Dreaming on Such a Winter’s Day

zebra unwinding

Image credit: Zulkarnain Ismail

William Blake knew he was in trouble when he saw the zebra unraveling like a ball of twine, especially since there shouldn’t be any free roaming zebras in the high desert southeast of Boise.

“Get a grip, get a grip, get a grip,” he muttered to himself, pressing his hands on each side of his head. The vision wouldn’t go away, but neither did the zebra seem to mind its condition.

“Of all days, why did it have to happen today?” Every New Year’s morning, the forty-eight-year-old electrical designer took a walk in the open fields south of his home, symbolically welcoming a year of new hope. “But I have to be at Edna’s in an hour for breakfast. I can’t go like this.”

The zebra moved on but then the clouds started turning themselves inside out, swirling and shifting from white to silver, then to magenta and turquoise. The grass around his ankles and then all across the field. writhed like serpents and rubbed against his legs like affectionate house cats, while the trees in the distance grew and expanded to Pellucidar-like proportions. Then the sky became granite and the ground turned to vapor, but neither did the atmosphere collapse upon him, nor did he fall through the mist.

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A Hero in Harare

movies

Sterkinekor Lusaka Arcades Centre in Lusaka, Zambia – found at afrotourism.com

“I want to meet this Miles Morales,” twelve-year-old Miriro murmured spontaneously as he and his eleven-year-old sister Anesu did their maths homework at the kitchen table, warm afternoon sunlight streaming in the western window.

“What are you talking about,” she replied in irritation. “He doesn’t even exist. He’s a cartoon.”

“Uncle Tongai took me and my mates to see Spider-Verse over the weekend. The movie said anyone could wear the mask and be Spider-Man.” He was grinning, his mind completely diverted from his textbook.

“You’re daft. This isn’t Brooklyn, America. It’s Harare, Zimbabwe. Just because black Americans look like us doesn’t mean we’re all the same. Our lives are different.”

“Anybody can be a hero, Anesu.”

“Be a hero and finish your studies before Mama comes back from the market and we both get in trouble.”

But it was too late. Miriro was already thinking about his new costume.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw flash fiction challenge. The idea is to use a Google Maps location/image as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 149.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Harare, Zimbabwe.

Yesterday, I saw the film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) with my son and my nine-year-old grandson. I subsequently published my review online and obviously still have the movie on my mind.

One of the things I’ve been considering, both with this movie, and especially with the Marvel Studios film Black Panther (2018) is that in the African nations, culturally, black people have widely varying cultures compared to African-American audiences, so the differing populations may not have as much in common with each other as people in the U.S. might imagine.

Having said that, the central message of “Spider-Verse” is that anybody can wear the mask. It was meant as a commentary about how historically, superheroes have been white, but it doesn’t automatically have to be that way. Any kid, no matter who they are, can be a hero.

I decided to put a spin on the message and say that any kid anywhere in the world also can aspire to be more than who they are, mask or no mask, even a twelve-year-old boy living in Harare.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

Book Review of “The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack: A Burton and Swinburne Adventure”

jack

Cover image for Mark Hodder’s 2010 novel The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack

Some months ago at work, a friend of mine and I got to talking about steampunk as a sub-genre of science fiction, and, long story short, he recently lent me his copy of Mark Hodder’s 2010 novel The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack: A Burton and Swinburne Adventure.

Basically, Hodder takes real places (London specifically) and actual historical figures, such as Sir Richard Burton, poet Algernon Swinburne, Charles Darwin (yes, that Charles Darwin), and Florence Nightingale, and transforms them into bizarre, distorted, “steampunkish” versions of themselves in a much larger than life adventure set against a highly improbable background.

The result is an amazing romp that could never have happened (time travel notwithstanding) but is nevertheless, is a lot of fun.

Recently, I said that I’d be making a concerted effort to read more recently produced science fiction novels and stories as defined by those having been published within the last ten years or so. Mr. Hodder’s novel certainly qualifies, so here we go.

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Eira’s Lover

trees and snow

Photo credit booklikes.com – Image found at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie

Aging widower Shannon Hart remembered the sound of the crackling of burning logs in the fireplace at home in the middle of a dark, quiet night as he stared across the low, rolling hills, watching fog freeze onto the widely spaced pine trees, a faint, unending dawn resting on the eastern horizon. Three weeks ago, his youngest grandson Drew came up here to perform the solitary winter solstice ceremony at the family’s wilderness wickiup. He was due back late last week but never returned.

The twelve clans all sent volunteers ready to search for him, but Shannon respectfully declined, and as a clan head, it was his prerogative. The secrets of the wickiup had been jealously guarded for untold generations. Even his own clan, the Tromsø, didn’t know what was hidden in the sacred acres owned by the Harts.

The eighty-year-old had been worried, and even tried to dissuade Drew from performing the ritual that the old man normally observed, but the twenty-eight year old had become a father earlier in the month. He claimed the right of a single boon from the clan elder as a birth gift, and Shannon had no choice but to grant it.

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Summer Reflection

reflection

© Sue Vincent

Twenty-nine year old Melanie Snyder stood sobbing at the shore of the lake where her Grandpa’s ashes had been scattered two years ago. She purposely had one hand inside her coat touching something precious she was wearing around her neck. The first rays of the April sun were just now creeping over the eastern horizon illuminating reflections of thin clouds, a pale azure sky, and the gnarled, barren tree under which he had taught her how to fish when she was five.

“I’m sorry I…” sobs shook her slender frame which was enveloped in the dark blue pea coat that sheltered her from the cold. “I’m sorry I didn’t visit…didn’t call that last year. I was so afraid of what I’d see…of what the cancer had done to…”

Long blond hair being slightly fluttered by the breeze, Melanie lowered both arms to her sides and clenched her fists in resolve, determined to finish her confession.

“You were always my hero, always strong, brave, kind. After Mom and Dad divorced, I could talk to you about anything, how I felt, how mad I was. You always understood. I thought you’d live forever, that you would never leave me.”

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The Chiromancer

palm

A diagram of the palm of the hand from Magnus Hundt’s Antropologium de hominis dignitate (1501) – Found at Wiktionary

For the first time in her career, petite, forty-five year old Sheryl Valdez regretted being a chiromancer. Like the Prophet Joseph from the Bible, she had correctly interpreted a person’s future, but instead of being made a dominant ruler, she was on the run, at the moment, trying to blend in with the other evening commuters on the BART train approaching San Francisco International. Her only hope would be to grab the first available flight out of the country and then try to disappear.

“I want to know how my trial is going to go next week.”

His name was Rico Nguyen and he had been accused of being the financial manager behind the Hình Su gang, which was notorious for the flood of home invasions and mass transit robberies the Bay Area had suffered for the past two years.

“I’ve been wrestling with whether I should try to fight this in court or just get out of the country. No one else has been able to give me any input that helps me figure it out.”

He was effusive and thanked her repeatedly for the uninterrupted hour-long session, which was far more time than she needed.

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Marta’s World in Twilight

starry night

Image found on WeHeartIt

“Why did you want me to try to paint Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ on your back? No one will see it unless your shirt is off, and I told you, I can’t make a perfect duplicate of it anyway.” Nineteen-year-old Danny Cross was waiting for his most recent touches to the painting on Marta’s back to dry. The white glare from the snow-covered college quad streamed in through the window of his second-floor dorm room, as she casually lay upon an old down blanket on the floor between the two beds. His slender left hand, looking so much like a girl’s, poised over the waistband of her stretch pants, and he felt a persistent urge and swelling in his own, while wondering if his rail-thin frame was pressing down too hard on her.

“I told you, it didn’t have to be perfect. I just want you to capture the style. Inspiration will do the rest.”

To the sophomore, her voice sounded like a young Lauren Bacall from the old movie “To Have or Have Not,” which he’d just watched in his American film classics class. He watched his pianist thin fingers, slip slowly under her waist band, and felt a sexual thrill at the warmth of her skin and the roundness at the top of her ass.

“Hey, get your hand out of there.” In mid-sentence, Marta’s tone shifted from annoyed to playful, but he jerked his hand away suddenly. “Not that I don’t think you’re cute, but we don’t have time for that right now.”

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The New Dragon Saga: Descending Darkness

vampire

Desktop background for “vampire”.

Chapter 9: “The trouble with being legendary is that it is very difficult for me to remain anonymous, at least for very long.” The infamous vampire, King of the Undead, Dracula stood before the seventeen-year-old wizard with a smirk on his face, just faintly revealing his twin, elongated fangs.

“So what happens now?” Landon had faced foes as powerful as the vampire liege before, but never without allies, especially his mentor and friend, the golden dragon. Now, on this half of a mysterious world forever in night, he was alone.

“Why whatever you want, my young magician.” Dracula clapped his hands twice and then sat back on his obsidian throne. Presently, a score of servants, all appearing as human as the teen, came out from behind curtains left and right, quickly supplying a table and chair in front of the sorcerer, and then producing platters of beef, chicken, assorted vegetables, and a flagon of ale.

“Having not partaken in a meal such as this in so long, it was difficult for me to decide how to serve you, so I selected a variety of food stuffs.”

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Senegalia and the Gods

fairy

Photo credit: Ingrid Endel

If Senegalia were human, she would look like an eleven-year-old girl, but even though she was the youngest in her family, she was over three-hundred-years old.

That’s not as long as it seems, since for the first one-hundred-and-fifty years after emerging from her pupa stage, she fluttered about the nest, and later, the verdant wooded high-canopy with the other overly curious and somewhat clumsy adolescents, a collection of fireflies, each glowing some shade of amber, sapphire, emerald, or ruby, no larger than three-year-old children, cavorting nude, for clothing was a human concern, and existing in a state both being careless and carefree.

For Senegalia, she believed her life was one of eternal play with the other nestlings, gossamer wings fluttering as fast as invisibility, racing around the feusha blooms, dodging errant moonbeams, their overarching background of earth tones and the deep greens of a mythical rain forest, competing to be the fastest, the most acrobatic, and certainly majestically fearless fliers. Of course, the grown-ups were always watching them, secure in the knowledge that they were all safe in the fantasy pocket universe, nestled in a depression of local timespace right next to the larger quantum reality of their greatest enemy, humans.

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Another Very Nice Rejection

It was actually sort of encouraging:

Thank you for submitting “The Demon in the Mask” to *****. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite meet the needs of our *****.

It’s an engaging story, with a satisfying arc, but we feel that it falls more within the realm of Fantasy than Horror.

Thanks for submitting, and best wishes for you and your work.

Still getting that “always the bridesmaid” feeling.