Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Wolver’s Village – Speculative Fiction by C. C. Brower & S. H. Marpel

Wolver's Village - speculative fiction by Brower and MarpelI hated being chased. Especially by a hungry mob wanting me for their next meal.

It didn’t help that they had some sort of smoke belching truck that could travel faster than I could run.

The good part, if there was one, is that we weren’t on traveled roads, but running cross country.

When there was a ditch – I leaped it, a fallen tree – I scrambled under. Wolves ran best in cross-country.

That truck, and a lot of those people, had to go around.

The bad part was that they were all feral. Clothed in rags. Screaming their lungs out – until they ran out of breath.

But I was there for reconnaissance.

So at the next ditch, I stopped and changed human again. Then came up and blended in when the crowd was close.

Barefoot like them. And once I got a good glimpse of what they were wearing, my clothes looked like that, too. Hair quickly matted, and dirt patches everywhere. One of the feral, hungry crowd.

The truck signaled that they’d lost the tracks, to circle back.

So I went with them. And listened to their minds and conversations to pick up their dialect.

Sometimes the best kind of spies were chameleons.

I just had to hope all this was worth the info I was getting.

Excerpt:

We’d been traveling days already, and more to come – according to what we’d seen so far.

The villages we’d visited were either empty or fortified against any human or wild animal – and afraid of either coming inside.

So they would hold their ammunition until they could get a good shot. Since no one made ammunition since the Rising.

Of course, that also meant that unless they were trained at hunting, their shots usually went wild. Usually.

And yes, we had healers among us, but that didn’t mean we could afford to take the time to get someone well that shouldn’t have been hit to begin with. So we never got hit.

Feral villages – the ones with no sentient humans or animals in them – we just gave a wide berth. If we couldn’t pick up anyone sending – telepathy was the old human word – then we went around and kept going.

What we were searching for was one of the connected human villages.

And we usually traveled as wolves.

– – – –

Every day, we’d make camp and our best hunters would go out for game. Non-ferals, of course. Not humans – just the smaller prey, like rabbits, quail. We tried to avoid the greasy ones like coons and possum. Too much cleanup.

We always prayed for their souls as we hunted. Our tradition since the Amerindians walked this land. Long, old traditions.

The elementals taught us these. And we passed them onto our children.

When the Rising happened, that news spread fast. But it was the elementals that arrived shortly after and taught us mind-speech and true civilization that made sense out of all that happened.

That was why we were searching.

Somewhere out here was a sentient village they called the Wolver’s Village.

And for the sake of our pack, we needed to join with them.

For feral hoomans were coming out of the West, and killing everything in their sight. Just like they did to the Amerindians, and their buffalo.

Everyone in their path was next.

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When Death Lives Twice

When Death Lives Twice - Speculative Fiction by S. H. Marpel“Well, this is curious – I’ve only got papers to take one of you.”

My two latest deaths stood in front of me.

“The other is supposed to keep on living. But here you both are.”

Neither spoke to volunteer which was which.

“So, you both intend to keep on living, in spite of my orders to take one of you.”

Silence signaled assent.

“You know that no one has ever cheated Death. Just because you have some spirit-guides looking out for you doesn’t mean I won’t end up with one – or even both of you.”

I tapped a long, bony finger.

“Or maybe all four of you, just to make it completely fair. Because the more those two gals are working to keep you alive, they more they are just making a bargain with me.”

The two men standing there looked at each other.

Then turned to me and shrugged. At the same time, like they’d rehearsed it.

“Alrighty, then. The Game is on. Let’s see who can beat Death and keep living. It’s like always – all or nothing.

“And I never lose…”

Excerpt:

Jude and I got called in again last night.

Because both our boys slipped under again. Red-lining like before.

Rochelle kept telling us we two were doing great at nursing them, that there was nothing anyone else could do any better. But no, each of us had only one duty right now – and that was to save the guy we were “assigned” to.

We knew she’d never seen something like this before. Sure, she’d had people just give up and die on her. Especially when she couldn’t get to them in time. Even after she’d brought them back to life once or twice.

But under the care of a Lazurai healer, body death is extremely rare.

Sure, they both had serious wounds when they came in. But those had all been patched. And there were only faint lines now where the jagged cuts had been repaired. In time, there wouldn’t even be any scars to show. The surgery here was expert.

Yet this was the third time both of us had to come in and stop the slide.

And once we did, it left us both exhausted. Of course, it didn’t help that we were either sleeping on hallway couches or a nearby wheeled gurney just to be on call.

At least we had plenty of towel around to sob into when it got to be too much.

– – – –

My sister and I were spirit-guides, not used to being healers.

We’d seen it done, been around to help, even held oozing pads on bloody wounds with our own hands while rushing the injured to an operating room.

This was different. Much.

Rochelle explained it as simply as possible. I was somehow connected to John on an intimate basis, and Jude was connected to Bernie. And just as Jude and I were both connected to each other, there was some connection between Bernie and John as well.

So it wasn’t just any healer that could come in and “fix” what was wrong. Not with our two boys.

Rochelle had talked to Ben and he’d been researching everything he could find on this area – everything the Library and his network could find.

But nothing more, really, than the way she had explained it.

And I felt it somewhere inside me as well. I’d give my eternal life to save John. Just as Jude would for Bernie – even though she’d known him less than a day before he wound up here near-death.

The one thing we knew about Bernie is his background as a shifter. Most of the time, he’d prefer being a border collie. And that breed was known to not just defend but care for their charge as if they were one with them.

And John would give anything to anyone to help them solve their life-problem.

The math on that was pretty clear: we four were in on this to the end. Either alive or dead, but preferably all alive.

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Saturday, December 07, 2019

The Case of the Time Bent Beau

The Case of the Time Bent Beau - Speculative Fiction by S. H. Marpel“John, I just met a ghost who’s dying.”

I raised one eyebrow, waiting for the punchline from my favorite time-bender.

“No, it’s not what you think. I haven’t gone off the deep end. The government made him into something they call a ghost.”

“Figure if the government’s involved, then it’s going to be screwed up… But a ghost – dying?”

“Running out of juice, actually. Kept alive on some sort of weird life support that he won’t fix to save himself.”

“Suicidal?”

“No, he says there’s another in worse shape than him. A girl detective – of sorts.”

“And you got this from one meeting?”

“No, he appears once a year for about 5 minutes – so I tracked him back. And I’ve been talking to him for decades now.”

“5 minutes at a time?”

Carol nodded, and bowed her head.

I raised it with a gentle touch to her chin.

And saw a tear roll down her cheek.

“Please, John. Help me help him – and her.”

Excerpt:

I didn’t often see Carol like this. In fact, never.

Her eyes were hollow, her skin pasty, and she looked like she had slept in those clothes more than once. Not her ordinary tidy, perky self.

Unlike some other of my guests, Carol always knocked politely. So softly, sometimes she had to knock twice to get my attention.

This time, I rose at her first knock. Because there was some insistence at it this time.

“Carol…”

Her red-rimmed eyes met mine and I held out my arms.

She melted into them for a long hug between friends.

And I waited for her to speak.

But when she didn’t, “I’ve got some coffee I can warm up, and there’s some of Hami’s cookies left.”

Carol only looked up at me and nodded, then released me to drop onto the couch-bunk. I returned with the cookies while I’d poured this morning’s coffee into a pan on the hotplate and set the coffeemaker to run another batch. A second look at her face persuaded me that this might be a long story she wanted to tell.

But I hesitated to use my pendant to call anyone else. She didn’t look hurt just – spent.

With a nibble at the edge of the raisin-oatmeal delight, she softened up. And was able to look into my eyes. “Hami’s cooking, even cold, is just what the doctor ordered.”

I had to smile. “I can get you another delivery of hot ones…”

“Not right now. I don’t think we can wait even that long.”

I sat down with the whole plate right next to her. She was in a serious mood.

So I waited as the soft cookie softened her.

“John. I’ll tell you this much so you know I’m not just kidnapping you for my own use: I’ve met someone the government calls a ghost and he’s dying.”

“A ghost, dying?”

More like he has only a few more appearances to live.”

“How so?”

“His battery is running out.”

She had my complete attention now.

“But worse than that, he’s there so he can protect his sister, who can’t leave.”

It didn’t’ take long to see that she needed my help. Right now.

I patted her hand, then stood to turn everything off in the cabin. Coffee could wait. On my way back, I shut my laptop as well.

Holding out myhand, Carol grasped it and pulled herself up. She swung it over her shoulder while her other arm went around my waist.

And we phased out of my small writer’s cabin.

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