Twenty-Fifth Issue! Werewolf Worlds
Welcome to the Twenty-Fifth 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 October's Sci-Fi and Horror
This month's newsletter features:
- Original Horror Flash Fiction: A Deadly Ambition by Brian Holley
- Original Sci-Fi Flash Fiction: The Hole in the Horizon by Patrick Hurley
- FLAME TREE PRESS: October Releases
- Flame Tree Live: Sci-Fi Workshop, Nadia Afifi and Allen Stroud
Original Horror Story
A Deadly Ambition
My other and I have to move from city-to-city every month. I don’t have a license, birth certificate, or a social security number. As far as society is concerned, I don’t exist. I remember our first couple years together. He was out of control. At times it was just a few groups of travelers. Some nights it was much worse. He would decimate villages⎯people and their livestock. After a couple of years, word of a great beast spread through all of Ireland by hunters and travelers who stumbled over the remains left by my other. I wish I could say I didn’t ask for this curse.
I was born in 1493, in what is now known as Coolderry, Ireland, in Offaly county. My name was Liam O’Carroll, I left that name behind when I left Ireland.
In 1532 I was next in line to become the head of the O’Carroll clan. I was so ambitious. Dangerously ambitious. At the age of twenty I studied and participated in the occult. I craved power. I wanted to be remembered for being the strongest and most feared leader our clan has ever seen. I searched for unrivaled strength and eternal life, and when I found the spell, I acted.
The night I was to cast the spell, my father held a feast for one hundred fifty of his finest soldiers, which didn’t concern me. I walked down a spiraled stone staircase. I could hear the cries of an infant and the whimpers of a grey wolf coming from the room I had prepared for the ritual. In the center of the room, I had drawn a large circle with a pentagram inside and placed a candle at each point. In the center of the pentagram stood a small table, and on that table rested a human heart on an oval serving tray. Also, about five feet from the ground, hung by their feet, were a large grey wolf and an infant child. I stood outside the circle next to the child’s mother. She was slumped up against the wall with her chest cleaved open. I stripped my clothes off and discarded them into a pile next to her, then I entered the circle.
I sat at the table. Above me the wolf and the child fell silent. The mother’s heart and a dagger lay on the table. The spell was simple. I needed to eat the heart. I used the dagger to cut small enough chunks to swallow. I felt ill. I was afraid I was going to vomit and ruin the spell. Thankfully the nausea passed. Next, I was to shower in the blood of a grey wolf and an infant child. I stood under my two hanging subjects, and with the dagger, I slit both of their throats. Blood flowed from the wounds like a waterfall. I lathered my body and became aroused. The candles flickered and blew out. I thought the arousing sensation I felt was the strength and immortality flowing through my body⎯I was wrong. My back cracked. I dropped to my knees. I screamed. My cries bounced off the stone walls. My skin tore open and my spine pushed through. My body lurched forward as my spine clicked, popped, and lengthened. My fingernails splintered, and claws protruded through my fingertips. My ankles broke and I felt my tendons stretch. I saw my ribcage move and expand through my skin. My jaw shattered and reknitted itself. The claws that felt foreign to me pulled and ripped the skin off my face and body and revealed a thick black coat of fur. My screams merged into a growl. At that moment I felt my mind split in two. I was no longer in control.
On our way out of the chamber my other stood in front of a polished metal, that we used as a mirror, and he let me witness what I had become. I was a wolf. I stood on two legs. My muscles had expanded ten times the size they were. I can’t deny I felt powerful. I know now that my other did not stop in front of that mirror to allow me to admire myself, he wanted me to know what I achieved and sacrificed in my search for power and immortality. Then he bounded up the staircase.
My other picked up the scent of the soldiers. When we reached the hall in which the men slept, he didn’t hesitate to ram the door down. I saw them spring up in bed as the broken door skidded down the center of the hall. My other let out a roar that froze half the soldiers in fear, while the other half ran to the end of the hall looking for an exit, but there was none. He leapt through the air and landed on a soldier. My other grabbed both arms and pulled them from the soldier’s body like he was pulling a sheet of paper from a notebook. He then sunk his fangs into the soldier’s neck, and I could taste the warm coppery liquid splash our tongue and flow down our throat. He tossed the limp body aside and moved to his next victim. My other just tore the head off this man and tossed it toward the soldiers cowering at the end of the hall. This is not what I wanted.
In the early morning hours, I woke up in the forest, naked, and covered in blood. Later I would hear that all the soldiers were slain overnight. The body parts could not be matched to any individual soldier, so they were gathered and cremated altogether.
Even though I regret it I have learned to accept my curse. Tonight, will be the first night of the full moon, which means in three days I will be moving to the next city. It also means there will be many deaths, and I will grieve them all as I move on.
Brian Holley lives in Orlando, Florida, where he studies creative writing at the University of Central Florida. His story, “A Deadly Ambition,” is Brian’s first publication. Brian’s favorite genre to write in is horror, and he finds influence is such authors as Jonathan Janz and Brian Keene.
Original Sci-Fi Story
The Hole in the Horizon
Some of us still remember the day when we saw the hole in the horizon. A black half-circle it was, filled with twinkling stars, breaching the line where water met sky. An arc of night that lingered as the pale sun rose over the gray and misty sea.
Ours is a humble village tucked between salt-eaten cliffs, a rag-patch collection of thatched cottages and wattle hovels with a single long hall to serve as church and gathering place. It was there we met to discuss this hole in the horizon, this patch of night off the shore.
A few worried the ocean would drain away, but their fears were mocked. Our priest proclaimed it a sign of end times, but he was a disliked man, weak-chinned and scheming, sent from Mother Church as penance for some unknown crime. Our wise woman was consulted, but this was beyond her lore, so she said only, "Some things are better left alone."
The boldest of us wanted a closer look. To see where this darkness lead and whether it meant us any harm. We had but four large boats in the village, three skimmers and a cog for big hauling. In the end it was decided that six of our boldest would sail out in a skimmer. Not to go through the hole, oh no, just see what lay within.
From the shore, we watched the skimmer grow smaller. After an hour, the ship drew even with the starlit patch. They lowered a coracle from it and began to row toward the darkness. From where we stood, it seemed a tiny ant creeping along the gray-blue sky line. The moment the coracle touched the hole in the horizon, the darkness vanished, taking the coracle with it, leaving behind the skimmer.
The skimmer returned with only four. At first, they wouldn't speak on what happened. When plied with food and drink, we heard the tale. ‘Twas not just a hole in the horizon, they said. Not just a hole, but a portal. The air within was sweet, they said. Filled with gentle waves and kind stars. The night sang to them, they said. Sang with voices on the wind. They chose two, the boldest of the bold, man and woman, to take the coracle. The singing grew louder as they drew nearer, stopped when they crossed over. The hole vanished then, taking our two boldest.
Naught could be done. The hole in the horizon was gone and so were they. After a day’s silence, life went on. The priest left, replaced by another who knew better the ways of small villages. Folk died. Babes were born. Our wise woman passed her mantle on to her daughter. We fished the sea and farmed the bits of dirt we could. No more holes appeared on the horizon.
Many years later, two travelers came to our village.
Dressed in fine silks they were, bearing shining blades with strange runes. Each had a far-off glint to their eye, as though they'd seen many things. We didn’t recognize them until they spoke, for time had not taken the sea from their voices.
Tall and hale, they strode up the village green while we shuffled after, stooped and bent from pulling potatoes and hauling nets. Young and unlined were their faces, while ours were cracked and worn from the wind. As we studied their bright smiles and straight backs, how we wished we’d rowed a coracle through the hole in the horizon.
Why had they returned, we wondered? We gathered in the long hall to hear their story. They told of seas beyond our world, an armada of golden ships with silver sails. They told of titanic battles, impossible quests, and treasures beyond imagination. Through it all, they cherished the memory of a small village, their home by the sea. Now that their days of adventuring were done, they wished to build a house here and settle down.
Silence met them when they finished their tale. In the silence, we all seemed to be asking ourselves, what now? It seemed absurd to expect these grand folk to take up nets or hoe the dirt. Their own blood had long since left the village or died. The few of us still known to them were old now, barely-remembered names with strangers’ faces.
The travelers watched us, as if searching for something. Our silence grew longer. Some of the light faded from their eyes, and though we felt petty, we were glad to see their pain.
In the end, our young wise woman led the travelers from the long hall for a talk. There had been a mistake, it was decided. We were not the village the travelers remembered, just one of dozens dotting the coast along the western sea. With sad smiles, the strangers left that very evening, never to return.
In time, some even came to believe that there really had been a mistake, that another village had seen the hole in the horizon and lost their two boldest to it. But others, those of us who remember, still look out in secret and keep watch along the sea.
Hoping the hole in the horizon will return once more.
Patrick Hurley lives in Seattle and works as an editor for Paizo Inc. He's had fiction published in dozens of markets, including the magazines Galaxy’s Edge, Abyss & Apex, and Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores; the book anthologies Portals and Murder & Mayhem; Paizo RPGs Pathfinder and Starfinder; and the podcasts The Overcast and The Drabblecast. Patrick is a member of SFWA and the Dreamcrashers. He is a 2017 graduate of the Taos Toolbox Writer's Workshop. In 2018, he was a finalist for the Baen Fantasy Award. Find out more about what he's working on at www.patrickhurleywrites.com.
FLAME TREE PRESS | October Releases
We had four fantastic FLAME TREE PRESS titles published in October.
First up we have an exciting new horror short story collection which is edited by Mark Morris called After Sundown: This new anthology contains 20 original horror stories, 16 of which have been commissioned from some of the top names in the genre, and 4 of which have been selected from the 100s of stories sent to Flame Tree during a 2-week open submissions window. It is the first of what will hopefully become an annual, non-themed horror anthology of entirely original stories, showcasing the very best short fiction that the genre has to offer.
Next we have a horror novel from author Frazer Lee called Greyfriars Reformatory: Nineteen year-old Emily's acute dissociative disorder causes her to be institutionalised at Greyfriars Reformatory For Girls. When the terrifying apparition of the mysterious ‘Grey Girl' begins scaring the inmates to death, Emily’s disorder may be the one thing that can save her.
We also have a new horror by author Russell James called The Portal: Joey Oates is back at Stone Harbor to complete the ritual a coven left unfinished three hundred years ago. Former lovers Scott Tackett and Allie Layton are about to reconnect after years apart, until they discover the evil growing in town. Only they can stop Oates’s awful plan.
Last but not least we have the latest horror from John Everson, Voodoo Hearts: When Detective Lawrence Ribaud wakes alone in a bloody bed with his wife missing, he knows this is more than just a mysterious case of murder. All across New Orleans, on one night each month, people are vanishing. Ribaud doesn’t believe in voodoo but he soon finds himself in search of the mysterious Black Queen…and the curse of her Voodoo Heart.
These are out now. You can get your copy from select online retailers or on our website here!
Flame Tree Live | Sci-Fi Workshop, Nadia Afifi and Allen Stroud
Catch up on our previous Flame Tree Live event featuring new stars of science fiction, Nadia Afifi author of The Sentient, and Allen Stroud author Fearless. They discuss a wide range of topics in this fascinating workshop, from writing to sci-fi themes, including cloning, world-building and the influence of current events on their writing.
Watch the event here.