Category Archives: FREE Fiction

Free ebook just for reading

I have a free ebook offer for those joining my mailing list.

It occurred to me that a lot of folks read this blog but may not want me in their inboxes on a weekly basis. I can respect that.

So it’s sort of unfair to not let everyone visiting the blog get their very own ebook for free.

Click here to download your very own zip file of the ebook The Next World.

Here’s what you’ll get:

The Next WorldThe Next World

Billy was trapped in a maze. He feared he was the victim of a government experiment. Could the truth be even more terrifying?

A preacher begins to doubt his faith but receives proof in the worst way possible.

It came from the sewers, covered in filth and with a hunger that would not be easily appeased.

Jorge somehow came though a violent gunfight in Mexico without a scratch. Would the officials believe his tale?

Brandon was the fastest racer on the circuit until the slick newcomer in the old car showed up.

Nineteen tales open the door to another world. Step through and experience the strange, bizarre and the terrifying.

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The Revenant

Happy Haloween. To celebrate the day here’s a free story from my short story collection The Edge of Reality (available on Amazon)

———

Marie did not think she had any more tears within her but here they were, revenantfalling again. She had cried ever since the Magistrate had sentenced her beloved Fritz to death for the killing of the man at the festival.

Yes, it had been Fritz’s hand that had struck the man; yes the strength of the blacksmith had been such that the smaller man’s neck had snapped, killing him instantly. The law did not care that Fritz had been defending Marie against the wanton advances of the drunkard. The death was an accident, Fritz had not intended to kill the lecher; merely stop him from touching Marie.

Marie had pleaded with the Magistrate to have mercy but he had just repeated over and over, “The law is the law.”

Marie had wept as her fiancé was led from the court. She had wept each of the three nights she had been permitted to visit him in prison. She had wept as he was marched to the hangman’s tree. She had wept as his body was cut down and then dumped in a common criminal’s grave, far from hallowed ground.

The Magistrate would not relent in his sentence, the Priest would not relent in his insistence on this foul burial; now Marie wept again, tears soaking the soil of his unmarked grave not far from the town’s midden.

It was tradition that criminals not be given marked graves on hallowed ground but Marie knew her Fritz deserved better. Even if there was no stone for her beloved, she knew where he lay and she had visited his grave each day for a week, watering the soil with her tears.

Marie had cried herself to sleep beside the small fireplace. The fire had guttered as the night deepened so Marie woke to darkness when she heard the scream.

Gathering her shawl about her shoulders Marie rushed to the door seeking the source of the commotion. A woman’s screams echoed in the night. Lights were being kindled in windows up and down the central street of the small village as the inhabitants roused themselves to deal with the potential threat.

Men poured, half dressed, from their homes waving their women to remain safely indoors. Marie’s man was dead; there was no one to stop her from wandering down the road with the men.

Near the center of the village a woman was gibbering incoherently. Marie knew her, the miller’s wife. She was dressed only in her woolen nightgown and was huddled at the base of a huge oak outside her small stone home. Her hair was wild and her eyes rolled like a horse frightened by a snake. She struck out at the well meaning men, driving them back all the while hunching tighter into herself and continuing to scream.

Realizing the men were not helping, Marie forced her way through the crowd until she reached the terrified woman.

“Inga. Inga, calm sweetheart,” she spoke in a soothing tone as if to a child.

Reacting to the calm female voice, Inga looked up from safety of her own arms. Her crazed eyes looked at Marie yet seemed to stare miles away through her.

Her screams lessened to a choked cry and she threw arms around the smaller woman and began to weep into her shoulder.

“Tell us what happened dear,” Marie prompted, stroking the woman’s hair.

Inga shuddered and raised her head from Marie’s shoulder. She looked at the younger woman and then around at the crowd of men, each staring with confused or frightened eyes.

“It was a spirit, a foul spirit. It was a dark man dressed in rags carrying a coffin on his shoulders. It, dear God it looked at me and I could see the fires of the Pit in its eyes. I knew it had come for me – for all of us. I cried out and it walked onward. It came to kill us all,” she dissolved into crying screams once more.

Marie, and several other women newly arrived, helped the miller carry his distraught wife into the house and put her to bed. One of the older women brewed a tea which helped Inga finally go to sleep. The crowd returned to their homes, assured that it was nothing more than a hysterical woman.

The Magistrate was found dead the next morning.

The Magistrate, being an official of the crown and an outsider lived alone. The woman he paid to clean his home discovered him at mid-morning. The woman was distraught from the sight. Some sickness had taken the man in the night. His throat was swollen and his eyes bulged from their sockets. The Magistrate’s tongue was protruding and black and had filled his mouth so completely that it must have choked the poor man.

The Priest and the village doctor were the only men who dared enter the home. They cleaned and blessed the building to keep any disease from spreading then quickly buried the Magistrate in the Church cemetery. Normal public rituals were foregone in favor of quickly interring the body to protect the village.

That evening, another woman and her husband spotted the nighttime prowler. A huge dark man dressed in rags, they described. He walked through the streets carrying a coffin on his shoulder looking from house to house with burning red eyes. The specter disappeared near the Church.

In the morning the Priest was found dead. His body showed the exact same symptoms as the Magistrate. The doctor ordered that no one but himself deal with the body as he was already exposed to whatever illness was loose in the village. He also ordered the housekeepers of the two deceased men to remain in their homes for the next several days.

The people began to whisper that the spirit was a revenant, sent from the Pit to kill them all.

The next night, the revenant was again seen walking the streets.  In the morning Svetla Cooper awoke to find her husband dead beside her with blackened tongue and swollen face. None could fathom why the revenant had chosen to kill this man but leave his wife alive.

Marie felt a growing fear. She thought she knew why Evard Cooper had died; he had been the hooded executioner the day Fritz had been hung. Dread filled her broken heart; she knew she must see this being if it walked the streets again.

As the sun sank toward the horizon the villagers retreated to their homes. Fires were built higher than normal; prayers rang out from behind shuttered windows. Fear ruled the village. Marie alone sat outside her home and waited.

As the moon set near midnight Marie spotted movement on the road. Wrapping her shawl tighter, she walked toward the source of her fear. A sickly grey green phosphorescence emanated from the tall form limping down the road. The shape was that of a man, tall, muscular and dressed in rags. The form limped along under the weight of the coffin it carried on its left shoulder. Marie could smell the fetid odor of the grave as she approached the revenant.

Marie made a holy sign over her breast and muttered a prayer then stepped into the road into the path of the lurching spirit.

The revenant turned its face toward Marie. She cowered as eyes like dull red embers lit the ground between herself and the apparition. A sob and fresh tears were wrenched from the girl. She would know his face no matter the ravages worked upon it. She knew and loved every curve of his face, knew every muscle of his form; there was no doubt, the revenant was her beloved Fritz.

“Oh Fritz,” she sobbed. “What has become of you? Why are you doing this?”

The revenant turned its eyes fully on Marie; she felt her very soul shrivel under its glare.

“Vengeance,” it whispered in a voice like stones grinding against each other.

“Fritz, please. Don’t,” she cried.

The revenant paid her no heed and began its lurching progress again. As it passed the girl she felt an electric shudder pass through her and she collapsed, feeling weak and ill. Marie watched the revenant walk deeper into the village, unable to move or even cry out. The spirit stopped at a doorway and disappeared; Marie attempted to cry out again but instead fell unconscious.

Marie woke as the sun rose, still in the middle of the road. She was sore in every part of her body. A scream shattered the silence of the town; Marie wept, knowing what the screams meant.

Marie felt her resolve harden. She knew what must be done. As evening came she gathered her courage and walked to the blacksmith shop, empty since Fritz’s death.

She took a shovel that Fritz had made for a villager but not had the chance to deliver, gathered a small pile of poles, some rope and a tinderbox then began her journey to Fritz’s unmarked grave.

She knew the legends; a revenant must be destroyed by fire on holy ground. Now that she knew who the revenant was, she knew she was the only one who could put Fritz to rest. She could not tell another, she could not bear Fritz’s memory being further destroyed.

As the sun set she reached the spot she knew so well. A small cluster of purple flowers grew on the ground so well watered by her tears. Fresh tears fell as she set spade to ground and began to dig.

Criminals and the unshriven are not buried deeply and Marie quickly reached the body of Fritz. His coffin was a simple pine box. Using the shovel she pried the lid from Fritz’s tomb. Marie gasped as she uncovered the form of her lover. The white wrappings that had covered the body were shredded to mere rags and his beautiful muscular body was swollen beyond belief. The skin stretched taut and his face was turgid and suffused with blood. Fresh tears burst from Marie’s eyes as she beheld the ruin of her lover’s earthly form.

Marie gently prodded the swollen body with the shovel and the skin split like a bag under pressure releasing a torrent of blood. Blood flowed from the corpse in a volume well beyond what a single body could hold. It was as if the corpse were a giant leech that had ingested the blood of many men. Marie screamed and fell back from the grave calling upon God to protect her.

As quickly as it filled the grave, the blood receded from the coffin and into the earth leaving the battered, blood soaked corpse of Fritz exposed once more.

Weeping in fear and horror, Marie crawled into the open grave and began to wrestle the body of her lover out of his coffin. While he was alive Marie could never have moved Fritz as he was easily twice her weight but in death his body had become lighter, perhaps the torrent of blood had taken most of the weight with it. His form was now more like it had been in life but somehow less substantial as if the departure of his life force had removed a tangible part of his mass.  Marie struggled but soon freed Fritz from his grave and placed his body on the ground beside the grave. She quickly lashed together the poles creating a makeshift travois onto which she rolled Fritz’s body.

As she placed the body a sickly glow enveloped it and the revenant suddenly stood above the body of the man it resembled. The revenant turned its baleful eyes on Marie making her knees tremble but she held her ground and the spirit began its limping progress toward the town.

Panting from her exertions Marie took up the poles of the travois and frantically began to drag the body toward the Church. She scrambled and pulled with every ounce of her strength knowing that she was in a race with the revenant. If she lost her race, another of her friends would die.

Marie strained and pulled, moving the travois no faster than a walk. Splinters drove into her soft hands and she fell more than once, crying out as rocks tore the flesh on her knees and shins. As the Church drew near Marie almost looked like a revenant herself with her torn muddy clothing and blood covering her arms and legs.

Marie looked along the road and spotted the revenant’s glowing form standing in the center of the village. She could see the fire pit glow of its eyes sweeping the small stone houses, searching for a victim.

“God, help me,” she cried out dragging the corpse of her lover toward the gate and the hallowed ground of the Church cemetery beyond.

Marie let out an hysterical laugh as the travois bounced from the path into the cemetery, she was going to make it.

The small hairs on the back of her neck rose and Marie frantically checked on the progress of the revenant. It had not entered a house; it had changed its course and was now limping toward the churchyard where Marie was sprawled in exhaustion.

“No, no,” she wept, this time in terror rather than sorrow.

Frantically, Marie looked for kindling. Small twigs and leaves littered the churchyard; scrambling about on shaking legs she gathered these into her skirt and began to run back and forth, dumping piles of flammable debris on the corpse.

The revenant was only yards away from the church; Marie gathered the materials from the tinderbox with shaking fingers.

“Vengeance,” the revenant moaned as it entered the graveyard.

Marie focused on her task, too terrified to look back. She knew that she only had one chance to do this before the revenant reached her.

The sparks from the flint flew onto the charcloth which blazed to life. Marie could hear the dragging shuffle of the revenant inches behind her. She must end this, even if her own life were forfeit. Trusting to God, she shoved the blazing charcloth into the pile of kindling and closed her eyes, waiting for whatever the revenant would do to her.

Marie felt a rush of heat and heard the crackle of the fire starting. She waited as the heat increased yet nothing touched her. She did not feel the electrical feeling she had suffered before from the revenant’s gaze. Marie dared to open her eyes; the fire was beginning to grow around the body of Fritz. His funeral wrappings and skin were beginning to burn even in the low flame of her twig pile.

Turning her head she looked and saw the revenant still standing behind her. Its eyes were no longer blazing with the fires of the Pit but were Fritz’s blue eyes. Marie stood, fresh tears welling in her own eyes.

“Fritz, I’m sorry,” she cried.

“Thank you,” the ghost said.

Marie reached out a trembling hand but the ghost was immaterial and her hand encountered only air. Tears poured down her cheeks as she felt the cleansing fire behind her flare. Fritz smiled at her with all the love he had shown in life and his ghost faded from view.

Marie’s tears slowly stopped; she knew that she was done with weeping.

 

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The Day I Died

This story was inspired by an article by Harlan Ellison of a similar name in which he mused about mortality.


I died on July 5, 2006.

It was a Monday morning right after a long holiday weekend. Excesses of alcohol, fireworks and hilarity had finally pushed my middle aged body to the limits. I guess I should have stuck to my New Year’s resolution to start working out regularly.

Traffic was a bitch and I shouted myself hoarse at lunatics who changed lanes with inches to spare without signaling and little old ladies who think that twenty-five miles an hour is a good speed for a highway. The tension in my chest was written off to anger and muscular tension.

The morning Mountain Dew and junk food snack from the first floor cafeteria was a great energy boost and I decided that the sugar high was sufficient to let me trot up the stairs to my cube – bad plan.

Somewhere around the second flight of stairs the tightness in my chest became worse. I could feel every pulsation of my heart as it tried to force enough blood through my clogged arteries to keep my body running. The door to my floor was a vision of heaven and I staggered into the hallway gasping like a fish pulled from the sea.

My breathing refused to slow as I wound my way through the labyrinth of the office cube farm. Spots in my vision covered the faces of people to whom I would normally toss a jaunty good morning.

Logging into the computer was as agonizing as running a marathon. The darkness continued to creep in from the sides as numbness spread down my left arm. Then the pain stopped, darkness descended and I slumped back in my chair.

My co-worker Nita found me later that morning; she had assumed I was asleep at my desk. They needed to sedate the poor woman to stop the screaming once she realized I was dead.

I died on April 29, 2028.

I was distracted as I always was. The older I got the more I let my attention drift. I wasn’t senile or suffering a mental disease, I was just too lazy and preoccupied to really focus. When I did focus it was always on the wrong, inconsequential, thing. My demise was laughable – after all, crystalline memory units were everywhere, you’d think I’d be used to them by now.

Sarah was having a big family get together, four generations under one roof. My stepson’s son had a daughter and had come to visit Granny and – what do you call a step parent several generations removed – Grandpa will just have to do I guess. Kids being kids, anything not nailed down was a toy. Flowers littered one corner of the living room, my bed pillows were an impromptu fort, and everything was fun and wonderful in the Walker household.

I never noticed that little Mary had gotten in to my movie collection. Ancient DVDs were everywhere and my rather impressive volume of crystalline matrix recordings were being used as marbles in the center of the living room.

So there we are, Nate and I shooting the shit about the old days and impressing upon his son Jacob how far he has to go to ever match such stalwart paragons of humanity such as we elder gentlemen when I step on a memory core. Those little suckers are slippery and not as fragile as their crystalline appearance implies. My foot flies out from beneath me just as I’m launching into my best “Back in my day” story. With a flip worthy of an Olympic hopeful I fly into the air and come down on my head, snapping my neck.

Yup, one hell of an anniversary present I gave Sarah, an insurance policy to support her the rest of her life and a corpse to bury the following day.

I died on July 27, 2053

I was attending Pennsic LXXXII with the Society for Creative Anachronism. It was my sixty-second Pennsic and I was one of the few remaining old timers who had attended during the twentieth century. The fact that I had not actively participated in any combat arts for nearly 40 years didn’t matter to me. Seeing the youngsters follow in the footsteps of those of us that came before warmed my heart.

My android Page had erected my tent in my traditional spot and then helped me to the opening ceremonies. My only regret was that my dear Sarah was no longer able to come to the war, but her doctor had ordered her to not leave the arcology again as her allergies had so grown with age that they could kill her if she ventured out into the fields where the battles occurred.

The procession of Kings and Queens and their attendant followers was breathtaking as always. Banners snapped in the breeze and crowns reflected the sunlight in rainbow hues over the crowd. Speeches were given, each strangely more quiet than the one before. At last, the gauntlet was thrown and the King of the East broke the arrow declaring the start of the war.

The crowd’s roaring approval receded from me as the warmth of the sun made me sleepy. Content that the traditions of the war continued I nodded off in my chair and was gone.

I died on October 5, 2462.

I was bored with the near immortality that the nano-bots had brought to humanity. After five hundred years you find yourself repeating the same old activities. Human nature does not change but age brings on a lack of flexibility in granting leniency to those who repeat the same mistakes you’ve already seen a thousand times in the past.

Sarah was much braver than I. She had shut down the bots and begun the ultimate journey into the unknown thirty years ago. I admit now that I was just a coward and was not ready to believe that life was no longer worth living. Eternal life is boring, life without her became Hell. So for my birthday I poured myself a stiff drink of Nectar, toasted my love and gave the mental command to the bots to terminate.

Eternal dark fell. I only hope that Nate remembers to pour that shot of alcohol on my ashes before launching his mother and I off toward Andromeda as I requested.

I died on October 5, 1962.

Forty-eight hours of labor nearly killed my mother, it did kill me. I was never born. The doctors tried to sooth the distraught twenty-one year old who would have been my mother but what words can console a woman when her child is delivered to her as a corpse.

My death changed her life. She was inconsolable for years and in her grief allowed herself to remain the punching bag of my bastard of a father longer than she would have had she had an infant to protect.

The woman who would have been my wife continued her course from one bad relationship to another. The cycle of mentally abusive men who never made her stand up for herself and admit that she was smart, beautiful and worthy of a life of love and happiness continued.

My stepson sank into a miasma of drugs and alcohol and finally died in a car crash while racing a stolen Ford under the influence of a near toxic mix of anti-depressants, designer drugs and alcohol.

Animals I cared for never found loving homes, stories were never written. My carefully tended home passed from one white trash owner to the next never rising above the status of unkempt mountain shack.

People who I brought together never met and their lives were lessened. A bug I found in some software went unnoticed and cost a major corporation hundreds of billions and millions of homeowners their life savings.

I never existed; it actually mattered.

I defeated death April 10, 2073.

I was old. Old to the point that death seemed a welcome thing. I was afraid to let go though and grasped at the new technology being touted in the press. The great grandkids thought I was nuts.

“It’s not you,” they lamented. “You just make a cheap copy that thinks it’s you.”

I was desperate so in my normal manner, I ignored them.Universal Vision Inc. hooked me to the machines as the scientists reiterated again how the energy patterns of my consciousness would be mapped into the subtle energy patterns of what they described as the eleventh dimension. Parallel worlds, membrane space, it all made sense in a sort of high level, layers of an onion, sort of way but I really didn’t care. I wanted to continue my existence. They hooked me up and threw the switch.

I was everywhere and no where. All reality spread out before me. Universes of stars. Realities of strange matter and parallel worlds where I beheld myself as a black, an asian, a woman and a dog. Everything everwhere was at my fingertips. I wondered if I could change something. I reached out and tried.

I have not died, I may no longer have form but as I said to the primitive man I managed to contact, I AM.

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