Fiction River – Unnatural Worlds is officially out today!
This fantastic anthology is filled with terrific stories from authors: Ray Vukcevich, Esther M. Friesner, Irette Y. Patterson, Kellen Knolan, Annie Reed, Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Leah Cutter, Richard Bowes, Jane Yolen, and David Farland, (and yes, me too!) and is edited by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch.
My short story in the anthology is titled: LIFE BETWEEN DREAMS. While it isn’t set in the Allie Beckstrom universe, I think if Allie met Mary, they’d get along just fine. 😉
To celebrate its release, I thought I’d post a little snippet of my story for you today. Happy reading!
LIFE BETWEEN DREAMS
Mary Still dropped the screwdriver back into the empty coffee can next to the jar of Moebius clock oil, and held her breath. From just beyond the open door of the garage she heard the distinct glassy tink of this reality colliding with another. Someone, or something, was crossing the boundary.
The sound could be nothing, just the random scrape and rattle of the joined universes steering a little too wide around the corners.
It could be the bosses, who said they’d be here in exactly one hour to see that the outpost was secure and to reassign her a new partner if Tom didn’t return.
Or it could be Tom.
She hoped it was Tom. But she hadn’t seen her partner for six months now, not since the job they’d almost failed in East London with the dreamer kid. She’d walked away from that with a much finer appreciation for the rules of dispelling terrors and imaginings.
Tom had just walked away.
She picked up a tire iron and a wooden cross, and moved back from the nineteenth century Regina music box she’d been restoring, even though she had yet to find a comb to make it sing. No need to lose paying customers just because she had to fight nightmare creatures from another dimension, or worse, her bosses.
She strolled up to the door and opened it. Being quiet and sneaky around terrors and imaginings never worked. Walls didn’t stop them, doors didn’t hold them back, and stealth was a waste of time.
Still, she hesitated there in the cool shadow of the garage and stared out at the Nevada sunlight pouring over the rocks and orange dirt in front of her shop. Highway 90 lay like a black snake warming itself over the arid land, curving down out of Goldfield up north and missing her place by an eighth of a mile or so.
Wind hissed through the sage brush and set the insects buzzing.
A man stepped up to the front porch of her shop.
He was medium build, brushing six feet tall and wore a black wool coat that reached almost to his knees, his jeans tucked into the top of hunting boots. His dark hair was brushed up and away from his face, even though it was several inches too long to hold the style, and he was in need of a shave.
Hands shoved in his coat pockets, he paused to read the sign above her entryway: STILL CURIOUS ANTIQUE RESTORATION
“You put my name on the sign?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said, not lowering cross or bar yet. “Good to see you, Tom. You owe me half a year’s overhead on the place.”
He turned his head, tipped down his sunglasses. “Good to see you too, Mary.”
She swallowed against a mix of anger and relief that rushed through her. He still had a soul behind those eyes. He was still human. That was good. Very good.
“Are you going to put your sticks down yet?” He gave a slight nod toward the cross and crowbar.
“No. But you might as well go inside. The coffee should be done brewing.”
He hesitated. Maybe he didn’t want her at his back. She was angry, and he was pretty good at reading her emotions even though no one else ever was.
“Are you worried I’m going to knock you out when you’re not looking?” she asked as she strode across the dirt, her boots kicking up clouds of cinnamon dust.
“It crossed my mind.”
“You’d deserve it.”
“Yes,” he said, “I would.”
And that was that. They were partners again. Everyone got their one time out, their one time to break away from the job and never come back. No one would chase them down if they decided to just quit.
Coming back meant the next unapproved time off would be in a coffin.
“That was your one chance, you know,” she said as they stepped into the darker, but not much cooler, shop.
The place was filled with rare items she’d restored through normal, and inter-dimensional means. Shelves and corners were stacked with antiques and other valuables. Need a bellows for your harmonium or a Tiffany lamp base plate? She’d find it in this world, or cross a few boundaries and find one that was still intact in an alternate dimension.
The bosses didn’t love the idea of trans-dimensional Dumpster diving, but a girl had to make ends meet between gigs of saving the world….
…continued in Fiction River – Unnatural Worlds anthology