Friday, November 30, 2012

Antigone by David W Landrum

A goddess rises against the Terran Alliance, and Captain Lorac is called in to defend the planet of Antigone; by David W Landrum

We heard the commotion - shouting and, I thought, singing. Though it did not sound threatening, we took up positions with weapons at ready. A group of figures emerged from the massive trees on the ridge above us.

We held our blasters at ready but lowered them a little when a figure came into focus. A woman dressed in an ancient tunic, her head encircled with a garland of leaves, came walking - or, more accurately skipping - down the side of the wooded hill. Shora, our commander, rose in astonishment. The woman twirled and danced. After a moment, she collapsed. We broke ranks and rushed over to her. Shora felt for a pulse, put her cheek against the girl's nose, and looked up at me. "Name of the Prophet," she said, "she's stopped breathing."

We tried to resuscitate her, thought for a moment she was gone, but she revived. Wexford, the ranking NCO in our squad, called for medical support. We carried her back toward the vehicles. Casey Evard, one of the medics in our unit, rushed over and checked her pulse.

"Not good," she said. The girl stiffened. Spittle ran from the corner of her mouth.

"Looks like she's inhaled sarin or VX," I commented.

"I thought that too," Casey said. She got out an injector, pulled the girl's tunic down at the shoulder and gave her a shot of atropine.

"She's a Mervogian," Shora said when Casey pulled her tunic down and Shora saw the young woman's breast had an aureole but no nipple. "Talk to her, Lorac. See if you can get her to respond."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

101 Reasons by Jerry W Crews

An embittered wife calls her mother for consolation after discovering that her husband has been unfaithful in this comedy by Jerry W. Crews

Brushing a strand of gray hair from her forehead the elderly woman picked up the ringing phone. Her daughter was on the other end sobbing uncontrollably. She was not surprised.

This was the call she had been dreading, but knew it was bound to come ever since her daughter had decided to marry Chet. From the first time she had met him she knew he was no good. He had shifty eyes and a sneaky smile. She had done her best to warn her daughter without coming across as the meddling in-law. But alas, her advice was ignored and now he had broken her heart and probably ended their marriage.

"Mamma!" wailed her daughter as soon as the phone was answered. "He's an animal!"

"What has he done this time?"

"You'll never believe it," continued her distraught daughter. "He's had an affair."

"I believe it."

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Cleaning Woman Cometh by Burt Baum

Burt Baum's browbeaten character suspects the cleaning woman is not doing her job properly, but his wife Josephine likes things just the way they are

Just as she has on every Tuesday for the past seven years, my wife, Josephine, delivers the edict. "You'd better clean up your mess - Esmeralda is coming tomorrow." Esmeralda is our goddess of cleanliness and as two of her many supplicants it behooves us, or so Josephine keeps telling me, to make sure that our shrine is suitable for her visitation.

"I just don't get it," I say. "Why do we have to clean up for the cleaning woman? Isn't that what we're paying her for?"

"No, you don't get it no matter how many times I tell you," Josephine says to me in the same tone she uses on her third grade students. "If you straighten up your papers and things, it makes it easier for Esmeralda to do the serious cleaning. Do you want her to spend all her time going through your stuff? And God forbid if she throws anything out. Remember how you went nuclear when she tossed that Sports Illustrated with all those naked women?"

"It wasn't Sports Illustrated. It was Fortune and it had an important article about one of our stocks," I say, but I know she doesn't believe me.

Friday, November 23, 2012

What the Sea Brings by Michael C Keith

Developmentally challenged 16-year-old Caitlin is fascinated by a dead soldier that washes up on the shore near her home; by Michael C Keith

It is in fantasy that the real live.
- Anonymous

Merchant ships transporting cargo and personnel across the Atlantic to U.S. allies during World War Two were all too often torpedoed off the East Coast. This was the fate of the Chatham carrying ensign Wayne Harley. His body washed ashore in a remote rocky cove on the northern Maine coast. There it remained unseen for days until sixteen-year old Caitlin Bosworth found it.

It was the happiest day of her life.

Caitlin had suffered from oxygen deprivation during birth and consequently had the mental acumen of someone half her age. She had a sweet temperament and derived great pleasure playing along the shoreline that her house faced. Her parents adored their only child and did everything to make her life cheerful and as intellectually stimulating as possible. It was their greatest hope that Caitlin would one day reach a level of proficiency that would allow her to live independent of their constant oversight.

However, Caitlin's doctor was not optimistic about her chances of living on her own. He had told the Bosworths that their daughter's mind would likely remain at the level of a ten-year old through her adulthood. In other words, they would have to care for her the balance of their lives or institutionalize her, which was something they would never consider. The joy they got from her existence more than balanced the burden involved in raising a developmentally challenged daughter. She was the delight of their lives and the prospect of having a child who would remain a child forever was far from unpleasant.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Silver Palms by K J Medico

Sci-fi and fantasy artist Nancy Yang is distracted by a mysteriously recurring jogger outside her window, by K J Medico

Nancy Yang loved science fiction and fantasy. Some believed she loved them a little too much, and Nancy agreed to some extent, but not enough to change her ways. She was positively enthralled with all things supernatural and she was fine admitting it. In fact, certain aspects of her life depended on her obsession - her successful internet business being the main aspect. Nancy's passion fueled her creativity, and her creativity filled her bank account. This life was all she had ever wanted - the ability to make a living with her art - and no amount of heckling from self-righteous senior citizens could ever derail her. Besides, at 55, Nancy believed she was approaching old age herself. She was a successful, talented and totally independent adult. As far as she was concerned, no one had the right to call her immature.

Nancy Yang had loved science fiction and fantasy for as long as she could remember, but in her childhood, getting a fix was not easy. Until age 15, she had lived in Korea where Marvel comics and Western movies were hard to come by. However, the few things she had managed to obtain, she cherished, and by age ten, Nancy began duplicating the images she so admired. Over her early teen years, she created hundreds and hundreds of drawings that rivaled the originals, and by the time she had gained enough recognition to move to America, her art began selling for thousands. Now, forty years later, Nancy spent all her time producing invaluable art for sci-fi and fantasy fans. And best of all, her only boss and her only employee were the same person: Nancy Yang.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Skew Lines by Nancy McGuire

Nancy McGuire's quick story centres around an unusual communication problem

"Phhhht," said Jimmy as he pushed his toy truck across the kitchen floor. "Phhhht," he repeated, little drops of saliva spraying his face. He grinned and said, "Phhhht" again, this time giving it a distinctive flatulent inflection.

Mom sighed and brushed a strand of hair away from her forehead. "Oh, Jimmy. I'm so tired of hearing that sound. Can't your truck make some other noise?" she pleaded, as she arranged lunch meat and cheese slices on a serving platter. Jimmy and his little red truck had been inseparable ever since his father had given it to him for his 25th birthday. It took so little to make Jimmy happy, but every year it got a little harder to take care of this six-foot-four-inch, 200-pound child whose mind would never grow up.

"Phhhht," answered something that definitely was not Jimmy.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Actuators by OD Hegre

A council of angels debate over who is best placed to help Trevor make a tricky decision, by O D Hegre

What to do... what to do?

Trevor continued pacing but something deep inside spoke to him: the time had come to make up his mind. A comfy looking chair, with an ottoman, sat empty by the showroom windows. He'd go over there, sit down, put his feet up, relax and come to a decision.

"All right. All right." The Colonel raised his hands above his head. "Come along now folks, let's bring this gathering to order."

Soft murmurings from the crowd accompanied the gentle fluttering of wings.

"Ladies and gentlemen, please. This session is going on line in about five minutes. Let us get ourselves organized." The Colonel took his seat.

"Hua-in-da-hella put you in charge?"

A couple of folks were tugging at the coat sleeves of the little old man, standing in the middle of the crowd.

"For Pete's sake, Mr. Johansen." Colonel Charles Latham rose from his chair. "Try to remember where you are." Latham pointed a finger out at the shrunken figure. "Arnie, we all know you and Olga, there," Latham's finger moved to the woman sitting next to the old man, "are his paternal grandparents."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Priorité à Droite by Robert Sinclair

Hapless Englishman Eric tries to get to Toulouse on his trusty 50cc moped; by Robert Sinclair

Eric picked himself up and dusted himself down.

He took a tentative step forward, half expecting to find that he had broken something, or at least cracked a rib, but much to his relief he seemed to be in one piece. His moped was lying a few feet away, just in front of a large poplar tree, but apart from the handlebar that had twisted round with the impact of the fall, it seemed to be undamaged, which was just as well because Toulouse was still a long way away. The baguette that had been strapped to his handlebar wasn't in such good shape though, after being whacked by the lorry. Next time, Eric thought to himself, he had better put his red socks over the ends so that other road users would see him coming. He also decided to put a sign on the back of his anorak saying 'Wide Load,' in French of course. He couldn't do it just then, because his trusty phrasebook was buried deep inside his rucksack, but he made a mental note to do it when he stopped for the night, wherever that might be. He brushed the remaining bits of grass off his clothes and picked up his moped, wondering if it was really necessary to straighten the handlebar. Eventually he decided that it was, as although he didn't particularly like the sight of French traffic coming towards him, it was probably a good deal safer than permanently looking at the fields and woods he was passing. He didn't have any tools with him, as he hadn't expected to need them, but he remembered what he used to do when he had a similar problem with his old bike, when he was in the Boy Scouts, so he put the front wheel between his legs, gripped it with his knees and yanked on the handlebar as hard as he could.

Eric picked himself up and dusted himself down.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

When the Hurly Burly's Done by B J Jones

English graduate Lawrence Trent delivers a speech, but just can't get an unusual word out of his head; by B J Jones

In Speech Communication, Dr. Tyler taught us that if you are not nervous when you get up to speak, then something is wrong. I was standing in front of a clear, acrylic lectern looking at an auditorium of academics and I was not nervous. Something was wrong.

I knew I was not nervous because I had not had diarrhea. Whenever I had to speak in front of people, I first located the bathroom in the building, closed and locked the door of the stall, set my books and notes down in front of my feet then - unzip, sit, and shit.

Only seven seconds had passed while I was standing in front of the clear, acrylic lectern. During public speaking, seven seconds is more like seven minutes. The audience was wondering if I was nervous or using a dramatic pause to get their attention.

I cleared my throat which told the audience I was nervous, even though I really was not. I felt so confident that I could pick up my stack of notes and throw them behind my shoulder in a shower of academic recklessness.

This would get their attention, but then where would I go from there? I was tied to my notes like a chain smoker to a lighter. Professor Tyler taught us that the first sentence is the most important. You have to say something that is going to catch their attention. If you lose your audience in your first sentence then you will be spending the next thirty minutes talking to yourself.

"I do not have diarrhea," I said into the microphone. This caught their attention. It also caught my attention. The audience laughed and turned to each other wondering if this was intentional. Was this some clever rhetorical device of getting an audience's attention? Surely this had nothing to do with John Milton?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Diva by Judith Field

Jean's mother Dorothy is banned from the Over Sixties' Institute for inappropriate singing; by Judith Field

'Mum, you've been barred from the Over Sixties' Institute. Again.'

Jean slapped the letter down on the kitchen table. The Institute was the one thing that got her mother out of the house. She felt like a cell door was clanging shut behind her.

Dorothy put on her reading glasses.

'Give it here,' she said, through a mouthful of toast, 'Hurry up - I haven't got all day.'

She picked up the letter. '"Your mother's inappropriate behaviour... other members to consider... good name of the Institute." Mean-spirited lot! Won't give you a piece of their soul. Good riddance.'

She pulled a notebook, a pen wedged between its pages, from under her cup. Tea slopped onto the table. She scribbled won't give you a piece of their soul.

'I'll use that for my homework for the poetry class at the Institute.' She smiled and nodded. 'It'll knock their socks off, miles better than the load of doggerel they churn out. Call themselves writers! Some of them can't even read.'

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Poisoned Dancer by Alex Artukovich

A murder mystery solved by the best detective in Los Angeles - or rather, his mother; by Alex Artukovich

I'm thirty-two and already one of the top homicide detectives in Los Angeles County. Colleagues often ask the secret to my rapid success. I tell them the same thing every time; my mother helps me whenever I get stumped.

They all laugh and assume I'm being funny. But it's the absolute truth. My mother has assisted me in a number of cases throughout my career. Any time I get stuck and can't make heads or tails of a case, I'll call her. She always comes through.

Her powers of reasoning and deduction are unparalleled. If she wanted to she could have become one of the best detectives in the country. But she never wanted a career in criminal justice. The long hours and tedious procedures were too unappealing to her. Helping me solve cases, or in many instances solving the cases entirely on her own, is merely a hobby, something to keep her busy at the start of her twilight years.

I receive all the credit, a point I'm not especially proud of, while she does much of the detecting. She doesn't care. She does it for the mental challenge, not the notoriety. And if the notoriety gets passed on to her son, advancing his career, she feels that's all the better. I don't like it, but that's how we've got things worked out. If I have to swallow my pride, then so be it, as long as crimes are being solved.

It will all come out eventually. People will discover that I'm a fraud and my mother is the true talent. That's why I'm writing these journals. When the truth finally does surface I want to be ready with an undistorted depiction of all our most interesting cases.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Paradise Called Hell by R K Solomon

R K Solomon's character finds himself kidnapped by aliens, so he decides to try and make the most of it

A week ago, the sight of two seven foot tall fish faced creatures, with black globular eyes, would have sent him into a state of catatonic terror. Much had changed since then. While he leaned back, feet in stirrups, a phosphorescent green light illuminated his chest. He smiled. This was the most enjoyable extraterrestrial physical exam he'd ever had; well the only one for that matter. Strange symbols appeared over the projection of his guts, probably a diagnostic conclusion. Four times a week at the gym, he knew they'd find nothing wrong.

Scared - at first, who wouldn't be? However, by now he'd concluded the aliens were much more considerate than most humans he knew. As they analyzed his anatomy, they kept their opinions to a low soothing whisper, unlike his ex-wife who refused to communicate in anything less than a yell. Although, to be fair, they had been married at least two weeks before she set the volume to high.

The journey from normal to this point had been a quick blur, like when you watch a TV commercial and only remember the jingle. That first evening started similar to most; late night punishment detail at work, the commute home in his German engineered car, two scotch on the rocks, pizza delivery, another scotch, late night news, and if lucky - sleep.

All it took was a one year dry spell for them to forget the millions in contracts he'd brought them. Ingrates. As if the recession was his fault. The sound of a bell shook him out of his self-pitying stupor. With a groan, he pushed his sunken body out of the plush leather chair, paid the pizza delivery boy, and searched for a place to set down the still warm cardboard box.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Bruised by Chiaka Obasi

Nine-year-old Nkem is subject to relentless violence and abuse from his family who are convinced he is possessed by evil spirits

The morning my uncle's daughter did not wake up from her bed was the day I lost two of my teeth. It was also the day my left eye lost its strength. Now it cannot clearly see any object and it always itches if the object has bright colours. My uncle's wife, Aunty Jessie, punched the eye and at once my other eye saw sparkling stars moving around my head. I felt water dripping from the punched eye down my cheek, though I had not cried. Perhaps I would have lost my life if Uncle's neighbours and a stranger had not taken me away. I was certain Uncle's neighbours only came to my rescue because they did not want Uncle to be called a murderer. And they would not want to be called accomplices. At that time I was grateful to the stranger for saving my life. But I would later learn what he did when I was a baby. I disliked him then, and wished he had allowed them to harm me. I know that if he and Uncle's neighbours had not taken me away, perhaps Prophet Okoro would have done horrible things to me. But I still disliked him when I learnt what he did. Prophet Okoro was the man Uncle and Aunty Jessie usually invited to pray for me. They said his prayers would make me become a normal child. They said I was different from the other children. Many neighbours agreed with Uncle and Aunty Jessie.

But my class teacher, Miss Odiale, whom we called 'Miss' had a different opinion.

"Why don't you be positive?" she told Aunty Jessie. "Wait and see, that boy is a child of promise. He will put smiles on your face and your husband's."

Aunty Jessie clicked her tongue and opened her eyes wide.

Just wait and see, her eyes seemed to mimic Miss' words.