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 :-)

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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....