Category Archives: My Work(s)

Links to, and descriptions of, fiction with yours truly as author.

Ain’t No Grave: A Triptych

I hope you enjoy this story, at least as an entertaining diversion from all the news.

Ain’t No Grave: A Triptych.

It was just before dawn on Sunday –it was a lazy, chilly, midsummer morning; one of those times where the damp of the heavy pre-dawn dew makes rheumatics of us all. The fog lay sluggardly in the little valleys, while the little hills of the local terrain barley poked through the fog to observe the allegedly rosy fingers of the dawn. On every other foggy morning, the people of the little town in the little valley knew by experience that it would take the sun a number of hours to bake all the fog off and clear up the day. Nevertheless, Rudy pulled his mower (the one of the older riding kinds) off his trailer and into the town cemetery. The grass needed mowing, and he’d put it off and put it off, though it was his job and he got paid for it, and now there was a funeral today, so it had to be done.

He started it up just as the dim twilight of dawn shifted and the shadows appeared on the hilltops. Here in the cemetery, not quite at the bottom of the valley, but still below the fog, the visibility was low. Rudy put on his headphones and cranked the music so he could hear it over the mower. As he mowed, a shadow moved. It was just in the corner of his eye. Then he felt a bump and knew that something like a big stick had gone through the mower. It couldn’t have been a stick though, as there were no trees in or near the boneyard. He kept mowing and jumped: he’d jumped at one of the grave marker obelisks. It had crept up on him. Crunch! Just as his heart slowed back down, he hit another big stick, a little rotten too, if the sound said anything.

Rudy got down from his mower, and that’s when they got him. They swarmed out of the fog. They ate him alive. Two of them were missing a hand.

*********************************

By midday in middle America on that Sunday, everyone everywhere knew what was happening. If scientists somewhere had an explanation, there was no way of finding out. The dead were not as dead as they had been and (in some people’s mind) seemed to be getting less and less dead by the minute. The useless wags pointed out that ‘Zombie’ was a particular thing, the creation of a Voodoo master not the general reemergence of all the dead bodies. The slightly less useless clucking hens said that the movies would call them zombies, zombies they were. The bold useless people discovered that removing the head or destroying the brain was not effective in stopping these zombies. A small group of the latter category of useless people were holding a defensive position on the south side of a street. The panic of the zombie appearances had led to looting, pillage and burning of the cities by a great number of panicked but otherwise totally normal people. Buildings were burning, and women who were sane this morning were walking out into the street to hack other woman to death: or to set a man on fire. It seemed though, as the little group watched, that none of the victims died: they walked (or dragged themselves) away from the scene of their murder to commit atrocities of their own.

The little group looked into the street. In the midst of this screaming frenzy and the smell of burnt hair, a man of nondescript age sat, reading a book of poems. And around him swirled the chaos and the crimes of the day.

Hallo!!!’ Called the de facto leader of the small group, ‘Why don’t you come over here with us, it’s safer here!’

Is it?’ the man said.

Nevertheless he walked over to where they huddled together. He walked slowly, deliberately over, still reading for a moment when he arrived.

He looked up and said ‘Why do you think so?’

The leader said: ‘What? What are you talking about?’

You said it was safer over here.’

Of course it is, we all still have our minds and we have some weapons too.’

You’ve seen someone get killed today?’

Yes’

What happened next?’

They didn’t actually die’ He admitted grudgingly.

The man shrugged.

What were you reading?’

Donne: would you like to hear some?’

The man did not give them a chance to say anything: he immediately began reading:

At the round earth’s imagin’d corners, blow

Your trumpets, angels, and arise, arise

From death, you numberless infinities

Of souls, and to your scatter’d bodies go;

All whom the flood did, and fire shall o’erthrow,

All whom war, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies,

Despair, law, chance hath slain, and you whose eyes

Shall behold God and never taste death’s woe.

But let them sleep, Lord, and me mourn a space,

For if above all these my sins abound,

‘Tis late to ask abundance of thy grace

When we are there; here on this lowly ground

Teach me how to repent; for that’s as good

As if thou’hadst seal’d my pardon with thy blood.

They all decided that the poetry enthusiast was just as crazed as the woman who had lit herself and her family on fire in the street, just a different insanity.

At that moment, the undead and the maddened living seemed to have run out of other victims and they began to draw nearer and nearer. The zombies approached nearer and nearer. The group fired their guns into the ever larger crowd of zombies, but not even shooting them in the head stopped them for long. Their heads healed. Well, they didn’t really heal. The zombies were clearly in agony and their agony clearly increased when you hurt them. And when you blew off their head with a shotgun, the bits of it seemed to reassemble themselves somewhat where they belonged. Not quite the right way, though. And the agony of the zombie-person was apparently increased. Certainly their rage was. So the fight became a shoving contest, one small group of (fairly) sane people against an ever growing horde of furious, pain filled, zombies.

The poetry man was fighting back too, with all his strength (which seemed to be greater than theirs). He shouted encouragement and exhorted them to stand and fight, and to not lay down on the ground with the hopeless ones. When they had nearly fallen: when their hearts had nearly broken: a man leapt off the roof above them and landed right in the middle of their nearly crushed group. He laughed, a deep chest-ful laugh, and he stepped to the front of the group. He was a walking anachronism. He had on blue jeans and a leather coat, but rather incongruously, he carried a spear. He said (again in his voice full of chest) ‘Stand back, my brothers, and rest: for your battle is over and has been won.’ The battle between the spearman and the zombies was short lived. During the battle it seemed to their eyes that those pierced by the spear dissipated rather than lived on. At some point, the zombies fled.

*********************************

There didn’t seem to be much worth doing, so going for a country drive made sense. The late afternoon sun burned warmly through his window. He smiled when the opening beats of ‘Ain’t No Grave’ came from his truck speakers. The cities burned and everything was happening too fast to really affect the countryside yet. There really wasn’t time for swarms of people to leave the cities: they probably got devoured instead. Eventually, he supposed, the zombies would pour out of the cities… but maybe not. Anyway, on he drove. ‘Ain’t no grave can hold their bodies down…’ Johnny sang. He thought, and drove on.

Have you ever driven through the vast seemingly empty rural America? If you have you’ve seen the churches in the middle of nowhere. They were for the farmers: the farmers would form the congregation and there wasn’t any real reason that a church had to be in a town, the town would be too far. (There used to be a lot of schools like that too, sitting alone on a hilltop, waiting for the farmer kids who no longer come.)

Well, the road he was on came to a T, and at the other side sat a big brick church. As he stopped at the intersection the bells began to ring. Each time it rang, he felt it shake him to his soul more and more. Perhaps it was the emotion of the day, the apocalyptic feel, but he could not resist getting out of his truck and walking, slowly, to the church doors.

He stepped inside. The smell of an old country church is nearly unique. It smells of old (but not rotting) woodwork and stale candle smoke perhaps. It is a hard smell to pin down, but if you have ever stepped into an old country church, whether it be Lutheran (for the Germans) or Catholic (for the Poles), they smell the same. It’s a good smell, though an old smell. Perhaps they always have smelled like that, perhaps that is the smell of the ancient faith swirling around the sanctuary and spilling over into the rest of the church. The carpet was red and the floors creaked. It was a little cooler than the just barely warm summer day outside, and as he walked further into the church he felt a slope in the floor. He stopped: suddenly realizing that, while hymn singing in church was very normal, what was not normal was the number of voices considering that there were no cars outside. They must have all walked in from somewhere, he thought.

He walked further into the church. As he entered the narthex, he looked through the doors into the sanctuary. The sanctuary was completely full. In fact, they were standing and there did not appear to be any more room whatsoever. And they all sang.

O Savior rend the heavens wide

Come down, come down with mighty stride

Unlock the gates, the doors break down

Unbar the way to heaven’s crown.

He turned. He went back. He opened the door, and looked out. The appearance on the horizon of a number of shuffling figures answered his first question: yes, the zombies will come out of the cities. And he turned to go back inside. If it were possible, there were more people in the church. In fact now there were a few in the narthex as well. One of them handed him a hymnal, and just before he started singing with them;

When I hear that trumpet sound
I’m gonna rise right out of the ground
Ain’t no grave
Can hold my body down

Ran right through his head and he looked around. He expected to be shocked, but was at ease, and sang with them.

(For an interesting, and not unrelated, take on the Zombie, see Spengler’s essay on Eternal Youth and the Living Dead.)

Also, I have two other short stories on this blog for free: The Final Crate and The Frame Shop. You can also buy for kindle a small collection or a long short story, The Magic Mirror and Other stories, and The Traveler’s Eye respectively.

 

 

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The Final Crate

I have added as a page a new short story. It is called The Final Crate (go figure) and it isn’t that long, you should read it 🙂

The other story, The Frame Shop, is still available at the top on the ‘My Works’ tab… if you feel like reading that one too.

The Traveler’s Eye

Well, that is the title to my new ebook story. The Traveler’s Eye is long for a short story (though certainly short for a long story). I would excerpt it, but Amazon does that for me, so if you follow the link to Amazon, you can read the first bit previewing the book. It is only on Amazon kindle, but if you don’t have a device like that, and you want a $1.29 story for the afternoon (It’s less than a cup of coffee 🙂 ) you can read it on your computer too.  The story is in format rather like ‘The Arabian Nights’ or ‘Tales From the White Hart’ (fun to put those two side by side.) It is a story of an interesting character who is telling a story. If you want to read a story (though nothing like this one in tone) that I have written, you can visit the post ‘The Frame Shop‘ which is a short story that is short :). Here is the link with the cover I made too (I have begun playing with Adobe Illustrator).

Also, I just realized I really couldn’t categorize the genre… Fun, and, I hope, perhaps a little bit brave as well.

The Frame Shop

Today is the blog’s first anniversary.  not a terribly important thing, but I thought I would celebrate by posting my newest short story. It is quite short, but I think it is good. (Although there are better ones in The Magic Mirror and Other Stories by me…)

Here it is: The Frame Shop

A short little man scurried down the street. He was glancing around, looking for a store, a particular store. He was just going to look into it, and see if the owners could frame his photographs. The sweet smell of early spring filled his nose: those first few days when the snow is still on the ground but melting, that first moment when you can smell the earthy scent of spring. Water from the melting snow ran merrily down the sides of the road, and all creation sang with joy.

The little man stopped in front of a nice house just off downtown, and looked at the sign. Timmy’s Frames, it said. It was a quaint little house, two stories but with that look like it wanted to be only one story.  It was well painted: dark burgundy, and seemed a nice, tidy place.

Yet the little man felt nervous. He never liked new things, and he hated going into stores and not being able to get away from the clerk. He always felt that these little stores were too small, as if there was no place in the store that wasn’t his personal space.

Also, he always had a nervous attack at anything remotely out of place, or new. Once, when he was younger, he had bought a new coat in all ways exactly like his old coat. But it never felt warm, and he always felt awkward in it, so he wore the old one instead until it had enough holes that he would have frozen, then he was able to get the new coat out (now a few years old) and wear it, ever so gingerly, until it was broken in.

Now, as he approached the house, he felt cold and shaky –nothing too out of the ordinary for him. Not really. He always shook a little, unless he went to the shops he always went to. He stepped inside.

The little bell on the door rang: tinkleinkiling… He never liked that sound either. It was the sound of the door shutting, and himself becoming trapped inside. He wasn’t actually claustrophobic, but sometimes, inside stores, he felt that way. He looked around, there was no one in the store. It was the size of a living room, with the model frames all liked up like so many carpenter’s squares. In one section, on the other side of the room, was a small alcove. It was a lovely place for a table and chairs, just the right size for a brunch table and two chairs, with windows in all three sides. Here, however, there was a plastic child’s table. One of those that is multi-colored with the atrocious sense of taste that people use for everything made for children. (As if children needed ugly things in their lives…) On it was a sign in yellow-green finger paint: Timmy’s Table. It also had some toys of the same plastic and bad taste as the table.

For some reason, the effect unsettled the little man even more. The building stress of knowing that he would have to interact with a stranger, the room, the little child’s toys. He told himself his uneasiness was especially due to the delayed encounter with the store-keeper (whom he had to ask questions… something else he never liked). He had steeled himself for the encounter, and then it had been put off, though it was still impending. He felt the weight of the coming clerk like stones on his chest, although instead of boldly calling out ‘More weight’ he wanted to leave. He waited some more.

The room grew large in his eyes. It seemed to him that although the light didn’t dim, it no longer illuminated anything. The light was there, but it wasn’t piercing through the darkness. It felt more and more like the dim twilight of dreams, where you can never quite see what you absolutely have to see, where you cannot rub the dimness out of your eyes, because of course they are closed, but your mind doesn’t remember that. It’s the same as when you need to shout or scream in a dream, but you cannot, because your mouth won’t open. You rub your eyes, you put on glasses, whatever you do in the dream, you can just see, but the light has lost the part of its essence that illuminates.

Another thing started happening in his mind. He started thinking that the room, though square, wasn’t trustworthy in its squareness. Like it might cease to have right angled corners at any given time. The little man had quite an imagination. His mind danced and sang, but sometimes the dances were with daemons, and the songs were drafts of cold air from his long dead Norse ancestors.

Now his mind started to go wild. Though he knew that everything he was experiencing was just a trick of his precocious mind, he also felt increasingly driven to flee. His chest tightened and his breath shortened. Panic. Although there were many things that the little man didn’t like or stressed him greatly, he almost never felt fear. The reasonable man inside him was at war with the savage. That ancient Viking inside who believed in spirits, in flesh eating after-walkers, the Viking that would have believed the stories of wendigo without question, that man was winning the war. Then he heard a noise in the back. It was just a door shutting normally. And yet, and yet, to the little man it was the end. The imagination in his mind won the fight. He fled the store.

Out in the sunshine, a few blocks away, his heart started to slow, and the adrenaline released by his mind to fight or flee from the imaginary spirits of the house started to subside. He laughed at himself, yet he knew he would have his work framed somewhere else.

Inside the store, a woman stepped into the showroom. She had been sure she heard the bell… but there was no one around anymore. She had been in the bathroom and missed the customer. Oh well, Timmy would have to go hungry tonight, but she wouldn’t tell him why… oh no, that would never do.

The Mountain

So, my competitor Thalia and I gave ourselves a one day extension, since she was visiting me all weekend. However, since I am done, here is my sonnet. Hers should be up by tomorrow sometime, and I will link to it when it arrives. Here it is: Evil Spirits.

A brief introduction here with a picture of the Collegiate Peaks in Colorado. I worked for a while on a dude ranch in CO, and I was a van driver, and one day a week I got to drive people down to this area for white water rafting. But that’s the end of the correlation between the mountains in this picture and the Mountain in the poem.

And now the poem.

The Mountain:

The mountain stretches its neck to the sky
Colossal and proud without pretention,
Pyramids stand in low imitation
Of its grandeur and might raised up on high,
Higher than even the eagles can fly.
Standing apart it calls my attention,
Singing the song of my heart’s affection,
Calling my spirit. And yet I do cry.
Not yet, not yet, from this world may I turn.
Rebellion and sorrows are piled ‘round
Of billions of people like tinder found,
Who, lacking water, are destined to burn.
My gaze I avert from the mountain’s height,
And, bringing Water, return to the fight.

Sonnet Duel: Disappointed Alchemist

So, with great sadness, I am using my back-up sonnet in the sonnet duel. Being sick for some time left me no time to write sonnets (or do much more than sleep). So here is a sonnet I wrote for the Thompson family annual Chesterton poetry party. The background is that everything I make and use in my research is white…. while everyone else in Inorganic Chemistry is doing stuff with green, red and many colored compounds… Recently though this has changed, and I have started working with a molybdenum and vanadium based catalyst which is orange, and changes to red-brown and then to green upon adding the reaction is catalyzes…. So somewhat sated in my desire for pretty colors at work, I nevertheless post here ‘The Disappointed Alchemist’. I hope you enjoy it. I will link to my competition when it appears. Porcine Transgression

I becams’t an inorganic chemist
Haphazardly, by promises seduc’d
(Spoken softly, by Sybil who liest)
Of brilliant colours to essence reduc’d.
I had thought to create sanguine, azure
Sable, verdant compounds, myster’ous, whole,
As hoary Alchemist of old, hunch’d o’er
Sought full transmutation of leaden soul,
I had thought to find mystery and subtlety.
Recalcitrance, instead, and thoughtless perfidy
In great supply I find. Now, my soul sees.
Lo! Mankind hath lost all but rational
Deceit, which, as Circe kept Ulysses
Does captivate and mesmerize the soul.

Calm

By motionless stagnant air surrounded
For even to breathe the Winds dare not.
Insects and birds are likewise confounded
The air is too thick, and fly they cannot.
Petrified, drowned, by the dead hour
Which enslaves the mind, the body crushing
I gasp, gulp, wheeze; and breathe ever slower
The blanket of air, with water soaking.
Nature herself is cruelly imprisoned
Locked up and unable even to sigh.
Everything is poisoned, stifled, smothered,
And all life is drugged, perhaps to die.
Together the thunder, the gale and rain
Crashing, bring breath; and life begins again.

I will link to my competition when it arrives: Lost