What if the government tried to create the perfect utopia? Could a society linked to a supercomputer survive on its own? Do our reflections control secret lives on the other side of the mirror? Can one moment split a person's world forever?
Exploring the fantastic, ten authors offer incredible visions and captivating tales of diverse reality. Featuring the talents of L. G. Keltner, Crystal Collier, Hart Johnson, Cherie Reich, Sandra Cox, Yolanda Renee, Melanie Schulz, Sylvia Ney, Michael Abayomi, and Tamara Narayan.
Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these ten tales will expand your imagination and twist the tropes of science fiction. Step through the portal and enter another dimension!
|Publisher:||Dancing Lemur Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.50(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Parallels: Felix was Here
An Insecure Writer's Support Group Anthology
By Insecure Writer's Support Group
Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.Copyright © 2016 The Insecure Writer's Support Group
All rights reserved.
Felix Was Here by L.G. Keltner
"The tragedies of our time have been nearly beyond our ability to bear. We lived to see the worst of war and lamented the lives lost. The influenza that struck toward the end of that war claimed a great many lives too, illustrating our vulnerability. A brief reprieve only led us into an economic catastrophe of epic proportions. Tensions overseas threaten to plunge the world into war once more. Amidst this turmoil, one thing has become clear. The future must come now. We stand on the brink of despair, and we need a beacon of hope to seize upon. The future will come when we make it real. The World of Tomorrow will capture the hearts and minds of the people, and I am here to say that it will not be a mere flight of fancy, but a reality you can see and touch and hang your hopes on. In cooperation with our government, preparations are well underway. We're creating test communities. As time passes, more will be built. This life will be a comfortable life. A safe life. It will be a life you can be proud to pass on to your children. Your children and their children will never need to understand the painful reality of war and uncertainty."
-Cecil Hardy, Jr.
At the grand opening of the World's Fair
April 30, 1939
* * *
"She named the baby Felix." Susan tapped her freshly painted fingernails against the golden Formica tabletop. The gleaming stand mixer whirred away in the background, whipping the perfect mashed potatoes to complement the scrumptious roast Betty had just pulled from the oven.
"She did?" Betty paused in her perusal of the Hardy catalog, her stomach doing an odd little flip at the mention of that name. Thoughts of purchasing new appliances vanished.
"I know." Susan shook her head. "For the life of me, I can't figure out why Mary couldn't have chosen a stronger name. Something solid and distinguished like John or Robert. Or Peter, for that matter. Then he could have shared a name with his father. That's a perfectly respectable thing to do."
Betty nodded, her chestnut curls barely fluttering. They were, after all, painstakingly pinned in place. Her stomach, however, showed no signs of settling.
The name turned over and over in her mind. Where had she heard that name before? Why in the world did it carry such weight?
"If I have a son, I think I'll name him Richard," Susan continued wistfully as she propped her rosy cheek against her hand. "I can't wait to start a family. I have the husband, and we have the house. It's only a matter of time before the rest of it falls into place."
"Yes, of course it will," Betty replied absently.
When it came time to set the table for dinner, the task at least provided a bit of a distraction. As she worked, Betty looked to her husband Bill and his blue sweater vest. Betty liked it because it brought out the color in his eyes. His short blond hair was styled with Brylcreem, as it was every time someone other than Betty could see him. His eyes caught hers as she set the roast in the center of the table, and she managed to give him a little smile in return.
Throughout the meal, Bill and Susan's husband, Patrick, talked about things that were going on at work. Susan requested they avoid getting too involved in discussions that she couldn't join, though it did little good. Betty tried her best to keep up, but in the end, she couldn't bring herself to care about the trivialities of the banking industry, grass length, or car repair.
She only cared about one thing.
That name lingered like a ghost. A ghost of what, though, she couldn't be sure.
As she set about clearing the dishes from the table, Bill touched her elbow. "Are you feeling unwell?"
The care in his expression eased her burden somewhat, and she offered him a smile. "A small headache, nothing more."
"I could let Patrick and Susan know that you need some rest," he offered.
Betty shook her head. "No, it's fine. It's nice to have them here, but thank you."
Admitting something was wrong seemed preposterous. It was nothing more than a name, and that hardly seemed a valid reason for concern. Once the dishes were cleared away, they sat around the kitchen table playing cards. Betty tried to pay attention, and while she did manage to keep up with the game, her heart wasn't in it.
The name kept playing through her mind like a skipping record.
Though she looked forward to these evenings with friends, she felt nothing but relief when they said good night.
* * *
That relief was short-lived.
Moonlight intermittently chased away the deep shadows of the bedroom as a soft breeze fluttered the curtain. Betty held the quilt firmly in place just below her chin as she tried to sink into sleep. Slumber, however, remained elusive as Bill lay beside her, the soft sounds of his breathing filling the room. After an hour or two, that sound began to crawl under her skin and fester.
That pattern repeated on a loop until nothing else in all the world remained. Susan's sweet voice recited the name as if it were barely even worth mentioning. As if it meant nothing. Yet it did. It meant everything, but why?
Finally, the rhythmic nature of the breathing and the repetition of the name lured her into sleep.
* * *
A young boy with chocolate brown skin and big eyes stands on the sidewalk near the intersection of Sullivan and Van Brunt with a bright yellow yo-yo in hand. He watches it intently as it moves up and down in smooth strokes.
Betty flips one of her pigtails over her shoulder as she looks on. A couple of adults are already there, though she can't guess why they care enough to stop. He is, after all, only a little boy with a shiny toy.
Then the show starts. The little yellow object flies through the air, forming grand loops, the string twisting around the boy's nimble fingers. The bright orb becomes a blazing streak of color, like a shooting star arcing across the sky. The boy's eyes remain fixed before him, never straying from the task he's set himself.
A minute later, the show ends and the crowd, which has grown to just over a dozen, breaks out in applause. Women in well-worn floral dresses and men in button-up work shirts and pants are impressed with something done by a kid.
A smile stretches across the boy's face, and his eyes sparkle. "Thank you! Thank you! Be sure to tell all your friends that Felix was here!"
That smile is infectious. When Betty leaves, she's smiling too.
* * *
When Betty's eyes opened, the subtle lightening of the room told her that it was nearly dawn. She had no idea how much sleep she'd actually gotten, nor did she care. That dream had seized her in its grasp, playing on a perpetual loop and demanding her attention.
That boy. She'd never seen him before in her life. Holding the edge of her quilt in her sweaty, trembling hands, she combed her memories for his face.
Nothing. Absolutely nothing, yet his smile and his eyes and his voice struck a chord. Perhaps he was some random kid she'd seen once, and her sleep-deprived mind slapped the name Felix on him at random.
Yes. That had to be it. It was the only explanation.
The setting of the dream, at least, was familiar enough. Perhaps that explained why the entire thing felt so real. Betty recalled the crowded streets of Brooklyn. Her mother used to make her hold on tight as they moved arm-in-arm through various shops. She'd loved the tantalizing scent of baked goods. The softness of the doughnuts that she'd sometimes get to eat if she was well-behaved, and the way they left powdered sugar residue on her fingers for hours afterwards. On the rare nights when her parents took her to see a film, the city lit up and shimmered like it was covered in gemstones.
The hustle and bustle of city life felt normal then. How could it not when it was all she'd ever known?
Then the World's Fair happened, and something crucial in her life shifted. She made the trip to Queens with her parents, where images of large, clean homes with all the modern amenities and kids playing in big yards or sitting at the kitchen table snacking on milk and cookies took hold in her mind. People dreamed big like never before. That was the first time Betty felt like there was something wrong with the small apartment she'd called home her whole life.
She knew times were tough for many, and her life wasn't precisely a cakewalk, but it had still been good. Her father worked hard. He spent as many hours as he could per week in a local factory making pencils, and while that work would've never made their family wealthy, they got by. With the economy being as bad as it was during Betty's teenage years, he was grateful to have a job and never complained.
With the assistance of government relocators, Betty's family became part of the first wave to populate the newly constructed communities. They ended up in Hardyville, named after none other than Cecil Hardy, Jr. Betty was, like all the others, assigned a resettlement counselor to help make the transition easier. Dr. Mayweather was a soft-spoken man, but he knew just what to say.
"Betty, this is an opportunity for which countless others will have to wait many years," he'd told her. "The transition won't happen overnight. Our people are working tirelessly to change our entire nation into a gleaming beacon for the world to look to, and we need your help. Your job now is to set a good example for others to follow."
Those were frightening words at age seventeen, but they'd also been freeing. Being treated as an adult worthy of admiration lit a flame in her. She wanted to do well. She wanted to embrace the new way of things. When she went through the rounds of hypnosis designed to get her in the correct frame of mind, she embraced it as a necessary part of the process.
She vividly recalled the litany of advice she'd received from both her parents and Dr. Mayweather at that time.
Set a good example. Fill the roll you're supposed to fill, and do it well. Appreciate the opportunities life affords you, and don't question those who helped you get to where you are, because that would be ungrateful.
Her parents were doing all they could to make her life better, and while she may have disregarded their wishes upon occasion as a child, this was too big to jeopardize. Going against this change could ruin things for her family, and that was something she couldn't let happen.
* * *
"Why do you play here?" Betty asks. They sit on a shaded bench while Felix eats a sandwich he brought from home.
"I'm playing so my momma can buy food," he says, lifting the sandwich in demonstration. His smile remains, but it's strained. "Daddy had shell shock, and it only got worse. He always had a bottle in his hand, until he died three years ago. Now it's just her, me, and my brother, Bobby."
Though she suspects it's rude to ask, curiosity gets the best of her. "How'd he die?"
The smile wavers, though it holds on just enough not to disappear altogether. "Momma said he accidentally shot himself, but I don't think it was an accident."
She's heard the term "shell shock" plenty of times, and she knows what it means. "My daddy was too young to go to war. It ended right before he turned eighteen." There are people passing by on the sidewalk, but Betty scarcely notices them.
Felix nods. "My daddy turned eighteen before the war was over, but he was fighting by the time he turned sixteen. He lied about his age to get in, you see. His own momma was already gone, and my granddaddy could barely afford to feed himself most days."
The story is saturated with pain, but regardless of that, there's a light in Felix's eyes that doesn't quite go away. Betty doesn't know what to make of that. "I'm sorry."
He shrugs. "We all have our burdens to bear. No one lives a perfect life. I just ..." His brow furrows in thought as he searches for the words. "I saw the pain that took my daddy. I won't let that happen to me. I'm going to stay in this world as long as I can." Then he turns and points at the wall behind the spot where he'd spent the majority of the day performing. Letters have been splashed, vivid and yellow, along the base of that wall.
Felix Was Here
"They might wash it away," Betty says, though she's giggling at the rebellious nature of it all.
He laughs too. "Then I'll just have to keep coming back."
It's such a simple answer, but Betty likes it all the same.
* * *
Betty applied extra makeup the next morning to cover the dark circles under her eyes. She had breakfast to prepare and a small shopping run to make. She didn't want anyone to see that she'd been up for most of the night. In a tight-knit community like this, people talked. They would never say anything but a kind word to her face, but she'd heard enough gossip to guess what they would say behind her back.
Having people speak badly of her could ruin her social standing. Betty's heart quickened at the thought. She worried not only for herself, but for Bill and the children they planned to have one day.
People still talked about Lucas Mortenson and the little breakdown he had the spring before. The Mortensons were the newest family to move in up to that point and were there less than a year when it all fell apart. He'd gone from being the perfect neighbor who kept his lawn nicely trimmed and his flower beds weeded to the man who couldn't hold a coherent conversation and had a fit in front of his house.
Betty hadn't witnessed it herself, but people gossiped about how Lucas Mortenson stood outside in the pouring rain babbling on and on about a missing brother that he'd never had. His wife Verity hadn't known what to do with him. She'd tried to coax him inside for ten minutes before a neighbor called the police.
There'd been plenty of rumors about what happened after that. When asked about why the rest of the Mortenson family disappeared in the middle of the night, the official response from the mayor was simple. "Mr. Lucas Mortenson needed a change of scenery to help him cope with his illness, and his family wished to join him."
When asked, no one official cared to comment on the nature of the illness in question, citing privacy as the reason. This was enough to satisfy most people, though, and when a new family moved into the vacated house a couple months later, people accepted that the Mortensons weren't coming back.
Betty never forgot about the incident, but it didn't feel all that important either. Not at the time. She'd never fully understood what stresses could have sent him over the edge like that, but minds were complicated. Things went awry from time to time. His daily life couldn't have been much different than Bill's. Lucas Mortenson had earned a decent living selling cars, and his family seemed to resemble what a proper family should in every way. If anything, that thought should have frightened her, perhaps, but she'd pushed it aside.
Seemingly real memories of a boy she'd forgotten changed all that.
* * *
Betty left the house that afternoon. The weather was surprisingly mild for the season, and she hoped the walk would do her some good. As she approached the corner store, she spotted Alexander Hale standing on a ladder, scrubbing at something that had been painted on the sign that stood on the opposite side of the road.
The sign displayed the name Hardyville in bold red letters. Beneath that, it proclaimed "Why go on vacation when you can live in paradise?" Half the text had been obscured by black paint, which was hesitantly yielding to Alexander's ministrations.
Though graffiti was hardly common in Hardyville, she'd seen plenty of it while growing up in the city and never thought much of it before. Except now, of course, when she had dreamed of illicitly written words that blazed like the sun against a dull background.
Without consciously thinking about doing so, Betty drew nearer to get a better look. Though Alexander had made a little progress in removing the message, it was as yet easy to read.
Where are our missing friends?
Excerpted from Parallels: Felix was Here by Insecure Writer's Support Group. Copyright © 2016 The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Excerpted by permission of Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsFelix Was Here by L.G. Keltner,
Rainers by Sandra Cox,
WIN by Sylvia Ney,
Ground Zero by Michael Abayomi,
The Mirror People by Crystal Collier,
Ever-ton by Yolanda Renée,
Folds in Life and Death by Cherie Reich,
The Seventeen by Hart Johnson,
Scrying the Plane by Tamara Narayan,
Haunted by Melanie Schulz,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Rarely have I enjoyed an anthology this much. It engaged, took me to new places, and left me pondering. With most anthologies, I find myself skimming through some stories to get to the next. Not so in this case. Each stood on its own. Felix Was Here: Awesome alternate future story with deep characterization and a strong psychological conflict. It didn't end all tied up with a bow, but the conclusion was satisfying. Rainers: Dual dimensions. Alter one aspect of reality, and what do you get? Definitely an interesting premise and a fun adventure. (Beware rainstorms, eh?) WIN: An alternate reality where most everyone relies on a chip implant to obtain knowledge, but what happens if that infrastructure crumbles? I really liked the focus of this story--the focus on the one. Ground Zero: Alternate reality. The build of tension in this story was great. I wanted it to keep going after that very last page. The Mirror People: Can you imagine if your life was tied to someone's on the other side of the glass? High concept dual dimensions. I personally love this one. EVER-TON: Sci-fi-ish futuristic premise. Privileged only gets you so far, but what happens when your favor with the upper echelons ends? A fun read with a meaningful conclusion. Folds in Life and Death: Super interesting concepts here. I was fascinated by the magic of this alternate world. The Seventeen: Medical thriller of a completely unique nature. This was cool--the angle taken and I loved how this one resolved itself. Scrying the Plane: VR takes a new extreme. Fun sibling rivalry/love and a journey to anything being possible. Haunted: I struggled to connect the threads in this story, guessing and scratching my head until the very end. Definitely a strong note to leave the book on, one that kept me thinking long after its conclusion. Overall, a very worthwhile collection. Content warning: Some language. Minor violence.