Monday, May 02, 2016

Stargazing

StargazingAurel stood in the middle of the field, the dry grass up to his waist, its sweet aroma pleasant on the breeze. He held his arm up above his face, palm to the stars. Slowly, he shifted his focus from the backs of his fingers to the tiny points of light beyond and between them.

The heavens seemed to take on a three-dimensional quality: Some of the stars now appeared closer than others, and Aurel imagined he could sense the depths between those and the ones farther away. Many had hints of color: Distant reds, cold blues, soft greens, fierce yellows. Even the faintest of these shone more brightly than usual, for it was a very clear night; the moon had yet to rise, and the light from the fire was behind him and mostly blocked by the trees. The galaxy ran smoke-blue from one side of the sky to the other, unmoving, like a swath of mist frozen in place by the breath of some terrible, ancient beast.

The horse nickered faintly. Aurel turned to see her grazing at the edge of the thicket. He watched for a while, occasionally hearing a muffled chomping noise. She was a good horse, he thought. Strong and full of heart. Perhaps he should come up with a name for her. After all, they would share many more nights before he reached his destination. On quiet feet Aurel strode past the animal, stepping out of the silvery meadow and into the fire-lit stand of trees. He gently placed two good sized sticks across the flames of the campfire and sat down on his blanket.

Once again he reached into his vest pocket and took out the message. He unrolled it and stared at it, hoping against hope to gather some new meaning from it. Plain, black ink – ordinary ink, made from pine ash and water – lay scrawled across the paper in lines almost too messy to read. It was from Yori alright; there was no doubt about that. He was the only one Aurel knew who would send such a mundane letter. He had not signed his name at the bottom. Just the three lines:

Aurel of Estraal, 
Your presence is required most urgently. 
Do not delay. The very world depends.

"The very world," he mouthed. A twig snapped behind him, and Aurel looked up to see the horse standing there, ears perked forward, her big round eyes reflecting firelight. "It's ok," he comforted, "It's just me talking to myself again." The horse lowered her head and sniffed at the ground, as if reassured.


"What's the old man gone and done this time?" He mumbled, shaking his head and staring back up at stars that were half hidden through the canopy of leaves.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Eating Mush

"Eating Mush." Image credit: The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. John's jaws and tongue worked sluggishly as he meditated on the repulsiveness of the stuff he'd just squirted into his mouth. His hate for it transcended the mere taste of the substance; this disgust was as palpable as that lidded mug stuck to the desk in front of him -- like an object he could hold out at arm's length and say, This is the cause of my misery; this thing right here. He very nearly acted on the strong urge to hurl the food tube straight into the cycler.

The trouble was, everything they could produce in the ship's food processing factory would inevitably get old and unpalatable, and be imbued with that same partly imagined dullness that, of course, had nothing to do with its actual ingredients. There was no way around it. So John finished his meal in bored silence.

At length he unstrapped himself from his chair, placed the tube in the secure container designed to hold such things, and kicked off in the direction of the loo. Lunch break almost over; time to get back to work. It was a mind-numbing job that basically involved staring at a screen for hours and occasionally pushing a button or two. Not the most social of positions, but he was decent at it and didn't mind quiet. For the most part, anyway.

Lately he had found himself friend-building again. The infrequent conversations with his colleagues had yet again, given their typical insincerity, been causing John to build a wall around his mind that seemed to him was made of something like plastic, not unlike the flotsam that used to accumulate against the sewage ditch drains back home. Disgusting stuff, the kind one had to get rid of, and quick. So off he would go to one of the ship's three watering holes (each of which had its own mixture of charm and tediousness), and drink his way into the eyes of strangers. Conversation they would have, a bit of bullshit or sometimes more. Occasionally he would even feel like he'd made a friend. And then, smirking with mutual sympathy, they would both stare back at the screen on the wall and wait for the next opportunity for words.

The trouble was, he felt, he was always the one waiting, and wanting the conversation to go further. And it was with a different person, every time. He suspected he wasn't the only one in this predicament, as there was nothing lonelier than a deep-space freighter full of transients like him. But still. He sometimes wished he had... well, more. Or, that he was more.


Not that it mattered. In another few months they would be arriving at Galdron Station, and then he'd be off this rig and onto the next one, bound for gods knew where. And then all this fun mush-eating and friend-building would start all over again. 



Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Dark

"Dark" -- from a drawing by Patricia Post"Dark matter," physicists called it. But in their minds it had always been part of a theory; an abstraction for telescopes and mass calculations to verify. Never had they witnessed the stuff in its true element; never had they watched as it welled up from the spaces between subatomic particles, oozing into this universe like toxic puss to devour anything that happened to be in its path.

Nor had any human in the history of humans ever seen the stuff as it continued to spread out from such a welling, magnet-like, to infect ever larger things until, suddenly satisfied, it vanished back into nothing as if it had never existed.

For not only had the darkness remained mercurial and hidden for very ancient reasons; even after it devoured an object with mass, that object would continue to appear and act exactly as it had prior to the devouring – in all ways detectable by humanity's best scientific instruments, that is.

But the heart knew better.

When a welling emerged in the space-time immediately adjacent to Seth's left temple, swept right through him, and disappeared on the other side, he changed. 

It was not a visible transformation, but a transformation it was. 

And soon people began to notice.... 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Searcher

SearcherMalek opened his eyes again and stared at the dust motes playing through the warm ray of morning sunlight, swirling like microscopic leaves in a river current. "Why are we here? I mean seriously, how did we get so far away from home? From things familiar? And you know I'm not just talking about what we've just eaten for breakfast!"

"I think I want to tell you a story," Alani said, sipping her tea with a distant look in her eyes as if she hadn't even heard him.

Malek chuckled. "Yeah okay, sure; as long as it isn't one I've heard a dozen times already!"

"There was a man once," she continued, nearly interrupting him. "I shouldn't mention his name, especially not here. Let's just call him 'Searcher' for now. He was everywhere, in mind, and he always was looking for something... though he didn't quite know what that was. But he ventured to all the faraway places in search of it: Mountains, valleys, cities, fields, islands, rivers...."

Intrigued by this change of mood in his ordinarily blunt and not-so-reflective sister, Malek poured more water into both their cups, kicked his feet up on the wooden table, and sat back to listen.

"As this Searcher traveled, he got better at knowing where to look; he became more and more aware of life. As for why he was searching, all he knew was that the longing came from deep within him. Like a hunger it ate at him, burned him to go on. Any mode of travel would do... and he found that there are lots of them."

Outside the inn, a horse plodded down the muddy lane, its belled harness jingling in lazy rhythm with the occasional shouts of an old woman hawking her wares in an unintelligible dialect.

"Like traveling whilst smashed in-between a couple of crates and the edge of a cart that's been tied way too close to the stinky ass of the ox that's drawing it!"

This comment caused a corner of Alani's mouth to turn slowly upward. "Yes," she shuddered, "Like that. Anyway, as I was saying before you so rudely interrupted--"

"I was just--"

"Shush."

"Fine," he smirked, picking a piece of tea leaf from his teeth.

"So this Searcher traveled the world using every means imaginable. He explored for years, decades even, until his whiskers grew grey and his back bent crooked. Still, in the end he found nothing. Nothing at all."

Malek squinted, waiting for the punch line. His sister lit her pipe and gazed pensively out the window. "And?" he finally asked.

"And what? That's the end of the story."

"Well that's stupid."

"I know you are but what am I."

He let out an exaggerated guffaw. But the story had unnerved Malek, and unbidden thoughts were flooding his mind. Of screams in the dark, of those words their father had forced them to memorize before he would let them flee that final, fateful night....

Malek placed his mug down on the table, nearly knocking it over, and strode abruptly toward the door. He paused before walking out. "You're wrong, you know."

"Am I?" His sister said.

"This is different. We'll find her."

"Am I?" She mocked, a dark look in her eyes.

"Shut up. And yes, you are. I know we'll find her."

"...am I?"

On his way out, Malek slammed the door shut a lot harder than he'd meant to.



Monday, December 14, 2015

Gyreshark

Gyreshark by Gaines PostA muffled series of thumps resounded from the north wall. Heath's pulse quickened. The ship must be entering the gyre already.

Hastily he wrapped his sleeves up to the armpits with nylo wire and then tied it off. Removing the helmet, he squirmed into the jumpers, one layer after another. They felt tight around his muscles. He flexed his elbows until the coils loosened a little, then put on the gloves and helmet and picked up his spear. More thumps were coming from the hull, with increasing frequency. It was now or never. Or at least not until next pass around Littlerock.

No one was around to watch the boy in his ridiculous garb as he went up the access ladder to the broken old ceiling lock, climbed inside, and began cycling open the hatch to the sky.

An alarm sounded. Heath did not hesitate. He had been expecting it, and the adults were all too afraid to do anything about it anyway. Pushing up on the hatch, he stuck his head into the wind and peered around him.

The surface of Littlerock lay several kilom'ers below the ship, appearing a hazy purple through the thick atmosphere. All that solid earth, Heath thought. But even more on Bigrock.

The rush of air against the helmet was deafening. The ship was deep in the gyre already, and the sargaca clouds were all around, whipping along the air currents in blurs of dark green. One ripped past his head close enough to make him flinch. He heard the thumps and scrapes against the hull as the ship plowed into cloud after cloud of the moss-like substance. The plant matter slid across the solar panels spanning the craft's mighty wings, and made a staccato pinging sound where it was getting trapped in the forward food grills.

Gyres were regions of rotating wind currents created by the complex system of coriolises around Littlerock. Most were semi-permanent eddy zones chocked full of snared sargaca, as well as the myriad flora and fauna that used the stuff for food and cover. Long ago, the crew had realized that the only way to sustainably feed themselves was to steer the ship through the gyres and collect what biomass they could scoop up. Once clear, they would retrieve the captured sargaca from the food grills, and then process it in the lab to extract proteins, gases, trace minerals, and so on.

Heath scanned the gyre, on the lookout for sudden movement. Humans were not the only creatures feeding here.... 

(To be continued.)



Thursday, November 19, 2015

Saar'bone

Saar'boneIt took the members of the Vairr'on all the next day to decide what to do. Jannina stayed at home with her parents. They asked her endless questions about the saar'bone, and she did her best to answer truthfully. In the end they were even more confused than they had been that morning, when they had climbed out of bed without having had a wink of sleep. 

Sometime in mid-afternoon, the fog cleared and the sun broke through the low clouds to shine down on the garden. Jannina's grandfather came walking up to the hut. He looked many years older than he had the night before. 

He sat them all down in the family room, and Jannina's mum served hot chiyet. They listened as he told them what had been decided. 

The attack of the Til'chagga had been unnatural, unlike anything that had ever happened throughout the history of Aalmuvai. The consensus was that it had been the forbidden sounds from the saar'bone that had attracted the giant sea creature, and most of the Vairr'on had wanted to condemn Jannina to what they deemed a just punishment: Transport to Chamma'Nyva, along with an apology and a promise that Aalmuvai would be more vigilant in future and thereby prevent anyone from ever making such forbidden sounds again. 

Jannina's grandfather had fought against this, and had even begged the rest of the Vairr'on, he said, for a different outcome. His proposal was that Jannina instead be exiled, in secret. This, he had argued, would remove the threat to the village's wellbeing without condemning the young woman to slavery or death. He had argued that his nephew's family would take her in, faraway in the western reaches of the Yon'naal Forest, and that he would make sure that she never returned to the east coast of Krr'chamma again. 

They had listened to him, and had agreed that if the matter could be kept secret, then Jannina could perhaps start a new life. After much discussion, it had been decided. 

Jannina listened numbly to her grandfather, and to her dad's outraged protestations, and to her mum's terrified weeping. 

She did not say a word the whole time. The events of the past few days played over and over in her mind. She just sat there in stunned silence. 


Exiled. She was going to be exiled. 


Wednesday, October 07, 2015

The Hunt

The HuntOlion watched his men writhe at the greening inside of them that was infecting, growing, lumping long-ways up from their wrists and on past their elbows. The newer recruits were still not used to the treatment, and were shaking their arms or sucking frantically at the wounds in the back of their hands, biting down hard to keep from screaming. This would only speed up the process, Olion knew. So he said nothing. 

It was called Vimbremma, commonly known as blade-edging or simply "greening," and was something the High Lords had invented in the Gardens of Myet'Na more than a century ago. They had perfected it over the decades, and by now not as many men died from it as had once been the case. 

The plant fiber from the initial injection would continue charging up the canals between skin and muscle, breaking through knotted flesh like a vine, feeding on fat as it went. Once begun, its progress was inevitable. It would squirm into the soft armpit flesh and needle its way in every direction from there; deep into organs, brain, heart, through the groin and knees, straight through to the eyes and toes. The fibrous growth acted as an energy sink, reinforcing muscle and bone, and preventing fatigue by taking a beating in their stead. In effect, it made the men's bodies faster and stronger, able to run long distances at speeds that rivaled that of a pa'mat, and which did not slow after sunset. 

Vaardvir had administered it to them when they first set out from the city, three and a half days ago. It had sustained them until that afternoon, when their veins had gone black. Exhaustion followed, as always, so Olion had called for a halt so that they could be given a second dose. Treatment took about an hour. 

He scanned the men with dispassionate eyes. They were well-trained; even the new ones knew better than to groan or whine at the bite of pain. The old plant fiber in their bodies would eventually dissolve and pass, staining their stools and urine black, as well as the veins in their arms and legs and even faces. Olion signaled to Vaardvir, who nodded and barked at the men. It was time to go. The hunt was on. 

Friday, September 04, 2015

Morning Ritual

Morning RitualHe awakens. As always, his eyes open to a view of the small round portal in the gray ceiling overhead, the room's only source of light. Once again he stares mesmerized at the fantastic towers of green cloud, climbing skyward in a dozen different shades. For the hundredth time his mind compares them to the giant trees that loomed just outside his bedroom window when he was a child.

He blinks a few times, rubs the sleep from his eyes, and promptly forces himself to leave the warm oblivion of the blankets. Swinging his feet down to the hard metal floor, he stands and dresses quickly.

A gust of wind batters the outpost so hard that for a moment it feels as though it will be torn from the rocks and hurled down the cliff face to tumble into the volcanic crater below. sing the familiar panic, he limps over to his makeshift sink: A plastic basin gel-taped to a gravity filter recycle bucket.

After brushing his teeth and washing his face, he heats up a cup of coffee-flavored water and settles down to go over a summary of the night's readings. According to the data, nothing out of the ordinary has happened since he checked it the night before; there are no chemical spikes or other burps that might suggest molecular life. Of course not. After nearly a year, why would anything change?

For the thousandth time, he thought about how ironic it was that he was stuck on this godawful hellhole of a planet, completely alone and too far out of the way for anyone to visit even by accident. He, who had championed the right of free scientific assembly for so many years.

Shaking the self-pity from his head, Dr. Saul Togdee resumed his morning ritual -- a routine that mainly consisted of clinging to discipline; of using repetition and habit to form a shield wall against the creeping tendrils of insanity. Imagination might be the mother of discovery, but out here it was a deadly, deceptive bitch that forever lurked behind every waking hour and threatened to rend his soul in two.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Eyes

Eyes"I would give anything to be able to see you," Dahlia whispered.

"I know. Me too." Kaikos pulled her closer, and for a moment Dahlia let herself sink into his firm, confident hold, utterly immersed in his masculine muskiness.

Like any other day, tomorrow had been approaching for years; not even the great Ma'shaa could halt the march of time. She knew this, of course, and had been prepared for the inevitable ever since she was a little girl. Still, that knowledge did nothing to quell the fear and uncertainty that churned through her body and gave her dangerous thoughts of running away and hiding in the mountains.

Everything would change. Everything.

"My mother said this morning that she dreamed I would be approached by the Amethyst," she whispered.

"A bold choice that would be. You'll be known as 'Dahlia the Radiant,' and your kinfolk will happily bask in the purple glow of your majestic presence!" Kaikos teased, a stray finger tickling her ribs.

Dahlia elbowed his hand away and pinched his shoulder hard, eliciting a chuckling wince. "And you'll be known as 'Kaikos the Black,' after the callousness of your wry sense of humor!"

"Black wouldn't be so bad, actually."

"Are you an idiot? Black would be the worst. It can never touch the light! You'd be forced to cross the Sea of Truth, and if that didn't kill you, you'd have to live in exile with the other Black-chosen in a land without color. It would be absolutely dreadful."

"I know, I know, I was just kidding," Kaikos soothed, but there was a faraway tone in his voice. He kissed her gently on the forehead. "Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere, baby girl. Who knows? We might even get the same eyes tomorrow."

Dahlia turned her face to find his lips, and for a time they were lost in a world of taste and scent and touch. As she made love to her man, she imagined him as he had been only a few weeks previously, before the Submission: Gorgeous and strong, with a smile that melted her heart and a pair of deep brown eyes always dancing with life and passion.


Later, while listening with her head on his chest to the gradual slowing of his heart, Dahlia wondered what the world would look like through amethyst eyes. 


Friday, May 08, 2015

Alternate

AlternateThey say there are multiple universes, and that only energy and our own perception keep us locked within this one. That if we just learned to truly see, or created a big enough explosion, then we could break out.

Well, I've tried to see, but no matter how far I go or how many modes of travel I experience, I continue to feel just as blind as I did after Zoë died.

Now I'm old, and time is running out. I need to be with her again; it is an absolute imperative. Even if it has to be through the eyes of an alternate me, from another life, in a different time, against a mirror reality.

So, I'll have to settle for option B: A giant explosion. One bigger than anything this universe has known since the Big Bang.

It has taken six years, but the preparations are just about all in place. The hard part has been keeping the nature of the experiment from the many very keen minds that have been involved in the planning. I have succeeded, for the most part.

One small problem has cropped up recently, however. It turns out that Taarsworth, from the theory team, has a six-degrees connection with Zhang, one of the engineers. The chances that they would ever bump into each other and actually talk about this very secret project are slim at best... but still.

I'll have to take one of them out. Tonight, before I change my mind. Too much is at stake not to. 


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Threshold

ThresholdSándor remembered the sting of the wasp, white hot pain exploding from just above his thumbnail, as he'd picked a spring beauty for his mother in the yard. Then, when he was a little older, the sickening bubbling of hot oil spilled across his knee; the way the skin had peeled off, as well as the scar that had eventually formed but never quite smoothed over his violated nerve endings. 

He recalled the mind-jarring disbelief with which he'd watched his hand separate from his wrist, late one night during a fourth graveyard shift in a row; the terrible fire and nails that had shot right through his arm and torso and head immediately afterward. Sometimes he could still feel that one, waking up lost seventeen years later in sweat-drenched sheets.

He remembered other agonies, too, but chose not to think about those. They weren't the kind that time or painkillers could heal, so were better left behind locked doors, deep down in the safe corners of his mind.

She didn't -- couldn't -- know about those.

A bare foot nudged his ankle. "What's wrong?"

Glancing at Melanie, he was once again startled by how beautiful she looked. "Nothing, babe."

"Liar." She made a face and pinched his Achilles tendon with her abnormally strong toes.

"Ouch," he yelped, kicking her foot away playfully. "I'm telling you, as soon as we spin back to normal grav, you should try hanging upside-down from the chin-up bar with those things. I bet you could do it, too, monkey girl."

"Could not." She slapped his knee, eyes smiling.

The scanner made a gutteral choking noise. Finished, finally.

"Okay, let's see what we've got." Melanie stretched, then touched a series of combos, toggling through the data lists until she got to the one she wanted. She stared open-mouthed at it for several seconds. "Shit," she said.

Sándor closed his eyes and shook his head. "Damnit."


Neither of them spoke for a long time. Even the scanner remained silent, as if fearfully aware of having been the bringer of bad news.

Sándor drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair. "You remember that thing they told us in basic? How sooner or later we'll all reach a point, a threshold, that will truly test our mettle?"

"Yeah I remember."

"Well." Sándor pursed his lips. "I think I'm getting there."

"Me too. But we'll find one."

"What's the point? We've looked everywhere already."

"Yeah, well, it's find one or die."

"Fuck," he breathed.


Melanie crossed her arms comically and pinched his heal again with her toes. "Hey! Mettle, remember?"

Friday, September 26, 2014

That One Pretty Thing

With the advent of the new Generation "A," the line between child and parent is becoming disturbingly blurred. Something has gone terribly wrong with nature; it's almost as if humanity is broken. The question is, will we make it through this alive?

This is my latest dark sci-fi short story. I'd even go so far as to call it horror.... In any case, readers beware; it's definitely not for the faint of heart. 

Click here or the image to the right to purchase an electronic version from Amazon.com for US$0.99 :-)


To get a free Kindle reading app for your computer, iPad, phone, or other device, click here.




Monday, September 08, 2014

South

SouthThe first slabs to go were usually the most spectacular, so nesters from all five valleys tended to get there early to claim the best of the available viewing perches. The unavailable ones, of course, had already been reserved; their haughty occupants would fly in at their leisure, arriving just in time for the midday games to begin and often later than that.

Spotting an empty stretch of branch between a nester family and a pair of hunters, Sye'sral tucked her wings and dove. Just as she broke momentum and her talons came in contact with the deeply scarred wood, a third hunter swooped up from below, roaring territorially right in front of her. Talons scrabbling for purchase and wings flapping violently, they glared at each other for several heartbeats.

"Buzz off," one of the other hunters hissed.

The newcomer's nostrils flared, inhaling Sye'sral's scent. Suddenly the snarl froze on his face. Sye'sral narrowed her eyes at him and turned to go.

"Wait!" he mewed, moving aside while batting at her with his paw in a gesture of sundued apology.

"Oh, you smell that I'm 'in season' and suddenly there's room on the branch for both of us, is that it?" Sye'sral smirked and let go of the branch. Typical, she thought, as she dropped in a wide arc and glided over to the other side of the Greatree.

She landed on a mostly empty branch this time and made herself comfortable, preening while craning her neck to glance at the gaming sphere. The view here was quite terrible, but at least no horny males were trying to shove her off the branch.

A nearby cub yowled at his sister and copped a gruff paw on the nose from their mum. Sye'sral smiled, settled on her haunches, and reveled in the warmth from the sun. It was a beautiful day for it, if she closed her eyes and pretended she wasn't actually here to kill someone.

The trouble was that whenever she left her eyes shut for any length of time these days, that annoying pull would come back, as if emboldened by the darkness. It had been getting stronger over the past month or so; it would sometimes even manifest in her dreams. There it was like a vague rope or vine, always dragging at her from the same direction:

South, it seemed to command, in a whisper formed from neither lips nor words. 


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Blend

Blend
"Blend" was first published in January of 2013 in
Mustang's Monster Corral. Thanks Mustang!
Travis Wilfreit sat slumped with legs pretzeled, his backbone grinding against the hard stones of the painted wall. On the opposite side of the gym, beautiful Claire Bertrand stood giggling with her friend Bethany. The sound drew a gruff bark from the PE teacher, and the two girls went back to pretending to do their stretches.

Her hair was even more colorful than usual today. The deep azure of the past two weeks was now streaked with crimson on one side and snow white on the other.

"Hey check it out, I think stutter-magic's got a hardon, heh."

"Oh shit, ha, I think you're right!"

"Careful there Wilfreit, you w-w-wouldn't w-want to accide-de-dentally kno-kno-knock her up! We'd have to call up the CDC to come quarantine your o-o-offspring!"

Travis did his best to ignore the group of asshole morons guffawing and pointing at him from a few yards away. He stared at the floor between his legs, but his heart was pounding and hot blood was rushing up his neck into his cheeks; he was sure she had heard the comment from across the gym. Already he was beginning to feel the onset of that dream-like lightness in his chest, the sensation that always preceded one of his flip-outs.

Abruptly he got up and marched left along the wall, wending his way around clumps of slobbering vacant-eyed teenaged bodies until he reached the arched doorway leading to Gym B. As he passed through, he could feel the PE teacher's eyes on the back of his head, but he knew the man wouldn't say anything. Not to him; not now.

The big empty vastness of Gym B opened up before him. Travis moved left along the dividing wall until he reached the middle. The lack of people made it better here, but the feeling had not yet subsided. Find a distraction, and focus on it. Read a book or even just stare at something until you come down. He sat down and stared at the floor for a long time.

Something was wrong. Travis went through his mental exercises over and over, focusing on the floorboards in all their detail: the way the overhead lights gleamed in their lacquer, the narrow grime-filled cracks between the old planks, the very grain of the wood itself. He stared and stared, but the feeling wouldn't go away; if anything, it was getting worse.

A girl's laugh rang out from Gym A on the other side of the wall behind him. Travis put his hands over his ears and hunched his face closer to the floorboards. All he wanted was to disappear. To escape this place; to escape the feeling. But it continued to rise in him.

Desperate, he squinted his eyes until the boards blurred. That was better. He did it some more, and began to pretend he was actually inside the grain of the wood.

He could feel the fibers around him; he could even sense the pressures still holding the flesh of the long dead tree together. There was a funny odor, of oak and lacquer and glue. Travis smiled; it was cool and dark in here, and the light-chested feeling had begun to leave him. He lifted his head and looked around.

It was not exactly sight, but he could *see* through the wood all the way to the end of the board, where it met the painted stone blocks of the wall. How awesome it would be if he could be inside the stone, too, he thought. And so he tried moving, and was delighted to discover that he was able to travel along the grain of the wood unhindered.

As Travis blended from wood into stone, he *stood* and looked back. He could *see* everything in the big empty room behind him, but there was no sign of his body. It was gone; he was actually here.

Free, Travis *laughed* out loud. He laughed even louder when he peered from his hiding place in the wall into Gym A and saw the spooked faces of his PE class, backing away from the wall. This is real, he marveled.

"HAHAHA!!!" he bellowed. Everyone, including the PE teacher, scattered for the exit in a screaming panic.

Travis smiled. Taking a long, deep breath, he exulted in the musty old smell of the stone surrounding him, permeating him. He now knew, without a doubt in his mind, what he had to do. Who he was.

He would teach them, and they would be sorry. He would teach them all.

But right now, he had a whole new world to explore. Feeling suddenly full of energy, he dove, hurtling through stone and wood and metal, blending deeper and deeper, faster and faster. Travis laughed the whole way down.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

You Were There

You Were ThereYou were there when our father would have done anything to keep from tearing her heart to pieces, had he known what was happening. She, who had been his lover, his wife, his boys' mother; his companion, his best friend. She, who watched his mind wilt and blur until it was less than a shadow of its glorious former self.

You were there when the great storm left the hills stretched smooth beneath a skin of ice, glimmering so brightly in the afternoon sun that we had to squint. How loud the frozen wood cracked and groaned beneath our axes as we laughed and swung, racing to outdo each other's pile.

You were there when I abandoned you, whisked off to the far side of the world by adventure and love and destiny. I still remember what you taught me: Holding my palm up against the night sky, I shift my focus from the silhouetted fingers to the shining stars in-between, and can clearly see that some are nearer than others.

You were there when the giant Mooncrusher threatened to swallow the world. The stories we heard as children all spoke of courage and valor, but none of those so-called heroes could hold a candle to how you stood your ground and struck the enemy down, blow by blow by blow.


You were there when I spoke to you yesterday, just before dawn, in a dream. You are still here. You will always be here. And I will always be there.  




Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Pinnacle

The Pinnacle -- a short story by Gaines Post
The duty had fallen to Cor to take his nephew Daron to the top of the Pinnacle, for no one else dared. The hard part was making a game out of it so that the boy would not suspect. Some lies were necessary for the greater good, after all. Weren't they?

First published in the December 2012 issue of Fiction and Verse, this is another dark fantasy short story from the mind of Gaines Post. Click here or the image to the right to purchase an electronic version from Amazon.com for US$0.99 :-)

To get a free Kindle reading app for your computer, iPad, phone, or other device, click here.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Overlap

Overlap
This is my nineteenth attempt. The lag is making it even harder. But I've got this: If I can just get luck and skill to both line up at the same time, the fucker's gonna blow. I'm sure of it.

The last Overlap happened more than a decade ago, back when I was twelve. After talking it over with their families, my dad and uncle knew exactly what they had to do. So they gamed the system and got posted to rig duty. I like to think their brave sacrifice is a major reason the rest of us are still here.

Now it's our turn: mine, my little sister Deb's, almost everyone we know.

Earlier in the night, in typical Deb fashion, the dumbass went charging in the instant we linked up to the Main. She didn't even wait for the rest of the team to gather. I gotta admit, it was actually pretty hilarious; she blasted a tunnel right through the first two layers all by herself, hollering the whole way down. The others were stunned speechless for a minute, but that little performance of hers ended up doing wonders for everybody's morale.

I mean, this was some scary fuckin shit we were about to face, and boom there goes my little sister, rushing in, one hundred per cent fearless. We big muscly types had no choice but to man up after that!

It was good. Fear has no place down here.

But Deb kept on going, and while we were trying to catch up one of the layers reclosed behind her and cut us off. Now she's out of communications range, and I'm trying to blast through as fast as I can to get to her. But the Intelligence--our name for the invaders that engineered the Overlap--they seem to be on to us; they keep reinforcing the layer, making it harder and harder to find the right resonant frequency.

Carl Griegsohn gave the order to backtrack and hit it from another angle, in a spot half a klick east of here. I ignored him and he shouted at me. So I told him Fuck off, it's my sister down there. He sputtered and threatened to disconnect me from the Main. I knew he wouldn't so I just kept working. A few seconds later he was racing back up tunnel, collecting stragglers, all snarls and bellows fading in the distance.

I'm almost there; this thing's gonna blow, I know it. Maybe Carl's proposed flank attack will be enough to distract the Intelligence from my mosquito efforts. Maybe attempt number twenty will be the magic number. Maybe Deb's on the other side, trying to work her way back through to my position.

Not bloody likely. My sister's probably already inside the Core by now, either dead or somehow still alive and about to place her charges right in the middle of the goddamned thing's brain.

Either way, I've got to blast my way through. I've got to find her. 


Monday, May 06, 2013

Jelly-bones


Jelly-bonesAugust knew what they called him behind his back: "nancy;" "jelly-bones." The five specialists--Toragger, Baans, Zim, Auldelaire, Morris--had all graduated top of their respective classes, extremely well-tuned elites of deadly military precision, but put them together in a group and their inner grunt came out.

The Relocation Meta might observe that they seemed to share an exclusive camaraderie based on a longing for boot camp or a simplicity of life that had probably never existed. Bring in an outsider from clear across the system to take their dead commander's place, and voila, recipe for animosity and potential insubordination. But it wasn't just that. There was an extra edge to their voices when they answered him; a vague limpness in their salutes.

It was because of his father, of course. Everyone knew who Colonel Tansworth had been. Even all the way out here in the dead of space, August still could not escape that fact. One of the specialists, Baans, chuckled something under his breath.

"Midshipman Baans."

Baans raised his eyes, but otherwise showed no reaction. He kept his elbows on his knees, a pair of meaty tattooed fists propping a square stubbly chin. Everyone stopped talking.

If August chose to ignore the man's insolence, he would appear weak. He cracked his knuckles. "That's right; I'm talking to you, numbnuts. On your feet."

Smirking, Baans shot a glance at Zim next to him, but eventually stretched himself upright to assume a semblance of attention. "Sir," he drawled, that extra edge even more palpable than before.

"What was the last order Lieutenant Mensus gave before he died?"

Baans shifted uncomfortably. "What?"

"Your former commander. The last thing he said to you lot before he carked it. What was it?" August knew exactly what his predecessor's last words had been; it was all on record.

Anger rippled across Baans's brow. He pressed his lips together and bunched his forearm muscles, but slowly blood of another kind rose up the sides of his neck. The foredeck had fallen so quiet they could hear the distant rumble from the matter converters.

"Well? I'm waiting, Midshipman."

Baans looked down at his feet. "..ny means..ary," he mumbled.

"Speak up, soldier," August snapped.

"By any means necessary!"

"That's right; 'by any means necessary,'" August repeated. "Well ladies, I am that means. This crew needed a new runner, so here I am. You know it; I know it. It is what it is. So let's stop all this bullshit pussyfooting around so we can get to work. That okay with you specialists? Or am I going to have to drop one or two of you planet-side and find replacements at the orbital resup depot? I know a few folks stationed there who'd absolutely jump at the chance, and they're plenty qualified for the job."

One by one the others stood, glaring.

"Well? What's it gonna be?"

"No sir," Toragger growled.

"No? No what?"

"No need to find replacements, sir!" Zim barked.

August raised an eyebrow at Baans. "And you?"

Baans snapped his boots together and shot his hand up in a full military salute. This time there was nothing limp about it. "Count me in, sir. By any means necessary. Sir!"

"Well all right then. Take a seat, gentlemen, and let's talk about the speed of light." 


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Remembering


He remembered rolling down the back lawn, crashing into cradling honeysuckle in a giggling heap, nose full of grass and earth and the sky still spinning.

And there were her smiling eyes.

He remembered singing, Shuffle shuffle shuffle through the crunchy crunchy leaves, as his feet sought golden orange maple and already brown sycamore and a pile so deep he could jump off the roof and land safe like a crouton in soup.

And there were her smiling eyes.

He remembered when he was a beetle. "You can walk between houses, honey," she said. But of course he insisted on crawling with all six legs. It had to be—and not just look—authentic, after all!

And sighing, perhaps, there still were her smiling eyes.

He remembered last October. The short visit; the half-finished conversations; the goodbye drop-off at the airport, hurried due to the very bulky box he was determined to check in.

And now, months later, he was sitting on a stone beneath an iron sky on the other side of the planet, trying to remember. Had he embraced her? Had he said all that he had wanted to say to her? During his time there, had he done anything to help at all?

The cat tiptoed around the corner and stretched. A cool gust of wind rocked the branches overhead, sending a pair of high-strung lorikeets screeching off in search of a more stable perch.

He closed his eyes, remembering some more. 


Monday, February 18, 2013

The Winemaker


The Winemaker
The Constable's tone had been sympathetic, but his warning was unambiguous: if Arturo did not pay up by season's end, he would lose the other eye.

Arturo had simply given the larger (but in his mind, smaller) man an impatient nod and shown him the door. For the Town to have sent someone all the way out here to East End just to tell the winemaker something he already knew was nothing short of patronizing, and as he watched the Constable carefully leading his mare back down the muddy oily slope, Arturo's wounded pride had left him no choice but to shout after him. "You'll see! It's a bumper crop this year. You'll all have your gold, and I'll be laughing!"

But that had been over a month ago, and no thanks to the embarrassing incident of the storm, his debt had now doubled. Arturo Morlen, who fancied himself a carefree type of fellow, was beginning to worry.

The aluminum broad-brimmed hat hanging from a nail in the doorframe had belonged to his father, and to his grandfather before that. Arturo placed it evenly on his own head, snatched a pair of stained leather gloves from the bench, and walked outside to face the day.

Only a few stars remained in the sky, directly overhead. Their light gleamed from Arturo's single golden eye. The steep little valley spread below him, its sides clothed in shadow-blue vineyards that were broken only by the occasional clump of spruces. Farther down he could see that his only neighbors, the Appenbaums, had already lit their breakfast fire; a ghostly white plume rose more or less eastward to merge with the thin orange glow from the sun where it promised to bloom above the gentle hills that marked the confluence of the Five Valleys. It was a beautiful morning.

Arturo smiled. Never mind the Town; he would prove the Old Crone wrong once and for all about the graygrapes, and while he was at it, he just might win Gailen's heart. 


Monday, February 11, 2013

Flight

FlightAs far as Tarilleon was concerned, birds were worse than fish. Sure, you had more freedom in the air, and thus -- potentially, at least -- more room for perspective. But with fish, the danger was obvious; from the second you entered, being inside one felt so alien and mind-numbing you couldn't wait to get out. The risks of being bird-brained for too long, on the other hand, were much... more subtle.

It was the addiction, of course. The hook, on which so many had hung their mortal coils and never thought to look back.

To be able to fly had perhaps been a dream in the human subconscious for as long as they'd had two hands and a pair of feet. Actually being able to do it now -- soaring high overhead, completely unreachable by earthly concerns, tasting the wild wind—was hard to give up indeed. Tarilleon's own brother Moz had fallen to the temptation, and he himself had nearly succumbed when he was a younger man. He had survived only by learning discipline, moderation, and control.

And so it was with great reluctance and more than a little trepidation that Tarilleon had agreed to the High Oracle's proposal. Using cormorants as their hosts, Tarilleon and four other Watchers would penetrate deep into Sha'mani territory, flying all the way south to the palace of Chamma'Nyva. There they would sit atop walls and on windowsills, dodging rocks and gleaning what information they could.

It would be eight days before they returned to their real bodies. Hence the trepidation: the longest anyone had ever been inside a bird, and successfully returned with sanity intact, was six days. They could shorten the journey by traveling into Krr'Chamma first, finding a safe place to harbor their bodies, and employing wild birds locally. But with animals that had not been raised and nurtured since birth, the risk of a premature break was too great. And so they would have to fly all the way from here using the cormorants.

It was imperative that they find out what the Sha'mani were up to, and soon. Something terrible was happening; never mind the High Oracle, even Tarilleon had sensed it. He could feel it in his bones, in the soil and water, in the very air gusting through his feathers.... 


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Zunz'ish

Zunz'ish
It's like getting out of your pod in the morning: you have to do it, whether you want to or not. We're soldiers; we've got a job to do. Why in the Four-Lights should that slacker Zunz'ish be any different?!

Every shift he just floats off by himself, completely out of formation, daydreaming. Putting us all at risk. If I were Reefguard Ts'idjuŗŗ, I'd swim over there and give him a good tailsmack to the face, make him pull his head in and get back to his post. But Ts'idjuŗŗ just keeps patrolling back and forth, inspecting the line or staring over the Edge into the abyss, acting as if nothing's out of place.

Some of us have been grumbling. Shanz'ched thinks the newcomer's birthqueen must've sent word to our Nest to make sure he got special treatment here. But Chonj'ŗŗa disagrees; he says we'd know it if Zunz'ish were that highborn, and that it's far more likely the puny little scrub is directly related to someone moderately important like a cross-Nest Maarguard. Whoever it is must be collecting on a favor, he says.

It would make sense I guess. Politics between Zunz'ish's birthnest and ours are complex these days, to say the least. If an order has indeed been sent down through the ranks to leave the outsider alone, it would explain why Reefguard Ts'idjuŗŗ has been turning a blind eye to the lazy algaescrub ever since he transferred here.

Whatever the reason, it doesn't give Zunz'ish the right to dilly-dally where he pleases and leave a hole in our defenses. If the Murk launched an attack right now, I reckon it would take Zunz'ish at least twenty seconds to swim over to his spot in the grid and synch up with the rest of us. By then we'd be dead; I've seen attacks come so fast that even a delay of five or six seconds would've cost us our lives. And if even one of us dies, the grid fails, and then the Nest will almost certainly fall.

I wonder if he even has the salt to do the job. They only put elite metasingers like ourselves, the best of the best, here on the Edge. But we're trained for this. If Zunz'ish is just some dandy that has been placed here so that he or someone else can get a fin or two up in his career, then may the Four-Lights help us, 'cause we're doomed.

"Sir? What's that up there?" I hear Shanz'ched say. He's staring toward the surface.

As Reefguard Ts'idjuŗŗ makes his way over, I follow Shanz'ched's gaze. Far overhead I can barely make out wave shapes in the dim moonlight. But something else is there, too. Whatever it is seems to be growing.

The Reefguard watches it awhile. "Flotsam, most likely. Nothing to worry about."

"No sir, I think.. I think it's sinking," Chonj'ŗŗa whistles.

"Nonsense," Ts'idjuŗŗ trills.

But sure enough, the dark mass above us appears to be coming closer. Not only that, it seems to be dividing into sections. A chill ripples down my dorsum, immediately followed by a hollowness in the pit of my stomach.

A trick. We've been duped. No sooner do I look down than the first shockwave comes roiling up from the darkness below.

My voice cracks from panic. "ATTACK!!!"

The others race back to their posts, and we begin tuning up as quickly as we can. Out of the corner of my left eyecluster, however, I can see that Zunz'ish has not budged.

"Sir!!! Zunz'ish!!!" I screech, nodding in the slacker's direction.

The Reefguard simply eyes me and shakes his head. "He'll be fine. Do your job, soldier."

"But—"

"No time," he warbles. "Form the grid, now."

Outranked, I shut up and do as I'm told. 

We sing.

Our voices coalesce into a protective grid less than a second before the first shockwave hits. We're in too much of a hurry, though, and the concussion nearly knocks us out of sync. Below, rising fast, is the bulk of the Murk, evil and dark and hungry as ever. I shut my eyes in concentration.

The shockwaves always come in threes for some reason. The second buffets us harder than the first, but our makeshift grid holds. Bracing myself for the final assault, I sing as loudly as I can, and can feel my comrades doing the same. We're a soldier down, though. And the Murk is already level with the Edge.

The third shockwave slams into us. The Murk looms immediately behind it, sending out a thousand shadowy tendrils to surround us. Above, the sinking mass from the surface reveals itself to be more of the same. Very clever, I reflect. A distraction tactic, and we were stupid enough to fall for it.

One of the dark tendrils slices perilously close to Shanz'ched's throat, causing him to flinch. We react, and the grid falters.

"HOLD!" yells the Reefguard, but deep down I know it is too late. And that sooner than I ever expected it would be, my death is upon me.

A clear, piercing note rises from off to the left. I open my eyes just in time to see a reddish globe billow outward from Zunz'ish's position. Expanding as it travels, the strange sphere heads straight for the bulk of the Murk, tearing through the reaching tendrils and leaving fragments in its wake.

It strikes the Murk square in the face. A great bellowing rumbles around the Edge, snapping coral and stirring up a swirling storm of sand and dead fish. The dark beast writhes, vomiting forth a cataract of black mud from its terrible maw.


When the debris finally clears, I peer over the Edge just in time to catch a glimpse of the wrecked mass of the Murk as it plummets into the blackness below.

I can't believe it. We're alive, and the nest is safe. And there's Zunz'ish, still floating off by himself, still daydreaming as if nothing happened.