13th Hour

Please scroll down for a FREE story from 13th Hour

“I’m a huge fan of supernatural short stories, and this book was perfect. My favorite story, ‘Island Ways’ creeped me out in the way I only thought Stephen King could. Loved it!” –Amazon Review posted by Delayna  (Twitter @delaynamichelle)

13th_Hour_Cover_for_Kindle

13th Hour – Tales from Light to Midnight

From light tales of legends and love to dark stories of ancient beasts and angry wives, 13th Hour will delight you, mystify you and perhaps make you cringe.

13th Hour ticks through 17 tales to explore such questions as…

  •    Can you dream forever?
  •    What is it really like working for the gods?
  •    What would you do for love? Or for revenge?
  •    Do ancient creatures still stalk the earth?
  •    How are our lives woven together?
  •    What is your family’s darkest secret?

…and many more.

So sit down, unwind your clocks and delve into the 13th Hour. If you’re too curious to wait, scroll down for a free full-story sample from the book.

Many of the stories in 13th Hour are set in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. In addition, a handful of the tales have earned awards and honors from various sources.

Reviews for 13th Hour:

“I usually don’t read fiction but this I really liked.  The stories were varied in the type of suspense/horror.  To me these stories seem like a cross between Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock.  If you like baby elephants, you will appreciate one story, and with another story, you may never pick up a quarter off the ground again.”  –David Anderson

I’m a huge fan of supernatural short stories, and this book was perfect. My favorite story, ‘Island Ways’ creeped me out in the way I only thought Stephen King could. Loved it!”  –Amazon Review posted by Delayna

Where to Buy Your Copy of 13th Hour…

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Full-Story Sample from 13th Hour…

HERMES

Working for the gods is never easy. Up here on Olympus, every task runs the risk of stepping on another god’s toes. I should have known Zeus’s chores would lead to trouble; I should have known none of his “problems” were accidental; and I should have known when Hera walked in that my day wasn’t taking a turn for the better.

It all began with that idiot Perseus. How could he lose my winged sandals? Shows what happens when you trust a mortal with something valuable. Although Zeus is the one I should blame since it was he who insisted I “lend the lad something useful against the Gorgon” while fixing his gaze on my sandals. “They won’t fit,” I grunted, but he insisted. Now my wings rest at the bottom of the sea and Zeus’s only response was to shrug and tell me “not to get upset over an old pair of footwear.”

I commissioned Olympus’s cobbler to construct a new pair of winged footwear. Boots this time. Sandals are ideal on Grecian land where the sun warms your skin, but up on Olympus or flying around, the biting cold sends my toes screaming. While cursing Perseus and Zeus for the loss of an heirloom, I looked forward to a warm pair of winged leather boots. Unfortunately, the cobbler’s other work preceded mine. Aphrodite needed “something special” and, being higher on the Pantheon, she won the shoemaker’s time.

Zeus caught me on my errand. “Hermes, have you heard?”

I probably had. The grapevine is long and well maintained on Olympus. Most news – gossip, I should say – is known by all before the initial report can ever be verified. Trying to guess which of the rumor mills Zeus was grinding would be impossible. “Heard what?”

“Of my poor Odysseus.”

Oh, yes, this one. This was old news indeed. As Zeus’s newest favorite mortal, all tongues are wagging about Odysseus lately. Word is that on his way home to Ithaca from a lengthy war (some skirmish over a girl, will these mortals never learn?) the man lost control of his ship and found himself stranded on the island of Ogygia – tiny, remote, not a bad place if one doesn’t expect many amenities.

“Poseidon says he took no part in the matter, but I’m certain someone is playing a cruel joke on the man,” Zeus went on shaking his head in disbelief with every word. We do love our jests with the mortals, but teasing any favorite of Zeus has become a competitive sport. It’s hard to believe he’s never caught on. “Now, my poor Odysseus is stuck on Ogygia with Calypso and she won’t let him go.”

As I said, I’d heard of Odysseus’s “entrapment” before. It can’t be all that bad and, in my opinion, he should stay. After all, it’s been seven years; Odysseus isn’t complaining about his fate and his wife certainly isn’t sending out the search parties. Plus, being “stranded” with a nymph? How lucky could a prisoner get? I pulled my best attempt at a sympathetic face as Zeus spoke of how he thought it best for Ithaca if Odysseus could return.

“Go help the man, Hermes,” he looked to my bare feet, “you’ve nothing better to do.”  I sighed to myself, not wanting to get involved in this. Unfortunately, he was right. I needed my “old pair of footwear” to do my job–seeing messages to their destinations and guiding the directionally-challenged deceased to the Underworld since, as much as mortals love their mates, having a dead spouse roaming about presents difficulties when bringing anyone new home. My winged helmet could get me from place to place, but I needed both helmet and sandals for my “god-ness” to be effective.

I searched for an argument against going, but you can’t say “no” when you work for Zeus.

~ ~ ~

After years together, descriptions of Odysseus’s flatulence, halitosis or impotence wouldn’t sway Calypso; so I needed to bet on his lack of honesty. I stood by their bed and cleared my throat, but with their moaning and grunting it took me barking like a seal to distract them.

“What are you doing here?” Calypso hissed.

“Odysseus has to go.” I told her.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Odysseus announced while fondling Calypso.

“Zeus wants you home with Penelope.” Odysseus’s face whitened as Calypso slapped his hand away.

“Who’s Penelope?” she screamed. The ocean churned in response to her anger.

“His wife,” I said since Odysseus was too busy squirming to speak.

“You’re married?” A wave bashing the shore emphasized her screech.

“Um, well a little. She could be dead for all I know.”

“Penelope isn’t dead,” I sighed, “and hoards of men have been trying to have a go at her for years.”

His eyes raged. Ignite the fire of jealousy and suddenly a man’s wife is much more fascinating than any nymph. “Not my Pen—” I think he wanted to say more, but Calypso’s smack across his face pushed the words back in.

“Get out of my sight,” she said as she jutted her arm to indicate the door through which to leave.

We scurried away, more willing to face the tempest than its conjurer.

Poseidon agreed to help Odysseus to his boat, but refused to aid the mortal further. He advised me to do the same and to wash my hands of the troublesome human. I promised to try.

~ ~ ~

The instant I stepped in my door, Zeus hounded me.

“Hermes, please,” he whined.

“Zeus, I’ve only just returned.” I plopped into my favorite chair.

“No, up, up.” He yanked me from my seat. “It’s Io.”

Io: Zeus’s latest mortal consort – known as Flavor of the Month by the rest of us.

“What’s wrong with Io? She’s gorgeous and you’ve only had her three times. You can’t be bored yet.”

“No, I love her.” Zeus loved all women, excepting his wife. His scattering of bastard half-breeds embarrassed the Greek Pantheon and each time a new one appeared we dreaded the additional work as Zeus insisted we watch over the child and bribe the Fates to its favor. “But Hera’s angry.”

“Who could blame her?”  Hera was no wilting flower when it came to her husband’s indiscretions.

“But she sent Argus to kidnap Io.”

I struggled to contain my irritation. Here’s my boss, the all-powerful head of the gods, and he can’t muster the wit to snag his floozy away from a giant? Granted, it’s a hundred-eyed giant under Hera’s control, but he’s Zeus for gods’ sake.

“Let me guess, you want my help.”

“Could you?” he asked brightly as if the question hadn’t been on the edge of his lips.

“Fine, but once my boots are in, I’m going to be too busy for your nonsense.”

“Understood.”

Flute in hand, my tired helmet flew me to the beast. With Argus’s hundred eyes fixated on Io, I played undetected and my lullaby sent him to sleep. Long story short, I cut off his head and carried Io home. She shrieked the entire way – apparently she’d grown to like the undivided attention from Argus and had issues with spurting blood. I dropped her at Zeus’s door, not caring if it was he or Hera who answered.

Despite my exhaustion, I went to check on my boots hoping for their completion so I could escape any more of Zeus’s chores.

“Sorry.” The frazzled cobbler’s hands buzzed as a string of gold threaded into a leather sole. “Aphrodite doubled her order. I won’t finish your boots for days.”

I groaned, but what could I do? I fluttered home to nap.

Zeus was already there.

“Haven’t I done enough for one day?”  Our days are quite long and mortal weeks might have passed since Zeus’s first task. To say it had been a long day was no exaggeration.

“Odysseus is in trouble.”

My bad mood over Aphrodite, Zeus’s ineptitude and bone weariness took over.

“What, is poor Odysseus having to have sex with another gorgeous nymph?”

“Well—” he trailed off staring at his feet.

“Spill it.”

“Circe.”

“Oh no.”

“Yep.”

Circe, yet another nymph, lured men to her. She quickly got bored, but was too possessively jealous to send them off. As she couldn’t have pestering suitors roaming around, she turned her jilted lovers into mice, elephants and an assortment of other beasts that scurried around her island as she tempted more men into her menagerie.

“What’s she chosen for him?”

“Them. She wants to keep the crew he’s obtained together.”

“As?”

“Pigs.”

Despite my exhaustion, I convulsed in laughter. Zeus started to plead, but I stopped him. “I’ll go,” I choked on the words as giggles spilled out, “but only to see the results if I’m too late.”

My helmet beat its tired wings to Circe’s sty, then kept me hovering me above the reeking muck seeping from the confines of the pen that had softened the surrounding ground into paste. Circe already managed to give the men corkscrew tails provoking my laughter once again. This task was well worth missing out on my much needed nap.

“You again?” Odysseus sneered.

“In the flesh. You’d think you’d just learn to set sail for home.”

“The wind and waves brought me here.”

“Sure, that and your loins. After this you’re on your own.” I tossed him a packet of herbs. “Eat these. They’ll halt her spell.” Circe, after pushing away an amorous lion, strode toward us grinning. “And by her smug expression, you better eat fast.” They gobbled the herbs and the tails disappeared with a pop.

“Why are you here?” she grumbled.

“Nice to see you too, Circe. I found myself craving a ham.”

She smiled thinking I was condoning her scheme. “Want to watch?”

“Sure.”

She muttered a few odd phrases and nothing happened. After two more failed tries, the fabled temper I counted on sprang forth. She screamed, tore at her hair and stomped the ground. Her outrage plunged her waist deep into the muck. Odysseus and his men laughed cruelly as she continued to try the pig spell to no effect. I urged Odysseus to set sail straight to Ithaca.

“Perhaps,” he shrugged.

I was done with him regardless of any further requests from Zeus.

Feeling guilty over the men’s treatment of her, I helped Circe out of her mud stew and together we concocted a brilliant story to protect her reputation. The story told of Odysseus being too pig-like already for her magic to change him further; and, because of his insatiable fetish for devouring feces, she kept him around for several years to clean up the other animals’ messes. With Odysseus’s roaming ways I knew he wouldn’t reach Ithaca for some time, thereby lending the tale an air of truth and Odysseus an interesting nickname for years to come.

~ ~ ~

Home again, I prayed there were no more troubled mortals in Zeus’s sights and laid down to rest. The second I began to snore, Hera blasted my door away.

“You’ve helped him.”

“Who?”  I didn’t know if she meant Zeus or Odysseus.

“The mortal. He doesn’t want to return to Penelope. He deserves everything I’ll do to him. Then, unlike other husbands, he’ll appreciate being home and stay put.”

Hera, constantly being put aside by Zeus, was always on the rampage against any of his mortal favorites, even the men. Being a chosen one of the gods isn’t all it’s cracked up to be because someone or some god will inevitably be jealous over the choice. Hera had been testing Odysseus to prove the mortal’s unworthiness and because she resented Zeus’s affection for the wandering husband. “And you helped the jerk.” She stomped a golden-sandaled foot.

Again I was unsure to whom she referred.

“I work for Zeus and he commanded me. What could I do?”

“Spineless Hermes.”

“No, wingless. Until I get my boots, which could be never if Aphrodite puts in another order, I’m left to your husband’s whims.”

“Not anymore.” She threw one boot across the room and its heel wings fluttered for its maiden flight. It landed in my hand as the other flew to my side.

I put them on and they fit like they’d been formed to my feet. A glow washed over me knowing I was whole again – and that I wasn’t at Zeus’s bidding anymore. “A thousand thanks, Hera.”

“There’s a price.” Her calculating voice erased my exhilaration. Of course, there was a price. Nothing was ever easy with the gods. “You’ve been thwarting my efforts all day. Twice with Odysseus and then with that slut Io. I was so pleased with myself for re-trapping Odysseus and getting Circe to turn him into what he really is – a rutting pig – and then my poor Argus. He was my favorite giant.”

“Sorry, I didn’t know. I wouldn’t have—”  I verbally and physically backed away. Of all the gods, I didn’t want Hera angry with me.

“You have your boots back, so off to work with you.”

I didn’t trust her smirk.

“What’s going on?”

“Orpheus.”

“Please tell me he didn’t.”

Orpheus and Eurydice: a happier couple didn’t exist. The gods should have looked to them for an example of marriage. They were truly a pair who would have lasted the ages. They were life for each other, the air the other breathed, the food the other ate. But one day, following Orpheus along a path, a snake bit Eurydice and she died. Orpheus’s emotional life left him and I feared he’d taken his physical one as well.

“He’s fine,” she sighed. My relief at the news was only negated by my wariness of Hera’s gift. “He bargained with one of us for one last day with Eurydice. She came out of the Underworld while you were off duty and they’ve had the most beautiful day together making love and gazing into each others’ eyes,” she oozed mocking sweetness.

“And now?”

“She has to go back. It’s your job,” she nodded to the boots, “to guide her.”

“Can’t she stay? He can’t lose her again. Her death was a mistake.”

“I do not make mistakes.” The walls shook with her rage.

You did it. You sent the snake. You couldn’t stand to see a couple so happy, not with your miserable marriage full of revenge, contempt and jealousy.”

She pointed at my broken door and said with poise, “You have a job to do Hermes.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

At the Gate to the Underworld, the couple embraced each other and cooed soft words in the other’s ear. Separating them would rip their hearts apart. And mine. Hera’s revenge for my day of undoing her work would be to burden me with the sadness of separating these two for the length of my existence. I watched them for a moment longer before telling the lovers it was time. Glad to trail after his love even into death, Orpheus followed as I guided Eurydice.

I couldn’t do it.

Let Hera torment the wayward Odysseus. Let Zeus ignore her. And let them all rot in Circe’s sty. This day’s work for the gods taught me a love like that of Orpheus and Eurydice needed to be saved.

At the threshold of the Gate, I clutched them to me and, shirking my duty for the first time in a millennium, flew across the Adriatic to the land gaining its own reputation for power. There, they could embrace the Roman gods and escape these petty Greek ones. The couple’s joyful tears were thanks enough as I settled them into a prosperous village along the coast. I then turned my back on Greece forever to find a position in the Roman Pantheon.

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