Twenty-Second Issue! Deadly Regeneration
Welcome to the Twenty-Second issue of the Flame Tree Fiction NEWSLETTER! We hope you're all looking forward to the stories coming to you this month! There were a huge amount of incredible tales submitted for June's Sci-Fi and Horror flash fiction and we hope you enjoy reading our two final selections here! Once again, we wish we could choose more than two but thank you so much to all of you who took part and submitted stories! The theme's for last month were Deadly Mother Nature and Regeneration!
This month's newsletter features:
- Original Sci-Fi Flash Fiction: We Without Names by Nemma Wollenfang
- Original Horror Flash Fiction: Bloom by John Alexander
- Flame Tree Publishing: Latest Releases
Original Sci-Fi Story
We Without Names
The gurney clattered down the sterile, white corridors of the hospital. Salvador clung to one side, strangers to the other. Ximena reached blindly for his hand. He grasped on fiercely, not that it brought any comfort. Erupting pain painted everything in a throbbing haze.
“What do we have here?” a dispassionate voice asked.
A white-coated doctor joined the retinue.
“Hispanic female, mid-thirties, road-traffic accident. Head-on collision.”
Ximena’s wrist was scanned. It bleeped red. “Class 4. Basic. Not enough for this.”
Salvador blanched. Raw with panic. “Save her. Please. We have two children. They need her.”
The doctor sighed. “This is not a charitable organisation. It is a business.” He consulted his e-pad. “We can elevate her to Class 3, which would provide additional treatments, giving her a 30% greater chance of survival, if you consent to the purchase and use of her genetic material. Regardless of success.”
“Yes, yes,” Salvador agreed. Too hastily. Not thinking it through. Not asking her.
Ximena was too weak to make her objection heard. The feeble hand raised went unnoticed.
Salvador’s thumb-print sealed the agreement. Made it binding. Even when the weight of oblivion encroached, negating the sacrifice.
The last thing Ximena heard was the low monotone of a flatline.
The first thing she knew was comfort. The enveloping warmth of pulsating fluid, the smooth feel of uterine membrane beneath her fingertips. A slick womb of protective, synthetic flesh.
The draining of her capsule was cruel. A sudden puncture. A thrust into unforgiving air. Shoulder and hip slammed onto cold metal. Firing synapses, igniting pain. Liquid rose up her throat – no longer comforting – expelling down her chin in a burning, pink stream. Choking, choking.
A pair of polished shoes swamp into her field of vision. Blurry eyes focussed. She looked up, gulping lungfuls of air. The technician stared down impassively, holding an e-pad.
“State your designation.”
The struggle to inhale made that impossible – a noise that was echoed beside her. Another body had thumped to the metal platform from the adjacent capsule. Male. Wiry and lean. Muscles shifted under his skin, limbs quivering as he struggled to push up against the fluid draining down his back.
The same question was asked of him.
“O-o-owen,” the male coughed. “I-I think…”
His technician fired a bolt into his cranium. His body crumpled in a graceless heap.
“Model deemed faulty,” the technician spoke into an e-pad, while a pair of menials swept in to drag the carcass away. “Biomatter removed for reassimilation in successive line.”
A foot tapping returned attention to her own technician, who heaved a sigh. “When you’re ready.” His tone implied an imposition.
They laboured in darkness. Nocturnal denizens of the limitless black. Perpetually wading through the reeking sewer-filth that congealed beneath a shining metropolis.
Unclogging, repairing, scouring.
#511052 had been assigned to a maintenance crew. The work was hard and gruelling, but she conducted it to the best of her physical capabilities.
“Cease activity, menials.” The foreman’s call ricocheted down the cavernous tunnel, and the sloshing of grime waned. The interruption came early – hours before the shift ended. “Your division has been discontinued. You’re to return to the factory immediately.”
In unison, the division complied. Herding into an awaiting transport without question.
“Seems a shame,” the man leaning against its side said as #511052 climbed aboard. His uniform identified him as a trucker for the Regen Factory. “Most are only six months old. A lot of work left in them.”
“That’s budget cuts for you,” the foreman tutted. “But we can’t keep any, you know the rules.”
They dragged down the shutter, sealing them inside.
The impact struck the truck hard, throwing #511052 into the body of another menial. They were weightless. Rolling. Smashing into the roof, the floor, each other. Until everything abruptly stilled.
A high ringing filled her ears. She tasted iron. And all around…
Mangled limbs. Blood and gore.
Instinct drove her towards a gaping hole ripped into the cabin. She scrabbled out, fell into shards of sunlight. After her subterranean existence, it was too bright, too intense. Searing delicate retinas.
People. Horns. Screams.
A whirl of activity.
Her feet carried her to the closest shadows. Away from the chaos. Down a garbage-filled alley. Where she crumpled against a rusting dumpster, curling in upon herself.
It took several moments to realise that someone had followed her. That someone crouched nearby.
“Miss? Are you alright?”
#511052 blinked, eyes adjusting. A man with beautiful bronze skin. He looked like the edge of remembrance. Like something just beyond reach. His face young but worn. And… shocked.
“Ximena?” he gaped. “Dear God…”
A flash of memory: a bolt through that male’s skull. Names were not for menials.
“M-my designation is #511052,” she quickly corrected. “Sewer Division.”
“A menial, of course…” He swept a hand through inky black hair. “I’m Salvador. What were you doing in that truck?”
The mandate to answer any question posed was in-built. “Being transported to the Regen Factory. For biomatter repurposing. My division are surplus to current requirements.”
His skin paled. “Biomatter repurposing…” He looked back. Law enforcement had begun to arrive, squad cars descending from the sky in a flurry of red-blue lights. “Come with me.”
“I should return-”
“Menials require assignments, yes? I have an assignment for you.” From a pocket, he retrieved an e-pad and set a video playing. Of two small boys, barely beyond infancy. “They need a mother.”
She touched it, couldn’t help herself. Something deep panged in her chest.
“Care-giving? This is to be my new purpose?”
Regulations stated that no individual could profit off company excess. When deemed unnecessary, all assets must be returned to the manufacturer for liquidation…
“Please.” His eyes shone. “I can’t do this alone anymore.”
…But this man was pleading with her. It was her function to alleviate human burdens in any manner required. And this… She wanted this. Wanted to be with them.
#511052 had never wanted before.
Salvador extended a hand.
She took it.
Nemma Wollenfang is an MSc Postgraduate and prize-winning short story writer who lives in Northern England. Her stories have appeared in several venues, including: Beyond the Stars, Abyss & Apex, Cossmass Infinities, as well as previously in Flame Tree’s Gothic Fantasy series. She is also a recipient of the Speculative Literature Foundation's Working Class Writers Grant. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and at her and at her website: www.nemmawollenfang.co.uk
Original Horror Story
William woke up drenched in sweat. Suddenly feeling smothered by the covers that clung to his naked skin, he threw them off in panic. He had been dreaming of green fields and flowers, but his dream had quickly turned into a nightmare.
In his dream he had reached the edge of the cliff where he often went to watch the birds. The water below was a crystalline blue, and unable to stop himself, he jumped down into the water. He fell slowly but inexorably, like a fly trapped in honey, and as he fell the tranquil waters had thickened into a sickly green sludge. The waves which had seemed calming a moment before now looked more like ripples that belonged to some terrible force below. They came rhythmically, and they made no sound, like a whisper speaking the heartbeat of an unseen giant.
As the liquid enveloped him, William’s flesh began melting and sloughing off the bone. He tried to scream and the green fluid invaded his mouth, burning him from the inside. Then he woke up.
“It was just a dream,” he told himself, but his heart raced and his skin tingled. Daybreak was still far off, when William would get up from his cabin and tend to his crops and his goats. He tried to go back to sleep but he couldn’t bring himself to close his eyes and he found himself staring at the walls that seemed to be advancing on him, trying to suffocate him.
William sat transfixed by a mixture of fatigue and low dread for what felt like hours before deciding to get up and eat something, usually a meal would put him to sleep. There was only hard cheese and a couple rashers of bacon left in the pantry. He began with the cheese, which tasted more of mold than of dairy, then found he was ravenous. He ate an entire wheel of cheese, then tore into the bacon, eating it raw. Grease and saliva dribbled down his chin but he didn’t care. He didn’t even stop to chew anymore, swallowing strips of flesh whole that wriggled down his throat. He ate until there was nothing left. Then, feeling bloated and vulnerable, William retreated back to the safety of his bed. He coccooned himself in the covers and began to drift in and out of sleep.
In this half-conscious state the memory of the day before started to return to him. He had been hiking along the cliffs, he had passed through the forest and walked over the deep chasm from which many flowering vines bloomed. A memory came back, distant like a voice calling out over the wind, of being bitten by a plant. That was impossible though, plants don’t bite. He must have dreamt it. Still, the memory haunted the corners of his fevered consciousness as he tried hard to picture the sunrise and everything he would do tomorrow.
William’s ankle throbbed, but he dared not look. Plants don’t bite. He fell back into sleep, and this time he dreamt that he was tending his flock. He was feeding a goat absentmindedly as curious bees buzzed around his head when the goat bit him without warning, taking a finger. He screamed and looked down to find there was no goat but a tangle of creeping vines with a toothy maw at the end of its bulbous head. It constricted his arm like a seething snake, lacerating him with its thorns, while its mouth slowly cracked the bones of his hands for their sweet marrow. He screamed again, and instead of sound a great green vine erupted from his mouth, silencing him.
William woke again, his stomach knotted. “Dreams don’t mean anything,” he said to himself. His hands trembled but he willed himself to the wash basin he kept in the kitchen to splash some water on his face. As he did so, he noticed the bandage on his ankle. He didn’t remember bandaging it. Then the memory came back once more. When he had crossed that old chasm that the strange flowers peered out of, something green had lashed out at his ankle from the depths. It nearly dragged him down into the chasm, but he had slashed at it with the small knife he carried with him and it had let go. When he examined his ankle he had found puncture marks, almost like the two-pronged bite of a venomous snake and pus leaked out of the wound.
There are some things the human mind can’t fathom, and he had blotted out the memory as soon as he had bandaged it. Now he remembered and his curiosity overcame his fear. Slowly, he unwound the bandage to confirm that he hadn’t dreamt the attack, and what William saw underneath that bandage broke him.
Overwhelmed by panic, he grabbed a cleaver off the wall and began hacking at his ankle. Blood drenched him and then he was gripped by a sudden coughing fit. The coughs became increasingly violent until he felt something threatening to scramble out of his stomach through his mouth.
There was a futile struggle, then there was peace. Whether it was blood loss or some other force compelling him, William gave up thrashing and lay on the floor, his blood warm against his skin. He slept, awaking to find he did not recognize his surroundings.
Vines sprouted from his mangled ankle, and from his mouth, surrounding him in a cocoon that slowly filled with green fluid. The fluid ate away at his flesh until he lost consciousness again. This time he awoke to find that he was not warm flesh, but thorn and vine that twisted through and through. Where once stood a lone cabin, now there was only an immense thicket which offered plump black fruit engorged with red, sticky juice.
John Alexander (also known as Alexander Bloom) is an aspiring speculative fiction writer based in Vancouver, Canada. His background is in journalism and, apart from news stories, his previous publications include satirical stories published in the humour section of The Peak, Simon Fraser University’s student-run newspaper. He is currently developing an epic fantasy series with undercurrents of horror, as well as a graphic novel series. His main influences — in no particular order — are the works of Jeff Vandermeer, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, James S.A. Correy, Jack Vance, and Tolkien.
Flame Tree Publishing | Latest Gothic Fantasy
We’re delighted to introduce our two titles in the Gothic Fantasy anthologies range; A Dying Planet and Detective Thrillers. Each book features new authors (from submission rounds), alongside curated collections of classic writing, edited for this series!
Out now in the UK and US, A Dying Planet gathers the very best of apocalyptic – and post-apocalyptic – fiction. Tales from classic authors are complemented by fascinating new and recent stories, probing the concerns and problems of a modern world at risk. First-time contributions jostle with the work of Camille Flammarion, Clark Ashton Smith, Stanley G. Weinbaum, Jack London, William Hope Hodgson, H.G. Wells and, stretching back much further, to the Norse Eddas and Sagas, and an Ancient Egyptian Myth on the death of humankind.
Detective Thrillers similarly offers an exciting mix of new and classic short stories. Rife with enigmatic detectives, dark alley chases, and secret operations, this collection promises an edge-of-your-seat journey from a host of modern authors. Alongside these contemporary authors, this new collection features works by classic authors such as John Buchan, Mignon G. Eberhart and Arthur Conan Doyle. From Father Brown and the inimitable Sherlock Holmes all the way to hardboiled PIs like Race Williams and Violet McDade, there’s no end of fascinating leading figures to follow in these breathless tales of intrigue and adventure!
Both of these beautiful editions are printed on silver paper, foil-stamped, embossed, with metalised endpapers. Great reads, and great gifts.