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Thursday, December 29, 2011

From "Survivors' Dreams" by Kaylan Doyle

Prince Helrazr, called to defend his planet from invading alien forces, prepares to launch his fighter from the starship:
Shoving aside hatred for the critical next step, he pressed fingers against his lips. One breath pulled deep, held tight, then Razr laid his head in the depression of his seatback. Waited for the gut-knotting nausea of mind-jack interface.

From "Levels Of Deception"by Susan Schreyer

Thea Campbell has figured out how to deal with the unexpected problems she's encountered while doing research in the university's museum when she overhears an unsettling conversation...

I hiked my bag more securely on my shoulder. Okay, then. I'd faced her once. I could face her again. As I rounded a turn in the corridor Dr. Fogel's voice echoed softly ahead, coming toward me but still some ways away. Hope I could avoid Mrs. Peabody again quickened the pat-pat of my sneakered feet until Scott's angry, strident pitch cut off Andrew Fogel's quiet tone, halting my rush.

"If you don't do something I'll --"

"You'll do nothing. I'm certain he already suspects me. If you're found out it will --"

Their voices were getting closer.

"I won't jeopardize our plan." Scott's tone was a sneer. "But I'm telling you we have to do something about her."

Her? Her who? Her me? What had I done? Crap.

 There was nowhere to hide.

From "What Lies Unseen" by Bonnie Taylor

Throughout history man has transcribed accounts of things that defy scientific explanation.  For ancient civilizations, interactions with magical beings were described as Earthly visitations by the Gods. Later, with the spread of Christianity, there was a shift in beliefs causing these once godly manifestations to be considered evil. Attempts to make contact with departed spirits through the employ of psychics and mediums may pre-date written history but books on the subject were written as early as 1706 and it is said that the Lincoln family held seances in the White House during Abraham’s presidency. The desire to make contact with spirits continues to show itself today in the recent popularity of ghost hunting and the acceptance of psychics as reality television.

Though verifiable proof of the existence of paranormal activity escapes us, one thing is clear; those who have experiences with the paranormal tend to become believers and while fear overcomes some, many crave more and I am one of them. I come from a family with a notable sensitivity to things other worldly. I grew up with a father who could foresee significant life events for those around him and more specifically, was profoundly aware of the passing of relatives at the exact moment of their death.

From "Ask Me if I'm Happy" by Kimberly Menozzi

Emily and Davide chat about the fact he noticed her on the train that morning, before he stepped in to help fix her botched travel plans.

“You could see which article I was reading?”


“You’d read it, too?”

, . Many times, in fact.”

“Imagine that… I would never have guessed something like that would catch your attention.” A wave of relief washed over her, now that the mystery of his “attraction” was solved. “You know, I thought the article was very interesting, but I’m not sure I completely understood it. My Italian isn’t perfect and there were some rather abstract concepts and complex language in it…” She trailed off, a realization dawning. “Oh, lord… ‘Davide Magnani’.” She put her hand to her forehead, embarrassed. “You wrote it, didn’t you? That’s why your name rang a little bell in the deep, dark recesses of my mind.”

, I did. It’s just that other thing I do when I’m not teaching or speaking to educational conferences in Padova…”

“Amazing… I mean, what are the odds of reading an article and having the author sitting right across from you on the train like some average Joe? Or, in this case, like some average Giuseppe?”

He chuckled. “I would think that the odds are probably quite small.”

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

From "The Memory Keeper" by Lisa Stowe

After losing her grandfather and stumbling into a murder, Cody finally thinks she has the courage to face her domineering, embittered mother.  

“Stop it mom,” Cody said. “Just…stop.  You’ve made it clear over the years that you think I’m worthless. So why didn’t you adopt me out?”
“What’s gotten in to you? What are you talking about?”  May dropped her fork on the plate.
“Answer the question. You think I’m stupid, you tell me I’m ugly, you make it clear I’m unlovable. You’ve had years of telling me over and over what a burden I was to bring up on your own. So why do it? Why the hell didn’t you just abort me?”
May’s triple chins quivered, and she put a hand over her heart. “Why are you talking like this? How could you ask me something like that?”
“Why am I talking to you like this?” she repeated. “Why have you talked to me the way you’ve done my whole life?”
May stretched, wheezing, for the tissue box and pulled one out, dabbing the corners of her eyes.
“By the time your father left us you were almost five. A little old to abort, Cody.”
The words were like a sharp pain slicing into Cody’s chest. She couldn’t breathe and hunched over, gripping her hands between her knees.

From "Union of Renegades: The Rys Chronicles Book I" by Tracy Falbe

With the forces of King Taischek, Dreibrand loots a temple to the Goddess Onja...

Dreibrand looked around the inner sanctum of the temple. White columns lined the circular wall, and between the columns, rich frescoes of brilliant color filled the spaces. Each fresco featured a portrait of Onja in various settings. Sometimes she was the aloof Queen on her throne, in others she walked in lush meadows and seemed to beckon the bloom from the plants or she brushed her blue hands across the golden tops of ripening grain. In one pose, Onja stood over a mother and new infant, which immediately disturbed Dreibrand although he realized it was supposed to be appealing. In another portrait, only the starry night surrounded Onja, but no matter what the setting, she always bore the same beautifully indifferent face. 

He counted twelve portraits and in the last space stood a statue instead of a painting. Carved from the blue stone of the Rysamand, her polished form was larger than life, and the glow from the orb on the pedestal reflected on the jewels set in her eyes. 

“What do you think? Are you a believer yet?” Taischek said.

Dreibrand smiled. “No, King Taischek. But the art is quite good.”

From "Hostile Witness" by Rebecca Forster

Linda’s fingers dug into Josie’s arms again. Her long nails were sharp, but the rest of her was losing ground. She pleaded frantically as only a mother can.
“Just go see Hannah, Josie. That’s all I’m asking. If you saw her, you’d help her. The last thing you’d want is for a kid to be alone and scared.”
They stood eye to eye, both of them taller than most men, both of them fascinatingly attractive, and both locked in an emotional tug of war. 
“They took her to Sybil Brand?” Josie asked cautiously. 
Linda nodded slowly, her face a play of concern and questions. 
“They said she couldn’t be released until they had a bail hearing because of the charges. That’s not going to be ‘till Monday. Josie, what is it?”
“Juvenile offenders are taken to East Lake, Linda, not Sybil Brand. Your daughter’s in the women’s jail. The DA is going to charge her as an adult.”
“What does that mean?” 
“That means she’s looking at hard time if she’s convicted. No sealed records. No short-term juvenile facility.”  Josie dug deep to find the courage to give Linda the worst-case scenario.  “If the DA tacks on special circumstances he could conceivably ask for the death penalty.”

From "Mom’s on the Roof and I Can’t Get Her Down" by Cynthia Meyers-Hanson

While mom was terminal, my aunt and I talked.  I revealed that my mother had a telephone call from her nurse, Inez.  Later, I discovered that phantom was her deceased mother.  In response to my disclosure, my aunt told me that her sister told my living grandfather that Fred Astaire was there, too!  My parents were once good dancers; my mother used to say that one of her criteria for choosing a mate was that he knew how to dance....  Now, unable to walk for over three months, a great but deceased dancer was visiting her bedside.  Did Inez call?  Did Fred Astaire visit?  These things were not as important as what they meant.  Mom would soon be dancing in the clouds with her mother and a great entertainer.
Then, I told my aunt about my weird dream!  Mom came through the kitchen passage.  I wanted to get Dad so he could see her walking- again. She shook her head, hugged me, and left; she was wearing her red nightgown.  .... On the day mom lost her battle with cancer, she was wearing that red gown.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

From "8:The Untold Story of the 8th Dwarf" by Michael Mullin

The stories we pass down from parent to child
Were once filled with darkness, but somehow turned mild.
We tweak and revise, and when all else fails
We choose to omit certain crucial details.
Until they're forgotten, and nobody knows
How a story originally, truthfully goes.

Take Snow White, for example. A popular tale
With plenty of unpleasant truths to unveil.
For instance, I’d wager that you didn’t know
Seven lived in that cottage … while one lived below.

It wasn’t always that way. They once lived as eight.
‘Til he changed into strange: staying up, sleeping late.
He ate less and less, turning skeleton-thin,
And shaved his beard down to a patch on his chin.
He was twisted and moody. A freak to the letter.
Calling him “Creepy” didn’t make things much better.

From "Sweetwater" by Courtney Lyn Batten

Mia blinked back the tears, the longing, and the heartache that threatened to consume her. Leaving Mississippi four years ago was eerily similar to leaving Adam now.
Kyle’s raspy voice jolted Mia out of her thoughts. She whipped her head back to face him. He sensed her eyes on him and met them, still singing faintly. And for a moment, it was hard to ignore the warmth that flooded in her gut as their eyes locked. His deep voice made her want to forget and desperate to run at the same time.  Mia realized she was staring, he winked and a hot blush crept into her cheeks and stained her pale skin. She dropped her eyes to her lap; a curtain of blonde hair fell forward and shielded her red face.
Kyle chuckled as he turned back to the road, “Even cuter when you blush.”

From "Call of the Jaguar" by Pamela Beason

Rachel hired bush pilot Alex to fly her to a remote Guatemalan archeological site to find her long-lost lover, but their plane is shot down, they're captured by armed men and tied to a tree.

A scruffy-looking dog emerged from the woods to sniff one of her discarded boots. They watched as he lifted a leg and peed on it.

"That's probably symbolic," Alex said. "A representation of our fate."

The dog investigated the other boot. After sticking his nose inside, he picked it up and carried it off into the woods.

"How would you interpret that?" she asked. "We'll be rescued by an unlikely hero?"
Alex snorted, but said nothing.

Rachel moved her tongue around inside her mouth, trying to work up some saliva. Her mind couldn't quite grasp the situation; it felt like she'd stumbled into a bad movie. "You don't really think they'll kill us, do you?" she asked. It was just too much. This sort of thing wasn't supposed to happen in the modern world. "I can't believe that I came all the way to Guatemala to get shot."

"That's probably what everyone says before they get blown away."

From "Heaven's Not a Place" by Cheryl Clayborn

No impatient dog yet barked, no anxious breeze yet disturbed a single leaf on a single branch, and not even the soft coo of a mourning dove penetrated the air. Moments from now, all the outdoor morning noises would begin their daily symphony.  But right now, right here in this small suspended space between night and day—this was a special time.  A time to relish the last few fragments of delicious, deep sleep. A time to hold on to dreams…

He was a boy again.  He was tall and lean, with muscles like sinew.  And he felt so strong!  He was running…running through the backyard at home, jumping the fence.  Awesome!  He must have cleared it by at least a foot. He kept running, through the neighbor’s yard and out into the street.  Man, he wasn’t even beginning to get tired!  He was already on the other side of the street.  Then he saw the reason for his running...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

From "Danger Danger" by Gerry McCullough

The shining red car hurtled across the road towards them. ‘Dec!’ Katie shrieked.

Declan swerved to the left, jammed on his brakes, and felt the Honda bike skid to a shuddering stop. It toppled over. There was a blinding pain in his left leg, then nothing.

Katie felt herself flying through the air. She landed on her left arm. The black leather jacket ripped apart. She felt her head crash into the hard surface of the railing in the centre of the road. Then darkness, and silence.

The motorbike had come up out of nowhere. Steven saw it out of the corner of his eye. He’d thought he could make it across, in the last moments after the lights changed, just before any traffic came from the other direction. But here came this bike, way before anyone could have expected it. He dragged on the wheel, tore the Mazda round. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Annie’s shoulder bang against the passenger door, saw the door burst open, saw her shoot out of the car. He wrenched at the wheel, trying obsessively to regain control of the car. His head hit the windscreen.  There was nothing more.

From "The Savior of Turk" by Ron D Smith

American-born Danny had just met his Delhi-born cousin Bhanu at the Kansas City airport. Bhanu and his parents had come to America to help Danny's family run a smalltown motel...

I took the bag that Bhanu had been dragging across the floor. “You can call me Danny. I don’t know what they were feeding you in India, but maybe a shorty like me can get some.”

Bhanu looked at me dead-serious. “I would be happy to share my diet with you,” he said.  “My name is Bhanu. Danny is not your real name.”

“ Yeah, but that’s what everyone calls me. If you keep your name, people will just butcher it. What’s with the accent anyway? You sound like a butler.”

“I received a formal English education,” Bhanu said, as if the answer was obvious. “I thought your name was Devak.”

“Like I said, just call me Danny.”

“I like ‘Devak’ better. It means ‘divine’,” he said. “I don’t know what ‘Danny’ means, but ‘Devak’ is a good name.”

It didn’t take a charter member of Mensa to know this guy would fail to impress the low society folks of Wapatamwa.  He would find himself the center of attention of guys with no greater desire than to beat the fecal matter out of a spindly-armed, brown-skinned boy who talked like he had a silver spoon stuck up his butt.

From "Upsetting the Tides" by David Englund

On a new world, stuck in a cage, Clark listens to the creatures talk . . .
“I’m hungry.”

            “I’m hungry.”
            “Me too.”
            “Yes, yes, we are all hungry.”
            “We can’t interrogate the stupid thing.  It isn’t intelligent enough to communicate with us.  We probably couldn’t learn anything from it anyway.  It barely even knows how to walk.”
            “This is all Frumptoff the ancient explorer’s fault.  If he hadn’t gone through that transcendent to other worlds, we wouldn’t have to deal with these situations.  These amateur explorers need to mind their own business and find a way to be content staying on their own miserable world.”
            “Come now, what possible harm has ever become of these strange creatures coming through the transcendent?  They only come through one at a time and never have any of them posed a danger to us.  The transcendent has done nothing but give us sport and an additional food source.”
            “This is true.  Besides, there are not as many travelers coming to visit us as there once was.”
            “Maybe that is because we have eaten them all.”
            “We have no choice with this creature.  We will simply have to leave it here to keep it from getting into any mischief until we can figure out how to eat it.”
            “I’m hungry.”

From “The Starlight Prince” by Borislava Borissova

Being outside on the threshold The Starlight Prince did not hear the scream going from inside nor saw at that moment that a small bell over the grand door of the castle started moving slightly, its pendulum swaying to and fro while simultaneously, a similar but larger bell over the heavy door of the nearby family burial vault began swaying along with it as if measuring time, too. 
The starry boy had an ear only for the ominous voice of the storm, the gale and the wind. He stared into the steadily falling snowflakes to pick out who opened the door but nothing was visible. Harassed by the blizzard, he bravely entered into it as the greatest adventure of his young life to seek a help or to face menace from the habitants. Once inside, his scared shadow snaked over the walls. 
He found no one. 
Why and how he heard the scream was a mystery. There was no sign of life, except the fact that everything was in perfect order. 
In that moment, the bell above the vault turned round its axis and darkness crept out around it. Some intangible steps led out.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

From "Tom Fleck" a novel of Cleveland and Flodden by Harry Nicholson

The seventy year old called out in a strong voice: 'Men of England, I am Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, charged by your king to defend his realm. Many of you know me. Many of you are brothers-in-arms from earlier days.' 

    The front ranks stared up at his broad forehead and long, high-bridged nose. 

    'Witness our banners!' 

    He motioned to men guarding a row of flagpoles. They pulled ropes and an ancient cloth of velvet bearing the symbol of St George, a red cross on a white field, fell open. Next, the banner of the Tudors unfurled, a red dragon on green and white. Then the banners of the chief commanders: the quartered red of the Howard lions, the three stags' heads of Stanley, the white scallops of Dacre and the blue-and-yellow chequer board of the Cliffords dropped open, followed by the colours of lesser houses.    

    'Once again the Scots torch our land.' He pointed to the ancient cloth. 'Once again we gather beneath the sacred flag of St Cuthbert that has never failed to bless us with the strength to defeat them.' 

    A cheer went up.

From "Gastien Part 1: The Cost of the Dream" by Caddy Rowland

As she slowly removed the top and then the bottom of the lingerie, stepping out of them, he was transfixed with the beauty of her body. Sweet Jesus, she was lovely! Never had Gastien imagined that a woman could look so perfect. She could be a sculpture in a museum, he thought, she is physically perfect. The look of her screams of class. Gastien felt like he would dirty her.

Then, she looked at him in a way that let him know that he was definitely what she wanted. He did not have to worry that he was not clean enough, or rich enough, or suave enough. He whispered, “You are beautiful, Nath. Absolutely, completely, beautiful.” 
Her soft laughter tinkled in the stillness of the night. She moved over to the bed, where she pulled down the heavy red satin cover, revealing satin sheets that matched her lingerie. She climbed up the bed steps, finally sliding gracefully between the sheets. Looking over at him, she said softly, “My turn, Gastien. My turn to watch, while you undress.”

From "The Academic Exercise" by James G. Bruen, Jr.

"What is the matter, Matt?" asked the priest, sniffing the brandy.
"Am I that transparent, Paul?" said Matt Hart with a smile and a sigh. "I guess after all these years you know me well."
He put his glass on the small table next to his chair.
"One of my law students was killed today," Matt continued after a short pause.
"He was one of the best students I had last year, and he was killed by another one of my students. The police say it's murder, and they have arrested him. I know he didn't mean to do it. I feel responsible for the killing and obligated to prove he isn't culpable."
"Responsible? Why?" said the priest. He dipped his tongue into his brandy.

From "The Famous Union" by Michael Meyer

On September 1, 2012, two recent PhDs entered employment with the English department of Famous Union College, one a young Greek, the second a younger hybrid. But unfortunately for the latter—the hybrid—who had been hired to coordinate the department’s freshman composition program, a two-semester sequence, the entire program, as the result of an executive decision in late August, was abolished forever at Famous Union three weeks before the new coordinator showed his face in town for the second time, the first having been for his job interview two and a half months earlier. The decision was a landmark one, Famous Union having been the first and only institution of higher learning in the entire country to disband the writing program that was a strict requirement everywhere else under the American flag, and always had been.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

From "An Error In Judgment" by Susan Schreyer

Thea Campbell is attending the annual awards banquet for the Puget Sound Dressage Society and has been called to the stage to receive an award when the presenter collapses...

The room erupted in a cacophony of shouts and gasps. I leaped forward, dropped to my knees, and with two efficient flicks, undid his tie. 

Footsteps pounded across the stage behind me. Sig's eyes fluttered open.

"Lay still. You'll be okay." As I fumbled with his collar buttons, his hands shot up, capturing both my wrists in a crushing grip. I yelped and tried to pull away, but he wouldn't let go. His eyes focused on mine, desperate, commanding.

"Hudson … Paul Hudson … tell him …." His voice was raw with pleading. Even as it failed him, his eyes continued to beg.

A woman, kneeling on the other side of Sig, undid his shirt button. "Try to stay calm, Mr. Paalmann. I'm a doctor. An ambulance is on the way."

I tugged against his grip, but his rigid fingers would not release me.
"Tell him," he repeated.

"Tell him what?" I glanced at the doctor, who met my gaze and shook her head.

With enormous effort Sig tried again. "Tell Hudson … Andrea … must understand … my name. It must have my name."

From "Honor & Entropy" by Arthur Spevak

Arthur Spevak is meeting Telly Brensen for the first time. They are both in junior high school...

  Telly came around the corner and shook my hand.

   We were the same age, but a strength flowed through Telly’s hand that said he was endowed with things I would never have. His jaw was square and strong, and the oil in his hair did not diminish his well-set features.  
   “Come on to my room. I’ll show you around.” 

   I thought it odd that going to his room meant “showing me around,” but I followed, already guessing we would go to whatever was farthest from the kitchen. That’s when I got a view of his back pocket and a switchblade. 

   Suddenly, I could see him posing on the cover of Hoodlum Quarterly, surrounded by all those splashy leads...Inside: Benny “Three Fingers” Salmonelli’s award-winning Blackjack Comparison Test...The Controversy Continues Long Blade Or Short?...Bailbondsmen – Getting Your Money’s Worthand our feature article on prison defense: Buggered If You Don’t.



From "His Story" Compiled by Cynthia Meyers Hanson

This book is a collection of inspirational stories:
Unexpectedly- a young mother died in a car accident.  Her best friend, a cancer survivor that relied heavily on the deceased soul bravely volunteered to do the eulogy.  Another young friend decided to gift those present with her angelic voice.  The singer worried about her strength to make it through her songs.  I drove her early to practice so her husband could await their babysitter.  She feared crying instead of singing during a song’s words: “and I will lift you up on eagles’ wings…” So, I joked about other creatures and lyrics. 
Lines from “Mickey Mouse” poured out of my mouth breaking her tension.  As we laughed, I parked my car and told her to watch my lips because they will be harmonizing with that other animal song.  During the actual funeral, my neighbor didn’t have to find my face because the face of the church’s clock hit our funny bone.  This Orlando church made its timely purchase at Disney World; there the mouse stood greeting us with his open arms marking the hours and minutes. God has a sense of humor!

Monday, December 19, 2011

From "Night Medicine" by Axel Brand

“No, Miss Vestal. But somewhere, somehow, a dead girl named Sandy Millbank got the name of an abortionist, who probably botched the job. She was very, very dead when we found her in the ferns, and we want the person who killed her. We want that person very badly, so that he doesn’t botch any more jobs, or take the lives of any more sweet girls who’re at the beginning of their lives.”

For once Wendy Vestal’s frost thawed a little. “It’s hard to be a woman, and you men don’t know that,” she said.

“Why there? Why there at the ferns, next to the West African lioness?” Sonntag asked.

“Because someone in Ranger Girls loved and honored her,” she said.

At last. “Someone in Ranger Girls knew she had reached the top rank?”

“Everyone in Ranger Girls knew she was a Lioness. There are only a few Lionesses in the United States, sir.”

“Someone in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, took her there. Do you know what she looked like when we found her?”

“I’m afraid I don’t want to know.”

“Someone placed her in a bed of ferns. Do you know what else?”

Miss Vestal simply stared.