Tag Archives: horror

Celebrate with me!

As some of you already know, the audiobook version of Flies in the Leaves of Glass and Other Stories was released via Audible.com. It is also available via Amazon.com and iTunes

This is very exciting for me. To hear my stories narrated, hearing my characters come to life and speak with their own voices, is both spectacular and humbling. 

Since I am ecstatic over my first audio release, I’ve decided to give you guys – my readers – something in return. Beginning Sunday September 3, the Kindle versions of Flies in the Leaves of Glass and Sliding Along the Watchtower will be on sale for only $0.99 each. This sale will last until the 9th. As an added bonus, you can get your copy of Where the Midway Never Ends, my latest published short story, absolutely free beginning Monday and going through the 7th. 

Thanks for all your support. I’d have never gotten this far without all of you, and I’m always both humbled and grateful that you guys read my stories. 

Happy Labor Day weekend all. Be safe. All my love. 

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Trick Candles – an Excerpt from Flies in the Leaves of Glass

Okay. I’m going to be honest with you. I’m… disappointed. The new book isn’t selling at all. I’ve done practically everything I can think to do short of whoring myself to try to get someone to buy it. I’ve got one more trick up my sleeve, though. So here goes:.

I’ve looked on Amazon and their free preview of the book involves the entirety of the first story in the book – Demon Speeding Blues, and at least a portion of the second, Trick Candles. So since they’re giving away a considerable portion of my book for free, I’m going to give you a free sample. After much thought and consideration, I’ve settled on Trick Candles. You can already read Demon Speeding Blues practically for free, and frankly, it’s the weakest story in the book. Trick Candles was pretty good though, if I do say so myself. The book is called Flies in the Leaves of Glass. If you’re looking for something to twist your perspective a bit, get the book.

So, without further ado, here it is. Obviously, copyright on this story belongs to me, all rights reserved, 2016, etc. etc.

 

 

Trick Candles

 

 

Johnny hitched his backpack higher on his right shoulder and walked on in the late afternoon sunlight. He felt amazing. He felt strong. Above all else, he felt free. He would never have to be afraid again. Nobody… and he meant nobody… would ever hurt him again. Every other time Phil Williams had put his hands on him, he had allowed his mother to talk him into staying. She would run crying into his room as he was packing what clothes he had and beg him to stay, wail that Phil did not mean it. It was the beer and the coke, this was the last time, they would go to counseling and she would make Phil go to rehab, blah blah.

The abuse had been going on since Johnny was six. That was the year his father died in a freak accident at the local mill. That was the year his mother started drinking her feelings away. That was the year Phil came into his life. At first it had been relatively gentle. Phil did not like Johnny and never bothered to hide it. After about six months of living with them and sleeping with his mother in his dead father’s bed, it turned hard.

Phil told Johnny to go get him a beer out of the fridge and by God he better “keep your fucking hands on it this time. If you drop it like the last one I’m gonna thump yer skull for ya!” Between the condensation on the can and Johnny’s clumsy, shaking, six-year-old hands, he never had a chance. Phil opened the can he was brought. Beer sprayed him in the face.  The next thing Johnny was aware of was that he was sprawled on the floor on his stomach, soaking wet and stinking of beer. There was a throbbing pain in the side of his head and he was dizzy. That was Johnny’s only clear memory of that first time. Of course, it only got worse from there.

He was eight the first time he awoke in his bed to find Phil’s hand wrapped around his, which was stroking Phil’s cock. When Phil noticed he was awake he forced Johnny to open his mouth.

“You suck at everything else so you may as well learn how to do it right, you little faggot!”

After a while Phil was no longer content to just stick it in his mouth. When Johnny had tried to tell his mother she called him a liar and slapped him. When Phil found out he gloated that nobody would ever believe a little faggot like him so he had just better keep his mouth shut unless Phil wanted him to open it. Then he made Johnny turn around. Twenty minutes later if anyone heard the muffled moans and cries coming from the woodshed, they chose not to investigate.

When he was ten he ran away the first time. When he was twelve he attempted suicide. Now he was done. He had heard stories while growing up of boys having enough of their mothers’ abusive boyfriends or husbands and beating them within an inch of their lives. The problem was those boys were always bigger or stronger than their abusers. Johnny had missed out on the genetic lottery payoff. He was of average height, but had a small build and was thin even for that. He had none of the wiry strength the other farm boys his age developed and knew he never would.

His mother woke him early this morning so he could get started making breakfast. She had to work early in the diner, so he needed to make Phil’s eggs and bacon today. He reluctantly got out of bed to get started. Johnny knew what would be coming and was in no way looking forward to it. His eyes burned as he brushed his teeth.

###

Phil awoke to the delicious aroma of bread frying in bacon grease. The bed was empty, which was just the way he liked it. Her side of the bed empty meant she was already gone. Which meant he had time to… play… before he had to get to work. The boy was not good for much, but over the years he had learned several important skills: how to cook, how to suck, and how to bend over. There was not much fat on him, but he had enough where it counted.

Phil was not gay. He had made that fact perfectly clear to the boy over the last eleven years. He did not find the boy attractive and damned sure was not in love with him. For Phil only two things mattered where the boy was concerned: power and pleasure. This was his secret way of keeping the boy cowed, and his way of getting what Johnny’s mother would not give. There were just certain things she refused to do, and it was easier getting those things from Johnny than anywhere else. Phil was a strong believer in the old adage, “any port in a storm”.

He got out of bed, got dressed, and went to the bathroom to address the necessary. Fifteen minutes later he was shaved, his teeth were clean, and his bladder was empty.

“What’s cookin’ there, boy?” Phil asked as he ambled into the combination kitchen and dining area in the small house. Johnny flinched at the sound of his voice, just the way Phil liked it.

“Fried eggs, crispy bacon, potatoes with onions, crumbled sausage and cheese, and fried bread. Mom said you were gonna have a long day today, so I needed to make you a big breakfast. I’ve already got your lunch packed. I made you two BLTs and a fried egg sandwich. There’s a pickle in there, too.”

“Good. How long until it’s ready?”

“I’m about to make your plate.”

That made Phil smile. He rewarded the good news by grabbing the boy’s ass and grinding up against him. The boy jumped and pulled away.

“Not while I’m cooking, Phil.”

“After breakfast then. Your room. And if you try to fight me again I won’t be quite so gentle this time, you little faggot.”

The boy wheeled around, anger blazing in his too-bright eyes.

“Stop calling me that! You’re the one who gets his rocks off by fucking little boys! As far as I can tell the only person here who’s ever stuck his dick in someone else with a dick is you!”

Phil’s voice was deadly quiet as he stood. “Boy,” he said, “I do believe you just called me a faggot. Let’s get something straight here. You’re the one who sucks dick and takes it up the ass. That makes you, by definition, a faggot. It makes me sick just looking at you, knowing I raised a fucking faggot. Now you’re going to get on your knees and swallow what I give you to swallow by way of an apology, or I’m going to split your skull open.”

“No.”

Phil’s eyes widened in surprise. “Say that again? I don’t think I heard you right.”

NO!” the boy shouted at him, tears spilling from his eyes.

Phil lunged at Johnny; Johnny swung the frying pan still in his hand, hot bread, smoking bacon grease, and all. The contents struck the side of Phil’s head just before the rest of the skillet. Phil bellowed in rage and pain as he clawed at his eyes. Johnny bolted.

###

Johnny’s hand was on the doorknob when Phil caught him.

Five minutes later he was bent over his bed, his shorts around his ankles. He screamed with every thrust. Phil, in his anger, had gone in dry.

###

Twenty minutes later, Johnny lay curled on his mattress, crying. His shorts were still around his ankles. Blood and semen coated his thighs. His left eye was puffy and swollen where Phil had hit him and blood trickled from a corner of his mouth. Phil stood at the door of Johnny’s bedroom, buckling his belt.

“You ever try anything like that again, boy, and I’ll fucking kill you. I mean it. Now, I’m going to go eat my breakfast. Then I’m leaving. When I get back here this afternoon, I’d better find this place fucking spotless.”

Thirty minutes later Johnny heard the front door slam. He got up and went to the bathroom to clean himself up.

###

He was sitting on the edge of the bed his mother shared with Phil. Phil’s gun was in his hands. Over the years he had entertained this thought more times than he could count. He spasmed with silent sobs. Phil had threatened to kill him, and Johnny believed that he would do it eventually anyway. Happy fucking birthday, he thought. He was seventeen today. Still a minor, and still trapped here for at least another year. He looked at a framed portrait hanging on the wall. He and his mother stood around a seated Phil.

The anger flashed before he could even begin to try to stop it. He seized the portrait, smashed the glass, and ripped it to shreds. He picked up a piece of glass and made a deep long vertical cut up the inside of his forearm. Blood gushed onto the floor. With his uninjured hand he snatched the gun from the bed, put it to the shelf of his chin, and pulled the trigger. The world exploded into innumerable shafts of white light. Then all was darkness and oblivion.

###

Three hours later, his eyes flew open.

###

Johnny sat bolt upright. He had the worst headache he had ever known, and there were shooting pains in his left forearm. The bright morning sunlight had deepened into afternoon. He looked around. He was still in his mom’s room. The portrait was still shredded to bits and glass was all over the place. Blood was everywhere: the floor, the bed, the nightstand, him.

He looked at his arm and was surprised to find it uninjured. The skin was red and raw, but otherwise whole. He stood up and the world lurched. He stood still until the vertigo and nausea passed. Johnny made his way to the dresser and looked in the mirror. He looked as if he had just starred in a B grade horror movie, and somehow he was naked, but other than that he was fine. His eye was no longer puffy; his lip was no longer split. Gingerly, he reached behind his head, terrified of what he would find. To his astonishment and great relief, he found the back of his head intact. Then he looked back at the bed and screamed.

Lying on the bed in a pool of blood was his body missing half its head. The darkness took him again.

###

Phil enjoyed his Saturdays. That is to say, he usually enjoyed his Saturdays. His wife almost always worked a double shift at the diner in town on Saturdays. He got to sleep late before going out to work the fields, and he almost always managed to dip his wick in the boy at least once. Today was different. The boy had bucked up at him. Worse than that, the boy had hit him with a hot frying pan. The side of his face was burned bright red where the bread and bacon grease had splashed him and his entire head ached from the heavy skillet. He had applied a zinc oxide cream to his burns, but it still hurt like hell. When he finished up for the day he was going to put a hurt on that damned kid he would never forget.

Phil had never liked the boy. From the first time he saw him, Phil had taken him for a clumsy scrawny runt. And he was. The boy’s grades were never something to write home about, he had a habit of dropping and breaking things, and he was too scrawny and weak to even be much of a help out in the fields. The boy was too weak to sling hay bales and too incompetent to drive a tractor. As far as he could tell, the boy was only good at opening his mouth and bending over.

Phil sat in the shade of an old and towering oak tree, pondering the morning’s events and growing angrier each second as he ate his lunch, when his cell phone rang. He half-listened to the woman’s voice on the other end as he pondered his rage.

“Uh-huh. Yeah I figured you’d take the extra hours. No, it’s fine, we can use the money. How the fuck should I know what he’s doing? I can tell you what that no-good useless bastard isn’t doing and that’s fucking working! Whatever. What time do you think you’ll be home? Fine. I’m gonna knock off around three. No, I’ve just got a headache is all. I need to get under the tractor and check it out. I thought I smelled oil burning. After that I’m calling it quits for the day. Yeah. Love you too.”

He had figured out how to explain away the burn on his face while he was on the phone with her. Never underestimate the power of denial, he thought to himself as he gathered up the remains of his lunch.

Three hours later, he was heading back to the house. His face still burned like hell and his head was only slightly better. The boy was definitely going to pay for this. His mood was black as he opened the front door.

Phil paused for a moment in the front room of the house. All the lights were off and there was no sound. The house had a strange feel to it which he found impossible to identify. It felt empty, yet not. He had never been superstitious, but in that moment he felt a cold chill travel up his spine in that particular way only hauntings can cause. He reached for the wooden bat which lived by the door and cautiously turned on the light. The room was exactly the way he had left it.

He walked through the house, turning on lights as he went. His anger deepened when he saw the kitchen and dining room in the exact same condition as they were when he had left. I told that worthless bastard to clean this place up, he thought as he continued through the house. Phil looked in Johnny’s bedroom as he walked down the narrow hallway and found it messy, but no Johnny. It was then he saw the shape in his own bedroom.

“Johnny? Is that you?”

The shape neither moved nor answered. Phil clutched the bat tighter as he flicked the light on. What he saw horrified him. The boy stood facing away from him, naked as the day he was born and covered in red. Phil felt ice water run through his veins as he surveyed the ruin of his bedroom. When he saw what was on the bed he felt the bottom drop out of reality as his brain refused to accept what his eyes tried to show it.

The corpse of his stepson was melting into a puddle of ichor as he watched, but was still plainly Johnny. The gun lay beside what was left of the body, though Phil was too dumbstruck to grab for it.

“Hello, Phil,” the boy standing at the foot of the bed said, “welcome home. How’s your head?”

Phil could only look in horror as Johnny turned to face him. The expression on his face made it plain to Johnny that Phil would not be useful for pretty much anything ever again.

“I know what it looks like, and yeah, it’s pretty fucked up,” Johnny said, “it took me a while to wrap my head around it too. I mean, I blew my brains out with your gun, but here I am. Of course, I’m there too.” Johnny waved at the thing on the bed. “I don’t get it or how it happened, but there you go. I’m dead, but still alive.”

Phil’s gaze shifted from the thing on the bed to the thing standing before him.

“Oh yes, I’m alive. I’m not a ghost or anything like that. I checked. That,” he pointed at the mess on Phil’s bed, “was actually the second time I’ve committed suicide today. Believe me, it’s hell on the head. And the mattress, I’m guessing. Anyway. Now that the situation has changed somewhat, let me make something very clear to you”

Johnny took a step toward Phil, who stumbled backward as he raised the bat. The front of his pants grew visibly darker as Phil’s bladder let go.

“You will never touch me again, you sick fuck. But I’m going to touch you.” Johnny’s lips peeled back in a very sharp, pointed, and hungry smile. “This is for eleven years, you son of a bitch.”

Phil tried to swing the bat as Johnny lunged at him, but the space was too confined.

Twenty minutes later, if anyone heard the muffled screams coming from the house, they chose not to investigate.

 


Buy, buy, buy! Things on sale!

Just a quick reminder to let all of you know that for the next seven days you! Yes, you! Can get your very own copy of Flies in the Leaves of Glass for $0.99! That’s right! Nine new tales of terror and the weird clocking in at nearly 250 pages! Get your own copy for Kindle today!


Because why not?

Hey there everyone. I just thought I’d let you know that  – in an attempt to boost sales and have a better holiday season – between November 5 and November 12 my second book, Flies in the Leaves of Glass, will be on sale for the stupidly low price of $0.99 for the Kindle version.

That’s right – for seven days, you can get your very own electronic copy of the book that will make you think twice about going fishing or looking in a mirror again for less than the price of a cup of coffee. Hell, it’s even going to be cheaper than paying for all those sad little animals Sarah McLachlan keeps begging you to support. She wants $20 per month. I’m asking you for less than a dollar and a few minutes to write an honest review once you’re done reading it. 

Mark your calendars! Here’s the link:

Flies in the Leaves of Glass
Tell your friends! Tell your enemies! Hell, tell total strangers and pervy distant relations!


It’s time to give back!

Okay everyone. I know I haven’t been doing much blogging lately and I’m going to try to rectify that. I’m also going to start trying to publish actual stories more often. This last batch was really good. Anyway. 

I have two copies of my newest book Flies in the Leaves of Glass available to be signed and sent to you – absolutely free of charge. All I ask is this: go to my Facebook page, hit the Like button, and share this post. 

That’s it. 

That’s all you have to do. 

The two of you who win will be contacted via private message and will receive your very own personalized copy by Halloween. (Just in time to be freaked out! SQUEE!)

Help me bring you more stories more often by helping me promote this book. As you may have guessed, I’m pretty new to the whole marketing thing, and I need help. In the meantime, I’ve got loads more stories to tell. 


I’ve got my copy!

Do you have yours yet? 


The Long Shadow of Memory – an excerpt

The Long Shadow of Memory

A Tale of Love in the Time of Shub-Niggurath

A Short Story by Paul Martinez

This is a work of fiction. All of the characters and events portrayed in this story are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.     THE LONG SHADOW OF MEMORY ©2014 by Paul Martinez     All rights reserved.

He stood in the rain on this chilly October evening much as he had done on this date for the last ten years: staring down at the headstone and holding the revolver loosely in his left coat pocket. Every Halloween he stood and waited for midnight to come and pass, his revolver loaded and ready. Ready for what, he could not say. On the one hand, he felt a complete fool. After ten long years nothing had come to pass of that dreadful prophecy written in defiance of all that was right and sane in the world. On the other, if his former lover were coming back as he said he would, someone had to be there. He could not definitively say what someone had to be there for, but there was the revolver in his coat pocket.

    He examined the headstone more closely. It had endured the previous decade nicely. Carved into its cold gray surface were the words, “Juan Alejandro Sevilla. Beloved Son and Brother. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.” Beneath this two fat little cherubs flew, one holding a bouquet of flowers, the other a bible. Thomas Moreland smiled a wry grin at that, knowing his friend and former lover would return if he could for no other reason than to rail at the religious symbolism which marked his empty grave. Though Juan had shed his native Catholicism, a relic of his Mexican heritage, his parents’ beliefs were so deeply ingrained they had refused to accept both his rejection of their faith and the root cause of it. The priest responsible had been accused and convicted of molesting fifty young men and boys over the course of thirty years, but they could not understand how he could hold God responsible for the crimes of man.

    He had gone to confession on his thirteenth birthday and admitted to the priest he wasn’t attracted to girls like all the other boys his age. He wanted to know how God had made him like this even though it was an abomination. He wanted to know how to be a good Catholic and to please God if he was gay. The priest told him he was possessed by a spirit of homosexuality, took him to his quarters in the rectory, and, in Juan’s words to Thomas ten years later, “tried to rape the gay away while whispering Bible verses at me.” Eventually the disgraced priest lost his freedom. Juan lost his faith, his innocence, and his belief that the universe generally wanted good things for him.

    They had met at university; Thomas was pursuing a liberal arts degree while Juan, never one to settle for one when he could have two, was double majoring in both molecular biology and quantum physics. It was love at first sight. Thomas was tall and well built with piercing blue eyes and medium length light brown hair. Juan was smaller, just a few inches over five and half feet tall, with deep brown almond-shaped eyes and short jet black hair. His frame was small and delicate. Thomas was gregarious where Juan was reserved and studious. Juan always shone between the beginning of October and Thanksgiving, though. That stretch of autumn was his favorite time of the year. He loved the crisp, cool air, the fact that almost everything was pumpkin-spiced, carving pumpkins, and watching his beloved Green Bay Packers while enjoying a hearty dark stout beer or a bottle of Moscato. Thomas, being a Bears fan himself, liked to joke that a house divided was doomed to fall. Juan would laugh and pull Thomas’s protective arm tighter around him as they sat together watching a football game with their friends.

    The trouble began while Juan was working toward his doctorate in theoretical physics. He was focusing heavily on a relatively new branch of superstring theory called M-theory, which was an attempt to explain the universe in eleven dimensions. Juan called it the theory of everything. Some nights while he, Thomas, and a small group of their friends were sitting around the fire pit in their backyard getting high Juan would attempt to explain the fundamental problem he kept running into where the math was concerned: he kept running into what he called extra-dimensional pockets that he could not account for no matter how hard he tried. According to his calculations, these so-called pockets were entirely separate universes unto themselves, but were so near to ours they would actually meet in places and could even be breached if one knew how. The possibilities were absolutely tantalizing. Here was an opportunity for mankind to interact with entirely different universes! It might actually be possible to prove the many worlds theory! He had approached the department chair with his findings and was laughed out of the man’s office. Humiliated, he left in an uproar and vanished in the midst of a raging thunderstorm for a week.

    Thomas kneeled down to place a single yellow tulip on the stone. Tulips had always been Juan’s favorite flower. They were expensive to get during autumn, but he had never failed to leave one for his lost love. He wasn’t usually given to sentimentality but he had never gotten over losing Juan the way he did. He had never been able to let go the image of that…thing…and what it had done to the man he loved. Over the course of the intervening years he sometimes wondered if he were somehow responsible, but he also knew Juan was always dogged in his pursuit of his goals. He had the innate arrogance of all brilliant minds. Juan knew he was right about the interdimensional gaps he had found in space-time, knew they were physically close to the boundaries of the universe he had been born into, and knew they could be breached with currently available technology. After he had found that first one and breached it, Thomas also knew it was just a matter of time. He closed his eyes as he felt a wash of memory seize him in its cruel grasp.

    Thomas was sleeping when the sound of the garage door opening jolted him awake. He reached for the baseball bat he kept by the bed and waited. The intruder was making an ungodly amount of noise. Then he heard a chair get kicked and a familiar voice utter a mild curse which stopped his heart for a moment. He was out of bed in an instant and running for the kitchen. “Juan? Christ on a cornflake, where in the hell have you been? Everyone’s been worried out of their minds! I called the police! Your parents are going insane!”

    “What are you talking about?” he asked, stifling a yawn. Dark circles were under his eyes and he looked rumpled, like he had been sleeping in his clothes. “You act like I vanished without a trace and have been missing for ages!”

    Thomas pulled Juan into a bear hug as he replied, “What are you talking about? You have been! It’s been seven days today!”

    Juan broke the hug and stared Thomas in the eyes. “Are you serious? I’ve been missing an entire week?”

    “Haven’t you checked your phone? Seen a newspaper? Have you been hiding under a freaking rock or sleeping on a bench somewhere?”

    “My phone is fried. I hoped it was just a dead battery but the damned thing is a total loss. Besides, I came straight home. I didn’t even stop to get anything to eat, I’m so tired. It’s a wonder my car wasn’t towed if I’ve been gone for a week. Can we talk in the morning? I feel like I could curl up in my sock drawer and sleep for days.”

    Thomas assented to Juan’s request and followed him back to the bedroom. As they lay together in the bed they had shared for years, Thomas wondered about this man he had fallen in love with so long before. He remembered a joke one of his friends had cracked some time ago about the line between genius and madness being a thin one and that Juan danced on it quite freely. Thomas had punched the man in the eye for that comment. Now he found himself asking whether that statement had more truth in it than he had cared to believe before. Juan lay with his back to him, Thomas’s arm pulled protectively around him. As he felt himself drifting off, Juan spoke.

    “Thomas?”

    “Yeah?”

    “You don’t think I’m crazy, do you?”

    “Of course not. I think you’re brilliant. And I think we’ve all had a long week. Get some sleep, babe. We’ll talk about it in the morning. I’ll make you a big breakfast and we’ll talk about where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing. Ok?”

    “Ok. I love you. I’m sorry that I scared you.”

    “Don’t worry about it. I’m just happy to have you home safely. I love you too. Good night.”

    Juan was already asleep.

    The following morning was cool and cloudy. The autumnal breeze blew through the open kitchen window, heavy laden with moisture. Thomas was chopping green onions, slicing mushrooms for omelets, and brewing coffee when Juan stumbled into the kitchen, his short black hair poking out in corkscrews and at jaunty angles. Thomas looked at him and smiled, their familiar routine quickly reestablished.

    “Good morning, sunshine.”

    “Ugh. Don’t talk to me. Is there coffee?”

    Thomas grinned and handed Juan a mug of the freshly ground and brewed nectar, no cream, three sugars, and waited for permission to speak. Juan had never been a morning person. He had, in fact, been the type of person to whom one never spoke until after his first cup of coffee. He absolutely hated being called sunshine in the mornings and only barely tolerated it from Thomas. Thomas waited in silence for him to finish his first cup, the smell of cooking eggs and the promise of rain wafting through the kitchen air. Juan drank the coffee, his eyes closed in obvious relish. Thomas only bought the best beans and brewed their coffee by hand. He argued hand-brewed coffee was infinitely better than that done via machine and Juan had been forced to admit he was right. It took far more effort, of course, but Thomas always said anything worth taking the time to do was worth taking the time to do right.

    “So?” Thomas asked when he saw Juan finish the first cup and reach for the pot.

    “So, what?” Juan replied tersely.

    “So where the hell have you been for the last week?”

    “I’m sorry, Thomas, I have a hard time believing I’ve actually been gone a week.”

    Thomas threw the morning newspaper at Juan. “You don’t believe that? Check the date! Your parents are worried out of their minds! I called the police! I filed a report and organized a search party! Hell, I thought you were dead and they were going to find you in a ditch!”

    Juan was visibly shaken as he scanned over the newspaper, the date in the upper right hand corner glaring at him. “Okay,” he said. “This is what I’ve been up to.”

    Thomas paled in horror at the story Juan relayed to him. He was almost certain the man he loved had gone completely insane. There was no way he could have been responsible for the freak thunderstorm a week ago when, as he claimed, he opened a portal between the universe they knew and an entirely different one governed by similar laws of physics that lay approximately ten meters to the left in relative three-dimensional space. He told of a planet similar to Earth but covered in ruins and strange flora which he had discovered. There had obviously been an advanced civilization living on the planet at some point, but it had been completely extirpated along with any native animal life which he could detect. Not even insects remained.

    “There was evidence of some kind of external force which wiped out everything on the planet. I saw what looked like burn scars everywhere. There were what looked like huge footprints and other marks I couldn’t make out. I’m a physicist, not a paleontologist or xeno-biologist or whatever they call themselves. Apparently there was some kind of time-dilation effect too, because I thought I was only gone for a day and a half.”

    “How is any of this even possible?” Thomas asked, absolutely bewildered and more than half confused.

    “It’s actually not all that difficult,” Juan replied, growing excited. “It doesn’t take much energy to open a door between our universe and one that lies close to ours. However, the further one goes in any direction requires a directly proportional increase in the amount of energy applied. I found a thin spot between the worlds, though, which exponentially reduces the amount of energy I need to break the barriers and cross over! What I just did I did using four “D” batteries! Imagine what I could do with a car battery! Or even a power plant! I’ve singlehandedly created entire new fields of science! What?”

    Thomas was looking at him with unabashed concern. “Juan… you realize all of this sounds completely insane, right?”

“You don’t believe me either, then. Go figure. You’re the one person I was sure would believe me. It’s alright, though. Give me a chance to rest and I’ll prove it to you tomorrow.”

“Juan, that’s not what I…”

He was already gone. Thomas winced as he heard the bedroom door slam.

An hour later Thomas tried the bedroom door and found it unlocked. Juan was sitting in bed writing furiously in a notebook filled with incomprehensible equations and figures. It was obviously math, but so far advanced beyond anything Thomas knew it may as well have been written in Swahili.

“What are you working on, babe?”

“My calculations for the trip tomorrow. Time obviously works differently between our world and that one, and I need to figure out how differently. I experienced a day and a half there while in this world an entire week passed. I wonder if I aged a week too? It’s not really time travel per se, so I’m not sure how it affects my physiology. If nothing else, I’ve confirmed the multiverse theory. I wonder what else I’ll discover. You need to pack a bag too, just in case my calculations are off.”

Thomas stared at Juan in shock. “What are you talking about? Why should I need to pack a bag? And… I’m sorry, but multi-what? You have to remember my degree is in English literature, not quantum mechanics.”

Juan sighed and took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. I’ve gotten so caught up in the moment I forgot you and I are in entirely different fields. As simply as I can explain it, the multiverse theory which I’m talking about posits that there are an infinite number of alternate universes out there. A new one is created every time a diversion of events occurs. For example, in our universe you and I are a couple and have been for years. In another, we never met and our lives went in completely different directions. The further back in time one goes, the more those changes are compounded. In one universe the United States never won its independence from England. In another, Hitler’s luck didn’t run out and he won World War II. In yet another, the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs never hit Earth. I’ve found a universe very close to ours which diverged pretty early in human history but it appears something else came along and wiped out all animal life on the planet.”

“How could you tell it diverged early?”

“The ruins I found were ancient and covered in plant growth. The landscape was recognizable as identical to where I crossed over, though. Whatever civilization developed in that area was obviously relatively advanced. They built pyramids, Thomas. Do you remember when we went to Mexico and saw the ruins there? I’d put them on par with that. You know Native Americans up here in our universe weren’t building structures like that out of stone. They did, though. But something wiped them out utterly.”

“And the bag?”

“You’re coming with me, Thomas. Remember? Just don’t bring any electronics with you. Opening the gateway obviously fries any advanced electronic circuitry that attempts to cross, so there’s no point. Luckily the device I built was solid-state, and that appears to be fine. I do want you to bring a notebook and several pens, though. We’ll be taking notes this time. I was extremely interested in the runes and glyphs I saw on some of the buildings, and if we’re lucky we may even find a library of sorts.”

Thomas could see there was no point attempting to drag anything further from him, so he resigned himself to packing an overnight bag.

There was a loud crack of thunder and an overwhelming sense of nausea and vertigo as the doorway slammed shut behind them. Thomas briefly wondered if his shoes were coming up along with his breakfast, but the wave of nausea passed before he had a chance to deposit either one on the alien soil he was kneeling on. He kept his eyes tightly shut until the vertigo passed, listening to Juan retching a few feet away. Apparently he wasn’t the only one with whom interdimensional travel disagreed with. After a few moments he felt it was finally safe to open his eyes and see exactly what Juan had gotten him into this time. What he saw took his breath away.

A faded yellow sun shone on a gently rolling windswept plain bordered to the north by a lively river. The ground was covered in a verdant blanket of springy grass. Thomas turned his face into the chill wind blowing from the west to see a range of snow-capped mountains in the distance. A few miles to the south he could see what looked like the ruins of a city, while the plains continued as far as the eye could see to the east. Here and there he could see craters and scars upon the earth, as if something huge had scooped up entire chunks of earth and flung them away.

“Impressive, isn’t it?” Thomas almost jumped out of his skin as Juan spoke up behind him. “This isn’t even the half of it. You should see the city. There are some things I saw that I know you would be fascinated with. We should get moving though. Time moves slower here and it looks like it’s getting close to midday. We’ve got a few miles to walk before we reach the gates of the city itself. Are you ready?”

This is the end of the excerpt. For the rest, you can find the ebook version on Amazon for the ridiculously low price of $0.99!

Also by Paul Martinez

Sliding Along the Watchtower: A Novella


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