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Friday, December 29

F.E.B.

"F.E.B."
Short fiction - Sci-Fi
By Ed Lynskey

“Space aliens can commingle with the populace. They might be the barber who cuts your hair. They might be the preacher who leads your Sunday worship. They might be the mechanic who does your brake job . . .”

A thumbnail scratching my eyebrow, I flipped the booklet over. Generic beige, it was titled “CITIZENS HANDBOOK NO. 13-A.” Quaint, I thought. The 1956 copyright cited its publisher, Federal Extraterrestrial Bureau. Or F.E.B.

My mind took flight. Buried deep in the government's bureaucracy, the lean, mean organization called F.E.B. (a precursor to S.E.T.I.?) had pursued its charter. 1956 was the year the U.F.O. hysteria climaxed . . .

“What's that?” Dickey nodded to indicate the booklet in my hands.

“It covers the personality traits an alien might exhibit,” I replied.

“No kidding.” Distracted, Dickey dropped the manila folders. They clomped to the attic floor. Gray dust stirred. “Like what, for instance?”

My shrug showed disinterest. "How aliens dress, talk, and act. Stuff like that.”

That response drew a dry chuckle from Dickey. “My Uncle Felix, what a sense of humor.”

“Some government outfit called F.E.B. put it out,” I said.

Dickey gaped at me. Arrow straight, he stayed a bundle of nerves and boundless energy. "Uncle Felix had a government job. What I never knew precisely. A paper shuffler was my impression. But he was smart as a cactus.”

“It could be Uncle Felix was a key cog in this F.E.B. wheel,” I said.

Blade-thin to my roly-poly, Dickey moved around a ladder-back chair holding more cardboard boxes. “JUNK” had been scrawled across them. Tired and sore, I’d concur. “We haven’t made a dent in this mess,” he said.

“May I make a suggestion? Let’s haul down it down into the yard. Do our sorting down there.”

A new optimism brightened Dickey’s scowl. “Good idea. The F.E.B.? I wonder if they still exist.”

I retrieved a brass floor lamp, no shade. “Maybe this was Uncle Felix’s home project. Something to laugh away the hours.”

“Now, don’t go ragging on Uncle Felix,” said Dickey. “Excitable, yes. Rash, yes. Brilliant,
definitely. Crazy? I never thought so.”

“You were a loyal nephew.” With extra care, I propped the brass floor lamp, possibly an antique, against a
chest of drawers of the same vintage. “Somebody went to a lot of trouble to write this booklet, probably for distribution.”

Dickey sighed. “Do you watch those fifties sci-fi flicks? Campy, sure. But I love ‘em.”

“Yeah then Star Wars came along and killed off the pulpy stuff,” I said. “I own every issue of Weird Tales except two. One had a Robert Bloch tale. The other published Manly Wade Wellman and Ted Sturgeon.”

“But this booklet is freaking me out,” said Dickey. “I mean Uncle Sam issues a handbook to identify space aliens among us. Was it a freebie?”

I looked. “Must’ve been. No price is listed on the covers. Who’d order such a publication?”

“Oh near everybody was paranoid back then,” said Dickey. “Duck and cover. Fallout shelters on every street corner. What ever happened to them?”

“Beats me,” I said.

“I need to take five.” Grunting, Dickey copped a squat on a steamer chest. “Lay a few signs on me. What do I look for in a suspected Martian? I already know about their green skin.”

“Well . . . aliens, according to this, like meerschaum,” I said.

Again, Dickey chuckled. “Martians like to smoke pipes?”

“No,” I replied. “They like to eat meerschaum. Ingest it as nourishment.”

“Nonsense,” said Dickey. “Uncle Felix did up that booklet as a practical joke.”

“Did he ever marry? Kids?” I asked.

Dickey wagged his head. “Uncle Felix remained the family’s confirmed bachelor.”

“What did the old boy do for fun?” I asked gazing around at the shabby debris. “Besides playing a pack rat and a practical joker?”

“I don’t know,” replied Dickey. “Uncle Felix was a jolly elf. Always laughing. He loved telling
‘knock-knock’ jokes. I can still smell the aromatic tobacco on his clothes. Cherry swisher.”

“Sure,” I said. “So, Uncle Felix was a big pipe smoker.”

“Was he ever,” replied Dickey. “Uncle Felix could put a smokestack to shame.”

“Maybe we’ll run across his collection of pipes,” I said.

“Doubtful. As I recall it Uncle Felix forever lost his smoking paraphernalia,” said Dickey.

“So he was absent-minded, too.” I fished two objects out of my brown paper bag. “Candy bar?”

“No, I’ll pass for now . . . is that a crunchy peppermint filler?” asked Dickey.

My head shaking, I spoke between deliberate chews. “No. Meerschaum.”

To his credit, Dickey cobbled it together fast. “No-no. It can’t be.”

“It can and it’s time for you to learn. First, I refer you to page 14,” I said, brandishing CITIZENS HANDBOOK NO. 13-A at Dickey. “The heading reads: ‘Reincarnation Traits’.”

Ed Lynskey's crime fiction novels include THE DIRT-BROWN DERBY (Mundania Press, 2006), THE BLUE CHEER (Point Blank/Wildside Press), PELHAM FELL HERE (Mundania Press, 2007), and TROGLODYTES (Mundania Press, 2008). A science fiction novel, THE QUETZAL MOTEL (Mundania Press) is due out in 2007. His work has also appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

Sunday, December 24

Happy Holidays!




HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Friday, December 22

Butcher's Block

"Butcher’s Block"
Flash Fiction
by Mathew Danaher

Writers get writers’ block, so it is possible for butchers to get butchers’ block? I look at the shoulder of lamb in front of me and feel completely uninspired. Around me the cold pinks, whites, and reds hang from their hooks. They are choice cuts to say the least, and most of them will be gracing some of the finest dining tables and restaurant kitchens in the land. Today though they do nothing for me. I throw the hacksaw down on the pile and stomp off through the bucket of disinfectant and out into the yard. Here the strong winter sun warms my bloodstained white overalls and makes the little gobbets of sheep’s flesh start to smell, so I brush them off. The two polish lads from the agency are hosing the blood and shit off the yard with the karcher jet wash and the red puddles are slowly evaporating.

After the shift, having still failed to find inspiration in the meat, I go for a pint in the Horse’s Head with Trev the driver and shop steward. He’s a decent bloke, and he’s got me off disciplinaries a few times, quiet though until he starts banging on about "The Party" and how it will lead us to a new world if we only buy the paper and call for a general strike now! (Always with an explanation mark.)

“Yeah, alright, mate”, I say not really listening, “fancy another?”

Later with three pints of lager and a packet of crisps dissolving in my gut, I walk home through the high street pausing to check in the windows of the various employment agencies. Forklift drivers, van drivers, process workers, all wanted for six or seven pounds an hour. I want another job, hacking at the bodies of freshly slaughtered heifers, living among sheep that are about to be stunned and have their throats cut soon looses any appeal the slightly higher wages might have given it at first.

In the window of the job centre an advert catches my eye. "Prop builder and set designer required by Marvo the Magnificent, meets minimum wage requirements."

Time to put my GCSEs in art and design and technology to the test, I think, I could well imagine working for the illusionist.

Mathew Danaher is a London based writer.

FM Bulletin: Thanks Graham!

Thanks to Graham Powell for running the cool site that rounds up crime and mystery blogs, CrimeSpot.net! Today the owners of blogs listed on his site are giving a big thanks for all his hard work. :)

Monday, December 18

The Little Boy

"The Little Boy"
Short Fiction - Literary
by C.S. Nusbaum

The bag of marbles hit the floor with a crack that filled the hall with echoes. The little boy’s frightened face turned even whiter when the man took a step toward him. His eyes grew wide, and he tried to speak, but his words were incomprehensible.

The man wore a black coat, worn to a faded grey, hood up. His face was scraggly and unshaven, flecks of dark grey and white like snow over his chin. His eyes were a watery blue, deep yet empty. He took short, staggering breaths, and his smile was terrifying.

Yet, there was something in the man’s unmoving gaze on the little boy, something wishful, even longing. the man’s lips opened slightly, as if he were to say something.

The boy didn’t move. He felt afraid, but he couldn’t stop looking at the ragged man standing before him. the old man smiled encouragingly, and the boy, forgetting himself, smiled back. It was kind of nice, the small happiness that protruded from the man’s sudden appearance. something…special.

Footsteps echoed through the great hall, shoes of firm, womanly heels. the little boy twisted his head to look back, and saw his mother walked through the doorway. The little boy turned back to the man. His mother frowned disapprovingly and she put on her silk gloves.

“Robin,” she called grimly, “come back here."

The little boy tried to ignore her, not wanting to tear his eyes away from the man. The man grinned appreciatively.

“Robin?” the boy’s mother called, “Didn’t you hear me? We’re leaving now.”

The little boy gave a little, half-sigh. He tried to wave, but it came out half-heartedly. At last, he gave one last look at the man, then turned away to trudge back to his disapproving mother.

“What did I tell you about talking to them?” the mother asked frowning deeper. She sent a swift, piercing glance to the man still standing in the same place as before. “I don’t want you to do that, not ever.”

The little boy suddenly brightened. He tore himself from his mother’s side and ran back to the old man.

“Robin!”

The little boy kept running. when he reached the man, he bent down and picked up his bag on marbles. Slowly, carefully, he handed them to the man, who took them equally carefully in his right hand.

“Merry Christmas.” the little boy whispered. The he stood up and ran back to his mother, who grimaced at the scene in a stern manner. Their voices could be heard until they reached the parking lot.

“Robin, what did I tell you? No talking to that sort. It’s not good for a young boy like you.”

“But, Momma--”

“No buts. I don’t want you to ever do that again.”

The man listened to them quarrel until the voices died and silence recommenced. He tilted his head, one glistening tear dripping down his face and into his frayed cloak.

“Merry Christmas.”

Monday, December 11

Fallen Angel Blues

"Fallen Angel Blues"
Flash Fiction
by Rod Drake

Satan was sitting in an outdoor Italian cafĂ© in North Beach enjoying the warm breeze from San Francisco Bay. It was a shock to see him, looking as he did now. The horns were filed off, the goatee shaved, cloven hooves hidden in Reeboks, tail jammed into old man slacks and wearing a retro ‘50s bowling shirt. With spaghetti stains on it.

I knew him from the old days, back when I was a guardian angel. I left that job to work as a free-lance do-gooder.

He recognized me, nodded hello, so I sat down at his table. “Why are you doing here on earth, Satan,” I whispered.

“Call me Luce,” he replied, apparently going by a nickname for Lucifer. “I have no choice; hell is so overcrowded, you can’t swing a pitchfork or lash your tail without bumping into some damned soul. It’s a nightmare.”

“Looks like you’re winning the battle for souls,” I remarked.

“Yeah, lucky me. No bad deed goes unpunished. But that’s only part of it. I’ve got no job either.”

“What do you mean?”

“People in this world have gotten so greedy, so ruthless, so completely amoral that I don’t need to tempt anyone into giving me their souls; they do it all on their own, gladly, like direct deposit.” He shook his head. “I’ve got no home, no job, no purpose anymore.”

I almost felt sorry for him. “Perhaps this is the Almighty’s idea of retribution. You know, He is All-Knowing. And He enjoys irony.”

Luce shrugged. “Maybe. Anyway, I’m thinking of starting a whole new career. Something where my talents would be useful; you know, my gift of gab, knowing how to motivate, making secret deals, collecting favors.”

I was stumped. “What would that be?”

“Politics,” he smiled, and I saw the old glint back in his eye.

Rod Drake watched too much television growing up, which obviously warped his imagination. Check out Rod's other stories published in Flashing in the Gutters, Flashes of Speculation, Flash Flooding, Flash Forward, MicroHorror, Six Sentences and AcmeShorts.

Thursday, December 7

The Lawn Mower

“The Lawn Mower”
Short Fiction - Romance
By Stacie Penney

Silence hung between them as the roar of the lawn mower faded from their ears. She had watched him from the window for the last twenty minutes while he drove up and down the lawn. The lawnmower made tidy rows, but it was the operator that interested her.

"Thought you might be thirsty, seeing as you've been working so hard." She held a wooden tray with a pitcher of iced tea and glasses garnished with lemon. Shorts of an indecent length exposed tan legs that ran for three miles every day.

"Yes, ma'am, I am, but not as bad as when I use the push mower." He took one of the two tall glasses. The sun-brewed tea had been poured over full glasses of ice. It had just been pulled off the porch; he'd watched her bend down to get the gallon jug. The tea hadn't completely cooled from the ice, but that was how he liked it.

"I didn't remember seeing the tractor before. New, is it?"

He took a long drink, partly to quench his thirst, partly to prolong the conversation. "Yep, she's part of John Deere's LX Series. Fifty-four inch mower deck with three blades."

She ran her hand over the steering wheel. Her fingers curled around the black circle's edge. His thoughts wandered to what else those fingers might curl around. He looked up and realized the question she had asked had fallen on deaf ears.

"What was that, ma'am? I missed it."

Her lips curved up at one corner as if she knew his thoughts and why he had missed her question. "I asked how long you'd had it."

A moment fumbled between them before he realized what "it" referred to. "Only a couple weeks. This is the first big job I've had to use her on." He gestured to a realtor sign with "Sold" hanging from the bottom.

His eyes roved the brilliant green grass that could have been found on a golf course. Half of the 2.5-acre plot was striped from the mower's patterns. "Sure would be tough to mow this with a push mower."

"Refill?" She held up the pitcher. The ice clinked against the side and sweat dripped from the bottom.

"Don't mind if I do." He held his glass for her to refill, glad that she was interested in continuing their conversation.

"I really appreciate your hard work. It's nothing big, but I'm sure the heat gets to you. Riding on that tractor must take it right out of you."

"It's nothing. I'm glad to have it."

"Will you get much use out of it?" Her question was followed by a long drink from her own glass. He watched her take long swallows of the cool liquid. A bead of sweat ran from her forehead, down her cheek and into the collar of her shirt where it disappeared. Once again, he had forgotten the question she asked.

"Well," he said when he remembered. "It has about 20 different attachments that will make it real useful all year." He continued to list the attachments for her and explained how they were useful for large yards, such as this country home had.

Her hand moved from the wheel of the tractor to the back of his seat as she leaned in to better see what he demonstrated. Neither was interested in the conversation so it didn't matter what he said. When he finished, her face was no more than five inches from his.

"When you're finished, you could come up to the house and I'd show you around. Since we're new here and all."

"What would your husband say about that, ma'am?"

"He'd never know."

Her eyes were a deep blue, the pupils dilated. The tip of her tongue reached out to moisten her lips.

"Unless, of course, you'd like a break now. Before you finish the rest of the yard."

The green and yellow lawn tractor was abandoned. It sat under the weeping willow tree, about two-thirds of the way through its path across the yard. Two empty glasses and a half-full pitcher of ice tea sat on the mower cover.

A dark blue sedan pulled into the driveway, the passenger door opening as the car glided to a stop.

"Bye, Aunt Becky. Thanks for the ride home." A tan hand held onto the door and pushed it shut before turning to find the lawn tractor sitting in the middle on the front lawn.

"Will those two never stop?" Her sigh followed her as she walked to the front porch that curved gracefully around the front of the house. She rang the doorbell, to let her parents know that she was home.

Monday, December 4

You Just Killed Me

"You Just Killed Me"
Short Fiction - Crime/Suspense
By Kelly Parra

The wind was fierce, blowing autumn leaves across the busy intersection. I pulled the lapels of my coat tightly together as I walked down the sidewalk.

From an outdoor restaurant, a slip of paper flew off a patio table across my line of vision. A man cursed, jumping from his seat and grasping for the airborne slip. "Get that paper!"

I grabbed for it, but the wind took an unexpected spiral, spinning the note up and then down, straight into the street gutter.

The man ran past me, falling to his knees on the curb, clawing at the iron grate. "No, no, no! I can't reach it. It's ruined down there. I won't be able to read it!"

I hesitated, a little weirded out by his actions.

He slowly got to his feet, turned toward me. His face looked pale. "You just killed me."

I blinked. "What?"

"You just killed me," he said, an octave higher. "Clues to my wife's whereabouts were on that paper. Oh God." He cocked back his head, stared up at the cloudy sky.

"Calm down," I said. "What are you talking about?"

His face scrunched and a tear escaped down his cheek. "I'll never see her again. Oh Sally. Sally!"

"Hey, buddy." I patted his back. Yeah, I was awkward about it. "Take it easy."

Something snapped inside of him. His eyes flared. He clenched my arms in a vise grip. "I didn't mean to take their money. I didn't know the stock would drop. A sure thing it was supposed to be. A sure thing!"

Realization slowly crept through my system. Had the guy mixed with the wrong people?

He released me, plowing his fingers through his thick hair. "I tried to pay them back what I could, you see, but they still took her. Came into our home. Took her! Oh God, oh my God." He turned, stepping onto the street. "My Sally."

My eyes widened. "No! Stop!"

A taxi hit him square against his thigh. He rolled onto the hood, smashing the windshield. The taxi screeched to a halt, and the man flew straight off, rolling to a stop in the middle of the intersection, an arm and a leg lying in odd directions.

My hand slapped against my mouth as my body began to tremble. I whispered, "I really did kill him."

Rotating Archives

I'm sorry things have slowed down! It's the Holidays, what are you going to do?

Well, I'm going to rotate our archives every few days unless we have a fresh submission. Thanks for reading FM!!

-Kelly