Chasing the Vampire for Friday Flash Fics by Jeff Baker, July 10, 2020.



Mystery at Castle Dracula

By Jeff Baker


The cloud-enshrouded mountains parted like curtains as our carriage proceeded towards the dark castle.

“They never hole up in a convenient motel near a pool, do they?” Jessie said sarcastically.

“Sometimes they do,” I said. “Remember the manager at the Motel 101?”

“Trying to forget,” he said.

“Besides, if we’re going after the big fish, go into the deep water,” I said.

“Castle Dracula,” Jessie said. “Of course.”

We’d been hunting and dispatching vampires for years. It was sort of the family business. I’d inherited a box of tools from my Grandfather’s estate including a formula for finding the undead. The most precious relic was the Star of David that had been blessed by a Rabbi with a formula from the Lost Book of the Kaballah. As long as I wore it, vampires couldn’t touch me. At least, not for long. That was about the only way of identifying real vampires. We had almost staked a kook who liked to pretend he was Dracula a few years ago. Now, we were going after the genuine article.

The carriage pulled up to the huge, wooden door. We clamored out into the cool air.

Jesse looked up at the high walls. “Think we’re expected?” he asked.

“Yup,” I said, holding up the embossed invitation with both our names.

With a whinny, the horses turned and the carriage barreled back down the road. I kept thinking of Mel Brooks. I reached up to pound on the door. Before I could touch it, the door slowly opened, revealing the darkness inside.

End of Part One.


AUTHOR’S NOTE: We were watching some of the old “Hardy Boys/Nancy DrewMysteries” when I wrote this. Don’t know if I’ll ever continue it, but I should! —jsb.

Posted in Fiction, Friday Flash Fics, Horror, Mystery, Short-Stories, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“The Stark Divide,” J. Scott Coatsworth’s New Book Relases Today!

My friend J. Scott Coatsworth  has a new book out! “AUTHOR PHOTO

The Stark Divide” releases today, July 10, 2020!

Some stories are epic.


The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.


Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.


From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.


Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.


Series Blurb:


Liminal Sky chronicles humankind’s first journey to the stars. The first three books – the Ariadne Cycle – cover the creation and launch of Ariadne (aka Forever) as she was grown from seed on an asteroid and then launched across the interstellar void. The books are told in epic fashion, with each broken into three parts that span generations.


Non-Exclusive Excerpt:


Chapter One


“Dressler, schematic,” Colin McAvery, ship’s captain and a third of the crew, called out to the ship-mind.

A three-dimensional image of the ship appeared above the smooth console. Her five living arms, reaching out from her central core, were lit with a golden glow, and the mechanical bits of instrumentation shone in red. In real life, she was almost two hundred meters from tip to tip.

Between those arms stretched her solar wings, a ghostly green film like the sails of the Flying Dutchman.

“You’re a pretty thing,” he said softly. He loved these ships, their delicate beauty as they floated through the starry void.

“Thank you, Captain.” The ship-mind sounded happy with the compliment—his imagination running wild. Minds didn’t have real emotions, though they sometimes approximated them.

He cross-checked the heading to be sure they remained on course to deliver their payload, the man-sized seed that was being dragged on a tether behind the ship. Humanity’s ticket to the stars at a time when life on Earth was getting rapidly worse.

All of space was spread out before him, seen through the clear expanse of plasform set into the ship’s living walls. His own face, trimmed blond hair, and deep brown eyes, stared back at him, superimposed over the vivid starscape.

At thirty, Colin was in the prime of his career. He was a starship captain, and yet sometimes he felt like little more than a bus driver. After this run… well, he’d have to see what other opportunities might be awaiting him. Maybe the doc was right, and this was the start of a whole new chapter for mankind. They might need a guy like him.

The walls of the bridge emitted a faint but healthy golden glow, providing light for his work at the curved mechanical console that filled half the room. He traced out the T-Line to their destination. “Dressler, we’re looking a little wobbly.” Colin frowned. Some irregularity in the course was common—the ship was constantly adjusting its trajectory—but she usually corrected it before he noticed.

“Affirmative, Captain.” The ship-mind’s miniature chosen likeness appeared above the touch board. She was all professional today, dressed in a standard AmSplor uniform, dark hair pulled back in a bun, and about a third life-sized.

The image was nothing more than a projection of the ship-mind, a fairy tale, but Colin appreciated the effort she took to humanize her appearance. Artificial mind or not, he always treated minds with respect.

“There’s a blockage in arm four. I’ve sent out a scout to correct it.”

The Dressler was well into slowdown now, her pre-arrival phase as she bled off her speed, and they expected to reach 43 Ariadne in another fifteen hours.

Pity no one had yet cracked the whole hyperspace thing. Colin chuckled. Asimov would be disappointed. “Dressler, show me Earth, please.”

A small blue dot appeared in the middle of his screen.

“Dressler, three dimensions, a bit larger, please.” The beautiful blue-green world spun before him in all its glory.

Appearances could be deceiving. Even with scrubbers working tirelessly night and day to clean the excess carbon dioxide from the air, the home world was still running dangerously warm.

He watched the image in front of him as the East Coast of the North American Union spun slowly into view. Florida was a sliver of its former self, and where New York City’s lights had once shone, there was now only blue. If it had been night, Fargo, the capital of the Northern States, would have outshone most of the other cities below. The floods that had wiped out many of the world’s coastal cities had also knocked down Earth’s population, which was only now reaching the levels it had seen in the early twenty-first century.

All those new souls had been born into a warm, arid world.

We did it to ourselves. Colin, who had known nothing besides the hot planet he called home, wondered what it had been like those many years before the Heat.




Anastasia Anatov leafed through her father, Dimitri’s, old paper journal. She liked to look through it once a day, to see his spidery handwriting and remember what he had been like. It was a bit old and dusty now, but it was one of her most cherished possessions.

She sighed and put it away in a storage nook in her lab.

She left the room and pulled herself gracefully along the runway, the central corridor of the ship, using the metal rungs embedded in the walls. She was much more comfortable in low or zero g than she was in Earth normal, where her tall, lanky form made her feel awkward around others. She was a loner at heart, and the emptiness of space appealed to her.

Her father had designed the Mission-class ships. It was something she rarely spoke of, but she was intensely proud of him. These ships were still imperfect, the combination of a hellishly complicated genetic code and after-the-fact fittings of mechanical parts, like the rungs she used now to move through the weightless environment.

Ana wondered if it hurt when someone drilled into the living tissue to install the mechanics, living quarters, and observation blisters that made the ship habitable. Her father had always maintained that the ship-minds felt no pain.

She wasn’t so sure. Men were often dismissive of the things they didn’t understand.

Either way, she was stuck on the small ship for the duration with two men, neither of whom were interested in her. The captain was gay, and Jackson was married.

Too bad the ship roster hadn’t included another woman or two.

She placed her hand on a hardened sensor callus next to the door valve and the ship obliged, recognizing her. The door spiraled open to show the viewport beyond.

She pulled herself into the room and floated before the wide expanse of transparent plasform, staring out at the seed being hauled behind them.

Nothing else mattered. Whatever she had to do to get this project launched, she would do it. She’d already made some morally questionable choices along the way—including looking the other way when a bundle of cash had changed hands at the Institute.

She was so close now, and she couldn’t let anything get in the way.

Earth was a lost cause. It was only a matter of time before the world imploded. Only the seeds could give mankind a fighting chance to go on.

From the viewport, there was little to see. The seed was a two-meter-long brown ovoid, made of a hard, dark organic material, scarred and pitted by the continual abrasion of the dust that escaped the great sails. So cold out there, but the seed was dormant, unfeeling.

The cold would keep it that way until the time came for its seedling stage.

She’d created three of the seeds with her funding. This one, bound for the asteroid 43 Ariadne, was the first. It was the next step in evolution beyond the Dressler and carried with it the hopes of all humankind.

It also represented ten years of her life and work.

Maybe, just maybe, we’re ready for the next step.




The crew’s third and final member, Jackson Hammond, hung upside down in the ship’s hold, grunting as he refit one of the feed pipes that carried the ship’s electronics through the bowels of this weird animal-mechanical hybrid. Although “up” and “down” were slight on a ship where the centrifugal force created a “gravity” only a fraction of what it was on Earth.

As the ship’s engineer, Jackson was responsible for keeping the mechanics functioning—a challenge in a living organism like the Dressler.

With cold, hard metal, one dealt with the occasional metal fatigue, poor workmanship, and at times just ass-backward reality. But the parts didn’t regularly grow or shrink, and it wasn’t always necessary to rejigger the ones that had fit perfectly just the day before. Even after ten years in these things, he still found it a little creepy to be riding inside the belly of the beast. It was too Jonah and the Whale for his taste.

Jackson rubbed the sweat away from his eyes with the back of his arm. As he shaved down the end of a pipe to make it fit more snugly against the small orifice in the ship’s wall, he touched the little silver cross that hung around his neck. It had been a present from his priest, Father Vincenzo, at his son Aaron’s First Communion in the Reformed Catholic Evangelical Church.

The boy was seven years old now, with a shock of red hair and green eyes like his dad, and his mother’s beautiful skin. He’d spent months preparing for his Communion Day, and Jackson remembered fondly the moment when his son had taken the Body and Blood of Christ for the first time, surprise registering on his little face at the strange taste of the wine.

Aaron’s Communion Day had been a high point for Jackson, just a week before his current mission. He was so proud of his two boys. Miss you guys. I’ll be home soon.

Lately he hadn’t been sleeping well, his dreams filled with a dark-haired, blue-eyed vixen. He was happily married. He shouldn’t be having such dreams.

Jackson shook his head. Being locked up in a tin can in space did strange things to a person sometimes. I should be home with Glory and the boys.

One way or another, this mission would be his last.

He’d been recruited as a teen.


At thirteen, Jackson had learned the basics of engineering doing black-tech work for the gangs that ran what was left of the Big Apple after the Rise—a warren of interconnected skyrises, linked mostly by boats and ropes and makeshift bridges.

Everything north of Twenty-Third was controlled by the Hex, a black-tech co-op that specialized in bootlegged dreamcasts, including modified versions that catered to some of the more questionable tastes of the North American States. South of Twenty-Third belonged to the Red Badge, a lawless group of technophiles involved in domestic espionage and wetware arts.

Jackson had grown up in the drowned city, abandoned by his mother and forced to rely on his own intelligence and instincts to survive in a rapidly changing world.

He’d found his way to the Red Badge and discovered a talent for ecosystem work, taking over and soon expanding one of the rooftop farms that supplied the drowned city with a subsistence diet. An illegal wetware upgrade let him tap directly into the systems he worked on, seeing the circuits and pathways in his head.

He increased the Badge’s food production fivefold and branched out beyond the nearly tasteless molds and edible fungi that thrived in the warm, humid environment.

It was on one of his rooftop “gardens” that his life had changed one warm summer evening.

He was underneath one of the condenser units that pulled water from the air for irrigation. All of eighteen years old, he was responsible for the food production for the entire Red Badge.

He’d run through the unit’s diagnostics app to no avail. Damned piece of shit couldn’t find a thing wrong.

In the end, it had come down to something purely physical—tightening down a pipe bolt where the condenser interfaced with the irrigation system.

Satisfied with the work, he stood, wiping the sweat off his bare chest, and glared into the setting sun out over the East River. It was more an inland sea now, but the old names still stuck.

There was a faint whirring behind him, and he spun around. A bug drone hovered about a foot away, glistening in the sun. He stared at it for a moment, then reached out to swat it down. Probably from the Hex.

It evaded his grasp, and he felt a sharp pain in his neck.

He went limp, and everything turned black as he tumbled into one of his garden beds.

He awoke in Fargo, recruited by AmSplor to serve in the space agency’s Frontier Station, his life changed irrevocably.


A strange sensation brought him back to the present.

His right hand was wet. Startled, he looked down. It was covered with blood.

Dressler, we have a problem, he said through his private affinity-link with the ship-mind.”


Buy Links:


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Author Bio:


Scott lives with his husband Mark in a yellow bungalow in Sacramento. He was indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine. He devoured her library, but as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were.


He decided that if there weren’t queer characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.


A Rainbow Award winning and runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, Liminal Fiction, and Other Worlds Ink with Mark, sites that celebrate fiction reflecting queer reality, and is a full member member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).


Author Website:

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A Penumbral Eclipse and a Pizza, by Jeff Baker


sky space moon astronomy

Photo by Pixabay on

As I write this it’s the evening of July 4th, 2020. There’s a penumbral lunar eclipse in about three-and-a-half hours. That’s an eclipse where the moon only skims the outer shadow of the Earth and very little noticeable shading can be seen. This brings back memories of my eclipse-watching in 2017. It was a memorable year; I drove about 300 miles round-trip to watch a total solar eclipse in Troy, Kansas. My other memorable eclipse happened earlier that year, and it wasn’t supposed to be memorable at all.

The penumbral lunar eclipse of February 11, 2017 happened early in the evening on a warmish winter night with the Moon rising in the East, the direction our house faces. We got lazy and decided to call for delivery pizza. After about 45 minutes, the kid arrived with the pizza and asked if we’d seen the eclipse. I was surprised; a penumbral eclipse is not something that the casual non-astronomy geek pays attention to.

“They’ve been talking about it on the radio,” the kid said. So I took a second glance.

The Moon had cleared the horizon and was losing its pink-orange color. A small, dark chunk looked like it had been bitten out of one edge. No binoculars needed, no indistinct shading, just what looked more like a partial eclipse. Sometimes that happens. The outer shadow is kind of indistinct and can be darker than we expect.

So we ate the pizza and I kept my eye on the moon.

And, if you are reading this before 11:30 CDT, on July 4th, 2020, the Moon will be passing through the penumbra at this time. 11:30 p.m. should be mid-eclipse, with it starting about an hour earlier. Who knows what we’ll see!

Posted in Moon, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Been Too Lazy to Call This a Progress Report—-Jeff Baker, January 2/3, 2020.

Wrote up the weekly flash fiction story and did research for the one next week. But I may discard the idea for another one!

Haven’t done anything else writing-wise lately!

That’s about all so far!

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Uncovering an Ancient Mystery for Friday Flash Fics by Jeff Baker, July 3, 2020.

Iranian Archetecture

Through the Ancient Desert of the Stars

By Jeff Baker

Arikos stared up at the window, as the sunlight streamed down through it. Late afternoon and he remembered when he had been a young boy in here, taking instruction and staring at the faded painting on the walls. The Vizath’s robes rustled as he walked behind him.

“Truly one of the oldest buildings on this world…” the Vizath said. “But the building beneath it is even older. Here, help me move this carpet.”

Arikos helped pull the old rug to the side of the room, remembering sliding across it when he had been a young child. Beneath it was a small, round door. He helped the Vizath pull the door open and then followed him down a narrow flight of stairs he had not known about before. In the dark basement, the Vizath lit a torch and held it high, illuminating the large chamber with wall paintings Arikos had never seen before; he recognized the building he was in with the three moons hanging in the sky above it; the tall and foreboding Dark Mountain and then the Vizath pointed at a back wall.

Arikos stared at the scene depicted there.

“That wall is tens of thousands of years old,” the Vizath said. “It is our heritage, forgotten these many years.”

The painting, faded but still discernable was in several sections. One showed a large, grey cylinder against a backdrop of dark sky and stars. Arikos remembered an old song about an Ancient Desert of Stars. The next section showed the cylinder on the ground with three moons in the sky, people emerging from the cylinder to meet other people on the ground.

“That’s us,” Arikos said. “It’s how we got there. To this world. Our ancestors.”

“Maybe,” the Vizath said. “Or our ancestors were the ones on the ground meeting the travelers.”




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Short-Stories by L. Frank Baum, an Imaginary Anthology Compiled by Jeff Baker.

I’ve been reading a lot of L. Frank Baum’s short-stories in the last few months. Most of these stories, by the author of “The Wizard of Oz” are not as well-known, even though there is a Collected Short-Stories out there and some of them have been anthologized now and then. I first encountered them in David G. Hartwell’s “Masterpieces of Fantasy and Enchantment” mostly reprinted from Baum’s collections “American Fairy Tales” and the posthumously published “Animal Fairy Tales.” While the bulk of them were written with kids in mind there is an undercurrent of satire (especially in the “American Fairy Tales.”)

I’d love to see a paperback anthology of some of Baum’s best stories. Here’s the lineup I’d pick:

Best Short Stories by L. Frank Baum

(An Imaginary Anthology)

Compiled by Jeff Baker, June 27, 2020



Urban Fantasies;

The Glass Dog

The Enchanted Types

The Magic Bon-Bons

The Dummy That Lived


Tales of the Prairie;

The Discontented Gopher

The Capture of Father Time

The Diamondback

The Enchanted Buffalo


A Tale of Mystery:

The Suicide of Kiaros


Other Fantasies:

The Stuffed Crocodile

The Tiger’s Eye


A Touch of Oz;

The Lovely Lady of Light (from Tik-Tok of Oz)


Most of these stories can be found in either “Animal Fairy Tales” or “American Fairy Tales,” with the exception of “The Tiger’s Eye,” which was published separately and “The Diamondback,” which was found (minus its first page) in Baum’s publisher’s files, long after his death. In addition, “The Suicide of Kiaros” was published in 1897 and reprinted in “Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine” and the anthology “Knights of Madness.” It is an adult locked-room mystery with a powerful last line.

“The Lovely Lady of Light” is a chapter from Baum’s novel “Tik-Tok of Oz” I found the excerpt charming, especially with its then-contemporary reference to Edison.


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Encounter on a Moonless Night: Friday Flash Fics, June 26, 2020 by Jeff Baker


On a Night When the Moons Were Not In the Sky

By Jeff Baker


The night was dark; racing clouds blotting out the stars. Zoras was grateful for the shifting starlight and for the fact that he knew the ancient road he was walking so well. He shifted the heavy bag on his shoulders and took a deep breath, thinking of his pallet of straw in the building behind his Master’s kitchen. He would be there before dawn and might have time for what food could be spared and grab a few hours of sleep before beginning the daily trudge to the city with whatever his Master wished to exchange for goods they needed. That is, if Zelia, the Prime of the Kitchen would not call him useless and deny him bread and cheese for interrupting her slumber.

He smiled to himself; he feared the wrath of the Kitchen Prime more than that of his Master. He allowed himself a sip of the water from the jug at his belt and sighed as a cool breeze passed over him on the otherwise humid night. He glanced up at the sky and breathed a silent prayer to Zavid and Zannic, who were, after all, the patrons of slaves, such as he had been all his life. He trudged on, grateful for a strong body and the knife in his tunic (which he was not supposed to have.)

After a while, he saw a dim figure in the starlight on the road ahead. It came closer and Zoras felt to make sure the forbidden knife was still there. Zoras stared; the figure was tall, bulky and, he realized, not human. As he came even closer, he realized it was a horse. A horse without a rider. If Zoras could somehow capture the horse, his trip would be easier. But his Master would not even allow him a cart to push on his daily foray to the city. But something was wrong; in the dark, even with the starlight, he should not be able to see the horse so clearly, but the horse was as clear in the dark as if all three moons had been in the sky illuminating it.

The horse stopped right in front of Zoras and he stopped as well. The horse eyed him sternly and breathed out a cloud of vapor, without a sound. The young slave realized he had not heard the sound of the horse’s hooves and that the nightbirds and even the wind had grown silent, All Zoras could hear was his own breathing. It was then he realized: he was in the presence of one of the Horse Lords, who watched over horses and were to be heeded and feared when they interacted with men.

Zoras set his burden on the ground and stood there quaking. He considered bowing and getting on his knees, but he did not. He had known twenty-three summer Festivals, but had never been in the presence of such power.

The horse did not speak audibly, but Zoras heard a voice in his head.

Zoras of Almatha Farm, in service to Almatha the Lesser, heed my words.

Zoras had never heard his Master referred to as “the Lesser,” but he said nothing.

Zoras, your ancestor Eraht was among the defeated and enslaved from the Battle of Ua on the Hoocho Plain. In the ensuing millennia your sires have served as the pack animals for those whose luck deemed them to be free and Masters. None of your fellows have harmed or misused any of the Horses we watch over, even as they, as you, have faced abuse and servitude.

            Zoras did not even know his Father’s name, let alone his last free ancestor. He rubbed the identifying bands of servitude tattooed on his bicep. The voice of the Horse Lord went on.

One hundred paces from this spot is an offshoot road leading in the direction of the rising moons. Travel in that direction and avoid Amaltha Farm, for all who are there at dawn this day will surely die, and you with them.

            The Horse Lord breathed out another cloud of vapor and stepped off the road, indicating that Zoras should pass. He bowed and shouldered his burden and walked past the Horse Lord, glimpsing the offshoot road ahead in the starlight. Then he stopped for a moment as he found his voice.

“Great Master of Horses, who knows what will come, tell me, will I…”

He had turned, but where the Horse Lord had stood was only darkness.

“Will I ever be free?” Zoras breathed to the empty air. He turned back, listening to the nightbird’s cries, heading for the offshoot road, the rising moons and whatever destiny lay ahead of him.




AUTHOR’S NOTE: Another story taking place on my World of Three Moons. The Horse Lords and Zavid and Zannic showed up in my story “Wild Horses,” February 20, 2017.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Friday Flash Fics, Short-Stories, Uncategorized, World of Three Moons | Leave a comment

Progress Report; Week of June 25th, 2020 by Jeff Baker.

Just a little progress to report in the last few days: wrote the opening of a story I may work on some day, revised an old story I’m sending off to a market that accepts reprints, and tonight I wrote a bit on and tightened-up the mystery I thought I’d have done by now!

That’s all for now!

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Progress Report, June 19, 2020 3:37p.m. from Jeff Baker.


Intended to write on the mystery story I swore I would have finished by now. Instead, I wrote out next week’s Friday Flash Fiction story. That’s progress, but I need to do the mystery! Nonetheless, finishing something in one sitting (800+ words) feels good! It is another of my stories set on my unnamed World of Three Moons. I have a full-length story in that setting I need to finish by Fall.

Tomorrow (or later today, Friday) I will work on the mystery.

That’s all for now!

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“Bees” are Buzzing for Friday Flash Fics by Jeff Baker. June 19, 2020.



By Jeff Baker

The ground was getting very warm, the sum was very bright and the young man in the red shorts was laying on his back, spread-eagled. He wasn’t restrained, but there was an acre of bees quietly sitting around him, leaving just an inch between himself and the bees.

He had been warned not to move.

Punishment. Slow. Devastatingly slow.

Don’t breathe hard.

He was getting scared again.

Don’t. Breathe. Hard. He forced himself to relax.

He closed his eyes and breathed slowly. He became aware of a noise, low, quiet, steady.

Humming. The bees. How many of them were there? How many bees in an acre?

He was told that if he could remain still and alive, he would be released. At least, released from the death sentence. The bees were humming. He felt it low, higher, lower, the sound coming in waves.

He saw a shadow flit across his closed eyes in the bright sunlight. A bee. Flying overhead. His eyes popped open. Just one flying. He was relieved. He glanced down at himself, trying not to move his head. He was only wearing the pair of red shorts. He wondered if he was going to get a sunburn.

He almost laughed. Sunburn. Big worry now, right?

Don’t move.

Bees flew over. He hoped maybe they were just moving to another section.

A bee landed on his chest. Its legs tickled as it walked on his skin.

He tried not to laugh. Was it drinking his sweat?

The bee flew away. He breathed a sigh of relief.

What was it he heard in school? Bees go back to the hive and tell what they’ve seen through a kind of dance?

A moment later two bees soared overhead and landed on his chest. Followed by another.

Then another.

Then another.

Then another.

Then more.

And more.

Don’t move.

Don’t breathe.

Don’t scream.




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