A Ghost Story And Some History for Friday Flash Fics by Jeff Baker. November7, 2019

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Remember, Remember the Fifth of November

By Jeff Baker

 

“Well, I’ll tell you why we don’t use the church anymore and then you can decide whether you want to go through with this or not,” the elderly British priest said.

The building was old but sturdy; a wooden church complete with a steeple. It stood on the same land as the original church which dated back to the 1590s, back when Minn-On-The Pye had been a thriving town on the way to London.

“As long as it’s haunted, it’s fine with me,” I said.

“And I’ll never understand how you can be so damn-fool as to want to sleep here on this night of all nights.”

“I traveled across an ocean to write this book,” I said. “I’ve spent the night in castles, old pubs, a barn, a tower in Ireland where I got rained on waiting for the Giant of Glannmurdoch Castle to appear. He never showed, but it was still a good story.”

“This is no make-believe giant,” Father Terrance said. “The ghost here has been heard since 1606 at least.” He took a deep breath and I knew he was going to launch into his spiel.

“November Fifth, Sixteen-Oh-Five was a grim day in our history, the day a misguided group of my fellow Catholics attempted to blow up Good King James and the Houses of Parliament with barrels of gunpowder in the basement.”

I was an American but I knew the story, so I listened politely. Guy Fawkes Night. Bonfires. The whole deal.

“And one of the plotters, young James Canby, lost his nerve and fled. He stopped by this church two nights before and pounded on the door,” Father Terrance said. “And one of my predecessors turned him away; saying whatever his business was it wasn’t church business.”

“If they had listened to Canby, the plot might have been uncovered sooner. Maybe they wouldn’t have been executed. Maybe Guy Fawkes would have fled to try again. Maybe relations between Protestants and Catholics would have become worse. Or better, if a Priest had warned the king. Who knows?” I said with a shrug. “But in the years since, the pounding on the church door has been heard. And tonight it will be heard by me.”

Father Terrance handed me the key to the church door and I grabbed my sleeping bag, flashlight and recorder from my car and took it inside, saying a silent prayer of thanks to the British Metaphysical Research Society for pushing my permission through. By dusk I had set up my equipment, checked the lock on the front door and was busy eating the ham sandwich I’d brought in a cooler. I’d had to wipe dust off the pew; the church had not been occupied, let alone used in many years. I checked the date on my phone; November third.

I was starting to doze when I heard the sound; a pounding on the door, and a voice yelling in strangely-accented English. I glanced at the recorder, it was on and recording. I stealthily crept to the side window and looked out front. There was nobody there. As I watched, the pounding at the door began again, along with the calls for “mercy” and “God’s forbearance.”

“James Canby!” I called out. The pounding stopped. I went on. “The need for you here is done. That long-ago night is past! Go to your rest!”

There was a smell, an odor, overpowering. I began to choke and gag. I ran out the front door, past my car and collapsed on the ground. After a moment, the smell went away. I was breathing heavily, and I decided to take my car and find a motel; the smell of long-ago gunpowder still in my nose.

 

—end—

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Written on November 5th after a British writer I know posted (on Facebook) the poem from which I lifted a line for the title and reminded us that the 5th is the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, and is now Guy Fawkes Night. I don’t know how Jamesian this story is, but I wrote the first draft of another story featuring my ghost-hunter Jerome later the same day. —jsb.

 

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Night’s Falling on Friday Flash Fics for November 3, 2019 by Jeff Baker

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Night’s Falling

By Jeff Baker

 

Ciallo walked out of the sea, his wings dripping wet.

“You’re not going to be able to fly that way,” Sillek called out. Sillek was his little brother.

“They’ll be dry by Night’s-Falling,” Ciallo said, drying his arms and chest with the towel he picked up from the beach. “All I have to do is…” He tensed his muscles and the feathered wings growing out of his shoulders began to beat furiously, spraying water in every direction. His little brother watched in admiration and envy. Ciallo was eight seasons old, almost a man. Sillek was three seasons younger; his wings still hadn’t grown fully.

The beach was nearly full of festival-goers, mostly families, a lot of them with picnic lunches. Some of them with young children whose wings were sprouting running around the beach, arms outstretched, pretending to fly. And young men flexing their wings, ready to fly.

The sun was arcing downward; it would be dusk soon. Night’s Falling. Ciallo looked around, trying to contain his excitement. This was the climax of the festival; he’d never been a part of it before, especially not at the sea’s edge.

They ate light as Ciallo and Sillek’s parents explained that the beach had been very different millions of years ago.

“Before the Big Collision…” Mother was saying.

“The Big Slow Collision,” Father laughed.

“Some people say it never happened, that the Galaxy always was this way and was never two separate galaxies,” Father said. “It’s called ‘Bent-Plate Theory.’ But in truth, the two Galaxies were separate and then slowly moved together and finally merged. We can see the large, flat disc of the other Galaxy through most of the summer.”

“The joining caused gravitic shifts and chaos where stars passed close to other stars,” Mother said. “Civilizations vanished, others fled to other worlds. Our own people were the result of two such species merging. We didn’t always have wings,” she added smiling at Ciallo.

The sky darkened quickly. Soon a few stars could be seen in the sky and the reddish planet Marso high in the sky. And as the light of dusk receded over the sea it was replaced by the whitish-pinkish disc of the galaxy which stuck out at an angle from the heart of the galaxy it had invaded millennia ago. With shouts of excitement, Ciallo and the other young men and women flew into the air and began circling, silhouetting the dim disc which had once been called, in the planet’s dim memory, Andromeda.

 

—end—

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Hallowe’en on the Road; Flash Fiction by Jeff Baker, October 25, 2019

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On The Blacktop

(A Tale for Hallowe’en)

By Jeff Baker

 

There wasn’t a lot of traffic along that spur of the highway in northern Kansas, nonetheless they had a pilot car and a worker with a stop sign to direct what little traffic there was down the one lane that wasn’t fresh asphalt. It was early October, still warm but breezy with blue sky. Joey, wearing the yellow shirt and orange hardhat with matching vest, leaned against the pole he was carrying with the two-sided sign: Stop on one side, Slow on the other and took a drag off his cigarette. He stared around him. No sign of the pilot car leading the traffic back and the tall grass was waving in the wind. Joey sneezed at the dust in the air and wished he had a pair of goggles.

The only real sign of civilization he could see was the highway; the rest was blocked by the Flint Hills. But he knew Concordia was over to the west and Clay Center was east. He took another drag on the cigarette. Motion caught his eye. To the north, the direction he was facing while leaning on the stop sign. He shielded his eyes from the light and stared. There. He saw it. Someone riding a motorcycle over the hill. No; a horse. There was someone riding down the hill. As the rider got closer, Joey could see that the rider was young, maybe not quite twenty; looked Native American, was wearing a torn fabric that may have been a shirt and he had only one shoe, what did they call them in the movies? Moccasin. Joey could make out the rider’s face; an open-mouthed expression of panic and desperation. The horse was wild eyed, flecks of foam flying from its mouth.

They’re out of control, Joey thought. The rider and horse veered towards the blacktop. Joey thought about jumping over and flagging them down with the stop sign, but instead he watched as the horse and rider galloped across the freshly-poured asphalt, but where the horse’s hooves touched the blacktop, the asphalt was gone, replaced by waving grass. Joey wheeled around and saw the two of them as they raced down the hill only to be suddenly swallowed up in a blast of wind and dust.

“Hey, anybody know about any like historical re-enactors around here?” Joey asked at the end of the day as the crew was putting away their equipment back at the garage. “I mean, out by the highway?”

“Well, the big one is down in Medicine Lodge,” his foreman said. “None up here that I know of. How come?”

“I, uh…well, nothing.” Joey said.

“Way back a hundred and fifty years ago there were Native encampments all over the area. My grandmother was one-quarter Arapaho, and she said that the old days never really go away. She said that if you listen really closely, sometimes you can hear the cries and shouts of the people who lived out here. If you listen to the wind.”

 

—end—

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An Apple a Day: Friday Flash Fics for Oct. 18, 2019 by Jeff Baker (On Oct. 21, ’19.)

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                                      The Offertory Apple

By Jeff Baker

 

Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom there lived a beautiful girl who had defeated a wicked witch and was living happily ever after. Now the witch had a 25-year-old nephew named Myron, who wasn’t wicked, a witch or even very cool. What Myron was, was very good at chemistry. And so, after the witch was vanquished, Myron received one of the witch’s trunks, the one full of the witch’s recipes. He used one of them to cure his nearsightedness. Unfortunately, the witch’s handwriting was terrible so Myron’s luck with the specific ingredients for the formulas was hit-or-miss. He scrupulously avoided any recipe containing any scrawling that looked like the word “Poison,” but the cure for insomnia backfired horribly when he tried it on himself. Oh, he was alive, just asleep. In fact, he’s still alive. Kissing didn’t bring him out of it, so the family did the next best thing. And they made a nice, tidy pile of money over the last six-hundred years. They charge admission. You can see him yourself this weekend; just have to buy a ticket. Sign outside says the proceeds go for the upkeep on the crystal display case.

But I think placing apples around him is just a little tacky.

 

—end—

 

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“The Shoreless Sea,” Scott Coatsworth’s new book is out!

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My friend J. Scott Coatsworth’s new book “The Shoreless Sea” is available now! Latest in a sci-fi trilogy reminiscent of Heinlein!

 

 

 

 

As the epic trilogy hurtles toward its conclusion, the fight for the future isn’t over yet. It could lead to a new beginning, or it might spell the end for the last vestiges of humankind.

 

The generation ship Forever has left Earth behind, but a piece of the old civilization lives on in the Inthworld—a virtual realm that retains memories of Earth’s technological wonders and vices. A being named Lilith leads the uprising, and if she succeeds in setting its inhabitants free, they could destroy Forever.
But during the generation ship’s decades-long voyage, humanity has evolved. Liminals with the ability to connect with the world mind and the Inthworld provide a glimmer of hope. They’ll have to face not only Lilith’s minions, but also the mistrust of their own kind and persecution from a new government as homotypicals continue to fear what they can’t understand.

 

The invasion must be stopped, the Inthworld must be healed, and the people of Forever must let go of their past and embrace what they’re meant to become.

 

Series Blurb:

 

Humankind is on its way to the stars, a journey that will change it forever. Each of the stories in Liminal Sky explores that future through the lens of a generation ship, where the line between science fiction and fantasy often blurs. At times both pessimistic and very hopeful, Liminal Sky thrusts you into a future few would ever have imagined.

 

Get Books One and Two on Sale:

 

The Stark Divide – 99¢

 

Dreamspinner: https://www.dsppublications.com/books/the-stark-divide-by-j-scott-coatsworth-415-b

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074G2NJP6/

iBooks: https://geo.itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-stark-divide/id1266474103

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-stark-divide-j-scott-coatsworth/1126901106?ean=9781635338324

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-stark-divide

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/J_Scott_Coatsworth_The_Stark_Divide?id=pQIvDwAAQBAJ

 

The Rising Tide – $1.99

 

Dreamspinner: https://www.dsppublications.com/books/the-rising-tide-by-j-scott-coatsworth-476-b

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D8GFSJW/?tag=quscfi-20

iBooks: https://geo.itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-rising-tide/id1393283474

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-rising-tide-j-scott-coatsworth/1128277505?ean=9781640806276

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-rising-tide-24

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/J_Scott_Coatsworth_The_Rising_Tide?id=E8RcDwAAQBAJ

 

Excerpt (non-exclusive):

 

Kiryn Hammond-Clarke floated in the darkness of space, stars he’d never seen in person twinkling against the velvety black depths.

The voice came to him from out of nowhere. “Can anyone hear me?”

In his dreams, he could hear. Like when Belynn let him ride in her mind.

The voice repeated, sounding stretched and thin. “Is anyone out there?”

In the distance, a single star glowed brighter than all the others, though it was still just a small golden dot.

Kiryn reached out toward the light, his hand naked to the cold of the void.

Ice crystals formed on his arm, hardening it in place. The cold reached into his bones like knives of frozen glass. It raced up his bicep, the burning cold fire of the void.

He snatched back his arm, but he was too late. The freezing grip reached his heart, and he screamed silently—

Kiryn awoke with a start, sitting up in bed in his dorm room drenched with sweat. He ran his hands through his dark hair, letting them come to rest clasped behind his head.

First Light flashed past in the trees outside his window, brightening up the room.

The world was utterly silent.

The silence, his constant companion since birth, was particularly soothing after his rude awakening. It wrapped itself around him like a blanket, a suit of armor, a barrier between him and the hustle and bustle of the outside world.

Between him and emotion.

He held his arm out for inspection, half expecting it to be blackened by the void. Instead, it looked perfectly normal. Warm and tan, halfway between his mothers’ sepia and white skin tones.

He shivered at the memory.

The bed moved under him, and his date from the night before sat up, his mouth moving soundlessly.

The man was handsome, a Thyrean sent to the university at Micavery for his higher schooling—long limbs, blond hair shaved short, warm brown eyes.

His name was Dax. Or Zack. Or something.

Kiryn’s lipreading was decent, but he hadn’t bothered to spend too much time learning this one’s name. Dax or Zack hadn’t seemed to mind much.

Kiryn pointed at his ear and shook his head.

The man’s mouth closed, and he blushed. “Sorry. I forgot.”

That one was easy enough to read.

He grabbed the piece of cotton paper and a pencil Kiryn kept at his bedside just for that purpose and scribbled something out longhand, then handed it over to him.

It’s Dax. And are you okay?

Kiryn stared at him. Did you just read my mind? Maybe there was a little Liminal in him. He laughed, wondering not for the first time what it sounded like from the outside. It felt clunky and awkward on the inside.

He sighed and took the paper and pencil.

Dax’s hand lingered over his for an extra second before letting go.

Bad dream. Class in fifteen minutes. He hesitated, then scribbled, Dinner?

Dax took the paper, and a grin lit up his face. His eager nod needed no translation. I work at the hatchery until six. Meet me there?

Kiryn nodded and grinned.

Dax slipped out of bed and pulled on his trousers and white shirt, the V-neck showing off his chest to perfection.

Kiryn sat back with his hands behind his head, admiring the view.

He leaned over, kissed Kiryn on the cheek, and mouthed, “See you.”

When Dax left, Kiryn grabbed a change of clothes and headed down the hall to the dorm bathroom. He hopped into the shower, using the aromatic red berry soap bar his mom and mamma had sent him from the Estate. The smell transported him, and he closed his eyes and imagined himself standing among the long, even rows of red berry vines that arched across the hillsides.

His parents worried about him, out here alone, but it was Andy who had insisted he go.

When Kiryn had been born congenitally and profoundly deaf, Andy and Shandra had learned sign language from the world mind in vee.

There were so few other deaf people in Forever. So few like him.

The day before he was set to leave for university, to catch the public wagon headed for Darlith and then Micavery, he’d had a huge panic attack.

His parents had sat him down along with his sister, Belynn.

 

 

“I’m scared. Why do I have to go away?” He was fidgeting, nervous.

“You have to go. There’s nothing here for you.” Andy indicated the Estate, where the family had built a thriving agricultural business on the backs of Trip’s and Colin’s earlier work.

You’re here.” His hands signed it while his knee bounced up and down.

Andy shook her head. “This is our place. You need to go.”

He flushed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was such a burden.”

“No.That was emphatic. “That’s not what I meant. We don’t want you to get trapped here, working on the Estate for the rest of your life. There’s a whole world out there for you to explore.” She looked up at Shandra, who nodded.

“I’ll go with him,” Belynn said and signed it at the same time, but he could hear her inside his head too.

Mom could do that, too, of course, but she had to touch him to do it.

“You’re not ready.” Shandra glared at Belynn and shook her head.

“I’ve been with Kiryn in every vee class since I was born. I’m only two years younger than he is. Let me go with him to help.”

Kiryn frowned. He wasn’t sure he wanted his little sister tagging along after him, cramping his style. If he decided to go.

Belynn’s hand found his, palm to palm, and he could feel her emotions. We can take care of each other. That thought was private, just for him, inside his head.

Maybe so.

Andy looked at Shandra. “They could take care of each other.” She echoed Belynn’s thought and touched Shandra’s hand. Something passed between them.

Shandra looked at him and then at Belynn, uncertainty clear on her face. “We could… try it.”

Belynn squeezed his hand. “Yes!”

“For a semester.” Andy kissed Shandra on the forehead.

Kiryn thought about it. It would be nice to have someone close by, just in case. Someone who really knew him. “Okay.” And it would be a lot less scary.

 

 

Now he was here, and Belynn wouldn’t be far behind.

Where are you, big brother? Belynn’s insistent voice.

I’ll be back in a minute. He pulled the towel from its wooden peg, dried off his hair and shoulders.

A couple of the other guys in the dorm, Stave and Trevor, waved on their way to their own showers. Cute as hell, but straighter than the old antenna on Micavery’s village green. Well, except when Stave got drunk on red berry wine….

Kiryn grinned. He pulled on his trousers and shirt and padded back to his room. Belynn was waiting for him on his bed. “How did you get in?” he signed.

They touched palms, the emotions flowing between them and synching.

“Easy. Aric at the front desk is a sucker for a pretty girl.”

“Like I said, how did you get in?”

She stuck out her tongue at him. “Come on. We’re going to be late.” She tugged him off the bed, and Kiryn barely had time to grab his carry sack before she had him out the door and down the hall.

 

Buy Links:

 

Publisher: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/the-shoreless-sea-by-j-scott-coatsworth-11294-b

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07T5C8DWY/

Amazon Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/164108149X/

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-shoreless-sea-j-scott-coatsworth/1130902598?ean=9781644051382

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/za/en/ebook/the-shoreless-sea

iTunes: https://books.apple.com/hn/book/the-shoreless-sea/id1469137456

Google: https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Shoreless_Sea.html?id=2-6dDwAAQBAJ

QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/book/the-shoreless-sea/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44313588-the-shoreless-sea

 

 

Giveaway:

 

Scott is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card with this tour, along with three eBook sets of his Oberon Cycle trilogy. For a chance to win, enter via Rafflecopter:

 

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Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d4778/?

 

 

Author Bio:

 

Scott lives between the here and now and the what could be. 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 the people like him were.

 

He decided it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Waldenbooks. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

 

His friends say Scott’s brain works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He seeks to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

 

A Rainbow Award winning author and Science Fiction Writer’s Association (SFWA) member, he runs Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction reflecitng their own reality.

 

Author Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworth

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworthauthor/

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/jscoatsworth

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8392709.J_Scott_Coatsworth

Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/J.-Scott-Coatsworth/e/B011AFO4OQ

 

 

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Witnessing The End of the World; Friday Flash Fics by Jeff Baker. October 13, 2019.

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From This Day to the Ending of the Earth

By Jeff Baker

 

I was thirteen years old when the world ended.

My dad had told me I was staying home from school, and he and Mom packed the camper and we headed to our cabin in the mountains just outside the city. At the last minute, we strapped my bicycle on the back of the trailer. The second day Dad told us we were extending our vacation and not to go too far from the cabin. I didn’t mind a few days away from school.

The next morning, I rode my bike down the dirt mountain road to where I could see the city. I always liked looking at the glass buildings in the sunlight, especially the orange light of the morning. I stood there, balancing on my bike with one foot on the ground, imagining it was a motorcycle. I absently brushed at the mosquitos in front of my face. Then I realized that what I was seeing was planes and drones in the distance attacking the city. I stood there staring and then I rode my bike back up the road and…

Joel looked up from the screen.

“Granddad, why did you go to all the trouble of writing this down? That’s a lot of work! You could have used a memory scan, and we could play it anytime we wanted to see it.”

“Because that wouldn’t tell you how I felt or what I did or thought,” Granddad said. “The memory scan would only have shown what I saw and heard. Like a movie camera. That’s what makes print and books so much better than a memory scan. Besides, I wrote it all down years ago and I probably have forgotten some of the things by now. If I had the memory scan, it wouldn’t have shown everything I’d written down.”

“Is that why you have all the books downstairs?” Joel asked.

“Yup. That’s why.” Granddad said.

“Can we go get one and read one?”

“Sure. Why not!” Granddad said.

The two of them wandered downstairs to the books that held the beginning of the world.

 

—end—

 

NOTE: Title from William Shakespeare.

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“You And The Night And The Moon,” a high ride for Friday Flash Fics by Jeff Baker. (Monday October 7, 2019.)

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You and the Night and the Moon

by Jeff Baker

 

The canoe soared through the sky as the aurora shimmered beside them and the Moon shimmered in the sky.

“Okay, is this thing safe?” Emory asked.

“Perfectly,” Sorkham said. “You steer with the paddles, just like this was in the water.”

“No, I mean the radiation,” Emory said, as he tried to steer the sky-canoe with his paddle. “That’s a real aurora over there.”

“We’re shielded,” Sorkham said, pulling his jacket tighter around him. “Just keep the goggles on, it’s bright. And we’re still in Earth’s atmosphere.”

“Need the oxygen masks?” Emory asked.

“Not yet,” Sorkham said. The two of them guided the canoe, circling higher in the night sky. They could barely see the lights of the resort below them through a thin film of clouds.

“Glad we bundled up. It’s cold up here,” Emory said.

“I could have rented a sky-canoe with a heating unit but they cost more,” Sorkham said.

“We already shelled out enough money on this vacation,” Emory said.

“Hasn’t it been worth it?”

“Heck, yeah!” Emory said. “You know what the best part of this canoe ride is going to be?”

“What?”

“Warming up together by that big fireplace in the hotel lobby,” Emory said.

Sorkham smiled and the Moon above them seemed to wink.

 

—end—

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