Grounded

The stars winked in the night sky, taunting William. They knew he was bound to the earth. He was no pilot or astronaut. He couldn’t soar to great heights or touch the sky. All he could do was stand on the balcony of his apartment and gaze at the celestial panorama above him.

They said the city was most alive at night, yet to William it felt so lifeless. The neon glow that lit up the streets paled in William’s eyes compared to the natural splendor of the stars. William wondered what it would be like to unshackle himself from gravity, to float off into the clouds and see the stars face to shining face. It was a childish fantasy, but it gave him solace on long, lonely nights.

He had no friends in the city, and what little family he kept contact with were also miles away. It was funny, William thought, that he couldn’t see the people that lived in the same country but the furthest stars were always in his sight. He chatted with people on the bus, laughed at his co-workers’ jokes and even had lunch with a few of them, but at night, the stars were his only companion.

As lovers walked the streets hand in hand and friends laughed at each other’s raucous jokes on the way to some late night hangout, William floated through violet clouds tinged with the silvery glow of the moon. That was where he belonged, where he would truly feel at peace. He just knew it. Ever since he was a boy.

William’s father was an amateur inventor and would often spend his evenings in the garage, working on his fanciful machines. On those evenings, William’s mother took him out for a walk under the stars. He remembered the cool night air, the warm comfort of his mother’s hand, and the majestic sky that twinkled with delight at the sight of him. It was a ritual William continued into adulthood, though after moving to the city, he preferred to watch the sky from his balcony. He felt closer to the stars that way.

As the years passed, William grew more and more isolated from the world around him. He was seen but rarely heard at work, and his neighbors often wondered if his apartment was empty. His hair had grown thinner and grayer. His shoulders stooped and his knees ached. But William still shuffled his way on to the balcony as the sun set, his neck craned upwards. For as long as the light still shone in his eyes, he would not miss an opportunity to gaze upon the stars. They were his friends and his family now. Soon enough, he thought, his body would fail him and would fall to the ground in a useless heap. But that didn’t bother William. He knew then that he would finally be free of the earthly realm. He would at last be able to join the stars, as he had dreamed for so long.

As pin pricks of light formed against the night sky, William took in one long shuddering breath. It was almost time.

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It’s Alive!

In the spirit of the season, it seemed appropriate to resurrect this dead blog of mine. Alas, most of my writing of late has been confined to a professional environment, with barely any time for the more creative side of it.

However, Halloween has always been one of my favorite times of year, and I would be remiss if I didn’t pen a scary story or two for the occasion. And why stop at two when you can shoot for a baker’s dozen?

That’s right, I’ve got 13 spooky tales coming up that are brimming with chills, thrills and more than a few kills.

The first day of my 13 Tales of Terror series will coincide with the October challenge on Write, Edit, Publish (hosted by the lovely Yolanda Renee and Denise Covey) and thus I’ll begin with my entry for that challenge.

So have a seat (you’ll only need the edge of it) and prepare yourself for some tricky treats. The 13 Tales of Terror are almost here!

Story Submission

I had submitted a short story to the awesome short fiction blog The Drabble some time ago, and I was looking forward to seeing it published. Since the site gets a lot of submissions, it might take at least a month for a story to be put up, and I thought I might see my story up there some time later this month.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that my story was published 4 days ago! And somehow I missed it! Even though I’m a regular reader of The Drabble and keep an eye out for their new submissions, I completely bypassed my own!

Unusual strangeness indeed.

Anyway, here’s my wickedly fun little tale: Burying The Hatchet

The Demon Cat

This is an old story I’d posted to my other blog, before I was on WordPress and before I had separate blogs for fiction and non-fiction. I’m quite fond of this one because it’s the first time I’d written a story for a writing prompt, and I pulled it together surprisingly fast. It’s also my first funny story (at least I hope it is), which is no easy feat.

Science and science fiction site io9 has a weekly writing prompt where they ask their readers to come up with a short story based on an image or illustration. A recent prompt about the ‘Demon Cat’ caught my eye and inspired me to spin a little yarn. Today seemed like an appropriate occasion to post it (I had posted this on Halloween).

(Image credited to Patrik Björkström)

Horatio looked at the cat with a great sense of disappointment. He consulted his summoning book again, thinking that he must have made a mistake. The creature certainly looked fearsome enough, with its luminous (yet oddly lifeless) eyes, wild black fur streaked with silver, claws like little daggers, and the twin pairs of steer-like horns that appeared to be jutting out of its back. But it was still, Horatio noted sadly, just a cat.

The cat merely glowered at him, its tail swishing languidly like a snake with a full belly. Horatio checked the spell once more:

Izzhgo Akr’al Bezral Belegha. This incantation is to be chanted five times after the proper rituals have been completed to summon the demon lord Bezral, Harbinger of Doom and Devastation, Devourer of Souls, and Master of Infernal Sciences.”

Yes, he’d certainly liked the sound of that. A touch theatrical, perhaps, but a Harbinger of Doom was exactly what he needed. Horatio Pendleton was an assistant manager at the Fixwell Hardware Store. He was a slight, timid man with eyes that always looked nervous and a smile that was far from reassuring. For the past year or so, he’d had an eye on the general manager’s nametag. But a promotion would be difficult to get, what with current manager David’s exemplary work ethic. Horatio’s only chance at climbing the corporate footstool was to remove David from the picture entirely.

He could have done the job himself, or hired someone to do it for him, but that would inevitably become a hassle. Some sort of evidence was bound to turn up, as it always does, and the police would no doubt find a reason to question him. Horatio was not a man of fortitude, and repeated interrogation might force him to accidentally confess. But supernatural creatures wouldn’t leave any evidence behind, especially not demons. They were a careful sort. No one would connect him to a demonic killing, and if they did, he could just summon his demon to kill them as well. It was brilliant!

So it was that Horatio had found himself at the old bookstore on the corner that always smelled like mothballs. After much research, he’d finally found what he’d been after: Hell’s Coming To You! – The Layman’s Guide to Demons and Summoning Spells. He’d thumbed through the book, finally settling on a suitable demon for the job (that demon being the Dread Lord Bezral, Harbinger of Doom and Devastation, Devourer of Souls, and Master of Infernal Sciences). As directed, he had collected the necessary ingredients for the summoning spell: the ashes of an oak branch, three drops of virgin blood (Horatio wasn’t very popular with the fairer sex), a piece of white chalk, and a tuna sandwich (he was rather hungry). With everything prepared, he had headed off to the nearest cemetery to start the ritual. At the first stroke of midnight, Horatio chanted the words, his voice shaking with excitement, mind swimming with visions of an all-powerful lord of hell that would impale David with deadly claws and drag him to eternal damnation.

And after all of that effort, he’d wound up with a cat perched on a tombstone.  A demonic cat, but then how was that really different from a regular one?  

Horatio shifted uncomfortably, watching the cat as it, in turn, watched him. He cleared his throat and decided to address the beast.

“Er…evening, your, um, Lordship,” he began, lowering his gaze in an attempt to be reverent. “Welcome to, uh, to our world. Hope the trip was…pleasant?”

The cat continued to stare impassively.

“Now, ah, you might…you might be wondering why it is that I have summoned you here, “ Horatio continued, starting to feel extremely stupid. “Well, you see, there’s this favor that I, uh, that I need from you.”

If the cat were the least bit interested in what was being said, it was doing a good job of hiding it.

Horatio wondered if the spell had failed. Maybe he’d just come across a feral cat that some crazy person had glued horns onto. Were they even horns? Now that he looked more carefully, perhaps they were just tangled branches that were distorted in the moonlight. He laughed, nervously. Of course that’s what happened! He’d come here all worked up and ready to see a demon, so he’d fixated on the first living soul that came into sight. Horatio shook his head, still laughing. Demons. What a ridiculously fanciful idea.

He started to walk out of the cemetery, book tucked firmly in his pocket, when he heard a loud yowling noise behind him. The sound stopped him cold. He turned around, a cold chill running down the back of his neck, to see the cat leaping toward him; curiously, it no longer looked like a cat at all. Certainly not any he’d ever seen. Voice rising to a squeak, Horatio Pendleton managed a feeble “Your Lordship..?” before he witnessed the horrific success of his summoning spell firsthand.

************************************************************************

It was a crisp Monday morning, and David Ealing, general manager of the Fixwell Hardware Store, flicked on the switch for the neon ‘Open’ sign in the window while whistling a jaunty tune. “Ah, good morning, Horatio!” he said in a booming and almost unnaturally cheerful voice as his mild mannered assistant walked in.

Horatio smiled back mechanically, as if practicing that expression for the first time.

“You alright?” David asked, noticing the dark circles under Horatio’s eyes and the unusual (or was it, really?) pallor of his skin.

“Oh yes,” came the flat, monotonous reply. “Just fine.”

Now David Ealing wasn’t always the sharpest tool in his store, but he had a vague notion that perhaps everything wasn’t ‘just fine’. Before he could press the matter any further, however, David felt a sharp, burning pain in his chest. He noted with no small measure of surprise that the source of the pain was Horatio’s hand, which had sunk wrist deep into his body. Some sort of portal had also opened up under David’s feet, and as he contemplated its sudden appearance, he felt himself get sucked into it, much like a speck of dust getting sucked into a vacuum cleaner. The only proof of his presence was a nametag lying on the floor with the words ‘General Manager’ inscribed on it.

Horatio stared at the floor, fascinated, then picked up the nametag and pinned it on his shirt. He marveled at how he had allowed himself to endure such a subservient existence for so long. But that didn’t matter anymore. Now he was in control of this dismal establishment. And soon enough, he would be the Supreme Overlord of the Mortal Realm.

But there was plenty of time for that. Horatio allowed himself a contented purr and walked toward the manager’s office, licking the back of his hand thoughtfully.

The Librarian

I had posted this story on my personal blog about a year ago. This seems like a much better home for it.

Stranger in a Strange Mind

Every shelf in the Library’s cavernous aisles is stacked with worlds and universes, full of life, and also of death. Nobody ever checks out any books from there, though. Nor are there any avid readers wandering around inside, casually flicking through pages while speaking to each other in hushed tones. The Library has existed for as long as anyone can remember, growing in size over untold years (or is it millennia?), a beast that subsists on knowledge and can never be satisfied. And deep in its silently beating heart sits the Librarian. He is the keeper of stories, a guardian of fiction and fact. He was there once upon a time and he will be there happily ever after, though he cannot say if it will be happy or not.

The Librarian has seen the Library’s foundation being laid. He will see its last stone crumble to dust. He has…

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Progress

Our soldiers have suffered countless wounds in battle.

Bodies bloodied, limbs missing. Beaten down until they were no more than broken shells.

It is feared that they may never recover, casualties of a war nobody can win.

But we can fix them. Improve them.

We have an app for that.