence didn’t notice the chill in the air, despite standing in the gray, November drizzle, her bare feet stepping lightly over mud and moss.  Her older sister, Gladys, told her to stay behind, but the sounds of other children caught her attention.

Most days, the playground teemed with shouts and giggles.  The park tended to be popular, but today, only three siblings played …

Vikingr II
[sci fi/space opera mini series]

Gunhild couldn’t mark the days since arriving by the moon, for they flew past moons at breakneck speeds and the stars told her nothing but of her own insignificance amidst the devourers who wore many different bodies.  She counted by her meals: 168.  One meal given after the exercises upon rising, another given a short time before rest.

She walked up to …

The Choking Sickness
[sci fi]

The sun shone brightly ill, the air thick with the choking sickness.  Steroids didn’t help, and the remaining two medics, one intern a year away from graduation and one rugged nurse were all I had left to help solve this mystery before I lost what was left of the colony.

“Whoever vetted the planet ought to be shot,” I said, coughing into my mother’s linen handkerchiefs.  

“Shot, Captain?”  Oren stared at me with wide brown eyes.  He was …

Marshmallows and Spider Webs
[myth] – FREE

Bruce carried a tray of four mugs with steaming hot chocolate and set them down on the coffee table before his children’s eager faces.  They plucked marshmallows from the bowl to add to their cups.  Robert always took twice as many as his sisters, but the youngest, Isadore, didn’t mind, as she only ever wanted one.  She poked it with her fingertip and watched it bob and swell.  

“It’s time once more, my dumplings,” Bruce said to their bright faces …

Curiosity of the Siren
[sci fi/myth]

Jacora skittered down the spiral path, feet gliding along the Glass.  Her toes pointed the way.  A swirl of fireflies danced about her as she descended toward the fever of rays swimming through the dark matter in search of crystal shrimp.

She laughed, delighted to find them where she knew they ought to be.  With a small wave of her hand, her legs disengaged from the Glass spiral and reformed into a proper tail.  With a strong flip of her caudal fin, she launched toward the fever, ready to …

Iamphus and the Lampan Fruit
[sci fi]

On the tree branch sat the juiciest lampan fruits Iamphu had ever seen.  His small forepaws touched the rough trunk, and he set his long hind quarters against them.  The three toes of his forepaws created suction cups to allow him to climb, while his back paws kept him anchored between leaps up.

Iamphu settled into the crotch of the branch, …

Milk Light Moon
[fantasy]

Beneath the milk light of the moon, the parade marched silently on. Down the garden path and over the burbling brook.

Dressed in white they shone like cream beneath the milk light of the moon, and swung their lanterns high on poles through thickets and past the trees.

Wearing masks of silver and masks of gold, they sparkled beneath the milk light of the moon.  Silk slippered feet dusty …

When Demons Come to Torment
[myth]

No nightingale came to rescue me when the demon crouched on my chest. At once sparkling gold and smoke black, he grinned with vicious white teeth, recounting my every sin.

As I struggled for breath, he reminded me of the time I stole the markers set when I was five, told my second grade teacher a lie and my friend was punished instead, and …

Wisdom, Wine, and Song – Part I
[speculative/mini series]

“You cannot be serious,” Fenn said.

Wollsher leaned forward, elbows on the worn, oak table.  “Why not?”

Derra interjected, “Because we lose the element of surprise!”

“Yes, but surprise is not what we want,” Wollsher said.  “The real danger lies with the prince. He proved himself all too eager to use his power for the detriment of others, especially the women serving his family.  If we do not take the heir first before the king, …

Part II & Part III

Nocturne
[speculative]

“It’s over.”

“What do you mean, ‘it’s over?’”

“That’s it. That’s all there is.”

He scanned the floor, searching for nothing in particular.  “That can’t be it.  All the work, all the preparation …”

Guardian Demon
[myth]

“What the actual fu–” Alex swore, after tripping over her little brother’s Legos for the third time in an hour.

Her mother turned around, trying to hide a laugh. “Did you hurt yourself again, sweetie?”

All day, heck, all her life, she’d been accident prone, but ever since she started having good things happen to her, it seemed like the accidents happened a lot more than they used to …

The Pools of Guica Toom
[speculative]

Wide flowers bloom beside the tranquil, swirling pools of the Guica Toom where silence reigns and the undulating trees whisper only to the slain.  Where once the grass was trod by hoof and foot, where once the battles raged, now blades move with the wind in quiet recitation of sunlight’s warming rays …

Master Says
[horror]

Master says to mind the manners and scrub behind the generator. Master says to make things neat, a tidy here, a wash there. Never mind time for the body. Master says porridge and pig belly will sustain the needs. The needs don’t seem to agree. Master sas too much, and the hands might do him in.

For now the hands go scrub, scrub, behind the whirring gears …

Of Smoke and the Dance
[speculative]

Murdina stopped at the newstand and paid for a paper.  The headline read, “PRIME MINISTER JORDAN DRAFTS MAGICAL REGISTRY BILL.”  She studied the front page, her features blank, and then tucked the folded paper under her arm.  On her usual Tuesday errands, she took a detour into the local hedge mage’s shop.  A small bell chimed her entry, and old Fergus sat up a little straighter, bidding her welcome.

“Haven’t seen you in here in a while, Murdina,” he said.

She parked her son’s pram and latched the brake …

Vikingr IV
[sci fi/space opera mini series]

It didn’t surprise Gunhild that the one thing about which Gillette was thoroughly honest was his wealth of enemies.  Which is how she found herself in her current predicament: on a ship with most of its crew returned to their homes, staring down the full armory of an alien fleet.

The ship shook again behind the force of a heavy blast …

Vikingr V
[sci fi/space opera mini series]

The broadsword came slashing toward Gunhild Alfshilddottir.  She felt certain this time would be her end, and the Valkyries would carry her off to know peace in Valhalla.

But a shield smacked into her attacker’s body, and Mr. Hollings grinned at her, offering his hand …

Arc Light and Trousers
[steampunk]

Beneath the amber glow of arc light, they walked single file through the cavern, edging closer to the point where their source said to expect a switchback before the chamber they sought would open to them.

Hettie Bedford held fast with one hand on her skirts, the other on the lantern-clipped cap, following closely behind Booker Hughes, whose eidetic memory held the map in his mind.  “This is a sartorial nightmare,” she whispered behind her …

Thief’s Code – Part I
[urban fantasy/mini series]

Before I joined the Guild, I broke all the rules.  I would steal from anyone, pilfer from festival stalls, rob the farmers’ markets, perform slight of hand at the smallest mom-and-pop shops.  Then Mauser found me pilfering costume jewelry from a street vendor when I was sixteen and gripped me by the shoulder.  He whispered, “Rule number one: never steal from small business or artisans.”  He gave me a choice: learn and live by the Thief’s Code, or be driven out of town.

Now I’m making serious bank, living rent-free in a penthouse, …

Part II

We Are All Made of Stories
[speculative fiction]

Every year the same: Khadija went first..  Derj and his little sister shared their day of birth.  It was Khadija’s eighth birthday, and Derj sat with dread while their mother read.

Khadija’s story began at the small of her back and traveled up her spine, so she leaned over the cushioned chair with her birthday tunic opened at the back.

Their mother read, “Khadija came into the world howling,” and Derj remembered the day when he was five when he first heard Khadija’s voice …

The Final Countdown
[sci fi]

We dropped out of warp into a field of debris.  The crew remained quiet, awaiting his orders.  Jamal studied the readouts on the screen beneath his left hand.  “Status report?”

Gunne hesitated.  “We have reached the appropriate coordinates, but the station is no longer here.”

“Speculation?”

“Sir, it would appear the debris surrounding us is what remains.”

Jamal inhaled and held it.  After a slow breath he said, …

Cheese
[sci fi]

Urtie nibbled around a block of spongy cheese, ignoring the oddness of the substance.  She’d been on Fillian Twill three months now, Earth time, and she hadn’t gotten used to the local staple.  The natives — or rather, fourth generation colonists — called it “cheese” for its similarity in texture and flavor to cheese as she knew it, but it wasn’t actually cheese.

Last week, during her assessment of the growth of the colony’s population, she visited the nearest cheese farm where …

A Lesson
[speculative]

At thirteen, I flipped the dice at the Craps tables to help my father pay our mortgage. At fifteen, I tipped the basketballs into the hoops to help my best friend win the championship game. At twenty-one, I kept my daughter from rolling off the changing table when I was half a room away.

But now, when I need it most, my gift seems to have fled …

Wizard Wars
[urban fantasy]

Mnemosyne stood on the rooftop, surveying the devastation below.  Chicago lay half in rubble and half scarred concrete and granite.  From a distance, the blasts of the mundane lit up the sky against the backdrop of midnight and gray smoke.  They contrasted from the white, blue, and green of mages.

“Governor,” came Tanner’s voice behind her. “Odessa has returned from her assignment.  She is in the infirmary, …

The Seven Year Ball
[urban fantasy]

Sam bullied her way through a crowd, pulling Elba by her hand.  “Sam, I’m not sure we should–”

“Trust me,” Sam said.  “We don’t have to wait with the rest of them; we’ve got invitations.” Sam hadn’t said how she came by a pair of invitations from an exclusive once-every-seven-years event, except to say she snagged them.  Elba knew if she pressed her, she probably wouldn’t like the real answer and wouldn’t go, and they both really wanted to go …

Myconid
[sci fi]

“The official term the biologists use is ‘myconid,’ but they refer to themselves as g’nafkaraf.”

The genteral studied the reports on K2-72e’s habitable zone and its inhabits.  “Continue.”

“Since discovering their sentience, all sample collection has been halted by Dr. Espinoza, and they’re requesting you send a cultural relations team,” the major said.

With a simple look, the general gave agreement.  “One mycoligist, three linguists, a cultural liaison, and you, Major Nils.”

“Me, sir?” …

A Little Trip
[speculative/sci fi/myth]

With a tray of snacks in one hand, a tea in the other, and a book under her arm, Azzie struggled to open the door to her nest.  She wiggled her elbow a little, attempting to push it down.  It gave with a shudder, and she fell backwards, awaiting a solid thump on the hardwood followed by hot tea and a mess of cheese and crackers.

Someone caught her.  In her empty apartment.  Alone.

All her goodies flew up into the air, but disappeared, and the walls changed.  She thrashed in the arms of the person holding her, babbling a string of curses and kicking wildly at anything solid.

“Hold it, hold it.  Ow!” …

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