“Dogs Don’t Ask.” Friday Flash Fics for December 15, 2017 by Jeff Baker

24796821_313352622495649_7653346714334419769_n                                                                              Dogs Don’t Ask 

                                   By Jeff Baker

                                   

            The dog was old and weathered and Amzed had been assigned to her. She didn’t protest as he picked her up and carried her, first outside where he set her down and she stood shakily for a few minutes, then Amzed carried her back inside and gently set her down by her food and water bowls. Amzed sat down beside her and rubbed her back as she ate, chewing slowly.

            “That’s okay girl, take your time,” Amzed said, running his finger along the edge of the dog’s collar. “We both know what it’s like to have a master.”

            Dogs took things as they came, Amzed reflected. Dogs didn’t ask about your status or about the ancient verse tattooed on your left arm or whether the name carved on your right shoulder was the name you’d been born with. (“Amzed,” and it wasn’t.) Dogs don’t ask about the welts and scars on your back.

            Amzed rubbed the dog’s back again. No scars.

            “Your masters have treated you better than mine have,” he said. “I guess we’re lucky with the owners we have right now.”

            The dog finished eating and looked up at Amzed with eyes that seemed tired but smiling. Then she made a few halting steps toward the door.

            “You want out again girl?” Amzed asked. “All right, we’ll go out.”

            He gently carried the dog outside and set her down to sniff the grass. He sat down again and stared up at two of the three moons, dim in the daytime sky. For a few minutes, Amzed and the dog both felt very young and free                                          

                                                       —end—

Author’s Note: I had written the first draft of this story when I realized it fit into a series of stories I have set on an alien world with an Arabic-like culture, maybe made up of refugees from Earth who arrived millennia ago and then regressed from the space age to something more medieval. With the assistance, of course, of mystical forces that inhabited this planet first. No name for the series, I just think of it as “The World of Three Moons.” The only other one published was “Wild Horses,” on this blog February 19, 2017, connected wit the Monday Flash Fics page.

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Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Friday Flash Fics, Science Fiction, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

“Of Another Age,” Monday Flash Fics, for December 11, 2017, by Jeff Baker

019                                                               Of Another Age              

                                                                   By Jeff Baker

 

            “Power’s on, see?” Alberto said pointing at the brightly lit columns shining there in the dark.

            “How long will they be activated?” Jerry asked.

            “Not sure this time,” Alberto said. “We’ll have to work fast. How far are we headed?”

            “Not too far back this time. Nineteen-sixties. Maybe Eighteen-sixties,” Jerry said.

            They looked around. Trees and bushes surrounded them; the lit columns were several yards away across a concrete strip.

            The two of them looked at each other. “You ready?” Alberto said. “Okay.”

            “Jerry! Alberto! Come here right now!” The voice behind them was familiar.

            “Oh, great,” Jerry grumbled. “Right here, Mom!”

            “Come here right now!”

            “Mom! Alberto and I were just…”

            “Don’t even think about crossing that street!” Jerry’s Mom said. “Honestly, why they ever put those columns up and called them ‘art’ I’ll never know. Come on you two!”

            “We weren’t playing in the street, Mrs. Hunkle, and its Friday there’s no school tomorrow and…”        

            Over to one side crouched in the bushes the two older men watched the two protesting kids and Jerry’s Mom head back down the street.

            “So, what happens anyway?” Rupert asked.

            “From what I remember we both get a severe lecture,” the other man said. “Hey, we were about nine years old! We spent our Friday nights together after school.” Alberto smiled, staring after his younger self.

            “And it was stuff like this that got you interested in formulating the time/space equation?” Rupert asked.

            “Pretty much,” Alberto said. “That plus the usual stuff; comic books, sci-fi movies and T.V. If I’d been born about ten years later, I would have wasted all my time on social media.
“This is, how far back again?” Rupert asked staring across the street.

            “Ninteen, I mean, Two-thousand and three,” Alberto said.

            “And what exactly is that thing?” Rupert said, pointing at the columns of light that surrounded the intersection.

            Alberto laughed. “It was part of an outdoor arts project. I heard there were all kinds of complaints about this one. But I guess it’s still up.” He looked around for a moment. “I haven’t been back in town in years.”

            “You still haven’t, remember?” Rupert said. “In 2002 you hadn’t left yet.”

            “Okay, okay, get technical,” Alberto said. “So what’s our destination, anyway?”

            “About thirty-five years from now, according to this,” Rupert said, pulling from his pocket something that had a display but didn’t seem to have any stable form. “Easier to get our spatial bearings by going back a few decades first.”

            “Yeah, technical stuff,” Alberto said, grinning again. “How soon before we take off?”

            “It should be…” Rupert said. But then the two men weren’t standing there anymore.

 

                                                            —end—

 

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Big Cat for Friday Flash Fics, December 8, 2017 by Jeff Baker

24131088_310299182800993_6517696875416122740_n                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Nice Kitty                                                                                                                                                By Jeff Baker

 

“Hold still, dammit!” I said. “I’ve never scrubbed a mountain lion before.”

“I’ve never been a mountain lion before,” Marshall grumbled through furry lips. “Is this really necessary?”

“Yes!” I said emphatically. “You were starting to stink. How long are you going to stay this way?”

“Probably another eight hours or so,” Marshall said. “Unless we find a formula in one of those books.”

“Not likely,” I said. “We were lucky the one time we did. At least these transformations are only temporary.”

“At least when I turned myself into a crow I could fly,” Marshall said.

“At least when you were a crow we were out at the cabin, not here in the middle of the city,” I said, thankful for the thousandth time this apartment didn’t have a No Pets sign on the front door.

“You know,” I said, lathering up the big cat that I was now married to. “At least when you were a crow you could have used a birdbath.”

“Ick!” Marshall said. “Stinky, with dirty water and algae and you-don’t-wanna-know what kind of gunk on the bottom.”

He was right, I didn’t want to know.

“Got to admit,” I said, “you make a handsome mountain lion. Or cougar.”

Marshall grinned. “Thanks. I’ve never been called a cougar before. I thought we were about the same age!”

Bad joke but I laughed.

“Hey,” Marshall said, “wasn’t there an old episode of Bewitched where the guy got turned into something and his wife scrubbed him down in the bathtub?”

“Maybe,” I said, scrubbing Marshall’ back. “I never really watched it all that much.”

“Oh, and I’d better sack out on the floor tonight,” Marshall said. “Claws and teeth could rip the sheets or the mattress. Oh yeah! Right there! Scrub right there! Aaaaaaaahhhhh!”

In another instant, I was no longer scrubbing a mountain lion, but a tanned, dark-haired man who had nice arms but probably needed to cut down on drinking sodas,

“Hey! How’d that happen?” I asked.

“I dunno,” Marshall said. “I was kind of envisioning how it felt to be with you when I’m me and you were scrubbing me and I got really relaxed and wham! Back to normal!”

Yeah, life was crazy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’ll get your bathrobe,” I said.

“Hold up on that!” Marshall said. “How about you keep scrubbing?”

I grinned and started soaping up the washrag.

 

—end—

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Friday Flash Fics, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Something Reflective for Monday Flash Fics, December 4, 2017.

23843175_10155832001044787_3540132578421384651_n                                                  Nausithous and Dorkas

By Jeff Baker

 

Long ago, when Ancient Greece was new, there lived a young man so good-looking that everyone fell in love with him. Including him. He was so in love with himself that the people in his village used to say that he was some kind of narcissist. And, they were close to the truth. For the young man was, in fact, the son of Narcissus and Echo, the result of their one-night tryst which wound up with his father turned into a flower by a reflecting pond and his mother a disembodied voice. And, unfortunately for young Nausithous, he was also the recipient of the curse that had befallen his parents, for he couldn’t get enough of himself in the mirror.

One afternoon, when young Nausithous was finishing lunch after a pleasant morning admiring himself in the mirror there was a knock at the door. Making apologies to the mirror he went to the door and found standing there, a gorgeous young woman holding a scroll.

“Hello,” she said. “My name is Dorkas and I’m working my way through school selling subscriptions to The Daily Acts and I was wondering…”

“These daily acts,” Nausithous asked, “are any of them about me?”

“Um, I don’t think so.” Dorkas said. “But then, I haven’t read the latest edition.”

“Sorry, not interested,” Nausithous said as he closed the door and went back to his mirror.

But outside, what Dorkas heard was; “Interested. Interested. Interested.” So naturally, being a good salesperson, she opened the door (they had no locks on doors in those days, just a well-trained slave boy who slept in front of it at night) and went in. Meanwhile, Nausithous was back to admiring himself in the mirror.

“Oh, if you weren’t a mirror I could tell you how much I love you,” he said to his reflection.

In the other room, the voice (this time sounding just like Nausithous) repeated; “I love you. Love you. Love you.”

For the voice, of course, was Echo. Besides being a disembodied voice, she was after all, Nausithous’ mother. And mothers know what their sons want, even if the sons don’t.

“Mister Nausithous,” Dorkas said. “Did I tell you about the Sunday supplements and our coupon offers?”

But what Nausithous heard, courtesy of Echo, was: “Sunday supplements tell you about Nausithous. Nausithous. Nausithous.”

“Lemmie see one of those Sunday supplements,” he said. And then he looked into her eyes and realized he could see himself reflected in them perfectly.

“I love you,” he said to his reflection in her eyes.

“I love you,” she said back.

“I love you. Love you. Love you,” repeated the voice.

So, they soon were married and it was perfect for them. Dorkas was always out selling subscriptions and Nausithous was too preoccupied with himself to get into any trouble. Of course, tongues in the village wagged, as they often do. But soon, all the talk was about the scandal with Oedipus and his family, so the locals realized that there were more awkward relationships and that this one wasn’t the end.

The End. The End. The End…”

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All-a-quiver for Friday Flash Fics, December 1, 2017 by Jeff Baker

23795459_307531326411112_8992035057734163054_n

Daron

 

By Jeff Baker

Author’s Note: This is a continuation of a longer story I started for Monday Flash Fics. with “The Forest,”(posted November 21, 2016) and continued with “The Keeper of the Owl,” (posted July 24, 2017.) From the beginning, this story wanted to get bigger. The picture made me think up the latest installment.

 

 

The archer pulled back the string and let the arrow fly towards the tree, where it hit the target with a “plunk!”

“There’s nothing unusual about strangers in the forest,” he said. “Just because we stay in one place, doesn’t mean everyone else does.”

“I took them to see the Caretaker in the Great Tree,” Ezidiah said from his seat in the branch above Daron.

“We saw,” Daron said, as he pulled out another arrow from his quiver. “We were watching.”

Ezidiah wasn’t surprised. He hadn’t seen them but that didn’t mean that the archers hadn’t been there. That was one reason he looked up to Daron, ten years his senior. Daron was muscular while Ezidiah was skinny. Tall where Ezidiah was short. And wonderfully older. Daron had taken off his tunic that matched the trees and was standing on the branch wearing a deep green pair of short pants with a belt holding his dagger and slingshot. Awfully casual for one of the Caretaker’s Archers but then Daron wasn’t working at the moment.

But he was firing off arrows, one after the other, from the quiver he’d hung on the side of the tree.

“The strangers went up the Great Tree and right into the Place of Owls to talk with the Caretaker.” Ezidiah said.

“Did you hear what they talked about?” Daron asked, giving most of his attention to the aiming of the next arrow.

“No, Ezidiah said. “The Caretaker didn’t tell me when he talked to me. He just said…”

“Wait…the Caretaker talked to you?” Daron didn’t act surprised too often but this was one of those times. He lowered the bow to his side and replaced the arrow into his quiver. “When was this? What did he say?”

Ezidiah suppressed a smile. “I was told to go into the chamber, you know, the one with the carved wooden owl in it.” Ezidiah wryly noticed Daron’s mouth hanging open. “Well, all the Caretaker asked me was what the strangers had said to me and which direction they’d come from. Oh, and one of the strangers said he was Andiak of the Oaiod. He probably told the Caretaker that too.”

Daron pulled himself up and sat on the branch next to Ezidiah.

“What exactly did the Caretaker say? And what did you tell him?” Daron asked.

“All about my meeting the strangers and taking them to the Great Tree,” Ezadiah said. “I thought you’d seen all that.”

“Yes, but you actually talked with them,” Daron said. “And with the Caretaker.”

“Ezidiah swung his feet lazily beneath him. It was fun being taken seriously by someone like Daron for once.

“Daron, I don’t think the strangers had ever been in a forest before.”

“What makes you say that?” Daron asked.

“They tripped over roots and they didn’t know much about climbing trees,” Ezidiah said. “Then they had trouble climbing up the Great Tree and that one’s got handholds.”

Darron nodded. The most secure tree in the Forest, yet people were expected to climb into it.

“Ezidiah, you saw things about the strangers some of us missed. That’s probably why the Caretaker wanted to talk to you. Tell me everything that happened. From the moment you first saw the strangers.”

 

—end—

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Friday Flash Fics, The Forest, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Something waiting in the cold—Monday Flash Fics for November 27, 2017 by Jeff Baker.

23659411_10155815408499787_4472877611574536497_n                                        The Watcher In The Ice

By Jeff Baker

Scotty read the lines off from his phone. I didn’t ask him how he could operate it without his fingers freezing.

“66⁰ 34’ N 000⁰ 000E” he read. He swiped the screen with a finger and stuck his hand in his jacket to warm it up.

“Yeah, according to this, that’s about where we are right now,” Scotty said, putting the phone back in his pocket and putting the glove back on his exposed hand.

“Arctic Ocean,” Rob said, pointing at the water full of chunks of floating ice. “The ship would have gone down out there and they would have come ashore here.”

“And then what happened?” Scotty asked into the cold, open air.

“That’s what we’re here to find out,” I said.

The Lady Pollyanna had come here in 1922 with a full crew. They were considered lost at sea until one crewman was picked up in a lifeboat clutching the ship’s log and babbling incoherently about looking down at the stars. The co-ordinates were part of the last entry by Captain Borthwick-Leslie dated April 10, 1922. We’d been hired by the University (which now owned the Pollyanna’s logbook) to find out what had happened to the ship and remaining crew members, and why one of them had grabbed the logbook and set off on the ocean by himself.

“Look,” Scotty said. “It looks like mid-afternoon but we’ve been up eighteen hours at least. Let’s set up camp and get some rest. Start fresh tomorrow.”

“Yeah,” Rob said. “Get up with the penguins.”

“That’s the South Pole,” I said with a grin.

That night I dreamed.

I was on the edge of the ocean looking into the water. I thought I saw the shadowy bulk of the Lady Pollyanna but then I saw something else; stars. Hundreds of stars there in the water under the ice beneath me. I dove into the water, I didn’t get wet or cold. I was swimming in an ocean of black, surrounded by stars. And one shape; barely made out behind the stars. A greater blackness outlined in starlight. A huge mass which seemed to twist and flow and move. It was coming closer. I could feel the stars were afraid.

I woke up sweating, grateful for the little heater in the tent.

When I started to tell Rob and Scotty about my dream, just to get it out of my head, they stopped me and filled in the remaining details.

Yeah. The same dream.

We spent some of that morning going through the ship’s log and scoping out where the ship was supposed to be. Ideally, it would be frozen in ice and intact. There were some references in the log we’d never paid much attention to before. A lot of references to dreams. Dreams that started when they arrived in this area. Dreams they somehow shared. The same dreams we’d had. Plus a scrawled line that nobody had deciphered somehow. The Captain had ordered the ship to be sunk. The Captain. “To Be With The Watcher,” that was the line. We worked some more, ate and went to bed at the same time as the day before.

We had the same dreams.

When we woke up, our boat was gone and so was Scotty. He’d taken his phone but we still had ours, with the logbook saved on them. But that and the current location were all we could access. We couldn’t get into the phone, text, mail, anything. We had supplies for at least another two weeks, but we knew we couldn’t go back to sleep. In the dreams, the thing under the ice was getting closer. We stayed awake for two days. Don’t ask me how. We were keeping a journal and adding it to the printed text of the ship’s log. Also we were using our time to sculpt the thing beneath the ice out of ice there on the edge of the ocean.

And that’s where we are now. When it’s done we’ll walk into the water one right after the other. There’s a temple under there, where the Watcher is venerated. We do not need to dream of him to see him anymore. I will leave my phone here on the altar we have carved in front of the sculpture of the Watcher. We will be with him. We will not need to dream. We will be the dream. We will chant, ever:

“66⁰ 34’ N 000⁰ 000E”

“66⁰ 34’ N 000⁰ 000E”

“66⁰ 34’ N 000⁰ 000E”

 

—end—

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Monday Flash Fiction, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

“Handmade Holidays,” ‘Nathan Burgoine’s new Christmas story. Review by Jeff Baker.

23659437_881198595393488_2878316292990376683_n                      ‘Nathan Burgoine’s new Christmas story “Handmade Holidays” may well be an instant classic. Drawing on some of Burgoine’s own personal experiences as well as a tradition involving Christmas ornaments, it tells the story of Nick Wilson; on his own for the first time after his homophobic parents throw him out of the house. With the holidays approaching, Nick buys a cheap tree and decorates it with a friend’s improvised ornament. Thus starts a tradition which the story follows through fifteen years as Nick’s life and the lives of his chosen family of assorted friends change and grow through successes, tragedies, births and deaths, all the while adding ornaments, each with a special significance to their lives at the time.

Telling the story in the form of the story of successive years (skipping over a few) is a masterstroke, offering readers glimpses of Nick’s life, and a bit of the changes in the outside world through the years. The story has the feel of a very good holiday TV movie, and there haven’t been a lot of those featuring the lives of LGBT characters. Nor has there been a story quite like this; leaving an impact on the reader without ever descending into mawkishness. Burgoine  is better known for his work in fantasy, but here he eschews magic and miracles for the powers of love and friendship. And the power of a few carefully-selected Christmas ornaments which come to symbolize a life.

Highest recommendation for this excellent holiday read!

 

 

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