“Careful, we don’t really need a drink now, do we? Gotta pay more attention.”
Stan stood shivering with delayed reaction as he watched the raging river flow by just below his feet. A week of unusually warm temperatures and pouring rain had melted most of the remaining snow creating a torrent in place of the usual babbling stream.
“They don’t call it ‘mud season’ for nothing,” Stan said out loud as his attention was drawn to the slick spot that had almost tipped him into the rushing water. The bank had eroded into the river taking a good chunk of the path with it. The mud around the cave-in made this collapse doubly dangerous. He’d only just caught his balance in time, his momentum carrying him to the edge of the void.
The reaction of his near fall had shaken him more than he cared to admit so he stood watching the water, waiting until his nerves had settled down. Mount Nodbadigat, which appeared to rise directly out of the river, caught his attention. He had seen this small mountain a thousand times but never noticed its unique shape. It looked like something but he just couldn’t put his finger on it. Trying to puzzle it out he unconsciously took his jacket off and tied it around his waist. Feeling calmer, Stan shrugged his shoulders and turned down the path away from the river and mountain.
The conditions were perfect for an early spring hike. Technically it would still be winter for a few more days, but how often does New Hampshire see 70 degree weather in the middle of March? Stan had played hooky from work to get out and walk off some of his cabin fever. He loved to see the seasons change and it wasn’t often he got a chance to walk in Nodbadigat State Park quite this early. He was glad he did, for it was beautiful, a monochromatic masterpiece built largely of browns and grays. The pines supplied splashes of green, but it was a dark green that tended almost to black in the distance. Many of the trees were beginning to bud and some shoots were sprouting, all of which added spice and accents to the stark and dramatic play of dark trunks and golden sunlight.
I am in the editing stage of a book of short stories. This will be different from my other two books of short fiction in a number of ways. The other two were both pretty eclectic, while this is all science fiction. Seasons of Imagination had 36 stories and totaled about 71K words. Embers had 22 stories and totaled about 90K words. This book will only have 11 stories and be close to 75K words, so the average story length, having jumped for Embers, has jumped again.
I like short stories. I like to read them, and I like to write them. Although I like the novels and longer novellas I put out, I think my short stories (and short novellas) as given in these three collections are my best works of fiction. I know this format is not the best if trying to sell books, but… Both Seasons of Imagination and Embers have sold better than The Old Mill or The Haley Branch and much, much better than my two fantasy novellas, so… They also each have almost as many reviews (or at least stars) as those three put together.
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I used to beg Mom to pass by the Tree Man’s house all of the time, even though I knew it was many miles out of the way.
Sometimes she humored me and we took that detour.
The house was lost in a jungle of overgrown underbrush and grass gone wild. All of this was in the shadows of five giant, ancient trees.
Around the yard he had planted strange sculpture carved from tree trunks. There were several up front with a “For Sale” sign, but most of them hid and creeped through his semi-suburban, semi-rural forest. Over the years I don’t think one of the “For Sale” sculptures were changed, neither a new one added nor an old one sold.
Note – I originally posted this for Sue Vincent‘s writephoto challenge almost exactly 3 years ago, on the 8th of March, 2018. With Sue unable to post new challenges, some of us have been bringing back some old ones to show our appreciation for her inspiration.
No color or chroma reaches my night-dead eye. The sun sets over the ruined cathedral. And there is me, awake again, hanging in the middle, with the ghosts of the past on one side and the shadows of the future on the other, dangling between history and destiny, on this arch of time.
The hollow, no longer hallow, walls stretch above me, the marble has been stripped away, revealing broken brick and rubble.
Entering through my secret door, I taste the evening, taste her, taste the world, the world of the everlasting Now.
I walk through the cathedral, once the place of long forgotten saints and archbishops, of king and peasant long turned to dust. I can still see their faces on the crumbling walls.
Rob paused at the door. Pa had gone into his special grove, as he did most days. Sometimes he’d just go in, whisper a few words, and then quickly catch up to Rob. Other times he might spend a half an hour or more, silently staring at the ground and that little bit of granite. Or that is what he used to do. Rob hadn’t followed him back in there in a few years, at least since he was 10. Now almost 13, he knew better than disturb Pa in his special place.
Satisfied that Pa wasn’t right behind him, Rob put the numbers into the cipher lock.
Pa had built the little three-room entryway ages ago, just after the Collapse, but over the years, Rob had helped him flesh it out.
Still not seeing Pa, he let the door shut and lock. Nobody had ever tried to break in, at least not that he knew of, but there were crazies out there and there would be Hell to pay if Pa found the door open.
This was written for Sue Vincent’s writephoto challenge on May 25, 2017. As Sue is taking time off of posting new challenges, Willow has had the great idea to re-post old stories created for the challenge.
I crested a small ridge and the countryside became familiar. It wasn’t anything that could be seen, not any feature or landmark, it had to do with the scent of the air, the feel under my feet and the quality of the sunlight. I inhaled deeply and knew that I was almost home.
I was but a child when I was ripped from my parents’ arms and given an unbalanced spear and loose fitting leather cap. I was told to kill or be killed, that king and country depended on me and my fellow farm hands that were rounded up to be shipped to distant lands to fight for noble arguments none of us understood.
Within weeks I was the only person from my village left alive. Within months there was no other surviving commoner from within day’s walk of my childhood home. The local lord, who had taken me from my fields, died within the first year. His lord, a baron, was dead within three. Ten years of constant battle and we had taken the enemy’s capital. Another five and I was sent home, dressed in fine silks and fine mail, a bag of gold and silver at my hip and another tied to my saddle.
(This was originally posted on April 6, 2017 as part of Sue Vincent’s writephoto challenge)
“See here,” wise Beandor said to his young pupil, Therry, “This arch, though appearing so weak, is very strong. Although the walls may crumble, unless the keystone is disturbed, the arch will stand and bear weight.”
Beandor used his staff to tap the keystone of the arch.
“This arch has allowed people into this temple for over a thousand years, protecting our town of Kernsh from every attack. Look at this ancient place, overlooking the mighty ocean, it appears weak, and yet it is so strong, like our people. Our fair country, Aladia, seems fragile, and yet it is just these points that keep it whole.”
Edna sat down at her favorite bench, giving silent thanks that it was open. She had seen it occupied at other times of the day, but it was always open for her late morning breakfast and had been for years.
How long had it been?
She thought back. She had started to come down to the park the year after Ed died. Let’s see, that was in ’98. And it was two years later that she settled on that one bench.
So there it was, 18 years of sitting there with her lunch every day.
She spread some crusts out, as always, before getting up and doing her the bit of walking she did every day.
There were a few paths that curved around the lovely garden that she loved to take. Her favorite, though, went through a little hidden grotto. Not a cave, just a little nook in the wall.
He had done it again, descended so far into his work that he lost himself. The little beep, to let him know someone had entered the gallery, had snatched him back to the present.
He pushed away from the easel. He always fretted that he’d never get back to that spot to continue, to finish, but he always did find his way there, and being a color pencil drawing, he didn’t have to worry about what dried and what didn’t.
Matt turned off the light and moved to the window at the door from the studio to the gallery. From the gallery side the widow was a mirror. Matt liked to know who was there before he entered.
The woman was only a few steps inside, doing a slow sweep of the shop as if lost. Her eyes were wide and her mouth slightly open. She took a tentative step and stopped again, staring at a painting.
Matt hesitated. Something about the woman. Her lines. He grabbed a sketchbook and drew a 10 second gesture. Not quite it. The rhythm of her body was off. Continue reading →