Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Tuesday Tease - Gentlemen Pigs by Anthony Cristina

This week's Tuesday Tease has to be displayed in image form for it's full effect. Anthony Cristina has provided the first three pages for his latest release 'Gentlemen Pigs':




Click here to buy Gentlemen Pigs from Amazon US / Amazon UK

About the Author:

Anthony Cristina doubles as an illustrator and vocalist for hire. He works out of a subarctic jungle called Downsview. He can be found at www.avcristina.com.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

September Short Fiction Contest Winners

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons Author - Shubi

Picking this month's winners proved to be the hardest of the contest so far. September's image of a leather bound tome sparked a diverse range of stories. I received over sixty entries and they were all of a quality. I will be featuring a few in future Sunday Stories.

But today's post is about the three winners and without further ado here they are:


  • First prize of a £50 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to David Turnball for 'The Book of Remembrance'
  • Second prize of a £20 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Kath Middleton for 'Arbow's Notebook'
  • Third prize of a £10 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Chad Lutzke for 'The Damned Thing'
Congratulations to the winners - I'm sure you'll agree that they have all written superb stories. Thanks also to everyone who entered. Each month you make my task of selecting the winners that bit more difficult with more entries! And a big thanks for everyone who has shared the links for these contests, your support is much appreciated.

And now for the winning stories:

The Book of Remembrance by David Turnball



The population of my village was amongst the first selected for extermination. Our oppressor wanted to send out a strong and unequivocal message that left no one in any doubt about what they were capable of.

We were given no warning. The trucks came at dawn. In addition to their weapons the soldiers brought with them their dreaded Book of Remembrance. We had heard of this book. It was designed to consolidate the message. 

It was presented on a red cushion, as if it was something sacred. Each section of the book contained the name of a village. Each page following each section contained three columns – name, date of birth and date of execution.

Before they faced the trauma of the firing squad each villager was to be compelled to write down their name and date of birth. If couldn’t write there were military clerks to whom you could dictate your details. Their Central Command had predetermined the date of execution and therefore this column was already complete. 

By the time they came to our village two other sections had been filled. Two entire villages wiped from existence, the men, the women, the children, only remembered from names entered on the lists.

The oppressor wanted the victims of their genocide to be more than just cold statistics. They wanted these Books of Remembrance to be read by the surviving populace. To them a coldly calculated remembrance of lives so easily extinguished was in itself was an act of subjugation. 

They wanted us to be real because perceived reality increases the level of terror. They wanted the same dreadful thoughts to be ingrained in everyone’s mind. ‘The same thing could happen to me.’ They hoped to instil a level of fear that was sufficient to ensure an unfaltering subservience.

I heard each person before me forced to read out what they had written into the book, name and date of birth – date of execution punctuated by the shock of a single gunshot. I heard the wailing of the women and the children. A wilful calmness settled over me. When it came my turn I took the book and ran.

I was always the fastest runner in my village. I dodged their bullets. I ran deep into the forest. I ran high into the hills. A helicopter gunship came searching for me, sweeping low over the crags and gullies. But I knew the hills too well.

I watched my village burn. I watched the departure of the trucks in slow serpentine convey. I watched the smoke fill the red sky at sunset. Knowing that the empty cushion would be interpreted as a defiant act filled me with determination. I placed the tip of my pencil onto one of the empty pages.

And there began the Book of Resistance.


Arbow's Notebook by Kath Middleton



You could say this is my diary although I have never written in it. 

I fell in with a man of science by the name of David Arbow. We were both acolytes of John Dee’s, a man who sat upon the boundary between science and magic. These days he is thought of as a magician and an occultist although when we first knew him he was concerned with communicating with angels. It was through this cabalistic angel magic and his beliefs that man has the capability of divine power that David Arbow came under his influence.

Contrary to common belief, Dee was a devout Christian and a gifted mathematician and his reputation for black magic is not founded in reality. Arbow, however, loved the idea of communicating with angels, most particularly with those angels who fell, along with Lucifer, when challenging the Divine One for power. He felt that if he could speak to these entities, steal a little of the power they surely possessed, he himself would rise above his fellow men. His arrogance refused to let him consider anything else.

He had nowhere near the calibre of mind which his hero possessed. He would sit with Dee while the latter performed calculations, nodding and seemingly sharing the journey of learning with him, but he was floundering along the wayside. Without the Master he was lost. Nevertheless, he had accumulated a certain cachet amongst Dee’s other hangers-on and sought to reap financial rewards through this reputation.

We were all in awe of John Dee’s mind and the things of which he was capable. Most of us were content to study with him and in all honesty, we struggled to follow in his wake, let alone keep up with him. Those of a more esoteric frame of mind would try to emulate his scrying techniques and attempt to contact spirits and even angelic beings by use of an Aztec artefact – an obsidian scrying mirror. 

Doctor Dee would occasionally allow those of us of lesser talents to attempt to see with this device but I have to confess, I saw nothing. Arbow let it be known that he could contact heavenly beings and also lost souls, adrift in a void and looking for the way into celestial bliss. Dee was interested and gave Arbow special attention, though the rest of us believed he was being fooled by a cunning man of lesser talents.

Dee encouraged Arbow to make copious notes in a diary. He suggested he should note the days on which he made the contacts, the results of his ‘conversations’ with the angelic forms and even the weather conditions prevalent at the time. He told Arbow that the diary must be a special book and that it should never be used for anything else. It was the key to heaven.

It was to me. It is made from my skin.


The Damned Thing by Chad Lutze



I bound the damned thing tightly; hopefully for the last time, though I could not rid my room of it and, there was the matter of “just in case.”  A plethora of perfumes emitted from each page even with it shut, flooding my mind with an extraordinary lust for more.  During these episodes, when I would finally get a hold of myself, I often found my eyes rolled backward; overtaken by an unexplainable ecstasy.  Because the words elude me, I will end the attempt to describe it here.  

My collection of their perfume-scented clothing is harmless.  My voyeuristic viewing from afar would be perceived as a perversion by most but would keep me from imprisonment as long as I was careful.  It was the book of names and addresses that could ultimately cause the death of the whores were I to open it again.  The book has become cumbersome, and I fear I can no longer keep the pages together.   

Marked in red, my favorites reside in the district of Whitechapel.  In blue I marked routine police routes.  Getting caught is not an option.  I would take every precaution necessary, though if I were to give in to my desires I would surely participate in taunting the district police.  Perhaps I’ll even send them pages from the very book I struggle to keep closed.  Ha!  If only I could watch them as they struggle to find me.  

As I write, the attraction grows.  Perhaps tonight I will give in to my urges.  I’ve prepared the jars for trophies.  Through my studies, I've become somewhat obsessed with human anatomy.  Perhaps closer examination of their internal organs would give me a greater understanding of life, of medicine...of women.  This next statement to be said without pun, but perhaps stopping the whores from their infestation, while furthering my invaluable research, would kill two birds with but a single stone.  Do I manipulate myself into the slaughtering of the broads using my scientific examinations as justification?  Am I feeding science or a demon of murderous lust?  If I begin will I be able to stop?  

My written entry this evening has stirred within me a temptation I can no longer resist.  I will open the pages of the damned thing and hunt for the first name penned in red.  The cobblestone streets will collect the blood spilled tonight, and though they will pursue after me, they will find me not, for Jack is nimble and Jack is quick, and the throat of the dresses my razor will nick.




Friday, 26 September 2014

Last Weekend to Buy Conversations in the Abyss for Half Price

This weekend marks the last weekend you can buy Conversations in the Abyss for only half price! The sale ends on the 30th September so grab your copy now.


The second book in 'The Third Path' trilogy.

Stealing Lazarus’s miracle gifted him immortality. Combined with his natural ability of invading and controlling people’s minds this made him one of the most dangerous people on Earth.

But the miracle came with a price. His punishment was to be imprisoned within the walls of an ancient monastery and tormented by an invisible fire that burned his body perpetually. To escape the pain he retreated deep into his own mind.

There he discovers the truth of the universe and that only he can stop the coming Apocalypse.

Conversations in the Abyss is available from these online stores:

Buy now from Amazon (US): http://amzn.to/1ry7evK
Buy now from Amazon (UK): http://amzn.to/1kdZR6v
Buy now from Barnes & Noble (Nook): http://bit.ly/1kdZWqL
Buy now from iTunes (US): https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/id647298331
Buy now from iTunes (UK): https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/id647298331
Buy now from Kobo: http://bit.ly/Radeuc
Buy now from Page Foundry: http://bit.ly/1qKOs1l
Read now on Scribd: http://bit.ly/1mpvJlA


Friday Poem - My Little Runaway by Rick Haynes

I'm familiar with Rick Haynes's drabbles and to a lesser extent his short stories - in fact I recently read his collection and enjoyed them immensely. When he posted his drabble length poem 'My Little Runaway' on KUF I immediately asked him to allow me to feature it in the Friday Poem feature. Not only is this a well written and poignant poem it reminded me of some of the people I met when I was on the streets many, many years ago.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

MY LITTLE RUNAWAY
by Rick Haynes


Where are you going to my little runaway?
There’s only pain today.
Is it true you are lost my precious runaway?
Just hunger pangs today.
There’s no one at home who understands you.
So how will you cope in the cold and the dark?

Your world so empty.
Your life so sad.

There are no answers little runaway.
Where will you be sleeping tonight?
There are no sympathies precious runaway.
So how will you feel tonight?

But maybe tomorrow will be brighter.
For maybe your star will shine.
So turn around my little runaway.

Heaven’s too full of your kind.

Some time ago, I was asked to contribute to a scheme highlighting the plight of neglected and abused children in the USA. The weapon of choice being the mighty pen, I decided to write a Drabble. With only 100 words to play with I knew that it had to be punchy, yet thought provoking, and with an important message in the last line.

My Little Runaway immediately jumped into my head and the message refused to abate until I had finished. Although, I must confess that the last few words took a few days to appear in my grey matter.

As a man I deplore man’s inhumanity to man. As a father and grandfather, I loathe any cruelty to children no matter where they live.

My Little Runaway is dedicated to all those alone in the dark.


Click here to buy Drabbles 'n' Shorts from Amazon US / Amazon UK (and it's an excellent read)

Thursday, 25 September 2014

ABC Drabbles of Death - R is for Requiem



And so we reach the letter 'R' in the ABC Drabbles of Death series. As regular readers will know this is a series of 100 word stories for each letter of the alphabet based around death. A morbid subject to be sure, but we've had a blend of sad, gruesome and even funny on the macabre journey so far.

This week's drabbles (yes drabbles as this is a double bill - all will become clear!) takes a more solemn tone. For the letter 'R' there was only one choice - it had to be requiem and in specific a requiem mass. At first I thought I would write a drabble covering the mass from some angle then I thought of something different.

I've always been fascinated by the ceremony of faith and in particular the old school catholic Latin mass and the requiem is a stand out example. It has also inspired some of the most beautiful music ever created. And then a mad idea formed. Why not write a drabble based on the lLatinrequiem mass?

Well as it turned out that was pretty easy. The highlights of the mass I wanted to feature in Latin came to 101 words - so an easy edit. Not so easy was the English version - after all not that many people read Latin these days (I'm far from fluent). I found an excellent English translation but that weighed in at nearly 200 words for the same verses. Latin is clearly a more compact language.

So I ask forgiveness for any Latin scholars reading this as I've taken some liberties with the translation!

If you've not read the previous drabbles in the series then you'll find them all here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/p/welcome-to-first-drabble-in-my-new.html

R is for Requiem (Latin Version)

Dies iræ! dies illa
Solvet sæclum in favilla:
Teste David cum Sibylla!

Tuba, mirum spargens sonum
Per sepulchra regionum,
Coget omnes ante thronum.

Mors stupebit, et natura,
Cum resurget creatura,
Iudicanti responsura.

Preces meæ non sunt dignæ:
Sed tu bonus fac benigne,
Ne perenni cremer igne.

Inter oves locum præsta,
Et ab hædis me sequestra,
Statuens in parte dextra.

Confutatis maledictis,
Flammis acribus addictis:
Voca me cum benedictis.

Oro supplex et acclinis,
Cor contritum quasi cinis:
Gere curam mei finis.

Lacrimosa dies illa,
Qua resurget ex favilla
Iudicandus homo reus.

Huic ergo parce, Deus:
Pie Iesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem.

R is for Requiem (English Version)

Wrathful day and mourning!
Fulfilled prophets' warning,
Everything in ashes burning!

Trumpet flingeth;
through sepulchers ringeth;
to throne bringeth.

Death, nature quaking,
all creation awaking,
Judge’s answer making.

Worthless prayers sighing,
yet, grace complying,
rescue me from fires undying!

With favoured sheep place;
nor among goats abase;
but to thy side upraise.

While the wicked confounded,
doomed to flames unbounded
Summon saints surrounded.

I kneel, heart’s submission,
like ashes, my contrition;
help in my last condition.

Day of tears and mourning!
From earth returning
For judgment preparing;

God, mercy spare him!
Lord, all pitying, Jesus blest,
grant them eternal rest.

Beauty in Ruins: Sci-Fi Review: Faust 2.0 by Michael Brookes

Beauty in Ruins: Sci-Fi Review: Faust 2.0 by Michael Brookes: Next, perhaps, to Dickens' Scrooge , Goethe's Faust is arguably the most influential character in English literature. Often imitate...

Book Impressions - Dark Space by Jasper T Scott

I have two pet peeves in science fiction. The first is the use of made up terms to make things seem more sci-fi. The classic example of this is 'unobtanium' from Avatar. Well here we have 'transpiranium' (I may have speled that incorrectly!) and it's used so often it distracted from the story. My other pet peeve is the use of made up words for swearing. If you're using contemporary English idioms everywhere else in the book then say 'Frek' or 'krack' really doesn't add anything.

Minor things you might think, but they do irritate me, so much so that I nearly discarded this book after a couple chapters. Which would have been a shame as it turned out to be a fun read. It's more of a guilty pleasure than classic sci-fi, but entertaining all the same.

In many ways it reads like a computer game, it's full of energy and rips along at a decent pace. It's lacking in depth for the characters but they play their parts. Like many computer games the plot seems contrived at times and I groaned out loud at the reveal at the end.

It has many flaws, but it's a quick read and there's some decent action in there. It's the first book in a series and currently this book appears to be free, so is worth taking a punt on.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

HUMANITY IS DEFEATED
Ten years ago the Sythians invaded the galaxy with one goal: to wipe out the human race.

THEY ARE HIDING
Now the survivors are hiding in the last human sector of the galaxy: Dark Space—once a place of exile for criminals, now the last refuge of mankind.

THEY ARE ISOLATED
The once galaxy-spanning Imperium of Star Systems is left guarding the gate which is the only way in or out of Dark Space—but not everyone is satisfied with their governance.

AND THEY ARE KILLING EACH OTHER
Freelancer and ex-convict Ethan Ortane is on the run. He owes crime lord Alec Brondi 10,000 sols, and his ship is badly damaged. When Brondi catches up with him, he makes an offer Ethan can’t refuse. Ethan must infiltrate and sabotage the Valiant, the Imperial Star Systems Fleet carrier which stands guarding the entrance of Dark Space, and then his debt will be cleared. While Ethan is still undecided about what he will do, he realizes that the Imperium has been lying and putting all of Dark Space at risk. Now Brondi’s plan is starting to look like a necessary evil, but before Ethan can act on it, he discovers that the real plan was much more sinister than what he was told, and he will be lucky to escape the Valiant alive. . . .


Click here to buy Dark Space from Amazon US / Amazon UK (it's a fun read and currently free so might be worth checking out)

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Blog Shout Out - Lynne Stringer

For this week's blog shout out we visit Lynne Stringer's author blog. Discover more below:



Hi! I'm Lynne Stringer and I'm fortunate enough to be a published author. I've always been interested in writing and wrote what would become my debut novel in 2010. When it was accepted for publication, my publisher encouraged me to start blogging as well. I thought it sounded like a good idea, as it was a great way for me to share my thoughts and feelings on reading, writing and books.

I wrote my first blog in January 2013 and have written at least one a week since then. When writing my blog I often like to talk about about writing and how my work as a writer affects my life. I also have guest blogs and giveaways sometimes.

Some blogs prove more popular than others, though! I wrote a blog in November last year on whether Christians should write romantic fiction. It received quite a bit of feedback. A guest blog from award winning author, Paula Vince, just this week has also done well. As for me, my favourite post was probably my first, when I talked about my journey in writing. I enjoyed relaying everything that led up to me becoming a published author.

As for the future, I'll definitely keep on writing, because I can't stop and also to continue blogging, because it's a good release.

Click here to visit Lynne Stringer's blog: http://www.lynnestringer.com/blog/

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Tuesday Tease - The Heretic by Lucas Bale

This week's Tuesday Tease is the first chapter from Lucas Bale's superb debut novel 'The Heretic'. I enjoyed reading this immensely and I think you will to:

Click on image to buy from Amazon

THE HERETIC by LUCAS BALE

CHAPTER ONE

The Runner

Somewhere outside, the dog ceased its barking.

Caught up in the roiling of a dream, Jordi had woken suddenly to the sound of the animal’s distant baying. But almost as abruptly as he’d been roused, the noise had ended.

Awake, Jordi lifted a hand to his aching shoulder and kneaded the muscle. The acid still burned from the toil of the previous few days. The cold had descended early and without warning, and the whole village had scrambled to begin the Gathering and rescue the crop from spoiling in the glistening hoarfrost. Now Jordi lay on the low cot he had slept on for almost all of the fourteen years of his life, and shivered.

He glanced over at the fire. The pale embers smouldered gently amid the ash. Another log on the tiny hearth should see them through to morning, he thought, and perhaps a third blanket from the small cupboard in the hall. He glanced over at Ishmael, watched his chest rise and fall in time with the soft hum from his lips. Jordi smiled despite the cold. Even asleep, his brother wore a rakish grin.

Jordi swung his legs off the cot and pulled both blankets around his shoulders. A stabbing cramp pinched his muscles. Papa had been relentless, pushing both of them to cut and sweep more quickly than they had thought possible. From first light to the fall of dusk they had laboured without respite. Cutting, sweeping and carrying armfuls of crop to the waiting carts beneath a cool winter sun.

Again he shivered and closed his eyes. Back to sleep soon, he thought. There would be more to gather tomorrow. Carefully, so as not to wake Ishmael, he padded over the wool rugs laid across the cold wood floor and peered through the tiny window. This time of year, with both moons shedding silver and crimson across the fields and the forest beyond, the light was enough to see by.

The village was home to a handful of dogs, and he wondered which had been disturbed this deep into the night. The closest was Johanssen’s tiny mongrel, but it was so unassuming and guileless that Jordi found it hard to believe anything might disturb its slumber. Most likely it was Vaarden’s hunter. That ill-tempered creature could weed out a rat in a field of rape, and nothing living seemed able to dodge its attention. That was Vaarden’s doing. He’d sharpened the animal’s senses until Jordi thought it could almost read minds.

It left him wondering what might have disturbed the animal. It wouldn’t have been concerned enough to open an eye to a wandering grey weasel from the forest, he guessed. Vaarden wouldn’t have permitted that. He’d never get any sleep.

Jordi ducked a little and tilted his head to see through the window’s grime, across the field towards the Vaarden place. He could make out the roof and doors of their barn, and the curl of smoke beyond from the fire in their bedroom. There were no children; it was just the warden and his young wife from town.

Jordi had never warmed to the warden’s wife. She was not much older than him, but she wore her past affluence like a cloak wrapped tightly around her to keep the rest of the village away. She was far too good for the likes of them. Papa had often grumbled to Mama that whatever had caused Vaarden to want to wed her was a mystery. But Jordi understood fine well why: she was pleasing to look at. Her hair tumbled across her shoulders like a silver waterfall, and her green eyes glimmered as she took after him and Ishmael with a broom. On the warm summer days when she took to the fields in a light dress that did little to hide her olive skin and the curves of her smooth body, he experienced a stirring in a place he didn’t fully understand.

Ishmael spoke coarsely of her, and old Vaarden knew as much of his brother’s lust as he cared to. A few times Vaarden and Ishmael had exchanged tense words without mentioning her name, but Jordi knew what it was about. What else would it be about? Everyone loved Ishmael. Everyone except Vaarden. Talk in the village was that Vaarden couldn’t please his young wife, and turned his rage onto Ishmael for it.

As Jordi squinted through the dirty glass, he thought he caught a shimmer of movement among the shadows on the edge of the forest. He stared, tilting his head to improve the view, but couldn’t make it out.

Had he really seen something, or was it a trick of the light? The remnants of his dream dancing in front of his eyes and mocking him?

Jordi turned and made his way out of the room he shared with his brother, then along the hallway of their tiny cottage. The stove in the main room was cool and dark now. Only the bedroom fires were alight. He crept to the main door and silently lifted the latch; he had long ago taught himself the knack of opening the door without a sound. As the cold night air seeped into his bones, he shivered again, and his heart began to simmer in his chest. He pulled the blankets more tightly around his shoulders and eased into the shadows outside the house.

The woodpile lay to his left, but the fire was forgotten now. He wanted to know what he’d seen. Wanted to prove to himself that he wasn’t still dreaming. Perhaps he’d be lucky and spot a deer on a nighttime jaunt, or maybe even a wolf prowling for food.

He gazed into the darkness, but could pick out nothing. He felt a curl of disappointment. There was no movement amid the gloom on the fringes of the forest. There was no wind, so the trees were still. For a moment he stood and waited, but still nothing moved. He shook his head and turned towards the woodpile.

Then he saw them.

A handful of dark shapes gliding along the edge of the field, stooped and silent. Figures shaped like hunched men, cloaked in shadow.

Carrying guns.

Jordi had seen Vaarden’s rifle enough times to know what it was these men were holding. Vaarden owned a rifle because he was both warden and a hunter; he had a permit from the Magistratus. Ishmael had stolen it once, a foolish prank, and Vaarden had flown into a fury. He’d stormed through the house and dragged Ishmael into the street and beat him. Mama had called in the Watch from the town, but it was Ishmael who had been lashed. Vaarden had offered no explanation, and none had been asked for.

Jordi’s mouth was suddenly dry. He wanted to cry out, but the words froze in his throat. Why would men be approaching the village at night, with guns?

He knew the answer, but he refused to believe it. How could they know?

Run, a voice inside his head screamed.

Vaarden’s dog. It had been Vaarden’s dog barking, and Jordi realised why it had suddenly silenced. Vaarden was a hunter and he owned a gun. If they knew that…

Jordi’s legs wouldn’t move. He pleaded with them to carry him inside, but they felt brittle beneath him. He felt his chest tighten and his hands begin to shake. Then, suddenly, he was running. Into the house and into their bedroom.

Over to Ishmael, fingers digging into his brother’s skin, shaking him, clawing, biting.

‘Wake up!’ he hissed. ‘Wake up, please!’

Ishmael’s eyes snapped open.

‘What the hell are you—’ he began, rubbing sleep from his eyes.

‘Vaarden,’ was all Jordi could say. His throat was so dry, it was agony just to speak. ‘Someone’s… coming. I think they’ve killed Vaarden.’

‘What are you talking about?’ Ishmael moaned, rolling his eyes. ‘If this is another one of your stories, Jor—’

‘Please, Ish,’ Jordi said, his shoulders trembling. ‘It’s no story, I promise. I saw them. They’ve got guns. Like Vaarden’s.’

Ishmael slid off his cot and sloped over to the window, still unbelieving. He ducked, rubbed his eyes and peered out. Jordi watched his brother’s eyes widen and his mouth sag. Then Ishmael turned and reached for him.

‘Grab some clothes,’ he hissed. ‘As much as you can carry. And put on your boots.’

‘It’s because of the preacher,’ Jordi said.

‘It’s too late for that now,’ his brother replied. ‘We have to go.’ He sprinted out of their room.
Jordi ran over to the small chest where they kept their clothes and began to pull out everything he could, shoving it into the shoulder bag his mother had once sewn for him out of burlap. He pushed in clothes until he couldn’t fit any more, then slung it over his shoulder.

He heard shuffling behind him and spun, his heart pounding. His mother stood in the frame of the door, her face pale and smooth in the moonlight. Her eyes betrayed her panic, and she reached for him, imploring for him to hurry to her. He pushed past her and she turned and followed.

Ishmael stood by the main door, almost silhouetted against the crimson and silver light of the moons. His face was tight, his lips pulled back over his teeth as he spoke, and his eyes were wide and danced with fear.

‘The back,’ he whispered and pointed. ‘I can see them at Johanssen’s place. They’ll be here next! We have to go.’

Jordi’s father appeared from the main room with a large sack in one hand and a loaf of fresh bread in the other. He pushed the loaf into Jordi’s hands.

‘Head for the forest,’ he whispered. ‘Stay low and don’t look back, no matter what you hear.’ His deep voice trembled. ‘I need to wake as many as I can.’

‘We should warn the preacher,’ Ishmael said.

‘There’s no time,’ their father said, shaking his head.

‘I’ll make time. We can’t leave him.’

‘Ishmael,’ their mother said, imploring. ‘You must listen to your father.’

But Ishmael didn’t listen. He turned and ran out the door. It was the last time Jordi would ever see his brother alive.



Breathless, Jordi ran. He kept his back hunched and his head low. He tried not to think about what was behind him, but as he dodged through the gate and into the fields, he glanced over his shoulder and back at the house. Dark shapes floated across the windows and he turned and ran harder.

He’d put his boots on the wrong feet, and his toes dug into the leather, scraping and biting. He hadn’t even had time to lace them. To his left, more shadows creased the moonlight.

It’s not possible! They were just in our cottage. They can’t have got to us that quickly.

No, the shadows to his left were familiar—Mr and Mrs Ingmarrson. Huddled and running, like him. Carrying sacks stuffed with whatever possessions they’d had time to grab. There were more beyond them, all stumbling for the forest. He searched for Ishmael but couldn’t see him.

He stared ahead, breaths coming in ragged gasps as the cold air scratched at his lungs. The tall grass whipped his fingers and tugged at his knees. The forest was still at least fifty metres away.

The crack of gunfire filled the air.

Jordi knew the sound. He’d heard it many times, emanating from deep within the forest when Vaarden and his friends from the Watch hunted in the early dawn. Jordi hunted too, but he had his own places to hunt and forage. Places Vaarden and the Watch would never go. In the spring—as no man or woman ventured into the forest in winter if they could avoid it—he’d take his slingshot to hunt grey weasel and tree jumpers. And he would sometimes hear that sound. But it had always been so distant, it had seemed little more than an echo on the wind.

This was different. Loud and hard like thunder overhead.

It terrified him.

The moonlight vanished each time it sounded, and a white, incandescent light seared the night sky. He felt something tiny hiss as it hurtled past him. Too fast almost to notice, like a summer firefly. But he knew what it was, and he whispered desperately to himself, tears blooming his eyes.

‘No, please.’

Immediately he felt ashamed, but he ran harder.

The trees were closer now, but under the tall grass the fields had been furrowed deep and were uneven and hard from the hoarfrost. He fought to keep his balance. Every time a foot hit the ground he felt it turn over.

The white light flashed again and again. The crack of thunder shattered the silence of the night.
Ish, where are you?

But he couldn’t look around. He just had to run. A scream shrilled to his left, but he forced himself to ignore it. He knew there were more running now, but he didn’t look—couldn’t just stop to count. He hoped as many as possible had been woken and were fleeing.

Make the trees and you can hide.

Another scream, followed by a wretched whimper. Somewhere, someone wailed.

Twenty metres. His lungs burned.

One after another, fireflies hissed past his ears.

Then his knee buckled on a ridged furrow and he fell. The ground rose up to meet him, and iron, frozen earth punched his face and tore his cheek. He rolled and pitched and dragged himself up.
Scrambling forward, he staggered and fell again. He glanced back. He couldn’t help himself. It was like something pulled his head round and drew his eyes. Dozens of dark shapes, threading their way through the grass, ducked low. Flashes exploded in front of them, bathing the field in brilliant white light for a split second each time. The brightness stung his eyes.

He turned, sucking in deep, panting breaths. He crawled and jumped and clawed, trying desperately to get up again and run at the same time.

The trees were so close.

The gnarled shapes within the forest appeared ghostly in the shadows cast by the searing white flashes. The swarm of fireflies splintered and tore away shards of bark.

Suddenly, he was inside.

He didn’t stop. The ground was flatter now, softer from the wet moss and brown leaves of the Gathering time. He’d reached the forest quicker than anyone else. No one in the village could run faster than him. He knew instinctively where to go, where the men wouldn’t find them. There was only one place they could go. He knew his father would follow, and that everyone else would too. Suddenly, Jordi was leading them all, saving them. As the screams from the field echoed in his ears, he led his people away.

He carried on running until his legs wouldn’t allow him to run anymore. His lungs collapsed, and he fought to haul in air. He crumpled onto the cool, wet ground and wept. He tried to stop himself, but he couldn’t.

It seemed a long time before he felt rough hands on his jacket. He panicked and turned, scrambling backwards.

They had him. No!

He looked into the eyes of the face leaning over him, felt the hands clawing for him. Recognised the kindness and sorrow.

Papa.

‘No time to rest, little man.’

Jordi nodded and dragged himself up again. He glanced around. There were other figures in the shadows. Only a handful—ten or twelve maybe. He could hardly make out who they were.
‘I know where to go,’ Jordi whispered.

‘I know you do,’ his father said and hugged him tight. ‘So take us there.’

Jordi began to run again, ducking under branches and climbing over fallen trees. They all followed. He couldn’t remember how long they’d been running. It seemed like all night.

And still they ran.

Click here to buy The Heretic from Amazon US / Amazon UK (and it's an excellent read!)

About the Author:

Lucas Bale writes the sort of intense, thrilling science-fiction and suspense stories which make you miss your train stop. The sort of stories which dig into what makes us human and scrape at the darkness which hides inside every one of us. When he looks up at the infinite space above him, he sees the myriad worlds which are waiting for us, and which need to be explored. His debut novel, THE HERETIC, is the gateway to the BEYOND THE WALL series, an epic story about the future of humanity and the discovery of the truth of its past. He wasn’t always a writer. He was a barrister for fifteen years before he discovered crime doesn't pay and turned to something which actually pays even less. No one ever said he was smart, but at least he’s happy.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Guest Author Interview - Marilyn Peake

Marilyn Peake joins me in this week's guest author interview to discuss her latest release 'Shade'. Discover more below:

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
Thanks so much for this interview! I’m the author of both novels and short stories. I also love traveling and photography.

What first inspired you to start writing?
Literature and writing are something I fell in love with at a very early age. In elementary school, I loved the art of storytelling. In high school, after taking English Literature, Honors English, and Creative Writing classes, I fell head over heels in love with both reading and writing. I was inspired by writers I read in high school. I started to read different types of literature on my own. One of my favorite authors in high school was John Steinbeck. I read everything by Steinbeck that I could possibly find. One of my favorite poets was Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Two of my favorite plays were THE CRUCIBLE by Arthur Miller and THE GLASS MENAGERIE by Tennessee Williams. Every work was so unique and beautifully written, I felt inspired to begin trying my hand at writing in high school.

And what motivates you to keep writing?
Now I’m motivated to keep writing by the experience of beginning to get an idea for a story, having the details take shape in my mind, and then at some point in the actual writing process, a door to an entire world suddenly opens and I get to step inside and finish creating the rest of the story. It’s an exhilarating experience! I’m also motivated to keep writing when I hear from readers that my writing has touched them in some way—that’s incredibly motivating for me.

Which author do you most admire and why?
That’s a tough question because I admire so many authors! I have a great deal of admiration for Hugh Howey. His WOOL series is phenomenal, as is his success in indie publishing. Not only has he succeeded beyond most writers’ wildest dreams, he never forgot his early days as a struggling writer and continues to offer advice and opportunities to other indie authors.

Where do your best ideas come from?
Many of my best ideas come from the news. Destructive world events really get to me and I frequently find myself writing a fictional story based on events in the news.

What unique characteristic do you bring to your stories?
I’d say adding unique fantasy and science fiction twists to real-world events. For example, in response to the near collapse of the worldwide banking system, I wrote a short story titled OCCUPY FAERIE, in which an evil faerie teams up with a corrupt politician and works to undermine the Occupy movement.

What was the last book you enjoyed reading?
Hugh Howey’s WOOL series.

What are you working on at the moment?
I was so fired up reading Hugh Howey’s WOOL series that when I found out Amazon had opened up fan fiction opportunities for the WOOL series, I sketched out an idea for a story, contacted Hugh to ask his permission before proceeding, and am now about three-quarters of the way through writing a story set in the WOOL universe. I’m very excited about this project!

Tell us about your latest release and how we can find out more.
My latest release is SHADE, a Young Adult Mystery novel with Paranormal elements. I’m delighted with how well SHADE has been received. There have been a few times I’ve actually welled up with tears, reading a review in which the reviewer mentioned being deeply affected by the story and the main character, Shade.

Here’s a summary of SHADE:

Thanks to her offbeat mother, Shade’s full name is Galactic Shade Griffin. Having a name like that while being the new girl in school is pretty much catnip for bullies. The summer before Shade’s junior year of high school, her mother breaks up with yet another boyfriend and moves them once again to a new town.

This time, they move into a dilapidated old house where Shade has an entire attic bedroom to herself—at least until she discovers it’s haunted by the ghost of a teenaged boy named Brandon Yates. When Shade’s best friend goes missing, her life becomes even more complicated. With the help of Brandon who’s struggling with his own issues in the world beyond, Shade faces the question of whether or not she has what it takes to become a true hero.

Although this novel deals with a number of serious issues—drug and alcohol abuse, cutting, and disturbing world events—it's primarily a novel about a teenaged girl finding out who she really is and that she's capable of so much more than she ever thought possible.

Here’s the Goodreads page for SHADE:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21941910-shade

And here’s a link to my website:

http://www.marilynpeake.com

Click here to buy Shade from Amazon US / Amazon UK

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Tales of the Imp - Duck Face


The latest drabble from the Tales of the Imp series has been posted in the Indie Book Bargains newsletter and the little devil has made himself a new friend!

If you've not read the previous drabbles in the series then you will find them all here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/p/tales-of-imp.html

Duck Face

Sweet Jesus what had the yellow horror done now! I ran in the room and discovered feathers and blood all over the room. My lovely sitting room with my expensive new TV all covered in gore. I’d heard a strange commotion moments before, quacking and screaming like nothing I could have imagined and now I saw why.

“What have you done?” I asked him.

He turned to face me and I beheld the true horror of it. He wore a duck’s face stretched across his own. The beak flapped as he spoke.

“I have a duck’s face,” he told me.

Short Fiction Archive

I'm fortunate that there is a lot of great short and flash fiction (especially drabbles) on my blog. Some of it is written by me and others submitted through the monthly short fiction contest I host. Up until now these have been spread throughout the history of my blog but from now on I will add any new items onto this new archive page.

I've organised the page so that the stories are listed by title and grouped by author. So take some time and read through the stories on offer here. There's some great stories to be enjoyed.

If you have a story that you'd like featured on this blog then feel free to get in contact and I'll take a look!

Stories Listed by Title


Stories Listed by Author

Short Fiction - My Father, The Clown by Darren Grey



Darren Grey's story 'My Father, The Clown' won third prize in February 2014's short fiction contest.

My Father, The Clown by Darren Grey

http://twitter.com/dgrey0

My psychiatrist keeps telling me I should talk more about my father, be open about what happened, and about why I behave as I do today.

It's not easy though. So often I wake up at night in a cold sweat, remembering the children screaming, the smell of rubber from twisted shapes of animals, the horrible laughter piercing through all other sounds. I can still remember so vividly my father’s eyes, painted in sadness as he laughed like a maniac. It chills me.

All my friends were afraid of him. He would try to play with them, forcing them to sit as he enacted his gross “entertainment”. His daubed visage leered before them, their young faces twisted in horror and revulsion beyond their years. They hated him, and in turn grew to hate me.

The red nose, the blanched face, the garish clothes. They hover before me in my dreams, pushing on top of me, smothering me till I am forced to accept them, to smile and laugh with them, even though I'm crying inside.

I stand in front of the mirror, painting a forced grin on myself, my eyes still sad as I decorate my body in multi-coloured clothes. I stare at my reflection, wondering is this really myself? Why do I do this? As I affix the red nose I ask myself, why have I become the thing I hate?


But my psychiatrist tells me it’s normal for those who were amused as children to go on to be amusers themselves.

Short Fiction - Smiles on a Screen by Daniel Richardson



Daniel Richardson's story 'Smiles on a Screen' won second prize in February 2014's short fiction contest.

Smiles on a Screen by Daniel Richardson

http://danwhofilms.tumblr.com/

My name is Emily and I have a very strange problem. There is a man who watches me from my television set. Well, not a man, but rather a clown. I noticed him one night while I was brushing my teeth. I had the bathroom door open and in the mirror above the sink I could see the television in my room.  I was watching some advertisement for a new soft drink but the image flickered away into silence, and then he was there. The white figure of his shaven painted head lit up on the surface of the black screen. He smiled at me and watched. Just watched.

His wide, yellowed eyes scanned my body up and down invasively with a frantic nature that froze me to the spot. I stared back at him through the mirror and as my eye line met his, he stopped still. His pupils expanded in an almost hungering manner. Red lips slowly parted to reveal a grimace of rotten teeth. The wet pink of a tongue flicked out between the gaps of his grin smothering the makeup on his upper lip as he licked his mouth. That was enough to snap me out of it. I spun round as fast as I could, not wanting to take my eyes off him for a second, but when I turned, he was gone. In his place a smiling lady who’d just livened up her party with the introduction of the drink from before. Had I imagined the whole thing? It seemed real enough. I knew there was a horror movie marathon coming up on this channel so possibly the clown had been some kind of viral marketing thing for it. I swear he looked me right in the face though.  Not wanting to take any chances I went straight over to the television set and turned it off at the mains and, being admittedly a little frightened, I took the extra pre-caution of turning it to face away from my bed.

I don’t remember when it was I finally fell asleep but I do recall when I woke up. At first I thought I was having a nightmare.  When I woke up the room seemed darker than it had ever been. I looked over at my clock but there was no digital red numbers flashing on its L.E.D display. It was the breathing that scared me though. Long and loud breaths came from the foot of my bed. The noise seemed to come from behind my TV. I walked over slowly. Each step brought me closer to the deep, long and exaggerated exhales. I noticed the TV was plugged in again. My trembling fingers crept over its sides. With a twist I pulled the screen to face me and…nothing. The screen was blank. The breathing kept going, though I wasn’t sure where from. Then the warm hair hit my ankle. Followed by the spider-like grip of a make-up covered hand. I looked down. He smiled.

Short Fiction - The Face in the Window by Elizabeth Foshee



Elizabeth Foshee's story 'The Face in the Window' won first prize in February's 2014 short fiction contest.

The Face in the Window by Elizabeth Foshee


When Sarah saw the face at the window, she thought at first that it must be a hallucination. 

As usual, she was at her desk sorting through the stacks of paper that had accumulated during the day. A glass of chardonnay and a small plate of gourmet chocolates sat near an open laptop. This was her favorite time of the evening because she liked to use the time to relax and finish up paperwork. She was going through a stack of unopened letters when she saw movement from the corner of her eye.

She looked in the direction of the movement and gasped. Her eyes grew big and her breath caught in her throat. The face was a culmination of evil masquerading behind a twisted parody of humor. It must be a mask, she thought faintly. Surely nothing that hideous could be real. She tried to stand but couldn't find the strength to move.

The face was painted white with green triangles painted around eerily glowing eyes. The nose, round and bulbous, was painted a bright cherry red. The lips had also been covered with bright red paint. The lips pulled back in a menacing grin, revealing white teeth with wickedly pointed canines that were much too long to belong in a human mouth. 

Night pressed at the window, making the face appear to be floating. The glow of the streetlamp should have been visible from the window, but she saw no light other than the glow of eyes. How long would it stay there before deciding to come in? The grin widened as if the face could read her thoughts. The glowing eyes mocked her. She felt as if her chest contained a small frightened bird beating its wings frantically in a futile effort to escape. 

She heard dark, wet laughter from behind her and her paralysis broke. She staggered up from the chair and whirled around to face the open door, knowing what she would see. The face.
The doorway was empty. She stared at the empty space in disbelief. She didn't know what she had expected to see, but it was not this emptiness. Her legs were trembling and her breath was coming in ragged, uneven gasps. She placed a hand on the desk to steady herself and felt something warm and wet beneath her palm. 

She snatched her hand up in revulsion as she looked down at her desk. Blood screamed up at her from the surface. Her eyes moved jerkily across the desk. There was blood splattered across the laptop, smeared around the stem of the champagne glass, and dotted around the chocolates.

She looked toward the window again. There was only her reflection. Her St. John's suit was covered with gore. Terror stole into her, turning her blood to ice that moved sluggishly through her veins. She suddenly knew why she had seen the face in the window. It was the grinning face of insanity. It was her face.


Short Fiction - Turpentine


Jason Purdy's story 'Turpentine' won third place in January 2013's short fiction contest.

Turpentine by Jason Purdy




Her father had many hobbies, but was especially fond of wood carving. The house forever reeked of fresh shavings, turpentine, and varnish. When there was no wood to hand, no time to carve or work the lathe, the house stank of other fluids. The sort you’d more readily associate with a middle aged, recently divorced, overweight and bald man.

Things were better than there was wood around. He used to buy it, but when he was laid off it was hard enough to put food on the table for the girls, never mind splashing cash on supple oak, firm maple, or fortified wine. After that, he started lifting it off the backs of trucks, or sneaking into the woods in the dead of night and grabbing what he could find. Even when he shot the man and buried him deep in the frozen earth, that didn’t stop him stealing. 

His daughter’s left shortly after his wife, and then all he had to do was feed his dying liver and feet his insatiable lust for wood. His friends would have made a joke about that, but they were all long gone. He’d taken to carving extravagant figures out of the wood. Towering figures, resplendent, solid bodies, masterfully crafted and smoothed to perfection. Strong faces, long, hard oaken beards, and deep set, polished eyes that seemed to followed you around the room.

People had always told him his craft was good enough to sell, but he had been brought up well, and he knew never to sell out your friends, never to rat on them. They were the two ground rules, the core tenants that any and every friendship should, and must, be built on. So he’d never sell them and he wasted away, carving figures of splendour, wooden gods, unsullied and untouched effigies. A testament to the sense of humour that God obviously has when he hands out talents, picking and choosing, deciding that the sperm cell that runs down the leg was the one that could have been the doctor, while he makes the winner a certain Jeremy Weed. An unhinged alcoholic with the temper of an inferno and the hands of a savant.

Jeremy Weed lived in his workshop with his friends, his friends who never asked him if he really needed another bottle. 

It only took his neighbours three days to smell it. They were used to the strange smells, wood shavings, booze, varnish, a heady mix if there was one, the smell of old bars and dirty barns, but the smell of rotting flesh was unmistakable. Even if you’d never smelt it before, it’s there, a spiritual stink, an ancestral odour, a reeking that you know on every level of your being.

The police found Jeremy Weed covered in blood and puckered with so many stab wounds that he looked like a pin cushion. Each of the wooden warriors held a knife. Each of the officers would swear that the eyes followed them as they left.

Short Fiction - Urban Myth by Andrew Campbell-Kearsey


Andrew Cambell-Kearsey's story 'Urban Myth' was the second place winner in January 2013's short fiction contest.

Urban Myth by Andrew Campbell-Kearsey

http://www.twitter.com/Centurionman43

Max had paid a fortune for his detached house with a swimming pool and integrated sound system. The blinds were programmed to open at dawn and each regular visitor had a personalised doorbell sound. The gardens were kept immaculately as he was a tough employer. Each room was redecorated on an eighteen month cycle. He was modern-day lord of all that he owned but not of all that he surveyed. He could not control the view from his den.

His opposite neighbour had erected a wooden monstrosity in her front garden, near to the kerb. Max was enraged at this eyesore. He’d hired environmental lawyers to determine whether it had been carved out of endangered timber. In which case it may be impounded by the authorities– unfortunately not. The object was over thirty feet tall and seemed to have been positioned so that it faced Max’s property. He took great pride in the low-level Japanese style front garden. It was out of the question for him to plant a fast-climbing shrub or erect a front wall. The asymmetrical bonsai acacias and rare orchids nestling amongst the miniature rock formations and water features depended upon unfettered views. Max was too busy to rake his own Zen gravel driveway. He paid somebody daily to create new patterns and vicariously calm Max’s mind.

He intentionally knew none of his neighbours. He valued his privacy. However Max broke his rule and approached his neighbour when she arrived home one afternoon. He struck up a conversation about the wooden statue.

‘It’s fabulous, isn’t it? My late husband was a huge “Lord of the Rings” fan. He picked it up in Thailand. He named it “Gandalf”. We had it in storage. It was only when I moved here after he’d died that I knew I’d found just the right place for it. Glad you like it.’

Max uncharacteristically did not have the heart to tell her how much he detested it. Over the weeks he spoke to his therapist. She designed breathing and meditation exercises for him to overcome his antipathy towards it. Every morning when he spied it anew he felt anger and revulsion welling up inside. His therapist had grown accustomed to early morning calls demanding emergency appointments. She always fitted him in as he was a wealthy man.

Eventually, she suggested an unusual solution.

Everybody had heard about gnomes going missing from front gardens and then their owners, sometimes months later, receiving postcards from them from exotic locations. Max was all about taking it to the next level. He had to go one better.

Naturally, Max’s neighbour was distraught when she realised that her beloved “Gandalf” had been stolen. It even made the local news. However, a week later she received the first of many webcasts from increasingly exotic locations. It had cost Max a fortune in transportation costs and the hiring of an Ian McKellen soundalike but his neighbour gained much comfort from the heart-warming messages she regularly received from Gandalf.

Short Fiction - Lonely by Mark Alan Trimeloni



Mark Alan Trimeloni's story 'Lonely' was the third place winner in December 2013's short fiction contest.

Lonely by Mark Alan Trimeloni

http://www.myhorrornovel.com

Jeremy looked at the sun hiding playfully behind a palm tree.  The warmth a feeling he was not used to.  He’d spent the last month in bed crying.  His father appeared to him in the glow of the radiant orb, hovering so beautifully near the end of the day.  A sullen man with nothing but love for his only child.  The feel of warm kisses passed over Jeremy’s face.  In his hand a worn birthday card dangled.  The words on the front read, “To My Favorite 8 Year Old”.  Inside, in a broken scrawl, were the words, “I won’t be able to make your birthday this year.  I have to go home.  Love, Dad.”

Blood covered the image of a cake festooned with playful monkeys forming a number “8”.  Along the back of the card more crimson deleted two sets of footprints leading down a beach.  The caption read, “Where ever we go we have each other.”  Jeremy put his hands over his face and his dad disappeared.  He felt chills climb up his back as a hand rested on his shoulder.  A scent of aftershave filled his “smeller” as his dad used to call his nostrils before placing two fingers on either side and saying, “I got your nose.”

“Daddy you can take my nose again.  Just please don’t go away.”  Jeremy felt another hand on his shoulders.  A vision of blood trickling down from a man’s fingers to paint the carpet red entered Jeremy’s mind.  He froze remembering when he’d seen all the sticky liquid pooling around his feet.  His dad swung from the ceiling of his bedroom.  Seven clowns circled his father’s head like a halo.  A fallen angel caught on a rope around its neck.  Both wrists slashed.  The hand moved down Jeremy’s shirt and across his chest.  He barely noticed.

“Will you be taking me home with you?”  The question barely a whisper in the coming darkness.  “I’ve been waiting the past month for you, daddy.  I swear I’ll be really, really good this time.”

“Oh, I’ll be taking you home alright.”  Came a low, gravelly voice from behind.  Jeremy felt the hand move across his stomach and leaned into the touch.  “I have games we can play.”

Jeremy knew the games would be fun.  His dad always came up with the best ones.

“Why did you leave, daddy?  Was it because I was bad?”  Jeremy felt his shirt being removed.

“Yes, you were bad.”  The voice moved to within inches of his ear.  Jeremy felt his father’s lips move along the edge.  Warmth radiated from his father’s tongue.  “And you will have to be punished.  Do you agree?”

“I’ll do anything you say, daddy.”  Jeremy felt his hands being secured behind him.  The punishment was beginning.

“Just say you love me.”  Came the reply.

“I love you, daddy.”

As the sun went down behind the palms, only a birthday card remained.

Short Fiction - A Moment in Time by Bea Cannon


Bea Cannon's story 'A Moment in Time' was the second place winner in December's short fiction Contest.

A Moment in Time by Bea Cannon

http://pcannon16.wordpress.com/

Gerald Lansing’s job was making sure all parts were to specs.  Unable to get one piece to calibrate, he looked up the original calculations and found an error, or at least an anomaly.  He made a print-out and went to Prof. Willard, the head of the project who’d made the computations.

“Sir, there’s something I think you should take a look at,” he said pointing to the suspected problem.  “I’m not getting the specified results.  Perhaps someone has made a change?”

“What? Let me see,” said Prof. Willard.  He took the paper.

He scrutinized the figures, crumpled the page and handed it back, frowning.  “I don’t see a problem, and nothing has been changed.  Look, you’re not supposed to be going over these figures.  You’re just a technician.  This type of math is too complicated for you to properly comprehend.  Just do your job and leave the temporal calculations to those of us who’re experts.”  He stalked off.

Gerald sighed.  He’d felt he had to say something, but the professor saw him as only a pair of hands, a servant expected to do exactly as told.  He knew going to any others in the lab would do no good: they never questioned Prof. Willard.  He shrugged, tossed the balled paper into a nearby can, and went back to work trying to set the experimental temporal shifter as specified, finally getting it to more or less agree with the schematics.

The big day arrived.  Gerald’s qualms were allayed by the preliminary trials.  They had gone well.  The temporal shifter worked perfectly, first going back several minutes, then a day, and finally to the previous month.  The lab animals returned unharmed, and the head tech who’d volunteered to do the last test came back satisfied.  He’d landed exactly where he was supposed to on the desired date.

Prof. Willard entered the cubicle and settled himself at the console.  The place and time was set for an uninhabited, open plain in the western United States two hundred years ago.  He started up and watched his instruments.  When the counter stopped, he opened the door, stepping out - and realized something was wrong.

He stared at the landscape, horrified.  Rushing toward him through what appeared to be tall palm trees was a horde of different kinds of dinosaurs.  He dove back in and hit the return switch.  Nothing happened.  The vehicle shook as the animals thundered past on either side.  The sounds diminished and he reopened the door.  A very small animal, the size of a chicken scurried by.

It was hot, the sky a fiery orange.  He looked up and the air was streaked with flashes of light as the rocks kicked up by the giant meteorite strike fell back to Earth.  The destruction that helped wipe out eighty percent of all surface life sixty-five million years ago fell around him.

The last thing he saw was a palm tree silhouetted in front of a huge ball of fire coming straight at him.

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