FLAME TREE FICTION NEWSLETTER
Eighth Issue! Devilish Wormholes
Welcome to the eighth issue of the Flame Tree Fiction newsletter! This newsletter features two brand new stories that are exclusive for subscribers to read for one month. We had some great responses to last month’s themes, Devilish Dopplegangers and Weird Wormholes, and we’ve picked our favourites for you all! We also have new releases in our Gothic Fantasy series and updates on upcoming FLAME TREE PRESS titles!
This month's newsletter features:
- Original Sci-Fi Flash Fiction: The Apocalyptic Wormhole Video by Larry Hodges
- Original Horror Flash Fiction: Double Doubt by DJ Tyrer
- FLAME TREE PRESS - May Releases
- Flame Tree Publishing - Gothic Fantasy releases
Original Science Fiction Story
The Apocalyptic Wormhole Video
As his ship approached Earth, Shep watched the holographic video of the planet's future bombardment by the Kwint Armada.
Thirty feet long and built like a giant black anaconda with three red eyes, he brought his ship into orbit using a pair of forked tongues for hands. Artifacts from other worlds he'd done business with adorned the walls of his ship.
Time for another sales call, he thought, jamming his tongue hands into the pockets of his red vest as his molar-filled mouth drooped open. In the past he had tried selling advanced technology, but the governments always intervened and slowed down the process, forcing him to leave before the deal was done. He'd tried selling the videos directly to governments, but again they always acted too slowly. His apocalyptic videos were his only product, and the commercial networks his only customers.
It took him a day to get the major world networks CEOs together in a conference room. As usual, numerous governments protested but were hesitant to do anything that might provoke the alien during first contact. That always brought a smile to Shep's large central eye.
The CEOs all wanted interviews they could televise. He had something better.
"Fellow broadcasters," he said through a translator box to the room full of strange-looking bipeds, "I am selling broadcast rights to the most spectacular event in your planet's history. Its destruction."
There was stunned silence. Then Peter Davis from WBC spoke up through his walrus mustache. "Could you be more specific? Are you destroying Earth?"
Shep vigorously shook his head, a human gesture he'd picked up. "No, no, no. Earth will be destroyed fifty years from now, on February 27, 2080, by the Kwints, the primary predators of the Orion Arm of the galaxy. My company videotaped the event through a wormhole."
"Won't your showing us the video in advance change our future?" asked Stephen Hung of CNN.
"It won't change your future," Shep said. "It already has. In a different reality, I already sold you the video of your future destruction. Your reaction changed your future, which changed the video, which changed your future again, and so on, until it reached equilibrium. Now the video will only reinforce the current future reality."
"So there's no way we can change this future?" asked Davis.
"Any attempt to change your future would be just one more step leading to the future I am showing you," said Shep. "Your planet will be destroyed in fifty years. You can't save Earth, but you can colonize elsewhere. Would you like to see the video?" There was a chorus of agreement.
The holographic video appeared over the conference table, showing an image of Earth from space, with the moon and stars in the background. Then the Kwint Armada arrived and went into orbit.
"One hundred ships," said Shep. "Each is capable of destroying your planet alone."
Beams of light shot out from the hundred ships. Earth exploded like a hand grenade.
"That is your future," said Shep. "Who would like to bid for broadcast rights? I will also do an interview with the winning bidder, three days from now."
Davis was practically salivating through his mustache as he and others grabbed their cell phones. Some wanted more time, but Shep insisted that the bidding be done immediately. He needed to get off the planet quickly.
Three hours later, Davis and the World Broadcasting Company had put together a deal for ten billion dollars.
As he left the building, with uniformed humans holding back the crowds lined up in front of the building, a short, bearded man stepped in front of him. Shep slithered to a stop.
"I'm Guo Liang, secretary-general of the United Nations," the man said. "I've been trying to meet with you, and decided this was the only way."
"I'm sorry if it seems I've been avoiding you," Shep said.
"I've heard that you are selling a video of Earth's destruction, in fifty years."
"That is correct," Shep lied.
"And that there's nothing we can do to stop this."
"That is also correct. But there is always hope. You can colonize elsewhere."
The man nodded. "We'll do that. And you won't mind if we prepare to defend ourselves against this attack?"
"I would expect you to, but it won't help. But there is hope for your race, by colonizing other worlds. I'll even meet with you and share technology that will help you with that. Tell your people that there is hope."
"I'll do that," Liang said. Shep moved forward, and the man stepped aside.
With the money from WBC, Shep toured the world's museums and universities, buying up artifacts, often paying far more than they were worth to hasten the sales. For two days he managed to avoid the U.N. secretary-general, but he finally agreed to meet with him the following day. Instead, shortly before their scheduled meeting, he quietly left Earth. He was once again broke, but his ship carried as many artifacts as he could buy and fit inside.
He was glad he'd given the humans hope, which was better than despair for the little time they had remaining. No doubt government officials were already meeting, planning Earth's defense and the colonization of space.
From space, Shep gloomily watched the arrival of the Kwint Armada. He'd lied to the humans. The attack on Earth wasn't fifty years in the future; it had been three days away. As usual, he'd arrived just ahead of the Kwint, since there was no way of predicting farther in advance where they'd attack next. Even though he'd watched it over and over via the wormhole video, he still flinched as the beams of light shot out and Earth exploded.
But mankind would not be forgotten. His ship was laden with artifacts he would soon give away. Like so many past victims of the Kwint, their memory would live on in museums throughout the galaxy.
Larry Hodges is an active member of SFWA with over 100 short story sales and four novels, including When Parallel Lines Meet which he co-wrote with Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn, and Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions. He’s a graduate of the six-week 2006 Odyssey Writers Workshop. In the world of non-fiction, he has 13 books and 1800+ published articles in over 160 publications. He’s also a professional table tennis coach, and claims to be the best science fiction writer in USA Table Tennis, and the best table tennis player in Science Fiction Writers of America! Visit him at larryhodges.com.
Original Horror Story
“They say that, should you meet your double, you will surely die,” said Woods one chill, dark evening as the red glow of the fire flickered across his face, dappling it with ghastly shadows.
“The doppelgänger,” I replied, showing off my knowledge of folklore. “The double-walker.”
Woods gave a curt nod. “Yes. They believe that around here; I was brought up on tales of such ghastly things.”
I chuckled, imagining the sort of stories.
Raising his head, Woods fixed me with an unblinking gaze.
“It happened to me, today,” he said.
Blinking, I looked at him in silence, not quite sure how to respond.
“You met your double? Today?”
Woods nodded. “Yes. In the lane down by Stelling Brook.”
I shrugged. “So? Experts say there is someone out there that looks like each of us, and that doesn’t include kinfolk, cousins and the like. Sure, you saw somebody who looked alike to you, but it was nought more than a coincidence.”
Woods shook his head and the fire crackled and spat in the long silence as he stared at the glowing coals. I guessed he must be recalling the disturbing encounter. I could imagine such a thing would be quite a shock if you were caught by surprise in a dark and lonely lane.
Turning his head, Woods looked at me, face drawn.
“This was no distant cousin. He… It looked just like my image in the mirror.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle. “What? You think your reflection stepped out of the looking glass to haunt you?”
“No, damn it. I mean no such thing. What I mean is that I couldn’t be mistaken in my recognition of my own face before me. It wasn’t similar – it was the same.”
He shuddered. “Besides, it wore the same outfit I wore. A coat I bought in Paris and a hat I got in Madrid. Is it at all plausible that some unknown kinsman of mine not only happens to share my face but also my wardrobe – and, happened to make identical choices today to me? Really? Do you believe that?”
I waved my hands placatingly to still his agitation.
“Of course not, of course not. But, I have to ask, are you certain of what you saw? Could it not have been some sort of reflection, perhaps in the waters of the brook, or perhaps a delusion of some kind?”
Woods rose to his feet with a cry.
“Do you think I didn’t consider such things even as I recoiled in horror?”
He shook his head. “No, I thought it and I dismissed it, for I could see myself as clearly as I can see you, now. Clearer.”
Adopting my most-placating tone, I said, “It must have been quite shocking for you, my friend. Most shocking. Especially given the stories they tell about such things.”
“Don’t you patronise me,” he cried. “I saw it, I tell you.”
I held up my hands. “I believe you. I believe you. At least, I believe that you believe you saw something disturbing. But, I cannot credit that what you think you saw and what you actually saw were the same.”
“You don’t understand…”
“I do. Truly, I do. But, you shouldn’t agitate yourself. The stories of death following such encounters are nothing but superstitious nonsense. No matter what you did or didn’t see, you are in no danger. Death will not follow your encounter, my friend.”
“But, that’s just it,” he said, wringing his hands, “the tales are true…”
“Whatever do you mean?” I was beginning to worry about my friend.
“It’s true: Should you meet yourself, death shall follow.”
“Stuff and nonsense. Put such thoughts out of your mind – you aren’t going to die.”
“But, you don’t understand, it’s too late, it’s already happened.”
“Oh, come now, surely you’re not going to tell me I’ve been chatting this evening with a dead man?”
I almost laughed, but his expression was so serious as he muttered, “In a manner of speaking…”
“Oh, stop this nonsense and speak plainly.”
Woods didn’t reply, but went to the door, leaning lightly upon his cane, waving for me to follow him.
“This way, this way.”
Following, I found myself led to a storeroom off the kitchen. A sheet lay atop a bundle of some kind. There was a pinkish stain at one end.
I felt my blood chill. “Whatever have you done?”
“I killed him. I took my stick and I killed him.”
Woods threw aside the sheet to reveal a body.
I almost vomited.
Although the head had a horrific dent in it and the hair was matted with the blood that also stained one side of the face, like some hideous birthmark, the features were clearly those of my friend, Woods. The clothes it wore were as he had described, ones I often had seen him wear.
“You see?” asked Woods.
“I didn’t lie,” he said. “Nor did the tales: Should you meet yourself, you shall surely die. Well, he met me – and, he died.”
It was true and I had the very proof before my eyes.
But, I had to wonder: How could I be certain that the one who lived was my old friend and not his double? Didn’t the stories always tell that it was the original who passed away?
Just how can you tell the truth of such a thing?
I am certain my friend caught my expression of doubt and that his fingers tightened just a little upon his cane.
Doubt sent a shiver down my spine.
DJ Tyrer is the person behind Southend-on-Sea small press Atlantean Publishing and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines around the world, such as Chilling Horror Short Stories (Flame Tree), All The Petty Myths (18th Wall), Steampunk Cthulhu (Chaosium), and EOM: Equal Opportunity Madness (Otter Libris), and issues of Sirens Call, Hinnom Magazine, Ravenwood Quarterly, and Weirdbook, and in addition, has a novella available in paperback and on the Kindle, The Yellow House (Dunhams Manor). You can find DJ Tyrer on his website, djtyrer.blogspot.co.uk.
FLAME TREE PRESS | May Releases
For our May titles we had some amazing new Sci-Fi with The Gemini Experiment from Brian Pinkerton, excellent new Horror from Steven Hopstaken and Melissa Prusi with their book Stoker’s Wilde, and two new to Flame Tree titles; Ghost Mine by Hunter Shea and House of Skin by Jonathan Janz.
Flame Tree Publishing | Gothic Fantasy Releases
May also saw the release of our brand new Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales Collection as well as an addition to our Myths and Tales Series with our new African Myths and Tales book. Make sure you check them out on our website, they are both great reads and their beautiful foiled and embossed covers make them great gifts too!
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