Category Archives: short stories

a bit

The following is a bit I wrote back in 2011, when the Unearthly Northwest stories were just a gleam in my eye.  I always intended to develop this into another in the series, but it’s not going to happen now.

So I thought I’s post it, just for fun.  It’s about as horror-y as anything I’ve ever written, which is to say barely at all.  Enjoy or not as you see fit.

It’s called At Perigee.

I keep thinking about that dream I used to have where I was trying to escape from a big old wooden building with all sorts of passages and stairs and dead-ends while being chased by something so terrible I don’t even know what it is. By candlelight. So on top of everything else there’s the fire danger.

It’s all so dried out and weathered to a silvery gray and the floorboards creak and I’m so afraid I’m going to fall through one and get stuck and I don’t know what would be worse – burning to death from dropping the candle or being caught by whatever it is that’s so determined to catch me.

Oh, and it’s pitch black outside. No street lights, no glows from nearby windows, no other light source except the distant, unfeeling stars. My breath is catching in painful gasps, the sweat burns into my eyes, the hot wax is dripping onto my hand, my hair keeps waving closer to the flame as if it wants to catch fire, and I can’t find my bloody way out.

Endless corridors, more stairs, broken banisters, nails sticking up in odd places. I’m not dressed for this, either, in flimsy sandals and shorts and a tank top. If I wasn’t sweating from exertion, I’d be shivering from the cold. As it is, I’m swiping sweat with my free hand, making it slip when I try to use the half-broken banister to pull myself up. I round another corner and come up against a blank wall. Not another one. I can hear the – whatever it is, I don’t know if calling it a monster is literal or metaphorical – thumping after me, catching up to me, only one floor below now. I think. Not any further away, and surely not any closer. Please not any closer. A sliver of light glows feebly at the baseboard in front of me. I don’t have time to figure out secret doorways, but I’m desperate. I shove on it. I don’t have time to go back, either. The thumping is getting closer. I shove on it again, lower down. Gods, open. I shove at the bottom with my feet, earning a splinter in my toe and a broken strap on my sandal.

The thumping is, louder, closer, up to the stairs I just climbed, when, without my even pushing on it a fourth time, the wall swings wide, like a door. On – oh, gods, it’s – nothing. No floor, no balcony, just unsupported air.

Something like the wind, if the wind had hands, pushes me forward. I teeter on the sill, grabbing futilely at the door jamb, trying desperately not to fall into the abyss. The door – there was a door? – behind me bangs open, jarring the whole building. I lose my balance. I can’t hang on. The sandal with the broken strap falls off my foot. I teeter forward again. The air – pushes. I don’t dare look back. I don’t dare look down. I squeeze my eyes shut. I drop the burning candle. I lean forward. And I let go.

I don’t know what happens after that. I never got even that far in my dream. In my dream I’m still running, climbing stairs, reaching dead ends, never getting anywhere by the time I wake up.

Now it’s all a blur. I’m not sure the monster, literal or metaphorical, hasn’t killed me. I’m falling, sort of. It’s almost too soft to call a fall. Almost like the seesaw effect of a feather floating to the ground. The wind still has hands. Arms. It feels as if I’m being cradled by dozens of them as I float endlessly. I’m afraid of what they look like, what they want of me. But at least they don’t seem to want to kill me. They’re gentle, not grasping, not grabbing. Not painful at all, in fact. I wonder if it’s because they know I can’t see them. I squeeze my eyes shut even more tightly. I hear a soft whooshing sound as if the wind were trying to laugh at me. At least I know I haven’t been deafened. Surely I’ve fallen much farther than even all those staircases I climbed.

I have to open my eyes someday. I screw up my courage, but when I open them they might as well still be closed. Pitchy, pitchy black. No stars, no lights, not a single thing to orient me. I’m not even sure which way is down or if I’m floating instead of falling.

Except that right that moment, I land with a thump. I half expect it to be viscous, gooey, to suck me down, but I can’t see or feel the surface, not even when I drop to my knees and stretch my hands out. It’s as if the wind has solidified just enough to hold me, but not one bit more. I thought I’d been disoriented in that maze of a house, but it’s nothing compared to this.

I stand, or at least stretch out my body in a standing position. Just one sandal makes my stance awkward somehow. I kick it off. It disappears into the abyss. I can’t see it no matter how hard I peer for it. Just past where it should be – where it is, dammit, it can’t just disappear – I see a speck in the darkness. It flickers, but I can see it. I haven’t gone blind after all, either.

I step forward onto the air. I don’t see it as a leap of faith, more like a baby step of bewilderment. The light – beckons. I take another step. A second speck appears. Before I know it I am leaping. Not with faith. But definitely leaps. Towards the ever-receding light.

New Year’s Eve in Conconully now for sale!

NYE in Conconully cover

This is a short story, volume 1.5 of my Tales of the Unearthly Northwest.  It’s available at Smashwords now in many e-formats.  It’s coming very soon to Amazon and other major etailers, and in paper to CreateSpace, Amazon, and other major retailers.

If you’d like to read the first chapter, you can go here.

Of course, if you were a member of my mailing list, you’d already be reading this story for free [grin].  For future freebies and other good things, sign up here.

New Year’s Eve in Conconully has a cover! and back cover copy!

Here’s the cover:

NYE in Conconully cover

And here’s the description:

No good deed goes unpunished.

In a place outside of time, the magic keeping a ghost town alive is beginning to alter. Bringing two newcomers in has caused a welcome renewal of life here. But every action has a reaction, and the consequences are far beyond what Conconully’s accidental magician ever expected.

By the way, if you’d like to have a free copy of this short story, which comes after my novel Sojourn, and does contain slight spoilers for that book, you can join my newsletter at http://mmjustus.com/list and my next edition will contain a link.  I hope to see you there!

New Year’s Eve in Conconully is written!

Unearthly NW FB ad

Tales of the Unearthly Northwest, volume 1.5, a short story called “New Year’s Eve in Conconully,” has a completed manuscript!  One more going-over, it heads off to the copy editor, and once it’s all pretty and cleaned up and the cover is finished, a free copy goes to my mailing list (and if you’d like to join my mailing list for this reason or any other, look to your right at the sidebar), before it goes up for sale.

Then I can get back to Reunion, which is volume 2!

A day late: Goals for 2015

Anne-ism

And a dollar short, or something like that.

Anyway, I now officially have a list of goals for 2015.

The writing goals are as follows:

1) Write at least five days a week, at least 1000 words a day, for all of 2015.
2) Finish the short story “New Year’s Eve in Conconully” in the next few days and distribute it to my mailing list, then publish it.
3) Finish Reunion by the end of February and publish it by the end of March.
4) Make more plans for the Unearthly Northwest.
5) Write at least two more novel-length Tales of the Unearthly Northwest — #3 to be published by the end of summer, and #4 by the end of the year.  I’ve already got ideas for each of these.
6) Write at least three more short stories and distribute them to my mailing list, then publish them.

That ought to keep me out of trouble, don’t you think?

 

 

 

Making serious progress

Unearthly NW FB ad

A 7000+ word week last week.  Which counts as one of my best weeks ever.

An idea for a short story in the Unearthly Northwest universe, at three in the morning on Sunday night (after one of the most fun football games I’ve ever watched).  Tentatively titled, “New Year’s Eve in Conconully.”

And a 3000+ (yes, that’s three zeros)-word day yesterday.  Which blows my former record (somewhere under 2000) clear out of the water.  Over 1500 on Reunion (for a total of five and a half chapters — I think a manuscript with five chapters deserves to be italicized like a proper book title, don’t you?) and over 1400 on the short story.

Today, so far?  Over 1300 on Reunion, so six full chapters now, and plans to plow through as many words on the short story as possible this afternoon.

The goal is to have the story done by the 28th, so that I can give free ARCs to my mailing list people.  Who now number more than twenty.  And then to create a cover, see if my copy editor has time to take a look at it, format it, and give KDP Direct a shot with it.  Then we’ll see what happens for ninety days.