Monday, November 26, 2012

I AM THE SUN: VIII

by Sean Manseau


People said it was a freak storm, lightning that raked from earth to sky. People said a missile test from White Sands had lost its way and crashed in the pine forest to unleash government-funded hell. People said the mountains gave birth to a daytime star that flared until the old Sol dimmed and shadows were cast to every degree of the compass.

For Shepherd it was a series of disconnected images: June’s eyes erased by a blaze of light, particles of One Man Army’s flesh fleeing his bones like sand driven before a windstorm, a blue van mired in melting tar, Behemoth imploding as gravity increased a thousand-fold in a space defined by his mass.

Shepherd was two atoms become one, he was the sun; he was a god in flight and the apotheosis of power. He was Hyperion.


Six months later, Shepherd and Nicholas sat on the rear deck, watching Sierra Blanca change from white to gold to purple in the setting sunlight.  Summer on the cusp of fall, the pine forest drowsing in afternoon heat, and fireflies that danced through the darkening trees. Shepherd with his left hand sunk in the melting ice of a beer cooler.

In the kitchen, behind the double glass doors, a Joni Mitchell song was playing on the radio. One of June’s friends had played “A Case of You” on the autoharp at the memorial service. After the insurance agent settled on “Act of God-Lightning Strike” the cabin had been rebuilt, even lovelier than before, though the bearskin rug and the player piano and June’s books were all forever lost.

He couldn’t stop seeing her eyes, the way they’d glowed as they’d reflected his transformation, the way they’d burned when he couldn’t control what he’d unleashed. He drank and drank and drank but couldn’t stop seeing. Or forget that he knew the vector of his fate.

After a while, something about the muffled music, the failing light, and the way the moon hung low over the mountain made Shepherd pose the questions that had pressed his heart for so long.

He spoke quietly, without looking away from the view. “What if I just took you back to Rt. 54 and dropped you off where I found you?”

Nicholas sighed. “You could…but you probably shouldn’t. Dr. Cosmos was right; the universe doesn’t play games. You’d live, but it’d probably hurt.”

“Who are you, Nicholas?” Reaching for another beer. Shepherd’s heart was breaking, again. He was Hyperion. He'd been handed the reins to the chariot of the sun. He couldn't deny there was glory in it...but even more horror. He wished that burst of light that had taken June and the house and half the mountain had taken him as well. “And why me?”

Nicholas didn’t answer at first. He sipped lemonade until he was sucking air through the straw. Then he put the glass down, picked up a grocery bag stashed under his chair, and set it in his lap. He said, “Because that’s your fate, Shep. And I’m fate’s tool. Please don’t be angry with me. I’m no more to blame than the hammer that drives the nail.”

After a while Shepherd said, “Did you do what they say you did?” Somehow this hurt the most. “Did you…what did he say? Mentally dominate me?”

“There have been times when I may have...encouraged you...to look the other way. When I was setting things up. But in the future? Never, Shep. Everything you do, you do out of love.”

Shepherd swigged from his can of Schlitz and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Then his eyes. His voice was ragged. “That might be easier if I could forget what hasn’t happened yet.”

Nicholas nodded. “I know. That's why I made this.”

He reached into the bag for his latest creation, the top hat that would someday belong to Dr. Cosmos. When he put it on his head, the hat slid down to his ears, so he had to tilt it back to see. He held out his hand.

“Are you ready?”

Shepherd nodded. He closed his eyes.


…and entered into the dream of the rest of his life.



~fin~






Sunday, November 25, 2012

I AM THE SUN: VII


by Sean Manseau


Behemoth gathered the tarp into an improvised sack and began stuffing the bits of broken sentrybot inside. “We’re taking him with us. This crap I’ll get rid of on the mountain. You and Screwball can do some housecleaning. And Dr. Cosmos can memory wipe these two”—jerking a thumb at Shepherd and June—“so all they’ll know is Nicholas has gone missing.”

“We simply cannot do that!” Dr. Cosmos cried. “The possible consequences—”

“Cosmo! I know!” the giant bellowed. “But we have to have that information. We don’t have time to get it out of him now, but I’m confident you’ll succeed eventually. When you do, we’ll put him back just the way we found him, unable to remember where he’s been. It won’t even raise any eyebrows, because that’s how they found him in the first place. We’ve got to get back there before Hyperion destroys the jump portal and we’re stuck here for good.

“I know it’s horribly dangerous. I know that every step we take away from this house with him in our possession is tempting the universe to destroy us where we stand, but every step we do take is more evidence that this is going to work.”

Dr. Cosmos sighed and nodded, accepting defeat. “All right. Let’s get him bundled up.”

Screwball went out to warm up the cars. Behemoth shouldered his load of robot scrap, and Tango went to the closet by the front door to hunt among the coats until she found Nicholas’s green-and-orange goosedown parka. At first Nicholas, still groggy from Dr. Cosmos’s ministrations, allowed her to insert one of his arms in a sleeve, but he seemed to suddenly snap awake and began to yell in terror.

“I don’t want to go with you! Shep! Tell them to let me go!” His voice rose to a squeal. “Shep! Say it! Say I—” Tango shoved him through the open front door, and he was gone.

Shepherd writhed on the cold floor, trying to wriggle forward on one shoulder, his belly and his knees. He shouted for Nicholas, told him not to be afraid, he was coming, but the duct tape blocked his oaths and promises. June, who had been spared the indignity of having her wrists bound to her ankles, was doing better, gaining more ground with a frantic frog-kicking motion, until One Man Army halted her with a thick-soled boot on her throat. Dr. Cosmos walked over to join them, fingering his black top hat. But when he tried to bend down to touch her, the shorter man threw his arm out to stop him.

“You wipe them later,” he said. “When you bring Nicholas back.”

“Nonsense,” Dr. Cosmos said. “We cannot risk leaving a single trace of—”

“I said later!” One Man Army spun him by the shoulder, planted a boot on one skinny buttock, and shoved him towards the door, where Behemoth was waiting. Dr. Cosmos stumbled forward a few steps before catching his balance on the piano, the mashed bass keys sounding in ominous discord.

“How dare you!” he shouted, wounded and ridiculous. He turned to the giant, straightening his coat and tie. “If you will, Andre, restrain our compatriot until I can finish my work.” He turned back to One Man Army, his smug smile faltering when Behemoth failed to lurch past him and toss One Man Army into the next room.

“Go on to the cars, Cosmo.” The giant held the storm door open. Outside, the sun had broken through the low clouds, and melting snow was falling in clumps from the forest’s barren branches. “This isn’t any of your concern.”

Dr. Cosmos’s mouth worked soundlessly for a moment before he managed, “You’re not going to let him—”

“Just go!” Behemoth grabbed Dr. Cosmos by his ruffled Edwardian collar, lifted him off his feet and deposited him on the porch. The screen door slammed shut. Outside, Dr. Cosmos continued to rail. We are heroes! We do not take vengeance!

Shepherd watched this from the floor and knew their last chance was gone. The grim resignation on the giant’s slab of a face made it plain.

“We’ll leave you the station wagon,” Behemoth told One Man Army. “You do what you have to, but don’t tarry. Once we’re back in 2012, the portal is coming down, whether or not you’ve joined us.” He pushed the door open again, pausing on the threshold, his left hand on the knob of the oak inner door. “Duncan, I hope this helps you find some peace.” He closed the door behind him, killing the daylight, and leaving Shepherd and June alone with One Man Army.

"Okay," Lawless said. He looked around the room. “Okay. Okay.” He dragged the coffee table close and righted it. His good hand bunched in the shoulder of June’s work shirt and hauled her to her feet. “Up we go, sweetheart,” he said, then shoved her to sit. She was breathing heavily through her nose, as much from anger as fear, glaring up at him through the hair spilling over her face. Shepherd rocked violently from side to side, trying to get to his knees, which made One Man Army spit, laugh, and kick him so hard Shepherd toppled over on his back. June screamed.

“Here’s the thing,” One Man Army said, pacing between them. “The history books don’t have much to say about what became of Mrs. Lyle Shepherd.” He fished in his pocket for a lighter, sparked it, and puffed his cigar stub to life. “In fact, up to this point, I was always pretty sure there never was a Mrs. Lyle Shepherd, and it’s always just been you and pretty little Nicholas, you boy-loving motherfucker.” Another kick caught Shepherd under the short ribs. He rolled on his side, coughing up blood he was forced to swallow back down.

“I digress.” One Man Army blew a stream of smoke at the ceiling. “The point, Lyle, the point here is we really don’t have any idea of how your wife died. I mean, we’re pretty sure she did die, because she won’t be with you when you and Nicholas arrive in New York in 1979, and you seem too old-fashioned for divorce. So what happened to her? Breast cancer? Car accident? Eaten by bears? Nobody knows. But I have a theory. I just came up with it today. I’m willing to gamble my other hand that I happen to her.”

Shepherd pulling and pulling, tape stretching but not giving way. If he could just get a hand free, maybe grab One Man Army’s boot, yank him off his feet…

One Man Army drew his remaining sidearm and grinned his hard, joyless grin. He used it to part the picture window curtains and held it to catch the light, admiring the Maadi-Griffin’s lethal geometry. “If I didn’t find myself disabled, I’d pop the cartridge and show you the round this bitch fires. Big as my thumb, Lyle. Or your dick.”

The Maadi-Griffin spun in his hand, One Man Army running through a manual of arms to finish by pistol-whipping Shepherd across the jaw and then pressing the barrel to June’s temple. She shied away, whimpering. “Maybe I can’t kill you," he told Shep, "which, honestly, is all I really want in the whole wide world, but I am going to kill your wife. Your own true love, Hyperion, old pal. Right in front of you. Gonna get splashed with her blood, yes you are."

Shep groaned, struggled to sit up.

“And I’m gonna get away with it," One Man Army continued. "Because when they bring Nicholas back, Dr. Cosmos is going to wipe your memory. You know how I know? 'Cause I remember the first time I met you. Baltimore, 2003. You treated me like I was a good ol' boy, and I consider myself a bit of a student of the human condition, so I’m pretty sure I’d know if a guy I just met was holding a grudge about me executing his wife, you know?”

Panic flooded Shepherd’s mind with disjointed thoughts. Had they left with Nicholas yet? Was there a chance Dr. Cosmos might convince Behemoth to intervene? Could he somehow offer his life for his family’s? What was Screwball’s battle cry? Time to bring the heat! Shepherd remembered coming up with that one himself. Good times, he and Nicholas on the porch, shouting catchphrases at each other, laughing like madmen.

One Man Army crouched, gun still in place, so he could address Shepherd more intimately.

“But here’s where I prove I’m better than you, Shepherd,” he whispered. “I’m gonna offer you the mercy you never showed me. Because I am one of the good guys. No matter what that asshole Price thinks."

Screwball said, Time to bring the heat. Tango said, Mind over matter. One Man Army said, Cry havoc.

Had Dr. Cosmos muttered something before he began questioning Nicholas? Shepherd couldn’t remember what it was, but he was pretty sure he had. A big fan of the catchphrase, Nicholas was. Made a character stand out.

And Hyperion was his favorite character of all.

His uniform’s fit that gave him the proportions of a hero. The smooth fabric. I bet I could make it bulletproof. That jolt of the unreal, that feeling something was breaking through into this world from the next.

Shep, say it! Say I

Shepherd’s heart began to pound.

“I’m gonna let you tell your wife you love her,” One Man Army was saying. “And she’ll hear you…because she hasn’t been blasted to atoms. Are you getting me? Are we clear?” He trapped the gun under his ruined arm, stooped and used his good hand to rip the duct tape from Shepherd’s mouth. “Go ahead, man. Tell her.”

Shepherd coughed, spat out the blood that had been pooling at the back of his throat. Looked at June. June gazed back. Terror in her eyes. And love.

You can’t possibly be considering this, he told himself. You really want those to be the last words she hears? You want to see her not understand, or worse, think you’re making a joke? Tell her you love her, and that you’ll see her soon. Because as sure as the sun will set tonight, he’s going to put a bullet in your head right after he does hers. His other pistol misfiring, that was a fluke. This is for keeps. Tell her you love her, and that you’re sorry you couldn’t save her.

“No?” One Man Army pulled the charging rod, chambering a round. “Nothing?”

Shepherd stretched forward, his wrists bound tight to his ankles, shoulders separating, agony in every joint. “June. June.” Slurring. Shzoon. Hoping she could hear him. He bared his loose teeth, licked his crushed lips. One chance to say it. Say it right. “Junie.” Biting the word off clean. “I…”

am the Sun.






Saturday, November 24, 2012

I AM THE SUN: VI


by Sean Manseau


“What—? Oh man, I forgot all about you, didn’t I, Lyle. Sorry.” Screwball shook his head, snorting laughter. He reached for the roll of duct tape and bit another strip loose. “You don’t get it, man. We’re the good guys.”

“And you used to be one of us,” One Man Army croaked. He slipped forward to the edge of the cushion, holding his bandaged hand high. His skin was gray from loss of blood, and his lip curled until his smile became a rictus. “Until you killed my wife.”

“There it is,” Screwball sighed. After smoothing the tape over Shepherd’s mouth, he patted his cheek. “What do kids do when they’re bored with their toys? They break them, in all sorts of fun and creative ways. But you were always his favorite, Lyle—I don’t think he’s ever going to throw you away. God help you.”

That was when the giant walked into the living room.

Behemoth was nearly eight feet tall; he walked bent over and sideways through the kitchen door, shoved the dining room table aside, and could only stand up straight when he entered the living room. At five hundred pounds, the pine floorboards flexed with his every step. Certain details matched Nicholas’s drawings: he was completely hairless, lacking even eyebrows, and he was wearing a sort of wrestler’s singlet made of steely blue mesh, but instead of a dull glower, his expression had an unmistakable cast of amused intelligence.

Arms loaded with a tarp-wrapped bundle, he indicated One Man Army with a thrust of his chin. “What the hell happened to him?”

Screwball sat on the couch with his cleats up on the coffee table, rolling a baseball over the knuckles of one hand. “He tried to shoot Nicholas, but uh, the gun blew up in his hand.”

Behemoth snorted. “How could that happen? He cleans those things more often than he wipes his ass!”

Dr. Cosmos stood and began to pace. “One Man Army had a misfire because One Man Army is an idiot.” Angry as he was, he still cast a cautious glance towards the love seat before continuing. “We went over this before the jump: the past cannot be undone. We exist; therefore, Nicholas lived long enough to create us. This is immutable. The mere fact we are having this conversation means he will not be killed now. No matter what we do, the universe will take action to frustrate our efforts on that point, no matter how improbable its strategies. I said it before, but let me say it again: we are in a temporal minefield.”

“Cosmo, you do like to hear yourself talk. Is that him?” Behemoth set his bundle down next to the overturned coffee table and stepped past it to loom over Shepherd. His breathing was like the exhaust of an industrial furnace. “Jesus, look how young he is!” One rolling pin finger under Shepherd’s chin tilted his face towards the ceiling. “Cute, too. Never would’ve believed it. But I bet you’re all wondering what I brought you for Christmas.” He grabbed a corner of the tarp and swept it away with a theatrical flourish. “Voila!”

Pieces of what recently, unmistakably had been a robot were piled together: arms, legs, torso and claws, the metal torn, wires dangling and spitting sparks. One of its eyes flickered red light, baleful and blind.

“Finally managed to get into that shed,” Behemoth said. “Pine board on the outside, sheets of carbon fiber nanotube on the inside. Took me twenty minutes to cut into it. This”—prodding a molten lump of electronics with the toe of his boot—“was the welcoming committee. I’ll tell you what, though, it felt pretty damned good mixing it up with one of Nicholas’s toys I could actually take. But I saved the best for last. Check it out.”

He reached behind his back and produced a ball of crumpled blue material, which he shook out and let dangle. A New Mexico State Trooper uniform, only sewn together as a sort of unitard. Instead of standard-issue gray and black, it was cerulean blue with mustard yellow piping, a stylized sunburst on the chest. Just the way Nicholas had carefully colored it for the cover of Avenging Furies #1.

“Christ almighty,” Screwball said, sitting up abruptly. His cleats clattered on the hardwood floor. “It’s Hyperion’s costume!”

Shepherd turned to see June glaring at him. He didn’t need telepathy to know what she was thinking: What the hell have you two been up to out in the shed? He could only shake his head. He had no idea what Nicholas had been up to. But it had something to do with these people. No matter how insane their story, he sensed they weren’t lying. The real world was beginning to shred like a dream on waking, leaving only that uncanniness, that unceasing bad dream jolt.

“No it’s not.” Behemoth tossed the costume into the fireplace, where it smoked and caught flame. “It’s a sham. Not even a prototype. No psionic amplifiers, and the molecular structure of the material is completely stable. No way to tell if that’s because he hasn’t, at this point, solved the half-life problem, or if it’s just plain ol’ polyester. But there was plenty of other good stuff in the shed. I took nanoscale scans of everything, right down to the dried-up mouse turds on top of the roof beams.”

Screwball hushed him with a wave. Hand to his ear, he stared into the middle distance.

“We’ve got real problems back in 2012, boss,” he said to Price. “Nicholas has found the bunker, and now Hyperion and a few of Nicholas’s latest science projects are staging an assault. Cannonade says they can hold them off for a bit, but—”

“How long?” Dr. Cosmos asked.

“He says twenty minutes. Half-hour tops.”

“And how long will it take us to drive back to the jumpzone?”

Behemoth checked his over-sized wristwatch. “We can make it, but we’ve got to go now. You get what you need from him?”

Dr. Cosmos looked dejected. “I haven’t been able to get anything from him. I knew that Nicholas was at least a low-level telepath—it was the most obvious explanation for the way he mentally dominated Shepherd over the years.”

Shepherd started. Mentally dominated?

Price went on. “I was hoping that this early on, though, he might’ve been largely ignorant of his own talents…however, he’s parried my every thrust. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised: he designed my telepathic augmentation, after all. I’ve always resisted the idea of omniscience, but there’s a strong chance he designed my abilities so that I might read and influence everyone but him, with this future situation specifically in mind.”

“Blah blah blah,” Tango said, tugging her Mohawk into indignant spikes. “What are we going to do?”




Friday, November 23, 2012

I AM THE SUN: V


by Sean Manseau


“Duncan’s right,” said the gangling kid. June was on the floor with his knee in the small of her back. He’d already taped her mouth shut, and once he’d expertly bound her wrists and kicking feet, he stood to strip of his own coveralls. A baseball uniform, of all things, that was what he had on underneath: red with white stripes, a baseball pierced with a Philips-head screw on the chest. With its red metallic greaves, gauntlets, and helmet, it was an outfit more suited to combat than throwing strikes.

“You've got my vote,” the girl added. "Let’s just waste him and be done with it." She had stripped down to a simple black body suit, with a neckline that plunged to her navel and gloves and boots that matched her shocking pink hair.

“Damn straight!” One Man Army said, pulling on the Maadi’s charging arm to chamber a round.

Sighing, Price pushed himself up from the love seat.

“Lawless,” he said, “I know idiocy comes naturally to you, but try not to infect your impressionable young teammates.” He stepped out of his coveralls to reveal his black suit had acquired a velvety sheen, and the sleeves and collar of his white shirt had grown Edwardian ruffles. He pulled a collapsed top hat from a pocket of the coveralls, popped it to full extension, and settled it on his salt-and-pepper hair. “Any attempt to harm Nicholas will most certainly have very grave consequences. We went over and over this.”

“For Christ’s sake!” Shepherd cried. He had to make some sense of this if he was going to make a plan. Maybe they were a Manson-style family whose desert compound Nicholas had escaped? Psychos that liked to dress up as comic book characters, and that’s where he’d gotten his ideas? “He’s just a kid. Stop pointing that gun at him!”

“Tango, you have him?” Price asked.

“For now,” the girl answered. “He’s strong, though. I’m already getting tired. Hurry up with the little wifey, Timmy.”

“Coming, I’m coming,” the gangling kid grumbled. He hauled June over to the couch and then came back for Shepherd.

Shepherd didn’t recognize the girl, but the gangling youth’s costume brought another lurch of vertiginous unreality. He was dressed up as Screwball, originally a member of the Assailants Association, but who later defected to the Avenging Furies because he was in love with the beauteous Ne Plus Ultra. Screwball threw baseballs that exploded, baseballs that could stun, freeze, burn or paralyze. Dazed, Shepherd groped for Screwball’s battle-cry; all of Nicholas’s heroes had one. Then he had it: Time to bring the heat!

“Let’s stop fucking around,” One Man Army said around the unlit cigar stub clenched between his teeth. “We came for intel, so let’s collect some fucking intel. Straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were.” He combed back Nicholas’s blond bangs with the Mahdi’s delta sight. “What do you say, kid?”

Price stepped closer, but seemed to rethink laying a restraining hand on the man’s shoulder. “If you just give me a moment to prepare, I can telepathically—”

“Shut the fuck up, Dr. Cosmos,” One Man Army sneered. “We’re doing this my way.”

Whey-faced, Nicholas sought Shepherd’s eye. His mouth began to form a question, maybe Why is this happening? or worse, Why aren’t you doing something, Shep?

It was almost a relief when he said, “Why are you all dressed like one of my comic book guys?”

One Man Army grabbed the boy’s chin and turned his head back to face him. “Don’t play dumb, Nicholas. I think your little riff about time travel means you know exactly why we’re here. The question is, why are you here? Come on, now, don’t be scared. Speak up. Where are you from?”

Nicholas cried, “I’m from here!”

“Before that!” One Man Army roared. “Before Hyperion found you. Where are you from? What are you?”

Screwball was just beginning to wind the tape around Shepherd’s head, and he managed to wiggle free long enough to shout, “What is he? He’s a little boy, you maniac!”

Screwball smacked him across the back of the head. “Yeah, and thirty years from now, he’ll still be a little boy, Lyle, you dumbass. He’s gonna be ten years old forever. For all we know, he’s always been ten years old.” He paused to listen to his hearing aid. “Dr. Cosmos, Cannonade says that Nicholas has hunter/killers conducting sweeps about 100 klicks to the north and east of the bunker’s position. He’s getting nervous.”

“Tell him we’ll be on our way in two shakes of a pole-dancer’s tits,” One Man Army said. Then to Nicholas: “Listen to me, freak. I’m gonna count to three. If you don’t tell us where’re you’re from and what you’re doing here, I’m going to put a bullet between your eyes.” One Man Army stood and pushed Nicholas to stand against the piled slate wall of the hearth. “One.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Nicholas cried.

“Two.” One Man Army cocked the pistol’s firing hammer—tchak—a tiny mechanical sound that seemed to command a profound moment of silence.

“Shep! Help me!”

Shepherd helpless in his bonds, June with her eyes bugging, screaming behind the gagging tape and bucking as Tango pushed her back against the couch, Dr. Cosmos almost flapping his hands as he sputtered, “Don’t you understand the universe—”

One Many Army said, “Three.”

The report was deafening, the flash lasting only an instant, but searing the retinas. Then One Man Army was howling in pain, his gun hand clutched between his knees. Two of his fingers lay on the floor and one was stuck, jellied, to a picture it had toppled on top of the piano, Shepherd and June smearing cake across each other’s face, the frosting now tinted with blood.

Nicholas, unharmed, scurried back to huddle in the corner behind the end table. Shep could only watch as Tango extended a hand to float One Man Army to the loveseat, where Screwball bandaged his hand kitchen towels and more duct tape. June alternated between goggling at them and Shepherd. Shepherd stared back, trying to will the thought into her head: Don’t worry. Don’t worry. We’ll find a way out of this. Feeling so guilty, as if somehow this was all his fault.

Dr. Cosmos dragged Nicholas, thrashing and kicking, to the couch beside June, where he alternated between cooing Nicholas, relax, close your eyes and relax and screaming for Tango to get over there and hold the brat still already. At one point a tremendous explosion somewhere outside seemed to rock the house on its foundations and the Avenging Furies had leapt to their feet. The tableau of the four of them posed there, ready for action, was so uncanny Shepherd felt like he was falling backward down a deep black hole. They looked just as Nicholas would have drawn them.

After a tense moment Dr. Cosmos put a hand to his earpiece. He nodded at the rest of them to relax and returned to attempts to cajole Nicholas into conversation. The sulfur stink of expended ammunition hung in the room, burning Shep's sinuses. In the aftermath of One Man Army’s accident they’d forgotten to gag him. He’d bided his time, kept quiet. But now Shepherd twisted his neck to look up at Screwball. Abject begging his only option.

“Nicholas has never hurt anyone,” he said quietly. “Please, let him go.”



Thursday, November 22, 2012

I AM THE SUN: IV


by Sean Manseau


Nicholas sat down next to him and untied the strings of the portfolio. “Me and Shep collaborate on this.” He looked to June. “Is that the right word?”

“It is,” she said, smiling. To Price she added, “For the record I don’t approve of comic books. But boys will be boys, I guess. Whether they’re ten, or”—she smiled slightly at Lyle—”thirty-five.”

The pink-haired girl led Lawless to the couch on the other side of the coffee table. June, trailing a reassuring hand across Shepherd’s back as she passed, went into the kitchen to make them some coffee. Shep remained standing with arms folded tight, as the Bristol sheets of their unbound comic book were handed around.

“I draw everything,” Nicholas explained. “But me and Shep come up with the stories together.”

Page after page detailing the adventures of Hyperion, master of the forces that power the sun, and his sidekick Teslaboy, a prodigy of technology whose creations got him into terrible jams almost as often as they saved the day. Among his myriad other talents, Nicholas was a remarkable draftsmen, and Hyperion and Teslaboy unmasked were faithful renditions of Shepherd and himself.

The pink-haired girl, looking grim, turned a page around for them all to see and tapped a panel with a lacquered nail: Hyperion igniting and taking to the sky. “It says, ‘I am the Sun.’”

“That’s his catch phrase,” Shepherd offered. “Helps with the characterization.” June, returning with the coffee, gave him a withering glare. Shep grimaced in acknowledgement. He needed to look like an adult here, not an overgrown kid. But looking over their shoulders at carefully inked panels, he couldn’t help thrill at what he and the boy had made. The stories were uneven, but the stuff that was good rivaled anything Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had ever dreamed up. Sometimes when he and Nicholas were on the cabin’s rear deck, drinking iced tea and excitedly coming up with new plot lines, Shep got just the faintest sense of how it would feel to be Hyperion, a man with powers so great they’d all but burned away his humanity. It was glorious.

Duncan Lawless let out a surprised grunt and slumped back on the couch, one hand clamped to his face, while the other let loose a sheet of paper that the gangling youth caught as it drifted to the floor. The pink-haired girl leaned in to see as his eyes scanned the page, and then he breathed, “Holy shit, it’s her!”

They’d found Arcane, Mistress of the Dark Arts, a pin-up girl with a nimbus of white curls and a skirt slit high on one thigh. She and her husband, the super-powered soldier-of-fortune One Man Army, were locked in fierce combat, Arcane struggling to land a killing blow, One Man Army desperately trying to destroy the alien implant that was controlling her actions.

Tentatively, June set the coffee service on the table before them and then drew back to clutch Shep’s arm, puzzled and frightened. He raised a single eyebrow in response—he didn’t know what was going on, either. He was getting the bad feeling that these people were not who they claimed to be. But with Nicholas in their midst, Shepherd's ability to act was greatly circumscribed. He needed to get the boy back upstairs.

Price had tented his fingertips and pressed them to his lips. “Thirty years ago. He had it all planned out. I wonder if there are sketches of the rest of us.”

Lawless’s shoulders were shaking. The man was crying, Shep realized. What the hell—? “This issue was pretty good,” Nicholas said dismissively, as he collected the pages and slid them carefully back into the portfolio. “But the next one is gonna be boss. You want to hear what it’s about?”

“Certainly,” Price said, glancing around at his crew.  “I think we’d be very interested to know.”

“Well, the thing is, I was kind of stuck. Because I’d given the Avenging Furies—that’s this group of heroes that my main guy, Hyperion, leads—I’d given them this villain that was just too powerful.” Nicholas set a cup and saucer in front of Price, and then used both hands on the pot to carefully pour the coffee. “No matter what I tried, I couldn’t think of a way for them to beat him. A couple of them even got killed trying, which I felt bad about. But there are rules, you know? You can’t just make anything you want happen so there’ll be a happy ending. There had to be a way for them to win, though. Then I started thinking, well, if they can’t beat him now, what if they could time travel, go into the past and find out information that will help them beat him in the future? But the problem with that is—”

Lawless surged from his seat between the gangling kid and the pink-haired girl, clawing for the zipper at his collar. He shouted, “Cry havoc!” and in one motion ripped his black coveralls off. Underneath he was wearing a skintight body-suit, something one of those Olympic ski-jumpers might wear, and Christ, was the guy built, every muscle swollen and straining.

Almost faster than Shep could follow, he threw the coffee table aside to seize Nicholas from the loveseat and slam him to the floor among the television parts scattered at the foot of the fireplace. Nicholas screamed in pain and terror. And now Lawless had a gun in his hand, easily the largest handgun Shepherd had ever seen. The barrel alone as long as the man’s forearm, the muzzle wide as a screaming mouth, and pointed at the boy's blond head.

June screamed and lunged for them. Shepherd blocked her with his left arm as he drew his own weapon, a movement he had practiced thousands of times, had actually executed twice in the line of duty, but never, ever imagined having to perform in his own home. He bellowed, “Drop it! Drop it!”

“He knows, Cosmo,” Duncan said. He didn’t even glance Shepherd’s way.  “I don’t know how, but he does. Christ, he’s fucking with us, can't you see that?"

Shepherd shot him.

And missed. Except he couldn’t have missed; he was standing eight feet away, aiming center mass on a chest as wide as an oil barrel, his shoulder, hand, and gun sight in perfect alignment with his will. But he had to have missed, because when he fired, Duncan lurched backwards and hit the fireplace hard enough to dislodge the de Kooning print June had hung above the mantle, but he did not fall. He looked down at his chest, impossibly unmarked, then up at Shepherd.

And grinned.

A girl’s voice cried “Mind over matter!” and an invisible hand, soft and yielding as warm dough, but massive and irresistible as a construction crane, pinned Shepherd’s arms to his body and he was off his feet, accelerating to smash against the rough boards of the ceiling twenty feet above, then against the silver-framed daguerreotypes on the wall, then back against the piano.

“Enough!” Price shouted.

Shepherd slid to the floor, still restrained by that invisible hand, concussed and trying to suck air back into his lungs. His nose had broken against one of the lodge’s rafters and blood was trickling down the back of his throat. He was vaguely aware that June was close by, screaming in rage. But his primary concern was Nicholas, who wasn’t making a sound, and Duncan, with his artillery.

“I say we do him right now!” he was bellowing. “This might be our only chance. I say we do him now, and fuck all that egghead bullshit. I’m not going anywhere. Temporal paradoxes can suck my cock.”

Duncan’s bodysuit was camouflage, Shepherd could see now, but an odd sort, little square blocks of olive, gold and black instead of the tiger stripe he had worn in Vietnam. Over his shoulders he wore a combat harness laden with ammo pouches and grenades, and huge black holsters were strapped to his legs, one empty, the other filled by another preposterously huge pistol. On his chest: a yellow Roman numeral I in a circle.

Shepherd blinked at him, trying to will the situation to come into focus, and suddenly it did, with the very last word in bad dream jolts. One Man Army. The guy was dressed up as One Man Army! One of the Avenging Furies, the superhero squad that battled all the villains populating Nicholas’s imagination: Some Disassembly Required, Caterwaul, Abbatoir, His Name Is Legion.

This couldn’t be happening; One Man Army was not real. But that gun pointed at Nicholas’s head undeniably was. A Maadi-Griffin .50 caliber, impossible for a normal man to hold steady with one hand, but One Man Army was no normal man, was he?



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I AM THE SUN: III

by Sean Manseau


June clutched his arm. “Lyle, I don’t think that’s—”

“As they say, Trooper Shepherd, we can do this the easy way, or the hard way.” An ingratiating smile broke across Price’s face, like dawn on a dark plain. “We’d like to meet the boy. Talk with him for a bit. Get a sense of who he is, how his surroundings do or do not accommodate his needs.” His eyes hardened. “But if we leave now, be assured we’ll return with a court warrant, and a police escort. Nicholas will be coming with us then, to stay at Las Cruces Home for Boys until such time as this matter is sorted out…and as you know, the wheels of bureaucracy can turn quite slowly.”

“Sir, that’s not going to happen." Shepherd gave Price his best cop glare, but the words came out strangled. "You are not taking my nephew to that hellhole.”

“He’s upstairs. I’ll get him.” They both turned to look at June. She gazed steadily back at Shepherd, squeezing his hand. “He’ll be fine, Lyle. I’ll explain to him who these people are, and why they want to talk to him. He’s a smart kid. He’ll understand.”

Shepherd said, “You know how imaginative he is. He hears about Las Cruces, it’ll give him nightmares.” But by the time the last words were out of his mouth, he knew—he was hoping—that she was right, that Nicky would grasp what was at stake and play his role convincingly.

“It’ll be fine,” June repeated, and walked into the living room, headed for the stairs. And then she said, “What are you doing to my television set?!”

Shepherd pivoted on his heel to step back into the living room. Dr. Price followed. In the corner next to the fireplace, the console TV had been pulled away from the wall, the back removed, and the gangling kid and the Mohawked girl were kneeling amidst its disassembled innards.

Some of the parts, the vinyl-coated wires, the capacitors, the vacuum tubes, Shepherd recognized from high school electronics class. Other parts, though, he couldn’t place, like an hourglass that seemed to contain a tiny sun burning in each bulb, and a crystalline structure that gave every appearance of breathing. Above these the girl held her little device at different angles. Flashes went off, as if she was taking photos, but Shepherd heard no click of a shutter, and she wasn’t winding film.

The gangling kid grinned at them over his shoulder. “Got some bona fide early-era Nicholas tech here, Cosmo.”

“Lyle?” said June, her hand on the banister.

“Go ahead and get Nicky,” Shepherd told her. “I’ll handle this.” He rubbed the 5 o'clock stubble on his cheek and turned back to Price. "Sir, I'm trying to be cooperative here, but why is my TV being taken apart?"

Price waved a hand at the detritus covering the floor. “Would you mind telling us what that is, Trooper Shepherd?”

“Goddammit, it was my goddamn twenty-seven inch Magnavox," Shep said, and his voice was rising, a bad idea when you're dealing with bureaucrats, but he was beyond caring. "You’d better hope your department has the budget to—”

Somewhere toward the back of the house, a door squealed open and slammed shut. From the kitchen came the sharp report of boot heels on linoleum, a man rasped “Cosmo! Hey, Cosmo! Out in the shed there’s—” and then the door to the dining room swung open, admitting a short, barn beam-shouldered man who stopped dead when he saw Shepherd.

The man’s eyes widened. His nostrils flared. His mouth tried on and discarded surprise, disgust, and trembling rage before settling on a sort of fearsome half-smile. He began to unzip his coveralls, muttering, “Well, I’ll be dicked!” while covering the floor between himself and Shepherd in strides that were nearly a charge. Without time to think, instinct took over. Shepherd dropped into a wrestler’s crouch, bracing for impact, and then the girl with the pink Mohawk was between them, intercepting the short man with her forearms against his barrel chest.

“Duncan! Duncan!” she said, as the man tried to force his way past. “We’ve got a plan, right? In and out and don’t leave a trace, right? We’re on a schedule, remember?”

“What's your problem, man?" Shepherd said. Obviously this Duncan thought he knew him, but nothing about the man’s features—broken nose, blond crew cut, sharply dimpled chin—jogged any recollection. The main thing was that look he had—grunts coming out of the jungle after combat had that look. The thousand yard stare. Shep looked to the CYFD supervisor. "What is this, Price?”

“I apologize, Trooper Shepherd,” Price said, inserting himself into Shep’s line of sight. “Mr. Lawless...appears to have mistaken you for someone else. Isn't that so, Duncan?"

"Yeah," the man mumbled, not turning his eyes from Shepherd's. "Yeah, that must've been it."

"A regrettable misunderstanding," Price said. "Now, please, Trooper Shepherd, answer my question. This device in your television. It's obviously homemade. Potentially dangerous, a fire risk. Can you explain it?”

“I think I’m pretty much done explaining anything to you,” Shep said. The hell with the CYFD and any court order they might obtain. At this point, Shep was angry enough to take to the hills and fight it out. Unconsciously his right hand fell to the butt of his gun. “Except maybe that if you and your people are not out of here in ten seconds, things are going to get ugly.”

Someone cleared their throat loudly. June was on the stairs. “Lyle,” she said, “I’m sure you can show Nicholas that grown-ups settle their problems with their voices, not their fists. Can’t you?”

“Jesus,” said the pink-haired girl under her breath. She was staring up at Nicholas, who was crouched with his face pressed between the banister rails to stare back.

Glancing around, Shep saw all the CYFD workers were looking at Nicholas with something close to awe. All except the man Lawless. Shepherd returned his glare, thinking this was the strangest damned crew of social workers he’d ever heard of.

But staredown or no, Shepherd knew he had to calm his temper. June was right. If they played nice with the CYFD people, answered their questions politely, there was still a chance Shep could get Nicholas into the system, and secure the boy's place in their lives.

“As far as the TV goes,” June said, leading the boy by the hand into the living room, “Nicholas likes to tinker. We’re considering home schooling him, so he can apply for early admission to MIT or Cal Tech. I think he could be a famous inventor. The Thomas Edison of the 21st century, maybe.”

“I don’t want to be an inventor, though.” Nicholas hadn’t grown any taller in the six months since he’d come to live with them, although he’d put on about ten pounds from June’s cooking. He was wearing his favorite t-shirt, the one with the iron-on of the Eagle shuttle from “Space: 1999”, and green Toughskins that were worn at their reinforced knees. Under his arm he held a cardboard portfolio. “Not all the time, anyway.”

“No?” asked Price, his voice unsteady. “What else would you like to do?”

“Make comics!” Nicholas said. He brandished the portfolio before him. “Wanna see?”

Shepherd groaned inwardly. The kid wasn’t going to show them the books, was he? Price perched at the edge of the love seat and patted the coffee table. “I would love to see, Nicholas.”



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I AM THE SUN: II


by Sean Manseau


He climbed the steps to the two-story cabin, stamped the snow off his boots on the welcome mat, and then paused before the porch’s storm door. His reflection in the window gave him a little shiver, like a suddenly remembered bad dream.

Something was different about his slate blue and charcoal gray Trooper’s uniform. Somehow it made his shoulders broader, his hips more narrow. Shep rubbed the crease of his trousers between his thumb and forefinger. The material seemed softer, too, slicker. Shepherd suddenly remembered a moment from a few weeks before, Nicholas standing before Shep's open closet, looking at the duty uniforms hanging there.

“I bet I could make your suit bulletproof,” the boy had said.

Shepherd laughed it off, told him no offense, he'd stick with his Barrier Vest. But maybe the kid had gone ahead with some unauthorized alterations. Out in the shed, where he kept his workshop. Thinking of the shed gave Shep another little bad dream jolt. When was the last time he’d been out there to see what Nicholas was up to?

The boy’s projects had started small. He had found Shep’s Time/Life how-to guides and begun fixing things around the house, rewiring outlets and resurrecting a broken radio. He asked for books, and soon June, the town librarian, was bringing him three or four a day. Electrical Engineering: Principles and Applications. Topics in Modern Cosmology. Human Molecular Genetics, Problems and Sets. A biography of a man named Tesla. A very strange book called The Philadelphia Experiment and the Ontological Implications of Time Travel.

Then Nicholas had rewired their TV so Shep could watch the second rematch between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. This was back at the beginning of October; he’d called Shepherd out of the tub, dragged him into the living room. “Thrilla in Manila,” the boy had said to the TV, as if he were a spy expecting a countersign, and the screen had flickered to life, Ali in the ring, shuffling and shadowboxing. It shouldn’t have been possible, because that fight was only broadcast on cable, and cable hadn’t come to Ruidoso yet, but there it was. A little scary, if you stopped to think about it.

Why was this the first time he’d stopped to think about it?

Shepherd turned the doorknob and pushed his way into the living room, an airy lodge-space with stairs up to the bedrooms and his study. In front of the fireplace, where a fire burned against the November chill, a leather sofa and loveseat faced each other across a rosewood coffee table, and a gangling, pimple-faced young man in baggy black coveralls was standing on their sofa cushions to wave a silver wand over the collection of Old West daguerreotypes hung along the pine board walls. He was noisily jawing a wad of pink gum while studying the readout of a little black box cradled in his huge hand.

Another worker in coveralls, a young woman with bright pink hair shaved, incredibly, into a tall stripe, like a Mohawk brave, was intently examining June’s antique player piano with a similar device. A hearing aid studded with blinking green lights was wedged in her ear, and she tapped it and murmured something.

Shepherd had just opened his mouth to say, What the hell do you all think you’re doing? when the two workers noticed him standing in the doorway. The girl froze. The kid didn’t put his gadgets down, but his eyes widened and he chewed even faster. “Hey Cosmo,” he called, “Lyleuh, Trooper Shepherd just showed up.”

In the dining room, past the upright piano and the Christmas tree, June, in a pair of Shep’s old jeans and untucked shirt, her honey blond hair spilling from under a red bandanna, stood with a very tall, stovepipe thin black man, also in black coveralls. She was frowning at a wallet open in her hand.

At the gangling boy’s alert she and the tall man spotted Shepherd at the same moment. She looked relieved. The stranger seemed to blanch with fear for an instant, before recovering an expression of calm regard.

The workers could wait. Skinny over there with June was obviously their supervisor. Shepherd reached them in three long steps. “Hey sweetheart,” he said, giving June a one-armed hug and kissing her hair, but not taking his eyes off the man, to whom he said, “You mind explaining who you are and what you’re doing here?”

“Lyle,” June began, “these people just came barging in

“My name is Dr. Cosmo Price, Trooper Shepherd,” the tall man said. “Lincoln County Youth Services. Your wife holds my identification. I trust it will prove adequate?”

Shep took the billfold from her, examined the photo. Price had close-cropped graying hair, and outlandish, Civil War-era whiskers that bracketed his gaunt cheeks like hedges. But despite that hippyish affectation, he was an official of the State of New Mexico. Shepherd’s gut tightened. Once the government got involved, unless you were willing to hole up in the mountains with a rifle, there was usually only one outcome. “The ID’s fine,” Shepherd said, handing it back. “Now let’s see your search warrant.”

Price cleared his throat as he pocketed his wallet. Underneath the coveralls he was wearing a black suit and an oddly old-fashioned tie, a cravat. “This isn’t a criminal investigation, Trooper Shepherd. The CYFD had a report of an undocumented juvenile living at this residence. By law we’re obligated to investigate.”

Shepherd and June exchanged a look. They had a story prepared, but telling it to a state official... He said, “You’re talking about Nicky? Nicholas is my godson. My sister and her husband were killed earlier this year in a fire.”

“Such a terrible shame,” Price said. “Obviously this is simply a bureaucratic snafu. Easily cleared up! May I make a copy of his birth certificate for our records?”

“The house was gutted. Nicholas’s birth certificate was destroyed. His social security card too. We’re waiting for replacements.” There were certain advantages to being a member of law enforcement. Thanks to the arrest, for possession of marijuana, of the teenage son of a certain local public official, Shepherd expected to have a completely official birth certificate for Nicholas within a couple of weeks. “When we receive them, I’ll be happy to drop off copies at your office.”

“I see, I see,” Price said. “Trooper Shepherd, by law, undocumented minors are wards of the state and must be remanded to the Department of Youth Services. However my position does afford me a certain amount of latitude in my decisions. No one wants to remove a child from a safe environment. If we find the child has been well-cared for, we see no reason why he couldn’t remain here while the necessary paperwork is filed. Where is the boy now?”

“He’s upstairs,” June said.

“May we speak with him, please?”

“I’d rather you not,” Shepherd cut in. He’d never gone over the cover story with the boy, hadn’t wanted to give him the idea it was okay to lie to those in authority. But it was more than that. This man made his cop sense jangle. He seemed just a little too eager. “I don’t want you to scare him. He’s been through enough. In fact, it’s better if you go.”



Monday, November 19, 2012

I AM THE SUN: I


by Sean Manseau



Cry 'Havoc!' and let slip the dogs of war! - Julius Caesar Act 3, scene 1




A quarter mile of steep dirt road ran from Highway 9 up to Shepherd’s cabin, and he took it slow, enjoying the crunch of fresh snow under his pursuit car’s tires and the sharp tang of pine wafting through his open window. To the right, occasional breaks in the forest framed the soaring Sacramento Mountains. Shepherd was thinking he could take Nicholas up to Sierra Blanca next weekend. Teach the kid to ski. That’d be a good timefamily time.

Family...six months ago family seemed a gift fate had denied Shep and his wife June. The boy’s arrival had changed that. He’d brought a whole new kind of happiness into their lives, and for that they owed him. Shepherd was looking forward to making good on that debt.

This pleasant reverie lasted until Shep rounded the corner at the top of the driveway and found two unfamiliar vehicles parked next to his wife’s beat-up orange Bronco. A ’74 Country Squire station wagon, tan with wood trim, and a Ford Econoline cargo van, enamel blue. Both with government plates. CYFD stenciled on the side of the van. CYFD was Lincoln County’s Children, Youth, and Families Department.

“Well fuck me,” Shepherd muttered. He killed the ignition and sat there listening to the tick-tick-tick of the cooling V8 engine, squeezing and releasing the steering wheel rhythmically, telling himself to relax. He and June had known this moment would come. Maybe it had caught them before their preparations were complete, but that was no reason to panic.

“Because they aren’t taking him,” he told his reflection in the rear view mirror.

“Alright? They just aren’t.” He shoulder butted the door open, climbed out of the car, put on his uniform’s Stratton hat.

Shepherd had been doing better than eighty when he spotted the boy walking along Rt. 54 in northwestern New Mexico. By the time he’d decided he wasn’t just seeing things, he’d already gone a quarter-mile past.

Late May, gold poppies blooming, temperatures already breaking 100 degrees almost every afternoon. A kid on his own in the middle of the desert. Shepherd, six feet three inches of State Trooper in jackboots and jodhpurs, got out of the car to wait for him. The boy just scuffling along, his red denim overalls gone gray at the cuffs. His blond hair was plastered dark at the temples, and his face was pale, with patches of hectic color in his cheeks.  Maybe on the verge of heat prostration. But as he stopped about six feet away, he didn’t look scared, or even relieved. Expectant, maybe.

“Bit of a hike from here to Carrizozo,” Shepherd said, taking off his mirrored aviators and giving the kid what he hoped was a reassuring smile. In fact, it was almost twenty-five miles to Carrizozo, and a good twenty miles back the other way to Tularosa. To the west stood the barbed wire fences of the White Sands Missile Range. To the east there was nothing but sand and scrub brush for days. “What’s your name, son?”

“Nicholas,” the boy said.

“Well, Nick, you want to tell me how you got way out here on your own?”

The boy shrugged. “They dropped me off.”

“Who did, your parents?” That there were people who had kids and didn’t give two tin shits about them made Shepherd want to hawk up and spit in the dust.

“You know what kind of car they drive?”

The boy shook his head.

“You eaten today?”

Again no.

For the moment, Shepherd decided to let it go. He sighed and went around to open the cruiser’s passenger door. “Well, climb in. I might have something left from my lunch.”

Except he didn’t. All he had were the crusts from his sandwich and a thermos of watery ice coffee. Not the kind of thing to offer a what, a ten year-old? A good-looking kid, but skinny. Shepherd decided to make sure the boy had at least one good meal in his belly before he was abandoned to the horror of New Mexico’s foster care system. June’d be happy to set an extra place at the dining room table.

Right now he ought to offer the kid something, though. Take his mind off things. Shepherd sat in the driver’s seat, considering, then reached past the boy to pop open the glovebox and pull out his secret stash. “You like comic books?”

He handed the boy issue #39 of Captain Marvel, ‘Ba’al Shar and the Gate of Infinite Tomorrows’. Shep also had The Fantastic Four, Namor the Sub-mariner, and Jonah Hex. He’d loved comics since he was a kid. Brought a stack with him to Vietnam, where they’d helped keep him sane. He hadn’t seen any reason to stop reading them now that he was a Trooper.

On the drive Nicholas had pored over the Captain Marvel book. He kept it rolled in one fist while he ate, went to sleep on the living room couch with it under his cheek.

June fell in love with the child at first sight. After dinner she joined Shepherd on the porch swing, a sweating glass of lemonade in each hand. At this altitude the desert evenings were usually cool, but tonight the air was almost sultry. Meteors were dropping behind the Sacramentos like white hot sparks.

“Poor thing, he just looks so exhausted,” she said, handing Shep his drink. “Lyle…do you have to take him to Las Cruces tonight?” Las Cruces was where the CYFD kept wards of the state. “Can’t we let him sleep here?”

Shepherd frowned. “We do that, I’ll be in for an ass-chewing. Sgt. Newkirk is hell on procedure, you know that.” But when she tipped her face away to hide her disappointment he put a finger under her chin to draw her back. “Hey, I don’t mind. Newkirk’s bark is worse than his bite.”

“My hero,” she grinned, and kissed him.

As Shepherd sat with his arm around his wife and watched Sierra Blanca’s snowline burn orange and pink in the sun’s last light, he thought, That kid needs a family. And immediately after: Why not us? Both of them well north of thirty, married for nine years next April. There had been too many mornings when he pretended he hadn’t heard June crying in the bathroom over the onset of her period, him lying in bed, wondering if it was his fault. Maybe it wasn’t the usual way, but if the Lord sent them a child to care for, who were they to question His wisdom?

When Shepherd left for work the next day, Nicholas was still asleep in the guest bedroom. At the State Police barracks, Shepherd had checked the teletype: no missing persons report had been filed for a boy answering Nicholas’s description. He kept checking, every day for a month, and then it just sort of fell by the wayside. Now somehow it was six months later, and Shepherd was thinking he might be in some deep shit.



Wednesday, October 31, 2012

LATE FREEZINE'S GREETINGS




Season's greetings this Halloween from the Freezine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  We hope you have enjoyed our special late October Halloween Surprise Story, WYRM'S BLOOD, by Adam Bolivar, the fifth (count 'em) Weird Jack Tale serialized in our ragtag literary cybership.   

The nanofleet's transmissions have been weakening during the past several months, yet we have been able to decipher the general message.  They intend our motley collection of assorted tales and pictograms here to accrue naturally as time and circumstance permit.  With the continued assistance of dear readers and followers like you, more interest is generated and thus more manuscripts are digitally delivered for our editing team to read through and process, accordingly.  

This is a fanzine continually going through small changes and modifications and gradually evolving into a more user-friendly format by which stories and their corresponding artwork may be optimally enjoyed in the 21st century milieu of modalities.  Be it via your eReader or smart phone, Kindle, laptop, iPad, or nano device, the FREEZINE will be around as a creative writer's friendly assistant in gaining exposure and experience in the field of electronic publishing.   

With a total of fifteen issues, twenty authors, and over forty stories now archived for your perusal and reading pleasure, the FREEZINE of Fantasy and Science Fiction continues to strive for excellence in the fields of genre writing and its corresponding art.  Those new to the Freezine may want to check out our sister site, the FREE ZINE ZONE for a full archive of the art featured in this webzine's collected stories.  

Thanks to all the artists and writers who have contributed to the Freezine over the course of the past three years.  It goes without saying this enterprise would never have lifted off the ground (much less achieved orbit) without your gracious and generous contributions and assistance.  Feel free to email me, Shaun Lawton, Editor in Chief, at freezinefantasysciencefiction@gmail.com to query about a story submission you would like to see appear here in a future issue.  For longer stories,  a daily serial may be presented; for shorter tales, we may publish them as stand alone stories on any given day of the month.  




A great amount of thanks and goodwill goes out to our returning veteran author Adam Bolivar, whose fifth Weird Jack Tale we just enjoyed over the past three days of SamhainWYRM'S BLOOD—marks the seventh story of his that he's dared to brave against the imposing facade of the grazing hordes out there.  Our small legion of purveyors are still browsing away, presumably; although I fear about eighteen of our followers abandoned ship (so to speak) during the interminable period since our last issue, back in April.   Please remain registered here to follow our posts, however sporadic they may eventually be.  My assurance remains, it will be entirely worthwhile (if reading free meta fiction from beyond the fringe is your idea of a valuable way to spend your time).  

Much appreciation and thanks go out to Jesse Stevens this brilliant autumnal season, for his contributions with his pastel exercises with brushstrokes and his illustration above, which beckons all of us silently to never give up on the FREEZINE, even during those long boring frozen weeks where it seems as if there will never be another story to brighten our otherwise mundane days.  Have no fear, for this webzine is here to stay another hundred years if the nanoeditors have anything to say about it.  
And believe me, they do.  



Archive of Stories
and Authors

Sanford Meschkow's
INEVITABLE

Sanford Meschkow is a retired former
NYer who married a Philly suburban
Main Line girl. Sanford has been pub-
lished in a 1970s issue of AMAZING.
We welcome him here on the FREE-
ZINE of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking's
THE RECIDIVIST



Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking's
THE MEMORY SECTOR

Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking currently
resides in the high desert of Phoenix,
Arizona where he enjoys campy horror
movies within the comfort of an Insane
Asylum. Search for his science fiction
stories at The Intestinal Fortitude in
the Flesheater's World section.
The Memory Sector is his first
appearance in the Freezine of
Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Owen R. Powell's
NOETIC VACATIONS

Little is known of the mysterious
Owen R. Powell (oftentimes referred
to as Orp online). That is because he
usually keeps moving. The story
Noetic Vacations marks his first
appearance in the Freezine.

Edward Morris's
MERCY STREET

Edward Morris is a 2011 nominee for
the Pushcart Prize in literature, has
also been nominated for the 2009
Rhysling Award and the 2005 British
Science Fiction Association Award.
His short stories have been published
over a hundred and twenty times in
four languages, most recently at
PerhihelionSF, the Red Penny Papers'
SUPERPOW! anthology, and The
Magazine of Bizarro Fiction. He lives
and works in Portland as a writer,
editor, spoken word MC and bouncer,
and is also a regular guest author at
the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival.

Gene Stewart
(writing as Art Wester)
GROUND PORK


Gene Stewart's
CRYPTID'S LAIR

Gene Stewart is a writer and artist.
He currently lives in the Midwest
American Wilderness where he is
researching tales of mystical realism,
writing ficta mystica, and exploring
the dark by casting a little light into
the shadows. Follow this link to his
website where there are many samples
of his writing and much else; come
explore.

Adam Bolivar's
SERVITORS OF THE
OUTER DARKNESS


Adam Bolivar's
THE DEVIL & SIR
FRANCIS DRAKE



Adam Bolivar's
THE TIME-EATER


Adam Bolivar is an expatriate Bostonian
who has lived in New Orleans and Berkeley,
and currently resides in Portland, Oregon
with his beloved wife and fluffy gray cat
Dahlia. Adam wears round, antique glasses
and has a fondness for hats. His greatest
inspirations include H.P. Lovecraft,
Jack tales and coffee.


David Agranoff's
A PLANET OF YOUR OWN


David Agranoff's
THE FALLEN GUARDIAN'S MANDATE


David Agranoff is the author of the
short story collection Screams From
A Dying World, just published by
Afterbirth Books. David is a hardcore
vegan and tireless environmentalist.
His contributions to the punk horror
scene and the planet in general have
already established him as a bright
new writer and activist to watch out
for. The Freezine of Fantasy and
Science Fiction welcomes him and
his defiant vision open-heartedly.

David is a busy man, usually at work
on several different novels or projects
at once. He is sure to leave his mark on
a world teetering over the edge of
ecological imbalance. David's latest
books include the Wuxia -Pan
(martial arts fantasy) horror
novel called Hunting The Moon Tribe,
already out from Afterbirth Books.;
The Vegan Revolution...with Zombies,
[Deadite Press, 2010]; and
[Deadite Press, 2014]

Daniel José Older's
GRAVEYARD WALTZ


Daniel José Older's
THE COLLECTOR

Daniel José Older's spiritually driven,
urban storytelling takes root at the
crossroads of myth and history.
With sardonic, uplifting and often
hilarious prose, Older draws from
his work as an overnight 911 paramedic,
a teaching artist & an antiracist/antisexist
organizer to weave fast-moving, emotionally
engaging plots that speak whispers and
shouts about power and privilege in
modern day New York City. His work
has appeared in the Freezine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction, The ShadowCast
Audio Anthology, The Tide Pool, and
the collection Sunshine/Noir, and is
featured in Sheree Renee Thomas'
Black Pot Mojo Reading Series in Harlem.
When he's not writing, teaching or
riding around in an ambulance,
Daniel can be found performing with
his Brooklyn-based soul quartet
Ghost Star. His blog about the
ridiculous and disturbing world
of EMS can be found here.


Johnny Strike's
AS YOU WISH



Johnny Strike's
NIGHT FLAMERS



Johnny Strike's
THE HOMELESS MUTANTS



Johnny Strike will beat you with his guitar
and leave you lying in the gutter wishing you
had never dared enter his under ground world
of fake passports, lucky amulets, rain soaked
hotels, and occult mystique. If you don't leave
nice comments under his story, he's sure to sic
his band CRIME on you. He also wrote the novel
Ports Of Hell (Headpress), recommended by
William S. Burroughs. You don't receive kudos
from William Lee himself unless you are the
epitome of cool. Besides, have you listened to
CRIME's album Exalted Masters? It was
released in 2007 on the Crime Music label,
on vinyl only, featuring a slew of their old
rare hits. Its real punk music from seasoned
veterans. Now go track yourself down a copy
before its out of print. The Freezine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction is proud to host the story
that contains the line which titles his first
From Above (Rudos and Rubes).


Paul Stuart's
SEA?TV!


Paul Stuart is the author of numerous
biographical blurbs written in the third
person. His previously published fiction
appears in The Vault of Punk Horror and
His non-fiction financial pieces can be found
in a shiny, west-coast magazine that features
pictures of expensive homes, as well as images
of women in casual poses and their accessories.
Consider writing him at paul@twilightlane.com,
if you'd like some thing from his garage. In fall
2010, look for Grade 12 Trigonometry and
Pre-Calculus -With Zombies.


Rain Grave's
MAU BAST


Rain Graves is an award winning
author of horror, science fiction and
poetry. She is best known for the 2002
Poetry Collection, The Gossamer Eye
(along with Mark McLaughlin and
David Niall Wilson). Her most
recent book, Barfodder: Poetry
Written in Dark Bars and Questionable
Cafes, has been hailed by Publisher's
Weekly as "Bukowski meets Lovecraft..."
in January of 2009. She lives and
writes in San Francisco, performing
spoken word at events around the
country. 877-DRK-POEM -



Icy Sedgwick's
THE PORCELAIN WOMAN


Icy Sedgwick is part writer and part
trainee supervillain. She lives in the UK
but dreams of the Old West. Her current
works include a ghost story about a Cavalier
and a Western tale of retribution. Find her
ebooks, free weekly fiction and other
shenanigans at Icy’s Cabinet of Curiosities.


Blag Dahlia's
armed to the teeth
with LIPSTICK



BLAG DAHLIA is a Rock Legend.
Singer, Songwriter, producer &
founder of the notorious DWARVES.
He has written two novels, ‘NINA’ and
‘ARMED to the TEETH with LIPSTICK’.


G. Alden Davis's
THE FOLD


G. Alden Davis wrote his first short story
in high school, and received a creative
writing scholarship for the effort. Soon
afterward he discovered that words were
not enough, and left for art school. He was
awarded the Emeritus Fellowship along
with his BFA from Memphis College of Art
in '94, and entered the videogame industry
as a team leader and 3D artist. He has over
25 published games to his credit. Mr. Davis
is a Burningman participant of 14 years,
and he swings a mean sword in the SCA.


Shae Sveniker's
A NEW METAPHYSICAL STUDY
REGARDING THE BEHAVIOR
OF PLANT LIFE


Shae is a poet/artist/student and former
resident of the Salt Pit, UT, currently living
in Simi Valley, CA. His short stories are on
Blogger and his poetry is hosted on Livejournal.



Nigel Strange's
PLASTIC CHILDREN


Nigel Strange lives with his wife and
daughter, cats, and tiny dog-like thing
in their home in California where he
occasionally experiments recreationally
with lucidity. PLASTIC CHILDREN
is his first publication.


J.R. Torina's
THE HOUSE IN THE PORT


J.R. Torina was DJ for Sonic Slaughter-
house ('90-'97), runs Sutekh Productions
(an industrial-ambient music label) and
Slaughterhouse Records (metal record
label), and was proprietor of The Abyss
(a metal-gothic-industrial c.d. shop in
SLC, now closed). He is the dark force
behind Scapegoat (an ambient-tribal-
noise-experimental unit). THE HOUSE
IN THE PORT is his first publication.


K.B. Updike, Jr's
THE GOLDEN THIRD EYE


K.B. Updike, Jr. is a young virgin
Virginia writer. KB's life work,
published 100% for free:
(We are not certain if K.B. Updike, Jr.
has lost his Virginian virginity yet.)