Tasty Free Things… of Altered States.

Gosh well here it is, the day of reckoning. Another anthology I’m proud to be a part of has launched unto the void today. Beneath that marvellous cover to the left, of Altered States features eleven stories by eleven international writers (some published, some published for the first time). Covering many genres, right through from speculative fiction to literary, it’s a wonderful collection and I guarantee you’ll enjoy even those stories written in genres you don’t normally touch with a bargepole.

My offering for this feast of words is a little SF number called ‘Lepidoptery’ and, because the first issue of Altered States is being given away 100% free (yes, that’s FREE fiction in bite sized chunks – sheer awesomeness), I’ve decided to pop up a little taster of ‘Lepidoptery’ here. I hope you enjoy it enough to go download the anthology (link at the bottom of the post) and, heck, mine’s not the only story and by no means the best, so I hope you’ll go and download whether you like my story or not. You seriously won’t regret it and it does not cost a thing. Oh… did I mention that it’s free… totally legal five finger discount? Yes I did. Well, doing it again 😛

Lepidoptery

by Ren Warom

Clear as glass, the egg-shaped Carrier lifts to the sky. My stomach tips over. I curl my hands to fists. Watch as trees shrink to toys, the Holding to a doll’s house.

The Carrier’s strong but looks brittle as candy. It flies only with their thoughts, an invisible strength. Bodies held within glass, glass held within the air. If they stop thinking, even for a second, we’ll all fall.

I saw it happen once, last summer I think. I get confused because every day feels the same. The Carrier smashed to shards like a mirror. The bodies inside broke apart. Burst. Painted the Carrier shards red as Christmas.

I squeeze my eyes, try to wipe the memory away before it sets into my head. There’s too much in there I can’t forget. Too much noise. Too much ruin. If we fall, I’ll burst and it’ll cover the earth like a storm.

Outside the carrier, clouds draw in close. Like curious blank eyes, staring in at us. The sun lights them from within. They float just as we float. A sky full of floating. I’m floating too. Inside.

All those soft bits, heart, lungs, stomach, are bags of air in water, rising in my throat like sick. I’m scared they’ll choke me. I keep swallowing, as if that’ll make any difference.

We’re moving so fast I’m getting dizzy, brief flashes of the ground through the clouds at my feet reduced by distance to a blur of green. I can’t stop looking.

The Carrier bursts from thick cloud to bright sun. It stings my eyes. I blink away tears, stare out of glistening Carrier glass. And I see it. Rising in the distance. A huge building, one of their living places, so much more elaborate than the ones we call Holdings. I wonder if that’s where we’re going.

Tall towers, fingers of silkstone, stand intricate as lace against a white sky. Ghosts haunting the morning. I feel a ghost myself. Makes me wonder how death will feel. If that’s where they take us I won’t have to wonder long. I know, as everyone knows, that this flight is the last I’ll take. Those who leave the Holding never come back.

I wipe my hand through the tiny drops of misty water covering the curve of the glass; look up to watch the Moths as their minds carry us. There’s no sign in their peaceful flight of the violence they carry us toward.

These Moths aren’t the tiny things that used to flutter to bulbs and burn their wings, or tangle in your hair. They’re flying giants, larger than blue whales, I know because I went to London once, and I saw the model in the room at the Natural History Museum. Their wings swallow the sky. Each flap rocks the carrier, makes my stomach tighten, ache.

Their bodies are vast. It reminds me of being in London, feeling too small and scared. In the bright sunlight the swirls of autumn colours shimmer on their wings; the diamond glitter of frost crowds close as dewdrops on a crazy mix of colour cells.

Hard to describe, the only word that fits Moths properly is beauty. They don’t fit, do they?

Tess reaches out and grasps my fingers. “What does it look like? I can’t move enough to see properly.”

Tess is small, slight. Unable to properly digest the nutrients we were given she’s never grown much beyond the size she was when we first met each other in the Holding.

Both of us only ten years old. Kids from different countries who’d just lost everything we knew. So had all the other children, all we had left was each other. That’s still how it is, even now so many of us are gone.

Those we leave behind today will try not to think about where we’re going, I know because I’ve been there, we all have. And now I’m here, leaving, I know I can’t think about anyone I leave behind. It hurts too much either way. I didn’t want to know this, but very little of what I know has been anything I wanted to.

I squeeze Tess’s hand.

“It’s a cathedral made of milky glass, a castle built from opal, it’s magical,” I tell her, because I can’t lie. Even the world they’ve built over the ruin of ours is beyond beautiful. Like a dream.

Her fingers clutch. Hurting. “I’m so scared, Leela.”

I grip her fingers. I’m scared too. “It’s just like sleeping,” I say, “but it lasts forever.”

Her fingers tremble in mine. “Forever’s such a long time,” she says.

“Not really,” I say, and try to smile. “Because you’ll be sleeping.”

“But I won’t wake up,” her lips begin to tremble; the glassy shine of tears rises on the lids of her eyes. They fall one by one. Mini carriers. But these ones hold only hurt.

“Then it won’t matter that you’re asleep.” I sound more certain than I feel. A sharp pain hits my throat, a bursting bag. I think I might scream, so I swallow hard enough to hurt and say to her. “Perhaps we dream when we’re dead. We could dream of each other.”

“But what if they’re nightmares?”

My head empties. Water down a plughole. I’ve no idea what to say. What if she’s right? So I squeeze her fingers again, force a smile because I don’t want to upset her. If Tess loses it then I’m going to as well.

Tess was always sensitive. One of the kids who never managed to cope with all that happened. She still cries in her sleep every night. I cried only once. The day it happened. The day they came.

There you have it, the first part of my story. Please do go and download of Altered States, I know a great deal of the writers and I’ve read all their stories and they are fabulous. Here’s the link for lovely free literature:

http://www.ofalteredstates.com/free-downloads/

Thanks for popping by, and do drop me a comment if the spirit moves you!

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