This was a nice (almost) surprise. Zombie Pirate Publishing, which has been in existence since 2017, has featured some of my stories in their anthologies, and is producing a “round up” anthology of their favorite tales in Treasure Chest: Selected Short Stories. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon now, to be downloaded to your Kindle device December 1, 2019 (a terrific Christmas gift, by the way).
My classic SciFi tale Joey is featured in its pages.
Joey was first published in the ZPP anthology World War Four back in March of this year, along with many other fascinating tales, including best selling science fiction author Neal Asher‘s novelette “Monitor Logan.”
Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of “Joey”:
Six-year-old Joey tripped and skinned his knee just as the High School exploded two blocks behind him. Crying, panicked, he looked back to see the Sweeper machine fire another volley of plasma bolts, this time blowing up a church. It was so big, bigger than the library and the school put together. Its six metal legs made it look like a spider.
“Mommy! Daddy! Help me! Its big eye is staring at me! Somebody help me!” He forced himself to get up and run, his white-soled sneakers clawing through gravel, barely giving him traction. Everything was on fire, lighting up the night sky, his whole town, all the buildings. Even the roads were hot and sticky. He tripped again and fell, but this time it was on top of someone.
He screamed and jumped up. “A dead man!” Joey stared with horrible fascination at skin that was all burned and bloody.
Then the dead man moaned. “Run, kid. It’s coming to get you.”
The big fire made horrible shadows in front of the little boy as he raced toward the woods. Mommy and Daddy said never to go into the woods alone, but they weren’t here. He had to get away from the alien’s spider machine or it would burn him up, too.
He could feel the ground shake every time it walked, hear a clumping sound each heavy footstep made, It had stopped shooting its blasters, but still made scary electric humming sounds as its big eye looked around, trying to zero him.
He’d made it into the woods and crouched down behind the trunk of a big tree. He was crying and breathing hard, and then he thought, “Maybe they can hear me.” Joey tried to calm down as much as he could. He was still really scared inside, but he couldn’t make any noise or the machine might find him and burn down the forest to get him.
Then he couldn’t hear the machine anymore. He wondered, “Did it go away?” But he hadn’t heard it walk away. A few seconds later, he heard a new sound in the dark, sort of like whispering and clicking noises. The first grader had never seen a real Qu’Tufot before, just photos and drawings, so he didn’t know what they sounded like.
The scary noises were getting closer, but he couldn’t tell which direction they were coming from. “Please, somebody come and save me,” he whispered, forgetting to be quiet. Now all he could hear was his own frightened breathing on top of the clicking and whispering. Something was moving behind him, but he was too scared to jump up and run away. He felt a tickle on his left shoulder, and looking down, he saw a black, slimy tentacle squirming near his neck.
Joey woke up screaming.
Emotionally, it’s one of the hardest stories I’ve ever written. To find out why, read “World War Four” or pre-order “TREASURE CHEST: Selected Short Stories”. You won’t regret it (and for cryin’ out loud, write a review).