Editor Picks, General Fiction, Short Fiction

Week 376: The Eldritch Horror, The Week That Still Is and a Saturday Special

The Eldritch Horror

I’m an insomniac. I do not claim to “suffer” from it because it is a consequence of my ridiculous daily intake of cigarettes and coffee. I suppose I could drink myself unconscious every night, but that will have to wait until retirement.

I often lie awake and watch beautiful fancies flee my mind–up to heaven they go, without me. Yet my ugly chimeras are made of fulsome stuff. They linger like the afterdream of boiled cabbage in a poorly ventilated room; and I eventually find myself examining the left behind junk for something to think about other than that jug of Crown Royal in the pantry.

One particular serial ugliness I experience when wakeful features an archaic word or saying popping into my head and repeating itself over and over to meaninglessness. And something that is a part of me and yet at the same time against me says that the word will not stop until I say it aloud. It’s an especially hard knock life if you take shit from yourself; so I hold out as long as possible.

Tonight I type this after one hour of sleep stretched over six due to my refusal to say “eldritch” out loud. Here, a diplomatic person would write something like this: “As you well know, eldritch…” but I am not a politician. I won’t pretend that you are less ignorant of the definition of eldritch than I was when I first saw it. Still, in the spirit of you never know, I excuse readers who are already all they ought to be when the subject is eldritch from reading the next sentence. For the rest of us it means creepy–like a couple of those know-alls who skipped this sentence.

Despite it all, not everything in my life is eldritch. There are people who comment on the works of other writers, and wonderful writers who acknowledge the comments. There are also submitters who bother to read the guidelines, which is a good thing considering what happens to submissions that are the obvious result of not consulting or blatantly disregarding the guidelines.

Once upon a time I was a scoff-guideliner. Word limit? File type? Considerate email? Bah! Them is for chumps, suckers. Then I became a humble editor and quietly attended scoff-guideliner rehab. Although I was the only one at the meeting, I stood and bravely proclaimed “Hi, I’m Leila. I used to have ‘guidelines/schmidelines’ tattooed to my black little heart. Then I saw what it was like to be on the receiving end of a stupid submission email that has no subject, no name, no word count–just an attachment. It made me all eldritch inside. It made me wonder why someone would behave as though he/she needs to hear ‘Be sure to wash your hands after using the toilet.’”

Now I am fully aware that the people who need to read the previous paragraph aren’t here. No phony diplomacy this time, because I always see familiar names in the comments section; and these are people who know the basics. But at least I can thank those who get it right. These are the writers who understand that you must do everything you can to give your project the best chance for success. There might be genius on the attachment to a blank verse email–but more likely there might be a virus attempting to Trojan Horse its way onto a site. But at LS it doesn’t matter. Stuff that arrives like that is immediately rejected, without hesitation. So, thanks again to those who know better.

And now onto a pair of star attractions:

Another Week That Still Is

This week saw the site debut of three authors, a second from another and yet another fine addition by our most successful writer–who is already pushing the site record for most acceptances in a year.

Newcomer David Newkirk greatly improved Blue Monday with The Tommy Box. A lot of remember when tales omit or at least gloss over the downside of the past. David showed the courage to tell it like it was and let the reader make up his or her mind. As it goes with all human things, no one is either all good or bad–just human; sometimes a bit better, often a little less.

In fact, though they possess different voices, David and Tom Sheehan understand that the best way to speak of the “When” is clearly and honestly. On Tuesday, Tom gave us another beautiful bit of lyric prose with The Edge of Dreams. His works are amazing, but even more so when you learn that Tom is in his mid-nineties and hasn’t slowed down a bit. In fact, he is so active that he’s the writer still crushing site records as well as the author of a Saturday Special that will cap this post with something a bit more elevated than what I normally present.

TL Tomljanovic had her second story published on the site Wednesday, Black Coffee. Tatiana is a writer able to balance cynicism and hope; she knows what she sees but her cynicism is a healthy one that hints neither at anger nor bitterness. I goofed when Tatiana made her first appearance with Black and White Christmas. I said it was her second but it was her first. I encourage anyone who missed it to check it out.

Rick Danforth’s wonderfully imaginative Echoing Hooves sounded on Thursday. This is a beautiful example of an author trusting the reader to figure a complicated situation out via clean prose. It is a satisfying new take on a very old idea. And it proves that there’s gold still to be found in oft-explored caves.

John J. Dillon made his site debut on Friday with his ironically titled Passing On. This is a taut and gripping tale that has great pace. I’d also like to publicly commend John for working with us to resolve a few previous issues we had with the original copy. He did a bang up job on the edits and the results tell.

And this really is a “Week that still is.” And for our closing number, I’d like to present our dear friend Tom Sheehan. This piece is an oddity that isn’t easy to place–is it science fiction? A metaphor? Perhaps even an allegory. I guess that really depends on the reader. Regardless, with Tom reading him is like listening to music–one needn’t know how to play the oboe to enjoy it.

Leila

You Have Had All Our Dreams By Tom Sheehan

(And you’re not afraid of us, we of ‘out there.’)

The midnight silence was broken by a sliver of sound, a thin, spiral of connection, a mere slip of intelligence coming from beyond the very heavens, but not God-like in essence, yet it was delivered atop my sleep., my room undisturbed otherwise, not a wrinkle to prove an existence, an entry, the track of a visitor, in a manner of speaking now at hand.

It simply said, “You’ve had all our dreams (and you’re not afraid of us, we

of ‘out there.’”) It did not say “Out here,” which was significant to me, making it sound so very local, that it could have been sitting on the edge of my bed.

Then, as if a wand had been waved, a figure appeared before me, a metallic figure, a structural figure, that moved its joints as it sat there beside me, a domino head-like top, joints of apparent metallic substance or substances, as here was a different glow to different parts of the figure. Blue-ish green at its extremities, goldish at the head if it could be called a head, the topmost part of ‘it.’ Coppery in certain joints, as though explanations were being treated beforehand..

I was not frightened because I had remembered some of the dreams just mentioned, my intercourse with another intelligence from another world, if it is a world, or a place with some new-to-me description.

I simply said, “I remember the dreams I had, but I was between here and ‘there’, as you say, ‘out there.” I desperately wanted to know where ‘it’ was, if it had a name, how far away it was, how old it was, all the spaces filled in, all the blanks hat were not blanks.

A metallic hand joined a second hand, of a sort, at sort of knee cap, setting the aura at a most natural custom.

It all burst from me in a rush, taking much of my breath with it: “What is your name? What do I call you? What are you? Where do you come from?”

Mr. Metal said, I am Vic9, expedition leader as you might call me, for we have studied all of you that ever were here, in this place, this Earth, for more than fourteen million years in our time.”

“Are we that old?” I asked, “fourteen million years?”

“Oh, we can argue that point, our time, your time, time that began in the first place, beyond it all, but known and counted by The Mighty One.”

I had to interrupt: “Do you have a Mighty One too?”

It had a laugh as it said, “It is the only one we all share, beneficent, granter of life, starter, ignitor, depending on where and when He began you.”

I had to ask: “Does He look like you or me?”

“Oh, if you can understand it, He is like a veil we see but not inside the veil. No thing other than Him shares it, is it. When I was in free-flight all the time, He gave me legs and joints to walk with in my explorations, so I could bend to examine a flower, stall in place for hours on my knees if necessary, see an advantage creature so small that Time slips off its backside, what moves around it, around them, is never noticed, the edges of a mud turtle, to speak of it plainly, slow, solvent, durable, and old as man, such as you, in its place, a low spot on this Earth, how it is favored there, where nothing happens, never happened except Time slips off its back like it never began, almost, for them, the mud-bathers, glory creatures.”

I could tell he wanted to dwell on little things for the moment, like a rest after a long ride through space and all the other planets calling for attention, and the mud-turtle in place in each one of them, so common they were carriers of tales and thermals no matter where encountered, like pages of a book of enduring legends across the very thin line that knots us at the present moment.

“Tribute to the lowly,” I asserted, “a place for everything and everything in its place, as you spell it out, you from that far place without a step or a flight missed on the way, how long have you been ’borne’, if I can use that word?”

Vic9, without delay, without movement, no lips to move, no mouth to toss words, but alerted me with his response, said, “Since my appointment to come and talk over matters with one of you humans who is not afraid of us who, as you say, loiter in space, and probably since the beginning of Time, as I have tried to explain to you, is a mere moment of understanding, myself, Vic9, and you, Bryan Trottingbull III, of here.” His thin, metallic arms waved in measurement of everything everywhere on Earth.

Even then, I was trying to study every part of him, the domino head, the junk-box arms and legs (Hmmph, for flower-smelling) and none of those parts for measuring the tonnage of a dynamo in its final flight, knowing the burst of it beforehand all the way, all the time (with a small T) like saying ‘War is a known Hell.’”

That topic had not been approached and was best left aside just thinking of what he could bring-to-hand if a few harsh words grew out of contemporary thought, which is history at its worst behavior time and time again, as the professors say in continuity.

Then, from a crouch, all his metallic parts in sudden extension, and he was 70 feet tall, heroic, for sure, before any combat ever began; 70 feet of ever, if you can imagine it, standing opposite you, arms and alms at the ready and the choice.

Vic9 said, “Don’t waste any time in brewing up such thoughts of comparison, for the end of all things would be but a shake of your head, and understanding gone apace.

He was gone, like the junk wagon had driven off, but in flight.

Tom Sheehan

6 thoughts on “Week 376: The Eldritch Horror, The Week That Still Is and a Saturday Special”

  1. Excellent post Leila and something that we have said often.
    I try and look at it in a positive way, (That will be a first!!) I just think that all the discourteous submissions make the courteous ones all the more pleasurable!!
    And we can state with our hands on our hearts that when someone takes the time to submit in the way that we ask, we are all rooting for them!

    Tom, it is an absolute pleasure to see this on the site.
    I’ve mentioned on many a weekly posting that your quantity of quality is something that I am in awe of.
    I know that I could never come close to your numbers in three lifetimes, never mind one!!

    All the very best my fine friends.
    Hugh

    Like

    1. Thank you, Hugh.

      As you well know there is nothing more suspicious than a “ticking” blank email.

      And thank you, Tom. I never tire of praising you though I must repeat myself due to the fact I only know so many heartfelt good words.
      Leila

      Like

  2. Good post and a clever and entertaining way of emphasizing the importance of following the guidelines. Another enjoyable piece by TS. Is it a dream, metaphor or scifi? Yes. And we’ll-done as always.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I be a frequent commenter. I have debated Shunn which I have come to shun (they played into my hands with that one, what fun). After failing with a very few Shunn subs, I quit cold turkey. Why should I tell the reader on every page what said reader is reading? If the reader is that (choose your very rude adjective) that pronoun can’t remember or go back to page one, I don’t want to bother. I would make exceptions if 1.I was guaranteed a best selling story and blockbuster movie deal, or 2.Word introduces Shunn-o-matic which converts my format to Shunn with minimal labor on my part. Please never decide you must be Shunned.

    I’m guilty of getting format and subject matter wrong frequently, not through evil intent, but because as editor Sharon would tell you my powers of observation are minimal or none.

    Two spaces or one at the end of a sentence. Does the reader care?

    Favorite word – penultimate. Took me years to remember what it means, and am troubled by the prefix means chief or something like that. How does penultimate make sense then?

    Another project years in the making was farther vs. further. Now that I know what they mean i”m troubled when someone talks of going further down the road.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Doug–

      The students of the world continue to do battle with which/that, who/whom, headed/heading, and lay/lie. The case of further v. farther mystifies me because there is only one thing to remember.
      Keep rocking in the infinite fiefdom..
      Leila

      Like

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