Far Fetched Fables
FarFetchedFables No 182 Karen Traviss
“The Man Who Did Nothing” by Karen Traviss
(Originally published in The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror: Seventeenth Annual Collection.)
Hursley Rise, May 2
There was a boy – five, maybe six – sitting on half a discarded mattress by the kerb as Jeff drove down the road. At first he thought the child was trying to open a bottle of pop, but the closer he got, the better he could see that the boy was making a petrol bomb.
Jeff slowed to a crawl and then stopped. He didn't dare switch the engine off, not here. A daffodil nodded in the grass at the side of the road and the whine of a power-drill competed intermittently with music throbbing from an open window. The normality didn't reassure him; he opened the car window about six inches.
The child was trying to thread some rags into the neck of a beer bottle, pausing every so often to hold the bottle up to the light, sigh, and resume his task of working the rag into the neck of the bottle with his index finger.
For a moment Jeff thought about getting out and taking the thing from him. Then an older boy in the latest Manchester United tracksuit walked up to the kid and crouched over him, like a protective elder brother, and took the bottle gently from him. He examined the wick, pushed it further into the bottle and handed it back to the kid.
That was how you did it. Then both boys looked up at Jeff, as if moving as one.
"Antichrist! Fuckin' antichrist!" they shouted. And the bottle – unlit, mercifully – arced and crashed onto the road just short of the driver's door. Both boys ran back up the road, not looking back.
Karen Traviss is the author of a dozen New York Times bestsellers, and her critically-acclaimed Wess’har books have been finalists five times for the Campbell and Philip K. Dick awards. Her latest novels, Going Grey and Black Run, are military thrillers set in the present day. Her comics work with Batman, Gears of War, and G.I. Joe has earned her a broad range of fans, and she also writes games. A former defence correspondent, newspaper reporter, and TV journalist, she lives in Wiltshire, England. You can find information on her works at karentraviss.com.
About the Narrator:
Ron Jon is a writer, narrator, and singer. He has written and published children’s books, scripts and screenplays for animation and live action, and musical lyrics and libretti. He is a student of strange phenomena/parapsychology, horror, and children’s literature. Ron Jon writes short weird fiction under the name ‘the spectre collector’. See his disturbing videos and hear more of his work on ‘the spectre collector’ blog. Download his disturbing albums on ‘the spectre collector’ Bandcamp site. His latest recordings are 'the car in the woods' and 'the stationmaster’s cottage'.
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188. FarFetchedFables No 188 H L Fullerton41:34“Too Poor to Sin” by H.L. Fullerton(Originally published in Mysterion.)Grandfather squandered our family's fortune on forgiveness, forcing Father to enlist in the Legion and serve the angels. This was before he met Mother and they had me, though the angels' war still rages. Father doesn't say much about his years of service, except that it would've bankrupted us had he bought an honorable discharge. Instead he quit, kept his wages and is banking on God's leniency. He says he amassed those sins in God's name -- he only killed those the angels ordered him to -- and that should count for something, despite the angels' claim that sin belongs solely to the sinner. Father says God knows you can't climb to heaven without breaking a few bones.H.L. Fullerton writes fiction — mostly speculative, occasionally about angels — which is sometimes published in places such as Lackington's, Daily Science Fiction, and Tales to Terrify. On Twitter as @ByHLFullerton.About the Narrator:Devin Martin is just starting out as a writer, editor, and narrator. He almost had a career teaching robots how to kill, but escaped at the last moment. He lives with his brilliant scientist of a spouse and they call Cardiff their home. He almost never tweets @devinxmartin.
187. FarFetchedFables No 187 Samuel Marzioli37:14“Penelope's Song” by Samuel Marzioli(Originally published in The Third Spectral Book of Horror Stories.)Penelope gazed through her bedroom window, mesmerized by the motion of the night. Flowers trembled, grass ruffled and trees swayed, flailing their branches. The sight of it unsettled her. In fifteen years she hadn’t learned much about the world, but she did know this: when the wind was absent like it was tonight, a garden wasn’t supposed to move an inch. It could only mean one thing; the Gnasher had returned.Samuel Marzioli is an Italian-Filipino writer of mostly dark fiction. His work has appeared in numerous publications and podcasts, including The Best of Apex Magazine (2016), Shock Totem, Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show, and Pseudopod. For more information about his current projects, check out his blog at marzioli.blogspot.com.About the Narrator:Margaret Essex lives “the good life” on a small piece of rural New South Wales, Australia, with an amazing man, a couple of pets, all the usual biting and stinging critters that make great horror stories for their visitors, and several rambunctious wombats."
FarFetchedFables No 186 Michael Rimar46:11“Avarice” by Michael Rimar(Originally published in Darwin's Evolutions.)Shadow blocked the glare of Uttum’s twin suns. Saleem looked up at the source, a man dressed in robes pale as bleached bone.“Offering for the poor?” Saleem kept his tone weak and pitiful, offering his wicker basket to the stranger.“I have more than offerings for you, my young friend.” The stranger crouched down to look Saleem face to face. Eyes green as palm fronds regarded him with benevolence. Strands of ebony hair poked from underneath a spotless turban.Saleem tensed. Anyone who called him friend usually wasn’t. Yet he didn’t run. Anyone foolish enough to run in the heat brought attention, and in the City attention equaled guilt. “Have I offended you in some manner, Isha?” He hoped to flatter the stranger by using the formal address.“Isha?” The man flashed straight white teeth and looked about as if to see no one overheard. “You may call me Hendari. I am told I should talk to you.”Saleem’s eyebrows rose a fraction. Hendari. The god of prosperity. Only the wealthy and powerful were so bold to name their children after gods. “What would a great man need of a child beggar?”“Is this part of the bartering?” Hendari’s green eyes glistened with mirth. “You are less a child, and more than a beggar. I know who it is I need, and that is you.”Michael Rimar has matured. He no longer writes witty bios with clever puns. He has stopped comparing his two daughters to pets, especially after the cease and desist order. He sees nothing funny about writing science fiction, fantasy, and some horror, although many of his stories might be considered humorous, and purposefully humorous, not this-is-so-bad-it’s-funny kind of humorous. As proof, his story, A Bunny Hug for Karl, was nominated for the 2014 Prix Aurora for the best in Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy. He is an associate publisher of Bundoran Press and co-editor of their anthology Second Contacts, which was awarded the 2016 Aurora for Best Related Work. He has also co-edited Lazarus Risen, nominated for the 2017 Aurora for Best Related Work. Mike has been published in Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, Writers of the Future XXI, and On Spec, all serious publicationsdespite having the occasional humorous story. If you want to learn more about Mike visit mikerimar.com. Seriously.About the Narrator:Growing up, everyone told Christopher Herron that he couldn't read books for a living, it simply wasn't a real job. Always one to have the last laugh, however, he decided to start down the long road of becoming a professional narrator. To help him on his way, he created the youtube channel Tall Tale TV, where he hones his skills by narrating several short stories each week for authors looking to collaborate. He can be found at TallTaleTV.com, Facebook and Twitter.
FarFetchedFables No 185 Greg van Eekhout25:36“In the Late December” by Greg van Eekhout(Originally published in Strange Horizons.)Here's a secret of the North Pole: Santa powders his hands with talc before donning his thick red mittens.It is a small secret, true, but some would give anything to steal even that. A secret is a detail, and here in the late December, a detail is as precious as a true name.Santa, a red exclamation in a white world, walks the reindeer line, stroking sugar-and-cinnamon fur. The reindeer shiver and snort and stamp their hooves, the lines connecting them to the parcel-laden sleigh jingling. Santa looks over to his candy-brick castle and waves good-bye, but no one stands in the doorway to wave back. With a sigh, he climbs onto the sleigh's driver's seat, the bench creaking beneath his weight. He pauses, holding the smooth and supple leather reins, and considers how to start the team. Onward? A-heya? Giddyup? Ho-ho? No, he's already used those. He makes a point of uttering a different word to inaugurate every outing, because he's been doing this for a long time, and if he didn't deliberately insert some bit of novelty into the procedure, he fears his jolly round head might well explode. That is another detail.Then he has it. He snaps his fingers (no mean feat in his mittens) and with a brisk snap of the reins, he shouts, "Zorxa!"Zorxa was a great emperor whose realm once encompassed sixteen degrees of the Curvature, and though his despotic rule made him a natural enemy, Zorxa knew how to accept a gift as well as anyone.Greg van Eekhout lives in San Diego with his astronomy/physics professor wife and two dogs. He used to develop educational software for a living, but now writes full time, which he enjoys much better. His novels range from adult science fiction and fantasy to middle grade and include The Norse Code, the California Bones trilogy, Kid vs. Squid, and The Boy at the End of the World. His next book, a middle-grade novel about dogs on a spaceship, is due out in Fall 2018. You can find more about him at his website: writingandsnacks.com.About the Narrator:Eric Luke is the screenwriter of the Joe Dante film Explorers, which is currently in development as a remake; has written for the comic books Ghost and Wonder Woman; and wrote and directed the Not Quite Human films for Disney TV. His current project, Interference (a meta horror audiobook about an audiobook... that kills), is a bestseller on Audible.com. His website for creative projects is Quillhammer.com.
184. FarFetchedFables No 184 Russell Hemmell30:15“M” by Russell Hemmell(Originally published in Not One of Us.)We look like them, Christian thought, admiring the fresco in the charnel house and its ghastly figures, scary and eerily beautiful. He adjusted the heavy cloak over his shoulders. The evening was damp and cold, and he was tired after a whole day on the move. But he could not avoid that feeling of elation. He had followed her for too long, and days had become months. Years. Winters, summers, clear starry nights of patient stalking. Across desolate lands and overcrowded cities, poverty and luxury, holy retreats and dangerous havens. And now he was back to square one, where all had started. Incidentally, his birthplace, that glittering Paris so cherished and hated. Isn’t fate... ironic? Because God, for sure, has no business here. Or has He? Christian was sure about one thing, though: the place he was standing on at that precise moment was not a surprise. Where else could that creature ever find a better sanctuary? He kneeled down, covering his face with a perfumed handkerchief. The Cemetery of the Innocents, also known as Les Champeaux, was the same infamous location it had been since centuries, since Roman times. The mass graves were yet to come, and so the Black Death, and war, but the character of the place and its morbid allure were already there, near that market of Les Halles where they had remained for centuries. Conquerors and lords had passed by and ruled, different yet equally unflinching in front of massacres, diseases, famine and blood. Nationality didn’t matter a lot in the business of taking lives. Even less in trading them. The market stopped during the night, but business was florid as usual—with some of its unique perks for the Court of Miracles’ night owls. Christian had arrived just after closing and walked across the walled area, passing the fountain and heading toward the charnel houses. Quietly, he had found a suitable observation point and, hidden beneath the Danse Macabre fresco, had begun waiting for what he knew in advance would follow. He didn’t have to wait for long.Russell Hemmell is a statistician and social scientist from the U.K, passionate about astrophysics and speculative fiction. Stories in PerihelionSF, SQ Mag, and others. Russell can be found online at earthianhivemind.net and on Twitter via @SPBianchini.About the Narrator:Geoffrey Welchman writes, produces, and voices The Reigning Lunatic podcast, a medieval sitcom (and 2016 Parsec Awards finalist). He lives in Baltimore, Maryland. You can find him online at geoffreywelchman.com.
183. FarFetchedFables No 183 Paul R Hardy35:46“Customer Service Hobgoblin” by Paul R. Hardy(Originally published in Unidentified Funny Objects 5.)Beeep."Good morning, you're through to Robin. How may I receive your prayer?""Oh. Hello? My name is Bishop Augusto de Figueroa. Am I speaking to God?""No, sir, my name's Robin. How can I --""Well, young man, I wanted to talk to God. You see it's very important that I speak to him.""Yes, of course, sir. You've come through on the Methodist line, is that --""No, no, no, this is wrong. I am Catholic.""Well, sir, it would help if you chose the Catholic line to start with, but I can --""Are you a saint?""No, sir. I just work here. But if it's not a Methodist prayer then I need to --""If you're not a saint then I don't need to talk to you.""Sir, in any case you're not going to be able to talk to God. That's not how it works.""Good afternoon, you’re through to Paul R. Hardy’s biography. Please listen carefully to the following options: For a humorous anecdote about his employment history, press 1. For a tedious list of his writing credits, press 2. For a heartwarming glimpse of his personal life, press 3. To listen to these options again, press" -- [beep]"You pressed 1. Paul weathered the economic crash of 2008 by working at a call centre for the London Congestion Charge, a fact which may seem relevant as you listen to the story. Unless you’ve ever had to pay the Congestion Charge, in which case you won’t be listening any further because you’ll have already thrown your device at the wall in a fit of" -- [beep]"You pressed 2. Paul’s short stories have appeared in both the fifth and sixth editions of the Unidentified Funny Objects anthology, and will also be seen in Diabolical Plots in about a year or so -- unless you’re on an archive binge in 2065, in which case all of this happened a long time ago and the nurse will be along with your tea in just a minute, smiling indulgently at your addiction to obsolete" -- [beep]"You pressed 3. Paul lives in the English Midlands and lives almost entirely on home-baked cakes and earl grey tea. He recently survived open heart surgery, which left him with a persistent ticking noise emanating from his chest and a rib cage held together by titanium wire. He has therefore given up any hope of passing through airport security without setting off a major" -- [click, brrr]About the Narrator:Rish Outfield is a writer, voice actor, and audiobook narrator. He can be heard co-hosting the Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine and That Gets My Goat podcasts, where he and Bigg Anklevich entertainingly waste much of their time. He also features his own stories on the Rish Outcast podcast. He once got a job because of his Sean Connery impersonation... but has lost two due to his Samuel L. Jackson impression.
FarFetchedFables No 181 Judith Field32:54“Psychopomps” by Judith Field (Originally published in The Colored Lens, Summer 2014.) Mark’s next door neighbour and business partner Pat kept telling him that power flowed through his veins. He took a breath and closed his eyes, trying to will the power back out again and into the ash wand in his outstretched hand. He pointed it at Pat’s door. A narrow beam of blue light squeezed out of the end and hit the lock. Nothing happened. Sighing, he folded the wand and put it in his pocket. He took out his key and let himself into her house. He heard her moving around in the kitchen, back from sorting out the invasion of reptilian arsonists in a garden in Llandudno the day before, while he had expelled a banshee from a pub in Macclesfield. This morning’s job was to sort out an elderly-care home with a spirit infestation. Mark opened the kitchen door. Pat coughed, wafting her hand at a cloud of green fumes. ‘Damn, they’re still moving,’ she said. Judith Field lives in London. She’s a pharmacist and medical indexer and editor. The daughter of writers, she learned how to agonize over fiction submissions at her mother’s (and father’s) knee. In 2009, she made a New Year resolution to start writing and get published within the year. Pretty soon she realized how unrealistic that was but, in fact, it worked because she got a slot to write a weekly column in a local paper shortly before the end of the year. It ran for a several years and she still writes occasional feature articles for the paper. Her non-fiction articles have appeared in genealogy and general interest magazines. Her fiction, mainly speculative, has appeared in a variety of publications in the USA, UK, and Australia. She speaks five languages and can say, “Please publish this story” in all of them. When not writing she works at the day job, studies for a Masters in English, sings, and swims. She is Science Fiction Editor at Red Sun Magazine. You can find her work here. About the Narrator: Matt Dovey is very tall and very English and most likely drinking a cup of tea right now. He has a scar on his arm that he can't remember getting, but a terrible darkness floods his mind when he considers it. He now lives in a quiet market town in rural England with his wife and three children, and despite being a writer, he still hasn't found the right words to properly express the delight and joy he finds in this wonderful arrangement. His surname rhymes with "Dopey", but any other similarities to the dwarf are purely coincidental. He is the Golden Pen winner for Writers of the Future Volume 32 (2016), was shortlisted for the James White Award in 2016, and has fiction out and forthcoming all over the place; you can keep up with it at mattdovey.com, or follow along on Facebook and Twitter.
FarFetchedFables No 180 Dave Smeds01:00:21“The Tavern at the Ford” by Dave Smeds (Originally published in Sword and Sorceress XXVIII.) Until that awful night, Azure had always assumed she would live out her entire life in the village. That’s how it had been for generations. Grandpa had shared the history one day while standing with her on the old stone bridge. “There used to be a ford there,” he said, pointing to the willow flats where Coil and Azure liked to play. Grandpa’s great-grandmother Cinnamon had drowned there while crossing the river. Her husband Fleet had built the bridge in her memory, working through his grief by making sure no one else would die that way. Dave Smeds has authored novels, short fiction, comic book scripts, and screenplays in a variety of genres including science fiction, contemporary fantasy, superhero, martial arts, horror, and erotica, but he is particularly at home when writing imaginary-world fantasy, as in his novels The Sorcery Within, The Schemes of Dragons, and the forthcoming The Wizard's Nemesis. He is even more at home with imaginary-world short fiction, which has appeared in magazines such as Realms of Fantasy and anthologies such as Dragons of Light, Sorceries, Enchanted Forests, Return to Avalon, Lace and Blade 1, 3, and 4, and in seventeen volumes of Sword and Sorceress. He lives in the wine country of northern California with his wife and son. About the Narrator: Anthony Babington is a voice in the internet’s head, who looks almost, but not quite, exactly how you expect him to. Having escaped from the sinister forces of Texas, he has retreated to an ingeniously disguised bunker in a secure, undisclosed location in Burnsville, Minnesota. His life goal is to someday annoy someone into letting him voice a part on Escape Pod, but until then, he'd be happy to voice a project for you. yes, you in the checked shirt. Contact him on Google Plus, or on Twitter at @AlephBaker.