It's Monday and that means I have another free short story for you. Just my small way of trying to give back during these crazy times. Enjoy!
Who Am I Today?
By Sheri Velarde
Once I had a name, a purpose, a life. No more. Now I am just the man of many faces. People come and tell me who I am to be today, no one comes for the real me anymore. Does a real me even exist? I doubt it.
There is a knock at my door. I answer, faceless and without purpose yet and ask, “Who as I today?”
“His majesty is in need of wise council. Please proceed to the throne room immediately.” The squire turned and left and I felt my face forming for the day. I took on the guise of a knowledgeable wizard, at least I knew who I was now.
I walked down the halls of the castle and entered the throne room to find the King pacing back and forth. “There you are! I need council. The Elordians are threatening to invade unless I meet their demands.”
“What are they asking of you?”
“The hand of my daughter in marriage so peace can reign between the kingdoms. A very large dowry. Two thousand mounted men for their army.” The King said, still pacing.
“That does not seem like such a high price to avoid war and all but assure peace. Do you have objections to the marriage? Is the prince undesirable in some way?”
“Well I don’t know the boy, but he should be a suitable match.” The King conceded.
“Then what are your objections?” I asked out of what was expected of me, not out of any real curiosity.
“I don’t like the Elordians forcing my hand! I am a King! How dare they threaten me into submission!”
“So pride is what is the matter here.” I said, this was not the first time pride had been the issue with this King. He and his father before him had shed much blood due to their pride. Now I feared if I could talk reason to him, though the princess might be an ally here.
“Why shouldn’t I be prideful? I am a king!”
“As king you must think what is best for your kingdom. Have you talked to your daughter about this? You seem to keep her counsel.”
The King seemed to calm a bit. “Yes, go fetch my daughter. She should decide if she wants to marry or not.”
“As you wish.” I bowed and exited the room, my face going blank once more as I thought about how to best approach the princess. Who would be most likely to get her to talk sense to her father? What face should I wear to convince her? Who should I be for her?
At last outside her chambers I knocked. “Princess, your father wants to speak with you. It’s important.” Before she opened the door I rearranged my face into that of a handsome and kindly gentleman, one a bit too old for her to fancy, but charming enough to keep her interested in his words.
The princess threw her door open. “What does he want now? Last night he was going on and on about war. I don’t care for war talk. If he would just keep his temper in check we would never have to talk of it.” She complained.
“Well preventing war is what I think you can do. The Elordians have made a proposal, one that includes your hand in marriage, which will all but ensure peace in our lifetime and for many after. However your father’s pride is threatening to ruin this treaty and bring war and destruction upon all of us.”
“The Elordians want me to marry their prince? And father is refusing? The Elordian prince is supposed to be the handsomest, wisest, and kindest man that their kingdom has ever seen. Why would my father object? It would make both kingdoms more powerful.” I could see the princess already dreaming of being queen of two kingdoms.
“Ah, but it was not his idea, it was theirs. His pride is hurting and he is not thinking about his kingdom, or his daughter’s future. Imagine being queen of not one, but two kingdoms. You and this mythical prince could make them prosper like no others, if only you can make your father see sense.”
Squaring her shoulders, fantasy life in her eyes, the princess said, “Don’t worry. I will make my father take this treaty. Thank you for your good counsel.”
“I live to serve Your Majesty.”
With the princess dealing with the king, I returned to my room, faceless once more. Now to wait to see whom I would be called to be next. Someone once asked me who I was when all alone. Did I think? Did I feel? Not really, I just sit and wonder who I will be called to be next.
Later that day another knock, another call through the door, “Your presence is requested in the throne room for a celebration.”
Putting on my happy face, wide smile, dimples and all, I opened the door. “Then we shall not keep them waiting.” How easy it is to laugh and tell jokes, to pump up the moods of others while feeling no joy myself. People want to feel good themselves, they rarely think of the enjoyment of other. If I have my smile on, well then I must be happy too right? Ah human nature, only seeing what they want to see.
The treaty went through. The princess married and eventually became queen of two kingdoms, though I didn’t see her often after her departure for Eldoria. The years passed and I continued to be whomever the King wanted me to be. Some days I was a jester, others days a wizard, still others a confidant and friend. Never was I ever really me.
Then one day the King died and the new Queen and her husband were coming to claim their kingdom. I waited in my room, same as I did every day, for someone to come and tell me who I would be today. A soft knock came, not the usual loud and formal knock of a guard. No call came telling me what face to put on, I didn’t know what to do. Who would break my protocol like this and leave me with no identity to answer the door?
That soft knock came again. “Who is it?” I called but there was no answer. Perplexed I did the only thing that I could, I opened the door with my face blank. I was a no one until I knew what I was supposed to be. “Yes?”
The Queen stood there a smile upon her face. “Hello there my old friend, it’s been too long.”
I smiled. I actually felt my lips form a smile. I had a face. From the way the Queen responded apparently I was her old confidant, her friend. A kind man with a sharp mind who only wanted the best for the kingdom. I remembered now, that was who I have always been, it was an enchantment of the King that kept me locked in my room and faceless without an identity, now that the Queen ruled I was free to be me at last.
During these trying times not only am I trying to entertain you with free books and short stories here on this blog, but I am also trying to help out one of my fellow indie authors, the lovely Leona Bushman! So this week I am featuring one of my favorite series from her, her War of the Weres series! If you love paranormal romance like I do, then this one is for you!
Series link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075VG2TVT
From Book 1: Nolan and Alexandria fight their sexual attraction, but can't deny the pull of being mates, despite a serial murder investigation.
Nolan Littlebull is the alpha of the Wahpawhat pack of werewolves, and lead detective on a series of murders of pregnant women from his pack. Torn between human justice and were justice, he travels deep onto the Yakama Resevation, tracking the killers. He is attacked by the rival pack, only to be defended by another from that pack.
Alexandria George is the healer for the Lupins. Though trying to hide her ability to shift, she defends the mysterious wolf in their territory from the pack's bully and escapes with Nolan. As if it wasn't enough to be an outcast amongst her own, she now has the complication of having the rival pack being her mate. Together they must find the killer while facing an uncertain future.
Can they fight their attraction for the good of the packs, or is it too late to prevent war?
I am so happy to announce that the latest horror anthology that I am a part of, Beyond the Grave, is available for preorder now!
It will be out on August 17th!
My story is one of my darkest ones yet, which made it scary to write but I am glad that I did.
No one knows what lies beyond the grave, but everyone wants to find out. Dare you dive into these stories to see if you can handle what comes next?
The Blood Rat by Daniel Comnenus
Bloody Creek by Thomas M. Malafarina
Sparśa-vyādhi, Disease by Touch by Shashi Kadapa
The Irritant by Danny Campbell
Risen by C.L. Williams
Captive by Erin Louis
Fertility Spell by Harper Raine
Six by Armand Rosamilia
The Spectral Skeptic by Greg Bennett
The Change by Katie Jaarsveld
Family is Forever by Sheri Velarde
Myopia by Samie Sands
It's Monday and the pandemic is still affecting most of us, so here is another free short story! This one will be at least a two parter, so stayed tuned. As always enjoy!
A Green Girl on Planet Earth Part One
By Sheri Velarde
As I sat in the meeting for all new employees, I realized how out of place that I truly was. Their young and bored faces shined a light on how much older I am, as if the color of my skin in the sea of whiteness wasn’t enough. Add to that only one other woman sat in the meeting and I stuck out like a giant green thumb. No, I did not belong here, but where else did I have to go? This sector was the only one hiring. I had no other prospects and desperately needed money, so here I am.
Still, no matter how many complaints ran through my head, I knew that coming to Earth 2 had been the right decision. At least on this planet I could find a job, a safe place to sleep, and I had food to eat. Though I had to admit that my digestive system still needed some adjusting to the rich human food.
Halfway through orientation we broke for lunch. With no other Venitians to congregate with, I tried to make small talk with the other lone female in the group. “Hello, I’m Koh. Would you like to sit together?”
The woman rolled her eyes, making a disgusted face. “I don’t sit with green scum!” She stalked away, heading towards a large group of humans who stared and laughed at me.
Sighing, I went through the cafeteria line, got the blandest food I could find for my stomach issues and found an empty seat. I barely noticed the glares coming from the humans at the table, they hated me for being different and there was nothing I could do about that. Hell I had been an outsider back on my own planet, at least here I knew why people didn’t like me and I could live with that.
During the entire training process the only people who would talk to me were the trainers themselves. I sat up front, learned all that I could, answered most of the questions, showed that I was indeed as capable as any human to work in the robotics development program on Earth 2. I had held quite the prestigious position in the field back on my home planet, back before Venit had destroyed itself. Those Venitians that had survived had scattered across the universe, seeking someplace to live and begin again. I had thought that the humans would understand my plight, after all their kind had destroyed the original Earth centuries ago. Apparently not, these people had forgotten what their ancestors had went through and had once again grown arrogant.
Once training was over I received orders to report to the highest level of security, I would be working on the robots that would guard the world from the rogue planets in the universe. No one may want to be seen with me, but at least the higher ups recognized my talent. While my new coworkers actually spoke to me and acknowledged my presence, they were still anything but friendly. I took breaks and ate lunch alone. After work I never received an invite from anyone to do anything. I went to my small living quarters and spent my nights reading and dreaming. Within months I had been promoted based on my exemplary work. At least one area of my life saw some form of success.
My life continued in the same vein for the next few years. I excelled at work, yet no one talked to me unless absolutely necessary. Every once in a while I would see another non-human, but they never seemed to last long in the harsh and lonely environment for aliens that Earth 2 presented. “At least I have more time to study.” I would always say to myself. If I had friends I would have never made some of the advances in my career. I also would have never discovered the threat to Earth 2 until it was too late.
After what had happened on her my planet, I felt the need to keep an eye on threats from the universe as well as the political environment of my new adopted home. Just as had happened on Venit, the threat came from within the populace of Earth 2. It all started with the election of 3416. The planet was divided, no one seemed to hold the old politics, so new candidates came to the forefront. Candidates that did not have the knowledge to run a planet, some did not even have the concern of Earth 2 governing at heart, people who wanted to better themselves and not their homeland.
That is how Alan Frode came to be declared Governor of Earth 2 and that was the beginning of the end.
Just thought that I would highlight one of my favorite fellow indie authors, Leona Bushman! Here is one of my favorite series by her, The Lost Witch series! Grab all three books now, you won't regret it!
From Book 1: After a lifetime of ignoring her magic, Melissa is now in danger from those who would like to steal it.
Melissa discovers her magic is very real while hiking with her friend, Rachel. She sells everything and gives up her life as a stockbroker to live in solitude to practice and learn her magic. But real life keeps intruding. Then, one stormy night a month before Beltane, John arrives.
Someone sends John to find her. He's a private investigator and very good at his job. But when he finds her, literal sparks fly. Next thing he knows, he's talking to cats and other animals, and they're talking back. If that isn't enough to believe in the magic, the spell she wove over him sure is. The heat between them is hotter than the Dismal Swamp in the Summer.
They make plans for celebrating Beltane together, and he can't wait. However, as the time nears, he has to choose between his business and Melissa as the one who sent him to find her threatens him and the woman he's come to love.
Whatever he does, he is afraid Melissa will die. How can he save her and their growing love?
It's Monday and that means another free short story this week! Here is one of my favorite sci-fi short stories that I have written. I hope you enjoy and that it distracts you just a little during these still crazy times.
Everything Went Red
I closed my eyes hoping for darkness, instead the orange-red glow that now permeated our world still managed to seep in. Did true darkness even exist anymore? I wondered if any of us would ever know. Our world was dying and I doubted we could find a way to stop it.
Deciding that sleep would elude me again, I got up and went to what we called a library. We were in a large bunker deep underground, you would think I’d have to turn on lights to walk around, but no the glow from above somehow had sunk down and embedded itself in the very walls. The radiation was spreading, it seeped into us right now even as most of us slept. The end was near and we would go out with a whimper instead of a roar.
I went into the quiet room that housed our books and meager computers. I had read the history books about the world before the red, before the war, at least a dozen times. They sounded more like fairytales, for we did have a copy of those as well, than history. Yet I knew it all to be true. I had been born in those times even if I didn’t remember them. My father and I had survived the initial blasts and fights, though we had lost my mother. My father was been ex-military and had helped us set this base up, helped us survive. Then he went on a mission one day and never came back. I was ten. That’s when the library, the books that told of my father’s time, became my solace. Over time I had become our little colony’s historian, our record keeper, our researcher. Alana the Wise was my nickname. I didn’t feel wise. My research meant nothing. The past could not help us. I could not help us.
Seeking the comfort of my books I started reading about life before the war. Everyone else except for our lookouts slept, so the only sound to keep me company was the rhythmic beeping of the computers. We kept them on even though we had not heard from other human beings in almost a year. For all we knew we were the last humans left. I doubted that, but we were at least the last with access to communication and that was close to being the same thing.
The isolation had started to get to all of us, not to mention that our food supply had started to dwindle. Our attempts to grow food underground had proven fruitless and nothing could be grown on the red earth now, all we could do was continue to scavenge for old tinned foods and Twinkies.
Try as I might, I could not concentrate on reading. So I switched to my passion project, the need to write down my own story. I had been secretly working on a history of our time, of the Red time after the war. After the others had come and for all intensive purposed killed humanity and everything else on Earth.
I went to the bookcase and pulled it away from the wall. I had constructed a hidey-hole out of sight but easy enough for me to get to store my writings. Why I hid them I don’t know. I had already filled several notebooks with what had happened after the attack that changed the world, but I had no idea if anyone would ever read them.
My father told me that before the attack people who believed in aliens were called crazy. The governments of the world had known different though, but kept everything top secret. Some world leaders had tried to communicate with the aliens. Others had built space defense systems.
The attack came fast and hard. The space defense systems that were out there were completely ineffective, we never had a chance. Most people were caught off guard and many were dead before they ever knew what hit them. Those who survived had to live in a post-apocalyptic world worse than if thousands of nuclear weapons had been detonated. Whatever they nuked us with didn’t dissipate, it kept growing and soaking into what was left. If we dug down, it eventually caught us. Soon the very core of the earth would be dead and the rest of us survivors with it.
“Why?” That is all everyone could ask. Why would they come and do this to us, to our planet? They were making it uninhabitable, so why destroy all the races on Earth if they couldn’t even use the planet afterwards. “I think that they did this before, to Mars at least and probably more planets out there. They come and destroy and then move on. Maybe the radiated planets can somehow give them a power source? It’s the only thing I can think of.” Her father had once confided in her. She didn’t think he had been wrong. The Reds destroyed as if for fun and then they just left us to die.
As I came back to present, I started to write about the dwindling food situation. The lack of communication. The fact that the red continually spread and now it was never dark anywhere. Lost in my writing I jumped when I heard a random beep come from the computer station.
“What the hell?” I quickly got up and went over to the screen that had blinked to life for the first time in forever.
Message after message began coming across the monitor. They were coming in to the address that we had been broadcasting on every network that we could find. Apparently we were not as alone as we had thought.
I immediately started to open the messages, eager to see who else still existed out there and contacting us.
Bunker 117, we have heard your broadcast. Are you still there? Are there still survivors?
Dependent on the number of survivors we might be able to pick you up immediately. Please reply.
Time is short. The Earth will not last much longer, we have a plan. Please contact.
Bunker 117, we have a ship. We have a means of escape, please contact so we can evacuate your location.
I sat there blinking. Could any of this be true? Could there not only be other people out there, but could they have a ship? A means of escape? Why hadn’t we heard from them until now? Who were these people? So many things ran through my head. I didn’t even know where to begin my reply.
“This is Bunker 117. We are still here. As of last count we have 31 survivors, but some scouts have not returned and they were due back yesterday, so we may be down to 27. Do you have enough room for that many survivors? Who is this? Why have you not contacted us before? I do not recognize the address from which your transmissions came from. We were once one of the largest outposts, we have heard from most colonies in the past. And what do you mean that the Earth won’t last much longer? How can you know that? Please send more information.”
I sat there not knowing what else to do. There were probably tons of other things that I should be asking, but my mind went blank. I should go wake the others. The acting commander would want to know. Hopefully she would know what to do as well. Before I could move though, the screen started scrolling once more.
We had no means of commination before. We are just now able to find survivor colonies.
The message kept coming faster, I barely had time to think, let alone go get the others.
The very core of the earth is heating up. The environment above ground is becoming more toxic by the moment. Several outposts have already succumbed to the even harsher climate. We are trying to save the precious few survivors that we can. We repeat, please send us your coordinates.
So I did. Out of fear. Out of hope. Out of nativity. I ran back towards the sleeping quarters, yelling for everyone to get ready, we were being rescued at last. Just as people began to come out to see what I was yelling about, the sirens went off. The lookouts above ground came over the loud speakers in a panic. “Unknown flying objects have entered our airspace. Take cover. We repeat take cover.”
Panic took over, even as I tried to yell over the chaos. “It’s got to be the people coming to rescue us! Everything is going to be okay!”
Before anyone calmed down enough to listen, a rumble could be heard from above. Then the loudest noise that I had ever experienced shot through the bunker. Immediately I knew that I had been lied to and I had doomed us all. I wanted to apologize, but the noise grew louder and then everything went red.
It's another Monday and times are still tough, so here is another free short story as I try to entertain people! This is a brand new one that is associated with a sci-fi novel that I am working on. In fact it might become the prologue, so you are all getting a sneak peak! Hope you enjoy!
When the Sky Fell
By Sheri Velarde
Marcella fell out of bed as the entire house seemed to shake. She stumbled getting up, rubbing the sleep from her eyes and wondering what happened. As she moved towards the door, the ground shook again, but this time she heard a loud boom along with it. Now fully awake and listening she also heard screams coming from outside. Scared, she started to cry as she ran to the door and into the hallway, searching for her parents. “Mama? Papa?” she called even though smoke and dust were sucked into her lungs.
Not only was it hard to breathe, but to see as well. She used her hand on the wall as a guide. Just as she reached the next door it flew open, with her older brother Cin calling out. “What is going on?” He walked out and bumped right into her before she could even say a word. He reached down and touched her head gently, “Marcella is that you? Where are mom and dad?”
“I don’t know. I was thrown out of bed and then I heard yelling. What is going on Cin?” she cried even harder and hurled herself into her brother’s arms.
Reaching down and picking her up, Cin said, “Let’s find mom and dad and then we will figure out what is happening. Come on, I’ve got you now and I won’t let anything hurt you.”
Reassured by her brother’s words and arms around her, Marcella relaxed just a little. Cin was seven years older than her, almost thirteen. He was her hero and always took care of her, she would be safe now. Cin could take care of anything in her mind.
Cin stumbled and almost fell a couple of times as he headed towards the back of the house, trying to get to their parent’s room. They almost made it when he cursed, saying a word that would have earned him a slap if their mother heard him. “The whole ceiling has collapsed here in the hallway. We can’t get to mom and dad this way.”
“They are okay aren’t they?” Marcella asked in tears once more.
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m sure they are fine. They just would have to leave their room through the windows. I’m sure that they are waiting outside for us now, or coming around to get us as we stand her. Come on, let’s go out the front.” Cin said confidently, though Marcella thought she might have seen tears in his eyes as well.
Thankfully they were able to make their way through the living room and to the front door, most of the damaged seemed to be towards the back of the house. Once outside though, Marcella’s fears only grew. Their house was not the only one in shambles, the house across the street had been turned into nothing but a hole in the ground now and the one next door was on fire. “What is going on Cin?” She cried as she clung tighter to her brother.
“I don’t know. But it’s going to be okay, let’s find mom and dad and then we can figure out what is going on.” Cin tried to sound strong, but Marchella could hear the fear and confusion in his voice. More explosions could be heard around them as they quickly made their way around the house.
Once they made it to the back of the house, the ash covered figure of their mother could be seen coughing and trying to get back into the house. Cin ran over to her, still clutching Marcella. “Mom, it’s okay, we got out. You can’t go back in there, the roof looks like it’s going to fall in at any moment.”
“And that is why I have to go back in. Your father is trapped in there.” Their mother practically screamed in her frenzy.
Cin pushed Marcella into their mother’s arms. “You take care of Marcella, I’ll go in and find Dad.”
“No, you stay out here with your sister…”
“Marcella needs you. I’ll go.” Cin said, kissing Marcella on the cheek and climbing in through the window at the back of the house. He disappeared almost immediately in the thick smoke that billowed out the window.
“Mama, what’s going on?” Marcella tried to stop her tears, though they still silently streamed down her face. Her mom always said big girls didn’t cry, but she saw unshed tears in her mother’s eyes as well.
“We’re under attack.” Her mother said, not sparing her daughter the harsh reality surrounding them.
“Who would want to attack us? We don’t hurt anyone.” Marcella asked, confused as well as scared.
“There are those out there that will hate us for the blue hue of our skin, or for the good land we are lucky enough to live on. The universe if full of people who hate for no reason. We have no way of knowing who is attacking us or why, at least not right now.” Her mother said, her eyes never leaving the window in which Cin had disappeared.
Strange ships flew overhead, so low that Marcella could see the movement of someone behind glass, someone controlling guns on the ship. Someone who saw them as well and fired at them. Marcella’s mother snapped her eyes from the burning house to the sky, dodging to the side just in time as lasers hit the ground where they had just been standing. Marcella tumbled out of her mother’s arms. “Run!” Her mother shouted as the ship turned around and came for them once more.
They both scrambled to their feet, running towards the small ravine that flowed behind their house. At this time of year there it was dry and full of weeds. They had barely dove for cover when an explosion rocked the entire ground. Marcella felt heat and pressure on her back that knock what was left of her breath out of her. She laid there in the tall grass, trying to move even though her body didn’t want to. She started to cry again, though she hardly noticed anymore. She managed to push herself to sitting when she heard a blood curling scream from beside her.
She turned and saw her mother screaming and crying herself, clawing her way back up the ravine. “No! No! No!” Her mother shouted over and over as she reached the level ground once more and began running back towards the house.
Marcella struggled to her own feet and had a hard time crawling out of the ravine herself, once she did she saw her mother on her knees not far from her, pulling at her hair and howling at the sky. Staring past her mother, Marcella understood. Their house, or what used to be their house, was nothing more than a crater in the ground. The entire home had been destroyed. Everything happened so fast too that there was no way Cin could have made it back out with their father. Her brother, her father, her home, everything was gone. Only her mother remained, who continued to howl at the sky in pain. Marcella tried to shout, tried to move, but she felt herself drifting away as her body fell to the earth in a dead faint.
How long she laid on the ground she had no idea. Nor did she know how long it took her mother to come back to her senses at least a little and notice her unconscious daughter. There was also no way of knowing just how the two of them survived the rest of the attack, but somehow they did.
What she did know was that her father and her brother, her hero, were gone. She also knew that her mother was no longer the mother she had loved and known. She’d become a shell of a woman now. The attack, the death of half their family, it broke her and despite her young years Marcella doubted her mother would ever be the same. She herself would never be the same. She’d lived a loving and safe life up until tonight, but she doubted she would ever feel either again. What did they do now? Their entire world had been destroyed, how did one move on from that?
Eventually the sky began to lighten and the fires started to die down. Others started to emerge from the darkness of the night, other survivors who had the same hallow look in their eyes as Marcella and her mother. They were half people now, destined to always and forever miss their other halves, the ones who had been so brutally taken from them.
From their entire town of thousands, only 159 people survived. The rest of their people had been killed in a mass genocide. “It was the Lansers. I saw some of them land, using blasters to kill those that their bombs didn’t.”
“Who are the Lansers?” Marcella asked, though with no real emotion or curiosity left in her voice. It didn’t really matter to her who had done this only that it happened and they’d lost everything that mattered.
“The Lansers are the ones who drove our ancestors from our home planet years ago. The remaining Skylins fled across the galaxy, here to the very edge of known space and built a new life. A life where were thought we were safe. A life where we forgot about the Lansers and tried to live in peace.” My mother said in her hollow voice.
“It seems we were not forgotten by the Lansers.” Someone else said.
“What do we do now?” Marcella asked.
“We leave before the Lansers come back and finish killing the rest of us.” Her mother said, standing at last.
“And go where?” Someone said from the small crowd now gathered on what used to be their front lawn.
“Somewhere far from here. That is if they didn’t already destroy all the ships. We find a new world ready to accept us, we try to begin again. That is all we can do. Try to start over in a place where the Lansers will hopefully never find us.” Her mother said, some steel entering her voice. “We cannot let them win, we cannot let them destroy all of us, to wipe us out of existence. The best way to get back at the Lansers is to survive.”
There were some murmurs, a few people agreeing with her, others not sure what to do. Aylea, Marcella’s mother, had always been a leader of their clan and now was no different. Marcella saw the pain etched on her mother’s face and doubted it would ever disappear, still Aylea would do the best to lead there people to safety and the promise of starting over. “First let’s gather what we can then make it to the hangers. We need to find a ship still able to fly those of us left out of here. Grab only what is easy to carry, if there is anything left to carry. For Marcella and myself we have only the clothes on our backs left. Maybe we can find some food as we make our way down to the airstrip. Hopefully there is a ship and enough fuel to jump us to hyperspace and put as much distance as we can between here and wherever it turns out we are headed.”
The survivors did as her mother asked. Gathered what they could and slowly kept moving towards the hangers where the Skylins kept their few ships capable for space travel. From afar they could see some damaged, but at least of few of the hangers were still intact and hopefully they would have the fuel they needed to escape. Aylea and one other woman were the only capable pilots left, but they could make due with a decent ship. The whole walk out of what used to be their town was quiet, people barely speaking to one another, barely looking at all the destruction around them. No one seemed able to put into words what they had lost, or the uncertainty of their future. Everyone kept watching the sky, waiting for it to finishing falling down on them and ending the Skylins once and for all.
It's Monday again and that means another free short story here on my blog. During the entire pandemic I have been trying to provide free entertainment to others and I will continue to try to do so. So here is a short but sweet story to distract you all! Enjoy!
Alone in the Clouds
By Sheri Velarde
Eva sighed as she sank into her seat. It had been a long day and she wanted nothing more than to put her eye mask on and get some much needed sleep on this red-eye from New York to London. The biggest presentation of her life waited for her on the other side of the pond, she needed a peaceful flight so that she could rest and prepare. She stared out the window, hoping they would pull away from the gate soon and that she could then get comfortable in the row she seemed to have to herself. However that idea became out of the question when just as the doors to the plane were about to be shut, a man shouted for them to wait and came running on at the very last moment.
The delay slightly annoyed Eva, but at first she thought nothing of him until she glanced up to see him heading straight for the seat next to her. He quickly stashed his carry on and then sat down. There went having the row to herself she thought as she turned back towards the window to try to calm down her disgruntled feelings.
“That was a close one.” She heard from her side.
Reluctantly she turned to actually look at the man next to her and her breath caught for a moment. He had the whole tall, dark and handsome thing going for him. She worked with her fair share of handsome men in the fashion industry, but none that literally took her breath away.
He held out his hand, “Elijah Sterling. What are you headed to London for, business or pleasure?”
Eva took his hand, “Eva Valdez. Business, I have a big presentation tomorrow with a major fashion house that I’m not at liberty to name until the deal is signed and official. What about you?”
Elijah smiled at her, “You’re a big shot in the fashion world huh? I would never have guessed that.”
“Why because I’m short and brown?” She shot back defensively. She had to fight for everything in her career and was tired of people doubting her.
“No, not at all! It’s just you’re in jeans and a hoodie, not a Chanel suit or something. I meant no harm, honestly.”
Seeing how sincere he seemed, Eva regretted her outburst. “Sorry, I’m tired and nervous. This deal could make my career and the stress must be getting the best of me. I didn’t mean to snap at you. You never did tell me what you are traveling to London for.” She offered a tentative smile.
The grin that Elijah shot her made her heart beat a little faster, “No need to apologize, we all get testy from time to time. I’m actually going on a small book tour over in England, then I plan on sticking around for a month or so just for pleasure, maybe travel up to Ireland and Wales. Time to get inspired for my next novel.”
“You’re an author? You must be a pretty big deal if you’re going on an international book tour! What have you written? I might pick up something and give it a read.”
Elijah chuckled, “I guess you could say that I do okay for myself. I mostly write horror and science fiction, my best seller being the post-apocalyptic zombie thriller Code Black. It’s been on the best sellers list since it came out. I’ve reached the level where I can now afford to travel and write, which makes me a very happy man.”
After that they were off and talking. All thoughts of sleep were gone, so were Eva’s nerves. Each easy laugh from Elijah, every smile, every twinkle in his deep brown eyes pulled her in and made her feel at ease. When he got up to go to the restroom, she found herself wondering what the hell had gotten into her. She didn’t have time for men and distraction, yet something about Elijah intrigued her more than she cared to admit. Sure he was good looking, intelligent, and a charming gentleman, but there was something more pulling her in and she thought that he might feel something similar. It felt like they were all alone up in the clouds, in a world of their own while the rest of the plane and the world slept.
When he came back they continued their conversation, only now they had started to move into more personal topics. She heard all about his ideal childhood in Maine, with the exception of an alcoholic father that he swore he never talked about. She relayed what it was like to be raised by her grandmother in near poverty back in New Mexico. As the sun started to come up and others began to stir, Eva got the courage to ask the one question she had avoided the entire night, “So, do you have a significant other meeting you at some point during your trip to the U.K?”
“No, I’m quite single. Though I wouldn’t object if you wanted to get together sometime after your mysterious presentation, that is if you don’t have someone waiting at home for you.” Elijah looked at her hopefully.
“But we just met.” Eva stammered.
“I know, but I would like to get to know you better. What do you say?” Elijah leaned ever so slightly closer to her so that she could smell his woody and distinctly masculine scent.
“I’d like that. I had planned to stay in London a few days whether to celebrate or cry remains to be seen, but it would be nice to have some company either way.” Eva smiled, inching closer to Elijah as well.
“Then we’re in agreement, there’s something worth following up on here.” Elijah said as his lips touched hers for the briefest of kisses that still managed to send shivers down her spine.
“Definitely something worth following,” she whispered just as they began their decent into a new and unknown future.
It's another Monday. How is it already halfway through July? Anyways, since life is still not back to normal, here is another free short story to help keep you distracted during trying times.
Demons at Work
By Sheri Velarde
Sara could not have been more excited, she had just turned sixteen and landed her first job. She couldn’t wait to have the money to pay for a car and freedom. Not to mention that since she worked at a theater that meant all the free movies that she could watch! This year would be her year, maybe she would even make some friends at work, perhaps they would be different than the kids she went to school with. She had hope and that felt fantastic.
However Sara soon learned that working was not all that she had imagined. In fact it turned out to be worse that high school, with meaner cliques that left her feeling more isolated than ever before. At first she thought that her coworkers were distant because of her being the new girl, but as the weeks wore on things only got worse. Every time a colleague looked at her she felt like scum found on the bottom of their shoes. No matter what she did, no one accepted her.
One night, her grandmother, whom she lived with, found her crying after a long day at work. “What’s wrong sweetheart?”
“Work. School. My entire life. I’m an outcast. No one likes me or even respects me, no matter what I do I am never accepted.” Sara sobbed.
“You know, your mother had the same problem. So did I as a young woman. We are different, but that does not mean that we have to live on the outskirts of society. I have something that can help you.” Her grandmother said, getting up and heading to the attic.
Sara sat there confused, her family had indeed always been weird, but her grandmother acted stranger than usual just now. Her confusion only increased when her grandmother returned with an antique and rather creepy looking doll in ragged clothes and sinister eyes. “What is that? How is an old doll going to help me make friends?”
“Oh, this is more than a mere doll. It’s been in our family for over one hundred years and has helped us in each generation. Its how my father gained support to start his business, how I met your grandfather, how your mother found success.” Her grandmother stopped, looking said as she did every time she talked about Sara’s mother. “Though Annie never could handle the power, I often wonder if I had never given her this doll if she would still be here today.”
“What are you talking about? How could a doll have brought about my mom’s breakdown? It’s a toy, an old and ugly toy.” Sara said. Though even as she spoke shivers ran down her spine. Something about the eyes of the doll unnerved her, like the glass eyes were staring into her very soul.
“This is Dorothy. She belonged to my great aunt of the same name. It is said that she was a witch and persecuted for it, made to live on the fringe of society, something that we all seem to have inherited from her. That is unless we ask for her help.” Her grandmother handed the doll to her and Sara reluctantly took it. “Share you hopes and dreams with her. Talk to her every night, ask for her help and guidance. Things will start to look brighter.”
“You want me to talk to a doll and that is supposed to fix all my problems?” Sara scoffed. Could her grandmother be going senile?
“Just try it. What have you got to lose? Humor your old grandmother will you?”
Not knowing what else to do, Sara nodded. At least her grandmother had succeeded in stopping her pity party. Maybe talking to a doll made more sense than sitting around crying. Later that night she sat in her room staring at Dorothy, wondering if mental illness really ran in her family. That would explain her mother killing herself and now her grandmother’s odd beliefs, not to mention the crazy stories that she had heard about her extended family. “I’m doomed to be alone and crazy.”
Sara kept the doll in her room, tossing it in the corner and forgetting about it for a while. She continued her life, being invisible in school and the target for ridicule at her job. Sometimes she even understood why her mother had taken her own life. Death would be a welcome escape from the living hell she called her life. No, she couldn’t do that to her grandmother though, not again.
Then another night of tears found her saying what the hell and pulling out the old doll. “Have you really been in my family forever? Were you my great, great, great aunt? The witch? Can you make people at work like me? Give me respect?” The doll’s dead eyes just stared at her. “And I am telling my woes to a doll. I really am as insane as the rest of my family. If only you could make my problems disappear, make people respect me and see me for once in my life.” She tossed Dorothy back in the corner and went to sleep.
The next day school didn’t seem to go better than usual, even her teachers didn’t seem to notice if she as there or not. Right after school she headed to the theater, dreading the evening. At least at school people only ignored her, at work they seemed to want to torture her, like making her cry made their day. And tonight the manager that hated her the most worked. “Great. Let’s see how many things he can think up to make me do. Maybe climb on the roof and jump off.” She mumbled as she walked in. After that she didn’t remember a thing until she got home and sat in her room. Her entire shift was missing. Had something so horrible happened that she had actually blocked it from her mind? Somehow she didn’t think so, because even if she couldn’t remember what happened, she felt happy and she never experienced that emotion. Never.
The next morning Sara awoke still feeling happy. School went better than usual, a teacher even called on her for an answer in math class. People noticed for once. No one made fun of her in the halls and she actually ate lunch with no one throwing anything at her or trying to drive her from the cafeteria. As she pulled up to the theater after school, she wondered if her new luck would continue, and if she would remember what happened.
Sara walked in and stopped in shock as her coworker Erica actually said hello to her in a friendly manner. “Hi Sara.”
“Hi.” Sara managed to squeak out. No one ever greeted her at work. Sure they talked to her in order to order her around, or mock her, but never to talk to her in a friendly manner.
As she clocked in, her manager Charlie also said hello. Sara replied in bewilderment. Why were her coworkers suddenly being nice to her? She shrugged, she didn’t want to push her luck. Getting down to work, she cleaned and served popcorn and noticed that people liked her. She also noticed that she was different. She talked. She laughed. She took charge of things and jumped into conversations. A newfound confidence came out of her and people responded in kind.
She came home with a smile on her face, practically skipping into her room. As she flipped on the light she stopped dead in tracks, Dorothy sat in the middle of her bed, staring at her with those creepy eyes. Last she had seen the doll it had still been sitting in the corner. Chills ran down her spine, had Dorothy had something to do with her sudden popularity? But how? It was a doll. Shaking herself and figuring that she must have moved the doll, or that her grandmother must have been in her room, she picked it up. Nausea hit her as soon as she touched the doll, then everything started to go black.
The next thing that she knew, Sara found herself awake and at work. She could see through her eyes, hear her own voice, but she didn’t seem to be in control of herself. She had become a prisoner in her own body, present but not the one driving. Someone else talked through her mouth, someone controlled her movements, someone else was living her life. Dorothy, she thought to herself. Could all that her grandmother have said been real?
Her eyes glanced down at the date on the cash register where she worked. She had lost two weeks. Two weeks of someone using her body and no one noticed? How the hell did this happen. What was she going to do?
“Nothing, share your body with me and I can give you everything that you ever wanted. Defy me and I will destroy all that you are.” Came a voice from inside her own head. “If you play nice I will even share this vessel with you. Imagine all that we could do together. I’ve already won you friends, improved your grades, given you a life worth living at long last. Just surrender to me and I can grant you anything that you should desire.”
“What? I don’t want to share my life!” Sara protested in her own mind, even though to the outside world her body kept working and talking under the control of some witch.
“Life? Is that what you think you had? Watch me, see what living really is and then make your decision. Your mother couldn’t handle me, but you, you I sense are the one that I have been waiting for in this family. You have power that rivals mine own. You and I are going to do great things once I’ve trained you up a bit and you have had time to adjust.” Dorothy replied, all the while laughing and talking to the others around them.
For days Dorothy steered their body, letting Sara have just enough control to see and hear what went on around them, but not allowing her to do anything of her own free will. Sara observed her body live a life that she could no longer be a part of. She hated to admit it, but Dorothy indeed lived better than she ever had. Sara now had straight A’s in school and had become a teacher’s pet in a good way. She had some friends. She had gotten a promotion and raise at work, not to mention she had become now friends with all her coworkers and one of the cutest boys she had ever known had actually asked her out. She dressed better, looked better, lived better. The only problem was that she was no longer Sara.
She had tried talking to Dorothy, begging for her body to be given back to her, but she had gotten no answer. The witch was too busy living her life to listen to Sara it seemed. The only person that seemed to have an idea what had happened was Sara’s grandmother, but instead of being alarmed she seemed happy with the changes taking place in her granddaughter. “Didn’t I tell you that Dorothy would make things better?”
“No! I want my life back!!” Sara wanted to shout, but only Dorothy could hear her and she wasn’t about to relinquish control of their shared body.
Days, weeks, months wore on. To the outside world, Sara came into her own. She became popular and successful. Her life seemed perfect, rather Dorothy’s life seemed perfect. Finally the witch allowed Sara to talk once more, “So, have you thought about my offer? You have seen what I can do for you, for us. Our life could be more than you ever imagined. Do you want to share this vessel? I will let you out to enjoy some of the perks that I have earned.”
“You act as if I have a choice. What would even happen if I said no? You’d just push me to the back of my mind, a passenger in my own life forever.”
“Oh, I have been kind to you so far. I can force you out, you realize that don’t you? If I can store my soul in a doll, I can certainly imprison your soul. And if you fight me, well you saw what happened to your mother. Now it is your time to choose. Take the life that I am offering you and great success will come your way. Refuse and one way or another you will have no more life.”
Sara’s body began shaking out of control due to her anger and frustration. For the first time in ages her body responded to her and not the witch inside of her. “You killed my mother? You are the one who ruined my life! No, you will not take me down too. I will find a way to destroy you.”
“You are willing to give up all your dreams? Your very life? There is no way for you to defeat me.” Dorothy said, but Sara could detect a hint of fear in the witch for the first time.
“No, you need people in my family to believe in you, to host you.” Sudden inspiration took ahold of Sara. She rushed into her room and grabbed the doll while she still had control of her body. Her movements were jilted as Dorothy fought to stop her. Once she had the doll she ran back downstairs, firing up the gas fireplace even though it was the middle of summer. She would get rid of this cursed doll no matter what. Even if she didn’t rid herself of Dorothy, she would stop the witch from tormenting the rest of her family.
“NO!” Dorothy screamed inside Sara’s mind, but it didn’t stop Sara. As the doll caught fire some of the power slipped from Dorothy, though the rage of the spirit sharing her body could still be felt. She fell to the floor, convulsing as she fought for control of her very soul. Had her mother gone through this? Is this why she jumped off a building? Or had she been forced off? The thought of how Dorothy had destroyed her mother and her childhood. That pain and rage gave her the power she needed to gain control. Dorothy’s spirt got pushed into the prison Sara had been in for months. She could hear the witch, but she had no power over Sara any more.
Locked away and with no other vessel to store her soul in, Dorothy began to weaken. Each day Sara sensed Dorothy become less and less of a presence until one day she vanished for good. It felt as if a dark cloud had finally been lifted from her life. She felt lighter, brighter. She had fought actual evil and had come out on top. Dorothy had taken her mother and who knew what else she had done to her family over the years, but Sara hated to admit that the witch had actually helped her. She had kept the friends Dorothy had made, it turned out that Sara had been the one to make herself invisible. With the confidence she had facing down a demon doll, well talking to people was a piece of cake.
It's Monday and I have another free short story to try to keep everyone entertained and distracted in this crazy world we live in. Here is another horror piece from a past anthology. Enjoy!
By Sheri Velarde
The final frontier for science is to prevent death itself, in particular brain death as the brain is the only organ that cannot be transplanted and allow a body to retain their original personality. Once a brain is dead there is no bringing it back. Or is there? That is the premise of the Reanimation Lab, a place that can reawaken the truly dead. Those you love can be brought back to life by the power of science and stem cells. It was a motto that Elizabeth knew by heart and believed in more than any other scientists that worked there.
Elizabeth went into this line of scientific study for a very personal reason, her mother lived in a vegetative state and had for decades. She had been pronounced brain dead after a car accident while Elizabeth was in college. That accident had changed the course of Elizabeth’s life. Numerous doctors had told her that her mother was gone, to just pull the plug and let go, then they both could be at peace. “No. She’s not gone. I will find a way to bring her back.” Elizabeth had sworn to herself and to everyone who tried to talk her into killing her mother.
Now all of her hard work and determination was about to pay off. She had found a way to regrow damaged brain tissue. Sure her only successes thus far were a few rats, still they had been completely brain dead and now were not only awake and aware, but functioning well while still under observation in secluded cages. Soon it would be time to see how they dealt with being reintroduced to their society. Elizabeth knew that she should wait until all results had been gathered, but she had already waited too long. She wanted her mother and tonight would be the night she brought her back.
“Liz, we can’t do this. We’re breaking so many ethical laws, not to mention probably real laws that could get us arrested. We should wait until clinical trials on humans are approved.” Her friend and assistant Charles said even as he helped her prepare the samples that would be inserted into her mother’s damaged brain.
“No, my mother has been lying in a bed with machines breathing for her and tubes feeding her for far too long. Tonight we are going to give her life back.”
Yes, Elizabeth had broken some laws to get her mother’s body brought to her labs, but truthfully the nurse who had been taking care of her in a private facility seemed relieved that she would no longer have a job. It hurt to take care of someone in a coma that had no hope of waking up. However it was that exact hope that her mom could wake up that had made Elizabeth the top neuro geneticist in the world. Deep down she knew that she should wait for the human trials to begin, but she couldn’t. After seeing her process work on rats, well she just knew that it would work on her mom. Soon she would have her mom, her best friend, her family back.
“Everything is ready.” Charles interrupted her thoughts.
“Good. Let’s get this over with. I’d rather apologize after my mother wakes up than explain what we’re doing and possibly be stopped. Besides, once I prove that this procedure works on human subjects no one will care that I broke a few rules.”
“I hope you’re right.” Charles said.
“Don’t worry, I’ll keep your name out of this if anything happens. We both know that I’m the one who could not only lose her reputation but her mother as well.”
“I know and that is the reason I agreed to help you, I just wish you would wait but I know I can’t talk you out of this.”
With that they set to work. For the miracle that they were performing, the process itself was relatively simple. Her mother’s brain had been inactive for so long they hardly had to prepare her, most of her brain cells had already died off long ago. Now all they had to do was introduced specially treated stem cells near the brainstem and then watch them multiply. Her brain would regenerate and she would wake up. Yes, something so simple had taken scientists decades to perfect, but it would change the world now that it had been and her mom would be the first person brought back to “the land of the living”.
Two people performing brain surgery was unheard of, but she really only needed Charles to monitor anesthesia and hand her instruments. She would be able to implant the new material fairly easily in her mother’s depleted brain and then all there was to do was wait. The procedure went by without a hitch, though even Elizabeth was shocked at the state of her mother’s brain. Years of not being used and it had withered down to nothing. “That only means that the new cells will take hold that much sooner.” She said with confidence.
“Elizabeth, have you thought about what she might be like if she wakes up? With brain damage this severe, there is no knowing what will happen when the brain regenerates. She likely won’t retain any of her old personality, we have only seen rats wake up and eat. We have seen them resume basic life activities, we know nothing if the self is still intact when a patient wakes up.” Charles spoke her deepest fear, that her mother wouldn’t still be the mother she once knew.
“No, this will work. She may be confused and she has over a decade of the world to catch up on, but she will be fine. I know it in my heart.”
Charles did not seem convinced, but said nothing. However as soon as he mother was in recovery in a private room within the lab, good friend or not, Charles left as quickly as he could. No one else knew what they had done. She would take care of her mother herself for the next few days or weeks, staying at the labs herself and sneaking off whenever she could. She wanted to be the first face her mother saw when she woke up.
Weeks went by and her mother remained in a vegetative state. Elizabeth began to wonder if the procedure work on humans after all. Had her entire life’s work been futile?
Over a month after the procedure, Elizabeth sat by her mother’s bedside, thinking about pulling the plug on her mother’s life support for the first time ever. If she hadn’t woke up by now, maybe there was no bringing her back. It was then, at her lowest moment, that Elizabeth saw a flutter of movement from the bed. Her mother’s hand moved. She saw it, she couldn’t be imagining it.
Soon her mother’s breathing seemed stronger, with hope blossoming in her once more, Elizabeth removed the breathing tube and to her delight her mother continued to breathe on her own. Laughing, Elizabeth called to her mother, “Mom? Can you hear me?”
Tears of joy slipped down her face as her mother’s eyes fluttered open. Blinking and unseeing after years of being unused. “Mom! It’s me, Elizabeth! There is so much that I need to tell you! So much!”
Gasps and grunts came from her mother’s mouth, like she wanted to speak but couldn’t. “Don’t try to talk yet. It will take some time. But soon you will be strong and healthy once more.” Her mother stared towards her voice, but made no sign of recognition. “It is just going to take some time.” Elizabeth said for herself more than her mother.
So Elizabeth kept feeding her mother through a feeding tube, but slowly started to get her to drink and eat on her own. Soon her mother could sit up, but still couldn’t talk. Then one day she heard terrible sounds coming from her mother’s locked room. Elizabeth rushed to see what had happened to her mother, the rest of the lab still unaware of her mother’s presence. She threw the door open to see that her mother had ripped out the feeding tube as well as the other machines connected to her. Her mother stood near the door, shrieking at the pieces of the smashed mirror in front of her.
“Mom, it’s okay. Let’s get you back in bed.” Elizabeth walked towards her mom, trying to calm her down. She never saw the shard of glass in her mother’s hand until it had slashed through her throat. Elizabeth struggled to grab her mother, to somehow stop her, but before she could her mother had knocked her down and was lapping at the blood freely flowing from her artery.
Her mother got up and the last thing Elizabeth saw before darkness took her was he mother, bloodied and still clutch the piece of mirror, running through the open door.
Author, artist, jewelry maker and all around creative person. I write in many genres and have a lot of fun doing so. Please take a look around and enjoy!