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A Dog, 3 Cats, and a Dragon

A Dog, 3 Cats, and a Dragon

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A Dog, 3 Cats, and a Dragon

Länge:
202 Seiten
2 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Dec 22, 2017
ISBN:
9781545243275
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

Why do we read? To taste new worlds. Worlds of magic and wonder, of fear and suspense, and of the secret chambers of the human heart. Whether it wanders the far reaches of the galaxy or hides in our neighbor’s basement, this creature called fiction ensnares our minds and teaches us truths real life never could.

Brave the land where the dead walk. Summon creatures of fire and water, the very elements of this world. Travel the far reaches of the country, rescuing humanity from the monsters they don’t even believe exist. Then come home to your pet dragon, glowering at you from the sofa. Ready to read? Twenty new worlds await.

A Dog, 3 Cats, and a Dragon–a collection of short stories by Esther Davis–contains twenty science fiction, horror, dystopia, and fantasy pieces, including several new, never-before-published stories.

Inside you’ll find:

  • Scars
  • Unwelcome Shrink
  • The Solution (new story)
  • Ink Tek (new story)
  • B-4 (newly revised)
  • Trespassers Beware
  • Don’t Forget to Feed the Computers
  • Where the Dead Walk
  • Death and the Thing with Feathers (new story)
  • Cobweb of Ghosts
  • Men of Blades
  • Seeds (new story)
  • The Day the Ocean Died
  • Summoners
  • Born of Flame
  • When the Gardener Sings
  • Amethyst to Soothe
  • Servant of the Tiger
  • Frozen Heart
  • The Nowell Trilogy (Nowell, Dear Papa, and Rose of Darkness)
  • A Dog, Three Cats, and a Dragon (new story)
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Dec 22, 2017
ISBN:
9781545243275
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor


Ähnlich wie A Dog, 3 Cats, and a Dragon

Buchvorschau

A Dog, 3 Cats, and a Dragon - Esther Davis

Author

Dedication

––––––––

To Dad,

for teaching me to write.

Acknowledgements

––––––––

Before you get to reading the good stuff, excuse me a moment to thank my family and friends—especially my parents and grandmother—who have spent countless hours proofreading my writing. Let me thank my English teachers, from elementary school on up, who encouraged me even when I obviously still had a long way to go. And of course, let me thank you, my readers, who make every moment of writing worth it.

Thank you.

Author’s Note

––––––––

Starting in 2015, I wrote over a dozen short stories and sketches (think the written version of a doodle) to post on my blog. Before long those stories, along with some previously written material, added up to quite a bit. In fact, it made up enough for a book. So I made a book.

Here you go.

Each story in this book—ranging from flash fiction to novelette in length—gives a snapshot of an unique world. Science fiction, fantasy, and some eerie horror and dystopia all find a place.

Along with the previously published works, I’ve included several new stories:

The Solution

Ink Tek

Death and the Thing with Feathers

Seeds

A Dog, Three Cats, and a Dragon

Hope you enjoy. Happy reading!

SCIENCE FICTION

Scars

Every scar tells a story.

Dark webbing still marks my shoulder from the day that bullets separated my squad from our company. The bleeding would’ve killed me if my comrades hadn’t bandaged it. But isolated from medical equipment, we couldn’t stop the scarring.

After days of wandering the Amazon I tripped, leaving a white slice across my stomach. A dumb wound. Not from a heroic battle with enemy soldiers or fleeing some hungry beast. I just got tired, so I fell.

Then came the jagged blossom encasing my thigh. Forever a vengeful red, as if still burning after all these years.

Some stories I’d rather forget.

***

I turned to the avatars for my escape. Avatars have no scars to pinch at every arm stretch. Pistons and cogs don’t grind with arthritis. I scaled the Grand Canyon with the arms of a robotic chimp. The wonders of coral reefs opened to my aquatic avatar’s photo-sensors. I’ve galloped across green fields, grandchild mounted on my saddle.

The world in a mechanical body never harbored memories of war. Until now.

Explosions rack my frame. Dust fogs my avatar’s view. I dig my claws into the soil and let my inertia swing my feline body onto its new course.

Across the ocean, cables suspend my true body—my scarred body—above the warehouse floor. I’m sure the camouflaged personnel still swarm below, checking my vital signs, the avatar’s functionality, the video and data streaming from the battlefield.

Command center may share my eyes, but they can’t taste the sandy air. They can’t feel the satisfying way my claws pierce the earth or how my padded feet launch me onward. The rolling tank doesn’t shake the ground beneath them. They don’t hear the fleeing birds’ squawks with such clarity, transferred straight from the avatar’s receptors to my brain.

They wanted their war hero back. We don’t need your body, they said. Your mind, your skill with the avatars, that’s all.

I refused.

They dragged me back to the battlefield anyway.

***

We found the enemy camp on day six. The hostages, the data, the battle plans—everything we needed to end the war—tucked away in seven pale tents huddled beneath the trees. If we’d come in numbers, a guard would have heard us. But a broken, lost battalion in the Amazon becomes invisible.

I ordered the men to divide and surround the camp. Hidden in the greenery, they fired. The enemy panicked, thinking themselves surrounded. People ran in every direction, stumbling over one other, colliding, spilling documents and hard drives in the dirt, stooping to hurriedly gather their mess. I slipped in among the chaos.

I expected more guards in the hostage tent. But only a skinny man crouched, trembling, between me and the prisoners bound in the dirt.

When I flipped open the tent door he shouted and raised his weapon.

I reacted instinctively. My rifle hoisted. The trigger pulled. The guard fell.

Just like I’d trained.

I didn’t notice my burning thigh until I fell, my back slapping the ground. I ripped the box from my flesh. I didn’t recognize it. Some experimental technology, I guess.

The army took the barbed box later, when I delivered our rescued hostages and they gave me my medal. They never told me details. Lethal, was all they said. Lucky you disengaged it.

***

Power courses through my circuitry. My hind legs punch the ground and I bound forward.

A seventy-miles-per-hour limit hid me before. But I knew I’d lost my stealth at the first explosion. Military don’t fire missiles at stray cheetahs.

No more use pretending. I strain my machinery, pushing full thrust into every bound. One hundred. Two hundred. Three hundred.

Faster.

Faster.

Savannah grass snaps across my flank. My weighted tail whips behind, letting me steer and balance.

I reel back toward the camp, sending up my own dust cloud. The muddy tanks grind their noses towards me. One fires, hitting fifty yards behind.

I fly through the savannah, weaving to avoid missiles and grenades. Soldiers flee, though their commander’s foreign shouts order them to fight.

Mentally, I beg them to keep fleeing. Run, surrender, anything. Don’t make me fight you. Don’t let them get you.

***

The general met me at a steakhouse. He probably figured I’d find the country music and meat more welcoming than his stuffy office. Personally, I’d rather have a cold burrito than the too-rare steak the waiter brought me.

General Lee gave me the guilt trip, the same one from his email. The same one from his phone call. I know you’re retired, but we need you. Your country needs you.

No.

Why?

I rolled up my pant leg, wincing as it tugged at my scarred tissue. The scar’s red burned bright against my pale skin. This.

He smiled sympathetically, like I was some naive child. But we’ve discussed this. You’ll just be an avatar. Nothing can hurt you. He rested his elbow on either side of his empty plate and leaned toward me. No more scars. I promise.

Not all scars are physical.

***

I reach the first tank. I leap. My avatar torpedoes through the metal and tears out the other side. I slice through the next tank just as easily, like stabbing melted ice cream.

I hear the drones now, their buzzing and distant pops. I try blocking out the screams. I turn away from the blood. I focus on the job I can stomach—killing lifeless metal.

***

The prisoners unbound, the enemy camp secured, I knelt alone in the once-hostage tent.

The young man still lay there, or his lifeless body at least. I didn’t regret my actions. I still don’t. I saved lives.

But my heart still felt hollow.

We dug the graves earlier that day. We filled them with enemy soldiers and two of our men. I told them to leave this boy. I would search his pockets then fill the final grave myself.

I laid his pocket’s contents in the dirt. Bullets and bandages. Some stray coins. And a photo of a girl, maybe five- or six-years-old, with the young man’s black hair and round nose. Large, cramped lettering filled the back.

Months later, I found the strength to let the interpreter translate the note.

I love you Daddy. Come home.

________________________________________________________

Story Notes:

Originally Published in T. Gene Davis’s Speculative Blog, 2015.

Unwelcome Shrink

Warren leaned back in the grimy chair, one arm crooked behind his head, the other dangling at his side. He tapped the floor to spin the seat. Bright blue signs with prices for Time Machine repairs hanging behind the counter, the pile of tools and spare parts shoved in the corner, pristine windows that stared at the brick wall next door, all revolved around him.

The door beeped. Warren stopped spinning. Without leaving his seat, he scooted up to the counter and raised the chair back to its normal height before the customer could see.

Dr. Saman entered, scratching his chin through his beard. Warren nodded in greeting. If Dr. Saman smiled Warren couldn’t see it beneath the white bush growing out of his face. Warren found his own beard much nicer. More luscious.

It broke again? Warren asked.

Dr. Saman squinted. Interesting shirt.

Warren glanced down at his Spartan rocking out on an electric guitar. Thanks.

It wasn’t a compliment. Dr. Saman rested his forearms on the counter. How’s life?

Warren rolled to the computer and tapped open the garage log. The last three times Dr. Saman asked How’s life? it turned into an hour-long interrogation.

Warren swiped the screen to scan through the analysis report. Oil and grit rubbed beneath his fingers. Looked like someone forgot to wash their hands before logging their last report. Bots say it’s a hardware problem. Once we get another man in the shop, I’ll take a look at your Machine for ya. Just need to see the legal jazz. Time Travel Endorsement and a photo I.D.?

An envelope and plastic card dropped onto the counter. Why did you decide to become a mechanic?

Uh... Warren unfolded the papers from the envelope and spent extra time straightening out the creases to avoid eye contact. Bold lettering ran across the top.

Endorsement of Jarod Saman, Ph.D. by Standford University, Department of Psychology for Nonintrusive Transcentury Research.

Why’d you become a shrink?

Dr. Saman squinted, seeming to analyze his posture, his clothing, his accent, and every muscle twitch in Warren’s face. Did you ever consider a career in psychology? Even once?

Warren snorted. Me? He tossed the license and endorsement back. We’ll have your Time Doohickey fixed by tomorrow. Someone’ll give you a call. Someone meaning a coworker, not Warren.

***

Dr. Saman set the folder on his desk and fanned out the specimen summaries. A 5-by-8 photo filled each upper left-hand corner. All brown-haired men, mostly with bushy beards like his own, though a few clean shaven.

Same genes. Same environment, at least as close as you could simulate across different historical settings.

Same outcomes.

Except for Warren Parker.

Dr. Saman tsked. A mechanic? He’d expect more from his own DNA.

________________________________________________________

Story Notes:

To all you mechanics out there, I sincerely apologizes for Dr. Saman and his snobbery.

Originally published on Esther Davis’s blog, 2016.

The Solution

The Planters spun across the fields, their whining engines and whirling gears mingling with the crickets’ chant. Their metallic arms cast a harsh steel shine across the valley.

At the edge of the valley floor rose the mountains. Wooden houses with environment-blending yards sprouted out of their sides and rode their summits. There were so many, yet they all seemed to fit, like simply adding more trees to the forest. Even the rail line matched the perfect camouflage of civilization. Janos leaned back in his chair as he watched a train slide across the mountainside. Its flexible black frame looked nothing like the steam engines from centuries ago. More like a viper. An enormous viper flying across the ground.

The snake-like train clung to the mountainside, wrapping around the valley. Janos didn’t bother turning his head when it slipped into his peripheral vision, then completely out of sight, silent as the approaching night. He wondered if any of the passengers would bother looking out the window before they entered the canyon, if any of them would glimpse the abandoned buildings at its mouth.

Janos stretched and, glass in hand, walked to the porch edge. He fingered a petal on a drooping petunia. It could’ve been healthier if he’d let the nanodrones take care of it, but where was the fun in that? He’d rather grow them himself. Janos poured his leftover lemonade over the soil before heading inside.

When he walked through the door, he nearly crashed into his dad. Janos stumbled back a bit and caught the door for balance. You’re home early.

Yeah. The Planters don’t need any real supervision after their last update. Figured I’d check on them just in case, but— Dad shrugged. The Computers sure do their job. They’re spinning away perfectly, putting the seeds just where I want them, and much quicker than I ever could. Really pointless staying down in the valley. He opened the fridge with his right arm—the robotic one—and browsed through the contents. You already eat?

Yeah. Janos let the porch door swing shut, but not before a moth tried darting in. The DoorGuard shot a zap of electricity, and the bug fluttered to the ground. The AutoVac rolled by and sucked up the corpse.

Dad pulled out the dish of leftover lasagna. The FoodStock board adjusted its readings accordingly. I saw Hannah down there. Janos flinched. Dad laughed. "Don’t worry,

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