Sixth Issue! Snow and Time Travel
Welcome to the sixth issue of the Flame Tree Fiction newsletter! We are very excited to be bringing you two brand new flash fiction stories which were available in advance to newsletter subscribers only. We have a Horror story on the theme of Blood in the Snow and an amazing new Sci-Fi story based on the theme of Time Travel…
- Original Sci-Fi Flash Fiction: That Glorious Song by Belinda Whitney
- Original Horror Flash Fiction: A New Job by Lucinda Gunnin
- FLAME TREE PRESS - March releases
Original Science Fiction Story
That Glorious Song
Good. Let’s keep this one routine. Return window closes in ten minutes.
Looks like you nailed it. What they called Thanksgiving, 1863. The historic Claremont House. Records show they believed this place was haunted. Should yield some good information about what life was like in this primitive era. Walking around now.
What do you see?
It’s very chaotic and crowded. A lot of brown surfaces with a striped grain… right, it’s wood. The surface to walk on, the protection overhead – ceiling, that is. All wood. Squares of wood with painted images inside, suspended on vertical surfaces. Also, primitively decorated textiles and fabrics. God, what a disarray, things lying about everywhere. How could these people live? Here’s something – a living plant growing in a round encasement.
What does it look like it’s used for?
Unsure. It’s green, with a protrusion at the top. This is a flower. I’ve always wanted to see one. It bends to one side, leaning as if it’s listening to something just beyond earshot. I wonder if it has any fragrance. Beside it, a card. Maybe to thank someone? Or to express sympathy, or…
Look at that fire in the fireplace. Colors, yellow and orange and red. Look at them waving and dancing. I wish I could feel the warmth.
Of course you can’t feel. It’s only your consciousness there. Stay focused, and for God’s sake, keep moving. The clock is running. See all you can.
Look at all the colors in the room. Think of it. I’m in an actual room! There’s a chair with raised wooden surfaces on which to rest one’s arms. Over there is a table. And that larger chair, too much room for one person. Maybe two at the same time? Maybe the people touch each other when they sit there…? Oh, the colors. I’m beginning to feel disoriented...
Think, man, think. You’re only gathering information on customs in that time period. Of course it’s disorienting. They lived like barbarians– eating, drinking, touching. Superstitious nonsense for facts.
Those are newspapers, these are shoes lying on the floor, and over there, coats on a… metal rack. What a mess. What a glorious mess.
Inefficient, unproductive, ignorant days. Don’t get mesmerized. Keep your objective in mind. You’re a historian.
Oh, the wonder of it! Not just a row of sterilized alcoves like we dwell in. Wait, there are sounds approaching from the other room. Voices all speaking at once. What a commotion. What are they saying? “Smells wonderful” and “time to eat”… let me look… that’s a kitchen. There are some people. Food is being prepared over another flame.
Here they come, all towards the table! People of all sizes and shapes. Their faces and bodies are so irregular. Hair piled up, different colors of eyes and hair. Patterns and designs all over their garb. Just for fun, I think – is that possible? Some of the people are tall, some fat, some thin. How odd the juveniles appear, hopping about. They’re about to eat. Steam is rising from the food. Imagine what it must smell like! God, how wonderful it is. So brilliant, so alive!
Move away from them. You’ll be safe in your alcove again soon. You wouldn’t have wanted to have lived then. Disease, accidents, suffering, dying, injustices, prejudices. This is purely an information survey. Get back to collecting data. Agent? Agent, can you hear me…? Command, we need help. We’re losing him…
That’s a staircase. Something slinking, almost pouring down. It waves like it’s underwater. Its fibers are rippling... fur! That’s a cat! I’ll just go to the top of the stairs and look at more rooms. All these rooms. Here’s one. Another, and another. So chaotic. Hues, textures, materials, different functions, some with no apparent function at all. What’s that light shining through the translucent surface? Is that the old sun before the atmosphere went dark? Good God, dear good God! The yellow sun!
Agent, listen carefully to the sound of my voice. Return immediately to your point of arrival if you have any hopes of returning to your own time period. You don’t have to do anything. We can force-transport you, if only you’ll get to the site. Just follow the sound of my voice.
Leave this place, this wonderful place? It’s so rich. So rich, so beautiful, so… irregular. So beautifully irregular. Is this what it was to be human before we lived in sterile cubicles?
Agent! You are in grave danger of your consciousness being lost there forever. I beg you. I implore you! Command, it’s no use. He’s not listening! We’re losing him… Agent!
I think I understand. The ghosts they thought inhabited these places, back in those old days? They imagined they were spirits from the past. But maybe… I wonder. Maybe they were travelers like me. Observers from a hopeless, pointless future. Well, I say better to hover on the fringes of this place than to live one more minute in that alcove, that cubicle, fed with tubes, sheltered, never interacting, never touching, never… wait, what’s that? Sounds, rising and falling, weaving, intertwining… glorious beyond the mind to comprehend. Singing! They’re singing to me! Ah, they sing their song for me!
Belinda Whitney lives in Connecticut and writes literary and speculative fiction. She is a proud member of The Minnows Literary Group, with whom she has published several speculative fiction anthologies https://minnowsliterarygroup.wordpress.com. She has been published in The Connecticut Muse and anthologized in the short story collection Following, editor Alex Mindt. She received a certificate in screenwriting from New York University and is a top prize winner of WriteMovies.com Screenwriting Competition. Belinda is a professional free-lance violinist in New York City, currently serving as concertmaster of the Lincoln Center production of My Fair Lady.
Original Horror Story
A New Job
Adam Gentry had two days before he would be homeless. The eviction notice, a bold goldenrod against a pale white door, mocked him every time he came back to the one-bedroom mobile home that housed his meager possessions.
The check he had just written, for cheap beer, off-brand cigarettes, and freeze-dried noodles wouldn’t hit the bank until tomorrow and by the time the bank came looking for their money, he’d be gone, one way or another.
Adam set a pot on to boil for his noodles and downed the first of many beers while he searched the internet for inexpensive and painless ways to kill himself. He couldn’t afford pills or a gun to make it fast, so he was having to get creative. Maybe just blowing out the pilot light on the stove before he went to bed would work, but he was more than a little afraid of the idea of burning, especially if he failed to die.
Life working at the slaughterhouse hadn’t been pretty, but it had paid the bills. Six months after it closed, no one was hiring butchers and he was down to his last 47 cents.
He had finished the noodles and the six-pack and had moved on to pity porn on his ancient laptop, using Wi-Fi graciously supplied by his unwitting neighbors, when an email notification popped up on his screen.
He read the email three times, then a fourth, trying not to get his hopes up. An interview, tomorrow at 4 p.m., for a butcher’s job at some out-of-the-way resort in the mountains. If he got the job, room and board were included.
Adam thought about posting his good news to social media but then remembered no one would care. His sister, the vegan, had long-since disowned him and Jake, the only friend he had, got distant after they got laid off. Jake beat him out for a butcher’s job at the local grocery and then things got awkward. Maybe Jake felt guilty because Adam was struggling or maybe Adam was jealous. Either way, they weren’t friends anymore.
Instead of sharing his news, Adam went to the couch and passed out.
Adam awoke Tuesday morning feeling better than he had in months. He double checked his email to make sure he hadn’t simply dreamed of a new job. Then, knowing the bank was seizing the property the following day anyway, he packed up his possessions and loaded them in the back on the 1982 Dodge Aspen station wagon that was his only means of transportation.
The windshield was cracked, the driver’s side window wouldn’t fully close, and the heater only worked on alternate Thursdays, but even that couldn’t dull his enthusiasm for the new job. The resort owner, Sally Jenkins, said they were offering a specialty getaway for discriminating clientele and needed a butcher who could do justice to their exotic meats.
Adam shrugged. He’d never butchered a kangaroo or ostrich, but meat was meat and if it meant a job and a home, he didn’t care about most anything else.
The wind eddies created white-out conditions as Adam drove up the mountain. He had to stop twice to clean off the windows, but he arrived at the impressive wrought iron gate just before 4 p.m. His car was out of place among the luxury vehicles dotting the circle drive in front of the main house. Adam looked for a service entrance, but never found it and went right to the front door. He was surprised when Sally called him into the front parlor to discuss his knife skills.
“We’ve found that some of the meat is a little too tough for our liking, and we’re hoping that a new butcher might be better able to help us find the choice cuts,” she said. “We’ll provide you with a two-bedroom apartment over the garage and a company vehicle. It wouldn’t do for someone to see you in that…rattletrap.”
“Our butcher will work closely with our chefs to procure the best specimens and find new and interesting ways to prepare and present the meat,” Sally advised. “Are you interested in joining us, Adam?”
Adam tried not to let his eagerness for the job show, but suspected he failed. “I’d love to. I could start immediately.”
Sally reached across the small coffee table and patted his hand. “Welcome aboard. Now, let’s tour the facilities, shall we?”
The meat in the kitchen’s walk-in freezer was packaged in butcher’s paper and set on shelves.
Pointing to the meat hooks over his head, Adam said, “We should try aging the meat on the carcass and cutting it off as we need it. You’ll get more precise cuts and better flavor.”
Sally nodded and led him out the back door and down a path to the butchering shed. She opened the door and let Adam enter first.
“We prefer to hang the carcasses out here. Easier for our squeamish guests,” she said.
Adam flipped the light switch to see a dozen bodies hanging from hooks in the ceiling, their blood draining to a small hole in the floor below. He scanned the carcasses until he saw a familiar face. Jake. Bastard.
Turning back to Sally, he pointed to his former friend.
“Well, there’s part of your problem, Miss Jenkins. Omnivores are going to be a bit stringy, most of the time, especially one like him that lived on beer and hot wings. You need to cultivate a better meat source. Might I suggest vegans?”
Lucinda Gunnin is a short story writer and commercial property manager in the suburbs of Philadelphia. She writes a regular mad science gossip column at Mad Science Journal and has a collection of her short horror available on Amazon. She can be found online on Twitter @LucindaGunnin and Facebook.
FLAME TREE PRESS | March Releases
For March we have some brand new Horror from Brian Kirk with his book Will Haunt You, a brand new Sci-Fi title called The Widening Gyre by Michael R. Johnston and a new to Flame Tree Jonathan Janz novel, Wolf Land. They will all be available in HC, PB, eBook and audio formats. Q&As with the authors are now on our Twitter account!