Twenty-Sixth Issue! Solar Vampires
Welcome to the Twenty-Sixth issue of the Flame Tree Fiction NEWSLETTER! We hope you all had a fantastically spooky Halloween and that you're all looking forward to the stories coming to you this month! There were a huge amount of incredible tales submitted for November's Sci-Fi and Horror
This month's newsletter features:
- Original Horror Flash Fiction: Hail to the Chief by Naching T. Kassa
- Original Sci-Fi Flash Fiction: Pilgrimage by Sasha Heathcliff
- FLAME TREE PRESS: November Releases
- Flame Tree Live & Spooky: Catch up on Flame Tree Press’ Creepy Carnival event!
Original Horror Story
Hail to the Chief
Naching T. Kassa
The moon drifted among the clouds above, casting silver light below. Dr. Henry Lee turned his face from the sun’s pale sister and stepped from the carriage. A man, dressed in the dark uniform of a butler, met him at the door and offered a white-gloved hand.
“Thank you for coming, Doctor.”
Lee took the hand and shook it. “You are quite welcome, Mr. Lovett. Where is the patient?”
Lovett, a flaxen-haired man, led Lee through the back door and into the kitchen. The scent of roasted meat and fresh-baked bread wafted over them as they passed through the dark and empty room. Neither smell drew the doctor’s interest.
When they mounted the stairway to the upper floor and the patient’s bedroom, Lee detected a strange odor, one of decay and corruption. The scent signaled death.
Lovett paused before a door at the end of a long hall and knocked twice. The door opened and Lovett ushered Lee inside.
A thin man lay beneath the covers of the large bed. Shadows rimmed his eyes and his breath came slow and labored. A ginger-haired man stood nearby, bathing his face with a cloth. He glanced up, as the doctor entered.
“Why are you here, Lee?”
“To help, Kincaid.” Lee set the carpetbag he carried on a nearby chair.
“Where is Van Helsing?” Kincaid asked.
“Our mentor has gone on an urgent matter—”
“More urgent than the President’s life?”
“In a word, yes. He took Abraham to Vienna and sent me in his stead.” Lee approached the bed and studied the patient’s face. “When was the attack?”
“We suspect the first one occurred three weeks ago, at the Tippecanoe Ball. Over one thousand people attended, and he complained of weakness that night.”
“He danced with a woman called, Lucy Bell, several times that evening. Her family are staunch supporters of his opponent, Van Buren. They vanished from the city a few days ago.”
“Did this event coincide with his turn for the worse?”
“You are sure she is no longer in the vicinity?”
“There is no question of it.”
“Then, why is there blood upon his lips?”
“He has been coughing.”
Lee leaned forward. “It is not his blood.”
“What?” Kincaid lifted the lamp from the table and held it over the patient’s face.
“See there,” Lee said. “His lips are stained black. He has tasted the blood. If he dies—”
“He will become a monster,” Kincaid said. “We must save his life.”
“Of the two of us, you are the best doctor. Do what you can for him.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Find the one who attacked him.”
When Lee entered the hall, he found Lovett waiting for him.
“Dr. Lee, Mrs. Harrison would like to see you.”
“The First Lady?”
“The First Lady is at home in Ohio. I speak of Mrs. Jane Harrison, the President’s daughter-in-law. She awaits you in the kitchen.”
Jane Harrison sat at the kitchen table, lamplight playing over her pale features and glimmering in her brown eyes. She wore the black of grief, a hue so dark, it seemed she had clothed herself in shadows.
“Please sit, Dr. Lee,” Jane said. The doctor seated himself in the chair opposite as Lovett took his leave.
“I hope you will forgive my directness, doctor, but I fear time is growing short. My father-in-law, how is he?”
“Dr. Kincaid is working as best he can to save his life. There is someone who may be of service. If we can find her, his cure will be assured.”
The woman shook her head. Her beautiful face grew melancholy. “You will never find her. They have her hidden somewhere in the city. The moment he dies, her head will be severed from her body.”
“How do you know this?”
“It is his plan. He was a monster long before he received the bite and blood of one. My poor William…he learned of his father’s monstrous ways first-hand.” She grasped hold of Lee’s arm. “If he is turned, you must kill him. We cannot have a man such as he guiding our country.”
“You are a disciple of Erasmus Van Helsing, are you not? Is it not your duty to kill these creatures?”
“I cannot kill a mortal.”
“Then, you have doomed us all.” She rose from the table. “If you knew his plans, knew what slavery he has planned for the nation, you might think differently.”
“Show me these plans. Give me proof.”
“I cannot. His acolytes have all of it. I ask only that you believe me.” She gazed into his eyes for several seconds.
“As long as he lives, I must work to save him,” Lee said.
Lovett rushed into the room at that moment, his face ashen. “Dr. Lee come quickly. Dr. Kincaid needs your aid.”
Sounds of a struggle greeted Lee’s ears as he rushed up the stairs. When he reached the bedroom, the door burst. Splintered wood flew like missiles. One large piece buried itself in Lee’s left thigh.
Lovett fell senseless to the floor.
President Harrison stood in the doorway, his eyes the color of scarlet, white teeth gleaming. In the room beyond, Kincaid lay upon the floor, his throat torn away.
“Who are you?” Harrison cried. “Where is Van Helsing?”
He reached down and grasped hold of Lee’s throat, then lifted him into the air. “Where is he?”
“What was that?”
Tears shone in Lee’s eyes. He grunted, then pulled the large wooden splinter from his thigh.
He plunged it into Harrison’s chest.
The President shrieked and Lee slipped from his grip.
The vampire writhed on the floor as Lee rose and limped across the room. Moments later, he returned with a short silver sword. He raised it above his head.
“No! You can’t! I’m the President!” the vampire cried.
“Hail to the Chief,” Lee said.
The sword whistled through the air on the way down.
Naching T. Kassa is a wife, mother, and horror writer. She’s created short stories, novellas, poems, and co-created three children. She lives in Valley, Washington USA with her husband, Dan Kassa.
Naching is a member of the Horror Writers Association, Head of Publishing for HorrorAddicts.net, and an assistant and staff writer for Still Water Bay at Crystal Lake Publishing.
Her newest short story is, “The Darker Side of Grief,” from the anthology, Arterial Bloom, edited by Mercedes M. Yardley and published by Crystal Lake Publishing.
Find Naching on her website, follow her on Twitter or Facebook and discover her on Amazon.
Original Sci-Fi Story
On this planet, the solar winds are a spectacle one can fully appreciate only once a year, in a delirium of magnetosphere green-orange-blue blood crashing over the Eastern mountains. Being both rare and terrifying, it has been the fulcrum of pilgrimage for thousand of years and no less than five religions. As I has lost the whole of my legion and my ship two months before out of nothing but personal stupidity, I am in dire need of a pilgrimage.
As the Empire will soon be upon us and relocate the entire population before collapsing the planet as punishment for the rebellion, it is also the last chance I will get.
My doctors disagree. I don't care. I leave the capital and the pale hospital room I have inhabited there early one First Morning (morning a tricky concept here: the sunlight vast, almost unending, the days understood in different degrees of morning) and start up the road to the mountains, three days before Winds Day. I take spare supplies with me: a thicker coat, a tourist-cheap bowl of incense to burn once there, and a local guide, an ex-soldier called Nomoran. No meds, even if my jaw still aches and every organ on the left side of my body is still rebuilding itself: I enjoy the way the very act of living brings me pain these days.
Nomoran is silent, but kind in his forced dealings with me: he speaks a perfectly acceptable Imperial, and helps me when my space-molded feet slip and fail in thick planet gravity. I am daily overwhelmed by slippery river pebbles and mossy tree trunks, fog-damp meadows, sinewy mountain trails that have me reaching out for Nomoran's arm like a slow toddler learning to walk. In their touch, on those occasions, I alternatively sense disgust at my alien body - so brutally pink, so tastelessly gendered - uncertainty, flares of pity.
The Admiral who gave the order to shoot at the planet-bound base and still had a ship to call her own would have snarled and asked for blood at the outrage. She hasn't been me for quite some time.
The night - Failing Morning - before Winds Day I am famished with loneliness. I ask Nomoran where they come from, how they lost their leg. They say I wouldn't know how to pronounce the name of the place anyway. Decline to answer the second question. Their gaze is a gun barrel to my nape, cool.
Ah, my body understands, hours before the rest of me: so this is how it ends. Ah, yes.
This last night I sleep real sleep for the first time since the battle. I even dream of her, in my arms, laughing; warm again.
We reach the mountaintop the next day, during Third Morning: the atmosphere crushing itself against the winds, ripping at the seams, bleeding phantom color. The locals say you can sing the name of God in them - read the colors like music sheets. It is glorious. It is heartbreaking. It will all go when the Empire comes.
I rest the incense bowl on the ground, scare up a pale tongue of a fire out of old-fashioned matchsticks. The cold fills with the smell of alien flowers and crushed amber. I sway in the swell of it. My half-healed heart, regenerating, gives a lurch. Nomoran moves silently at my back.
When a real gun pushes against my nape I tremble.
"You were there - the day of the battle," I say. "With the defensors at the base."
"I was," Nomoran says.
"That's how you lost your leg."
I nod. I know without asking that they lost more than that on that day.
There's nothing else to say. I kneel, as befitting a dishonored officer: the admiral who ordered the battle, who lost her ship in the process, who has survived disfigured, unrecognized, and brought the Empire's enormous mouth here, to eat this place out of existence.
"Thank you," I say: eyes to the colors of the winds, the dance and agony of it. "For this."
In Nomoran's voice, disgust: an anger full of pity.
I close my eyes the second before the shot. In the colors trapped there, I don't sing God's name, but hers.
Sasha Heathcliff was born in Moncalieri, Turin, in the foggiest, rainiest corner of the Italian peninsula. She lives in Rivoli, Italy, where she’s working on her grad dissertation in Archaeology and Ancient History. Apart from one publication in an Italian fantasy-themed magazine, she has no previous publication history. She loves to blend speculative musings and character growth in all her works, most of which still lie half-hatched in her trusty laptop. Strong influences to her writing come from Neil Gaiman, Hilary Mantel, Ursula K. Le Guin and Ann Leckie.
FLAME TREE PRESS | November Releases
First up we have Mondo Crimson by Andrew Post: When Melanie, a car thief, is sent to find a certain vehicle only to discover it’s owned by dangerous hit-woman, Brenda, they begin to wonder if their fateful encounter wasn’t just pure coincidence. It turns out they both work for Felix Eberhart whose network of car thieves, fixers, and drug runners have all been set against one another.
Next we have City of Angels by Kenneth Bromberg: It's 1924. Sam Lacy, tough as nails robbery/homicide detective follows his own unique code of conduct within the racist and corrupt Los Angeles Police Department. Together with a group of allies, he must solve the murder of his old flame and deal with a ruthless and powerful predator who victimizes vulnerable young Chinese immigrants.
We also have Second Chances, the sequel to Second Lives by P.D. Cacek: Years since the first Travelers came back, their numbers have grown. There is still no explanation for their existence, but for the most part they have been accepted into society and given special protection under the law. There are those however who will do anything and everything in their power to put an end to the Travelers.
Last but not least we have the latest thriller from Robin Triggs, Human Resources, sequel to Night Shift: Anders Nordvelt is chief of security so, when a prominent member of a dissident group is murdered, it is his job to find the killer. Unsatisfied with the obvious explanation, Anders keeps pushing, not knowing that he’s about to enter a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a ruthless killer.
These are out now. You can get your copy from select online retailers or on our website here!
Flame Tree Live & Spooky | Watch Now
In October we hosted Flame Tree Press’ First Annual Creepy Carnival: Live & Spooky! We know a lot of you already enjoyed the readings, panel discussions and live Q&As but for those of you who missed out you can watch all of it here.
Thank you so much to everybody who took part and helped share the event online, we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!