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I’m releasing Fein’s Deluge tomorrow and burying Raid on the Silver City today

I’m publishing my “open map” work of interactive fiction Fein’s Deluge as “in development” TOMORROW — the 14th of September, 2019 — and I’m just stoked to finally share something more than flash fiction with you all.

There will be plenty of information on Fein’s Deluge with its release tomorrow, though for now, I want to publically state that I’m putting Raid on the Silver City — technically my first interactive fiction project — in the dusty bottom drawer. It’s just too huge, and it’s just not benefitting my career right now.

But I can’t leave you emptyhanded, so here’s the pixel map of Lorelei that I — yes, me, all by myself — made for Raid on the Silver City. It’s incomplete, but it’s something!

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Still on the topic of Raid on the Silver City, a thunderous bloody THANK YOU to everyone who helped me get as far as I did. Yes, you, my family, my friends. All those times you sat there and listened to me jabber and cry. I remember them all. Every clump of hair pulled out of my head and every triumphant fist-pump in the dark was a lesson. I’ll never regret any of it. It got me to where I am today.

And the day after today is tomorrow. And tomorrow is when I release Fein’s Deluge, a work of interactive fiction that’s actually good.

As for what’s after tomorrow? Editing for friends, presenting to my writing group on interactive fiction, submitting flash fiction, writing a novella, and fuckloads more.

Hoax (my first submission and rejection)

So I made my first flash fiction submission about a month ago and got the rejection notification yesterday. I submitted it to an online magazine called Daily Science Fiction, which I read every day (except for weekends), and found that their choice not to publish my story wasn’t disheartening, but exciting. It was exciting because it signified the start of me putting myself out there, the start of my professional career. Today, I submitted a different story to Daily Science Fiction and another different story to Flash Fiction Online. As per the rules of most online magazines, I can’t submit to them anything that has previously been published, and this includes publication here, on my blog. Hoax, however, I’m not going to submit anywhere else, so here it is, for your reading pleasure (it’s approximately 900 words).

A large thanks to Jon, Ty, Christian, Chad, and James (and whoever else I missed; please remind me!) for their feedback and edits.


HOAX

The winds of Berrin Bay rebounded off a salt-crusted window and lifted the rain up and against itself, appearing like snow, and a shark-skinned fisherman on the table beneath that same window I thought dead, until he finished his pint and returned to his dreamless slumber. A family on leather couches before a fireplace spoke less than strangers, and a bartender with a twirled moustache nodded at me when Riders on the Storm by The Doors began to play from speakers buried in corners by foam buoys, swollen ship wheels, and singing fish. It happens every time I wear the shirt.

Looking through the window, through the blizzard of rain, I saw a shadow dash like a hounding seal, though before I could better my view, there was a pint in my hands and a student with a wavy half-afro and non-prescription glasses in the seat across from me.

“I ordered chips,” said Will, sitting and blowing the head off his beer, “so one was free.”

“Not a total loss then,” I said. “The first guy we spoke to — from Davey’s Whale Watching Charters — he said it will clear on Sunday.”

The front door squealed open, pulling a draft through the tavern, and a man in a black trenchcoat walked in and leant over the bar.

“Mmmm,” said Will. “Kind of have to be somewhere. And the mic’s stuffed, bro. I reckon we head back in the morning, do the immigration story.”

Some minutes later, I said, “What about the… thing, the creature? It’s one more night.”

A pretty waitress set a basket of battered chips down between us and winked. At least I think she did.

“It’s a squid, bro.” Will washed a bolus of starch down his throat. “People want stories about people. Not E.T. and the Loch Ness Monster.”

The waitress giggled and left, stopping by the man in the trenchcoat, who renewed her laughter with some of his own.

“Squids don’t drink their prey like that,” I said. “Spiders do. They use enzymes to——”

“It’s a hoax, bro. Your boyfriend at Davey’s Whale Watching Charters is in on it. He’s butchering dolphins for money. He’s butchering them because he’s desperate. It’s a hoax.”

“A hoax?”

A black trenchcoat bent like a sheet of lead over the empty chair at the head of our table, placed there by a storm-eyed man with a scar crossing his chin stubble and lip. It was my “boyfriend” from Davey’s Whale Watching Charters, and he reeked like crab shell left in the bin.

“‘A hoax’?” repeated Davey.

Will pinched his nose.

“You’re welcome to join us, Davey,” I said.

He dragged the chair out and slapped into it like a bag of bycatch. “Dave.”

“So… Sunday?” I said, after half a minute of fishy silence. “For the charter to the canyon?”

He swirled the Guinness and saliva at the bottom of his pint glass. “Won’t see him at the canyon.”

“Won’t see who?”

Dave’s eyelids went lazy on Will. “The hoax.”

“You’ve seen the creature?”

Dave nodded at his glass. “I’m thirsty.”

Smalltalking sixties rock, I bought a pint from the bartender with the twirled moustache and balanced it to Dave.

He took a needlessly loud gulp. “You’re students, yeah? From the city?”

“Journalism majors,” said Will.

“No cameras.” Dave searched over his right shoulder, his left. “An’ make sure I don’t go thirsty.”

Will gave a look of distaste, like he was smelling Dave for the first time again. The winds rattled the salt-crusted window, and Riders on the Storm played on a loop, to my irritation alone.

“He’s a squid,” said Dave.

Will dusted chicken salt from his palms. “Told you.”

“He’s a shark an’ whale. He’s a dolphin — an orca.”

“Don’t buy this guy any more beers, bro.”

“The smell of the canyon changed,” Dave continued, partly out of spite. “Purple grease came up on the surface. Whales ‘n’ dolphins wouldn’t go near the boats. Many went north, up the west coast. Like somethin’ scared ’em. Skins started washin’ up in the bay. All sorts. Guts ‘n’ bones sucked out. So many whales ‘n’ dolphins went north that it bankrupted most the charters. So many that we went out lookin’ for him, hunting. Most the boats in Berrin. Most the men. That’s when the cameras came an’ some of the charters opened up again. They went out lookin’ too. Couple of tourists said they saw a black tentacle come out the water. Said it was black with fins. Nothin’ on sonar. It went round the world, the story of a monster, a thing lurkin’ by the hydrocarbon vents, a thing that broke out of them. Then the oil rig had a little ‘spill.’ Then the Navy shut down the bay.”

Will adjusted his glasses. “I saw it on the news.”

“Some of the Navy boys came here,” said Dave, “into this tavern, an’ sat on those leather couches. An’ old Ernie” — he pointed at the shark-skinned fisherman by the window — “heard ’em whisperin’ about a thing that was a squid an’ shark an’ whale an’ orca. He heard ’em whisperin’ of something that came here out of space, crashed into the waves some seventy kays off Berrin. Started feedin’ on the animals. Feedin’ an’ growin’ bigger. Adding tentacles ‘n’ fins to itself an’ growin’ bigger. Said the purple grease was its… enzymes.”

With a sputter, like he’d coughed or snickered, Dave finished his pint.

Will stood and looked at Dave. “Guinness, yeah?”

“Yeah, mate. Keep ’em coming.”

END

 

Bone Monster

Dreams don’t have to mean anything. If they did, I’d be a little perturbed by this one.

I was first a hound. Not the family Labrador, but a hungry bear of a dog, an oil-slicked gargoyle. And I was confined to a section of a stone corridor, between two barred gates, flush to the ceiling and floor. Through the iron bars of one gate, I beheld the greater length of the corridor, and through the other, a square chamber, illuminated with trimmings of alien-green light, from sources unspecified by my dreaming mind. Across from me — a snapping, slavering hound — on the far wall of the square chamber, there protruded a stone disc, a meter from the ceiling and floor, and two or three in diameter. And bound to the face of this vertical disc, by no shackle other than some sideways gravity, was an emaciated woman, her skin blue like the morning, and her pupils lost inside her skull.

I had watched her starve there, fighting the malevolent gravity like an eel in a carpark, wasting away to a rib and cheekbone nakedness, clothed only by her drowned-witch hair. I had watched her starve, but now she was dead. Limp, but pinned to the stone by not even a nail.

Something changed then. My hound senses detected a wave of pressure, a pulse of silent sound, sickening like bad seafood in the gut. Whimpering, I watched the dead woman’s chin lift, and fists pop to open palms. And then, like a slow-cooked shank bone falling from the meat, her skeleton hatched from her skin and rattled to the floor, dry like a sheep skull on the side of the road, chalk-white and dusty. Up from the floor it built itself, to the broken classroom skeleton — with a swinging jaw and a missing clavicle. Up from the floor it built itself, and to me it clattered, jerking like a stop motion demon, like a glitching enemy in a video game. With a hiss, the gate between us fell open, and to the back corner I retreated, pissing on my tail and barking like a blind Chihuahua. Once the skeleton had shambled all the way in, the gate hissed again and swung shut, and a tremendous pressure built in my head and beneath my skin.

The perspective of my dream changed here. I was a floating camera, an observant spectre, watching the hound squeal and the skeleton near. And then, again like a slow-cooked lamb shank, the hound’s bones slid out of its flesh and slapped into the animated skeleton like pins to a magnet, adding to its scuttling mass and encumbering it to a slanted tripedal gait. It was a human and dog skeleton both, a fusion of man and hound. It was a bone monster, and when the other iron gate hissed open, it lurched up the corridor, through the alien-green light, and past the bourn of my dreaming eye.

I woke then, to the piping wind and a distant bark. But I wasn’t so awake to exit the dream, nor spare humanity from the monster. What I saw was the bone monster’s growth, always from the perspective of its prey, and then, a moment before the demise of the prey, the perspective of a floating camera, a spectre, a soul.

The bone monster tumbled through the suburbs, a hateful amalgamation of not just humans and dogs and cats, but snakes and crocodiles and kangaroos, vacuuming bone from flesh, accumulating mass like a planet gathering asteroids and dust. People went screaming from the streets and from their homes. They flew through their windows and, when the monster had stripped them midair of their bones, slopped to the lawns and roads. They slammed into their front doors, and their bones were sucked through their mail slots. They were hoisted into the air, whole families at once, hand in hand. And the monster grew and tumbled, until it was easier for it to roll.

I woke again, to rattling hail, and I can’t remember if the next scene was a dream or just some semiconscious afterthought.

The bone snowball — the jangling, quaking sphere of skeletons — pulverised cities, and to it more bones flew like wisps of white sugar to a stick in a fairy floss machine. It rolled skyscrapers to dust. It rolled through a mountain saddle and splintered a vast forest. It rolled into the ocean, paddling over the frothing waves while drawing up whales and sucking down birds. And it crashed onto new shores, and the bombs did nothing but slow it.

After some unfortold forward flash, I was an astronaut in space, watching a bone tumour swell on the earth, watching it disperse oceans and rip up continents like mildewed carpet. Then, over my intercom, there was a burst of static followed by squelch and a rattling, and a tremendous pressure built in my head and beneath my skin.