Ruth J. Burroughs
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|Rogue International Corps of Earth Soldier
Ian MacPherson must rescue his loyal comrade, Hunter Gordon,
from the clutches of the Quetzals, rulers of Earth’s galaxy.
Ian’s Commander, Stuart Glenn, will go to any lengths to get
Hunter out of the Quetzals’ claws. If they don’t get her in time
the enemy will clone and kill her if they can’t torture the
vital troop information out of her.
Ian realizes there’s no room in the plans for rescuing his wife
and children. If he doesn’t they could be used for food, slavery
or genetic experimentation. He plans on rescuing Kaleida, but
what he finds when he gets there is no longer human.
Will he abandon Hunter Gordon again and set his family free,
endangering the whole International Corps of Earth and their
allies, or will he rescue Hunter Gordon and abandon his family
to a life worse than death?
Word Count: 41750
Pages to Print: 139
File Format: PDF
Order Myth of the Malthians in
Print today! (ISBN: 978-1-61950-192-8)
||What happens when author Jeanie McAllister
steps across a quantum time bridge at her local science fiction
convention with her forgetful seventy-seven-year-old mom and her
one-year-old nephew? Jeanie thinks she can save her mother and
herself from a futuristic mind-control device and pressure from
group-think, but what she finds in this bleak future is far more
surprising than anything she’s written. She finds a cure for
everything, but the price she has to pay for going back home to
the 21st century is forgetting the cure.
Word Count: 4112
Pages to Print: 17
File Format: PDF
|In Troy, New York, Near-Earth-Police homicide detective,
Jack Cluewitt, is investigating a mysterious antique paper book
that is also a map to a secret source of unlimited fuel.
International Space Corporation will kill for the secrets of the
belt, and the Green Party will go to any lengths to keep the
location secret; they will steal, kill or die for their cause.
When a Green Policewoman is found dead in a Moon mining cave, a
bullet in her heart, Jack Cluewitt is framed for the murder. He
has to stay one step ahead of his own Near-Earth Police
Department to find the real killer. But his goal to clear his
name and find the murderer puts him, his partner, Indigo Jane,
and Organ Enforcement Agent, Rappel Luna, in grave danger as
they fight to secure a secret fuel that could put Water and its
corrupt powers out of business.
Word Count: 100700
Pages to Print: 314
File Format: PDF
Order Jack Cluett in
Print! (ISBN: 978-1-61950-192-8)
|Krystal Fisher is a neglected American housewife writing
novels to make extra money for her farm, and her husband. When
she’s Magicked out of her backyard by two mischievous Elf
toddlers, Evan and Inga, to an Alternate Earth, called Niflheim,
or Ice Home; planet of mist that orbits a Cold Black Sun in a
Hot White Universe filled with Black Stars. She unknowingly
promises to marry their father, an impossibly seductive and
strong Elf soldier. The flora, fauna, Fairies, and humans feed
off of the Cold energy from the Black Sun, but it is fatal for
all Elves; they must hide underground or they will age rapidly
and die a painful death from exposure.
Word Count: 119900
Pages to Print: 378
File Format: PDF
Price: $ 5.99
||Order Liminal Key NOW in
The Mosaic Moon Diner
Jump-pilot Dylan drummed the Finale of the William Tell Overture
by Rossini with the fingernails of her right hand on the cracked
blue Formica table, a habit she had picked up from humans. She
did not like waiting. She was used to punctuality—but the humans
needed a Wormhole jump-pilot, and she needed their ship, so she
could return to her home world before the Quetzals killed all of
her people, if they hadn’t already. Was she the last of her
kind? She had to know.
She longed for Valmaria, her home planet near Alpha Centauri A,
where she’d battled the feathered Pterodactyl creatures, the
Quetzals, as they invaded. She’d watched as her mate had been
Covered in dark velvet fur from head to toe, she was
uncomfortable in the heat of the desert of this backwater moon
that orbited the gas giant Fishtail. The landscape of the
planet-sized moon was a maze of old abandoned crafts converted
into living quarters, jutting from the red dunes; a way station
for old International Corp of Earth war vets and their allies in
the battle against the Pter. She was one of the allies.
Springs popped out of the vinyl seat of the booth in the Mosaic
Moon Diner, making it look like the war-torn desert outside.
Dylan continued to drum the diner booth’s Formica tabletop,
wondering when her contact would arrive.
Glimpsing motion, she placed her index finger on the metallic
slat of the window blind and peeked out at an aero-bus as it
descended onto the makeshift landing strip; its thrusters
blasting red sand.
Like everyone else, she’d grown used to this place. It was
familiar, no longer exotic and alien. Even though Fishtail’s
slow dance across the sky failed to move her, she felt
anticipation. She stopped the staccato tapping of her
fingernails, knowing hope was going to walk through that door
Instead, an old human with a wild array of white hair
accidentally bumped her table, spilling a little of her drink.
She hissed. He backed off, apologizing; a cigarette burned in
his artificial hand and smoke exuded out of holes in his rubbery
mood-skin neck. Familiar layers of a tattered pilot’s suit and
the grayish cast to his skin told her he was just another
disenfranchised wormhole jumper-pilot like herself. She wondered
if he was suspended from flying wormhole bridges. She saw signs
that he was becoming an emotionless Grey with each jump, like
the darkness bleeding into his irises. A specially-made suit of
the same metallic-looking material covered her furry body and
halfway up her tail, a remnant of her people’s technology. The
old man noticed and looked surprised. Humans all thought they
invented everything first. She wrinkled her nose in disgust. He
fumbled in his pockets and then nervously thumbed a Zippo
“You’re killing yourself with that,” she said.
He blew smoke out of his cybernetically enhanced lungs, “So?”
“Why don’t you go smoke somewhere else, like at sea level?
Mosaic is making tides on our Catacombs now. Maybe one will
carry you off.”
He took a long drag, burning a good deal of the cigarette’s
length. “Maybe I will,” he said.
“If you are trying to disgust me, you have already succeeded by
just being human.”
“So what? I’m an American.” The small-built, wiry old pilot put
his cigarette out on the floor.
“So what? So am I.” She smiled, showing him her shiny white
incisors. He looked startled again.
He tried to shrug it off and looked around. “So, you’re the only
one who speaks English here. My name is George Phillips. The
locals call me Rubberneck, when they speak English.” The skin on
his neck changed colors on cue.
“Get lost, Phillips.”
She played with her drink, “I’m waiting for someone.”
“Fly work? Maybe they could use two wormhole jump-pilots.”
“Get lost, old man. This is mine.”
“I need the work; I need money, too.”
The door blew open, letting in the bright daylight and the sand.
A soldier walked through, momentarily blocking the sun.
The nictitating membranes shielded her eyes from the bits of
sand and dust that flew in, but old Rubberneck Phillips blinked
and coughed, and his skin turned silver, blocking out the UVBs
“This ain’t a barn, shut the door.” Phillips said. The soldier
pushed the door, closing out the whipping sand and the harsh
glare of the sun, Archimedes, and the gas giant, Fishtail.
“What’s the matter with you, boy? Don’t you know it ain’t polite
“No, cybernetic clones don’t have manners,” the soldier replied.
The telltale tattoos on his face signified Earth Tribe and the
necklace beneath his dog tags meant he was a sex-worker.
“So, are you gonna read my mind, cy-clone? Or are you one of
them defected cybernetic clones that can’t read minds?” Phillips
buttoned up his shirt
The young man looked at him, amused. “I can twist. I’m the best
mind-reader in our Troop.”
Phillips put his second cigarette out on the floor. “Yeah,
He motioned at the pilot seated at the booth. “Is she some kind
Phillips folded his arms across his chest. “She can talk and
she’s an American. You ought to learn some manners, clone. But
don’t take lessons from her, she’s also a bitch.”
Pilot Dylan looked at the young soldier without speaking and
thought-spoke; I am not the alien here, mister.
The cy-clone massaged his temples. “Stop it with the telepathy.
I only use it to kill our enemies or for military communications
over long distances, light-years.”
“Yes, but I can hear the old jumper-pilot Phillips thinking that
the British Alex 800s are all dead, killed in the Battle at
Pleiades 21,” she said.
Rubberneck looked surprised, recovered quickly and glared.
The cy-clone nodded at her, “I’m the only one left from that
batch. May I sit down?” he asked, as he sat down on the opposite
side of the booth.
Her black fur rippled as she shrugged. “Go ahead.”
“Thanks for not using the telepathy,” he said.
“Why does your International Corps of Earth grow telepathic
The soldier rubbed his temples and tried his best to answer her.
“The military make us telepathic in order to communicate over
long distances without interference. Our fetuses are grown in
vats, and then we’re raised by robots and the military. Twins
are supposed to be better at telepathy, and the home world
doesn’t mind sacrificing clones instead of their children.”
“You know, these are healthy cigarettes,” Phillips interrupted.
“I bought them on the Health Food Freighter. Want one?”
The soldier shook his head and ignored Phillips. “Where are you
I’m from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
“No, I mean originally,” he said with great difficulty.
She looked down at his tag and used real speech, “Really, I’m
from a planet near a star you call Alpha Centauri A, Mr. Alex
“Alex 879, I needed 878’s uniform. Anyway, call me Twist,” he
said. “So you can read, too.”
She used thought-speech again, Yes.
“Please, stop,” Alex pleaded, squeezing his fists; his biceps
flexed, his jaw tightened.
She nodded okay. “Call me Dylan.”
Back to Myth of the Malthians
I had Ian in my arms when the time shift occurred, and my
seventy-seven-year-old mom was right behind me. There’s nothing
quite like getting caught in the vacuum of a wormhole with a
baby in your arms—and your little Japanese mother following you
around asking the same question over and over again. Mom’s
Alzheimer’s medication was in the Crowne Plaza Hotel room, where
the Albacon science fiction convention was taking place. Yet
here I was, stuck in some bleak future world with my
seventy-seven-year-old mom, who has middle stage Alzheimer’s,
and my eleven month-old nephew, who would be hungry soon. We’d
passed under the sacred stone gateway, called torii in Japanese,
into another world, and when I turned to look for the bridge
from my world to this world, nothing was there but the
brownstone city and the tiny park with one forlorn looking maple
and a couple bushes. We were trapped in the future.
“Jeanie, whose baby is that?” We walked up a sidewalk into the
sparsely green and concrete landscaped park, where a twisted
piece of rusty metal served as sculpture, and bits of trash
tossed about by a warm breeze. A warped chain-link fence
leaned—haphazard and useless, as if it created no perimeter nor
enclosed anything. Suddenly, it was hot. Like June or July hot.
Mom’s crocheted bandana pushed back her short-cropped, salt and
pepper hair out of her face. We both removed our October
sweaters and tied them around our waists.
For the fifth time I told my mother he was her youngest daughter
Elsie’s boy. I’d trained myself to always be pleasant and never
say, “For crying out loud, how many times do I have to tell you
. . . ,” but as I mumbled he was her grandson I frowned and
wondered where we were and how we could get back to the exhibits
at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. I wondered what part of Albany, New
York, this could possibly be. I didn’t know we had traveled into
After dinner with my family at the Plaza restaurant, we’d
perused the exhibits. Of course I had to enter the time machine.
I thought it would be fun.
El had to go to the ladies room and since Ian’s diaper had
already been changed, it was my turn to hold him. I was popping
my chewing gum. Blowing bubbles in or out of my mouth—Ian
thought it was the funniest thing. He kept giggling. My nieces
were off watching the Filk performance, and my brother-in-law
was at the art show. There were many time travel devices on
display; including HG Wells’ Time Machine, the Time Cop car, the
Tardis, and the Back to the Future’s DeLorean. I made the
mistake of being absolutely fascinated by a carved brownstone
Shinto shrine-type of archway. It had the year 5049 Albany, New
York, with the word Thinkbot carved into the right column. It
looked innocent enough. A bamboo bridge led to another arch on
the other side. I hoped to show Ian and my mom some Koi fish as
we walked across, but just as we passed through the second arch,
we stepped into that future world. A cottony blanket of clouds
rolled slowly overhead.
All I could see were brownstone buildings and streets stretching
as far as the eye could see. No one was about. The buildings
weren’t very tall. Most were two stories, and the highest were
three; many appeared to be warehouses. Anxiety gripped me, along
with the feeling of being watched. I froze, not knowing what to
expect, with Ian whimpering in my arms and my mom looking even
more confused than usual.
I heard a grating noise. The door of a three-story warehouse
rumbled open, its wheels grinding and squealing. I shivered. A
middle-aged fellow with dirt-blonde hair and a friendly
expression exited the dark building’s interior. From around the
street corner, a giant rocket on wheels nearly the height of the
building drove up the road toward the man and the building. The
butterflies in my stomach fluttered.
My mother frowned, “Is that a rocket?”
The middle-aged man who’d exited the warehouse saw the look of
fear and confusion on our faces—my mother’s and mine.
“Jeanie, why are we here? Where’s Elsie?”
I couldn’t help but ask what the rocket was for.
The man frowned, awkwardly tilting his head this way and that,
like a robot, silent and expectant. Why did I feel a million
eyes looking at me? I looked around, but no one else was around.
I smiled and asked him, “Where are we? Can you tell us how to
get back to the Crowne Plaza Hotel?”
“The rockets are for delivering food into space,” he said. His
voiced sounded funny, gravelly and unused.
Cluewitt and the Imbrium Basin Murders
Edgar Moon Digger Chavez sat on a hydraulic lift-seat atop his
Moon-roving, mine-digging, Nova Volteggiare, a nine wheeled
Hummer vehicle, on the lunar basaltic plain of Imbrium Basin in
the darkness of a lunar night that would last two weeks. It was
six in the morning on Monday, June 7th in the year of our
Earth-Mother 5030. But on the Moon’s Imbrium Basin it was a long
His rover camera hovered over a bleeding space suit sprawled on
its back across the chiseled entry way to the ore mines,
floating a little top-heavy, feeding him the image on his
armchair hologram. In horror, he watched as the holo showed the
body of a dead someone. Whoever it was had to be dead; he could
see globs of blood escaping the gaping wound in the space suit
where a bullet had exited the heart and chest, and more blood
bubbling in the helmet visor. His camera coldly surveyed the
area, showing him the corpse again and just went black; it just
Edgar called headquarters. “Did you get that boss?”
“Get what?” Missi asked.
“The transmission. The dead Green Police in the cave. I just
watched it on the hologram my camera was taking of the cave. A
guy or gal in a space suit with a big bloody hole in the chest.”
“Looking.” There was a long pause. “Nope. Sorry, Ed. We got
nothing. What makes you think it was Green Police?”
“The Green Police insignia patches.”
Edgar pushed replay, but nothing was in the chair’s memory. It
was as though it hadn’t happened. Nothing had transmitted, and
Missi ordered him to stay put until Jules, his mining partner,
arrived to help him record and witness the corpse or until
Near-Earth Police Homicide detectives arrived.
He took a sip of hot lunar grown java and winced at the taste.
He dimmed the lights on his suit and the nine-wheeled
Volteggiare and enjoyed the view of the blue mass of Earth light
in the dark sky. He’d run out of Jovian Java and was convinced
they used Moon dust for coffee beans here. Today was his
birthday and he was gonna piss and moan if no one bought him any
Jupiter coffee beans. They worked an Earth-week schedule despite
the daylight differences.
Ed Moon Digger wanted to take off his suit, but knew Security at
Vasquez Ore Mining Corporation, or VAQ-ORE Corporation, was
monitoring him, plus he had the nagging feeling someone was
watching him. Maybe the murderer was nearby.
A magnetic field surrounded him on the Moon-digging vehicle, but
there was no guarantee the pressurized atmosphere would always
be stable. It was infamous for losing tensile strength at
exactly the wrong moment. So there were strict rules about
keeping the spacesuit on even if the helmet was collapsed. If
the vehicle stopped generating atmosphere within the plasma
field, his suit would automatically seal. Ed didn’t like sucking
on balls of coffee and he didn’t like squeeze tubes. It just
wasn’t the same as sipping, but he did have to use a closed cup
or it could get messy. Inside the field the stars looked fuzzy
and the shield sparkled luminescent despite being mostly
He saw motion out of the corner of his eye and looked up. He was
surprised to see one of the Moon digger robot dogs come
barreling through the Alps Valley, its eyes shining like
headlights down the gulley. Jules had finally got the licenses
back even after his robot dog had attacked another miner. It had
to be proved in court that Jules hadn’t changed any programs in
the dog. Edgar’s own robot dog had been taken in the case and
their robot dog mining licenses had been suspended and the dogs
had been held by Moon City Police until the trial finished.
Jules had promised to get Edgar his dog back once he won his
Peoples for the Preservation of Historic Space, PEFOPRESH had
set limits on mining the Moon, due to the interests of several
species on Earth that rely on the Moon’s tidal forces. The
argument set forth by PEFOPRESH was that the Earth-Moon system
could be altered drastically, causing severe weather changes if
the Moon was too heavily mined. More severe than they were now,
and Earthbound did not want worse weather.
The PEFOPRESH, the Green Police, NEPD, which included Moon City
Police, had to approve the robot dogs’ programming. The robot
mining dogs were programmed to act like dogs. The Green Party
and the PEFOPRESH, usually at odds with each other, just wanted
to make sure the Moon didn’t fall below the restricted mass.
It was easier to get a robot dog license in American Moon
territories because space laws differed in different
territories. Green Party came down on any religion that didn’t
accept the worship of Earth Mother and the Seed Theory. Any
religions that supported guns, bombs and violence against
seeding space through colonization in the Buckminster Fullerene
colonies and evolving into space beings were punished ruthlessly
by the Green Party through the Green Police. Anyone taking
bribes to mine the Earth’s Moon beyond the restrictions was
punished severely, but this was the only way to stop generations
of corruption from the old military and Corporate Party system
of governance. The worst offenders were sent to the Genetically
Modified Organisms Space-Habitats to be punished by the
mysterious Genies, Genetically Modified Human Organisms, who, it
was rumored, truly hated terrorists and often sided with
preserving historic or virgin space and humans.
Ed Moon Digger called into his supervisor.
“Okay, Missi, I’m going in . . . I need to find out what I saw
on the hologram.”
“No, wait for Jules. It was probably a normal hallucination.
Don’t want to report that. No buddy, no mine.”
“I’ve had breakfast, boss. Jules is late. But he’s had my robot
dog released. Now I have something to record the scene. I’ll
meet him in the pit. He’s only five minutes away. I’ll meet him
under the Alps Mountains on the rille floor,” Ed protested.
“He’s ten minutes away or more. Finish your coffee, and then
drive in,” Missi ordered.
“Tell Jules to step on it. I’m tired of waiting.”
“You should have called me earlier. I would have got him up with
a cold bucket of water.”
“I don’t think he slept late. He’s got our robot mining dogs
“He did? Now, I wonder how he managed that.”
“You know Jules.”
Ed Moon Digger, sipped, savoring his coffee, looking in the
distance toward the colorful lights of Moon City in Mare
Frigoris, the basaltic Sea of Cold. Toward his right he saw
glints of Jules’ rover, scrambling as rapidly as a rover could
go on the Moon, in the Alps Valley that cut through the Alps
Mountains. If he could help it, Ed didn’t use the Latin names.
Looking back toward Moon City, he could almost make out the neon
glow from Organdy Poisson’s Sushi restaurant near Protagoras
crater in Mare Frigoris if he squinted against the glare. The
city used artificial light to mimic Earth day and night, but it
was still black as a Moon night out here on the floor of
Imbrium. He looked out over the jagged crater rims of the Moon
and felt like something was out of place. He’d grown used to not
having the robot dogs, but that wasn’t what was bothering him.
It was something else.
Even the way the shadows cast out over the rocky expanse seemed
different, and things rarely changed in restricted zones. What
was he missing? He took another sip of the Moon java and
grimaced, spitting it out and then threw the rest of the cup
overboard, out onto the plasma shield that covered the shiny
gray confection, on the banged up surface of the Moon. The
spilled coffee seeped through the artificial mag field.
Ed pushed a button and lowered the chair lift. The hiss of
hydraulics seemed loud in his little bubble of atmosphere.
Once the programs were approved and the dogs were tested, they
set up the licensing and miners were given precedent. Some
people were buying them as companions and watch dogs, to guard
their hoards. But there was less looting here than out on Mars
and in the belt. The further from Earth, the more lawless it
Out in the distance, Ed Moon Digger watched in the Moon’s
silence as his dog’s rapid approach disturbed the regolith. Its
paw prints etched a jagged line toward the rover. The mechanical
canine barked incessantly, but Ed could only hear the hum of the
magnetic field generator.
Ed Moon Digger climbed down to greet the Moon dog, glad that
Jules had his back and had the judge release their dogs. Jules
would never throw him under the bus like some co-workers who
trashed him did, just to get ahead.
The EM field parted for any robot and then re-established
itself, but the atmo pressure alarms usually blasted if the bot
took too long. The Nine Wheeled rover’s superconductive engine
pack that generated the mag field couldn’t protect it from EM
bombs, amplified Rayguns and the like.
He watched his robot dog leap gracefully through the air, its
nose hit the mag field, sparking it, and then the rest of its
robotic body came sailing through, like a diver hitting the
surface of the water. Its chops still going, he could finally
hear it barking. It padded the last few feet and jumped up on
his space suit, slobbering. Fortunately its claws were
retracted, but it drooled on him.
Ed wondered why the artisans gave it such details, but he
believed it must have something to do with its cooling system.
Moon Digger looked at its tag. Moon Mining License A0980997
Canine Robot Systems to Edgar Chavez, Moon Ore Extractor. Edgar
and his robot dog went back a long way. It was good to see
Cavity again. Now, that was some birthday present.
“Off boy.” He pushed the heavy beast down. The dog ran circles
“C’mon boy, up in the cabin. Let’s go. We’re not waiting for
those slow pokes,” Moon Digger said, patting the seat. The dog
jumped up, wagging its tail, unable to contain its excitement.
Ed pushed the rover into gear and drove into the Alps Valley
Rille toward the shade of the Alps Mountains where the mine was
located, his lights automatically cutting into the dark shadow
and lighting up spots of dirty sparkling ice. In the graben, the
sides of the rille loomed above on either side. It was called
Imbrium Basin Mine, even though it was technically in the Valles
Alps. He drove the flat surface to a blasted area littered with
rock, moving vehicles, backhoes and cranes in the shadows of
Mount Alps, piled high with mounds of rock. He maneuvered the
rover around the dark shapes, sparkling with olivine minerals
even in the shadows and creating a maze that hid the entrance to
the mining tunnels.
Back to Jack Cluewitt
Elves, Fairies, Neandertrolls and Magic
Eerie screams of a screech owl made mystery writer, Krystal
Fischer, shiver. She hauled open the sliding glass door in the
mud room and called the dogs. They’d cornered something that
squealed in the dark.
Outside she shone the flashlight over the snow-covered backyard
with the beam, her breath floating like fog in the air. The four
glowing eyes of Pasha and Helios reflected back down by the edge
of the woods. Great. That didn’t make her too nervous. She could
see the black silhouettes of two wounded, howling raccoons, and
wondered if they were rabid; but as she approached she could
hear children’s voices speaking. They sat in the snow: three
youngsters, a boy and girl toddler, and an older boy of about
seven, dressed in strange hand-woven garments, their black hair
spiked. They writhed and moaned; the smaller boy screamed as his
legs grew an inch. Hypothermia? And Progeria? Her dogs had
stopped barking, but stayed a few feet away, growling. It was
odd. They usually liked children.
The older, taller boy covered the two smaller children with his
coat, his breathing ragged. He twitched and tried to pull the
toddlers under his body. Then, right before her eyes, his legs
and arms grew five inches; he screamed. That’s when she saw his
tail; it whipped in the snow as he gasped and reached his hand
out to her. She grabbed hold of his trembling hand. He looked
out of green eyes in a handsome young boy’s face and spoke with
a strange mixed Gaelic accent.
“Save my sister and brother. Cover them with your coat. Take
them away from the Dark Rays or they will age rapidly and die as
“I’ll carry you all into my house. It will be safe in there,”
“No. I’m too big and it’s too late for me. See.” The boy pulled
back his coat and pulled his pants down. His intestines spilled
out of his backside. He squeezed her fingers so hard she yelped.
He clenched his teeth, and she saw he held his breath stifling a
scream. She watched as he faded. His pain-filled chartreuse eyes
stilled as he gasped his last breath and died. The length of his
legs grew to the size of an adult’s, and the rest of his
intestines spilled out. His hair turned white and his skin
turned pale and wrinkled. Krystal closed her jaw. Progeria could
not have caused such rapid growth, could it?
With her trembling fingertips she closed his eyes and pulled his
younger brother and sister out from under his coat and placed
them under her robe, hoping they wouldn’t see him. They cuddled
against her on either side, straddled on either of her hips,
their hands free to suck their thumbs or cover their faces with
her robe. The boy said the darkness killed him, but why and how?
The dogs barked even louder and started dancing around. What the
heck? They’re just babies. Stupid dogs. She put the flashlight
in her pocket.
The younger boy played with one of her dog’s marrow bones.
Something felt wrong, different; she felt light as a feather.
The boy spun the bone around and they floated up into the cold,
black night, looking down at the dogs. The flashlight fell out
of her pocket and onto the snow, in between Pasha and Helios,
who barked furiously, jumping up and down. Below the house and
dogs shrank as the children used Magic to make the three of them
float and fly away. She wondered what her husband, Doug, would
make of her disappearance and the dead child-sized body with
long legs, white hair, pointy ears and a tail.
The girl screamed and her fingers lost the baby fat and
lengthened right before Krystal’s eyes. She groaned, “Dark is
bad; it hurts; it cold. Take us home,” she said with that same
accent as her older brother.
“To Defreeze Street,” the boy said.
She wanted to wake from this nightmare, but it was so cold; too
cold for dreams. “Okay. If you could tell me where your house
is, or Defreeze Street for that matter, I’d take you there, but
for now we should stop flying away, get back down on the ground
and into my warm house. Then you won’t have to worry about the
“We can’t,” the boy said. “Houses mean danger. Humans kill
Krystal blinked. “What Elves?”
“We Elves. Take us to the light. Darkness kills us.” The girl
pointed at the horizon and the boy spun the marrow bone.
Krystal thought she could make out little pointy ears on both
the kids; what she thought had been spiked hair were pointy
ears, like Elf ears. Then something drew her attention to the
sky. Obscured by clouds, the moon looked very dark and strange,
like a Black Sun, and it was glowing, shining an eerie black
light. It was very cold, more so than normal—a bone-penetrating
cold. Its aura gleamed darkly and the girl shrank under her coat
to hide from the increasing darkness. Cold Dark Rays that proved
fatal for these Elves, but not for her.
“Where is Defreeze Street?” Krystal asked.
“Mountain,” the boy said.
“Then, let’s fly to the Mountain,” Krystal said. There was a
hill near her house, but by no means was it a Mountain.
“What’s your name?”
“Evan,” the boy said; his turquoise eyes glowed in the dark,
under her robe.
“Inga,” the girl blinked long dark lashes over her silver-green
“I’m Krystal. What’s your address?”
“Cave is home.”
“You are now entering the Town of Defreezeville, population
three thousand,” said the sign outside the town as Krystal
landed, still holding Inga and Evan. The children had stopped
screaming, no longer in pain. She gathered they were allergic to
the darkness. It was now very bright, but overcast. She held
each toddler on either of her hips, carrying them as she walked
down the sidewalk in the odd town of Defreezeville. The Elf
children peeked about, Inga sucking her thumb, but still hugging
Krystal walked along the sidewalk past an anachronistic gas
station littered with family crest designs in gold and silver
and armor-like steel pumps. Despite a few similarly designed
cars on the road it was mostly horse driven-carts rolling down
the main drag.
A Cable Car pulled up alongside her, brimming with people in
Renaissance garb. Some shorter and stockier than Krystal, with
stunning red hair and Neanderthal features, wearing intricately
made hides and leathers, some clothing made with scales. Some
walked small feathered dinosaurs of every color on leashes,
barking and snapping like dogs.
The young black gripwoman waited, tapping her foot, “You coming
on board?” She asked. She wore leather gloves, with holes in the
fingers, and a scarf around her head. On her feet were bright
orange bowling shoes.
“I guess,” Krystal said.
“One dime. Children free.”
Krystal climbed on board, holding the children, whose pointy
ears lay flat against their heads. She reached into the pocket
of her coat, hoping for some money. The grip released the brake
and pulled on the go lever. The almost empty cable car began to
roll down Main Street. The grip gestured for her to take a seat.
Krystal did gratefully. The young black woman pulled on another
lever and the door closed, closing out the cold air. Krystal
searched her pockets.
Nothing. Just lint. Inga and Evan’s ears popped back up. If it
weren’t for the pointy ears they’d look human. Oh, and the
The gripwoman grimaced. “What in the hell did you bring Elf
babies on board for?”
“Elves? Very funny. There’s no such thing as Elves. They’re
children and they were in trouble.” Krystal was angry now. She
was cold, wet, tired and still wearing her pajamas.
“C’mon lady. If my boss were here she’d have taken those Elf
kids and dumped them in the snow to let them die.”
“Why would she do that?”
“By next sunrise the Black Dawn would kill them. You should have
let the Dark Sun take them.”
Inga and Evan spoke perfectly good English, albeit a limited
toddler vocabulary. They whimpered and hugged her closer. At
least they were keeping her warm.
“The Black Sun. The Black Sun,” Krystal murmured, and then the
clouds parted on cue and black stars sparkled in a very white
sky. She had to squint at the sky and not the stars.
“Yeah. The Black Sun’s energy makes Elves grow too fast in the
shade of a Dark Day. They only come out at night, like now, when
it’s light from Heavenshine. Are you from the north? There
aren’t many Elves up where it stays Dark Day for so long.”
“Yes. I’m from the north.”
“Well, you should know Elves. They’re mean, tricky devils. I’m
surprised they haven’t killed you, even though they’re babes.
The only humans they don’t kill are wizards and Witches.”
“What? That’s ridiculous.” Krystal’s eyes adjusted to the bright
light of their night with the black stars in the white sky.
“What’s your name?”
“Krystal. The kids say they live on Defreeze Street.”
“Well, we’re heading there, but it’s at the end of the line. You
have a long way to go and then the Defreeze Street they’re
looking for is up in the foothills of Oak Forest Mountain.”
“Then that’s where we’ll go.”
“You got that dime?”
“Umm . . .”
“Look. You can’t be a human. Those babies would have killed you
by now. The only thing an Elf won’t attack is a Witch.”
Krystal laughed. “There are no such things as Witches.”
“Well make me a dime, woman,” Tulilah said as the cable car
slowly made its way up the hill.
Outside they passed a large Factory-like building that said,
Neanderthalery, and across the street from that was another
Factory that said Fairy.
Krystal held out her hand and imagined a dime into it. She saw
blue energy draw together out of the air and turn into mass. A
blob of silver popped into existence and fell onto her palm,
then a spasm of pain shot through her belly. “Ouch.” She dropped
it. She caught it under her toe and it sizzled in the melted
snow running off her shoe. It was hot. The thing didn’t have
much shape. She touched it a few times to make sure it was
cooled off and then picked it up and looked at the strange
footwear Tulilah wore.
“I need to borrow one of your dimes. Why are you wearing bowling
“When I get to the corner streets the car goes below ground and
we have to wait for the other cars to pass. When I’m waiting, I
bowl in the underground bowling alleys with the other gripmen.
Why are you carrying two Elf babies?”
“I saved them from the Black Sun and I’m helping them get home.”
Tulilah handed her a dime. It looked like an American coin with
the milled edge except it had the coat of arms of the United
Kingdom on the reverse side, and a crowned lion on the obverse
side with the words United Kingdom of America written on the top
near the reeded edge. Krystal took the blob of silver and forged
Tulilah’s dime five times. It hurt less to transform them than
to create the metal from nothing. She handed Tulilah back her
dime and one extra.
“Thanks.” Tulilah looked curious, “What kind of Witch are you?”
“I’m not a Witch; I’m just a housewife, mother, and writer. I
thought it was the children’s Magic, but now I’m not so sure. We
flew here, but I ran out of steam. That’s why we landed.”
Tulilah grimaced. “You best get them up the Mountain before
sunrise. If you don’t they’ll die. Elves go underground when the
Black Sun comes out.”
Tulilah brought the cable car to a halt in the bowling alleys of
the Defreezeville Intersection. Her car waited while two others
crossed. Krystal departed with the children and stepped out onto
the cement platform. From a soda machine standing near the wall
she bought a bottle of Fairy soda with one of her dimes and
drank it down.
“Oh, Fairy scat,” Tulilah said.
“My boss is coming over here and she’s bringing two cops.”
Krystal turned around and saw a medium-sized stocky white woman
with dark hair, followed by two warriors, marching toward them.
The cops didn’t wear guns and looked more like Scottish
highlanders but with English swords at their hips.
“Tulilah, what is this?”
“This is Krystal . . . uhhhh . . .”
“Krystal Fisher.” She smiled and put out her hand. She felt the
vibration of the children’s growls but was thankful it was not
Tulilah’s boss waved a hand at her, as though that were the
“Whose are these? Are they going to the Fairy or the Coal
“This is Inga and Evan. We’re just passing through.”
Tulilah’s boss frowned. “Do you have papers for them? Why aren’t
they attacking you? How can you coddle them? Why aren’t they in
Krystal gasped. “They’re babies.”
“Elflings kill people. You can’t be human. A broke Witch out of
gas and mooching off my serf during her switch break is not what
I call passing through. I don’t care about that local treaty
with the Elves. I don’t trust that lot, and humans don’t mix
with their kind unless it’s in the coal mines or factories where
they can’t be seen. I won’t let them kill my gripwoman today.
Not on my watch. You go with these nice policemen and get your
situation straightened out with the magistrate.”
“At City Hall.”
Krystal shrugged, frowning.
“Down Main Street, at the Neanderthalery of course, where our
civil servants work.”
“That’s back where I came from. I don’t have time. I’m going
toward Defreeze Street. You know what happens to Elves if
they’re out in the Black Sun.”
“Yes, and good riddance. They kill people. The question is why
they haven’t killed you, a Magickless Witch. Come Tulilah.” She
stalked off. Tulilah, followed.
Krystal looked at the two big cops and followed them up the
stairs and back out into the cold. A black carriage waited
outside, pulled by a large black draft horse, which was stomping
to Liminal Key