Fourteenth Issue! Locked Dystopia
Welcome to the fourteenth issue of the FLAME TREE PRESS NEWSLETTER! We've got some amazing stories for you all to read, that were exclusive for subscribers to read for one month! Thank you to everybody who took part and submitted their wonderful tales to us. The themes for last month's flash fiction were Disturbing Dystopia and Locked Away!
This month's newsletter features:
- Original Sci-Fi Flash Fiction: Truth Fly, Don't Bother Me by Peter S. Drang
- Original Horror Flash Fiction: All My Children by John B. Rosenman
- Flame Tree Publishing - November Releases
Original Science Fiction Story
Truth Fly, Don't Bother Me
Peter S. Drang
Jason deftly piloted the spoon through barrel rolls while humming thunderous engine noises. "Here comes the 747 for a perfect landing in your mouth!"
Seven-month-old Trisha kicked her feet at ninja-blur speed, though her lips remained sealed as tightly as the highchair straps that imprisoned her at the breakfast table.
A squealing voice behind Jason said, "Fact check: Lie. The 747 is aerodynamically incapable of performing a barrel roll."
Jason turned, confused since the TV was off. Then he picked out the source, sitting on the breakfast table: A Truth Fly. An inch long, metallic red, robotic.
Jason scowled. "I'm not a politician. This is illegal!"
"Fact check: Lie. Regulation BUR2066-5178 expands the Truth Fly program to include not only politicians but also certain private citizens."
"You can't come into my house—"
"Fact check: Lie. I am authorized to monitor truth anywhere."
Jason huffed at the fly's accusations. "I didn't lie; I just didn't know about the new regulations."
"Fact check: Lie. The Truth Shall Set You Free Act of 2060 defines the word 'lie' as 'any statement that is false according to government fact checkers.'"
Jason's hand itched to swat the damn Truth Fly, but that would bring the sting of law enforcement.
Jason carried Trisha through the colorfully decorated daycare center doors. Some of the older children sang the classic, "Shoo fly, don't bother me …" Jason concurred with that sentiment.
Jason kissed Trisha's head then handed her to a smiling childcare worker—a fun-loving young man named Bruce.
"Bruce, sorry I'm late, horrible traffic."
"Fact check: Lie. Traffic was normal today." The Truth Fly landed on Jason's shoulder.
Bruce raised his eyebrows. "Why is that thing here?"
"I really don't know."
"Fact check: Lie. I explained the new regulations earlier."
Jason stared at his fly-infested shoulder. "I know what you told me, but I don't know for sure if what you said is true. Therefore, I don't definitively know why you're following me." Jason smiled. He'd bested the little menace using epistemology. Perhaps those college philosophy courses were useful.
"Fact check: Lie. The Truth Shall Set You Free Act of 2060 requires all citizens to accept any pronouncement by a Truth Fly as indisputable fact."
Jason threw up his hands so violently that the Truth Fly had to take back to the air. He shouted, "This is unbelievable."
Trisha started to fuss in Bruce's arms.
"Fact check: Lie. As previously discussed, you're legally required to believe it."
"Excuse me," Bruce said, bouncing Trisha gently to sooth her. "You're upsetting Trisha. Could you please take this … discussion … outside?"
Jason jogged down the sidewalk, late for work. He passed other pedestrians, some of whom had their own Truth Flies buzzing nearby.
A man and woman talked a few paces ahead of him. "Fact check: Lie. GPS records indicate you were not at work last night. You took an attractive young lady to a Rudolf's Bistro." The woman started to weep as the man fumed.
Two businesspeople spoke while waiting for a light to change; a Truth Fly sat on one's shoulder. "Fact check: Lie. Phone intercepts confirm that Sheila thought Frank's presentation yesterday was stupid, not 'just fine.'"
A car honked at a J-walker, the driver shouting, "Get out of the way, I'm late!"
"Fact check: Lie. Records indicate you are an unemployed alcoholic, and you're going to a bar--you're not late for anything."
All around, people had curious looks on their faces. Anger, bemusement, sadness, shock—every emotion strung to the breaking point. As if the whole human race had boiled over, heated by the unforgiving fire of raw truth.
He decided to cut through the park--it would be empty in the morning save a few silent joggers. No talking--no fact checks.
How wrong he was. Jason came upon a crowd listening to an agitated young woman with a megaphone.
"It's out of control!" she shouted. "We must take back our rights!"
A Truth Fly landed on her megaphone and spoke into it. "Fact check: Lie. No rights are violated by the Truth Fly program."
"Opposition voices are drowned out--"
"Fact check: Lie. Any candidate may speak, we simply correct their factual errors to prevent voter confusion."
A second Truth Fly landed on her, then a third and a fourth.
The woman bravely ignored them. "If the government can legislate truth, tyranny results!"
"Fact check: Lies. Government experts are more qualified than citizens to determine truth. And the government is fair and benevolent, not tyrannical."
A swarm of Truth Flies engulfed the woman in a cacophonous cloud, all talking--rattling off facts and figures about government efficiency, spewing platitudes about what was best for citizens, quoting regulations--until the woman's voice couldn't compete with the chatter.
The woman's words, and what was happening to her, shook Jason to the core. What would the world be like for Trisha?
"She's right!" Jason shouted.
The crowd turned toward him.
"Fact check—" his fly started to say, then a slapping sound echoed through the park.
The crowd stood silent, staring at Jason, eyes wide, gasping.
He slowly raised his crushed Truth Fly high into the air. But what could he say to transform his single act of disobedience into a movement? He thought about Trisha again, at daycare this morning.
"Truth Fly," he said, "don't bother me!"
The crowd broke out in a raucous cheer and chanted Jason's anthem, "Truth Fly, don't bother me! Truth Fly, don't bother me!" over and over. They rushed to the woman, grabbing and destroying the flies swarming her, ripping wings off, crushing, slapping and swatting in a frenzy.
Jason dropped the mechanical carcass he held and crushed it to dust under his heel.
He braced for the government's response, already audible in the distance. This makeshift revolution had just begun, but for Trisha's sake he had to see it through, no matter the hardship.
The vengeful hum of the Justice Wasps grew louder.
Peter S. Drang lives in northern New Jersey, USA with his wife Victoria. He also has two grown sons making their own marks on the world. His fictional work has appeared (or is forthcoming) in Flash Fiction Online, Daily Science Fiction, and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, among other places. As a former software engineer and ardent technologist, he builds a 3D printed robot army by day and writes fiction about 3D printed robot armies (and other topics) by night. You can find story notes and more of his maniacal musings at drangstories.com
Original Horror Story
All My Children
John B. Rosenman
Bon had been locked away again.
He never knew why his parents did it, but now and then they got a frightened look on their faces and one of them pinched his ear and dragged him to the closet. This time it was his father who did it, pushing him in and closing the door tight.
Then locking it.
Now he sat on the hard wood floor in the darkness, just as he had on other occasions. Gazing at the door he couldn’t see, he wondered what rule he had broken, how he had been bad this time. And why his parents were so frightened of him.
“Bon,” his mother had said. “Bon means good but you aren’t good at all, are you? No, you’re a very naughty boy and must be punished.”
Naughty. Bon picked at a scab on his bare knee and nibbled at the word. He was only eleven years old, and his periodic punishment continued to baffle him. How had he been naughty? He tried to remember, but all he could recall was sitting at dinner and gazing at his parents across the stiff, white tablecloth. Or rather, not gazing at them because he’d been told it was impolite to stare.
Something stirred inside Bon. It was not the first time this had happened, but now he felt an object form and try to slip through his lips. He clamped his teeth tight, and the thing obeyed, retreating inside him.
When his parents first started to lock him up, he was terrified by the darkness, which seemed filled with monsters he couldn’t see. His parents even stuffed something at the bottom of the door so not a single ray of light could enter. The closet made him feel blind and helpless, choking his throat so he could barely breathe. Once he had screamed, begging his parents to let him out, but the painful beating he had received had quickly taught him to behave.
Soon the close-walled darkness hadn’t terrified him as much. In time it had seemed to symbolize his secret self, his inner being.
Memories rose. His parents taking him to specialists for his “condition,” seeking a cure. What is wrong with our child? his mother had wailed. His father’s cruel face had twisted in disgust. Spawn of the devil, he had said. A twisted mutation.
Once, a doctor had warned his parents that the medicine she prescribed would have only a temporary effect. Their son’s condition, she’d said, would probably worsen when he reached puberty.
Worsen how? Worsen why? And why did his parents fear him? Bon wanted so much to love his parents, to hug them and make them happy. If only they would let him!
Something stirred in him again. This time, the thing slipped through his lips and rose into the air. It was the first time this had happened, and Bon watched the being he had birthed. It resembled a glowing silver butterfly and its light irradiated the darkness. Such beauty! Bon opened his lips and felt others emerge: delicate, winged creatures that danced with delight in the air. They swarmed out of him, like messengers from his soul.
Soon there was no darkness, only light. Bon could see the closet clearly, even his father’s coat on a high hanger and an old birdcage in the corner.
Ah, he remembered now. At dinner Bon had opened his lips and released one of these creatures. Only it had been so much smaller than these, barely a half inch long. His mother, though, had screamed and his father had stood up so fast, his chair had fallen over.
Why? Bon wondered. Why are they afraid of something so beautiful?
In the closet, the creatures did something new. As if he were their commanding officer, they arranged themselves in neat ranks before him, floating in the air. He watched, at first stunned, then pleased as a deep, wordless knowledge spread through him.
He reached out and playfully touched one of them, then another. “Ah, I see,” he said. “I think I know what I am now, what I’m becoming. I’m not just a little boy. I can do things, change reality.” He smiled, gazing into an inward mirror. “My parents weren’t locking only me in, were they? They were locking in my powers as well because they fear them.”
He laughed out loud. “All my children,” he said, “what will you do for me? Perform a little trick if you please.”
Their glow faded, then intensified, and his children changed into something else, something no longer so benign and beautiful. Bon saw monstrous faces with multiple eyes. And worse.
Bon laughed and clapped his hands in delight. “More! More!” he ordered.
They obeyed, morphing into unspeakable shapes whose features might drive even brave men insane, screaming in horror as they tried to escape. Bon gazed at them and giggled, clapping his hands while they swooped and flew.
Finally, Bon lowered his hands and spoke a single word. “Return!”
At once, they obeyed, returning to their original positions in the air, like ranks of well-trained soldiers.
“And now, my children,” Bon said. “We wait.”
An hour seemed to pass. Then two. Bon remembered how interminable the waiting had once seemed, how he had cried and silently begged his parents to release him from his blind nightmare. How he had reached out to touch the walls in order to convince himself he wasn’t the only thing that existed.
Now the waiting seemed interminable for a different reason.
Finally, there was the familiar sound of a key in the door. Bon gasped and released his breath with pleasure.
“Get ready, my children,” he said. “You’re about to meet my parents.”
John B. Rosenman is a retired English professor from Norfolk State University in Norolk VA. He has published 250 stories in Weird Tales, Whitley Strieber's Aliens, Galaxy and elsewhere. Some of his SF novels are Alien Dreams and A Senseless Act of Beauty (Crossroad Press) and The Merry-Go-Round Man, YA (also with Crossroad Press). Other SF novels include Speaker of the Shakk and Beyond Those Distant Stars (Mundania Press), and the Inspector of the Cross series with MuseltUp Publishing. John's time-travel story "Killers" received Musa Publishing's 2013 Editor's Top Pick award, and "The Blue of Her Hair, the Gold of Her Eyes" won Preditor' s and Editor's Readers 2010 Poll Award for SF IF short fiction.
Flame Tree Publishing | November Releases
We are so excited to announce the UK release of three of Flame Tree Publishing's titles in the series Great Works that Shape our World. They range of definitive books drawing on ancient, medieval and modern writing. Created to entertain, inform and enrich, these books will bring infinite variety to refresh the mind, presented in beautiful editions for the modern market. Each title features a new, accessible introduction, specially written for these editions, placing the book in context both as part of the new series, and highlighting its special contribution to the advancement of human understanding; they examine the significance of each work, their impact at time of publication, and their influence today.
Out in the UK and US we have Herman Melville's Moby Dick, Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote, and The Cantebury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. These classic works of fiction are the perfect gift for fans of the works and a chance to own a special edition of these books.
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