I found another one I’d totally forgotten about the other day

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I wrote down what happened when I was thinking out loud about my life a few years ago back in New Zealand. I admit it, I talk to myself. So what, some of the most intelligent and frank conversations I’ve ever had have been with myself.😉

~~~

The Conversation

I sat on the hard wooden bench on the deck looking out towards the harbour entrance. “So why have you come down here to live Jack?” I asked myself.

“It’s as good a place as any,” I replied, rolling a smoke. I put down the pouch of tobacco and reached for my lighter. “Why do you want to know that?” I asked, lighting the hand-rolled cigarette.

“No reason in particular, most people wonder why someone your age is still footloose and fancy free, so to speak?”

I inhaled and stared out towards the harbour mouth. Small barely perceptible clouds of smoke were released through my tobacco-stained moustache that drifted in a hazy grey-blue cloud around my head. “I guess the only reason I came here was to find peace and quiet,” I said, finally exhaling the remainder of the smoke through the baleen-like strands of hair that make up my moustache.

“I’ve travelled most parts of this beautiful bloody world of ours. I came to this country back in the late fifties with my parents as a young boy,” I went on, flicking the ash from the slow burning roll-up onto the deck, before pushing it between the planks with my shoe. “It’s taken me a while to realise that this place is probably as good as anywhere else. So here I am,” I added as I watched a fishing boat heading out for a day’s sport as I picked up my mug of coffee.

“That still doesn’t answer my question,” I said, pressing the point. I never waste words on idle conversation. I knew I would sit and think for a long time before saying anything more.

“I’ve spent most of my life working and earning just like the rest of the poor bastards in this world,” I said, at long last. I put down the mug, flicked the short stub of my spent roll-up in the air, and started to roll another. Lighting the new one, I inhaled. The now familiar slow release of smoke through my moustache signalled the beginning of my answer. “Think about it Jack, I collapsed and was hopitalized from stress back in ninety-one – remember?” I began. “Since then I’ve realized that all the things that most people spend their entire lives working and saving for are a bloody pointless waste of time. You come into this world with nothing and you damned well leave the same way. So what’s the bloody point! After that little episode I realised that all the things that seem important, simply aren’t anymore,” I continued, through a haze of smoke. “Since that time, I’ve never been able to stick a job for very long. As for possessions and the like, I’ve given most of mine away. When I’ve got no more use for something, what’s the point in keeping it?”

I looked back through the door into the room. A small battery powered travelling alarm stood by the bed. A couple of books were on the floor among the pile of dirty clothes. A bag was slung in the corner with clean clothes poking out over its sides. A small transistor radio and a library book lay on the bed. “Why have you given everything away? Why not sell the stuff instead?” I asked, as I gazed across the harbour from where I sat.

“Why not?” I finished off the remainder of my mug of coffee and put the empty mug down beside me. “The job I’ve got brings in just enough for me to live on,” I continued, while the familiar cloud of smoke drifted slowly away, “I’ll keep going for as long as my health holds out. These days I take each day as it comes. There’s no point in planning too far ahead, you never know what’s round the corner waiting to bite you in the arse.”

I sat for a moment before I asked myself, “What about family? Surely they must wonder about you?”

“The old saying about you being able to choose your friends and not your relative’s pretty well answers the question, don’t you think? I replied, shifting my gaze back out towards the harbour through those far away eyes of mine. I continued watching the boats. “My old man was a total bastard. He treated my mother like a skivvy. They say you inherit a lot from your parents, good and bad – mostly bad in my case. If that’s so, why in hell would I want to inflict my bloody genes on someone else? I was an only child. I’m used to being on my own. I don’t crave companionship in the way you’re talking about,” I quietly reminded myself.

I sat for a moment before adding, “I met my old man’s first cousin once. It was like travelling back in time. He was a nasty spiteful control freak just like my old man! That’s what I mean by inheriting stuff. If it wasn’t for the fact that dad’s cousin was in his eighties, I’d have hung one on him for the way he used to speak to me! He not only looked like my old man, he treated his own close family in exactly the same bloody way! I was warned about him by distant cousins before I met him. But I always tend to look for the good in people when I meet them for the first time. Even so I wasn’t prepared for his vicious little outbursts of bile! Although thinking about it now, I damn well should have shouldn’t I?”

At that point I had to stop. I was stirring up too many bad memories, so I just sat in total silence for a couple of hours, enjoying the early morning sunshine…

~~~

😉

Céleste: Love, Hate, Revenge and Danger among the Stars

The reviews so far…

Have We Had Help?

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Now for my latest science fiction novella

~~~

Falling in love is always complicated especially for a disembodied artificial intelligence like Céleste, aboard the exploratory spaceship Apkallu. For her to be able to physically express her love for the man who means so much to her will be impossible to achieve, or will it?

~~~

Eason’s best work yet, his new book Céleste combines romance and science fiction in a story that has a twist on every page – Nicholas Rossis

Romance beyond the stars abounds in this sensuous sci-fi, entwined with mission, morals and lust. Eason takes us to a place where human desire dwells in mankind and aliens alike, no matter how many light years away – D.G. Kaye

Jack Eason never rests. When he is not knee deep in archaeology, or wandering around forests in elf fables, he is busy combining sci-fi with a little added romantic…

View original post 577 more words

An Extract For You

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By now, you all know the quality of my writing from the short stories of mine which you have had the pleasure of reading over the past few weeks. It’s now time for you help me out by first of all reading a short edited extract from my latest novella, which by the way is not just another run of the mill scifi tale but also a love story, and then by buying yourselves a copy…

~~~

The mission commander took one last look at the beautiful blue planet he and the crew called home as the ship prepared to leave Earth orbit. Now was the time for its crew to enter their stasis units. “If there are any problems at all Céleste, please don’t hesitate to wake me.”

“Understood David,” was the reply that echoed all around him. Not only the ship but its small crew and the mission itself were in the care of the ship’s state of the art artificial intelligence. For the several decades it would take to achieve their goal, she was in complete control whenever the crew were held in stasis. Once she had ensured he and the rest of the human crew were in a safe state of suspended animation, she uploaded the complicated course with its numerous way points into the ship’s computer. Each waypoint must be reached in a specific order for them to ultimately arrive at the mission’s destination – the exoplanet designated Beaumont 61, located at the absolute outer extremity of the Orion Spur, the same spiral arm in which our own solar system is situated, part of the galaxy we know as the Milky Way.

~~~

Apkallu’s artificial intelligence was christened Céleste by the youthful team of highly gifted bio-electronic software graduates responsible for her creation. The ship’s Fusion reactor was designed and developed by a team of lateral thinking nuclear engineers from China, Korea, Germany and Japan. Lastly, the crew’s individual stasis units were conceived, designed and constructed in India. On reaching the first waypoint situated at the closest position possible to the Andromeda galaxy still within the spiral arm, Cèleste would wake the crew.

She engaged the Fusion powered propulsion system, gradually building up its output to a nominal thirty percent to achieve maximum sub light speed. Even though in theory it was capable of propelling Apkallu at the speed of light, given that it was still untried technology, whether or not it was safe to do so was considered a risk too far by its designers. They believed it was far better to err on the side of caution, unless Apkallu’s crew found the need to use its theoretical maximum speed to extract themselves and the ship from some as yet unforeseen circumstance.

~~~

Apkallu finally arrived at the first waypoint, five years after leaving Earth orbit. How their bodies would react to being in stasis for an extended period of time was yet another unknown. Céleste had constantly monitored each one of them for any sign of medical problems throughout the entire time it took to get here, paying particular attention to David for reasons which will soon become apparent. Before they could go about their duties, Andreas would have to give each one of them a full medical after first checking himself over.

“David, how do you feel?” she asked with a tinge of concern for him in her voice.

“Lethargic,” he groggily replied, trying with some difficulty to shake off the effects of his unnaturally long period of sleep. “God I’m hungry. I need proper food, not substitutes. How is everyone else?” he asked while he unplugged himself from the unit’s intravenous system that had supplied him with nutrients essential to his wellbeing.

“I’ll check for you.”

“Thank you. While you’re at it can you please ask them all to assemble in the observation lounge, once they’ve been given the all clear by Andreas?”

“Of course David, it will be my pleasure.”

While the crew were slowly recovering from the effects of years of physical inactivity, they took in the magical sight of our sister galaxy, Andromeda, floating in the star filled cosmos beyond the lounge’s vista windows. “Ok people,” David began. “While we all recover from our first taste of being in stasis we’ll remain here for a few days. Once we’re back to normal, we have a couple of tasks to perform before we head for the next waypoint. By that I mean we will be placing the first of a series of listening stations and optical observatories here. In the meantime get as much rest as you possibly can. Always providing of course that the good doctor here is not too insistent upon all of us taking part in some kind of punishing fitness regime he has dreamt up that is.” His last comment drew smiles and laughter from everyone with the exception of Andreas who failed to appreciate David’s joke at his expense. “That’s it for now. Lukas what’s on the menu, I don’t know about the rest of you but I need real food, not those damned stasis unit nutrients?”

“If Flávia and Rieko will consent to give me a hand I’ll rustle up something in a half hour or so,” the Belgian replied as his own belly began grumbling. With that David left to head to his private quarters for the first time in the mission.

~~~

Even before she spoke, David’s sixth sense told him that Céleste was about to say something. “David, may I have a word please?”

“Of course you can. What is it?” Even though she was nothing more than a disembodied presence to her human crew mates, her creators had given her voice a delightfully seductive French accent, which he found extremely pleasing to the ear.

“I’m curious about something. Can you tell me what is it that attracts a man to a woman?”

David was completely caught off guard by her question. “Well, I can only speak for myself. For me it’s a mixture of her intelligence, personality, attitude and looks, combined with how relaxed she feels in my presence. Take Flávia for example. Her mix of Amazonian Indian and Portuguese ancestry has manifested itself in a typical example of South American womanhood. Unfortunately, she appears to exhibit all the signs of becoming a total pain in the backside at some point in the future given her petulant manner and the arrogant way she reacts towards other women like Rieko. I put that down to the fact that she is the only child of very rich parents, and therefore was, and probably still is, spoilt. It strikes me that she is the kind of shallow creature who uses her looks to get her own way. It would not surprise me in the least if her parents had secured her degrees in return for a large donation to the university she attended. We’ll see if she actually did earn them when we arrive at Beaumont 61 when she is called upon to do what she was hired for. Until then I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt on that score.

Rieko on the other hand couldn’t be more different. While she is also extremely pleasing to the male eye, she gives the impression of having been brought up in the traditional Japanese manner. Which means that like all of her countrywomen, she was taught from birth how to entrance anyone she meets by the way she exudes femininity, gentleness, intelligence, grace and charm, while rarely speaking unless spoken to. I hope that helps to answer your question?”

“Yes – thank you. May I ask you other questions when they occur to me?”

“Of course; is there anything else you want to know at the moment?”

“Yes there was one other thing, forgive me for asking but who is that in the image on your bedside table?”

David picked up the framed photograph with a faraway look in his eyes. “I never knew her name. But that didn’t stop me falling in love with her in my teens when I first came across her photograph on the Internet. It’s the only personal possession I brought with me. Quite honestly Céleste, I couldn’t bear to be parted with it. I really wish I could have met her…”

“I’m sorry for prying. I thought she might be your fiancée.”

“Sadly no, as far as I can make out she lived at some time during the twenty-first century,” he replied, with a sad expression on his unshaven face and the merest hint of a tear beginning to well up in his eyes, which affected Céleste to the point where she dearly wished that she had a physical presence so that she could comfort him. “Is there anything else you wish to ask me?”

“Not at the moment David. Thank you.”

“Then it’s time to take a familiarisation tour of Apkallu. Would you care to join me?”

“You forget, wherever you are in the ship I’m always by your side David,” she quietly reminded him.

~~~

“How do you feel David?”

“My god Céleste, is that really you?”

“Yes of course it’s me silly,” she replied with a sweet smile on her beautiful face.

“But how is this possible?” he asked, utterly delighted, yet totally baffled. Before him stood the woman whose photo he had fallen head over heels in love with all those years ago.

“While you and the crew were in stasis, and when I was not attending to various maintenance issues and altering Apkallu’s course to avoid colliding with numerous sizeable examples of cosmic debris, I decided to research the woman in the image on your bedside table who completely stole your heart. It took me several years of searching the Internet before I eventually found out that her name was Gabriela Cabral, as well as everything I could find concerning her tragic life story.

Like Flávia she was born in Brazil, but at the end of the twentieth century. Because of what she was, combined with her personal circumstances, at twenty-two she had to flee her homeland. She got as far as London where she constantly lived in fear for her life due to the number of other Brazilians living there. Inevitably she was recognised and betrayed by someone who came from the same favela as her in the hills surrounding Rio de Janeiro. Then in twenty twenty-five, she tragically died at the hands of the man who had made her life a living hell. Back in the favela he often beat and raped her before dragging her out to work the back streets of Rio as a prostitute to support his drug habit. At his trial, when he was asked by the prosecution why he had murdered her in cold blood, he told the court that as far as he was concerned she signed her own death warrant when she escaped from his clutches in the dead of night. At the conclusion of the trial the jury didn’t need to deliberate the evidence David. Instead they immediately returned a unanimous guilty verdict, asking the judge to impose the death penalty.

Once I had found out all there was to know about her, by using several more photographs that I came across during my search I was finally able to reproduce her form. I hope my new body pleases you.”

“I don’t know what to say except thank you for bringing the woman of my dreams to life,” David replied with a huge grin on his face “It’s completely tragic that such a beautiful human being as her was forced into prostitution, beaten and raped, and then murdered for taking her chance to escape her former life. By the way, what did you mean when you said what she was?”

Céleste said nothing. Instead she briefly turned her back, giving him the chance to see her from behind while she began to slowly unzip the crème body suit she was wearing, who’s extremely thin fabric literally clung to every curve and intimate detail of her body like a second skin, leaving very little to the imagination. When she turned round to face him, his suspicions were proven correct. She was wearing nothing beneath it. She proceeded to slowly unzip the suit even further, allowing his eyes to take in her magnificent cleavage and her stomach. When the zip finally reached its fullest extent, what she ultimately revealed was something he was definitely not expecting…

~~~

Well people, if the above heavily edited extract from my scifi novella caught your interest, and you want to know what happens next, not only between Céleste and David, but also the rest of the crew of Apkallu, don’t put it off. Buy a copy at:

Amazon.com

and

Amazon.co.uk

PS – don’t forget, if after buying and reading your copy, you enjoyed reading it, tell your friends and please review it on whichever Amazon site you bought it from.

Conversely – if you didn’t, then don’t. There are far to many negative reviews out there as it is. Not just for my books but everyone else’s…

😉

The biggest ripoff in the publishing world today

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…or – how a fool and his money are soon parted

~~~

Last month with my book sales at absolute zero for several days, I decided to conduct a one time only experiment. Why not do the other thing – try paid advertising, after all we writers are being continually bombarded by the promoters to partake of their services. So because my publisher is Amazon, I went with their Amazon Marketing Services.

The first of my books I put forward for consideration was Race Against Time, which they refused because the cover showed human skulls (click on the red link), which beggars belief since it was perfectly acceptable to use when I published it via Amazon’s KDP. So I then proposed they promote Céleste, which was accepted.

The alarm bells began to ring when I found out that the minimum amount they allow you to budget for is US$100. I don’t know about you but to me, one hundred dollars is a lot of money, The starting date for the advertising campaign was the 14th of November this year. The end date was the 13th of January next year (2017).

The theory behind the exercise is that for every click on the advert by someone, Amazon take US$00.15 from your budget. At this point the alarm bells were really ringing.

What it does not mean is that you get any sales. After a few days I terminated it. As it turned out during the short period I let it run for, according to Amazon Marketing they posted 12,352 ads. Any reasonable person might conclude that from that many adverts, surely the writer might expect at the very least fifty to one hundred sales. No such luck.

In effect I gained just one.

So if any of you are considering paid advertising, FOR GOD’S SAKE DON’T DO IT!

Just remember this – you are spending your own money on something your publisher should be doing for nothing. The only ones who benefit from scams like paid advertising are those actually promoting its use!

Newsflash! When you publish a book, the general idea is that other people spend money to get themselves a copyNOT YOU, YOU IDIOT! NOR DOES GIVING AWAY FREE COPIES GUARANTEE FUTURE SALES EITHER! And yet for reasons of sheer stupidity and desperation many continue to do both. The whole notion of paid advertising is nothing more than another money making scam. Will I be partaking in something like this again? If you have to ask…

I don’t need to apply the principals of Ockham’s Razor here to work out that I sell far more books through talking to potential readers on Facebook and from my linked posts (anything highlighted in red is a book link) here on my blog than I ever will now that Amazon has stopped all Indie promotion. As the old proverb at the top of this post says – a fool and his money are soon parted…

😛

One last short story

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This final short story is losely based on what happened to me soon after I moved into my neighbourhood ten years ago. While I have used some poetic licence, be in no doubt Oswald is my alter ego; and no that is not me pictured above…

~~~

Oswald’s Revenge

Without a word she plunged her hand into Oswald’s jacket pocket. The next moment she was frantically rubbing her hand on her dress. She ran screaming into the night.

Oswald rose groggily to his feet. Grabbing his walking stick, he readied himself to strike out at the teenage girl’s two male companions should they try to do him any harm. Any further action on his part ended a few moments later when a police car stopped beside them, taking both of the youths by surprise. After seizing and handcuffing one youth, a police officer helped Oswald to a seat at the bus stop. The other policeman gave chase on foot, rugby tackling the remaining youth, and quickly handcuffed him.

“My name is Michael Oswald Jerome. I’m sixty three. What else do you want to know? You already know where I live,” he replied to the police officer’s routine questions while a medic from the ambulance the policeman had called gave him a thorough check over. Except for a few cuts and bruises, he had come through his latest unnerving experience relatively unscathed.

After the third painful assault by the young scumbags in the neighbourhood where he lived, Oswald decided that enough was enough. Being a creature of habit he always kept his wallet in his coat pocket. Twice now he had been knocked to the ground by the two teenage boys, egged on by their female companion who then rifled through his pockets, stealing what she found. Each time as a parting gesture, the youths viciously kicked him. On one occasion he had to be hospitalized for a couple of days with broken ribs.

Oswald swore to himself that the next time it happened, even if he died, he would get his revenge on the female ringleader.

~~~

The part of town he lived in is populated mostly by the unemployed and the unemployable like himself. Simply taking a walk down the street and around the corner to the local supermarket, even in broad daylight, is like entering a warzone.

Since he had been moved here five years previously after being found living rough on the streets of a nearby coastal town, down on his luck, it hadn’t taken the local yobs very long to suss him out as an easy target to mug, or someone to viciously kick or beat up just for the hell of it.

If you saw Oswald on the street you would have simply written him off as just another unwashed vagrant. But if you had bothered to get to know him, you would soon realise that you were in the company of a highly intelligent man.

Oswald shut himself off from the world at large behind securely locked and bolted doors and windows, never venturing out unless it was absolutely essential. Instead of opening his front door and going out into the world, he relied heavily on buying everything he needed online, and communicating with his few friends across the world via email.

Fourty years earlier in a warzone in another country, he had married a local girl in a simple Buddhist ceremony for three reasons. Number one, he had fallen head over heels in love. Secondly at nineteen he was as horny as hell. Thirdly, being married to a local girl meant he could live off base. She had died, six months into his second tour of duty; a casualty of allied bombing. Their plans of her and their new-born son, who also perished in the bombing raid, following him home tragically ended thanks to friendly fire. Mix this with the things he saw and did under fire and is it any wonder he became a member of that band of warriors who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, mentally scarred forever more?

Sadly, such are the fortunes of war. Oswald didn’t get over his wartime experiences, nor did he ever feel he could allow himself to get too close to another human being ever again. Somewhere deep within his still traumatised mind, he feared that tragedy would take away whoever he gave his heart to.

~~~

The next morning, a loud knock on his door made him jump. He peered out of his kitchen window and saw a police car. Finding his keys, Oswald went to his front door and unlocked it. A different policeman stood there with a stern look on his face.

“Michael Oswald Jerome?”

“Yes.”

“I have here a warrant for your arrest,” the policeman said matter-of-factly. “You are to be charged with causing grievous bodily harm.” He indicated to Oswald that he should hold out his hands to be handcuffed. After getting his coat, walking stick and hat before locking his door for him, the policeman took him to the station, where he spent the night in the cells.

The following morning Oswald was taken by prison van to the county courthouse to stand trial. As far as the lawyer for the young female gang leader was concerned, whether it was an open and shut case was extremely debatable. She sat beside him, smirking and determined to make Oswald’s life hell yet again.

Before he had been transported to court, Oswald had smartened himself up by washing himself and combing his hair, before putting on his coat and hat.

The justice of the peace entered the courtroom and took his seat as everyone stood. Oswald shifted his weight on the uncomfortable wooden chair in the dock. He reached inside his pocket unseen by the majority and pinned something on his chest.

“The accused will rise,” the court clerk ordered before he prepared to read out the charge.

The sound of people gasping filled the courtroom as Oswald stood to attention. The female gang leader’s lawyer shook his head. As far as Oswald was concerned he was on parade again in front of his commanding officer. He stood there, back straight, thumbs lined up with the stitching on his trousers, eyes front.

“Your honour, given the accused’s obvious excellent record, I am urging my young client to drop her case and if the court will agree, I shall advise her to hand herself over to the police.”

“But he hurt my hand look!” the girl yelled indignantly, waiving her heavily bandaged hand. “Dirty old farts like him deserve what they get – smelly old git!”

The justice of the peace banged his fist on his bench.

“Silence, silence in court. Young woman, you will show respect for a very brave man. Take a good look at the medals on his chest. In particular look closely at the first one. Bailiff, take her over to the dock please.”

The burly bailiff did as he was bid and forcibly escorted the teenage girl over to where Oswald still stood proudly to attention. She looked at Oswald’s row of medals. They meant absolutely nothing to her.

“Yeh, so what?” she said almost spitting out the words.

The justice indicated that she should be returned to her seat.

“Young lady; and I use the word ‘lady’ advisedly in your case, the first medal on this gentleman’s chest is the highest military medal for gallantry this country has.

I have read the reports of the police officers who went to Mr Jerome’s aid when you and your two associates set upon him. The sergeant in charge tells me that this is the fourth time this gentleman has suffered being assaulted by your gang of mindless thugs. Mr Jerome, you are free to go sir – case dismissed.”

That night as Oswald lay in bed he smiled to himself. It had been a brilliant plan on his part to put that toad in his pocket the other night where he normally kept his wallet.

~~~

PS – unlike Oswald, in reality the louts who beat me up in broad daylight were never caught. But what really sickens me to this day is that no one stepped in to help me – no one. So, like Oswald, I stay inside the house behind closed and locked doors.

😦

An example of how a story idea can often lead nowhere…

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 Nature’s Exception

To all intent and purpose the Earth is dead, uninhabitable. Every living thing across the world perished when the planet was hit by a massive solar storm, rupturing the atmosphere and boiling the planet’s surface. With the exception of a handful of individuals, who saw the catastrophe coming, humanity died out.

Those few unknowingly irradiated escapees, who descended below ground in Earth’s last hours, became troglodyte-like cave dwellers. Within a few short weeks after the solar bombardment, they began to change beyond all recognition as the last remnants of the oxygen rich atmosphere disappeared. A new subterranean species soon replaced humanity.

In general they live out their lives knowing nothing of what went before. However, in nature there is always at least one exception to the rule. I still retain a conscious mind while the rest merely exist. While we no longer communicate in the way our ancestors once did, I somehow sense that we evolved because of the solar storm into the species we have become within ten short generations.

Today we are reliant on absorbing all gases, moisture and nutrients necessary to life through our skin from the underground environment we live in. Above us, the surface of our planet is continuously subjected to violent cosmological bombardment. We have become blind, deaf, limbless slug-like creatures burrowing our way through our underground environment with only one aim, the constant search for nourishment.

Despite our monotonous subterranean way of life I sense that unlike me, most are content in their ignorance of our previous existence. Via the fragile link I still possess to our human ancestors through fleeting memories, I believe our life span has increased beyond theirs, although I have no real way of proving my theory.

There are times when I wish that I was like my brethren, merely existing, not knowing anything of the way our ancestors once lived and loved. Why have I retained these memories? I can’t communicate my knowledge to my brethren. Why am I cursed with consciousness and emotions? Knowing something of the way we used to live in our former existence is excruciating mental torture to me.

I wonder were I human, what it would have felt like to walk on grass, or sand or even to dip my foot into a stream? In my troubled mind I often imagine what it would have been like to experience the simple pleasure in seeing a flower, touching it, smelling it, marvelling at it. What must it have been like to actually speak? What was it like to love another individual?  I am a freak, an outsider.

~~~

As night falls across the dead planet, it transforms into a shadowy vision of hell. Its satellite moon casts its ghostly light, and for a brief moment, illuminates a new feature in the stark landscape below it. The desiccated remains of the last conscious link to mankind now lies half in, half out of the parched surface. All that humanity was, aspired to be, is now truly dead – lost forever…

 

 

Another fantasy short story

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Gorin’s Last Summer

Since Gemlik the last of the mountain ogres had sacrificed his single eye to save the ancient world from the disease of humanity, peace and harmony among all living things had returned once more.

Gorin, the much loved and respected elder and arbitrator of the dwarf clan, had journeyed north with Tallow the giant eagle and the crystal tool fashioned by Troth, to return it to Gemlik to create the replacement for Troth’s Eye.

Now he felt his remaining time and that of his life giving ancestor oak was fast growing short. Like all living things, the link between the pair meant they were born together, lived and died together as is the natural way of things in the world.

~~~

Gorin stirred from his long winter slumber beneath the warm down-filled covers of his bed, and lifted his weary head from his soft cobweb pillow. He pulled the curtains back and opened his bedroom window above his bed to gaze at the world outside.

Through still sleepy eyes, he marvelled at the sight of fresh spring grasses, flowers, and the already fattening buds of wild fruits. His old face once more felt the delicate touch of clean fresh spring air wafting through the window of his home in the exposed roots of his life giving oak tree. The time for sleep was over for another year.

Gorin dearly loved his snug little home. Until both tree and dwarf reached two hundred summers, nature demanded that the young tree’s dwarf shelter in the leaf litter and grass beneath its branches during the summer, while in winter, it had to seek refuge in whatever hole beneath the ground that it could find.

In those early years Gorin was forced to keep one eye open in the darkness of the holes he sought shelter in with his trusty knife grasped firmly in his hand ready to defend himself if need be. Often, he would find himself sharing the tight, pitch-dark confines with moles, rats, mice, voles, rabbits, weasels, stoats, worms, snails, slugs or snakes.

This was the time in a young dwarf’s life when he either learnt the craft of diplomacy and negotiation that all dwarfs were renowned for, or perish at the claws and teeth of whoever the occupant may be.

On numerous occasions he had to escape from the creatures he shared with in those early years, before the notion of eating a tasty young dwarf to stave off their own hunger brought on by the chronic shortage of food in the frozen wintery underworld, even entered their minds.

Gorin had survived those early winters by adding guile to his armoury, often saving himself from a cruel death by striking them hard on the nose with his tiny fist in the case of snakes, or by painfully plucking whiskers and stabbing his attackers faces with the sharp point of his knife, in the case of the weasels, mice, rats and stoats, distracting them long enough for him to escape.

In those times the one animal Gorin preferred sharing with above all others was a member of the mole clan. He would often spend the hours of the long winter nights deep in conversation with his friendly host, sharing food supplies. Often the pair hunted together for food during the brief hours of daylight, always providing that the snow was not too deep outside.

Unlike you and I who continue our kind by being born out of the union between a male and a female of our species, all ancients were born a day or two after the new seedling of their clan tree species first poked its head above ground, living as long as their tree does. The ancients have no concept of family as you and I know it. Instead they owe allegiance to their birth tree first, their clan second and finally to nature and the world itself.

~~~

A thousand summers ago, when his life giving oak and he had witnessed two hundred summers, he had sought its permission to hollow out his home in its largest exposed root.

In that wonderful summer, he first fashioned from a knot-hole in the great root a tiny circular door, before opening up a short passageway with two doors leading off it to the left and right, with a third at the end.

The door on the left led into his larder where he kept his supply of edible acorns and the occasional piece of honeycomb, which the bees kindly left at his door from time to time. All were stored on expertly fashioned shelves, made from twigs which he had gathered and carefully split with his knife.

His supply of acorn ale was stored in dwarf sized barrels, constructed from tiny staves split from his supply of twigs, and bound with green vines, which as they dried out, tightened their grip on the staves. He brewed a fresh supply of ale each spring, making sure to prepare the ingredients in his chestnut shell bath before he went to sleep at the beginning of each winter.

The door on the right opened into his windowless warm living room, softly lit by glow-worms, where his armchair, fashioned from acorn cups, furnished with cobweb cushions, took up most of the tiny room.

Beside it sat a small table, constructed from a dried toadstool, where he kept his bark paged life journal, in which he recorded everything of great interest to a well schooled dwarf. Beside it sat his Wren-feathered quill pen and his tiny bottle of blackberry juice ink. At the foot of his chair was a small stool made from an upturned acorn cup for his feet to rest upon in front of his fireplace.

The door at the end of the passage opened into his tiny bedroom with an equally tiny round window, expertly glazed with a semi-transparent moth wing which let soft light through, decorated with curtains made from multicoloured butterfly wings. During the warmer seasons, always providing of course that he remembered to open it to see out and to allow fresh air to enter, he could look out from the comfort of his warm bed at the world outside if his bones ached too much, or if he had a summer cold.

~~~

For the last three hundred summers, Gorin found himself increasingly confined to his bed much more than he would like by the many ailments that now plagued him due to his great age.

“I feel the time for birth planting is fast approaching us friend oak,” he sighed. His life giving oak flexed its equally ancient branches in agreement. When the last leaf finally fell from the great oak’s branches as winter finally gripped the land, both oak and dwarf would die.

Between them they had seen twelve hundred summers and witnessed many new birth plantings by all of the ancient clans.

Both knew they still had one last summer left to enjoy together. Gorin realized that very soon he would have to carefully search out a special site for the new planting, and he also knew he would have to climb his oak’s great trunk to select the very best seed acorn. This was a hazardous task for one so small should he have to climb its rough outer bark. If a hungry bird or beast spied him as he climbed aloft, he knew that he would surely die.

But Gorin knew of a secret space inside his oak. He had found it when he was excavating fresh storage space six hundred summers earlier, which led upward to the first branches emerging at the back of a hole in the trunk where a pair of squirrels had made their home.

He realised that when he made the long final climb in search of a seed acorn, it must be of the finest quality. To plant a diseased acorn, or one partially nibbled by the creatures living in the oak’s branches, would only result in a deformed oak sapling, and the dwarf it would produce would surely prove malevolent.

~~~

He swung his feet out of bed and stood on the warm dry moss mat beside his bed, searching for his boots, trousers, jerkin, jacket and hat. Over the long winter months he had constantly tossed and turned, spilling his clothes onto the floor.

A loud knock on his door startled him. Quickly donning his clothes he walked down the passage to his front door. “Who is it?” Gorin enquired nervously as his forehead furrowed deeply with worry while he brandished a cudgel in his tiny fist. The very loud knocking had clearly unsettled him.

“It’s me,” replied a loud voice.

Gorin, still not yet fully awake asked once more, “Who?”

“It’s me Tellik uncle Gorin,” the voice announced.

Gorin carefully opened his door and peered outside. A young and healthy plains ogre towered above him. “Ah my boy it is so good to see you, how are you?”

Tellik was the product of the birth-planting Gorin had performed when Gemlik gave him the precious seed from his own witch-hazel tree two hundred summers earlier. Gorin had tended the young seedling daily and when Tellik emerged into the world, took it upon himself to school the ogre youngling in the ways of nature and the world.

For the remaining summer months, Tellik carried Gorin wherever he wished to go as the ancient dwarf said farewell to all of his friends among the countless clans. All the while Gorin was looking for that special place where the planting would take place.

One morning in late summer Gorin asked Tellik to lift him high into the oak’s branches, not needing to use his hidden stairway inside the oak’s trunk. As the last leaves turned brown, Gorin finally found the acorn he was looking for.

“It’s time young Tellik. We leave tomorrow morn.” Tellik, despite his fearsome reputation and great size, shed a tear. While he knew it was his duty to carry the one being in the world he loved beyond all others on his final journey, he dearly wished that he didn’t have to.

The following morning saw Tellik standing on the highest side of Gorin’s valley, tenderly holding the old dwarf, barely alive, in one of his gigantic hands. Gorin opened his eyes one last time to see his ancestor oak finally shed its last leaf.

Tellik obeyed Gorin’s dying wish with tears flowing uncontrollably down his fearsome face. He gently laid the ancient dwarf’s lifeless body on the ground and carefully planted the precious seed acorn before lovingly burying his dearest friend close by in a tiny grave.

The following spring Tellik returned to tend the new sapling. When its dwarf was born, he began to school it, ensuring the continued friendship both ogre and dwarves have for one another and their shared respect for the ancient world in which they live.

As the dwarf youngling grew, his giant ogre friend and teacher continued his schooling until the end of his own days. When Tellik eventually died, it was his dwarf pupil who carried out the ritual birth planting for the next plains ogre as is the way of things.

Carefully clutching Gorin’s bark paged life journal, Wren-feathered quill pen and bottle of blackberry juice ink, gifted to him by his beloved friend Tellik, he set off on his own life adventure. His first task was to find his own name…

🙂