I’m a science fiction and fantasy writer. These are a few of my short stories that can be found online.
[expand title=”A science fiction short story recently published at Daily Science Fiction. It tells the story of a family’s multi-generational love affair with the moon.”]
It is a week after the funeral. Daniel Marsten is interrupted by the phone ringing as he reads to his young son from a book of Greek myths. He kisses the boy quickly on the forehead before rushing to get the phone. He knows it is his sister-in-law, calling about the boy. She will be arriving soon to whisk him away from this mountain retreat, and take him to a world of soccer practice, booster clubs, and lemonade stands manned in company with his cousins. She will take him away to a world where there is still a mother, even if it isn’t his. Daniel convinces himself this will be enough.
The boy, whose name is Jason, and who never thinks of himself as the boy, knows it will not be. He wants to stay with his father. He loves the mountains, as his mother did, and he loves the observatory where he is not allowed to go, but which he dreams of nonetheless. He loves the stories his mother told him of scanning the night sky for stars and life and dreams. Soccer practice pales in comparison. And his father does not have to leave the mountain.
He stares out his window, at the moon full and bright over the lake (although his father tells him it is a pond, he knows better). He looks down at the page of the book, to a picture of the moon full and bright and the words on the page, “protector of animals and children.” He figures he qualifies as both, since his parents have certainly called him both at different times.
And so it is that Daniel Marsten doesn’t notice his young son slipping out of the house on a moonlit night, because he is too caught up in arranging the transfer to suburbia. By the time he hangs up the phone, it is too late to catch the boy. It is even too late to catch up to the boy. He looks out the open window and sees not the moon full and bright over the pond, but his son silhouetted in the uppermost branches of the tree by the lake. Before it happens, he sees those branches splintering under the weight and dropping the boy too great a distance into the pond, which is cold and dangerous with rocks. He runs.
The branches splinter, the boy falls. He is still reaching towards the moon as he falls, feeling only the desperate need to touch it.
When Daniel Marsten gets to the pond – too slow, too slow, his body pants – there is already someone there. A young woman, with dark wet hair clinging against her neck, has his son in her arms. They are both soaked, boy and woman. The boy’s eyes are shut and there is a gash along his forehead.
The woman looks up at Daniel. “You really shouldn’t let him go wandering at night alone.”
“I know,” he snaps at her, reaching for his son. She gently shifts the boy to his arms. “Thank you,” he says, staring at the gash. The boy is breathing, his pulse flickering in his neck. But that gash.
Daniel turns and almost runs back to the house. He does not notice the woman following him, although she does follow. He also does not notice the sky, empty of moonlight and lit only by distant stars.
[expand title=”A grandfather’s quest to find his grandchild’s name before the the darkest time of the year, when the souls of the unnamed can be stolen.”]
Matai looks at his infant granddaughter and knows that his life is about to change. He must find the child’s name. Before the dark of the year, when Shadows and burnt-mouthed darklings creep down from the mountains to steal the unnamed.
So he becomes a father again well past sixty, and feeds goatsmilk to his dark eyed granddaughter, who in her birth spelled her mother’s death. But he can’t be angry at her, just as he could not be angry at the dark-eyed boy who left his daughter behind to fight the war. There is very little anger left in him, and that he reserves for another day, when it will best serve.
For now he wonders at this child, who in his callused hands seems a creature of infinite delicacy, butterfly wings and farewells. He tells her stories about pixies and widdens, and trades his grapes for a woman to come from the village and tend the child while he works among the vines and hopes that her name will come to him.
The vineyard does not belong to Matai, but to a man who never sees it and lives among white paved roads and buildings of government. This man knows only that his wines are among the finest, that his grapes are among the best in the world, and that pleasing old Matai is a wise business. His family is known for wise business, that’s how they came to own the vineyard, while Matai’s family is known for the pursuit of beauty. Nothing in Matai’s life has prepared him for journeys or the pursuit of names.
When two weeks passed and still no name for the child came to him, the village woman came and pressed, “You need to name that girl, or else she’ll be lost when you need her. What will you call out when you can’t find her among the vines?” Unspoken, what will you do if she has no name when moondark comes?
He admits, now, that waiting will not bring his granddaughter’s name closer. He does not know how to summon her name up. That is a mystery left to women. So he brings her to the village, slung in rough cotton against his chest. He shields her soft cheek from the dust of the road with wine-stained fingers. At the old herbalist’s door, he stops and bows his head.
“Matai,” the old woman’s voice crackles like low fire. He enters her door, still shielding his granddaughter with his hand. By now he does not notice that he does it, but the herbalist does. She breaths in deeply through her nose, then snorts the air out again. She claps her hand down on a dark wooden counter. “Here,” she says. “Put the child here.”
Matai hesitates a moment. To lay her down upon the wooden counter, open to stranger eyes, seems wrong. But if she doesn’t have a name, and soon, she will be susceptible to the Shadows when moondark comes. Less than a fortnight distant, when the year turns on the longest night. The Shadows and their darklings will come creeping through towns and cities, calling for children to come. Most will be safe, their ears cottoned against those whispers by the knowledge of their own true names. But the orphans with no womb names, they’ll be gone of a morning. No sight nor sound of their passing. But someday, some other dark night, you might spy a lost child creeping through the village, a darkling servant now, whispering and beckoning. You know them by their black lips, burnt by the Shadow that stole the souls out of their mouths. That, and their angry eyes.
Matai shudders. His granddaughter will not become one of those black-lipped, soulless things. So he sets her down gently as the herbalist requests, and the chill absence of his arms sets her to murmuring distress.
The herbalist twitches aside the white cotton, which is dusty with the red dirt of the roads now. Liquid dark eyes gaze up at her, and the child stops murmuring. She’s still, no sign of breath or movement, as if she knows in this moment she is hunted. As the herbalist knows in this moment, when she traces, gently now, a sign above the girl’s brow.
“I do not know her name,” she says, and her voice is soft.
Art by Mark Evans
From Black Gate 14, copyright © 2010 by New Epoch Press. All rights Reserved. Sample published here with permission.[/expand]