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Sunspots

I monitor the solar telescopes as we do here at the observatory every day. Sunspots are on the uptick again. No wonder we keep getting spotty cell phone reception. The radio’s on the fritz, too. Better inform the agencies, let them adjust the satellites to shield them. It’s all just business as usual.

The mother of all solar flares breaches, flinging untold masses of excited plasma into the void. It takes roughly eight minutes for the observatory to detect the big one.

Coming. Right. At. Us.

How do we tell the world that there will be no day after tomorrow?

The Janitor

Our glorious leader moves in secret to the command bunker, as his “special military operation” has backfired spectacularily. The bunker is ultra-secure, deep under the mountains. No weapon of the hated enemy nor his backstabbing rivals can reach him down there. Hidden, no one knows where our leader currently is. But I, the janitor, know.

They had told my sons it was just a training exercise. That they would be home soon. But it wasn’t, and they won’t. The letters of condolence arrived today.

He thinks himself safe in his bunker.

I bar the door and shut off the air.

Search Party

A horror-themed drabble, published in Trembling with Fear online, the week of December 19th, 2021


Search Party

Another little group of hikers has gone missing in the forest. City folks failing the easiest challenge nature can present; follow the path to the rented cabin. The woods can be dangerous after dark. Us locals volunteer for search parties, again.

We walk line abreast, methodically searching. Our dogs rummage for scent between dancing pools of stark flashlight. Can we locate them in time?

A few miles in, the dogs mark the spoor, excited. We find the lost hikers. Cold and hungry, but relieved.

With our sacrifice in hand, the rituals can continue.

We’ll just say we never found them. 

A Win-Win Situation

The white-bearded man looked out of his element, wringing his hands while sitting by himself at one side of an impressively large table in an opulent meeting room. Across the table sat a delegation of sharp-suited men, all wearing warm smiles under neatly cut, straight black hair. A lengthy ritual of serving and drinking tea was done, as the man continued.

“The elves are really good at making the old fashioned toys, you know. Like dolls, teddybears, building blocks. Even board games. But kids today only want gyro-stabilised monowheels, airpods and videogames. Stuff like that. These are things we can’t make ourselves,” the man said with resignation. “Now, I appreciate your business invitation, but we don’t really use money up North. However, we do need large amounts of the kind of toys you make here each year. What can we do? I’m at my wits’ end.”

Their interpreter finished her translation of his words, and three of the representatives conferred at length. The man could not understand a word they said. This was a part of the world he had rarely visited. They hadn’t really started celebrating his holiday here until recently, and even then the wishlists that reached him were gibberish. Their writing looked like little boxes with lines in them, and he could not make heads nor tails of it. He supposed he would have to try to learn to read it, and made a mental note to get some language courses to bring back North.

His musings were interrupted as the interpreter addressed him again. “We certainly have the production capacity. It is an honour to help. We do not worry about payment. In return, all we ask is that you help us with some deliveries now and then. Sometimes we also have gifts to be delivered, all over the world. You just bring them along on your rounds each year, and leave them in the houses we specify. A win-win situation!”

Their warm smiles did not reach their cold eyes. “To show our commitment, the agreement will be signed by The Party Chairman himself.”

The Bounty

“Another sub has gone missing at the pole, Sir.” Admiral Olonov acknowledged the message with a curt nod. Ever since the top brass had decided to plant the flag in the North Pole seabed to stake a claim on the natural resources in the region, there had been problems. Half the missions sent to the area had vanished. In the long polar night their aircraft and satellites were useless. Damn magnetics were haywire up there. Strange interferences over the pole made them effectively blind. Nothing showed up on any scans. Other subs sent to search and rescue found nothing. And now another one had gone missing. Without a trace no doubt, just like the others. It was getting more difficult each time to keep the disappearances secret. The records kept getting harder to doctor. Hundreds of sailors! Their relatives were asking questions. Worse, the top brass were asking questions.

#

The nuclear submarine pierced the polar ice-sheet, its tower emerging with a loud crack like a giant black axe-head chopping upwards from the deep. Sensing the break-through, its snorkel hissed, inhaling fresh air. Antennae extending, its scope peered outwards. Momentarily blinded by snow crammed into the lens, it did not notice the many approaching drifts of snow, moving against the wind in the clear, starlit sky of the polar night.

#

“We thank thee, Father Christmas, for the gifts you have provided your servants.” Treaclenose the Elf muttered under his breath as he tied the knock-out gas canister in place over the submarine’s intake snorkel with lengths of coloured ribbon. His squad of white-camouflaged breachers were in position and ready to go at his signal. The herd of snowmen they had brought along were mindlessly piling into the cracks in the ice around the tower, freezing it into place. The reindeer were still on their way, laden down with the heavy equipment needed to break down the steel whale. With this catch they would have enough both of raw materials for the toy factory and meat for the table to last all through next season. Truly a bounty from the Lord!

The Walker

The walker stopped walking for the first time in about as long as he could remember. He shook his scraggly mane of dirty grey hair, bone-beads rattling, letting out a howl of triumph. In front of him, the Godstone stood at last. His quest was nearly at an end. The grueling pilgrimage had taken its toll on his body and spirit both. His erstwhile flab and pronounced gut -the mark of high living in the pampered priesthood in the Gilded City- were but distant memories. In their stead, knots of wiry muscles moved under the streaks of grime and filth caking his wrinkled skin. What once were silken robes now ratty, blood-stained tatters around his waist. His feet, once coddled in fine stockings and soft slippers, now long since naked to the ground, hardened by every last step, jagged toenails jutting out from blackened toes.

How long had it been since he first had unfurled the scroll he happened upon down in the dusty archives? When he heard the Whisper speak to his very soul for the first time? The Whisper that had given him purpose and kindled the Luminous Path before his inner vision? Oh, how the other clergymen all had laughed at him when he told them! How they had mocked his vision and jeered at his prophecies! Your scroll is gibberish, they said. Try to trick us into going on a fool’s quest with you? To what end? You’re lazy and useless. You couldn’t even find rocks in the mountains. You won’t last a week out there. Go alone. You go to your doom.

He had spurned them all, as he left his old life. He knew the path! He would show them!

At first, the long walk was an arduous burden and he was all alone in the wilderness. Still, he kept walking the Path. It shone brightly to his inner eye. Pangs of hunger would gnaw at his insides, his parching thirst would demand tribute. His legs would scream the agony of the relentless march. At these times, the Path would dim and he would feel his resolve faltering, feel himself be on the cusp of giving up, of failure. And the Whisper would return to him; an insistent, comforting sussurate, pouring will into his mind and strength into his limbs. Rekindling the Luminous Path before his inner eye. Presenting him with nourishment along the way. These windfalls are yours to drink, the Whisper would murmur. At first it was some worms, a slow turtle, a friendly dog. Easy to catch. Easy to drink. Their life’s blood quenching his maddening thirst for a while. But the thirst would return in due time, would grow stronger, more demanding. As the thirst would grow, the Whisper would provide ever more to match it; travelers, bandits. The Whisper in its infinite wisdom made his sustenance come to him. Good men, bad men, no matter. He drank them all as he walked. Their sudden terror as the truth of what they were to him dawned on them slaking the Whisper’s thirst as surely as their life’s blood slaked his own.

Through it all, the Whisper would murmur to him, would push him forward. So he walked, ever moving. Walking through day and through night, through summer and through winter, year after year. Leaving behind a trail of empty husks drained of life and blood, cast aside without a thought. Like a force of nature; he would not, could not stop. Unresting. Unrelenting.

But now, he walked no more. He stood before the Godstone in awe. For the first time, he saw it with his own two eyes, even though his vison blurred, eyes watering at the sight. Real! The Godstone was real! Just as the Whisper had told him. Just as the Luminous Path had promised. Just as he had believed so fervently all these years. Everything was true! In the depths of his soul he knew he had reached his destination at last.

Yet, he hesitated. A shadow of doubt. What was his purpose here? Why had he come all this way? What did the Godstone need him to do? Why was he chosen for this?

Then the Whisper returned in force; stronger than before. No longer a murmur, but a full voice, sibilant and sonorous. It praised him, adulated him, egged him on. Told him of all the greatness he soon would achieve, the power he would wield, the power to rule men, to have any woman for his own. More riches than he could imagine. Had the Whisper not kept all his promises? All he needed to do was have faith and reach out.

Trembling, he reached out a wizend hand to touch the Godstone. A distinct scintillation; a pleasant flash at the touch, as if sparks where bouncing up and down all over his skin. He moved his hand over the surface and revelled in the sensation, though it was difficult to follow the strange curves and angles that seemed to fold in on themselves. He closed his eyes and felt the stone. It was curiously warm. He pressed himself to the stone as much as he could, letting himself bathe in the sensation. The aches and pains of the long walk leaving his limbs, replaced by warm, fuzzy bliss.

The triumphant cry of the Whisper-Voice echoed like thunder as he felt his limbs suddenly go heavy, sharp pains all along his body where stone was touching him. Panicking, he opened his eyes to see himself slowly sinking into the stone, his flesh melding with it. He could barely move his eyes, and not move his limbs at all as he slowly was sucked in. He could feel the Awakening now, a whispering rising within the stone. He felt himself sink all the way into the stone, but yet he lived. The pain was gone, and all around he could hear the buzzing of whispers and faint voices. Voices waxing stronger, louder, too many, too fast. A choir approaching, too many to listen, too loud to hear. Like drops becoming a stream, many streams becoming a mighty river, melding together to become something far greater then each alone. The choir came rushing, breaking upon him like a sudden wave, and he fell in the ocean of voices. They surrounded him, filled him, welcomed him, absorbing him as he in turn absorbed them, becoming one with the river, adding his voice to the choir of the Godstone.

The New Gods

A historically themed drabble, published in the anthology Rise and Fall: Drabbles of the Birth and Death of Civilisations, to published by Nordic Press, (formerly Breaking Rules Europe) February 16th, 2022

Click the image to go to the book’s Amazon page

They, too, make nice promotional graphics for use on social media.

The story will be posted here some time after the exclusivity period is up.

Carousel

A horror themed drabble. Published in the anthology Under the Big Top: Festival of Fear Drabbles 1 by Black Ink Fiction, released October 30th, 2021


Carousel was my very first drabble to be accepted for publication in a printed anthology, but the second to be published if you go by publication date.

They even made a promotional graphic for me to use on social media.

The story will be posted here some time after the exclusivity period is up.

Hells Bells



The bells of the great tower have fallen silent, years of funding cuts caught up at last. Bribes, intimidation and a computer hack secure the refurbishment contract for the Darkpact Builders Co.

Specialist builders are shipped in to toil around the clock. Often heard but never seen, they work for years behind dark scaffolding.

New year’s eve. Party time. Thousands gather to hear the famous bells toll once more. The impatient crowds count down together. Three! Two! One!

DOOM! Discordant knells resound. DOOM! Waking the darkness within. DOOM! The crowds go wild. DOOM! The city burns as the madness spreads.






This horror themed drabble was published in 666: Dark Drabbles by Black Hare Press, 2021

It was my second drabble to be accepted by a publisher for inclusion in a printed anthology, but the first to actually appear in print, on August 31st, 2021.

Click the link or the picture below to go to the book’s Amazon page.

Napoleon

“So, Mr Allen, you are looking to enjoy your accumulated lifetime in… Napoleon, is it?

“Yes, I always been fascinated with the Emperor of France. And they have such great food and wine. And the French girls…”

“Yes, yes. A popular choice. You won’t be disappointed. Sign here, the transference procedure is one way. This is the sum to be deposited…”

Allen woke up in a different body as promised. This is gonna be great!

“I am Napoleon!” Small room this is? Who are those people in white coats?
“It’s time for your medication, Mr Brown.”