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Donald was in the process of fixing dinner, or rather, he was opening cans and dumping the contents out onto the two plates sitting on the small table.  The light from the battery powered lamp threw dim shadows on the walls.

“When do you suppose this will end?” asked Lacey trying to see out the small opaque, round window.  It was pointless, though.  The window filter wasn’t made to be opened.  “It’s already gone on longer than before.”  It had lingered for a week previously, then stopped for two days before coming back worse than ever.

Donald eyed her.   “Since it’s lasted this long, you know the score as well as I.  Come on, eat your dinner.  It’s time for the daily broadcast.  Maybe there’ll be some news.”  He clicked on the radio.

Lacey settled at the table and they picked at their food in silence, listening to the government announcer.  Neither had an appetite.

“We’re now in day twenty of the crisis,” came the generic male voice of the announcer.  “Again, no one should go outside unless entirely necessary, and all filters should be kept in place.  According to Dr. Horton Sullivan of the Department of Meteorology at the Miller Institute, there is some disagreement among scientists as to how long this will persist.  It is agreed though, that if all citizens follow the directives, they will remain safe and unharmed until the danger is over.”

The radio went silent.  The broadcasts were never long but this was the shortest and the most useless message they’d gotten to date.  Disgusted, Donald reached over and turned it off.

The two meteorologists stared at each other.

“We need to look,” said Lacey, quietly.  Donald agreed.

They got up from the table and went to the door.  Donald gripped the top edge of the filter and when Lacey nodded, he pulled it open.

Lacey stuck her head out, stared up and quickly drew it back in.  Tears coursed down her cheeks, leaving tracks in the sooty film covering her face.  She wiped her burning eyes with a sleeve, smearing the residue.  She held her breath against the foul air being admitted.  Donald looked intently at the sky then hurriedly slammed the filter shut.  He and Lacey stared at each other again, dirty faces ashen.

Some few days had been better than others.  More light, less smog, and easier breathing.  But no more.  With the filters in place, the air conditioning inside their smog survival capsule would sustain them for a while longer, and they had plenty of canned food.  But to what purpose?  The hazy, silvery orb in the darkened, roiling skies told them what they already knew in their hearts: the danger would never be over.  The inversion was worsening, becoming permanent.  It wasn’t clearing.  The moon was gone, and soon, the sun would not be visible either.

And it never would be seen again, as all life expired in a man-made heat death, and Earth became a twin to Venus.

End

 

I walk into the quiet dark house.  “Hello!” I call, flipping the light switch by the door. “Where’s everybody?”

No answer.  I walk to the kitchen.  The back door is open but nobody’s in the moonlit backyard.  I’m puzzled.  Gracie wouldn’t go off and leave the door open.  I feel uneasy.

I haul my cell out to see if maybe I’ve missed a call.  It’s not showing any, so I shove it back into my pocket.

I look around and see something on the floor by the counter.  I look closer.  There’s an overturned container on the counter and the contents have spilled out.  I glance around the kitchen.  One chair is pushed back from the table.  There’s an odd odor lingering in the air.

I start next door to see if our friend, Marcie, has seen her and the kids, but I know something’s wrong.  Gracie wouldn’t leave a mess in the kitchen.

As I cross the lawn, I catch a motion in the shadows near the back.  A large figure is sprinting toward the trees at the edge of the property.  My heartbeat quickens.  I grab the rake leaning against the house and follow.

“Hey!” I yell, “What’re you doing in my yard!”

It’s fast but I’m faster, and I’m catching up when a moonbeam illuminates the loping form.  I fall back gasping, almost dropping my makeshift weapon.  It’s a monster!  Suddenly I see drag marks in the grass and fear strikes my heart.  I resume pursuit, knowing it’s taken my family, and tackle the monster before it reaches the trees.  I turn it over, its face is horrible.

“Where’s my family?” I scream, sitting astride it.

It’s big but I’m strong, and I hold the rake handle against its throat.  Its hideous eyes are wide, staring up at me.  I scream again and it manages to point toward the woods.  I bash its head to knock it out, and I take off.

I find a strange aircraft and approach the open door.  I peer in.  I hear a noise, a soft whimper.  I go in, and find my wife and two kids stuffed into a cage!

They’re groggy but okay.  Relieved, I release them.  We return to the monster lying unmoving in the grass.  We can plainly see the thing, because, now, both moons have risen and are full.  They shine full on its dreadful, one-tone, pallid face.  I must have hit it too hard because its ghastly blue eyes stare sightlessly at the sky.

“What is it?” asks Gracie.

“It’s ugly!” exclaims Ellen, our six-year-old.

Four-year-old Bill stares, mouth agape.  My neighbors have heard the commotion and are running over, concerned.  They stop and stare, horrified.

I regard the beautiful green, white, and purple faces of my family, with perfect, round, red noses, generous red lips, and sharp, white teeth.  I smile, thankful I’ve saved them from whatever kind of monster this was.  I pull out my cell and call the authorities.

End

Zenzoris Returns (The Sophie Radcliffe Series Book 1) by [Burnley, Jenny]

Buy links: Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

 

Sophie Radcliffe is a gutsy and brilliant (and somewhat foul-mouthed) computer scientist from Texas. She’s also a ten-year veteran of the Intergalactic Law Enforcement Agency. She and her two human partners captured a Drogg criminal named Zenzoris and locked him up forever.

Zenzoris, a particularly ruthless and nasty bad guy, made a promise to exact revenge against Sophie and her planet, and he’s also determined to destroy the Intergalactic Council and seize control of the galaxy.

When Sophie hears he has escaped from his prison pod to instigate his nefarious mission, her job is to recapture him and throw him back in the slammer.

The story is well written with a good plot and surprisingly well developed characters for being so short, and the author also manages to throw in a rather startling twist. The story has aliens, secret portals, computer coding, wormholes, spaceships, stuff blowing up, plenty of action, and some moments that really had me chuckling.

I enjoyed this quick read and I think that anyone who likes science fiction – and space opera in particular – will get a kick out of it.

I give it five stars.

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Three stories in one…

 

Trilogy of Quiet SW

A Short Trilogy of Quiet – contains the three stories of the Cady and Sam series – Only 2.19! Or buy them separately (see below)

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Excerpt from chapter 2 of  “Interruptions” (FREE as a single at Smashwords, no coupon needed. Also free at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Apple iBooks)

 

“I recognize that car, Cadence.  It was parked beside mine at the Harris-Teeter,” she whispered in that breathless voice.  She had her cell ‘phone out and was turning it around trying to detect a signal.

I looked at the car, and could see why it would be recognizable.  Damned thing was a real rust bucket with flaking green paint, and the grill looked as if it had tangled with a pole or a tree at some point and then pulled back out into some half-assed semblance of straight.  Eloise had probably been relieved that whoever owned it hadn’t slammed the door into her Mercedes.

The door opened, and a big, burly guy stepped out.  “You ladies need some help?” he asked, languidly.  I could see two other heads in the car and the door opened out on the other side.

Uh-oh.  I smelled them and knew.  In my mind I said: Sam, we got a problem.

How many?  he asked the same way.  He knew I wouldn’t call him without a good reason.  I could handle three regular human guys.  These guys were not human.  I surreptitiously sniffed again, to be sure of exactly what they were.  Ghouls.  I wondered, absently, why the hell they were bothering Eloise.

Three big ghouls, SamGet here fast.  “Eloise,” I said quietly, “Get behind me.  Don’t say anything.  Let me do the talking.  I don’t think they’re here to help.”  They were probably the ones who’d put the antifreeze in her tank.

Taking Annamae next door, Babes, then I’m on my way.  Hang tough, he said.  Good daddy.  He wasn’t about to leave our kid in the house alone even though it would delay him a few minutes.

The big guy walked over to us swaggering a little.  I could see the two others coming around the car to start across the road.  They were nearly as big as the first one.  They were confident they had this.  Ghouls can’t smell worth a crap so no way they knew what I was.  Some paras  can tell even if they can’t smell, but ghouls can’t.

I’m small as a human, though even then I’m stronger than I look.  When I’m outside my neighborhood, I often pretend to struggle with heavy objects, just so I don’t get strange looks.  I’m a not-so-small wolf, and even stronger then.  I could probably take on three little ones though it wouldn’t be easy, but three big ghouls was a whole different bucket of bolts.  I could have taken one of them, maybe even two, but three this size especially with Eloise to look out for – not so much.  And I knew I’d have to change.  I hoped it wouldn’t scare the bejeezus out of Eloise.  Maybe she’d just faint and roll under the car or something.  Still, I wasn’t changing until I had to.  Even though it’s fast, it hurts like a sonofabitch.

“We’re fine, sir,” I said as if I didn’t know what he was.  “My husband is on his way.”

They looked at each other and grinned – horribly.  Behind me, I heard Eloise gasp.  Yeah, razor sharp teeth.  She hadn’t seen yet, that they also had very long claws.

“Oh, we’ll just wait right here with you, then,” he drawled, “just to make sure you’re…safe.”  The other two snickered.  I could see their pointed teeth gleaming in the faint light from the far off street lamp.

They were trying to get us rattled to heighten our fear.  They got off on it.  I backed into Eloise as they came closer, and I could feel her shaking.  I could smell her fear, too.  Damn.  That was just going to excite them even more.  “If you don’t mind, sir, please stop right there,” I requested politely.

I’m on my way, dear, keep ‘em talking if you can, sent Sam.

Trying, but I think they’re about to attack, I sent back just as the big one abruptly moved fast, coming at me like a suddenly unleashed pit-bull, claws extended.

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Excerpt from chapter 3 of  “Living in the Moment” (.99 at Smashwords as a single)

 

I bounded forward and went through the broken door after the ghoul.  Very faintly, I could hear Eloise screaming.  She was in a safe room.  Too bad she didn’t have sense enough to be quiet so that the ghoul would have to hunt for her instead of just going up and starting to rip at the wall.

I started for him, but suddenly smelled one of the vampires.  I needed to take it out first.  I hoped the ghoul wouldn’t get into Eloise’s safe room, and turned to find the vampire.

I couldn’t see it, well, actually it was a “her”, but I knew where she was, and jumped at what appeared to be thin air, hitting Miss Fang and knocking her against the wall, which jarred her back to visibility.

She screeched and grabbed me around the neck, trying to pull my head off.  I did my twist and slipped out of her grip, and bit her right leg off.  I felt something rush past me as the vampire jumped up balancing on her remaining leg.  Boy was she pissed.  Those take a while to grow back.

She changed into that huge bat-thingy with three-inch fangs they can become, and came at me.  That was a bad move on her part.  Not enough room to stretch those wings out.  She must have been relatively young or she wouldn’t have tried something like that in an enclosed area, anyway.  It was the last change she ever made.

She fell forward, and we went tumbling through the living room, she trying to sink her fangs into me as we rolled, me trying to avoid that and get mine into her.  We bumped and crashed into just about everything in that poor room, each trying to get the upper hand.  Eloise’s stuff was taking an awful beating.

We separated, and she immediately hopped at me on her one leg, missed, and skidded into the crushed coffee table.  I jumped on her back, grabbing the back of her neck in my fangs, and bit her head off.  I batted the head farther into the living room and plunged my claws into her chest.  Taking her head off would kill her, but I wanted to be sure.  She started crumbling into a pile of dust.  Okay, beg pardon.  That was the last change she ever made.

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Excerpt from chapter 2 of  “A Blankie for Baby” (1.99 at Smashwords as a single)

 

“Fight’s in the woods to the left!” I yelled, turning and running the few feet to the tree line.

As soon as we passed the first trees, I shucked my clothes and changed on the run, and from the grunts I heard, so did the other three.  The transformation is always instantaneous and painful.  You get used to it after a while but it can still wring a groan or two from you sometimes.

As a wolf, I was just as large as the male and a lot bigger than the females.  I could tell they were surprised but we all kept running toward the sound of the fighting.

We burst through the trees and into a clearing to see three werewolves surrounded by a slew of ghouls and several…things.  From the shriveled remains on the ground in various places, there had been more ghouls, and from the ugly sulfurous smell lingering in the air, the things were demons.

I jumped on the back of a big bruiser of a ghoul, extended my claws and ripped his back open.  My claws shredded his heart, and I quickly flipped the remains away and whipped around to find myself facing one of the demon thingies.  Shit. Shit. Shit.  I abhorred demons.

My face and head had been ripped open by a demon during that battle over eleven years ago, and my scar was now throbbing as if in memory of it.  We circled, each looking for an opening, some kind of weakness.

Cady, they’re minor demonsI dispatched one by hamstringing it.  Go for its legs!  Sam sent urgently.

Trying, I sent.

I darted in snapping at its ankles and dodged away just as it grew rapier sharp blades from its fingers and swiped at me.  Yikes.  Shades of Wolverine!  Fucking copy-cat!  I rushed back in between its legs and it stumbled.  Yes!  I twisted around and grabbed its scabrous looking calf in my jaws and bit down – yuck it tasted awful – it screeched out in a high pitched whistle and brought those blades down again but I was already moving and it only managed to clip some of the fur on the left side of my head.  Damn.

If I survived this, I was going to have to even up my hair on the other side.  Good thing I wore it short.

I saw the smoky fumes coming from the holes I’d put in its calf and I did a roll and wriggle and grabbed the other leg and bit through its ankle.  Its foot came off amid more reeking fumes and the demon vanished, dispatched back to Hell.  Whew.

Something smacked me in the top of the head and though I was seeing stars, I pushed off and twisted around to see a ghoul drawing back his ham fist to have another try at busting my head open.  He must not have been too experienced at this.  Everybody knew you couldn’t bash a werewolf’s head open that way.  Skull’s too hard.

I whipped around and extended my claws and the ghoul looked at me in shock.  That claw-extension thing of mine takes ‘em by surprise, sometimes.

The dumb-shit goon yelled, with indignation: “You ain’t no damned cat! How th’ hell…!” He didn’t get any further with that thought as my not-supposed-to-be-able-to-be-extended claws took his head off just then, as I leaped high and swiped hard.  Then I opened his chest up and pulled his heart out and tossed it into the trees.  The ghoul immediately began that shriveling thing they do when killed.

Stupid-ass.  Who the hell stops to get outraged during a fight to the death?

 

 

 

It hung on a string from the rack in the yarn shop, its red beanie button eyes staring out at the world.  It was constructed of black yarn twisted and wound into the general shape of a person; a boy, I thought.  It’s nose and mouth, such as it was, consisted of red yarn stitched loosely down the face between the eyes.  It was an art project gone wrong.

I knew immediately that I wanted it.

“Mama, may I have the doll?” I asked.

She looked down at me and frowned.  “Why would you want such an ugly thing?”

“Please?”

Her face softened as I knew it would. “Well, let me get my yarn and I’ll see how much it costs.”

The proprietor laughed when Mama asked, and patted my cheek.  She gave it to me for free.  We left the shop with me happily carrying the doll in my hand.

I sat the little figure on the small chair in my bedroom, turning it so that it faced the room door.

“What are you going to name your doll?” asked Mama when she came to tuck me into my bed that night.

“I don’t know, but I’ll think of something.”

She smiled and gave me a kiss, turning out the light as she left.

Later, I awakened to hear the noises that came more often lately; the sound of a raised voice as Papa shouted at Mama, then the terrible sound of him striking her and her quietly crying.  The house grew still for a while after that but my stomach clenched because I knew what came next.

I watched fearfully as my door quietly opened and Papa, outlined in the hall light, edged into my darkened room.

He came and sat on the side of my bed and leaned over me as usual but this time was different.

I looked past him to see a large dark figure looming over his shoulder and before he could do the things he usually did, he made a muffled noise as a pair of black arms wrapped around his head and snatched him away from me.

I sat up and watched as he became entirely covered by the huge figure, his struggles getting him nowhere, his voice unheard.

I knew that he would never hit Mama or slip silently into my room again, and I smiled.

The next morning when Mama called me to breakfast, I picked my small yarn doll up from the otherwise empty floor and carried it to the kitchen with me.

Mama’s eyes were red and swollen and her face was bruised but she smiled at me as she placed my breakfast before me.  “Did you think of a name for your doll, yet?”

“Yes, Ma’am,” I told her.  “His name is “Good Friend”.

I was five years old when Papa disappeared, never to be seen again, and life was much better for us afterward.  I’m well-grown, now, but Good Friend protects me still.

 

End

“No.  I cannot.”

“Oh com’on, Max!  You already have some of the right colors.  Why, that pink is perfect! And the blue – it’s the exact shade needed!  All you have to do is put this on–”

“No!”

I did not wish to be harsh with him, as he was a friend, but I still had bad memories from the last time I agreed to impart such aid.

“Do you recall what occurred when I assisted Nick when his leg was broken?” I asked.  “I would not care for a repeat of that, and this is a similar situation.”

Everyone had heard of the problem that arose during that event.  It had not been a pleasant  moment.

“Aww…the kids will be so disappointed!  If only my foot hadn’t got snagged in that thing.”  He shook his head, and sighed.

He sat down and stretched out his leg, observing his bandaged appendage.  It had been caught in a trap.  He sighed again, rather sadly, then peered at me.  His large, brown, watery eyes appeared to beseech me.

I beheld him.  He was truly a woebegone sight, and a sudden feeling of compassion arose within my chest.  I felt contrite.  I had known him for years, and he was an excellent friend.  My brain was telling me it was not a good idea, but, I reconsidered.  And so, with a sigh, I surrendered.

“I will do it, but I do not think the suit will fit.  It appears to be much too small.”

There was relief on his expressive face, and it lit up with elation.  He hobbled – with a little hop – over to hold the suit up to me.

“Hey, no worries, Max.  It’s adjustable.”

So I struggled into the suit and he handed me the items I would need to implement the job.  I felt foolish.

“I feel foolish,” I said.

“Oh, you look fine!” he said, waving me off down the walk.  “Don’t let anybody get a close look and you’ll be good.”

I studied the controls of the waiting vehicle and ensured that all the packages were properly affixed.  I sincerely hoped that matters would proceed much better while making deliveries for him, than they had when I substituted for Nick at Christmas, wherein I was discovered by the family at my final stop.  They had not appreciated an eight-foot tall, horned, blue demon in a red velvet suit, placing presents under their holiday tree.  They dialed 911 and I had nearly been exposed.  Had that occurred, I would have been dispatched back to Hell.

As I prepared to leave, Bun Rab called to me, “Don’t forget to hop!  It helps keep you unnoticed!”

I made sure the hoodie-type head covering with lop-ears attached, was straight; felt to confirm the cotton-tail was in place, cranked up the Easter cart, and set off down the Bunny Trail to begin the delivery of Easter baskets.

At least the color of the rabbit suit matched my pink eyebrows.    ###

 

tower_of_babel Artist: Paul Gosselin, Description Belgian painter Impressionist

The Experiment

 

The colossal entity watched as the small beings struggled to finish their tower.

“They work diligently,” remarked his companion who was observing the ongoing construction with him.  “Will they be allowed to complete it?”

“No,” was the reply.  “I have been ordered to stop them.  They seek to challenge us; they even think that by remaining there together, they can successfully war against us.  But, they must disperse out into the world as commanded.  If permitted to finish this building, that will not occur.  They will stagnate at this level.”

“Perhaps if you were to demonstrate to them that they cannot win at such an action, and tell them they must scatter in order to grow–”

He shook one of his middle heads while turning the far left one to consider his companion.  “Demonstrations do not convince them for long, and they have been told; however, they have no understanding of the meaning of a stagnant society, and see no merit in separating.”

His companion contemplated this in silence for a moment, the three eyes in her farthest head on her right blinking at him thoughtfully, then she shrugged her many shoulders, her rows of iridescent wings shifting slightly, and said, “I suppose you are right.  Still, they are resourceful, and, occasionally one will listen.”  She chuckled with five of her throats.  “I thought surely they would all be washed away when our project head became angry and decided to terminate our handiwork.  I am glad he relented and allowed the building of the ark.  At least some survived.”

“Yes, it is also good that they are prolific, otherwise they would be too few to be viable.  But now, they must disband into separate groups for diversification, or this will still fail, and they will never become that for which we are striving.”

He surveyed the little bipeds scurrying up and down the path that spiraled up the side of the brick-built tower, urging their work animals on.  They were nearly finished.

He sighed with regret as he activated the neuron scrambler that would disrupt the language center in their brains, causing their one language to become many.  He would not have minded seeing the tower completed.  Though crude, it was quite an interesting artifact.

He was impressed that these creatures they had fashioned from microscopic organisms and cultivated over such a short span of time, had already been able to do this.  But, the tower had to go.  This action was imperative in order to enable them to advance and reach a certain level.

He switched on the teleporter and began shifting the tiny individuals to different areas of the small blue globe.

Then, he and his companion watched with satisfaction as the miniscule beings, who believed them to be gods, oriented themselves and began to band together in small groups.

The project head would be pleased.  The experiment to prove this a good method of bringing their necessary food to a nutritious fruition was back on track.

 

END

“I don’t know.”  He shook his head, dubiously.  “Are you sure we shouldn’t stay out of this?”

“It needs to stop,” she replied.

They watched the couple as they snarled and screamed, angrily going at each other with everything they could get their hands on.

“Ooo…that was nasty! Hurry!”

He nodded and loosed his arrows at the two, striking both.

The angel dropped her lightning and the demon dropped his fireballs as they ran and clasped each other in a tight embrace, cooing sweet words of eternal love.

“See, Cupid? Told you it would work!” exclaimed Venus.  “Love always does.”

End

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