The Water Seer by HMC

WSCover_Final_eBookChapter One

Saturdays in Burleigh: fresh coffee brewing on James Street, blue skies and golden sand, sand so hot you danced on it, Sadie calling out orders for fish and chips – yes this early in the morning, too – and the sea-salty air obliterating any aggravation from the work week.

Those were my favourite mornings, a time where I could forget death and just surf instead. Surfing was my temporary distraction, a way to calm my mind. It was my creative outlet. An artist painted, a writer wrote, and a surfer surfed. There’s the thrill of waiting for the lump, gauging the size and direction of the wave, readying my body – apprehension and adrenaline combined – and the wave lifting my feet. I block out the world. It’s just me and the wave. The board catches, the world falls away, and I stand. Gravity takes me. The wave knows what to do. It has a mighty energy of its own. For a moment, we dance. I don’t thrash and slash the water, I move with it. It’s the purest form of surfing, soul surfing, riding the rail with my longboard. It’s important to treat the wave with respect.

The other surfers stick their middle finger up if you drop in, but for some reason, I cop it more than most. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a girl, because I ride a long board, or both. Maybe it’s because I surf better than they do. But no one owns the waves. They own you. Continue reading

THE ANAKIM CAN DIE by Peter M. Emmerson

Graphic by Paul and Carilla

Paul and Carilla

Paul lay on his back wrapped in his sleeping bag, the hood pulled tight until it all but covered his face. The tip of his nose was cold, but it troubled him not. His eyes were filled with the wonders of the heavens. The all encompassing ring of standing stones stood around them; comforting in their silent protection.
The stars; so close, so bright. The mesmerizing flickering layers of green which filled the sky to the North, so mysterious and enchanting. It had taken a great deal of cajoling from all three youngsters to obtain his mother’s permission for them to spend two weeks away from main camp on a hunting trip. He had promised to check in mentally each day.
Xjang had commented earlier, as they huddled around the tiny camp fire, that the shimmering green sheets were created by the souls of warriors who had died in battle. The diminutive Finn, in a counter argument, insisted that Bes himself had cast infinite handfuls of glow-worms into the sky to shine forever and defeat the darkness in those times when Khonsu, the god of the night hid his face.
Paul smiled at his friends, he knew the stars were suns like the one that shone down on them daily, but tonight he was happy to accept their more simple explanations. And watching the dazzling Aurora Borealis displays he was almost inclined to agree with the two young warriors. Continue reading

Rhaena by Chris Kaye

“Get off him … Now!”

I hauled her off the body; and almost threw her to one side. It was hardly an easy task, as she weighs more than I do, but at least she didn’t turn her teeth and claws on me. I’m surprised I got away with it.

She had left a bit of a mess. Launching herself from several feet away, in the bushes, her landing had crushed his ribcage, and ‘natural weaponry’ had pierced lungs, heart, and opened up the entire upper chest. He was dead: and I doubt he even had time to feel pain. I was glad to still be alive myself, however it would have helped if Astrillen hadn’t taken the attitude, “shred first …” and we won’t bother about the “… ask questions later” bit.

I spared a glance for the cat. She had, of course, easily landed on her feet, and was now sitting, fastidiously licking paws and muzzle clean. In all honesty, I hadn’t realised that she had been following me … until the attempted attack.

“Sorry about that, old girl. Thanks for getting rid of the problem … before he managed to become one.”

The totally unconcerned look that I got in reply was one I well knew. I suppose it’s the feline equivalent of, “Okay: friendship comes first, just don’t try that again”.

There were things I needed to do, and fairly quickly. The mind of the deceased might still contain some answers, if I could delve into it soon enough. I had plenty of questions whirling through my own head: starting with the obvious ones. Who would want to see me dead, and why? How did he get so close without me sensing him? Were there any of his ‘friends’ waiting further along the trail?

All of those would remain a mystery, unless I could rapidly scan my assailant’s memories. It was breaking a few rules: as if I didn’t do that a half dozen times every day … most days: nevertheless I ‘could’ access certain images directly from the brain … even a no-longer functioning one. Continue reading

Zinotchka – Anton Chekhov

by Anton Chekov

(about 2400 words)

Petya is a young boy full of all the mischief of most young boys, and when he happens to catch his governess in an indecent kiss with his older brother, he can hardly contain himself with amusement and excitement for what he’s seen. He’s overeager to let Zinotchka and his brother know that he knows, and when one day he accidentally lets slip a little of his secret in front of his stern and virtuous mother, Zinotchka’s whole attitude for him changes. Suddenly he is the most hated, vilest creature on the planet to her, and she’s not afraid to let him know it, either. Finally. Petya blabs the whole thing to his mother who is naturally outraged, and by the by lets Zinotchka go. Years later she is married to his brother, and despite Petya himself having grown up, her dislike of him is still strong. One’s first hate, after all, is not dissimilar from one’s first love.

anton chekhovAnton Chekhov was born on January 29, 1860 in Taganrog, Russia. His father was the owner of a grocery story and his mother a story teller to her children. The former was the abusive head of the family, which left a lasting impression on Chekhov. His father, who was a devout orthodox Christian nevertheless made life miserable for his family, and after going bankrupt, fled to Moscow which broke Chekhov’s mother. Chekhov stayed behind to finish his eduction, and to sell all that remained of the family possessions, and was forced to board with another man in a similar situation. He sent all the extra money he made that didn’t go toward paying for his education back to his family in Moscow. When he finally finished his schooling, he moved in with the rest of his family to pursue a medical degree. This is a man who had an abusive, financially insolvent father, no place to live, and paid for his education in part by catching and selling wild birds, and he not only became a doctor, but one of the most celebrated short story writers of all time. No more complaining about the hard life of a broke college student! Oh, and I forgot to mention that even though he became a doctor, he didn’t make a lot of money off of it, as he treated the poor for free because he was just amazing all around, apparently. During this time he was still writing as well and quickly gained popularity. Unfortunately he also gained tuberculosis, but really, do I even have to mention that at this point in the challenge? He traveled for a good long time, writing as he did and stubbornly refusing to admit that his lungs were dissolving in his goddamn chest until finally he was reluctantly persuaded to go see a damn doctor. He died on July 15, 1904 at the age of 44.

The Yellow Wallpaper – Charlotte Perkins Gilman

YThe Yellow Wallpaper
by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

(about 6000 words)

A young woman who is in poor health as judged by her husband and brother, both physicians, is taken to rest at a country house. Once instated there, she’s told that she shouldn’t go out, or move much, or eat much or in general do too much that would cause her excitement, for fear that it would upset her delicate lady constitution and throw her into a mad fit the likes of which men of this time are always trying to prevent, presumably because they all don’t know a damn thing about how women work. Not unlike today, actually. Anyway, she takes this as the way of the world and more or less remains trapped in a single room for so long that she starts going loopy in the head, seeing things that aren’t there on the yellow wallpaper. Soon, her stifled mind begins imagining all sorts of strange, horrific scenarios that have taken place in the room she occupies. This of course leads her husband to think her condition is worsening, and he confines her even more, until at last she giddily escapes, assuming the identity of the woman she’s imagined this whole time has been staring at her through the yellow wallpaper. Cabin fever guys, it’s serious business.

Charlotte_Perkins_Gilman_by_Frances_Benjamin_JohnstonCharlotte Perkins Gilman was born on July 3, 1860 in Connecticut, USA. Like Poe, Gilman’s father abandoned the family when she was still a baby. Unable to support the family, Gilman’s mother often received help from some of her paternal aunts, among which was Harriot Breecher Stowe. Gilman was forced to teach herself to read at the age of five, since her mother was too ill to see to her schooling herself. Her mother discouraged the reading of fiction and deep friendships in a misguided attempt to protect her children from the sort of hurt her husband’s abandonment had left with her. Fortunately Gilman’s father wasn’t a complete deadbeat, and he did support her continued education as well as advancing her mind with book recommendations. Gilman married when she was 24, and after the birth of her only child, suffered a severe bout of postpartum depression. This largely became the inspiration for The Yellow Wallpaper. She separated from her husband four years later and joined several feminist movements in California. During this time she also sent her daughter east to live with her husband and his second wife, acknowledging his right to know his daughter and visa versa. Perhaps her own experiences with an absent father helped shape this progressive view. When she moved back east she became romantically involved with her first cousin, and the two were happily married until he died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage. Gilman herself was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer in 1932, and three years later, ended her life on her own terms.

X-ing a Paragraph – Edgar Allan Poe

XX-ing A Paragraph
by Edgar Allan Poe

(about 2500 words)

Mr. Touch-and-go Bullet-head has just arrived in Alexander-the-Great-o-nopolis to set up shop as a newspaper editor, which he does across the street from an existing newspaper, The Gazette. The first thing Bullet-head does upon arrival is print a piece talking smack about his rival across the street. Of course, this doesn’t sit well with the established editor, John Smith, who proceeds to write a counter piece about Bullet-head’s style, specifically his perceived fondness of the letter ‘o.’ Mockingly, John suggests that Bullet-head is so enamored with the vowel that he wouldn’t be able to write anything without it. Naturally incensed Bullet-head takes up his pen and spends the entire night writing the most ridiculous, o-filled paragraph imaginable. This he sends to his type setters late at night before heading off to bed. But what a surprise his type-setters get when they discover that their boxes of O’s have completely vanished! Standard practice says that they should replace the missing letters with X’s, and they do, all the while accusing The Gazette‘s editorial staff for swiping their O’s. In the morning, when the paragraph goes live, Mr. Bullet-head is nowhere to be found. Presumably he’s off somewhere dropping the mic, along with a scattering of O’s along the way.

PoeEdgar Poe was born on January 19, 1809 in Boston, USA. He was born to a pair of actors, the youngest of three children, and the year after his birth, his father abandoned the family. He was later orphaned when his mother died the next year. He was adopted by John Allan, with whom he would have many disagreements with throughout his life. After receiving a large inheritance from his uncle, Poe lost much of it in gambling and studies at a university that had strict, yet unenforced rules. He had a falling out with his foster father over his gambling debts. Briefly he enlisted in the military as a means to support himself. He dropped out of the military the same way he dropped out of university, and though he regained contact with his foster father, the two continued to fight until eventually Poe was disowned from the family. His writing career started in earnest after the death of his brother, and he is credited with being the first notable American writer to attempt to live solely on his writing. Unfortunately he had a hard time of it, as pirated British works were cheaper for publishers than paying new, American authors. As a result, Poe sort of epitomized the image of the starving artist through much of his writing career. He married his thirteen year-old cousin while bouncing between jobs, and was with her for eleven years before she died of tuberculosis. Poe, already known as being an alcoholic, began to drink even more heavily. During this time, he sold “The Raven” for only $9, and continued his generally career destroying behavior of being cantankerous and argumentative with both writers and editors alike. Poe’s death in Baltimore on October 7, 1849 is still largely disputed by historians. He was found delirious and rambling the night before and was taken immediately to the hospital where he ultimately died. Possible causes ranging from excessive alcoholism to syphilis to voter fraud have been posited, but all his medical records have since been lost and his death remains a mystery.

What the Moon Brings – H. P. Lovecraft

W-12What the Moon Brings
by H. P. Lovecraft

(about 700 words)

Returning briefly to horror stories, this incredibly short work by H. P. Lovecraft reflects the primitive sort of fears we all have of the dark. The inability to see potential threats heightens the danger of every shadow, and combined with our overeager brains’ need to make sense of the information it receives, those shadows and small tricks of light quickly morph into something bestial and horrific. Lovecraft captures this sense of helplessness, being at the mercy of one’s own faulty senses and imaginings in this story which whips the reader along in a chaotic up and down tempo, nicely emphasizing the erratic nature of fear and the dark.

H._P._Lovecraft,_June_1934Howard Phillips Lovecraft was born on August 20, 1890 in Rhode Island, USA. While his works are undoubtedly very popular now, Lovecraft found difficulty in supporting himself with his writing during his life. Withdrawn and being something of a night owl, he didn’t socialize much, and had trouble promoting himself and his work. This behavior seems to have stemmed from lack of confidence in his childhood, when he was bullied by his peers and kept home by an overprotective mother for “illnesses.” After his mother died, Lovecraft married Sonia Greene, who offered to support him while he tended his writing career. His writing appeared only in pulp magazines to limited success, unfortunately, and when Sonia lost her hat business, the couple quickly fell on hard times. Lovecraft’s lack of experience in anything but writing kept him from more lucrative work, and Sonia continued to be the principal earner of the family. They moved around a lot before finally settling in Providence where Lovecraft continued to write for very little money. Harsh comments from critics affected him more than he let on, and he became even more withdrawn from the literary world, going so far as to ignore inquiries from publishers about possible novels. Falling even further into poverty, Lovecraft moved in with an elderly aunt in the later years of his life, before succumbing to intestinal cancer on March 15, 1937 at the age of 46.

Warrior’s Reward by Wayne Hills.

“Grass—dime bags—loose joints.”

“Smack. Blow.”

Although well after lunchtime for most of the city’s residents, it was ‘up at the crack of noon, first-thing in the morning’ for the pushers in Washington Square Park.

The buyers and sellers did a brisk business during the final year of John Lindsey’s tenure as New York City’s Mayor. Their dealings were tolerated as long as everyone got a taste. The mobs, dealers, and beat cops all got a piece of the pie.

The park’s residents, bums as they were known in those pre-PC days, who couldn’t afford anywhere else to live, spent their days around the circle of the long-dry fountain. Martha Mumbles talked to herself and the pigeons. Nate the pharmacist held court by the public restrooms. And Vietnam veterans, Mick the tunnel rat, and Felix the sniper, moved as the sun did; shifting their locations to stay in the shade. Always keeping their backs against a wall or fence to, ‘cover their asses’, in case of attack.

They all lived below the line that society set for the lower class. Way below it. These were the cast-offs, the losers in life’s game between the haves and the wish-they-hads. Wish they had a home, had a dry bed, had a warm meal. Their days spent squirrel-like, storing up supplies to get them through the nights.

The sun shed light on the hiding places of the monsters, human and imagined, that would soon be hunting for provisions of their own when darkness shrouded the park.

The vets were sitting in the shadow of the triumphal Washington Arch studying the sidewalk scenery.

Without turning, Mick said to Felix, “Let’s jump on the subway and crash at the old World’s Fair site in Queens, I met a guy who’s got a still like we had back in the Delta.”

Both men had volunteered to fight the Viet Cong. Mick, believing the rhetoric about the domino effect of communism, joined to fight for democracy. Felix chose the war over going to prison for stealing a car in order to run away from his abusive father. The friends met during a tour in the Mekong Delta, where they had learned to survive on C-rations and whatever mind-altering concoctions they could find.

Mick thought Felix’d had it easy when they were in-country.

Continue reading

The Veteran – Stephen Crane

VThe Veteran
by Stephen Crane

(about 1800 words)

Comfortable in his old age, an army veteran regales his friends, employees and family with stories of his first days in the war. When asked whether or not he was afraid in battle, the man answers candidly that he had been, that it had been hard not to be, when it felt like the whole world was coming to pieces around him. He admits, likewise openly that during his first battle he’d run, before he finally “came into” the whole thing and doing his duty. This information shocks his young grandson, who holds him as a hero. The thought that his grandfather might have run from battle completely undoes all the valor and bravery that the boy had held in the old man, and nothing, not even talk of young horses can break the boy out of his new, sullen mood.

Later that evening, a drunk farmhand knocks over a lantern in the barn and the whole thing goes ablaze. The old man rushes to save his livestock, entering the barn again and again, despite receiving a hip shattering kick from a horse in the process. When at last he brings the final animal out he’s reminded of the colts still trapped in the blaze, and goes in for the final time. The roof collapses upon him, and the old man, with his courageous spirit, dies in the fire.

stephen craneStephen Crane was born on November 1, 1871 in Newark New Jersey. He was the final addition to the family and had thirteen elder siblings, four of which had died before he was born. He taught himself to read before he was four, and wrote his first poem at the age of eight. He excelled in his early schooling, and despite a spate of deaths in his family in his younger years, completed his first book at the age of fourteen. His talents in university were heavily in the arts and social sciences, and he did poorly in maths and hard science. He dabbled briefly in the military, but his family discouraged his enlistment, and when he transferred universities to pursue an engineering degree, he was lazy with his studies and his attendance. In the end, he quit his studies altogether and took up writing full time. While he wrote an incredible amount he was never financially successful, which prevented him from marrying. Much of Crane’s life and reputation has been tarnished by his scandal and relationships with prostitutes, though these seem to be amicable friendships and writing related research relationships rather than sexual ones. Nonetheless, his name was smeared because of them. Crane spent some time as a world-wide war correspondent, was ship wrecked on a boat bound for Cuba, and sank into debt. He died in Germany on June 5, 1900 of Tuberculosis, which from here on out I’m going to refer to as writer’s lung.

Uncle Richard’s New Years Dinner – L. M. Montgomery

UUncle Richard’s New Years Dinner
by L. M. Montgomery

(about 1500 words)

We can’t have a L. M. Montgomery story without a dead parent, so in “Uncle Richard’s New Years Dinner,” the protagonist, Prissy, lives with her father, having never known her mother who died when she was born. She used to be close to her uncle Richard, too, before he and her father had a falling out. Now Uncle Richard shuns the both of them, which is hard on both her and her father, neither of whom hold any hard feelings toward Uncle Richard. When Prissy hears that her uncle will be away for all of New Years day, with no one at home to cook him a dinner when he comes home late, she gets the idea to sneak into her uncle’s house to cook for him and leave before he gets home at one o’clock. It’s the perfect crime: sneak in, cook a whole meal and sneak out. Nothing could go wrong. That is, unless her uncle gets home early.

lucy_maud_montgomeryLucy Maud Montgomery was born on November 30, 1874 in Clifton Prince Edward Island, Canada. Her mother died when she was just a baby and her father gave her up to her grandparents. Her grandparents didn’t show a great deal of warmth toward her and in fact, reading her more famous works, “Anne of Green Gables” or “Emily of New Moon” it’s easy to see where Montgomery drew inspiration for her key antagonists. During this period of strict discipline and lonely isolation, Montgomery drew up several imaginary friends which became the bedrock for her creative writing later in life. While visiting her father in Prince Albert, Montgomery had her first poem published. Four years later she received her teacher’s license, and studied literature for the next four years after. She had many fleeting love interests, though never serious for marriage until she became a bit desperate, only to back out at the last minute. While she received much fame and popularity from her writing, “Anne of Green Gables” in particular, she knew that it was most economical for her to marry, and so ended up with a minister who moved them both to Ontario soon after. She died on April 24, 1942 from what may have been a heart condition, or suicide. Her last note/journal entry is somewhat ominous and various sources provide different arguments for both.