Flash Fiction Friday – The Fate of the World Rests in Your Hands

Happy April everyone! It’s the first of the month and a Flash Fiction Friday. I decided to play around with second person point of view for this one. Read to the end and let me know what you think in the comments!

The Fate of the World Rests in Your Hands – By Adam Wright

As you check your mail, you notice a letter and you stop in your tracks. Your armor jingles slightly as you move toward the table, the links clattering together. Looking down you notice the parchment on the tray is fresh and it appears to be written in the script of the King’s handwriting. His intricate seal holds the contents in place. It has been months since you were home and now, already, you are called to serve again.

You know you must answer this call. It could be anything from an invitation to dine with him, to an order to go back into the marshy fields, wading your way across miles of broken bodies, and leading more men to their doom. Before you pick up the letter you remove your helmet. Your gauntlets are removed by your trusty servant Roric. He moves to assist with the rest of your armor but you wave him off; this letter is too important to wait.

You tear open the seal, breaking through the wax depicting a lion holding a shield. The letter is long and a feeling of dread washes down your core, leaving you with beads of sweat trickling down your face. You think again of the restless nights, trying to defend against all enemies. You think of the cold nights you have spent, stirring at the slightest sound, always coiled to react in case your next action might become your last. You think of the stench of battles, the sound of steel clashing against steel, the sound of screams and pain. You think of all the crimson blood you have seen wash past your feet. You are not sure you can do this again.

You skim through the letter, past the initial greetings and compliments the King is so fond of using. Looking through the words you start to wonder if the King has gone mad. He is ordering you not only to take on another battle but to lead men into battles they are surely outmatched for. A thousand years and a million souls would not be enough to defeat the enemy. This is not a question of if men will die, but if any, at all, will survive.

The men you have been fighting, if indeed they can be called men, have an army so large that it cannot be numbered. Your spies have returned with reports they are performing rituals and acts that would summon creatures from the depths of Hell itself. The few spies who have returned have come back barely retaining their senses. Most of them have died by their own hand shortly after returning. And the King wants you to bring the fight to the enemy.

The letter tells you that you have one night to prepare. Only one. Your men need more rest. Immediately you start to think about who you should ask to fight with you and who you should let stay. You think of the men who might have come home to find themselves new fathers. The men who have returned to find a mother or father has passed while they were away. And of the men who are now so injured a return to battle is not possible for them. You decide how many of them you will let stay home. The answer is none.

This fight has been going on for as long as anyone can remember. It predates you and it predates your King. This effort might all be wasted. The battle will never cease. Yet the things you have seen give you pause. Creatures that could not be named, leaping from shadows, tearing with jagged claws and razor teeth. Shadows that looked like nothing more than simple darkness reaching out in physical form to wrap hands around throats until men were lifeless. You are asked to return to this. To stop this before it comes home to take your wife, your child, your mother and all those you care for. You know you must answer the call. You know you must put soldiers, warriors, mages, spies, even rogues and barbarians in harm’s way.

If anyone but your King had asked you to do this, you would refuse. Roric waits patiently for any reply you care to make. Initially you want to reply the King can damn himself to Hell. To tell him he should be the one to lead these men into battle. It should be his horse to travel all the miles you must be carried. You think of telling him what horrors will await him if he was to find his own courage and bring his own might into battle.

You give yourself a moment. You take a deep breath. You are about to craft your reply. Roric has a quill in his hand before you even ask for one. As you realize there is only one reply possible, you will fight the forces of darkness no matter the cost, a visitor approaches your door.

A woman in a forest green gown holds a paper in her hand.

“What is it?” you bellow.

“My Lord, a notice from Zack, er, His Grace the King, has arrived for you.” She gives a slight bow.

“I know, I have just read it. I am preparing my men as fast as I can, however the night is short and we are to march to battle soon.” You expect this reply to be enough and for the woman to leave. Yet she remains.

Dumbfounded, you stare at her. What could be so important she would interrupt your preparations? And the gall of this woman, addressing your very King by his first name as if he were some commoner. You wonder if she too might be a spy for the enemy. However, you wait patiently, for she must have some reason for being here. 

“Well, out with it. Why are you here?” you demand.

“Well, it’s like this Alex, er, I mean, my Lord. Zack, er, His Grace, the King, says we have to postpone.”

“Postpone? But he has just ordered me to attack. Why would we postpone? We don’t have much going for us but a renewed attack might be enough of an advantage to save us all. I was not overly fond of the plan at first, but it has its merits.” You wait for an answer.

“It’s just that the rain has come down so hard the road is washed out and now the state troopers are saying everyone in the area has to head home for shelter. Zack says we can reschedule, to say three weeks from now? The Live Action Role Play committee says we have to go due to safety concerns but we can call this one a draw since the allotted time hasn’t technically completed.”

You stare at the woman for a moment. You want to explain to her all that is at stake. All that is necessary to save the world from the forces of darkness. Just as you are about to refuse to leave, you realize you need to get your parking validated or you will be charged for an overnight stay even though it is only six in the evening. 

You decide the battle must wait for three weeks and plan to watch for an email from Zack… er, His Grace, the King to confirm the details.

Flash Fiction Fridays – The Letter

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday! I hope you enjoy the story and feel free to let me know what you think in the comments!

The Letter – By Adam Wright

Jim Targus held the envelope pinched between his thumb and forefingers. He held it as far away from his face as his arms would reach. Even at that distance it was still easy to read the bold block letter typescript on the front.

THE BUREAU OF EXISTENTIAL AFFAIRS.

He had waited most of his twenty one years of life to receive this letter. Days spent dreaming and imagining what the future would be. The paper felt rough on his fingers. He took a deep breath, folded it up into neat fourths and stuck it into the back pocket of his jeans.

The sun was bright and Jim squinted as he looked down the street of his suburban neighborhood. No one seemed to be out but there were sprinklers spraying the lawns of a few houses. Cars wouldn’t be arriving home from workplaces for hours. Jim loved the quiet summer weekdays. He hummed softly to himself as he walked to Angela’s door. She’d want to know he had received it. They’d made a pact to share it if either one of them got it. Jim wondered if Angela had received hers yet. 

Her house was one of those newer models, the kind with the alarm that told the occupants who was at their door before they even arrived. It was all some complicated algorithm that predicted people’s movements. Jim had never quite grasped the science of it. The house was yellow with green trim. Angela and Jim agreed it was the worst color combination imaginable for a house. They had spent hours trying to convince her father to repaint. Jim smiled at the memory.

Even though everyone inside would know it was him, Jim went through the exercise of knocking on the door anyway. He supposed it was habit. They wouldn’t have minded if he just entered but Jim’s mother always insisted on manners.

Angela came out to the door and Jim, as always, was struck by her raven hair and dark brown eyes. Eyes the color of coffee with just the right amount of cream. Soft eyes. Caring eyes.

“Why hello, stranger.” Angela threw her arms around him as if they hadn’t seen each other yesterday.

Jim hugged her back and let her scent wash over him for the briefest of moments. Then he stepped back and gave her his best grin.

“Hiya, Angela, how ya doin’?” Jim gave her a mock salute and she saluted back with a laugh.

“Why, I’m fine, Jim. What brings you all the way out here to my neck of the street?”

Jim held up his left hand in a signal to wait and then with his right he pulled out the letter.

“Is that?”

“It is. Have you gotten yours? You remember our pact, now.” 

“How could I forget? I think we were five when we started that lemonade stand and you started telling me how you were going to get to go to outer space once you got your letter.”

“That we were. And I still remember how the lemonade took hours to wash out of my hair when I told you no girls were allowed on my spaceship. We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?”

Angela didn’t say anything. She just smiled and gave Jim a little punch in the arm.

“Did you get yours?” he asked.

“I’m afraid not. Are you going to open yours or are we waiting for mine?”

“Well, I’m not sure. Do you want to be the first person to see what a famous outer space explorer I’m gonna make? Or should we wait and be the first couple to be accepted to the program at the exact same time?”

“The Bureau’s pretty strict about these sorts of things. You’re supposed to open it the instant you get it. You know that. I hope you haven’t jeopardized your chances.”

“Okay fine, I just wanted you to be here for the big reveal. You know, I’d be lost without you. All those years studying together. What a lunkhead I would be without you.”

Angela rolled her eyes. She looked pointedly at the envelope.

“Alright, alright, hold your horses.”

Jim tore across the top of the envelope, ripping the paper in jagged lines. He pulled out the folded piece of paper inside. As he was about to unfold it and read it, Angela touched his hand. She looked at him with those coffee brown eyes. Jim could feel alive inside those eyes. He could live forever as long as she looked at him.

“Wait there a second. Let me go get something first, okay? Promise me you won’t read it without me?” she asked.

“Whatever you say, sweetheart.” Jim gave another mock salute. 

Angela disappeared into the house. Jim heard her footsteps pad up the stairway. The paper felt heavy in his hands. Surely, it would be fine to open it. Angela would never know he had read it without her. What was the harm? The rules were supposed to be strict but how would they know when he read his?

Jim read the words.

We regret to inform you that your existence is not essential. You will be erased from this existence shortly. Please stand by.

The truth hit Jim’s mind like a thunderclap. He was not needed. For anything. There would be no Angela, no outer space. Just nothing. He watched as his hands began to fade away, the paper dropping from his fingers and fluttering to the ground.

As Angela came to the door, clutching her letter, she burst outside. She knew she had wanted to show the letter to someone. She was proud of the proclamation on it.

You have been deemed essential and will be allowed to pursue your desired career of space exploration. Congratulations.

She looked outside but there was no one standing there. Why had she come out here? She looked down and saw a piece of paper fluttering in the wind. It looked like a letter.

“Is anyone out here?” she asked.

No answer came.

Flash Fiction Friday – A Little More Time

Welcome to my third Flash Fiction Friday! This story was inspired by an old episode of The Twilight Zone. Let me know what you think of it in the comments! Hope you enjoy it!

A Little More Time – by Adam Wright

In the aftermath of the bomb the world was silent. The loudest sound was the crack of his lenses as his heel stepped on his glasses. He could only make out the world in blurs of different shapes and colors.

He had crushed his only reason for living. The books remained stacked on the library steps unread and innumerable. Even so, he kept on living for no other reason than he had nothing else to do. 

Days were spent foraging for food. It wasn’t really foraging. There was plenty of food to be found in local markets, neighbor’s houses, restaurants, almost anywhere. The foraging was guessing what it was he was about to eat. A blur of yellow in a can might be peaches or pineapples. Brown was likely beans. He was never sure until he opened the can. What he didn’t want he left out for the animals. They were few and far between. He supposed there were still plenty of insects but he couldn’t see them.

Days turned into weeks. Then months. Years maybe? He marked them off with chalk in huge hash marks on a blackboard in an empty school. He soon ran out of space but there were still more classrooms. He tried remembering the stories he loved and writing them out on the chalkboard. He was never sure if he got it quite right. They were all a jumble in his head and he would think to check in a book to see if it matched and then remember. He couldn’t read them anymore. Shakespear would have to die along with him.

One evening he watched as a blur moved toward him. It had the vague outline of a man but it didn’t walk like one. It moved faster. The sun was setting so he guessed it was a trick of the light, something playing out on the horizon with his eyesight. Or, more likely, he was finally driven mad from the isolation and boredom.

The next night he saw it again. Closer this time. He walked toward it, hope sparking once again in his heart. If there was another person, maybe they knew some stories. Or a way he could find a new pair of glasses. He could have them guide him all over the city until they found a suitable approximation of his lenses. 

Just as he was about to approach the shape, he felt a pair of hands wrap around him. There was a piercing pain in his neck, like two sharp needles. The hands let go as he turned around. Whoever grabbed him was already gone. He felt dizzy and sank to his knees. The world went dark.

He didn’t know how long he slept but when he woke it was still dark. And he could see! He could read the signs on the store in front of him. He could make out the headlines on the newspaper stand thirty feet away. He could read again. 

He soon learned that the sun burned but the night cooled. He slept while it was bright out and discovered to his amazement that he could read any book he wanted to, as long as it was night. He went through them methodically, one at a time, separated by genre, relishing in the words, loving the way it took his mind to different worlds and places. While he read he could forget almost everything else. He could forget the world was a dead place. He could forget the strange changes to his body, the fangs that now protruded from his mouth that he could see in the mirror. 

It was obvious what he was. He read about it in a book written long ago by Brahm Stoker. Even reading that kept his mind off the one other constant he now had. He had all the time he needed to read but he was going to waste away soon. 

There was a gnawing, constant hunger in his stomach. The cans of food no longer appealed to him. He tried to eat the food anyway but it just made him sick. He spent hours looking for something to eat. Something living with blood pumping through its veins. He couldn’t even find a squirrel or rabbit. 

He had all the books he could ever hope to read and the time to read them. Shakespear was going to die with him anyway. There was no food left, all the humans with their pumping blood had been destroyed in the bomb.

Book Review – Footsteps in the Dark: Short Horror & Sci-Fi Stories Volume II

Footsteps in the Dark Volume II by Joshua G. J. Insole

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

Another collection comes from the three-time Reedsy winner, Joshua G. J. Insole. This second volume of horror and sci-fi explores the dark alleys of the mind once more.

A woman defends house and husband from the home’s eight-legged inhabitants. Two strangers discuss music’s finer points as cannibals try to break into their car. A gender-reveal party goes off the rails as the true nature of the infant comes to light. Thirteen women gather at night to right the wrongs of society. A mother takes shelter in the family treehouse as the world ends around her. And finally—

Wait. Do you hear that?

Footsteps.

Footsteps in the dark.

REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Footsteps in the Dark is a collection of short science fiction and horror stories, most of them between three and five pages long. It’s a world of stories inhabited by zombies, vampires, wendigos, creepy crawly spiders and other things that go bump in the night. There are also several stories that might be considered more science fiction than horror but even these have a bit of a horror element to them.

The nice thing about a collection like this is there is a wide variety of stories to read and none of them take a huge time commitment. While not every story comes off perfectly, any reader who is a fan of horror is bound to find at least one story here that will stay with them long after reading. For example, Gender Reveal takes a decidedly unexpected turn and the story Ordinary stayed with me long after I finished that story. Another standout in my mind was Homeowner’s Association which gives a new take to how much people are willing to tolerate in their neighbors.

A word of warning would be that some of the stories can get a bit gory so if you don’t have a stomach for that type of reading you may want to skip a few in this collection. If you have a strong enough stomach though, most of the stories are worth reading at least once and added together they make a fine collection for horror fans.

If you like bite-sized horror and science fiction stories this is a great collection to add to your shelves.

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Flash Fiction Friday – An Apple a Day

Welcome to my second Flash Fiction Friday. This is a story I wrote called An Apple a Day. I hope you enjoy!

An Apple a Day

Angus Flannagan walked through the door kicking up a cloud of dust. The day was hot and a blast of heat followed him. The store, full of barrels of flour, tools for mining, and sweets for the little ones, was nearly empty except for the man behind the counter. He wore spectacles and suspenders. His nose reminded Angus of a hawk and his eyes were about as beady as one. Angus nodded his hello and pawed through the store. 

He placed the hammer, the hatchet, and the rope on the counter.

“Three ninety-five,” the storekeeper announced without looking up at Angus.

“And one of those.” Angus pointed to a barrel of apples, red and juicy.

“‘Twill be a penny more, unless you’re looking to buy five, in which case that’s two pennies. ‘S as good a deal as you’ll find round here.”

“Just the one.” Angus gathered his things and made his way out of the store back into the hot and dusty day. He slung the rope around his shoulder, carried the hatchet in one hand and the hammer in the other. The apple he put in his pocket.

Angus thought about Judith on the way back. She’d been young and beautiful when they first met. She hadn’t said much, only smiled. That suited Angus fine and all he did was smile back. They’d spent a lot of quiet moments together since then, just smiling. Her auburn hair matched well with his shock of red on top and they had gotten along just fine. Just fine. Most days anyway.

They’d had their trouble of course, what couple doesn’t? She did miss her mother though. It took Judith ages to persuade him but Angus agreed to have the woman sent for. Within a fortnight Mrs. Sally Winthrop had arrived on a fancy carriage drawn by two black horses. Nevermind that Angus didn’t have space nor seed to feed the animals. Didn’t have much use for a fancy carriage either. Still, they made do. Angus was good at odd jobs and didn’t mind the sting of a hard day’s work on his hands now and again.  

Every week he would go into town, get the tools he needed, go to some neighbor and patch a roof, or fell a tree or whatever had been needing done. Word soon spread that Angus was a handy fellow to have around. And although he would never say it out loud to anyone, Angus supposed he was pretty handy. 

A year passed, then another, then another and soon a strapping baby boy was born. Mrs. Sally Winthrop was none too interested in the child, although she did admit he was a handsome one. What Mrs. Sally Winthrop wanted most was for the child to be silent at night, so that she could get some sleep. No matter what they did, the child would wake at all hours, crying his lungs out. Feeding helped some and there had been the occasion where a small swig of brandy had made its way into the child’s milk at night. Those had been rare but Angus understood the necessity of it. If it kept his mother-in-law happy, he supposed it was none too harmful.  

Judith had found it difficult though. Angus was gone a lot of the time tending to his odd jobs and Mrs. Sally Winthrop could be a might demanding at the best of times. Angus remembered more than one occasion in which he arrived home to raised voices. It always threw him when he heard Judith yell. Judith who never wanted to be anything but quiet. She loved to read or knit or cook. Sometimes she hummed a little tune but for her to yell, loud enough that Angus could hear it outside? That was some serious arguing in Angus’ opinion. 

Mrs. Sally Winthrop’s favorite thing was to argue about the boy. Angus still thought of Pete as “the boy” because that’s what Mrs. Sally Winthrop always called him. Angus supposed it was because he had been the one to name Pete. That must’ve irked Mrs. Sally Winthrop to high heaven. She’d insisted the child be named Marcelus after her father’s father. Considering that Angus didn’t know the man and Judith only had the vaguest of memories of him, they decided against the name. Mrs. Sally Winthrop did not forgive slights or insults easily.

Angus noticed the dust gathering on his boots as he walked. He looked back at the trail he had left. There were footprints that led back to the store. He looked up at the sky and wondered if clouds might roll in soon. It was so hot, though, that it seemed unlikely. Nothing to do about the footprints then. His boots would need a shine but then again, so did everyone’s on a day like this.

The front door was painted red. Angus had painted that door together with Judith. The pair standing next to each other in silence as they worked. It had been the last thing Angus added to the house and he wanted to make sure they had both put it in together. After the hinges were on and the door framed, Judith declared it was in need of some color. It was the same red as the apple that Angus had bought. He knew when he stepped through it this time, there wouldn’t be any arguments. 

Judith sat on the couch. Tears fell down her cheeks in silent rivulets. Mrs. Sally Winthrop lay on the floor. There was a red, angry, wound all the way around her neck. Pete sat in the corner, playing quietly by himself. 

Angus nodded his hello. Judith tried to smile but it wouldn’t come.

“Judith, sweetheart, you know that she deserved it, don’t you?” Angus asked.

Judith nodded.

“I never minded the touch of brandy she’d give him, but arsenic, I never thought she’d go that far. I suppose it’ll take a little while to clean this up. How’s your hand?” Angus bent down to look at the bandage she had wrapped around it. 

“Still sore a little. She bucked some as I held the rope. She didn’t see me coming from behind but as soon as she felt it, she kicked something fierce.” Judith bowed her head and clutched at Angus.

“Don’t you worry darlin’, no one’s gonna know what you done. I got us some new tools and one of them juicy apples you like so much. I walked an extra two miles outside of town and bought at the first store I saw.” He handed the apple to her and she slipped it into her apron.

For the next hour, Angus worked outside in the hot sun. He had lumber enough to make the wooden box and plenty of nails. The new hammer drove true and the work went faster than Angus had expected. The hatchet was sharp and did its work cleanly. Mrs. Sally Winthrop was laid to rest with little fanfare in front of the house. They had lowered the box into the ground with the same rope that had done the job. After, Angus hung the new rope where the old one had been. As loathe as he was to do it, he tossed in the hatchet and the hammer, perfectly new, into the ground with the box. He buried the spot with dirt. He patched the dirt up and then made rows to plant seed in. It would take a year or two but there would be some fine apple trees just above Mrs. Sally Winthrop. 

It was weeks before anyone one noticed her absence in town. Angus did his best to keep things as normal as possible. He did his odd jobs, worked with his neighbors, and came home to Judith and Pete. She sat crying quietly to herself most days. Pete had gotten a lot quieter too. He slept much easier now. He seemed to be the only one.

 On the day that the sheriff came to their red door, Angus had been out helping to haul in some lumber. When he arrived back, he had his rope slung around his shoulder. It was still new and unfrayed.

“Angus,” the sheriff nodded.

Angus nodded back.

“People are starting to get worried Angus. No one’s seen Mrs. Sally Winthrop in town for a while. Is she sickly?”

“No sir, she went out to visit some relatives.” Angus hitched up his shoulder to keep the rope from sliding off.

“Looks like you’ve plowed some new ground out here. What are you growing?”

“Some apple trees. You know how Judith likes her apples.”

“I do. I’m sure she’ll appreciate you not having to make a run to town for them.”

“I suppose.”

“Listen, Angus, some people said they hear some shouting over here on occasion. That so?”

Angus nodded.

“Pete could get loud some. She didn’t like it and her and Judith tended to argue. That’s why she left. Couldn’t stand the country, or the noise.”

“You mind if I go in and ask Judith some questions?”

“No need for that. She’s laid up with migraine right now. Anything you need to know, I can tell you.”

“Alright. You say Sally left town. I heard there was some arguing. Could be she left town, could be something else happened. I’m wondering a couple things though. No one saw a fancy carriage leave town, like the one she rode in on. Her horses are still here too. Want to explain that?”

“She hired a driver, simple as that.”

The sheriff nodded.

“Collins at the mercantile says he hasn’t seen you in weeks. He told me he’d go out of business if you didn’t come in to buy fresh tools and apples regularly. You been down to the store lately?”

“Can’t say I have. You really need to know all this, Dale?”

“Just my job. When’s the last time you bought some apples for Judith?”

“I don’t know must have been about three weeks ago. She loves them but I haven’t had too much chance to get around lately.”

“Angus, I hate to do this, and this is just a formality, but I’m going to need you to come into town with me. Me and the boys are going to have a few more questions for you. That alright?”

Angus nodded.

“Can I say goodbye to Judith and Pete first?”

Dale slapped him on the shoulder and gave him a nod.

“You go on and do that. I’ll be right out here.”

Angus went in and held Judith and Pete for a few minutes. He smiled at them and left without a word.

The day that Angus was sentenced for murder was a hot one. Dry and dusty. Angus had made sure that Judith’s name was never mentioned. Most people in town wouldn’t believe Judith capable of something like that anyway. She wasn’t handy the way that Angus was.               

Across from him sat a man with a hawk nose and eyes just about as beady as one. When the judge asked how the man was certain that Angus had bought the items they found under the fresh patch of dirt the man was quick with his reply.

“He only bought one apple. No one passes up five for two pennies.”

Introducing: Flash Fiction Fridays

Hey everyone. If you’re a reader of my blog you may have noticed I didn’t post a lot in February.

Well, there was a reason for that. I was participating in Flash Fiction February so a lot of my writing time was spent on that. I used the prompts in the Storytelling Collective for some of the stories I wrote and I just wrote whatever I wanted on some of the other stories. I’ve submitted a story to be included in Flashbang! Volume III. Once that comes out I’ll link to it here but I thought it might be fun to share a few of my stories on my blog. I can’t promise I’ll be posting one of these ever single Friday but I will when I can. I’m a few stories ahead so for a little while at least, there will be one each Friday.

In case you don’t know, flash fiction is a very short story. It usually means anywhere from 1-1,500 words but not more. I like writing these because the time investment is not too heavy for someone who is working full time.

If you enjoy these stories, or even if you don’t, let me know in the comments, just remember to keep it civilized. I’m totally open to criticism and want to improve so feel free to let me know what you think. If no one enjoys these I probably won’t keep posting but if they go over well, I’ll likely post more stories here.

One last thing to note is these are my stories which I own the copyright to so please no plagiarizing. If you do like them though, please, please feel free to share, reblog, post on your social media and all of that good stuff.

The first story I’m going to share with you is an old one I wrote quite some time ago. But, the prompt of the word Time from last year’s Storytelling Collective Flash Fiction February reminded me of it and it was one of the first stories I wrote that actually felt like a story to me. This one is called Time Served.

Time Served

I need time, I need money, I need sleep.  The train rattles me along as these thoughts thunder in my head.  Just out of lock-up and released from parole I head towards my son.  I can’t sleep with the sound of the tracks thudding against me.  Any money I had is gone.  I got extra time for not pleading guilty to something I never done.  One man in a red shirt is the same as another to some people.  The therapist said I couldn’t let go of my anger until I admitted my wrongdoing.  Can’t admit to something I never done.  Can’t help being angry they didn’t believe me when I told the truth.

Six years gone.  Conviction overturned.  I need time, I need money, I need sleep.  I wonder if my boy knows me.  I wonder if I know him.  I wonder why she never visited me.  I wonder what happened in all that time.  I wonder if I will see wrinkles on her face and bags under her eyes.  The train rolls along, steady, steady.

They gave me a pass, said I had no parole but no place to stay, no compensation neither.  Just a ticket to anywhere I want to go.  I go to my boy.  Getting off in Wisconsin, the chill wind hits me like a fist.  I pull my cap lower over my ears and start walking.  No money left, none for the bus ticket. 

My old man was a con.  Only my old man was guilty.  I saw him take that money, I saw him point the gun.  My boy never saw me with no gun never and I don’t want him to.  My legs ache from the stretch of walking, so much walking, and I sit down for a minute on a bench.  In the yard they let us walk.  One hour every day.  The only hour of the day my body was allowed to move and feel free.  The time my mind brought images of my boy.  Safe in the outside world up on the monkey bars, out in the snow, laughing with his friends.

I reach the address I have written down.  The paper I hold in my hand is the only letter, only sign of anything I ever got from her in all that time.  One letter, one address, one bit of bad news I still can’t process.  I don’t want to walk in there.  I’m more afraid than I was the day they locked me up for good.

I stamp my feet and walk through the doors.  They slide open automatically.  The smell hits me.  It’s sterile and clean.  Going up to the room I pass people in scrubs.  I can’t help but think how the guards look the same in their uniforms.  They are the people that have access to the outside.  They are the ones that can leave all this behind.  Not me.  Not her.  Not my boy.  All of us prisoners.

I reach the room and she is in a chair by the bed, a book on her lap.  The machines are by him.  They loom large like iron gated walls did for me.  She looks up.  I see the wrinkles, I see the tiredness.  She gives me a crooked smile but doesn’t move.

I have been traveling for so long, unable to sleep, unable to think, I don’t know what to say.  She lets out a sob.  I left off crying long ago.

I wait for her to say something.  She never does.

I look at the boy.  The machines breathe for him.  It’s worse than I had imagined.  I was locked in a room but my body was always free to move. I have no scars, just my ink. He has bandages covering all of his scars and bruises. I wasn’t there when it happened.  I keep thinking how he always held my hand at the crosswalk.  Even when he was too old for it, he always reached for my hand. 

 “You thought I done it,” I say.

“It would make it easier,” she says.  Then she sits silent, her eyes staring at the floor.

“All this stuff.  These things keeping him from dying, how much they cost?” I ask.

“There was a settlement.  Money’s almost gone now.  Court says the driver paid his share. Doc says he could get better. ” She looks away from me.

We sit and say nothing.  The windows go dark and night falls.  Still I sit when she leaves.  I look at my boy with contraptions in his mouth and his chest moving up and down in rhythm.  There is one that says Brain Wave Activity.  It moves back and forth, rapid fire, faster than I can follow it.  His mind is screaming to get out.  The way I was screaming to get out.  I thought I had no chance but they let me out in the end.  I want to let him out too.

I think about my time in lock-up.  I think about how they put me there for nothing.  I think about how if I had at least been guilty I could try to make up for what happened.  But for this there is nothing.  I try to sleep but I can’t.  My boy never moves on his own.  Not once.

I start to think that lock-up isn’t so bad.  I start to think about how I can survive there.  I start to think what it would have meant if I had robbed somebody.  I start to think how hard it is going to be to find someone that will hire a man who served time.  I start to reconsider the gun.  I start to think that maybe all the money I could get will help my boy live longer. I start to wonder if I should do what I served time for.

Book Review – Reflection

Reflection by Brandon Hargraves

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

After witnessing the tragic death of her closest friends and family, Dawn travels across the country with a weathered vagabond in search of her aunt. On the way, she discovers that the world is a much scarier place than she had initially imagined, and that she might have some darkness lingering within herself as well.

REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Dawn lives a quiet, happy life in a small village. She has a family who loves her and close friends to keep her company. She hasn’t traveled outside of her village but she hasn’t minded because she’s happy. Everything changes when her little village and family are attacked and left for dead. Dawn is now on her own and will need to make friends and allies in order to navigate her way through a world she has yet to truly experience.

She meets up with Cain and Ragnar who are what is known as Reavers. These are people who uphold justice and protect the land. Dawn sets off on an adventure with the two of them as she tries to connect with her only remaining relative, her aunt who lives in a far away city. On the way she will have to face danger, enemies, and most of all, herself.

Reflection is a high fantasy adventure full of magic, interesting creatures, and compelling action. What is most interesting is that the characters in the story don’t automatically resort to violence to solve their troubles and there are some characters who really think about what it means to take a life. That’s refreshing to see in a fantasy book as oftentimes there is action without consequences in these kinds of stories.

There was room for a bit more character growth for some of the characters and there were times when the world didn’t feel as fully built as it could have been. But the story is satisfying to the reader and there is a lot of potential for this as a series. The characters are enjoyable to read about and there is a sense of fun in this world.

If you like fantasy books with lots of magic in it like Lord of the Rings or The Wheel of Time series, you’ll find this an enjoyable book worth reading.

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Book Review – The Winding (Time Corrector Series Book 1)

The Winding (Time Corrector Series Book 1) by Avi Datta

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

Morally complex, orphan, and absolute genius Vincent Abajian is hellbent to uncover all he can on Artificial Intelligence. His relentless pursuit distracts him from a traumatic childhood loss—his childhood best friend Akane was engulfed in a time-turbulence, a random rift in space and time.

But when a beautiful, temperamental, post-doctoral scientist, Emika Amari, joins his Center, everything changes. Vincent is convinced that Akane is inside the irresistible Emika. As they begin a life together, Vincent’s past and his connection with a time turbulence survivor challenge everything they’ve created and push them into a spiral of politics and conspiracy. Vincent’s silence to protect Emika threatens to tear them apart. Unknowingly, Emika is torn between what she wants and what Akane wants from her. With his newfound power, Vincent struggles with whether or not he should create another time-turbulence to free Emika from the grasp of Akane once and for all. But will tinkering with time be more destructive than anything he has ever encountered before?

REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Vincent Abajian is an orphan who grows up at a wealthy boarding school. His life is anything but privileged though as he has to fight school bullies, not knowing who his parents are, and prejudices of his schoolmates. That is, until he finally makes a connection with Akane, a sweet girl who shows him kindness and connects deeply with Vincent. She is soon lost to what is known as a “time-turbulence” where people can disappear from one reality to another. Sometimes they come back and sometimes they don’t. They may even return into a new life as a whole other person with small fragments of memories from the first life.

Vincent spends his life in driven pursuit to be the best he can in his chosen field of AI robotics. He has given up on finding Akane again until Emika Amari walks into his life. She may be Akane or she may be only Emika but either way, Vincent loves her. He now has to grapple with what all of this means, if he can do anything to change it, and must figure out how to protect Emika in the middle of political turmoil even if it costs him everything he truly wants.

The Winding is an intricately detailed story full of deep emotion. It also makes the improbable seem possible. However, what really stands out is not just how well the plot is constructed with all of its connections but how deeply the characters connect to one another. The reader is able to sympathize with Vincent while also feeling for Emika and feel the sadness that comes with great loss and the joy that comes with great connection.

At some points, parts of the book feel like they may be disjointed but by the end everything comes together and makes sense to the reader. Vincent and Emika are especially well developed both in terms of their characters and in their relationship to one another. There are moments where the political situation seems slightly underdeveloped but in the end it comes around enough to be worthwhile.

Overall, this is an excellent story full of surprises, twists, turns, and especially, deep emotional resonance.

If you enjoy love stories with a bit of science fiction such as The Time Traveler’s Wife or books like The Great Gatsby this book is an excellent read and well worth the time. If you just love great stories, this is a must read book. And the best part is this is only the first in the series. It will be exciting to see where it goes from here.

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Book Review – Pray Lied Eve 3: Tales of the macabre and untoward

Pray Lied EVE 3 by Lydia Peever

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

Macabre tales of alienation, terror, and the supernatural…

Take a seat in a darkened theatre for Wormwoods Final Cut, then cast a wary glance at the scarecrow Staked in the fallow field. Gaze across strange shores, All White and Jagged, and too far away from the safety of a library holding Grave Marginalia. Listen close for the Fading Applause in Quintland before Checking Out of the abandoned hotel rotting back into the ground, then stumble through city streets to avoid the Crocodile Rot.

Horror, weird tales, quiet stories of the dread… these seven stories serve as a following to the first three dark offerings of the Pray Lied Eve series. This third installment is dense, and as with the previous collections, we delve into realms, perhaps best left undisturbed.

REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pray Lied Eve 3: Tales of the macabre and untoward is an anthology of seven short stories mostly falling into the horror category. This is the third entry into the series but it’s not necessary to have read the previous books in order to enjoy this one.

Like all short story collections there are some stories that work better than others but each one here is an enjoyable read. Most of them have at least some gore in them but if you are a regular horror reader it won’t be anything you are not used to reading.

One of the strongest stories comes at the beginning in Wormwoods Final Cut in which a young woman hears something strange in an old film projector. She’s not the only one to hear it and it just gets more horrifying from there. Also extremely memorable is Grave Marginalia where a quiet library is disturbed when the staff finds a collection of books that contain things that definitely don’t belong in books. Stake is a quite short tale but it pulls off the story very well in a short amount of time. Fading Applause in Quintland is probably the story that works least in this collection but it’s still an interesting entry and worth reading.

Overall, if you are a fan of short stories, especially ones with a horror or supernatural theme of any kind you’re likely to find at least one good story here.

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Book Review – Afterworld

Afterworld by James G. Robertson

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

Death comes, and misery follows. As a man in his early twenties, Leon never genuinely contemplated what would happen after his death. Like those before him, he never understood the truth of our universe. After his sudden demise, the terrorizing reality of a mysterious dystopian afterlife begins crushing him as it has those prior. Men have started enslaving and killing each other to sate their greed while enigmatic creatures oppress the masses. Only a select few have shown the courage that is needed to challenge their supremacy.

Through this eclipsing darkness, there is hope. But will that hope prove to be enough to save this turbulent cosmos? The revelations of advanced science, magic, human savagery, and even our gods will be showcased. Both in a new light and disturbing darkness, will the verities of Earth and Afterworld give him a greater understanding of our universe; or in turn, begin to break him as they have done to so many before?

REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Leon has met with an unfortunate accident. He awakes falling through the air with no parachute to soften his impact. This turns out to be the least of his worries as what happens after is larger than anyone might imagine. He’s in a place called Afterworld where gods, men and women, and monsters all fight for power and supremacy.

Afterworld has an interesting premise in which all of the worlds religions have been preparing man for one thing and one thing only, to be able to fight dark gods from another universe. There is a fair amount of action and a bit of gore in the book. We see most of the action from Leon’s perspective. While a lot of the action and story is intriguing, it would have been nice to see Leon taking a bit more of an active role in the book.

The gods and creatures are fairly unique and so is the premise so that may be enough to keep readers going. Leon gets to interact with people who have incredible powers and learn from some of the most brilliant minds humanity has ever known. He is thrust into a sprawling universe that is full of danger at every turn possible. Only with help from the few people he can rely on will he be able to endure.

The ending leads nicely to the next book in the series and it will be interesting to find out where it goes from here. If you like books about alternate worlds, that tackle philosophical questions, and have a bit of blood in them, Afterworld is worth reading.

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