Issue the First! Creatures and Quantum Travel
Welcome to our first Newsletter, packed with awesome new stories, offers and previews. The original stories here, drawn from submissions, will be available exclusively for one month to our newsletter members, before being published on flametreepress.com the next month. This new flash fiction market adds to our deluxe short story anthologies, and just launched fiction imprint for long fiction, FLAME TREE PRESS.
Here’s the first selection, hope you enjoy them as much as we do. A new market for some. A great read for everyone else!! So, here's what's in store:
- Original Horror Flash Fiction: Old Friends by P.D. Cacek
- Original SciFi Flash Fiction: Venture Forth by Jacqueline Seewald
- Gothic Fantasy Short Stories' announcement
- FLAME TREE PRESS announcements
- Next Month's Flash Fiction themes
Original Horror Story
The old man is dying.
The old man is dying in a white room that smells faintly of alcohol swabs and disinfectant and, if I take a deep enough breathe, of urine and decay. A single lamp burns on the bedside table, illuminating a face I barely recognize.
It’s been so long since I’ve seen him.
The old man is dying as I stand at the foot of his bed and watch. He has outlived all his kith and kin and is dying alone...except for me.
We’d met one night when the old man was still a boy—a very precocious and imaginative boy who had somehow convinced his parents to take him to a movie that he’d said all his friends had already seen.
It’d been a lie, of course, but whether his parents believed him or not it didn’t matter. It wasn’t a school night and they’d also wanted to see the film so hand in hand, they took him to see a man stitched together from the bodies of the dead and brought to life. His mother had wanted to leave immediately after the first disinterred corpse, but his father was made of sterner stuff and began a whispered mantra ‘it’s just a movie’ that lasted until the flames consumed the man-made creature.
When the lights came on, the boy was still staring at the blank movie screen and might have stayed that way if his parents hadn’t pulled him from the theater.
All the way home his mother kept wondering out loud what sorts of parents the boy’s friends had if they’d allowed them see such a horrible movie. The boy didn’t say anything because he didn’t hear his mother, the images he’d seen filled his head, blocking out everything else.
It was late when they got home and his parents were tired, so the boy was sent off to brush his teeth and say his prayers and to sleep tight and not let the bed bugs bite. His mother wished him pleasant dreams as she turned out the light and closed his bedroom door.
But it was too late for that, I was there.
He didn’t say his prayers the way he usually did, kneeling beside his bed with his eyes closed in the hope that the Almighty would take it as a sign of piety and he didn’t curl onto his side and sleep. He lay flat on his back, awake and wide-eyed, and watched the room he’d known all his life change into something darker... frightening...dangerous.
That first night I just stood in a shadowed corner of that room and watched as he gathered in all the images he’d seen until there was no room left inside his head and all he could do was flail at the covers and scream. I was very small then, too, and eager, oh so eager, but I waited, biding my time until it was my time, and watched his parents rushed in to comfort him.
It was just a bad dream, his father said. It was that movie, his mother chided; I knew we should have left. Oh, he’s okay—his father again—aren’t you, sport?
Back and forth, back and forth until the boy who’d become the dying old man nodded and lied again. He was fine, he said, but kept glancing to the shadows that concealed me. I think he knew I was there because he asked his parents to leave the door open and the hall light on...just this once, please?
His father looked appalled at the idea of a son of his needing to have a light on, but his mother took it as yet another sign that she’d been right about the movie and his friends’ parents. I could hear them still arguing once they got back to their own room—after leaving the hall light on and his door open.
I did nothing that first night but watch; I didn’t need to do more than that.
After that night a tap on the wall, a hooked fingernail drawn across the bedsprings beneath him, the gentlest of pressure on the loose floorboard would send him into screaming fits. He called me the monster, after the creature in the movie, and I was always under the bed or in the closet or had somehow gotten outside to claw at his bedroom windows. His mother thought they should take him to the doctor, his father thought he should just “grow up and be a man.” Neither solution would have helped.
Nor did the small night light his mother bought him despite his father’s booming protestations.
Through childhood to manhood, he was never able to sleep in the dark again.
Perhaps it was because I stayed too long. While others of my kind stay but a few years, we had almost two decades together. I was there to keep him awake during those blurry sessions of late-night studying and kept him company the night before he left his family’s home for one he’d occupy with his new bride.
I followed him to the hospital when his first child was born and hovered when they brought it home, but by then there were real fears that diminished mine.
I can’t remember when I left, but I’m here now.
The old man opens his eyes and looks at me but without recognition. The disease that is taking him took his memories first. He doesn’t remember me. When he turns his head I follow his gaze to the shadow the lamp has thrown against the opposite wall. The shadow is small and withered, shrunken like him.
It’s my shadow.
The old man is dying and so am I.
We had our time together but it’s over.
When the old man closes his eyes I take his hand.
Shh, I tell him, you’re not alone...I’m here.
And he smiles.
The winner of both a Bram Stoker and World Fantasy Award, P.D. Cacek has written over a hundred short stories, six plays, and five published novels. Her newest novel, Second Lives, will be released by FLAME TREE PRESS in April 2019
Cacek holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English/Creative Writing Option from the University of California at Long Beach and has been a guest lecturer at the Odyssey Writing Camp. A native Westerner, Cacek now lives Phoenixville, PA. When not writing, she can often been found either with a group of costumed storytellers called The Patient Creatures (www.creatureseast.com), or haunting local cemeteries looking for inspiration.
Original Science Fiction Story
In their galactic travels, astronauts Reis and Galon discovered a great deal of information to send back to their home planet, Nesper, which was 40 light years away. Nesper was one of seven planets that circled a tiny star called Trappist-1. Their star was calculated to burn out in the foreseeable future. It was their mission to find other solar systems that might prove habitable. They were interested in doing research regarding creatures on Earth since they found so few planets populated by semi-intelligent life forms.
Reis, senior researcher, felt convinced there could be much to learn here. Their spaceship sustained some heat damage upon entering the planet’s atmosphere. However, this was nothing they couldn’t repair. The astronauts landed in a desert near a city called Roswell, New Mexico. According to their information, creatures in this desert community believed that space vehicles landed there in the past. Galon suspected this to be correct and wanted to discover more about the previous visitation.
Reis and Galon had the ability to change their appearances at will. Nesperians took pride in their shape-shifting talent.
“We’ll blend in perfectly,” Galon assured his fellow astronaut as they transformed their outward looks to appropriate Earth being appearance.
After cloaking their spacecraft with invisibility, they used their transport devices to set out for the nearest location where Earth habitants could be studied. “Eddie’s Place” appeared full of noisy creatures imbibing beverages. Galon turned on his translator-communicator so they could understand the creatures’ language and have their own responses changed into the subjects’ language.
Reis selected a scarred wooden table at the rear of the establishment. This gave them a good view of the entire room.
The bar was crowded and there was animated conversation going on. When a waitress approached to take their order, Galon questioned her about it.
The blond-haired woman smiled at him. “It’s Eddie’s doing,” she said as if that made everything clear.
“Who is Eddie?”
“The bartender. He tells jokes. People love to laugh.”
Reis indicated that Galon should not pursue the matter; so instead Galon asked what the young waitress would recommend to drink.
“Beer,” she said and flounced away only to return shortly with something she called pretzels. “I’ll have your drinks in a jiffy.”
The music was so loud Galon wondered how these creatures managed to communicate with one another. He concluded they must all be hearing impaired.
The waitress arrived with their beers. Galon nibbled on a salty pretzel and realized they existed to make Earth creatures drink more beverages. These creatures were diabolically clever.
The crowd clustered around the bar began laughing and clapping. “Hearing Eddie’s more entertaining than watching TV or movies. Go over and listen,” their waitress urged.
There were no available seats at the long bar. They stood back sipping their drinks, listening and observing.
Eddie was neither tall nor handsome but he had presence. He also seemed able to multi-task, serving drinks, collecting money, and talking at the same time. Eddie turned to a well-dressed man. “We’re lucky to have Mike with us tonight. Usually he’s too busy chasing ambulances. Some of you might not know Mike went down to Florida on vacation and did some fishing on a boat in the Atlantic. You know how it is, lawyers get stressed out and need a vacation.” One fellow snickered.
“Anyway, Mike fell overboard trying to reel in a big fish. Sharks gathered around him, but they didn’t chomp him. No sir, they left Mike alone. Know why?” Eddie turned from one person to another. “Professional courtesy.” The crowd around the bar laughed, even Mike chuckled.
“A pipe burst in Mike's house. So he called a plumber. Point of fact, he called ol’ Sam.” Eddie pointed to a grizzled man wearing a blue plaid shirt, worn jeans and nursing a beer at the far end of the bar. “Sam arrived, unpacked his tools, did some plumber-type things for a while, then handed Mike a bill for $700. Mike stares at the bill open-mouthed. ‘This bill’s ridiculous! I don't even make that much as a lawyer.’ Sam replies, ‘Neither did I when I was a lawyer’."
Galon noticed Sam the plumber removing a metal object from his jacket pocket. “You’ve made me the butt of your jokes once too often.”
“Just funnin’.” Eddie frowned, raising his right hand.
“Take it easy.” Mike eyed Sam warily.
“Sure, as soon as this low life’s dead.” With that, Sam shot Eddie twice, once in the chest and the second time in the head. Eddie slid to the floor, blood splattering everywhere. “Now the joke’s on him.”
Sam dropped his weapon and walked out of the bar while the other patrons stared after him in stunned silence.
“What do you think of these alien creatures?” Galon asked Reis telepathically.
“They are dangerous. They kill each other for no good reason. We must take care around them.”
“Yes,” Galon agreed. “We should probably leave here as soon as possible.”
“Agreed,” Reis said, “this planet has too much atmosphere.”
Multiple award-winning author, Jacqueline Seewald, has taught creative, expository and technical writing at Rutgers University as well as high school English. She also worked as both an academic librarian and an educational media specialist. Nineteen of her books of fiction have been published to critical praise including books for adults, teens and children. Her most recent novels are Death Promise and Witch Wish. Her short stories, poems, essays, reviews and articles have appeared in hundreds of diverse publications and numerous anthologies such as: The Writer, L.A. Times, Reader’s Digest, Pedestal, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, Over My Dead Body!, Gumshoe Review, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly and The Christian Science Monitor. Her writer’s blog can be found at: http://jacquelineseewald.blogspot.com
Gothic Fantasy Short Stories
The submission deadline for our upcoming short story collections, American Gothic and Urban Crime was midnight on the 14th of October sand we received hundreds of excellent entries, thank you so much. See here for more details.
FLAME TREE PRESS October Releases
Following the incredible success of the September launch, we're so excited for the October, and now November titles. Be sure to check out D.W. Gillespie's The Toy Thief, John Everson's The House by the Cemetery, Brian Trent's Ten Thousand Thunders and all upcoming releases online, in-store and on our website!