H.L. Pauff

Short Fiction, Thoughts on Writing, Chaos

By

Swapped

hospital hall

Are you sure this is theirs?” Nurse Jackie asked, looking over the tiny, pink faced bundle.

Nurse Ray leaned over to examine the newborn. “Yes.”

Are you sure? Because if not – “

I’m positive.”

You really should have tagged them right away so we don’t have this uncertainty.”

Yes, I know. Stop rubbing it in.”

Nurse Jackie shrugged and took the baby down the hall to its “parents.” Nurse Ray picked up the remaining baby in the nursery and carried it down the hall. It cried and squirmed the whole way and he was more than happy to dump it into the laps of the exhausted, but amazed and happy parents.

I’m glad it’s quiet and empty in here now,” Nurse Ray said to Nurse Jackie back at the desk.

We’re leaving. Thank you!” a voice called from the end of the hallway. The two parents were dressed in black and the mother clutched the baby that Nurse Jackie had given them.

Okay. If you could just sign out…” Nurse Jackie started walking towards them, but the father opened up a window and the family floated through it and into the night sky towards the moon.

The two nurses looked at each other. “I really hope we got that right,” Nurse Jackie said.

 

Photo credit: Martin Howard

By

Reginald

spotless floor

Joe worried he’d find the house on fire. Instead, it was immaculate.

“Fantastic for your first day alone,” he told Reginald.

“Pleasing being satisfy you,” the robot said.

“…We’ll work on your English.”

 

By

The Hotel Job

hotel at night

“Come on,” Zox whispered and pounded his forehead with his fist. Forty stories below, the city went about its celebrated nightlife unaware of the man pacing around the rooftop of the hotel.

“You can do it. You can. Yes, you can. Don’t say you can’t do it because you can.”

Zox double checked and triple checked that the repel line anchor was secure and then he fiddled with his harness straps. They were still caked with dried blood.

“You’re unlucky funk ends tonight,” he told himself. “No more botched jobs.” He didn’t have much of a choice. One more botched job and the Guild would chop him up and feed him to the pigs.

He dangled off the ledge and lowered himself until he was perpendicular with the building. A faint wailing froze him. A police cruiser sped through the street below. Only after it disappeared around a corner did he exhale.

“Thirty-seven floors down,” he said. “She’s just a woman. You will do it. You will do it because you’re the Goddamn best.”

Zox exhaled and plunged into the darkness. He sped past room after room, but in the darkness no one would see him. The clicker on his harness counted the floors until it reached thirty-seven and then it yanked him to a stop. His momentum thumped him against the window. He worried someone might investigate the noise, but no one came.

He quickly and silently cut through the glass and touched down on the hotel room’s plush carpet. He could hear the mark singing in the bathroom. Zox fixed the silencer onto his weapon. Sweat poured down its handle and onto the floor. He worried his exhales sounded like hurricane force winds.

“One shot. Send her to glory.”

He crept closer to the bathroom and saw her reflection in the mirror bending over the bathtub.

“I can. Nothing will stop me.”

The woman stopped singing. “All done,” she said.

“Is it story time now, mommy?” a little voice said.

-

photo by: Derrick Coetzee

By

Sixty Years Ago

warehouse

Paul put the truck into park and killed the engine. Aside from the rust taking over and the broken windows, the warehouse looked the same as it had sixty years ago.

The walls of the inside were marred with graffiti, most of which was illegible, and the floors were covered with rocks and a thick layer of dust. Paul put down his cooler and set up his lawn chair.

He sunk into the chair and pulled a sandwich from the cooler. He looked at his watch and set the timer. “Two more hours,” he said.

The time flew as the memories the warehouse forced upon him flooded his mind. The polished floors, the heaps of lab equipment – all of it gone. There were successes, but there were failures. Too many failures. Unforgivable failures.

Paul stood and folded his hands as the timer drew down to zero. There was a crackling at first and then a flash of light that filled the warehouse.

And then she appeared. A ghostly figure trapped in a metal apparatus. She still looked the same as she did sixty years ago. He didn’t, but she didn’t seem to mind.

“I’m sorry, Kelly,” he said. “I still haven’t figured out a way to get you out of the loop, but I haven’t given up.”

She smiled, but it was a smile she always gave over the years no matter what he had to tell her. It was the smile she gave him right before she got into the machine, right after he told her that everything would be fine.

“I love you. See you next time,” he said right before she disappeared.

photo by: mjtmail (tiggy)

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It’s Okay to Suck at Writing

frustration

Stop beating yourself up. No one cranks out a masterpiece on their first try.

It can take years for you to become comfortable with your own work and then it could take years after that for you to become comfortable enough to put your work out there in front of other people.

It takes time and you’re going to get discouraged, but if you enjoy writing, if you feel like you need to write, then don’t give up.

You can’t choose to become a smashing success, but you can develop good habits that will put you on the road to success. You can choose to write every day even if you don’t feel like it. Even if what you’re writing seems like Garbage. All you have to do is sit down at the keyboard and put something down and the rest will come. In time.

 

 

photo by: e-magic

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The Hand is Back

Ah, it’s been far too long since I’ve been able to brush my teeth my with right hand, shave with my right hand, use a knife, tie my shoes, etc. etc. etc.

The cast is off, the pins are out and I’m on week three of physical therapy. My hand is getting stronger every day. It even looks better.

healing broken hand

Well, any thing looks better compared to this monster. (Warning: it’s pretty jacked up.)

I’m slowly getting back into the groove of writing every day. Typing isn’t an aggravating and frustrating experience anymore. Now I can finally get these ideas out of my head that have been swimming around in there for the last few months.

By

A Case of the Whatevers

Chicken Soup
“Make sure you put on your heavy jacket, young man. Do you have any idea how cold it is out there? You’re going to get sick,” mom yelled from the bottom of the steps.

“Uh huh,” Ty said as he slipped the hoodie over his head.

“Did you hear me? You better put on a heavy jacket.”

“Yep.”

“You’re not listening, are you? What did I just say?”

“Don’t worry. I promise,” Ty said as he came down the stairs two at a time.

“When you’re sick you better not come crying to me about – “

“Yep, whatever, mom. Love you.” Ty planted a kiss on his mom’s cheek and bolted through the door.

The next morning Ty woke with a splitting headache. His nose was runny and his throat scratchy.

“Mom,” he called weakly from his room.

A few minutes later, mom appeared in the doorway. “Looks like you’re suffering from the whatevers there.” She laughed.

Ty groaned.

“Come on,” mom said. “Let’s get some chicken soup in you.”

photo by: erix!

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Books I Read in 2013

neuromancerNeuromancer by William Gibson

The first book I finished in 2013 was the first book to win the science fiction “Triple Crown” winning the prestigious Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and the Hugo Award. Neuromancer is a wonderful sci fi book with a rich world. It features unchecked artificial intelligences using humans as pawns in their grand schemes. The complexity and recklessness of these AIs is a joy to read and something humans should always keep in mind as we inch closer to a future where technology catches up with science fiction.

ringworld
Ringworld by Larry Niven

Another science fiction classic, this novel follows 200 year old Louis Wu as he joins an expedition to explore the mysterious Ringworld. When they arrive, they find a highly technologically sophisticated planetary system that is no longer home to the original builders. What follows is great mystery, clashes with the locals that are left, and all around fun adventure.

pride and prejudice
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

According to Goodreads, I started this book on February 19th, 2013 and finished it on April 26th, 2013. It was one of those “If I want to be a writer, I should probably read this classic” moments. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it as much as other people who absolutely adore it. I just couldn’t identify with the characters and their “problems”. I did finish it though. That has to count for something.

neverwhere
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

I remember burning through this book in college and not being able to put it down and then not finishing it. I don’t what happened but something super important (probably finals) must have come up to make me not finish it. Cut to 2013 after I reread it and finished and I’m glad all of my great memories of this book were spot on. This is a wonderful urban fantasy book with memorable characters and an intriguing plot.

attempting_normal
Attempting Normal by Marc Maron

I’ve been a big fan of Marc Maron ever since I stumbled upon his podcast. The man is deep, hilarious and probably a genius, but he has flaws like we all do and that makes him a very compelling person to follow. Most of the stories in his book are retreads from his podcast and his standup acts, but there’s enough new material for a fan to make it a worthwhile read. For anyone who is familiar with Marc, this book is a great intro.

the traveler
The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks

I think the most interesting thing about this book is the author whose true identity is unknown even to the publisher of the book. Sure the book has very relevant messages and warnings about governments spying on citizens, but who is the author?? I had more fun reading all of the theories on his true identity than I did reading this book.

slaughterhouse-five
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

I was helping my girlfriend move some boxes in her room when this book fell out and landed on the floor, front cover facing up. What a moment of good fortune. This book has so much going on that as I write this it’s hard to even remember it all. There’s war and love and insanity and time travel and space aliens. Vonnegut says a lot of war and life in this book and it’s clear why it’s considered a classic.

the engines of god
The Engines of God by Jack McDevitt

Browsing through the sci fi shelves of the local used bookstore how could I not pick up a book with that title. This is the first book in McDevitt’s Academy Series that follows tough space pilot Priscilla Hutchins as she carts around xenoarchaeologists to various dead planets. This book has some great action and surprisingly deep philosophical moments, but the ending is a bit of a letdown.

supercapitalism
Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life by Robert B. Reich

Robert Reich has increasingly been showing up in the public eye because of his active use of social media and his ideas on how to make America an even playing field again. His book is a great read on how politics and business have become so entangled that politics no longer serve their original function of serving the people.
Deepsix
Deepsix by Jack McDevitt

The second book in Jack McDevitt’s Academy Series. This book has one of the most awesome rescue attempts I’ve ever seen/read/heard. It also has a xenoarcheology subplot of two alien civilizations and how they interacted in this past. McDevitt is a master at dropping little nuggets like this that your imagination takes and runs with.
chindi
Chindi by Jack McDevitt

The third book in his Academy series (There are five total). This book has another ridiculous rescue attempt full of science and inventiveness. A little more attention is paid to developing the main character and her story and in this book she really shines as a bad ass. Better than the first book, but not as good as the second one.
the everything store
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone

This book chronicles the rise of founder and CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos. From the company’s humble beginning in a garage to its current quest to take over the world, this book shows the man behind it all, the good and the bad. He’s brilliant, motivated and decisive, but ruthless, arrogant and unforgiving. A good read for anyone at all interested in business.
calculating god
Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer

I picked this book off the shelf based on the title alone and when I read the copy on the book I was hooked. An alien lands in front of a museum and she and a paleontologist discuss life, death, God, and the other big mysteries. Unfortunately, this is more of an essay than a novel. The arguments are intriguing, but the narrative elements that are present are just not that interesting.

By

End Times

end times

Father Casey clutched his Bible and peered through the hole in the stained glass window and looked out onto the street. Past the shrubbery, the flowers, and the statue of Saint Michael, the red and black clouds swirling through the sky grew thicker and the jagged lightning struck the ground with increased frequency.

In the intersection on which Saint Michael’s Church sat, a winged beast crouched over a clump of bodies. Its fur was thick and matted with dried blood. Its teeth chomped through bone with a sickening crunch. For hours they had watched the beast fly through the air and drop bodies to add to the pile. Now it was rewarding itself.

“You’re the holy man, do something about this!”

Father Casey whipped around. “Maybe if you had gone to church more often than just Christmas and Easter, Mr. Holicek, we wouldn’t be in this predicament.”

Holicek cowered from Father Casey’s booming voice, the same booming voice that told parishioners every Sunday about the importance of maintaining a relationship with the Maker. Apparently his message didn’t get through.

“This is happening all over the world,” a girl said. She held a smart phone in her hand and flicked at the screen with a finger.

“Please put that away,” Father Casey said. “I don’t like them turned on in the church. Not on Sundays, not now.” He turned back toward the street. A second creature had appeared near the intersection.

This creature’s fat jiggled when it walked and the endless number of boils marring its red skin looked ready to burst at any moment. Its long tail thrashed about, tearing up the asphalt as it walked.

“We’re all going to die,” someone shouted.

The creature stopped and turned its ugly head towards the church. It sniffed the air for a moment before continuing to walk towards the intersection.

“It’s not interested in us as long as we stay in here,” Father Casey said. “We need to stay indoors and – “

“We have to get out of here!” someone else shouted.

“We’re going to starve,” someone added. “We only have little bread cakes and wine.”

“Little bread cakes and…” Father Casey exhaled. “This is literally hell on earth and we’re in a church. You mean to tell me that not one of you is praying?”

Father Casey turned back to the window. The red skinned creature lumbered towards the winged beast and the pile of bodies. The winged beast stopped chewing on what remained of a human thigh and snarled at the intruder. Blood dripped from its snout as it let out a shrieking cry to scare off the red skinned creature.

With a tail thrashing about with even greater force than before, the red skinned creature lunged after the winged beast. The wild tail caught the winged beast in the leg. Black blood spurted from the wound and the beast howled in pain. It swiped at the fat blob with its talons but after a few moments the beast flapped its wings and took to the sky, leaving its meal in the intersection.

The red skinned blob dropped to its knees in front of the pile of bodies and violently jerked its head to the side. Its jaw loosened and became unhinged. It proceeded to shovel everything in the pile into its mouth at three times the speed the winged beast had.

“What’s going on out there?” someone asked.

Father Casey blessed himself with the sign of the cross. “Nothing. Please keep praying.”

When the last of the remains in the street had vanished, the monster leaned forward further and lapped up the pools of blood that had collected in the street. The slurping continued for several hours until the street looked cleaner than it had in years.

The monster stood and stretched and let out a mighty belch. Its saggy stomach, full of new contents, hung lower than before. The skin stretched so taut that its veins were visible.

The creature stood in the middle of the street and looked around. A second later, it howled like a hungry dog. Its kept howling as its searching turned up no new meals. Until, it locked eyes with Father Casey.

Father Casey ducked below the window and clutched the cross hanging from his neck and held the Bible close to his heart. “Shit.”

“What is – “

“Shh,” he told the congregation and motioned for them to get down. He let a few minutes pass until he summoned the courage to take another look.

To his disdain, the creature was slowly advancing towards the church. Its tail alternated left and right, its forked end slapping the concrete made a sound like the crack of a baseball bat.

Father Casey closed his eyes and sped through prayer after praying asking his Maker to strike down the monster. The sound was getting closer. Someone in the church let out a muffled cry. The creature was right outside the window, right on the sidewalk.

A flash of bright light and a terrible crackle shattered what was left of the stained glass window. The sky rumbled with a violent force that shook the very foundation of the church. The sound of the monster slapping its tail against the ground had stopped. Father Casey exhaled. His prayers had been answered.

He peered through the window. Smoke rose from a charred spot in the middle of the street where the lightning had struck, but below the window, among the shrubbery and flowers, the monster stood in front of the statue of Saint Michael. It sniffed at the statue with its pig nose and ran its tongue along the angel’s neck.

“No, not Saint Michael!” Father Casey yelled. The priest leapt to his feet and ran for the door. He ignored the calls from his parishioners pleading with him to stay inside.

At the entrance, he grabbed the tall, iron candlestick holder and ran outside. The demon spotted him immediately and abandoned the stone statue for a flesh and blood meal. Its short legs propelled the top heavy body towards Father Casey as fast as they could.

Father Casey’s knuckles were white from the grip he had on the Bible and on the candlestick holder. He held the latter out, hoping, somehow, that the monster would impale itself on it. The candle had already fallen out and hit the ground, its flame extinguished.

He held the candlestick steady, but the force with which the monster’s tail smashed into it was enough to knock it loose from his hand. The monster barreled into the priest and landed on top of him.

Father Casey grunted as the wind forcefully exited his lungs from the impact. The monster’s sweaty and stinky body wriggled on top of him, trying to bring its unhinged jaw close enough to devour his face. The monster’s hot breath fogged his glasses and saliva dripped onto his skin.

Inches from his face, the monster’s rough tongue licked the tip of Father Casey’s nose. He felt around the ground with his right hand, hoping and praying he would find it and then his fingers brushed its leathery cover.

He grabbed the Bible and forced it into the monster’s maw. It coughed and sputtered and tried to force the blessed object down its throat. Father Casey slipped out from under the monster and rolled away from it. He was covered with sweat and saliva as he picked up the iron candlestick.

The parishioners watched from the doorway and the windows as the man who blessed the sick and helped the needy in the neighborhood beat a demon in the head with a candlestick until it stopped moving.

Father Casey dropped the candlestick and stepped over the creature. At entrance to the church, he paused against the doorframe to catch his breath.

“Father,” a man said, “What do we do now? Do we wait for help?”

Father Casey wiped a glob of saliva off his face with the back of his hand. “Help isn’t coming. There are others out there who need us. We must go to them.”

This is a post based on horror prompt #9 for the “1,000 prompts, 1,000 Dollars” writing contest.

Image by By: Peter Brown

By

Replaced

astronaut

Delvus watched as the young girl pulled a small device from her pocket and used her thumbs to operate it.

“Is she the one?” Gortiv asked.

Delvus wiggled the loose skin around his chin. “She is not.” He swiped at the viewing screen with his wrinkled finger. Another scene appeared. A man in a suit stood before hundreds of other men in suits and spoke. “I do not understand what has become of them. Where is the excitement? Do you remember when they waged wars with spears and shields? How I miss that.”

“You must choose,” Gortiv said. “Our energy fades. Perhaps you will find excitement when we must choose in the future. Until then, the young man that controls the flying automaton that shoots explosive projectiles seems promising. Or maybe the tall man that bounces the orange ball and lies with many women.”

“No, no, I do not… wait. There.” Delvus watched the scene unfold. A white craft floated in the darkness over the blue and green planet. Amid debris and rock fragments, a figure armored in white spun out of control while a second figure floated after him. “This is my choice,” Delvus said. “I do hope you will join me for once, brother.”

When Delvus had vanished, Gortiv scoffed and began looking through scenes on the viewing screen. A moment later, the figure Delvus had replaced appeared in the room without his suit.

“Parker!” the man screamed. “Hang on I’m almost… What?”

“You have been replaced. You will remain in this chamber until you expire,” Gortiv said without looking at him. “Your primitive mind cannot understand what an honor it is to be chosen.”

“Chosen? Send me back! Commander Parker needs –“

“It is done.”

“Send me back, dammit! You can’t just pluck me out of – “

“Perfect,” Gortiv said as he watched the man clad in leather sing in front of thousands. Gortiv closed his eyes and left the room.

“Hey!” the man’s voice echoed in the empty chamber.

-

photo by: Flo DotCom