Please join me in congratulating Neil James Hudson and Third Flatiron Publishing for their Honorable Mention in WSFA's Small Press Award 2017 for Best Short Fiction. Neil's story, The Mytilenian Delay, was published in Third Flatiron's "Hyperpowers" anthology. Third Flatiron publishes three or four anthologies each year. To learn more and to review their open calls for stories, visit ThirdFlatiron.com.
Here's an early look at the Paranormal Physician series. It's very much a work in progress so comments and criticism are appreciated.
Fred Johnston was dying. His body was failing but he was cheery, grateful for his family, his friends, and his threescore and eight years. He wasn’t showing us a brave face, it was his face--the face of the optimist, the good friend, the caretaker. Fred was making his passing easier for everyone around him.
I sat at his bedside and listened to the stories, waiting for punchlines I knew by heart. My inner despair and frustration were boundless. I could cure his illness. I could restore his vitality. I could, but I couldn’t. It’s not allowed.
Yes, the Order of Merlin has reasons for the prohibition, but the pleading eyes of his family were almost too much to bear. “Please, can you do something?” his wife and daughter asked. I could only shake my head, adding to my feelings of guilt and betrayal.
It was sleeting when I left the nursing home for the last time. I stood under the portico and listened to the icy precipitation as it bounced off the roof and the ice-crusted snow. The landscape, glistening in the orange-tinted security lighting. might have been pretty under different circumstances.
My car was in the visitor lot at the end of the long low building and I resigned myself to a miserable slog to reach it. As I stepped out from under the roof, the sleet attacked my skin like a swarm of biting insects. I pulled up my collar and hunched inside my coat to protect my face and ears. The snowy slush splashed with each step. Another wonderful night in paradise.
As I turned down the main aisle of the parking lot, a short broad man wearing a dark watch cap and parka stepped out from a row of cars. I altered my path to give him a wide berth but he moved to cut me off.
I really don’t need this tonight.
I raised my shields and stood in the middle of the aisle, waiting for the inevitable confrontation. At least the shields protected me from the sleet. I sighed loudly and activated the recording system. The paranormal device in my coat would capture full video and audio even under these crappy conditions.
The man stopped a few paces from me and glared upward, radiating fierceness. I waited, hoping the sleet would freeze his eyeballs.
We stood there, mano a mano for a minute or so before he broke the silence. “Gimme your wallet and car keys.”
I sighed again and shook my head. “You don’t want to do this.”
“The hell I don’t!” he challenged. “Hand them over or I’ll shoot your sorry ass.”
“Look, don’t screw with me tonight. I’m cold. I’m tired. And my friend just died in there,” I said, nodding toward the low building.
The man pulled a black automatic from his parka, holding it sideways, ‘gangsta’ style. “You’re gonna join your friend in about ten seconds. Wallet. Keys. Now!”
I considered several options for ending the confrontation peacefully but this guy was pissing me off. Screw it, he can choose his own fate. I gestured and a shield spell blocked the pistol barrel just in front of the cartridge. I shook my head and walked away.
The enraged gunman pulled the trigger and the pistol disintegrated with a red-orange flash. The man staggered as flying steel carved bright red gashes across his parka and face. He stood there for a moment, stupidly staring at his ruined hand before collapsing in a heap. Blood and hot metal steamed in the slush.
“Another Darwin Award winner!” I muttered as I resumed my uncomfortable trek toward the car. As I walked away, my thoughts oscillated between guilt and grim satisfaction.
As I crossed the next aisle, my shields were rocked by a blast of paranormal fire. Shield tattoos flared in crimson fury as the flames washed around me, vaporizing ice and blistering paint on the nearby vehicles. Flashing auto lights, shrieking alarms, and the newly created fog created a surreal tableau. When I turned to confront my attacker, I was surprised to see a wand-wielding teen hurling bolts of fire and lightning against my shields. I watched her curiously, evaluating her efforts to turn me into charcoal. Level three ability. Not much control. Excellent stamina, though. Why hasn’t the Order found her?
I used a spell to silence her wand and the girl looked at it impatiently, flicking her wrist to make it work again. I couldn’t help but laugh. “Shaking it won’t help.”
The startled girl realized things weren't going as planned and she turned to run. I shook my head and created a patch of black ice. Feet flew backward and her yell of frustration cut off abruptly when she slammed into the back of an SUV.
I moved quickly across the aisle and grabbed the back of her coat, dragging her upright. She was a foul-mouthed fury, punching and kicking at my shields. I slapped away a flip knife and slammed her against the SUV to quiet her down. “Are you stupid? Blasting at me will earn you a mindwipe in any paranormal court!”
“You killed my brother!” she yelled, pointing to the gunman.
“He’s not dead, you twit! And you should be helping him not fighting with me.”
“I don’t know how,” she said defiantly, still kicking and fighting. I stood there, holding the furious teen as she continued to curse and struggle.
I considered her words. This unlicensed adept was clearly living outside the strictures of the Order. Could this be an opportunity to bring paranormal medicine to the Normal population? I released the girl and she landed in the slush with a yelp and a curse.
“Grab your stick and follow me. It’s time you learned a socially acceptable skill.”
I turned and walked toward the gunman. The girl picked up her wand and moved in the opposite direction.
“If you run, your brother could die.” I said without turning. “Your choice. Your conscience.”
The girl hesitated then followed resignedly.
The inspiration for Disposal, Inc. came from two things. The first bit of inspiration is the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. The second source is the Canadian Government's plan to store nuclear waste in a bunker just 1.2 kilometers from Lake Huron, one of the largest fresh water lakes in the world; the lake that just happens to be the source of my drinking water. The blithe disregard of community concerns is all the more aggravating when you consider that some of the waste and dismantled reactor parts they intend to store will remain radioactive for more than 100,000 years. I mean, what could possibly go wrong in a hundred millennia?
"Wouldn't iit be great,"I thought, "If I could teleport all the nuclear waste to the Moon for disposal?" Who knows, maybe that single act might make nuclear power a little safer. On the remediation side, maybe we could decontaminate the Chernoble and Fukushima sites without creating problems somewhere else on Earth.
Given this premise, I started thinking about transporter technologies. Like Bones in the original series, I have real concerns about Star-Trek inspired transporter technologies. The thought of disassembling (aka, killing) people and sending them through space as a pattern, then re-assembling them at the destination makes me wonder about the nature of humanity and the value of human life. Are transported individuals natural or artificial entities? Heck, you can probably use the pattern buffers to create soldiers, slaves, or organ donors. In the real world, people and organizations are trying to patent genetic sequence information. In the future, who would own your pattern once you stepped through the transporter? What would/could they do with that pattern?
The very thought makes me shudder so this story won't use Star Trek-based transporter technologies. Instead, I plan to use a fold-space transporter. In my imaginary world, the device would fold space so that the two quantum-entangled units are permanently connected through subspace. The units act as if they are adjacent to one another, but separated by a wall. Once the mechanism is activated, the matter transmitter acts like a lazy Susan, rotating a defined volume of space from one side of the subspace wall to another. At the same time, the volume over the far unit is rotated to this side.
Think about it. We could colonize Mars by sending a large and a small matter transport pad to the red planet. Once the pad is on the ground and functional, people could step off the Moon and onto Martian soil. (We don't want to bring Mars bugs to Earth.) If something happens to the large platform, you could send a repairman through the small door. We could also send a spacecraft to Alpha Centauri, popping in in every now and again to see how things are going.
That"s it for now. Next time we can discuss the story arc. Leave a comment if you have ideas or comments.
I was feeling good about my WIP, stringing words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs when I hit quicksand. I struggled to escape, to find firmer ground, but every action pulled me deeper into darkness. My heart pounded like a jackhammer. My throat closed. I couldn't move. Couldn't breathe. I was in over my head.
Sharp writhing shapes pressed against me, their claws tearing at my flesh as they worked their way toward the page. I was helpless; terrified and appalled by the darkness. Manic madness emerged from my fingers, the pulsing stain oozing across the page, desecrating the virgin white space, creating a trail of darkness and despair.
Fear. My fear makes them stronger. The rising gorge of horror and desolation threaten to consume me. I fight grimly, but my strength...God, my strength and focus are failing. Thousands more press against me. My struggle attracts them. It fuels their frenzy, their hunger. I'm...I'm losing control. My
Here is the first chapter of my science fiction story, Disposal, Inc. Your comments and suggestions are welcome and appreciated. Thanks for reading.