Second Issue! Dark and Strange
Welcome to the second issue of the Flame Tree Fiction Newsletter, packed with two awesome new stories available exclusively for one month to our newsletter members, now being published on our website (For this month's sign-up here). So here:
- Original Horror Flash Fiction: A Rainy Night at the Sunset Grille by J.G. Faherty
- Original SciFi Flash Fiction: This Isn’t a Home, It’s a Wilderness by Holly Lyn Walrath
- FLAME TREE PRESS November Releases
- Flame Tree's new Chinese and Greek Myths & Tales books in our Gothic Fantasy series
Original Horror Story
A Rainy Night at the Sunset Grille
In the doghouse tonight, eh, pal? Join the club. You think you've got woman troubles? Try having a vampire for a wife.
That's right, I said vampire. They really exist, pal. I ain't foolin'. Probably more of 'em than you'd think. They look just like you and me. Except they're real pale of course. Not red hair and freckles burn-at-the-beach pale, but major pale. Anytime you hear someone described as having alabaster skin or a porcelain complexion while they're still alive, there's a good chance they're actually undead.
You're laughing, but I'm totally serious. I swear. Here, have another beer and I'll tell you how I ended up married to a vampire, and why I'm scared shitless to go home before the sunrise.
What? That's not funny. No, I didn't put freakin' tomato juice in her blood bag. Besides, vamps can't drink out of blood bags. The blood’s gotta be fresh, as in still inside a living person. And that's kind of where I screwed up. See, I was thinking maybe Kate—Katarina's actually her name; cool, right? But I call her Kate—was getting a little carried away with her meals. You know, indulging a little too often? I was worried she was gonna attract the wrong kind of attention and then next thing you know she's either gone or dead and I'm in jail as an accomplice to murder. ‘Cept every time I bring it up, she just laughs and says I should lighten. She’s like a hunnert years old and she’s never been caught, right? But I can’t help it. I worry. What husband wouldn’t?
What? Sure, you can have another. And a shot, too. On the house. I’ll even do one with you. Gotta calm my nerves, right? Not like anyone’s gonna see me. Rainy nights are shit for business. You’re my first customer of the night.
So where was I? Oh, yeah. I decided to try something different. Told her she needs to cut down on the blood because she's starting to look fat.
Yeah, no shit you never say that to a woman! I'm not that stupid. I did it on purpose. Figured she might get mad, but she'd thank me, too. She needs me to tell her how she looks. After all, she can't use a mirror. That's one of the myths that's actually true. No reflection. But they can't hypnotize people or turn into bats. If they could, they'd rule the freakin' world, right? They're really just like people, except sunlight bothers them and they drink blood.
Here you go. Down the hatch! Ugh. Man, I haven't had tequila in a whore's age. Next one I get to pick the poison.
Anyway, I tell her she needs to go on the vampire version of a diet, and naturally she blows a gasket. I mean, full-out screamin' and yellin', calling me every name in the book and some even I never heard, and I did two years in the goddamned Navy.
And then I find out how bad I screwed up. Turns out vampires don't gain weight. Ever. You stay the same size as you were the night you got turned. I shoulda guessed. After all, they don't age, right?
So now she says I was either lying or just plain mean, and she wants to know the reason why. So I told her the truth, but it didn't help. I ended up spending the day on the couch, trying to think of how I could make it up to her. And the closer it got to sunset, the more frightened I got.
Flowers and chocolate? That’ll work for you, sure. All you did was forget your anniversary. Christ, what guy hasn't done that? How long you been married? Ten years? Okay, so buy her a necklace or something to go with the flowers. You got time; malls don't close until ten on Fridays. Hell, once she cools off she'll probably be glad you forgot, 'cause she'll end up with a better gift than if you'd remembered. You might not get laid, but at least you don't have to worry about someone cutting your head off while you're asleep. That's how vampires kill each other. I mean, I'm sure she's not that mad, but who knows? Look at those Brazilian women. They cut your dick off if you cheat on them. Being married to a queen of the dark is ten times worse.
Yeah, you're fine with flowers and chocolates, but not me. Vamps aren't big into flowers, probably because it reminds them of the daytime. And they can't eat chocolate. So where does that leave me? Sleeping on the couch with every light on, ready to piss my pants. Knowing I gotta come home in the dark. Vampires can see like cats in the night. I get home, she might decide to make me her next meal and I’d never see it coming.
What? No, don't leave yet. One more shot, okay? Least I can do, after spilling my business like that. After all, a bartender's supposed to listen, not blab, right? Tell you what. I'll open some of my private stock. Hundred-year-old brandy. You never tried it? Buddy, you're in for a treat. C'mon, I keep it in the office just so the day shift people don't accidentally serve it. Right back here.
Go on inside.
Jesus, stop screaming! Not like anyone can hear you, but you're makin' my brain hurt. Sorry about that, but like I said, flowers and chocolate don't mean shit to a vampire. A nice hot toddy on a rainy night, though...well, that's another story. Look at it this way: you won't have to hear your wife bitch anymore.
That's three now, Katie. Ain't that enough?
Okay, okay already. One more. Whatever you want, honey.
Whatever you want.
A life-long resident of New York's haunted Hudson Valley, J.G. Faherty has been a finalist for both the Bram Stoker Award® (The Cure, Ghosts of Coronado Bay) and ITW Thriller Award (The Burning Time), and he is the author of 5 novels, 9 novellas, and more than 60 short stories. His next novel, Hellrider, comes out from FLAME TREE PRESS in 2019.
Original Science Fiction Story
This isn’t a Home, It’s a Wilderness
Holly Lyn Walrath
We landed with all the materials we needed because we couldn’t go back. Storage pods for food and water. Piles of freshly-cut plywood, blocks of brick, shingles, steel joints. We set about cheerfully to building. The men felt eager to prove themselves and the women felt cold. James Pettington became known for his use of the axe. Margaret Rhine and Raj Patel were praised for their skill in sewing.
The Beryls watched us from their dwellings on the opposite end of the vast plain. They lived in the shadow of the blue pyramids, which rose on the horizon like mountains. Their dwellings made of white bones wrapped in scaly hides. We saw them stalking back and forth between the forest and the plain. They did not walk like us. They did not know our language. But they had given us land and let us come to their planet.
The air was clean and crisp, the weather balmy, or rather there was no weather to speak of. We tried not to let this bother us. We tried not to think about rain and how it sounds on tin roofs or snow falling in a meadow. We tried not to miss Earth. Maria Gonzales complained loudly about the color of the dirt, which was a kind of phosphorescent turquoise, until she saw how quickly seeds grew.
Before long we had a row of neat little homes. Parents with children were given first choice and this comforted us.
At first we did not send our children to the Beryl school. Most decided to homeschool. Besides, what would the children learn there?
We got over this when the need to forage, gather, and hunt outweighed our pride. We watched the Beryl’s go back to their village with our children in tow and we cried like any parent would on the first day of school.
Then we went back to work and tried not to worry.
Some of the men, James Pettington included, wanted to hunt the Beryls like game. “Look at their pelts,” he would say, after the Beryls brought us food. They dragged great carts made of bone full of strange meats to our village and left them there. We stood on our lawns (or rather where the lawns would be, one day, when the seeds grew in) and stared. Up close, the Beryls were human-shaped but covered in white fur that was urine-stained and rotting in places. Great clumps of it fell off and drifted through the air like cottonwood blossoms.
“We could bean them with bricks,” James said.
“Bricks are not for killing, they are for building,” said Jose Gomez. He was a sort of elder statesman. Jose and several women convened a secret meeting and told James Pettington he couldn’t hunt the Beryls. James redirected his energy to forming a hunting party. At the edge of the plain was a forest of bones. James and the hunting party came back with a dead beast that was a cross between an insect and a bear. It was not a Beryl so we ate it.
The children came home from school knowing all sorts of things we didn’t, like how to cut open the bones of the forest and suck out marrow and how to make tools out of the insect-bear’s carapaces.
A virus swept our village. Twenty people died. James Pettington carved headstones out of blue rocks.
The Beryls brought poultices made of blue mud. We were all too ill to argue.
Jenny Macon rubbed her hand over the arm of a Beryl and stared in wonder at the rotten fur that came off in her fingers. The Beryl made a purring noise. We know this because her sister Barbara told Jose Gomez over a dinner of bone marrow juice and insect jerky.
Jenny Macon went to live with the Beryls. We let her go. She looked over her shoulder when she reached the line between our land and theirs and waved back at us. Her mother cried into her hands. We tried to console her. Jenny will be alright, we said. She’s a smart girl.
The next day we went back to the work of survival and everything was different. The mountains seemed picturesque in their blueness. We died our clothes blue with the dirt. James Pettington walked around saying things like, “Breathe in that clean blue air!” For a moment, we thought everything might be okay.
A month after Jenny left, a Beryl child appeared on the doorstep of Maria Gonzales. Maria took her in and fed her. We began to grow fond of the girl. Beryl children’s fur was soft and luxurious. We ran our fingers through it. We longed for more Beryl children in secret. She was ours now. We looked across the plains and wondered about Jenny. Was she a Beryl now? Was she happy?
One day we decided enough was enough. We went to the Beryl’s village.
“We’re sorry about the distance,” Barbara said, speaking on our behalf. “We’d like to be friends.”
Jenny Macon came out of her Beryl house holding a half-Beryl baby in her arms.
The Beryls just stood there, ignoring our hospitality, and Jenny explained that they wanted us to leave.
“But, we thought we’d stay,” Jose Gomez said.
“We could merge our communities. Survive together,” explained James Pettington. We felt pride for him then. He’d come a long way.
The Beryls shook their furry heads.
We went home and the men were angry. They stood around the fire with pitchforks in our hands, and spades, and other things for digging.
“This isn’t a home, it’s a wilderness,” James Pettington said. And we agreed with him. Sometimes you have to fight for what’s right. Sometimes, you need to prove yourself against what’s out there. Because you are human. And that’s what humans do, isn’t it?
Holly Lyn Walrath’s poetry and short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Fireside Fiction, Daily Science Fiction, Luna Station Quarterly, Liminality, and elsewhere. She is the author of Glimmerglass Girl (Finishing Line Press, 2018). She holds a B.A. in English from The University of Texas and a Master’s in Creative Writing from the University of Denver. She is a freelance editor and host of The Weird Circular, an e-newsletter for writers containing submission calls and writing prompts. Find her online at www.hlwalrath.com
NEWS, UPDATES & OFFERS
Flame Tree Publishing | Releases
Last month saw the release of two new more Myths and Tales titles in our Gothic Fantasy collection. Greek Myths & Tales and Chinese Myths & Tales are both packed with fascinating tales from ancient cultures that still inform our fiction and imagination today. See here for more details.
FLAME TREE PRESS | November Releases
Following the amazing response to our October titles we have four new FLAME TREE PRESS books arriving in November. Ramsey Campbell’s Think Yourself Lucky (a Horror masterpiece), Robin Triggs’ Night Shift (crime thriller from a brilliant debut writer), Jonathan Janz’s The Sorrows (super-scary horror chiller) and Adrian Laing’s Kosmos (a mystery fantasy, featuring the prosecution of the Pictish Merlin!) are all released online, in-store and on our website later this month!