Tales of the Storage Space, Part 43

Martin stumbled through his own back yard, trying to get away as fast as he could from anywhere where the cops could find him.

A sleeping T-rex opened an eye when he stumbled over its tail.

Martin jumped back and saw he’d stepped into a smoldering pit of lava that, oddly, didn’t hurt.

How could he run, how could he do anything right, with all these bloody hallucinations?  First the dreams, now this.  He had no idea chronic worry and sleep deprivation could do all this.  Could it do all this?

He checked for his passport as he climbed over the T-rex, ignoring its sinking its teeth into his thigh.

Bollocks!  He only came up with those funny religious papers the cops gave him.  Passport must be in the other pocket.

Siren.  Real or imagined?  Martin threw his backpack over one shoulder and struggled over a fence in the opposite direction, just to be sure.

Pounds, no…dollars.  Checked his other pocket.  Plenty.  Plus an ATM card he should use as soon as possible and certainly long before arriving at JFK.  But then he couldn’t bloody well buy a ticket for international travel without using his real name, could he?  Would he have to stay in the States?  Could he fly at all?

“Yo, what choo doin’ in my yard, chump!”

Real or imagined?  Martin looked over his shoulder.  Chap running after him looked like he weighed the better part of 200 kilos, with footfalls resonating in the ground as if he were the T-rex.  Martin’s vault over the fence in front of him was the stuff of the Olympics.

Safe on the sidewalk.  So what if it was bright pink and wobbly.  He just hoped the ATM he spotted at the corner deli was real.

It felt real, unlike the T-rex’s teeth.  Martin stumbled through the necessary and tried to empty out his account.  Sadly the message telling him he could only take out a max of $800 turned out to be equally real.

He managed to hail a cab, after he remembered that, yes, the ones in Brooklyn were now green.

Altering America

Had enough, at least for now, of “writerly” writing that self-consciously struggles to be glib/cute/witty?  Oh…and by the way…feeling the first little nips of winter tugging at your getting-a-bit-cold-now toes?

Click here:  Altered America; Steampunk Stories by Cat Rambo

Then either prop those tootsies up in front of the fire or at least cuddle them up under a snugly warm throw.  Relax.  Let Nebula and World Fantasy Award nominee Cat Rambo draw you gently into a melodically shifting kaleidoscope of steampunked faerie tales with teeny, miniature gears.

A delightfully imaginative retelling of “Sleeping Beauty.”  Different worlds told of with convincingly different voices.  A dilapidated house, one side of which “drooped like the face of a stroke victim.”  Wisteria “in frothy purple drifts.”  A land of “folds and wrinkles.”

Contraptions abound, “each more cunning than the last.”  But perhaps, however hard to choose, the first story, “Clockwork Faeries,” has stayed with me the longest.  As a writer myself, I was quite impressed with a story in which the sole viewpoint character…utterly oblivious to his own chauvinism and yet (very real life, these apparently illogical inconsistencies) perfectly comfortable with racial diversity…so effectively communicates the errors of his ways (that he himself doesn’t see) to the reader.

Stories in which things that should always have been accepted as perfectly natural are presented as perfectly natural are wonderful and necessary.  For instance, new-SFWA-member Eneasz Brodski’s masterful “Of All Possible Worlds” stands up to Voltaire with a completely convincing character whose homosexuality is presented, as it should be, as being a perfectly natural thing that no one questions.  On the other hand, if all stories that deal with recently taboo situations treat it this way, is it possible that it becomes a bit like preaching to the choir?  Are some opportunities to alter America lost since those who might benefit most by having their horizons expanded won’t read beyond the first page?  Perhaps something can be accomplished by telling stories that explore characters with opposing points of view.

And no, I didn’t make a mistake when I entitled this post “altering” instead of “altered” America.  Because “altering” is just what I think a book like Cat Rambo’s can do.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 42

Jennifer knew she was finally becoming reasonable again when she saw her threats about calling the cops had worked on that disgusting “homeless” man Alex.  He had leaned forward to open his door wide.

She marched in with Alex darting glances sideways as he backed away from the door.  At last Jennifer would get her phone back from the homeless woman she’d just heard scream!  And stop thinking about that stupid other man who’d given her Alex’ name and address.  Even though he had the most gorgeous blond hair, green eyes…

Oh no!  She must be imagining things!  She thought she caught a flash of that gorgeous blond hair in her peripheral vision.

“How could I have?” It was Alex.  What was he talking about?  He was looking at the place, now behind her as she stomped farther in, where she thought she’d seen the other man with the green eyes.  But of course there was no one there.

“Jennifer!”  It was the homeless woman.  Holding a dead cat that was covered with, and even dripping, blood.  Apparently crying over it.  “Run!” she continued shrilly, though her voice was still beautiful.  “Nothing’s safe here!  Leave this place!”  Of course she wanted Jennifer to leave…so she could keep her phone.  People were so unreasonable.

Jennifer marched over to the homeless woman.  But the homeless woman suddenly looked behind Jennifer.

Something Jennifer didn’t understand…but that set the hairs on the back of her neck on end…happened behind her.  She tried to make sense of it…a huge displacement of air, maybe?…as she turned around.  Oddly, she found her hand wrapping around the broken stiletto heel in her pocket.  But before she could turn all the way around, a hand caught her mouth, and she smelled something very strange.

Suddenly she found herself in a dream.  Or was it a memory?  No, this had never really happened, had it?  She had a sister, and that was impossible because she’d always been an only child.  And if the homeless woman had the most beautiful voice she had ever heard, this non-existent sister had the ugliest.  She’d come storming into Jennifer’s bedroom, yelling at the top of her lungs about how no one would ever allow Jennifer to have anything.  Then she grabbed her very best baby doll right out of her hands and started ripping it to shreds.  Jennifer heard herself pleading, “Please, Judy!  Not her hair.  Not her eyes!”  Judy laughed as she gouged an eye out…and actually ate it.

Jennifer screamed and screamed and screamed until she was sure she couldn’t possibly scream any more.  And then she screamed some more.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 41

The Storage Space would have held its breath, if only a building could breathe to begin with.  If only Karen could…or would…breathe.

Ah!  There it was!  A little snippet of a breath to be sure, but a breath nonetheless.

But then there was nothing.  For a long time.  And that appalling…color.

Shakespeare…  The Storage Space could hear it too.  Melodic.  Seductive.  And drawing Karen closer and closer to death.

It tried to accept the inevitable.  Yes, this one had been nice to it.  Yes, this was the only one who had ever had the common civility, the even most rudimentary sense of social niceties, to speak to it.  The Storage Space would have bucked itself up if only a building…  If only a building…

That was it!  That was the key!  All this time!  Centuries!  The Storage Space, even back when it referred to itself as Le Grand Theatre, had always been apologetic…deferential…because it was only a building!  But did buildings stain the woodwork with centuries of cigar smoke?  Pound the originally exquisite carpet with boots encrusted with horse manure?  Brush it threadbare with yard upon yard of skirts and petticoats?  Park the pocket knives used to clean perpetually filthy fingernails by stabbing their blades into elegant carvings everywhere?  Or stab them into each other?  Repeatedly?  Until…dead, or maybe not even dead, yet…they had to be hidden, left in little nooks and crannies everywhere to rot?  All supposedly justified by some offense or other?

The Storage Space had suffered many, many offenses over its countless years.  That…”building”…constructed next to it when the ancient tea room was torn down, to name just one.  An utterly graceless edifice, it had smashed all seven of its deplorably tasteless floors right up against the most elegant side of Le Grand Theatre, crushing exquisite carvings and darkening its windows like death.

“Oh, no!”  Even Karen was horrified.

“Oh, no” indeed!  But none of this was done to me by the other building!  It was all done by those horrible, miserable creatures not worth being remotely deferential to!  And certainly not worth mourning!  And Le Grand Theatre, even in the face of this affront, had never risen a hand to its neighboring building.  So it wasn’t “if only a building could raise a hand; if only a building had a hand to raise.”  It was, thank all that is truly holy that no building ever raised a hand to another building.

“All true, except for one thing…” Karen pointed out.

The Storage Space would have sighed in exasperation if only a building…

“Who built you?  Who gave you life?”

The Storage Space brought itself fully out of its reverie and found, to its horror, that it was confronting a version of this Karen that was flickering slowly between the live version and a green mist.