Fantasy In Miniature

Short-short fiction from Alexandra Erin.

www.fantasyinminiature.com

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FREE Short Stories - Now Through End Of March

alexandraerin:

Do you follow me on Tumblr because you think I word good writenings? Are you a fan of my fiction? Have you never heard of me but like to read things? 

I’m an independent author who makes her living through a crowdfunded serial story, but I’m trying to break into Amazon’s Kindle market with my short stories. One of the things that helps determine the amount of muscle the website puts behind a story is how many reviews it can attract. Obviously the more popular a story is, the more reviews it will get, so this can be a self-sustaining cycle once you start to catch on.

The problem is getting there. If you have an active Amazon account (meaning, you’ve bought something before), you can help me by reviewing any of my stories. How do you review something you’ve never read? By reading it first. If you’ve got a buck to blow and you’re feeling generous, you can help me out three-fold by just buying any one of the 99 cent short stories listed here and then reviewing it. That gives me a royalty, another sale in the system (which also boosts my profile), and a review.

But hey, the headline up there says “FREE”, right?

From now through the end of March, I’m willing to e-mail review copies of any of my short stories to anyone who pledges to review them. The stories come in the form of a simple HTML document so they open in your browser, no special equipment or app needed. They even have a link to the review page.

Here’s a brief description of the offerings:

  • The Redundant Man Who Was Redundant” was my attempt at writing a story in the mode of classic sci-fi writers like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, or Robert Heinlein, so it’s got a bit of a deliberate retro feel to it. 
  • A Matter of Appearances” is my stab at classic pulpy high fantasy like Fritz Leiber, with a bit of a twist.
  • Ghosts of Utah” started out life as a John Constantine fan fic/spec script that grew into an original character that I’ve written a few stories about, though this is the only one that’s finished.
  • To Live Forever” is a non-traditional story in the form of a monologue, from an ancient immortal to a seeker of immortality. It was based on a dream.
  • I Do Not Fight Monsters” is a supernatural horror story about someone who doesn’t fight monsters. Features a non-sparkly vampire, zero percent romance by volume.

And a brand new story, so new it might not even be showing up in my author page yet:

  • Those Who Fail To Learn”, a little meditation on the nature and limitations of time travel viewed through a pop culture lens.

If any of those tickle your fancies, shoot an email to contactme [at] alexandraerin [dot] com with the ones you’d like to read and I’ll reply with the requested item(s). Please put “review” in the subject line to help me process them as they come.

This whole deal operates on the honor system. I’m not imposing any timeline for when the review must appear by or anything like that. Take all the time you need to read. The reviews don’t have to be a certain length (beyond Amazon’s minimum of 20 words) and I’m not holding out for five star reviews. Literally any review is beneficial. 

Don’t have an Amazon account?

Well, any exposure is good exposure. The offer is open to anyone who will review them anywhere, including your personal blog or any book review site you do belong to. If you do this, please include a link to the relevant Amazon page if possible.

If you don’t have the time or wherewithal to participate or none of the stories grab your attention, please help me out by passing this along.

This offer is good through the end of March.

(Source: blue-author)

12 notes

Hello, fans of tiny fantasy! I’m sorry for the lack of flash fiction, but inspiration is a fickle patron. For those of you who don’t follow my main blog, I wanted to let you know that I’ve started a new Tumblr-based writing project called “The One Called Wander”.

This is a serial story based around microinstallments of 200-300 words each. The speed of updates will depend on reader interest, as monetary donations, follows, and high-note posts add to a “Story Bank”. The faster it fills up, the more often I’ll post.

I’ve collected the first six updates into a single post here.

I am the one called Wander, and mine is the lonely road. On it, I meet no other travelers. My road is my own and no one else’s. Others travel it with me, or they travel it not at all.

My road leads to many places, possibly every place. It never forks. It never branches. Sometimes it doubles back around, but the only direction it offers me is forward. My road knows every season but no weather. My road goes ever on.

I am the one called Wander, and I have been walking for a very long time.

Sometimes the road widens ahead of me. It never branches, but it does widen. No matter how many times this happens, my heart always quickens its beat… or I assume it must do, wherever it’s gone off to.

I never know when or where the road will widen. I rarely even know how long it’s been since the last time. There are things to see along the way, but not much to do.

When the road widens, it means I have arrived. Not at my destination, for I have none, but at the next place… the next stop along the way to the stop after it. Some of them are literally nothing but wide spots on the road. Many are places in their own right, places big enough and real enough that I lose sight of my road for a while until I come to the other end of it and the road narrows again.

There’s always something to do in these places, something to learn or someone to meet or some problem to solve before I can move on.

And I always must move on. I must always return to the road. When I’m on the road, I can’t help but hope to reach the next wide spot soon. When I’m off it, I can’t wait to be back. My recollection… dim with time… is that this meant to be a punishment or curse of some kind. Parts of it can be hard to bear, but on the whole I don’t mind.

Who doesn’t like to travel? Who doesn’t like to feel useful? I am never satisfied but frequently happy.

I am the one called Wander, and ahead of me the road widens into an open square in a village of some sort. The sky is blue above my head and the moon, visible as a pale fingernail low on the horizon, is one I’m sure I’ve seen before.

When you spend your days walking a road between worlds, you learn to look for moons. The same moon doesn’t always mean the same world, but a different moon almost always means a different one.

You wouldn’t know this moon, my treasured correspondent, but you might well take it for your own at a glance, particularly when it’s washed out against the morning sky and so far from full. If you saw its face bright and round against the black, I think the differences would be more striking. It is not your moon, but it is a moon after the same model.

Ahead, there is a sound of children playing… no, not playing but singing. I can’t yet make out the words, but something about it sets my hair on end. It is not exactly mournful, but peculiarly lacking in joy. I don’t know yet why my road is bringing me here, but I know this visit will be no pleasant idyll.

The children break off their song and scatter as I come into sight of them. Afraid of strangers? Maybe, or maybe just generally fearful.

There is a well ahead of me. Next to it is a trough for horses or similar, though there are none at it now and to judge from the condition of the grounds, there haven’t been any for some time. At least not since the last hard rain, and while the grass is green the ground is reasonably hard and dry.

There aren’t many people about, either, though there are more signs of them than horses. The well itself shows sign of frequent and recent use. Most of the shops that front onto the square are closed, literally… they’re of the style where the window folds outward to form a counter, with living quarters above.

I see movement, furtive and quick, behind the curtains of a few of the upstairs windows that aren’t shuttered.

Suiting name to deed, I wander over to one of the open shops, which appears to be a bakery. I tip my hat back away from my face. It is my fashion to wear it with the brim pulled low, but this is a town that knows fear. My job, from the front to the back, must be to dispel that fear.

“Bread smells wonderful,” I say. “I’ll give you this for a loaf.”

What I pull out of my pocket is a coin. If the baker’s never seen it before, she is in the same boat with me, but it’s probably a fair price. It usually is, so long as I don’t push things too far.

The baker takes a prudent moment to examine my offering, but accepts it without comment.

The bread tastes nearly as good as it smells, which is an accomplishment. Bread is like coffee: best when fresh, but never as good as it smells. This bread is warm and rich and coarse, though not gritty, and leavened slightly with garlic, garlands of which hang from hooks among the other baking supplies.

“You like it, then?” she asks. “Not everybody cares for the garlic… it’s just something new I’ve been trying. My mother always said garlic was healthsome..”

“It’s fabulous,” I say. “Your mother was obviously very wise.”

“Yes,” the baker says. “Where’d you come from, then?”

“Up the road,” I tell her.

“Where are you heading?”

“Further down it, eventually,” I say.

“We don’t get many travelers on foot,” she says.

“Do you get any on horses?”

“Not through town,” she says. “Not any more. They give us a wide berth… word gets around.”

“What word is that?”

“Haven’t you heard?”

“Oh… well, you know, I don’t really pay attention to local gossip.”

“Then why are you so curious now?”

“Because sometimes it’s not just gossip.”

The baker leans down over the counter and crooks a finger for me to lean in, as well.

“Is this a terrible secret?” I ask.

“It’s terrible, but everyone knows,” she says quietly. “Still, some things are just too ridiculous to say out loud in the full light of the morning sun. Some things make me feel silly just thinking about them, much less repeating them.”

“Something’s happening in this town, and I don’t think it’s silly at all,” I say.

“You’re right,” the baker says. Even so, her voice drops into a whisper. “Horses… won’t drink our water.”

“Oh, well, you know the saying,” I say.

“What saying is that?” the baker asks.

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make ‘em drink.”

“You can’t even lead them to ours,” she says. “They won’t go near the well, and they’ll bolt if you try to bring water from it to them.”

“That can’t be good for business,” I say.

“It isn’t,” she says. “We’re a market town. Everyone here still needs bread, but we can’t survive long just doing business with each other. People still travel through, sometimes, but they don’t stop if they don’t have to. They can water their horses at the crossing.”

Since it seems unnecessary for her to say which crossing, I don’t ask. It’s not likely to be relevant, and there’s no sense rubbing her nose in the fact that I haven’t come by the usual road.

“What’s your name?” I ask instead.

“Bel, the Baker’s Daughter.”

She’s alone in the shop. The same fine dusting of flour that has settled over everything else clings to her brown skin.

“The Baker’s Daughter?” I say. An eyebrow might arch itself as I say this, or possibly it’s only my vain imagination that it does so. One the day when we meet in person, dear reader, you shall have to tell me if my command of my facial expressions is as great as I would believe it to be. “Why not Bel the Baker?”

“Well, my father’s been in the grave seven years now, but I was Bel the Baker’s Daughter for twice that length of time before,” she says. “You know how it goes. And my father was a good man, if I have to be a daughter I’m glad to be his. Anyway, who would you be, then?”

“They call me Wander,” I say.

“Who does?” she says.

“Everyone I introduce myself to.”

You can follow the blog on your Tumblr dash like normal, or bookmark this link to view the story chronologically at any time.

26 notes

Suffer Not

There was still ice in the icehouse, thankfully. She found a nice, solid chunk of the right size and wrapped it in her shawl to take it back into her hut. She set the ice down on the table, then sat herself down. The herbs she’d left steeping in a leather mug were ready, so she drank the liquid and then tossed what was left, leather and all, onto the fire.

Wouldn’t do for anyone to find that. Would do even less for some curious soul to taste the dregs.

She gave it a few moments before she arranged herself, propping an arm up on the ice block and pointing one long finger towards the door. She had quicker herbs, but she was getting near the end of her life anyway and she had wanted to be certain her strength would not fail her while she still needed it.

And that she wouldn’t suffer. That was important.

The day was middling warm and they wouldn’t come to her hut until nightfall, she was sure of that. No matter how righteous they thought their deeds might be, there would be an instinctive understanding that some deeds are too dark for the day to witness.

They would come at night, when the ice had long since melted and her body had long since frozen, and she was sure they would have a few bad moments when they brought a light into her hovel and found her sightless eyes staring at them, her finger pointing accusingly at them.

Maybe they’d learn something about trusting a book over their own senses… or trusting what a vain man with fire in his eyes says about the book. She read the church tongue as well as many and better than most and she was sure it said “poisoner” and not “witch”. She had substances that could be called poisons, certainly, but most medicines were toxic. She only dispensed a fatal dose upon studied request, when it was needful for relief. She had never slain, never poisoned a body while it was still vital.

Until now. But witch or poisoner, the book said “suffer not”… and she would not suffer the indignity and pain of what they had in mind for her.

(Source: fantasyinminiature.com)

Filed under fiction flash fiction

4 notes

Taking Her Sweet Time

She hadn’t meant to get old.

The years just kept passing without her permission, without any notice. They dropped little hints like holidays as often as they pleased, but they never stopped to tell her, “Oh, by the way, that’s another of us gone that you won’t be seeing again.” They never stopped at all.

The calendar of her mind was an endless progression of tomorrows stretching out into infinity, and it was full of appointments she’d made for some day, but the days slipped through her hands like water. One by one all the things she’d meant to do closed down, dried up, or moved away. She felt the loss of each one acutely, but never learned the skill of thinking of things as temporary additions to the universe.

Everything was permanent and eternal to her.

They just refused to stay.

She never learned to take things one day a time, but with a little effort, she learned not to take them personally.

Filed under fiction flash fiction fantasy in miniature

9 notes

A New Leaf

The season turns. The leaves dry out and begin to fall, one by one at first and then in great sheafs. The monks come by daily… more often if the weather is wet… and carefully collect them by hand. To use a rake would be unthinkable. They collect them and carefully smooth them out, then begin the painstaking work of matching them up and ordering them.

Few of the pages are numbered.

Some are in languages that are unknown and untranslatable.

The monks regard these alien texts with no less reverence than the ones which contain useful knowledge in a readily accessible form, and though they can only guess at relationships among the pages from contexts, the make an earnest effort to order and bind them correctly all the same.

That they occasionally reap some practical benefits from the annual harvest of books is a secondary concern. The beauty of the illuminated pages impresses itself also upon the minds of the monks, but that is not what drives them, either. In drier years, the pages often lack color or ornamentation entirely, yet they are collected and curatedwith the same or more care than in more fruitful ages.

Collating and binding the pages is a duty. It is a sacred trust. Even the books they cannot use themselves are preserved with care against a future need they are sure will arise.

Where there is a book, the monks believe, there must be a reader.

Filed under fantasy in miniature flash fiction books fantasy fiction

23 notes

Dice

The hand of God reached down and plucked the die from the stone table. The two chief angels watched. They did not breathe in the conventional sense, but if they did neither one would have dared. After all the arguing, the rebellion, the war… it had come down to this. The question would be settled once for all. Neither side was happy with the method of settlement, but they had no alternative. God had decreed that if either one questioned or complained once more on this issue, it would be decided in the other’s favor.

One chance. One die roll. They both knew the terms. If it came up odd, then humanity would be created with free will and would control their own fates, according to their means. If it came up even, then even the living corners of the cosmos would remain ordered solely according to God’s will, with every apparent choice nothing more than one more effect spiraling out from the ultimate cause.

God cupped the die in one almighty hand.

Absolute silence reigned as it was cast. It hit the table with a plunk, the only sound in the heavens at the moment. It rolled across the table and landed up against the Book of Life.

It had landed on its edge.

Perhaps a more discerning eye could detect some slight favor to the tilt, but to the angels’ eyes it was perfectly balanced exactly between two numbers.

God nodded, and behind the great screen, noted down a result.

“Well, that settles that,” God said. “I trust we can now move on to more important matters.”

Filed under fantasy in miniature flash fiction fiction fantasy

16 notes

Disk Error

He walks down the street with one hand in the pocket of his jacket, feeling the two little metal disks he carries there. They aren’t coins, though they’re each about the size and thickness of a quarter. One of them is blank and smooth, the other lined with whorls that make it look like a little hedge-maze or a thumbprint.

He found them when he was a child, almost fourteen years ago.

The plain one was in a box of Cracker Jacks… it was loose, and in addition to the little plastic-wrapped temporary tattoo that was there as the actual prize. His mother thought it had probably come off a machine at the packing plant and instructed him to throw the whole thing away, fearing contamination. He threw out the package and snack, but kept the disk. It didn’t feel like an accident to him. It felt… purposeful, though what that purpose might be he couldn’t guess until its scarred twin showed up in a box of Corn Pops six months later.

When the disks are touching each other, he feels calm and secure, utterly unflappable. When they’re apart but in his possession he feels confident and strong, almost invincible. The effect lasts as long as they’re in close proximity to his person, though it’s strongest when he touches them to his skin.

Over the years he’s tried to subtly test if anyone else can feel the effects of the disks, but the results have been inconclusive. He’s been afraid to spell out the reaction that he’s looking for, both out of a sense that this would taint the results and a fear of looking foolish. His worst fear, though, is that someday he will tell someone about the disks and be believed, and then lose them to a thief.

Twice now he’s had dreams where a figure bathed in light tried to tell him the word that will unlock the disks’ full capabilities, whatever they may be. Each time he’s not quite been able to make out the word, but he believes the second time he came a little bit closer to hearing it properly.

He isn’t dependent on the disks, exactly.

He could get through the day without them, he’s pretty sure.

He just gets through things a little more easily with them.

(Source: fantasyinminiature.com)

Filed under fantasy in miniature belief faith dependency coping

12 notes

Hands Across The Void

The sleek dark ship prowls through the void. Its skin absorbs the rays of distant and feeble stars, converting every bit of heat and radiation it can grab into energy it can use. It isn’t much, but it doesn’t have to be. There are no life support systems on the ship. Nothing that cannot be turned off and on at need. Nothing that would damage the ship if it went inert..

The original fuel core had decayed long ago, but the power it had imparted had been sufficient to carry the vessel far beyond its system of origin and left it traveling at a velocity few artificial objects could ever achieve.

The power gleaned from each absorbed transmission is sufficient to record information about that transmission, which will be reviewed when the accumulated stellar radiation is sufficient for the ship’s main computer system to reactivate itself. These systems are rudimentary in the way a machine meant to last forever must be — the simplest and most basic technologies available made out of the most durable materials possible. There are few moving parts and multiple redundancies. Its builders knew what they were doing. Nothing on board has failed except the fuel core, and that was inevitable and planned for.

Lacking any store of propellant, the ship steers itself by way of propulsion via a stream of ejected molecules cosmic debris. It is a slow, slow process, but space is big and mostly empty. The chance of it needing to make a sudden turn is remote compared to the chance of a system failure. The craft passed through two asteroid belts on its journey from its planet of origin to the edge of its system and did not need to steer around an obstacle once.

The ship carries no cargo. It has no preserved remnants of a culture and no great secret wisdom for the universe. It was designed to find another world, any world, with intelligent life. It looks for patterns in the radiation it absorbs. When it finds what it’s looking for, it will point itself in the proper direction and begin the long, slow process of deceleration. It can survive re-entry, at the right angle. It can store enough power to transmit a mathematical pattern of beeps to attract attention as it approaches. Nothing more reliable than the prayers of its creators exists to make sure it lands in a place where it may be observed and recovered, but it can let the natives know it’s coming.

The chances of success are tiny. Space is big and mostly empty, and as well as the craft was built all things must eventually end.

Its builders know that success is possible, though, however unlikely it may be. They copied the basic design of the craft from one that fell to their world.

It sparked first panic and then a deep debate as to its purpose. There were no weapons. It had no means of sending a signal back to its point of origin, and it was clearly old enough to make any such signal pointless. It bore no inscription or attempt at conveying any message, save for those which could be gleaned from the existence of the ship itself.

The motivations of the original ship-builders — or even if they were the originators of the idea — couldn’t possibly be known, but to the people of that world the ship came to be known as The Sign. It told them that they were not alone in the universe, that they could build a thing that would outlast everything else, and that it was possible to reach out and touch the infinite.

For a period of about one and a half lifetimes, there was a mania on that planet for building ships. It was likened to putting a message in the bottle. Some people included personal messages, copies of important historical documents or works of art. Some went so far as to include genetic material, preserved or encoded somehow.

Most of the ships, though, were as the first one: blank, black ciphers that proclaimed nothing more than themselves. Those who invested the most resources in the great work of slinging ships out in the void understood the wisdom of the ancient people who’d sent the sign to them. Nothing they could send out into eternity would necessarily hold any meaning to the people who found it. Nothing they could say would make sense. Their symbols of peace and gestures of understanding might very well convey the opposite meaning to the recipients.

Before the changing tides of public fashion and fancy shifted to characterize the act of ship-building as one of pointless vanity, tens of thousands of them were sent out. Most of them are still going. None have yet discovered a destination, much less reached it. Some of them will. And some of the planets they reach will be inspired to do the same.

All across the galaxy, dozens or even hundreds of races will end up shouting into the darkness, knowing they will never hear a reply but that sometimes it’s enough to be heard.

(Source: fantasyinminiature.com)

Filed under flash fiction fantasy in miniature science fiction

6 notes

One More Spin

The carousel goes around again. The horses move up and down. The music plays. There are no children on it. The operator watches, his hand on the lever and ready to stop it in case anybody in the sparse crowd is drawn to the sound and motion and comes to ride. He had thought that maybe when the deflating bounce castle was finally taken away some of the kids might look his way, but so far he’s largely been disappointed.

A fairground without a fair on it is little more than an empty lot. This one was more so than most. It’s hard to tell if it’s a gravel lot with weeds growing in or a grassy one that’s overgrown and full of rocks. There’s only so much magic that the aging rides and fading canvas-sided booths can do to transform it into a land of wonderment and whimsy.

The sky is gray and oppressively low, and the day is hot and sticky. It hasn’t been a good day. It hasn’t been a good year for carnivals and this has never been a particularly good carnival.

A little girl, or pre-school age or just after, bounces towards him with the sticky remnants of a snowcone dribbling out of a crushed paper cone in her hands. The girl’s mother follows after, fanning herself with a program.

“Ponies!” she cries. The man brings the ride to a stop. She’s too small to sit on one of the horses, but there are sleighs and swan boats in between them.

The mother grabs the girl’s hand.

“Come on, April,” she says, pulling her away. “None of these rides look very safe. Let’s go see if the house of mirrors has air conditioning.”

Down the midway, a barker calls the few passersby to step right up and try their luck on the wheel of fortune.

The operator pulls the lever.

The carousel goes around again.

(Source: fantasyinminiature.com)

10 notes

Tessellation

Both women reached the door at about the same time. Having been so fixated on their mutual objective, neither one had noticed the other until their hands almost collided reaching for the handle.

“Excuse me, but what do you think you’re doing?” a woman dressed in something resembling a Victorian dress and a leather aviator’s cap.

“Excuse me, but I’m Nicole Tesla and this is my lab,” the other woman, who was wearing a top hat and tuxedo with tails, tailored for her feminine frame.

“It’s Nicola Tesla, actually… or I’m Nicola Tesla, I should say, and this is my lab,” the first one said.

“Well, I think I know my own name, thank you very much, and I also know my lab when I see it,” the second Tesla said.

“Excuse me, ladies,” a third woman, wearing something like cowboy gear, said. “But I am Tessa Coil and you are both trespassing on private property.”

“Is you who is trespassing on secret underground hideout of glorious Nikolai Tesla,” a man with a bushy beard said.

“What? It isn’t even underground!”

“And it’s hardly a secret with all you impostors standing around gawking.”

“I say, who are all you people and what are you doing outside the lab of myself, the late, great Sir Nicholas Tessler?” asked a man dressed like a clockwork Don Quixote. “Er, not late. Anymore. I mean, yet.”

There was a great loud click sound that was exactly like that of a massive switch being thrown, and with barely more than a spark passing between them all the men and women who would be Tesla went rigid and fell to the ground.

Watching from the window, Nikola Tesla could do little more than shake his head sadly. He broke the circuit, then turned to regard the recently completed device in the corner. He had tested the temporal conveyor with short jaunts, but otherwise deemed it too dangerous to use. It seemed as though future generations were much more casual about such things.

“Do I dare destroy it?” he thought aloud. “The energies it contains…”

But then he considered. The fools who had collided outside his door were those who’d traveled back to the very earliest opportunity, moments after the conveyor began operation. They had clearly done so on little more than a lark and without the forethought to research the subject of their destination or realize that the real Tesla would necessarily be present at the moment of the device’s genesis.

Those who arrived later might be better prepared and more difficult to subdue.

Yes. He would make the necessary calculations to minimize destruction and then destroy the device at the earliest opportunity, that very night. History would not record June 29th, 1908 as the date that time travel became possible.

(Source: fantasyinminiature.com)

Filed under fantasy in miniature flash fiction Nikola Tesla