Category Archives: Issue 6: Big Bad Wolf in a Big Bad Universe
At long last, the issue for which the magazine gets its name has come into being.
A long time ago, I had a crazy notion of writing a story about a lone traveler, a space-faring werewolf.
That idea turned into this here spec fic magazine…and then I put the task of telling the lone wolf’s travels to other authors.
This is the result.
There are space wolves in this issue, but there are also some tales that take place on planet Earth, and some alternate history werewolf adventures, too.
I’m happy to report that although my own story didn’t quite make the cut, the authors in this issue penned some imaginative stories.
Enjoy these hair-raising tales!
Happy New Year;
“Hey, hey, bitch. Know where all space wolves come from?”
Oh, god. This stupid joke again. I wish they would just kill me already and get it over with. I mouthed the punch line along with my captor.
“Why the long face? I’m not being Sirius.”
Oh, goody. He got three “funnies” crammed in two sentences. These guys are hysterical. I shifted position from one hip to the other. This wasn’t an easy task considering the silver shackles they had around my wrists and ankles. A pain ran down my leg, and I suppressed a whimper. I had early dysplaysia, and I certainly didn’t want to let on. One whisper of infirmity and I’d be “put down” immediately. I was only 27, but my German Shepherd heritage condemned me, and they needed me for the spectacle. They needed me to fight. I had to look fit and healthy.
The guard shuffled off, and I surveyed my surroundings. I could smell fear and anxiety of the other creatures through the pungent antiseptic that my cell had been scrubbed with. I could hear shrieks and moans, but most of all, I sensed them. The merman. The chupacabra. The gryphon. They had traveled all of space looking for things of legend. We were all hunted now, and made to kill one another to survive. As a female, I was much more valuable and rare to them. I supposed that I had brought a huge bounty because I had been spared the brothels and sent to the arena right away. In my sometimes-human form, I would have brought a high price for my “exoticness.” Whoever ordered my delivery must not only be powerful, but also bloodthirsty.
I felt the ship docking; it’s exhaust systems let off a hiss that was both yielding and melancholy. I don’t know why, but this sound of resignation angered me. I felt a low groan rising somewhere within me, somewhere in a place I thought I had lost. Hair pushed up between my shoulder blades. My hackles were rising.
As I heard the collective sound of boots against the steel grating outside of my cell I hunched over as I felt the thin tank I wore rip. The silver bracers burned and steamed, but I only smelled my flesh. I felt nothing. As the pneumatic doors slid open my vision bled to grey hues and I saw half a dozen guards with raised energy weapons. I forced myself to calm, whispering a borrowed mantra loaned by a fellow wolf that I had once loved. We were to be betrothed, to be monogamous. We would have started our own pack one day. Perhaps. He was taken to the arena years ago, and once captured, a wolf never, ever returns. I traveled alone now, and my solitude brought an insight other wolves never had. I could be cruel. I was good at killing and the hunt. My one kindness is that I never played with my food.
They dragged me out of my cell, sneering and leering, like men are wont to do. I was shoved into a sanitation pod, and with the push of a button was hosed off mercilessly with scalding water. The way it stung, I assumed that there must have been a type of chemical disinfectant mixed in as well. The acidic steam burned my eyes and made them tear, obscuring my vision. Before my surroundings became visible, I was yanked out once again and dragged down a hallway. My feet and knees dragged the ground and I could not right myself with my hands still bound. No matter. This is the moment I had been waiting for. I let out a howl of outrage again and again, each time intentionally more piercing and wailing, acting just like the wild, feral thing they imagined me to be. As expected (for humans are predictable even when you can’t smell their intentions) the guard to my right stopped, laid down his gun, and backhanded me.
“Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!”
I used that moment to change. Their flaw, though they restrained me with silver cuffs, was binding my hands in front of me. Had they bound me in the back, like I’m sure they were instructed, my arms would have snapped with an attempted transformation. My hair, no, my fur, still soaking wet, caused me to slip as I shed my shackles, and I slid into the guards, knocking them to the ground. The guard to my left dropped his weapon like a bumbling child, not sure what had just happened, and I took advantage of that opportunity to relieve him of his neck. Ruing the fact that that bath did me zero good, as I was now covered in blood, I turned my attention to the other guard. He was scrambling for his own weapon that had slid across the floor. I changed again, quickly, and now stood naked, and quite human, completely covered in the last gasp of space guard I had moments ago murdered, and I knew I looked frightening. I smiled.
“Ah. Ah. Ah,” I lilted. “No you don’t.”
I picked up the guards’ gun, and killed him in the way he deserved, with a cold weapon. A single energy blast was not only efficient, but it was also silent. I would not demean myself to expend my own energy on the likes of this. As my vision returned to bright, radiant color, I looked around me. Blood splattered the shiny, institutional walls of the spacecraft. I heard more boots on their way, and wanted nothing more than to have a fairy tale ending where I raced down the halls freeing my co-captives and turning the tables on my oppressors, but this was not the time, and I wasn’t sure the other prisoners could be trusted. I worked alone, and I needed to find out who had done this to me. I needed to find out how it could all be stopped.
Sirens wailed, and a red alert dome began to spin above my head. Damn it. They were wearing death notification monitors. They knew the guards were off the grid – which meant they probably knew I was on it.
I saw the exit hatch a mere 20 yards away. I could make it. I judged by their lack of air rectifying helmets that we were on an oxygen compatible planet. I knew from their light clothing that the climate would be hospitable. As I lifted the lever to open my gateway to freedom, I could smell green. I could smell foliage and life. I looked about, shielding my eyes from the natural light, as I had become accustomed to the cursed, mind numbing free fluorescence of my cell, and knew that the planet was tropical, therefore dangerous. It wasn’t what I was used to, it was alien to my home cities or their outlying swamps, but I could survive here.
If I wasn’t caught, that is. I panicked a little with the thought. I would find the person responsible for bringing me here. I would find out why, and then I would kill them.
They might hunt me, but I would win.
Thousands upon thousands of years of evolution and weapons creation was the legacy of man, that putrid animal, and still, at my most base and demeaned, I was still the “Greater Dog.”
Melissa Crory, though fairly new to the horror genre, is now madly in love. She has spent years in rock journalism writing for magazines such as OffBeat Magazine, New Orleans’ premier monthly music journal, and DeathRock Magazine, which showcased her favorite type of music – loud, dark and creepy. She has also recently published a short fantasy piece in Garbanzo Literary Journal and when she isn’t writing or traveling, she tours as a guitarist and bassist in goth and metal acts, dabbles in comedy and rips up clothing and calls it art. Read more about her and her adventures at www.melissacrory.com
The Indian Ocean was a shade of glittering emerald as they headed toward the mouth of Durban Bay in the month of April 1824. The winds cut in their direction that day, though the sea was at a rest, as the English passenger ship Royal Ranger left a foamy trail zipping toward Port Natal. General John Hennigan was on the foredeck with his assigned brigade of redcoats, watching the first of the ripe lands appear, those lands still fringed with mangroves where primal things lay hidden. The ship steered in a straight line toward civilization, past the wilderness, finding the beginning of the new harbour occupied by two anchored embargos. John had enough of the salt spray and the coarse enthusiasm of his men, and joined Ndlovu Motlanthe, his translator and guide, who was alone and peering over a ledge, his gaze fixed on the rollicking waves in some strange euphoria.
“You look a bit out of it,” John said, cracking a match for his pipe. “Are you still concerned, my friend?”
“Unfortunately so,” Ndlovu answered. “Coming back scares me, to be honest. It’s been five years.”
“Think of it as an affirmation of how far you’ve come. It’s just a visit.”
“True. However, this is dangerous. We’re stirring the pot when it doesn’t need to be stirred.”
“I agree, it is. But have you ever seen Amatshotsho up close?”
“No. By God’s grace. The bodies I saw in the veld, though, a result of some devil’s work. No veld animal does more than it needs to survive in the wild.”
“Probably nothing to it, though. The business of myth is just that.”
“When my people talk, they do not lie.”
“Like the spearman we’re going to meet?” John asked.
“Kabiso. Yes. Used to be a spearman. Not since he saw Amatshotsho.”
“Don’t you think that would be an ideal scenario, being able to return to England with evidence for the Queen?”
“If we return.”
“Cheer up, man, and imagine the gold, the possibility of knighthood. The scientific establishments would be in wonder, wouldn’t they?”
“At what cost?”
“Now come. We’re a dozen strong. I implore this beast, if it indeed exists, to test its might against the fire of our muskets. We’ll return to England either in glory or disappointment, but there will be no lives lost. God and the Queen are on our side.”
“I hope and pray so.”
With the harbour to their right now, its piquant aroma set their mouths to water in expectation. The bustling spice markets were visible, and they could see the Colony of Natal not too far off as well, a collection of partially-constructed townhouses above which sat a cloud of smog. In the streets, fishermen, tourists and colonialists made up a colourful crowd.
John said, “Ndlovu, do you see where that church spire is, by the monument? Right about there is where my sweetheart dwells. Jocelyn. That’s where we’re heading first, if you don’t mind.”
“No, of course.”
“Got a woman in your life currently? Surely a handsome bloke like you would.”
Ndlovu went sour, appeared to be choking up. “Bad memories.”
“When I still lived off the land, when I was young, there was a time when I married. One day, my wife was found dead. They wouldn’t tell me how. But I know.”
“So sorry to hear. I can’t imagine…”
Ndlovu looked away, toward the sun.
“I won’t be too long,” John told his fiancee as he closed the door against the stares of his men.
“No tea, then?” Jocelyn said.
“Unfortunately not. Can’t keep them waiting.” He touched her womb. “How’s Baby?”
“Got a bit of a kick today. Think we’ve got a soldier here. Just like Daddy.”
“Just like Daddy indeed.” He smiled proudly and met her lips with his.
“Doctor gives it about a week,” she said afterwards.
“Are you nervous?”
“Beyond exhausted, if anything.”
“Get some rest, dear,” he said, pecking her cheek and rushing into the next room.
John returned with three bags of rifles and ammunition.
“So what are you and the boys planning?” she asked, eyeing him curiously.
“Are you serious? What on earth for?”
“The Queen, my dear,” he said. “The Queen wants a great, big African dog.”
“Kabiso promised he’d be here by five,” Ndlovu said, standing by the entrance of the Chesterton pub where they were to meet. His pocket watch indicated 5:30, and he clicked his tongue in frustration. “Maybe we’re too late.”
John replied, “No worries. Let’s have a drink in the meantime.”
Before they could order gin shots, a hooded figure surprised them from an unseen corner. John saw the grey stubble on the mysterious man’s haggard face, his permanently wide, haunted eyes, and was about to dismiss him as a vagrant before the man and Ndlovu exchanged pleasantries.
John said, “Are you–”
“This is Kabiso,” Ndlovu intervened, translating greetings back and forth.
“Where can we find Amatshotsho?” said John as the man sat, not wasting time.
Ndlovu listened to Kabiso then referred to John, “There is no precise location, rather a legend, a tale of unknown origin. The elders say only under the Natal moon can Amatshotsho thrive, and only where the moon shines upon the path from the colony to the Zulu settlements. Amatshotsho is there, according to legend, preying on journeying innocents. But I stay away in those hours, even here in town. I hide, even though it has been a while since an account.”
“You claimed to have encountered Amatshotsho. Can you describe it?” John asked.
“It is the most grotesque thing under Iziko’s watch, unforgettable, unpredictable.” Ndlovu insisted on more information.
Kabiso started a sentence, abruptly stopped. The table was rattling; he was shaking. Promptly, he raised and left without a farewell, and John and Ndlovu passed incredulous expressions.
Just behind the colony which was now far from their trek, the sun was drooping into a quadrant. On each side of the battered road they were traveling, the early night savannas were calm and possessed by a crisp frost. Their torches danced in the dark, the trampling of their horses sounding like claps of thunder. Behind the carriage in which John and Ndlovu were passengers, the brigade was following, keeping watch. John signalled to the driver to stop, placed his hand on the door handle.
Ndlovu stopped him, sighing. “I can’t go out there,” he whined. “Please, John.”
“Where would I be without you?” John massaged his shoulder. “I’m glad you at least came all this way. It took great strength on your part, and that’s admirable.”
Ndlovu nodded. “For the gold,” he said, and they laughed together.
“Well, let’s hope we double. Keep this close.” John gave him a cross and a reassuring pat on the back, and stepped out to gather the brigade.
“I want each of you searching the area within a two-kilometre radius. But don’t get too far out. Three hours. Check yourselves. If it looks out of the ordinary, shoot it.”
The soldiers inspected the soil and trees for markings and evidence of its existence, waiting for any hint of its approach. Suddenly, there was a gunshot, and another.
“I’ve found him,” one of the soldiers announced. “General, come see!”
John saw what had been killed, and sank. “It’s a hyena, you oaf. Carry on and mind what you shoot, alright, Private? Another mistake and I remove your gun.”
“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.”
“Better not be all for bloody nothing,” he muttered while the rest of the brigade was in hysterics. John looked around and saw something odd by the carriage. The door was abridge, half bent. He went numb, and ran up to see inside. Ndlovu was gone. Except for his clothes, his ripped shirt and pants and bowler hat.
“Where’s Ndlovu? Where’s the bloody driver?” He tried to rid of the lump in his throat, and shouted, “Men, stop the search. We’ve got a situation. Jesus Christ, we’ve got a situation.”
And as he turned, there was an unusual sound in the distance, rising in tempo. John unholstered his gun. What they were hearing were howls, so shrill the men had to shield their ears. When the noise subsided, they saw it standing in the middle of the road from which they had come, the silhouette of a creature unbecoming of nature. It was of an immense girth, a hunchback, seven feet or more. The hairs on its skin protruded like razors, its teeth as long as each of their fingers, its claws seemingly large enough to crush a head in its grasp. All doubt was removed that instant.
“Fire!” John immediately commanded to his men, who were so shaken up they could hardly muster the strength. Their bullets ricocheted in the direction of the beast. But there seemed no effect. Instead, the thing eloped, heading towards the colony with the speed of a cheetah. John lost his words, went after it on foot. Eventually he arrived at the front gate of the colony, his wind taken. There was a commotion. All the townsfolk were out of their houses, telling of a monster, a bear, something foul and which shouldn’t be. And then John had a gut feeling, an omen. Slowly, he walked several blocks up while the world was darkening, and turned into his street. When he traced the hundreds of onlookers, where it was leading to, he almost lost his bearings. But something made him keep walking, keep pushing the masses until he was there, past the crowd. At his home, where his front door was open. Police officials were entering and exiting, themselves visibly traumatised. They were carrying out a young woman on a gurney. She was covered with a blanket, apart from her arms which were dangling out and trickling forth webs of fresh blood. Where her stomach was, there was a crimson blotch, and by her face.
“We’re sorry, General,” a voice began, but he went deaf, blind.
Ironically, it was in Vulpecula, the constellation of the little fox, where the persecuted werewolves had found safety—on a nameless planet orbiting a distant, faint, nameless star. Whether the location was chosen through chance or by design is both unknown and unimportant. What mattered were the six moons, one always full, occupying the blue-back sky, and keeping the lycanthropes permanently in their altered, feral state.
They had been driven there from across seventy solar systems in seventy galaxies; misunderstood, feared and hounded by every species they encountered. On Aanganese, an orb of charred land and oceans of lead, anarchic cyborgs crucified werewolves along the ragged equatorial coastlines, leaving them to bake in the heat of the nearby red giant as it expanded to slowly destroy their world; on the twin planets of Eulergall and Eaxexass—inhabited by the paranoid Y’Chroma, a race of half-life automatons—they were stretched, howling ferociously in the agony, between the gravitational pull of the two worlds until their bodies became thinner than a string of atoms; their fate on Trauhasse had been so chilling that it had been repressed from the collective lycanthropic memory. Now, on this anonymous world, they had found safety and peace. They swore they would never allow their terrible history to be repeated; that no living thing would ever come to torment them again. This anonymous rock, where every surviving lycanthrope had made their lairs, was theirs now, and theirs alone. They would defend both it and themselves until the end of time.
Bósifried was the last King of the Werewolves: A god-like beast so magnificent that he was entwined with the very fabric of the universe. From his throne in the firmament of the Beyond, he watched with pity as carnivorous mutant robots massacred his brethren and drove them from ancestral lands; as their suckling young were mutilated by the steam-hissing savages of Alpha Kraucente; as werewolf turned against werewolf in desperation to survive; as they petitioned him, Bósifried, beseeched him through sacrifice and incantation, to protect and save them. But their maltreatment in the physical world was no more than a reflection of the abuse their godhead also faced in the murky peripheries between the corporeal and incorporeal realms. Once, not so long ago, Bósifried had enjoyed all the immunity that his status brought him: The respect and untouchability of being a member of the Grand Cosmic Council. Yet something had recently stirred changes in others’ perceptions of Bósifried and his kin. Subtly, at first, with mild propaganda, and failures to consult him on issues affecting his species. Matters rapidly degenerated: New forces, new powers, new procedures were starting to take precedence; the old ways were being usurped, and the attempted mass extermination of werewolves was the result. Bósifried himself had become a target. He had no choice: He was forced to run.
From his presence in the magickal substance that holds all the suns and moons and planets together, Bósifried tore himself free and took on his physical form. As he left the constraints of the cosmic fibre behind him a terrifying roar echoed throughout thirty galaxies; a dozen stars imploded with the force caused by the sudden imbalance in the quantum. A fissure appeared in the tissue of the universe and a streamlined craft burst out of it at tremendous speed, its cylindrical shape unwavering in its unequivocal course. At the helm of this luminous yellow and orange striped craft stood Bósifried: Twelve feet and an inch on his hind legs; coarse fur, blacker than the souls of a thousand black holes, enveloped his muscular body. His thick, lengthy tail thrashed behind him; his jaws dripped oleaginous saliva; his fiery red eyes glared beneath the simple crown of beaten gold panel, worn proudly on his head, which symbolised his legitimate rank.
Within an instant of Bósifried making his escape four more rips appeared in the universal curtain, setting off four more monstrous bombs of deadening sound—each sending wildly oscillating shockwaves in all directions—as four more craft left the intangible realm of non-spacetime in hot pursuit of their lycanthropic quarry.
In the first craft were the Zlochin, a mechanical paramilitary force, resplendent in their brass and leather uniforms, each wielding an anti-atom rifle. The second craft contained a delegation of the Judges of the Soudny Den—huge, bodiless wrinkled heads of fifteen eyes, twelve ears and one mouth—responsible for ensuring the legality of capital proceedings throughout all cosmic jurisdictions. The third contained a back up militia, the six-armed Fialova Brigade—bloodthirsty, amoral and murderous rogues, that in certain light were invisible. Finally came the Moudrosti, writers of the chronicles and the annals of galaxies known and unknown.
The inhabitants of each craft had a common purpose: To ensure the demise of Bósifried, and the obliteration of all werewolves from history.
Bósifried increased his speed to factor S≥0.05/-1. Knowing that this journey was imminent he had already programmed his craft to head directly to the planet where all the universe’s werewolves had congregated. There he knew he would be safe. More than that, his coming would be final proof of the werewolves’ faith in him—that he had not, and never would, abandon them.
Galaxies shot by in blurs of yellow and pink light as the King of the Werewolves strove on to shake his pursuers and near his final destination.
The first missile caught the rear end of Bósifried’s spacecraft and ripped off a chunk of the upper fuselage. The Zlochin had been careless in their aim. Bósifried howled, snarled, howled again, as the impact sent his craft spinning off course—and his precious crown flying from his head—and he struggled to regain control of his machine. Rapidly, he hit several buttons on the console in front of him, activating the ship’s auto-repair function, then gripped the dirigibility lever to assume manual control. A few seconds later equilibrium had been restored, and auto-pilot reinstated. In his long, freshly sharpened claws the King of the Werewolves picked up his crown and restored it to his head. Again he howled.
The voice that came through on the intership communicating screen was unrecognisable, but its message was clear.
—Bósifried, it is folly to continue further with this preposterous charade. You cannot escape. We outnumber you four-to-one. We will soon have you surrounded. You are a wise beast, you have proven that over your time, but new laws of history are being written, and it has come to pass that you must face due process. Save your dignity, Bósifried, and surrender. Your brethren will praise the sacrifice. Alas! they too will fall foul of the redaction in the cosmic anthropology, for their extinction has already been ordained. Listen to reason, Bósifried, give yourself up and be remembered with the nobility that your kind richly deserves.
The King of the Werewolves howled again, and spat a torrent of diseased phlegm at the communicating screen. He was only sorry that he was unable to unleash his wrath on his opponent in person.
Several aeons passed by without Bósifried replying to the demands of his executioners-in-waiting. He had no intention of capitulating, and increased the speed of his craft toS≥0.06/-1. He checked his galactic longitude and latitude on the positional abacus. He snarled and pawed the console in delight as he realised he was less than thirty light years from the werewolf colony.
A second missile hit the craft, causing substantially more damage than the first. The Zlochin had improved their aim. The ballistic tore straight through the fuselage, leaving a gaping hole from one side to the other, like that left by a CuniCz ™ laser through the soft rock mountains of the Vltiviaan Andes. By sheer coincidence, neither Bósifried’s flight path nor any of the ship’s navigational equipment was damaged; the missile had failed to hit any vital apparatus. The only noticeable effect, after the initial explosion and subsequent shockwave, was a slight reduction in the spacecraft’s velocity. Bósifried moved up two gears toS≥0.08/-1 to compensate for the increase in drag.
He checked the positional abacus again: Fifteen light years and counting until touchdown. He surmised that he was in range now of sending a message to the werewolf colony that he was finally coming to visit them, that they need do nothing in preparation except ready themselves to welcome him, but ultimately decided against this course. He thought it would be better to arrive unannounced; that way he could truly observe their authentic reaction to his presence.
On the perception monitors Bósifried could see the four pursuing spacecraft gaining on him. He checked his fuel levels and cursed himself for not having set the replenishment gauge, which would have instantly replaced fuel as it was burnt. Now levels were getting critically low; perhaps only eleven light years’ worth remained, and there was no time now to activate the replenishment gauge. He performed some quick calculations on the reckoning engine. With enough propulsion it might just be possible to reach the werewolf colony even when the fuel ran out; the momentum should just be enough to get him within two or three light months, from which distance he could complete his descent. The risk had to be taken. The King of the Werewolves increased his speed toS≥0.09/-1.
A third missile attack from the Zlochin did nothing to slow Bósifried down. Another message came across the intership communicating system, the distinct tone of desperation in the voice giving Bósifried a singular reassurance that victory was within his reach. The missile penetrated his craft similarly to the second, causing much superficial damage but leaving all essential machinery unaffected. On the positional abacus, Bósifried could now see the exact location of the werewolf colony, and programmed his route accordingly into the navigational console. To be on the safe side he duplicated the coordinates in the spacecraft’s back up routemaster. With a final blast of warp speed he left his pursuers behind.
The King of the Werewolves snarled, howled, snarled again.
From an anonymous planet in the constellation of Vulpecula, where the universe’s entire population of werewolves had built a safe haven for themselves, a rapidly moving bright white light could be seen in the sky, approaching the planet in a steady arc. The werewolf elders feared the worst: That some unrelenting enemy had tracked them down, intent on seeing them out once and for all. Seemingly abandoned by their godhead, the formerly all-powerful Bósifried, the elders had taken it upon themselves to ensure the continued survival of their community. With the entire body of werewolf knowledge at their disposal they had constructed a devastating defence system on their new planet. A series of gigantic launchers, each with a warhead containing the explosive power of half a pulsar, had been set up at strategic, regular intervals all across the landscape and seascape. No matter where an attack came from, the colony would be defended.
For several months the werewolf elders followed the trajectory of the mysterious invader, holding their fire until they were sure of what they faced. By recording its progression and speed they were able to predict its path with unerring accuracy. The day of reckoning would soon be upon them.
When the day came, the elders knew their fears had been justified. A great cylindrical craft was bearing down on them, its luminous yellow and orange livery distinct against the dark background of the sky. The elders gave the order, and one, another, then a third warhead was launched. The three missiles hit the invading spacecraft simultaneously, blowing it to smithereens, trails of dust and debris sprawling out in every which way like the most magnificent firework.
The elders did not rejoice. Their faces displayed a heavy sorrow. For now that they knew they had to protect themselves, they also knew for certain that that could only mean one thing: Their godhead, Bósifried, was dead.
Christopher Bleakley’s previous credits include spinetinglers.co.uk winner (October 2011), short stories in the Static Movement anthologies Cobwebs and Antiquities and Medieval Nightmares, and a short story to be published in the upcoming Crooked Cat anthology, Fear.
The smell of ozone (an aftereffect of the tranship’s quantum punch into a new dimension) usually assaulted Artemis’ keen lycanthropic senses, its absence a good sign.
“Processing,” said the tranship’s A.I. system. According to the ship’s instruments, Artemis had landed somewhere near where Chicago would be located on her Earth. Looking outside the ship, she admired the night sky’s stars. Back home, the Moon would be out now. She would be howling at it, her human body covered in lupine fur.
“Parallel Earth 1576899 has no natural satellites,” reported Ship.
Finally, she thought. An Earth without a Moon.
After years of hunting monsters and fighting ninjas, globetrotting adventurer Reed Beebe has retired to a quiet Kansas City, Missouri neighborhood to write fiction and poetry. He is still trying to figure out Twitter, but if you’re patient and forgiving, you can follow him at http://twitter.com/ReedBeebe.
There is always a full moon in space.
Once you break atmosphere and you’re far enough out to see the curve of the Earth, Terran rotation doesn’t matter anymore. You’re just out there—you, the tin can, her expanse, and nothing to stop it.
God, she was gorgeous, the cursed bitch. Molloy couldn’t get over it; she filled the shuttle window like God’s own snowball. He could feel the howl building, moving from balls to throat to tongue, tightening them all along the way. He had just enough time to take in the carnage that was once his colleagues, to hear the screaming alarms of ruined equipment, and to consider that maybe this was something he should have considered, should have realized, before accepting the commission. Then he tasted the blood on his tongue and felt the flex of muscle that raised the ridge of fur along his spine. It was the Moon and he owed her the paean.
He threw his head back. Molloy—and the beast—sang.
Dawn Nikithser has been writing since she could hold a crayon in her babyfat hand. She is pleased to say that both her handwriting and her ideas have improved since then, though she will still use a crayon if nothing else is available. I hope that you will it meets your needs for this submission period.
As the starship settled into orbit around the newly discovered planet, the captain ordered active sensors turned on. Within minutes reports of farming and ranching communities reached his desk. People, sheep and cattle were abundant. Wolves packs were also detected nearby.
The executive officer noted that the planet seemed perfect. His commander grunted in agreement.
The captain configured the ship for stealth approach and ordered the landing protocol.
When his ship was safely on the ground the captain approved shore leave. As the hatches opened the crew emerged, morphing into howling werewolves with a whole new world available to them.
Mr. Tobin holds a degree in mathematics from LaSalle University. He retired from L-3 Communications after a career in software engineering. His Christmas stories The Legend of Christmas Past, Fred the Christmas Dog, and A Soldier’s Christmas will be published late in 2012. The Knock on the Door appears in A Fistful of Horror, an anthology from Cruentus Libri Press. Cramer appears in I’ll Never Go Away, an anthology from Rainstorm Press. Winds of Winter appears in The Speculative Edge and The Black Pumpkin appears in 31 More Nights of Halloween, an anthology from Rainstorm Press. His story, Chuckles, was podcast by The Electric Chair on October 14, 2012. He is a member of the South Jersey Writer’s Group.
It requires a great deal of fortitude to embark upon a journey that lasts more than ten years, especially to a place you’ve never been, a place you’ve only read about. Yet this was precisely what Lucas Phelan endeavored to do. He was going home, as it were, to Earth, and he was nearly there.
Although Earth was where all of Gamma Epsilon’s colonists had originated, Lucas recalled that few ever mentioned the planet. Even when asked, any reply tended to be short and rather cryptic. Lucas, of course, had no direct knowledge of Earth, nor did his parents, nor even his grandparents, all having been born on the colony or in transit to their future home. It was only through a few brief writings left by his great grandparents that any link could be made between himself and his familial home.
There were occasions when he had overheard talk of the “dark times,” but most of what was said he didn’t understand. There were whispers about imprisonments and inquisitions, but he had no idea how they applied to his situation. The long and the short of it was that his forebears, along with a number of others, set off for Epsilon Eridani, a relatively nearby star, as part of what was ostensibly a scientific expedition, although it was never explained by whom the voyage was sponsored, or why, or precisely what they were supposed to study. And not knowing exactly what they might find, were prepared to spend the rest of their lives aboard ship, if necessary, the vessel acting as permanent space station.
Fortunately, however, there were planets orbiting the star, one of which was able to sustain life on a permanent, though not particularly comfortable, basis. Agriculture was limited in the hot, dry environment, but was capable of supporting a limited population. There were other useful resources available on the planet, most importantly enough precious metals and rare ores to make trade possible, or as much as could be possible with the distances involved. Eventually, the colony grew a bit, and was considered reasonably successful.
But all that had transpired nearly a hundred years ago. What news came through now from Earth was much brighter, or so it seemed. Lucas had made a tidy sum through his hard labor in the mines, plus a bit more with some luck in speculating, so he was relatively well off. He had, however, grown tired of the incessant dust, heat, and his otherwise dreary existence, so when the opportunity presented itself for him to leave, he jumped at the chance.
Even though this ship was much faster and provided a more refined travelling experience than the one his family had embarked upon all those years ago, it wasn’t what one might call a pleasant journey. Tedious might be the best word to describe it, locked for so long inside the dull gray walls and dimly lighted passages of the huge transport. And although he had a better idea of what awaited him upon arrival than did those on the dreadful pilgrimage of his ancestors, deep within something still felt eerily similar.
There was little to do on such a long journey except to indulge one’s mind. There were, of course, games such as chess, poker, and backgammon, usually played against a computer or service android as there were seldom enough humans on board these transports to find an interested, or interesting, partner. In addition, the ship’s library was quite extensive and available via access terminals in each passenger cabin and various designated recreational areas. This was not only for entertainment, but part of the virtual educational opportunities on board. This was rather fortunate for Lucas, as he, succumbing to boredom of the seemingly endless unchanging days, chose to immerse himself in academics, obtaining a degree in the medieval history of Earth, one of the few subjects he found truly fascinating.
He first became interested in the topic by reading the works of his favorite Earth author, Bennett, a popular writer in her time, who wrote whimsical tales of fantasy, often drawing upon her own extensive knowledge of the period. She told of castles and kings, of great battles, of wizards and magical creatures, and of lush, colorful landscapes so different and appealing when compared to dry, flat plains of Gamma Epsilon.
Most of all, it was the description of the moon in her sagas, something none of the three planets in the Epsilon Eridani system had, that captured his imagination. Her words, telling of its pure, hypnotic light, caused his to pulse race. She made it sound so beautiful, so powerful –something you could not only see, but feel; a power so irresistible it could even lead to madness. It was beyond the abilities of his mind to comprehend how this could be.
Soon, however, he would know. The huge ship was being placed into lunar orbit allowing cargo destined for the satellite to be transferred and travel-weary passengers to disembark. It would also be the transfer point for the shuttles to Earth. More importantly, so far as Lucas was concerned, was that the observation deck would finally be accessible, providing passengers like himself with their first glimpse of Earth’s moon.
Lucas made his way toward the observation deck, located near the rear of the ship, anticipating the view. As the transport slowly rotated, the moon would become visible for short periods of time every few hours. As he approached, he could see the glow coming through the window in the airtight security door leading to the observation area.
As he entered the room, the brightness was more than his eyes could take, almost painful, with his vision, used to the internal twilight of the ship’s inner recesses, only slowly adjusting. The assigned orbit was closer to the moon than he had expected, and though he needed to squint a bit, the view was exquisite. Lucas sat back in one of the chairs, immersing himself in the opalescent radiance. That was all he needed in order to understand, to know, why it had captured the imagination of poets, singers, and romantics over the ages. It was beautiful, pure and luminous, a color unlike any he had ever known. He closed his eyes, absorbing the cool whiteness that penetrated not only his eyelids, but his mind. It was as if he could feel the gentle fingers of light entering his body, giving it an energy he could barely contain.
Lucas opened his eyes to the fading glow as the last part of the moon passed behind the edge of the window. He was exhausted, sweaty, even slightly groggy from his experience, but immensely pleased. There would be at least two more chances to view the moon up close before he departed on the shuttle to Earth, and he knew he would be back.
Until then, he had time to clean up before his transfer to Earth. He ran his fingers through his hair, surprised at how long it was, longer than he expected. Apparently, he’d allowed himself to become slightly unkempt during his migration. There really wasn’t much reason to spend too much effort primping for the few on board, but this was just too much. And his nails certainly needed trimming, and, upon inspection, decided a shave might be in order, feeling the heavy stubble as he rubbed his hand over his face. A trip to the grooming salon would be appropriate, where one of the service androids could attend to him, perhaps with enough time to take a shower before the moon again became visible.
Once properly freshened, he again made his way back to the rear of the ship and headed directly toward the observation deck. As he approached the entrance, Lucas spotted one of the crew near the door. It was Jenkins, a steward, there to perform whatever general duties for which the androids might not be suitable. Lucas had always felt uneasy around Jenkins, as he did about many of the crew. It was nothing he could pin down. There was just something different about them, perhaps nothing more than they were all from Earth. Whatever the reason, Lucas constantly felt the need to have his guard up, and he seldom spent time with them, even with the dearth of human faces aboard. Lucas walked up and nodded as he reached towards the switch for the door, the radiant white light building within the room beyond. Jenkins seemed to stare back at him, though he obviously recognized him immediately, being there were so few on board to remember.
“Sorry, Lucas, but no one’s allowed onto the observation deck while we’re docking. It’s not a safe area should an accident occur. You’ll have to stay behind the security doors – they’re a lot stronger than the windows on the observation deck.”
“What?” Lucas replied, his eyes narrowing as he turned toward Jenkins.
“You’ll have to come back later.”
“I don’t want to come back later.”
“Are you all right, Lucas? You don’t look – all right,” Jenkins said nervously.
“I need to see the moon,” Lucas grumbled, pacing back and forth in front of Jenkins. “I need to see it now.”
“Look, I’m trying to be nice about this, but I have a job to do. The moon will be visible again in a couple of hours, and you can come back after we’ve safely docked.”
“I don’t think you understand,” Lucas said tersely, moving closer. “I don’t just want to see the moon, I need to see the moon, to feel that light upon my skin. I have to go in,” he growled, placing his hand over the communicator on the Jenkins’ chest, his fingers digging into his uniform. “I’d kill to get in there.”
Jenkins stood transfixed by the pressure of the hand on his chest and the glare of the darkening eyes into which he stared. Lucas could feel his heart racing, his breathing become erratic. A spot of blood grew on the shirt where the nails from Lucas’ hand had pierced the skin, a hand that rose further up Jenkins’ chest until it rested just below his neck. The two stood nose to nose for a moment, Lucas’ hot breath spilling onto Jenkins’ face, stinging eyes too terrified to close. As the ship continued its slow rotation, a beam of pure white light shot through the thick glass of the security door leading to the observation deck.
“Yes,” Lucas said in a raspy voice, tightening the claws of his hairy hand around Jenkins’ throat.
K. R. Smith is a full-time Information Technology Specialist and a part-time writer, frustrated by his inability to get any meaningful programming code to rhyme and still function properly. While mainly interested in writing short stories of the horror genre, he occasionally delves into poetry, songwriting, and the visual arts. His escapades may be followed by reading his blog atwww.theworldofkrsmith.com.
“You have to see the Wizard,” said the talking wolf.
“What?” asked the stranger from the crashed balloon.
“The Wizard can help you get back home, like he did for Dorothy.”
“A girl from Kansas. Heard of Kansas?”
“Good. The Wizard can help you. We will go to the Emerald City together.”
“Well, sir, you’re no wolf, but I feel a kinship with you. I’m happy to help.”
“How do we get there?”
“We follow the road of yellow brick. And soon we’ll see the Wizard.”
Good, thought the stranger. Hopefully before the next full moon.
After years of hunting monsters and fighting ninjas, globetrotting adventurer Reed Beebe has retired to a quiet Kansas City, Missouri neighborhood to write fiction and poetry. He is still trying to figure out Twitter, but if you’re patient and forgiving, you can follow him at http://twitter.com/ReedBeebe.