May 25, 2012 — 1,619 words
In the park he came across a coat, and he took it home. It seemed abandoned and uncared for, laid across a chair inside a tent. It drew him closer, for it was beautiful. Not so much for its colour but for its cut. It was grey, but a perfect grey, and every edge including the pockets (and there were many of these), every edge was trimmed in the most glorious pink. Hot pink. The kind of pink that sang to him, dazzled his eyes, dazzled his mind, and sparked his desire.
He took the coat, he took it swiftly home.
No one loved it. But he would.
He took it swiftly home as only he could, speeding through the park via the ways he knew, going off the path here and there, going under the fence elsewhere, then across the busy road, such a dance and how he enjoyed it! Then two more blocks to home, where he slunk in and finally put it on and gazed a huge while at himself in the mirror. Oh but it was good. The happiest coat he had seen.
Odd, however. For all of its many pockets, only two were real ones. And in places there was padding inside, to make the collar sit up for example, and the lapels seem plump.
And the sleeves were far too short for him. More of a jacket, he decided after turning about many times to admire it.
And velvety. So velvety.
It was truly and by far the most perfect thing he had ever brought home.
Outside, voices. The others were getting back. Swiftly he put it into his wardrobe on his best coat hanger, and slid the door closed.
But the love of the coat was to prove no protection against the Monthly Shrivel. The Shrivel marched relentless, it crept like a thief, it burgled him of bounce. And within a few days back at the Factory, his spirit slumped. They shouted at him at breakfast, to eat it all up, to take his meds. He didn’t care, and he did their bidding, but it did no good. Another week at the factory, a rainy weekend, another week at the Factory. The entire month dragged by until the moon came back, and when it got full and fat and shiny, he felt up to going out again.
He took some tights this time. No one seemed to love them, hanging all forlorn on that clothesline. But he did, he loved them, he would take care of them.
He took them swiftly home, speeding down the ways he knew. With the tights on – oh it felt so good! What else did he have? His new tights made him think of his funny hat – the one that Punch might wear with the three colours and the bells. He put that on too, stood in front of his mirror. What else? A shirt. Yes a shirt, but not tucked in. A shiny shirt. He had a girl’s one somewhere, very pink! He slid open his wardrobe, and oh! There was the Lonely Coat! Now he would look good! He would look HUGE!
He ran through the park, and he was very happy. Ran, ran, ran around and through the children’s playground, around and through the rose garden. People watched. He ran around the fountain and back the other way for fun, then headed for the big lawn. There were always people picnicking there. They would watch him for sure!
But even better, the big lawn was full of people. There was a tent. Two vans off to the side. Lots of people. They were watching something going on in the middle. There were Players. There were lines pegged out on the ground. There was music playing loudly, there were cameras. Television cameras.
Oh this would be fun!
He ran on, skipping as well, slowing down, getting through the crowd, getting to the edge of that big pattern of lines on the ground. Ah, squares. It was hopscotch! A huge hopscotch! And there were Players dressed up fine and standing in their places with huge tall hats, and some moving about, dancing and changing places in time to the music.
He loved this park! This sort of stuff was always going on.
Through he moved, through the final line of children sitting, and onto the squares he danced as well, swiftly, giggling, twirling.
He saw the Players startle, heard them gasp. One, a pretty girl in a fairy costume, gasped the loudest. He even heard her say, “My coat!”
Oh, she admired his coat? Well of course, and so she should! He dodged around one of the Players – the one in the castle costume, and pranced across the squares again back the way he came, jumped over the children! The fairy lunged for him, he heard her curse, her hand missed by a mile. Everybody laughed.
He went swiftly, the crowd sprang back, the way opened, he bumped a few of them but it didn’t matter because everyone still laughed!
In the show! He had been in the show! His new coat had been in the show!
He took it swiftly away from that grasping fairy, speeding through the park via the ways he knew, going off the path here and there, going under the fence elsewhere, and soon he was through the children’s playground again, and over the bridge where the ducks got fed, across the car park so very full and off a mile away in the bigger park (the one with the golf course further over, and the path where the sporty people ran and ran), and here there were even more people, and a hundred tents, and a huge stage. Huge!
What a place to frolic, and he did, and the people thought he was great except the security guys but he saw them and swiftly slunk away around the back.
He slowed down. He was puffed. He slunk around between the trucks and the vans and the plain-coloured little tents. There were Players in those tents, music people and dancer people getting ready or getting undone and dressed again. He flitted past them, peeking in, hoping to see some undies.
No. No undies today.
And around the corner he found a very quiet spot between three vans, and sitting there were four ladies, with tea. Old ladies. Ordinary ladies. Except the little one. There was a little one. She was a dwarf. He knew that. Two of his friends at the Factory were dwarfs. Dwarfs were cool. He was cool with dwarfs.
“Hello,” he said. They had taught him manners at Special School.
“Hello,” they said in reply, even as one of them turned to whisper to another, “It’s your coat!”
He stood, panting a bit after all that running. He had stopped because they had cake.
“Hello,” he said again, eyeing the cake.
“Would you like some cake?”
The little one sprang down off her big folding chair, squatted, cut a piece of cake, moved it onto a paper plate, stood, and handed it to him.
“That’s a lovely coat,” she said. She had a lovely voice.
He nodded. Mustn’t talk with his mouth full. They’d taught him manners at school.
“Is it yours, then?”
He stopped eating, eyed them carefully. They didn’t look like they might hit him. His mouth was still full of cake. He felt bad.
“How did you get that lovely coat?”
Once again he was silent. He needed to swallow his cake, but he could not swallow.
“That is it?” asked one of the ladies.
“Definitely,” said the dwarf lady.
He began to move, ever so slowly, hoping they would not notice. They all got to their feet. They were following him. One of them had a telephone. He saw her slowly opening it, hoping he would not notice.
“Did you take the coat?” asked Little Lady.
He hunched his shoulders, looked down at the ground.
“You took it, didn’t you? You shouldn’t have taken it, should you?”
He shook his head.
“I made that coat,” said Little Lady, “I made it very specially for someone I know.”
Quickly he swallowed his cake. He knew the answer to this one! It was always good to know the right answer!
The ladies all glanced at each other. Little Lady nodded. “Yes, the fairy.”
He hunched down further, right against the back of a tent. They had surrounded him.
“Do you think maybe you should give it back?” asked Little Lady.
He dropped his cake plate. It wobbled, rolled, fell over. He was pressed against the tent’s pole now. His hands came up, his fingers curled. His shoulders were pushing the funny fat collar right up to his ears.
“I know the fairy,” said Little Lady, “if you give it to me, I’ll give it back to her.”
He took it off. He closed his eyes. He held it to her. She took it. But it was alright, because he still had on his shiny pink shirt underneath. But he still cried.
“It’s alright,” said the ladies, “it’s alright! Don’t cry. You’ve done a good thing! What’s your name anyway?”
“Do you like pretty clothes, Kevin?”
“I could make you your very own coat,” said Little Lady.
“Grace, you’ll only be rewarding him!” whispered one of the ladies crossly.
“Would you like that, Kevin?” continued Little Lady.
“Then I will, because you’ve done a good thing.”
Slowly he unfolded himself, like a tent. He smiled.
May 25, 2012 — 282 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
"Whoa, hold on," said Milly hurriedly. "We aren't your enemies..." She flashed Tic a what-are-you-doing glare. "Look, as proof, here are all the rest of our Gortinawa seeds." She pulled the water bottle full of seeds out of her backpack and set it on the table.
Elder Aidoan grinned. "You present us with a bountiful harvest. We are grateful. The seeds will sweeten our tongues, which have grown weary of cave fish and unseasoned meat."
"Er, yes, you could eat them all," said Milly, "or..."
Tic jumped in. "Or you could use them to help us take down Dunter!"
Aidoan raised his shaggy eyebrows. "Ah, you wish us to join you in battle."
"Well it's pretty clear that we're not going to accomplish much on our own," said Tic. "If you help us fight Dunter, we'll make sure the rest of the humans let you live in peace."
"I fear that is a promise you may be unable to fulfill," intoned Aidoan, "but it is a sign of hope, nonetheless. We will aid you, humans, however we are able. But it will take our warriors some time to prepare themselves. How soon do you wish to begin the attack?"
"I guess 'right now' would be a bit hasty, eh?" said Tic.
"Some of our strongest warriors are out hunting," said Aidoan. "They will return to Yettison tomorrow morning. With more time, we could gather support from the other yeti villages, as well."
Overard pointed out, "The longer we wait, the more time Dunter and Libden have to arm more goons and fly in more Liberati."
"True," said Tic. "Then let's set the attack for tomorrow night..."
May 24, 2012 — 828 words
I found him out there on the bluff overlooking the ocean, his car was his quiet tomb. I noticed this solitary car in the car park at 7am, at first I thought of young couples snuggled together watching the sunrise but an odd shape made me take a second look. I went over and looked in the window. There was this bright pink face staring out into infinity. Stepping backwards I stumbled on uneven ground while my mind was trying to comprehend the scene in front of me. He was dead, I could see that just by looking at the body, he was frozen in time. There is a look a dead person gets when the soul has left the body, if you believe in souls of course. Vacant like there is no one home. I dialled 000 and called an ambulance and the police. I know I am with the police but I was off duty. This needed more investigation.
After reporting the suicide, I went back to looking around the car and also to fend off any other nosey parkers who might find this all too interesting. On the passenger side front seat was a piece of paper. I was dying to find out if it was a note that would explain why this man took his own life. But I had to wait. It was about an hour later when the police car arrived and a little later came the ambulance. The paramedics got the police to unlock the driver’s door and they pulled the body from the car. The constable looked into the car and leaned over to pick the note up. He read it and shook his head… he was disturbed by the contents of the note.
I went over to him and said, “Hi, I am Sergeant Castile from Newport station."
“What did the note say? You seem pretty cut up about it."
He handed the note to me and I read about the last few months of the man’s life. He wrote about the loss of his wife and child in a car accident, the subsequent loss of his job because he couldn’t manage the grief, the loss of his family home from having no income and he wrote about how last week he thought his luck had changed... he wrote about the phone call from the lottery office advising him his ticket had won the first prize pool of $30 million. All he had to do was produce the ticket.
Apparently he had a habit of buying a weekly lottery ticket and usually he checked it but lately he had been struggling to follow a lot of his regular habits and he had been tossing the tickets out unchecked. The reality was his flat was a mess, he just had not gotten around to cleaning it up. He was thankful for his bad habits and set about trying to find the lottery ticket in the mess. Day after day he searched the flat and he couldn’t find the missing ticket. The despair was so overwhelming he felt himself sinking into the black abyss. The more he searched the darker his world seemed… there was nothing left to live for… if only he hadn’t gotten that phone call.
I was standing there with Constable Milano and we shared the pain this man had suffered. I needed to do something so I thought I might call the lottery office and ask about the process for collecting first prize lottery pools. I asked Constable Milano if he objected to me doing this. He thought it was a good idea.
First thing on my next shift I rang the lottery office and asked them for some information. I asked them if it was their practice to ring first prize winners. They said not usually but in exceptional circumstances they did. When I asked them about the $30 million prize pool week and the winners for that week they said they hadn’t rung anyone. However they reported that there was a spate of practical jokes where this woman rang people out of the blue and told them they had won first prize. Often these people rang the lottery office to confirm and found out that they had been victims of a hoax.
Seems my man in the car was one such victim. Only he didn’t ring the lottery office to confirm, he died and there was nothing I could do.
He was fragile as glass and his heart shattered.
* * *
Catherine Black writes for fun... she hates to call herself a writer and prefers to say she has pieces of writing that want to be read. Catherine, her cat and her lizards enjoy the meditative musings that writing gives them. They all live in Logan Qld Australia... it is sunny there most of the time and it is a warm winter this year.
May 24, 2012 — 298 words
By Letitia Coyne
I have. Wow. I’ve never looked into this artform before. What beautiful work.
Dreamless, illustrated by Sarah Ellerton; written by Bobby Crosby.
The Phoenix Requiem, also by Sarah Ellerton. The Phoenix Requiem is a Victorian-inspired supernatural fantasy story about faith, love, death, and the things we believe in.
Xyliatales: A Faerie Tale by B L Jacobs
17 Sensational, Free and Downloadable Graphic Novels. In this post, I want to highlight a booming segment of the online free culture movement: graphic novels. Each link will take you to a page where you can download or view a high quality graphic novel or excerpt freely and with no strings attached. There are plenty more to be found, but these seventeen are some of the best you’ll find.
Lackadaisy by Tracy J Butler
Doom Patrol . Written by Grant Morrison; Art by Richard Case, Doug Braithwaite, various; Cover by Brian Bolland
If, like me, you never really looked into this brilliant world before, do yourself a big favour. For others new to the genre, let me recommend following the links list from any artist you have enjoyed, and take a tour through the many worlds of graphic novels.
For those of you who know your way around, who do you recommend? Anyone, even your own site. Go on, spread the love.
Featured artwork from Dreamless, Sarah Ellerton.
May 24, 2012 — 303 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
Elder Aidoan guffawed, his laughter sounding like an avalanche. "Humans, what has shocked you so?"
Milly blurted out, "You just swallowed a Gortinawa seed!"
"How are you not disintegrating from the neck down?" said Overard.
"We yetis," Aidoan mused, "have very strong stomachs."
"Maybe the acid inside the seed didn't get released," said Overard thoughtfully. "If the digestive fluids didn't eat through the seed's outer shell..."
"That is one possible explanation," admitted Aidoan. "Regardless, to the yetis, the seeds are a special treat, though it has been decades since last I had one."
"Where did you get them?" asked Overard. "Non-military possession is illegal galaxy-wide!"
"Our kind grew the Gortinawa plant, once," said Aidoan. "We ate its seeds, and its leaves make strong medicines."
"But you don't grow them anymore?" asked Tic.
Elder Aidoan shook his shaggy head. "When the first humans arrived on Yaddock, it did not take them long to discover the seeds' more... aggressive use. But the plants grow only on the mountaintops, and we would not surrender our land, so they declared war on us. No planted seed lasts to fruition anymore. Now they seek to kill us all, and they carry away the corpses of our fallen brothers to dishearten us."
"That's terrible!" said Milly.
Overard stared at the floor in grim introspection.
Tic addressed the room at large. "Why are you helping us, then? Aren't you worried that we might be more treacherous humans, here to kill you?" A tense hush fell. The hair on the back of Tic's neck stood on end.
"We have hope, human. Hope for both our kind and yours. Hope that we may yet find an ally among our enemies. But should you wish to initiate hostilities"—Aidoan flexed his enormous paw—"you are welcome to."
May 23, 2012 — 598 words
It’s always strange when the seasons change. You know it’s coming, but you still can’t seem to remember what it’s like to walk home and have the dark sky hiding the path instead of a sun blinding you. But tonight the moon is smiling down with all the stars. Somehow, the time disappears when you try to count them. But they decide it’s more fun for them to hide in the midnight blue blanket and are now refusing to come out.
‘Okay, fine,’ you say to yourself. ‘It’s freezing out here anyway.’ And that’s when the light decides to flicker. And the next one is around the corner. The ‘Dammit!’ is written across your face. And, of course, the light fulfils its promise and cuts out. Now the only thing lighting the path is the pale silver light of the moon.
There’s a shiver ripping through you and that old childish voice you keep in your head appears, ‘Those shadows aren’t very friendly.’ You see the trees. On the ground the branches turn into knotted hands and you automatically move away.
‘Hands from the trees, ridiculous.’ You chuckle, try to lighten the mood, ‘Now come on, get back home and warm yourself up with a nice cup of hot chocolate.’ You walk with more purpose until someone’s laughter makes you freeze. Behind you is another shadow, but it’s different. It’s rounder. It’s pointed in your direction. And then it moves.
‘Monster!’ the child’s voice screams.
‘Oh God.’ The wind carries your prayer away, but you’re too busy watching the shadow to notice. You move when it moves, stops when it stops, waiting for your chance to escape. But something else moves to your right. There are more, closing in around you, morphing into a wall. They make the wind tear at your skin, and there, right there, roars and laughter dance on the currents.
‘The wind!’ the child’s voice knows, but you’re too slow. ‘It’s given them their voice back! Come on, run! Run!’ All the shadows move at once. You need to run. Feet slam against the ground. The different paces make a mesh of drums. They’re too fast.
One of them grabs you and you slam into the ground. You yell in pain and look at your hands covered in blood. Another yanks you up collar first and Shadows lock into a prison cell around you. They even block out the moonlight. The leader stands in front of you, makes them laugh and taunt you. Some of them shift. There, a weakness. You struggle, you pull away, and then you push and they fold in on themselves. There’s the gap, you make for it but some didn’t fall and they just grab you again. There you go, struggling again. You never give up. You keep fighting, just to get home. But they pull out something silver and they give it to you. Shadows laugh, the wind roars, and the ground is left to catch you. There’s a fire in your stomach, burning you from the inside out. You want it to go away. You’re pleading, make it go away. But no one can hear you.
* * *
Jo Bramley, 19 years old, studies English at Nottingham Trent University. She has previously been published by Zebra Publishing Poetry Company in 'The Book of Ten' and by Forward Poetry in 'Poetry Rivals 2011: In Mind and Heart,' under her birth name.
May 23, 2012 — 439 words
By A.M. Harte
It's almost time.
Hold onto your hats.
But are you truly READY? We don't think so.
Let me tell you what's going down.
MERGE is a thirteen-story series written collaboratively by four authors -- Kit Iwasaki, Yvonne Reid, MCM, and AM Harte (moi!). The series will launch on May 28th and run for four weeks alongside a blog tour, giving participating readers the chance to win a host of exciting prizes.
Set in a world reeling from the discovery of transhumans, MERGE is a series of thirteen short stories that charts the loves, the betrayals, and the struggle for survival in a world where humans and transhumans are uneasy neighbours.
Tensions are high, riots are brewing. The human race is about to come undone.
Every Monday to Thursday between May 28-June 18, we'll release a new story in the series, alternating between each contributing author. The thirteenth and final story will be released on June 18th, culminating in the inevitable intersection of each author’s unique storyline.
We're also running a blog tour in conjunction with MERGE, and have secured some awesome book blog sponsors who will release accompanying interviews, excerpts, guest posts, and reviews. Woohoo!
And many of the blog tour stops are running their own giveaways, too. There are so many chances to win, and so many ways of entering to win. The odds are on your side!
Want to win these awesome prizes?
Subscribe to the MERGE mailing list for an instant FIVE entries.
We'll also keep you up to date on more ways to win, and make sure you don't miss a single exciting moment.
See you next Monday, May 28th, for the first installment of MERGE.
We'll be waiting.
May 23, 2012 — 275 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
The twelve-foot-tall, shaggy-haired yetis seated around the stone table stared at Tic, awaiting his first question. "Obviously there's a lot we'd like to know," he began, "but something tells me there's more history here than we really have time to explore..."
"Indeed," rumbled the old black yeti, thoughtfully. "Though our history is not so complex as that of your kind, filled with neither so much learning, nor so much strife, it is nonetheless ancient and extensive, and filled with great wisdom."
"Right, sure," said Tic, impatiently. "Like I said, we don't have time for that. What we really need to know is how you can help us take down Dunter and Libden and their goons. On that note..." He turned to the four yetis who had found them on the mountainside. "How did you know you could shoot down those ships with the Gortinawa seeds and a slingshot?"
The yeti who had taken the shot was standing by the cave wall, holding a blazing torch in one thick paw. It shrugged modestly. "The seeds are a great weapon," it said.
"Gortinawa seeds?" said the dark-furred old yeti. "I was not aware that more had been discovered! Have you any remaining, Brother Eilk?"
"Several, Elder Aidoan, thanks to the humans who offered them to us."
"Ah, wonderful," said Aidoan. "May I?"
"Certainly, Elder." The yeti procured a seed from somewhere within the depths of its fur and rolled it across the table to Aidoan, who flicked the hard red bead of acid into the air, caught it on his long pink tongue, and swallowed it with a wistful grin.
The humans gaped.
May 22, 2012 — 290 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
The yetis led them down the mountainside, making pathways with their paws when the snow became too deep for the humans. Once, their shaggy ears perked up, and they grabbed the humans to their chests and bellyflopped into a deep snowdrift, seconds before one of Dunter's jets streaked overhead.
Tic came up spluttering. "What was that!?"
The yetis shrugged. "Our fur camouflages us. If they see you, they will soon attack. But now they will assume you have taken your ship and flown away."
"Well... Good plan, I guess," admitted Tic. "But did you have to break our ribs doing it?"
Soon a huddle of gigantic igloos appeared on the horizon. The yetis bustled them inside one and hauled open a heavy wooden hatch in the floor. A broad staircase descended into the ground.
The stairs led into expansive caves, filled with a veritable yeti village. Booths providing a variety of services were built into the rock walls. Tic saw a market, a tavern, a smithy whose walls were hung with slingshots, and even a barbershop.
"Welcome to Yettison," said one of the yetis.
They were ushered into a side cavern and seated at a tall stone table. Other yetis entered and sat, staring curiously and chatting amongst themselves.
Finally, a hunchbacked, limping old yeti with black fur entered, and the room fell still. It addressed the humans: "I am told you war with Dunter. How may we aid you?"
"Um," said Tic. "Er, I guess, really, what we need is more information..."
"Knowledge?" said the old yeti, with a wide, shaggy, disconcerting grin. "How typically human. I will grant you my knowledge, but my wisdom, also, I offer to supplement it."
"Uh," said Tic. "Sure, why not?"
May 19, 2012 — 298 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
Milly fished a few more Gortinawa seeds out of her pocket. "Actually yeah, I do have more," she said, handing them over.
"I would ask how you came by them," said the yeti, "but there isn't time. I hear more of Dunter's jets approaching. They will be here soon."
"That's some pretty incredible hearing," said Milly.
The yeti shrugged. "You are Dunter's enemies?"
Milly nodded. "He and Lady Libden kidnapped my parents, and they're forcing them to build some kind of doomsday device."
The yetis looked at each other and grunted. "You should come to our village. We may be able to help one another."
"We should talk to our Captain," Milly told the yetis.
"Very well," they said. "But hurry. While you talk, we will hide your ship." They quickly set to heaping snow over the Pelican with their dinner plate-sized paws.
Milly picked a shivering Overard up out of the snow and they headed back into the ship. Before they could speak, Tic interrupted them.
"We saw and heard on the viewscreen. They say the enemy of your enemy is your friend, so... I guess it's worth a shot."
Haglyn was hesitant, but submitted to the majority, merely nagging, "If those things rip my head off, it'll be all your fault, Bolter."
They hurriedly crammed some basic supplies—plus the water bottle full of Gortinawa seeds—into backpacks, then joined the yetis outside.
"Stay safe, Gal!" said Milly as they exited the side door.
"As you wish," said the AI.
Tic rolled his eyes.
The yetis finished covering the ship. Haglyn's GyroCart couldn't handle the snow, so she left it behind and one of the yetis lifted her into its arms. They began trudging down the mountainside.
Night was falling.