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 – 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…
- Smashwords (formats available for most e-readers and computers)
- Barnes & Noble
- Apple iBookstore
- Kobo and many more online retailers
Full-Story Sample from 13th Hour…
“Apple” is a melancholy post-apocalyptic story inspired by a first line contest, a long run of abnormally cold springs in the Northwest and having just read The Road by Cormac McCarthy. The Doc’s actions seem cruel, but he’s practical since having children when you can’t provide them food is never a good idea. This story won Second Prize in the Mary Mackey Short Fiction competition.
The road wasn’t on the map, but that didn’t stop The Doc from looking anyway. He rotated the map until the arrow with the N pointed in the direction he felt certain was north and traced his finger along the route they’d traveled. No matter how tightly he squinted, this road just wasn’t there. As he tried to work out how they’d lost the charted road, Amy shuffled around kicking at pebbles.
“I’m pregnant,” she said as if telling one of the little stones she was thirsty.
The Doc’s fingers clutched the map and he urged himself to relax. He couldn’t tear the map. Who knew if they’d find another.
She couldn’t be pregnant. Not now. Someday maybe, but not when they barely had enough food for one person let alone three. Sure, they’d been making love with a desperate frequency out of boredom, a need to stay warm and the simple comfort of being naked together, but with so much death he hadn’t dreamed she, or anyone, could harbor new life.
He relaxed his grimace and looked up from the map to Amy’s hollow face. He recalled how he winced when her hips ground into his during last night’s sloth-slow intimacy. He remembered the sense of loss and helplessness when the flanged bone of her pelvis, covered only by a hint of skin, jutted into his.
They were starving and another mouth would make it worse.
Supposing, of course, they survived another nine months.
But she couldn’t be.
“Are you certain?”
“Yeah. How could I not know?”
How could she not? He pondered back to the last embarrassing time when, for lack of any feminine hygiene products, she tore up a t-shirt to catch the flow. Of how, even then, her underwear was so loose on her wasting frame the elastic couldn’t hold the t-shirt shreds tight enough and blood dribbled down her leg. That had been so long ago. Or had it? Through the hunger, he couldn’t keep track of time. Survival after The Disaster he could handle. Keeping track of time? No. The red-legged incident could have been last month or even three months ago. What he did know is since that occasion, she hadn’t torn up any more shirts.
“When was your last period?”
“I dunno. A couple months ago. I didn’t say anything the first month, but I missed it again. You know how regular I am.”
Oh yes, the half moon. Her period always came at the half moon. He noted to himself that using the moon as a way to keep time would be a good idea. It was so regular, so unaffected by Earth. Even if the Earth’s gravity held it, the moon had more effect on the planet than the planet did on its cratered satellite. His gut grumbled and the thought floated away.
“We need to turn around. This road’s not on the map and I don’t want to get lost.”
“Why? Even if where we’re going is on the map, it’s not as if anything’s going to be there.”
“We don’t know that. Besides, it makes me feel better knowing we’re on the road to somewhere. Does that make sense?”
“And old houses and stores appear more frequently on mapped roads. We need to find more food. You need to eat more if you think you’re pregnant.”
She stopped trailing by his side.
“You don’t think I am. Just because you used to be a doctor—”
“I am a doctor,” he said more harshly than he intended. His hunger magnified every irritant. Knowing they had to retrace their path grated him like a jagged piece of glass coated in lemon juice grinding into his foot’s sole.
“If there are no hospitals, then you’re only trained in medicine. Plus, you were only a naturopath, not a real doctor.”
This used to be joke between them back when they joked with each other, back when their world didn’t feel covered in heavy clouds. He knew it was time to stop talking. They didn’t have the energy to waste on arguing, but the no-longer joke scratched at his nerves.
“I believe you’ve gone into amenorrhea. You’ve lost too much body fat for your uterus to waste resources prepping for a baby.”
“So you don’t think I’m pregnant.”
The words sounded so stupid he wanted to walk away and leave her to her own devices on this damn uncharted road. But he remained civil. They could get back to the main road by dusk if they turned around now. And there’d been an apple tree just as they turned onto this road. At mid-summer, the apples wouldn’t be quite ripe, but they’d be edible. He knew they needed fat, but any calories would do. They needed to get moving.
“I think it’s unlikely,” he took her hand, “but not impossible.”
Her smile took hostage of her bone and skin face. He wondered how she could want to bring a baby into a world where they scavenged and starved every day. A world where even unripe apples seemed like Thanksgiving.
~ ~ ~
The Disaster had been bad. Still, with seven billion people on the planet, there’d been enough survivors to continue. Electricity was non-existent, but human power was enough to turn fields and plant crops. For Amy and The Doc, as The Community began to call him, it had been almost idyllic until the final few years. Things turned a wrong corner and crops wouldn’t grow in The Community’s gardens. The climate shifted making it too cold and too wet for too long for warm-weather crops to thrive. And cold-weather crops struggled as if something in the soil strangled the life out of the leaves and shoots. Without external sources of food, The Community starved, buried their dead and hoped next year would be better.
When a third May in a row started out cold and wet, The Doc knew it was time to go. He and Amy packed what they could into backpacks and panniers and left on their bicycles. The Doc kept their direction always south and always east. He hoped down there it might be better – warmer with a longer growing season. After the years of increasingly colder Northwest weather, a hot humid southern summer sounded like perfection.
They scavenged and did well with the little camp stove he’d bought back when it was a cozy and quaint to be without electricity during a winter storm. The few people they encountered were wary but friendly, always willing to point on his map where they were. They’d been making good time until a group of men stole the bikes. The Doc was thankful they didn’t seem interested in Amy’s emaciated body, but he regretted the loss of the stove he’d stashed in the panniers. Hot water, a meager soup of leaves, even just a light in the dark all went with the stove.
He’d done well so far, never making them retrace their steps until now. This going back seemed like bad luck and he realized he’d grown superstitious since losing the stove. Two birds meant a bad day (there’d been two birds the morning they lost the bikes). A fallen limb pointing northwest meant someone else from The Community had died. He yearned to give meaning to things. This morning he’d seen two birds and now Amy had dropped her bombshell.
With a crack and crash, a limb fell from a poplar and three bluebirds flew from the undergrowth. It had to mean something.
“Wait here,” he told her before jogging over to the branch. The tip of the fallen branch pointed to a clump of an herb The Doc knew well. Ingesting a few leaves of the plant caused miscarriage. He looked to Amy and his mind ran a marathon of thoughts. Could she be pregnant? Perhaps there was a reason they’d gone this way. Perhaps this was why, after so long of not getting lost, he turned down this road. This was no world for babies. Not yet anyway. The Doc stooped to pluck some of the leaves. An hour later, he and Amy munched on a supper of apples.
~ ~ ~
As they walked with the sun fading behind them, Amy’s stomach rumbled and he handed her the leaves.
“Chew on these, they’ll dull the hunger.”
She took them, smelled them, then popped them in her mouth and chewed the leaves like gum. He took her hand and they kept walking.
That night, when her stomach cramped and ached, he rubbed her belly to soothe it.
“Too many apples, I guess,” she grunted.
“I’ll name the baby Apple if it’s a girl.”
He swallowed back the emotion her hopefulness swelled in him and continued rubbing her concave belly.
“That’d be a good name.”
List of 13th Hour’s Stories:
- Hermes – Follow the god with the winged sandals through a tough day on the job
- Bahati’s Birthday – Poachers get what’s coming for them when they try to “collect” a newborn elephant
- Addiction – Can dreams be addictive? For one man, yes.
- Illusions – An out of work scientist finds work and love in strange places.
- Century Acres – Two senior citizens do what they can to keep their love at the forefront of their memories.
- The Heron – An award-winning tale loosely based on the Japanese fable The Crane Wife.
- Feeding Suspicions – Can food be used as a weapon? A suspecting wife does her best to find out.
- Desmond, Casey and the Stonemason – A rich man loses his senses over an extravagant purchase.
- The Weaver – Who weaves our fate? And what if they make a mistake?
- Apple – A man in a post-apocalyptic world faces an agonizing decision.
- The Toad – A modern re-telling of a medieval Italian fable.
- Family Secrets – When Caleb disobeys his parents, he learns their hidden secret.
- Island Ways – A magazine writer discovers the truth about a tropical paradise.
- Purge – You may never want to pick up a quarter off the sidewalk again.
- The Text – How well do you know your co-workers?
- Transcription of Taxi 6473 – An Egyptian legend haunts a police transcriptionist.
- L’Uomo Cotto – You may want to consider vegetarianism after this story of a desperate restauranteur.