SHARED NIGHTMARES Sneak Peek: “Onnen” by Paul Genesse

cover - ebook 2Kyoto, Heian Era Japan, 968 A.D.

The body of my infant daughter, Ayumi, is buried in the Emperor’s tea garden beneath a hinoki cypress tree. The men who murdered her did not want to carry a crying baby all the way to the river after she awakened in the darkness of the hot summer night. She must have woken from her blissful dreams because the men’s sandals crunched so loudly on the gravel in the palace courtyard. The instant Ayumi realized she was not in my arms she let out a panicked cry sending that sharp pain every mother knows stabbing through my heart.

I tried to look at her, give her comfort, but she could not see me as a rough hand clamped over her mouth and began to suffocate her. I screamed and begged for her life, but the men had gagged and bound me when they took Ayumi and me out of our room in the courtesan’s quarters.

She’s just a baby. I begged with my eyes for the man to stop smothering her. He ignored my silent plea, and tightened his hand over her face. Her little arms flailed, then slowed, and finally stopped. He held her tiny body up for me to see, as if I were to blame for what he had done. Her head hung limp, her lips blue. My worst fear had come to pass. I wished I could have changed places with her, sacrificed my life so she could live.

The men stopped and her killer dug a shallow hole under a tree. Numb and in disbelief, I watched him bury Ayumi. The man didn’t even bother to cover her face with a blanket. He piled dirt over her bare skin, then tamped down her grave with his sandal.

When I think of Ayumi now, I smell freshly turned earth and the woodsy-sage of cypress leaves.

I left my infant daughter’s grave when the men picked me up roughly and dragged me away. My hands were bound behind my back as they forced me to walk and we left the palace enclosure through the servant gate. They kept to the darkest and most deserted streets of Kyoto and bore no lanterns. Even if the night watchmen saw us, they would not stop servants bearing the seal of the Imperial Regent, Michinaga Fujiwara.

I could not understand why this was happening. Michinaga loved me more than his wives and concubines, and treasured Ayumi above all his children. I was his favorite courtesan and he had said I would join his family and become his third wife. I was the Lady Ryoko of the Sugawara family, not some common whore to be discarded in the middle of the night.

A dog’s sudden bark caught my attention. I caught a glimpse of white fur and remembered Ayumi playing with the tiny brown-faced puppy. Ayumi had laughed and giggled as the dog licked her fingers and toes. Now I would never hear Ayumi laughing again. Tears poured from my eyes, and despite my gag, I mewled and cried.

“Quiet. Or I’ll beat you bloody.” A man with cheap sake on his breath whispered in my ear, but I could not stop. His fist struck my face and crushed my delicate nose. I tasted blood as it gushed down the back of my throat. Stunned and choking, I muffled my sobs, the tears soaking into my disheveled hair…

………………..

Read the rest of this story and eleven more nightmare-inspired tales in Shared Nightmares, coming soon!

 

SHARED NIGHTMARES Sneak Peek: “The Devil on My Shoulder” by Tom Lloyd

cover - ebook 2I wish I had insomnia. It’d make everything so much easier. Sure, there are drawbacks, but there are drawbacks to everything.

I open my eyes and blink. There’s a stack of cheap plastic bins stacked up in front of me and in my hand is a mop, the head wrapped in cellophane. For some reason I seem to have been contemplating buying it, though I’ve never mopped a floor in my life. I look up and there’s an anxious Pakistani gentleman peering at me through the shop window, probably afraid that I’m about to do a runner and steal his mop. Do people do that? I mean, I know round here the thieves are mostly junkies, but would even they bother? It’s a mop. The price tag says £5 but who’d even bother?

I’ve seen a few armed robberies in this area and our thieves are indeed the dumbest fucking animals you ever ran across. Half get seen off by staff and passers-by because they don’t even know what to do with the weapons they brought. They can’t afford baseball bats, let alone guns, so it’s any piece of wood they picked up on the way, once even a plastic juggler’s club. That guy got pole-axed by a sixty-year-old bundle of Jamaican rage with a handbag—still the best thing I’ve ever seen, before and after losing my virginity.

Okay, so the other half tends to fuck people up pretty badly because they do have the first clue about which end of the hammer you hit people with, but the dumb ones are a fun distraction for the devil on my shoulder so I try to keep a lookout for robberies.

I put the mop down and turn around. I think it’s Tuesday, but it’s one of those dull autumn days where you can’t even tell if it’s morning or afternoon. The rain’s barely bothering to come down, it mostly seems to be hanging in the air so people walking under umbrellas still get it in the face. There’s a Chinese restaurant across the road and the tables look empty so maybe it’s early. I can smell something in the air, faintly sour and overripe, but the car fumes render it little more than a ghost scent.

The restaurant doesn’t have a name, or rather doesn’t have one I can read. There’s just a white sign with some characters in black; shiny and new but apparently not wanting to encourage customers too much by having a name most can read. Having met a few landlords round here, I’m not surprised. Half the shops are just fronts, tax write-offs and somewhere to launder the off-the-books cash they get in.

I look down. At least I’m wearing shoes today. It doesn’t matter if I’m asleep or awake; bare feet in a street where students puke and drop bottles most nights is never fun. Something niggles and I look harder. Those aren’t my shoes. At least I don’t think they are. I’m pretty sure, anyway. That doesn’t mean I didn’t buy them, I guess. They don’t look new so I could have picked them up in a charity shop. Let’s just say I don’t remember buying them. That happens a lot…

………………..

Read the rest of this story and eleven more nightmare-inspired tales in Shared Nightmares, coming soon!

SHARED NIGHTMARES Sneak Peek: “Incubation” by D.J. Butler

cover - ebook 2Will I be able to fall asleep now? What will I dream?

I look like hell.

That’s me in the mirror over the pink chest of drawers with seafoam green accents, face pale but eyes dark, sweater filthy and torn.

It’s Joan’s sweater. It’s tight on me.

My hands shake as I pick up the doll. Audrey’s doll. I’ve just dressed it in its fanciest clothes, a red dress with sequins. I don’t know what the doll needs sequins for, the damn thing is supposed to be a child, not some club-hopping tramp with her flat plastic cleavage all—

I’m sorry.

I hold the doll gently, cradle it. Shuffle into the hall and then the kitchen. The trailer is a double-wide, but that still means the kitchen is three steps away from Audrey’s room. Double-wide just means there’s room for Joan to have an office. And a place to.

To.

You don’t know seafoam green from lime, you a-hole. Joan taught you that. You worthless sack.

I hear a choking sound, like someone’s trying not to cry.

Joan will forgive me.

“I forgive you,” I say. It comes out wrong. There’s too much echo.

In the kitchen I stop for the bottle of Jack. I see my hand holding it, all the dirt under the fingernails. Even with the shovel, you get dirty when you dig a hole. When you.

I see his boots are still sitting inside the door. I thought I had gotten rid of them with. Had gotten rid of them.

So tired. So tired I’m getting stupid.

That’s good. I need to sleep, so I can ask forgiveness. I’ve been trying, but I wasn’t tired enough before. I’m pretty tired now.

The double-wide’s floor creaks. Usually that’s the sound of footsteps, and I jerk my head up. “Joan?”

Silence. “I’m sorry.” But it’s not enough.

I stumble out the back door. He’s lying there, still, the bastard, I don’t care. I can deal with him later. The moonlight is cold on my skin. It’s a trick of the mind, maybe, I’m tired, but the light flickers. Can the moon do that? I don’t think there are clouds, but I’m afraid if I try to look up I’ll fall over.

I’m tired. Good.

I almost trip over the shovel, and its blade cuts into my foot. I’m too tired to curse, but it means I’ve arrived.

There’s a patch of earth on the left, and shoved into it side-first is Joan’s laptop. She’s written papers on that computer, and novels and poems, so I guess it must have some of her soul in it. Also, she wrote e-mails to him.

“Bitch!” I spit.

The moonlight gets colder. I drop Audrey’s doll.

“Sorry.”

What’s the doll’s name? Melanie, maybe? Margaret? Madeleine? I try to bend at the knees to pick the doll up, and instead I fall forward and crash to the dirt. It’s cold, and moist. I don’t remember it raining, since. I scrabble around to get back onto all fours, and some parts of the earth sink deeper than others. Because under some parts of the earth. Under some…

 ………………..

Read the rest of this story and eleven more nightmare-inspired tales in Shared Nightmares, coming soon! 

SHARED NIGHTMARES Sneak Peek: “Dreamcatcher” by Sarah Hoyt

cover - ebook 2The man sitting across from me on the straight-backed chair facing my desk looked rumpled and sleepless. His short brown hair stood on end. The dark circles under his eyes had their own dark circles. His shirt was buttoned wrong.

He eyed me through half-closed lids. “You’re not what I expected,” he said.

“No,” I said.

I’m not what anyone expects. Well, not anyone who has gone through counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, priests, exorcists, group therapy, scream therapy, sleep therapy, antidepressants, depressants, and whatever else has been thrown at them before someone somewhere whispers my name and address or gives them my card.

They always come in looking like they’re sure they got the wrong address and like I’m the wrong person. I’m too young at only 27, too female, too attractive. By which I mean I wear jeans and a nice blouse, my hair is blonde and well cut and I meet them in the sunlight, in a white carpeted office, with a glass desk and black, straight-backed leather chairs.

The only thing anyone unacquainted with my true vocation would think is odd about the décor of my office is the giant dreamcatcher behind my desk—a circular net of leather and feathers and beads. And that’s not functional. Or at least if it is, I never learned how it worked. It’s just decoration. A joke on the business name.

“It’s a family business,” I said. “Grandma did it. She taught it to me. So, it is what I do.”

He hesitated. He didn’t know what to do with his hands, and finally settled for resting them on his knees. He looked at my face, and then behind me, as though he were speaking intently to the spot in the middle of the leather dreamcatcher. It was ornamented with two red feathers and I found it really attractive myself, but I didn’t think it warranted that kind of attention.

“It’s the nightmares,” he said.

“It usually is. When you’re asleep?”

This brought his eyes back to me, with a startled glare. “When else?”

“Ah,” I said. “You’re lucky.”

He frowned at my face, then sighed. His hand went up to massage the middle of his forehead, as though by that action he could release whatever demon troubled him. “Every night,” he said. “Every night. It’s like…” He lowered his hands, and made a vague gesture. “It’s like I wake up from something horrible—No, like I just did something terrible, committed some horrible crime. I feel like I’ll never again be clean, never again be innocent. It takes me a few minutes to realize nothing has happened, that I’m still in my bed. And then—” He looked back at the center of the dreamcatcher. “And then I fall asleep. And it happens again. I started by going to my doctor, who referred me to a psychologist. Who referred me to a psychiatrist. Who put me on various drugs, none of which helped me, and then he sent me to a priest. Father Buros at St. Helen’s,” he said. “He sent me to you…”

………………..

Read the rest of this story and eleven more nightmare-inspired tales in Shared Nightmares, coming soon! 

SHARED NIGHTMARES Sneak Peek: “Father’s Day” by Larry Correia

cover - ebook 2“I won’t let you kill my daughter.”

The Program woman gave me a patronizing smile. She was used to dealing with parents like me by now. “Now, Mr. Brody, I can understand your concerns, but it isn’t like that at all. She will be perfectly safe. In fact, she’ll be well cared for in one of our finest medical establishments.”

“Uh huh…” I pretended to study the paperwork she expected me to sign, and then I glanced around the tidy government office. There were posters on the walls about doing our civic duty to help defeat the Dreaker menace, warnings about sleeping only during the mandated times, and even cartoons for the kids about the importance of taking their issued sleeping pills. The Program woman watched me with her cloying fake sympathy the whole time. A robotic security guard was standing directly behind my chair. That made sense. Some parents were bound to react violently when given the news that their child was being drafted to fight in the Dream War.

She must have gotten tired of waiting for me to sign, so she tried again. “We instituted mandatory blood testing for specifically this reason. There are so few people who can do what she can. She has a wonderful but rare gift. Maximizing that gift will benefit not only the city of Baltimore, but the entire human race. She’s a very lucky girl. A very special girl.”

I didn’t like how this know-it-all bitch kept referring to my daughter. “She has a name.”

“Of course!” But then the Program woman froze when she couldn’t immediately recall what it was. My child was just another asset to these people to use up and throw away. Trying to play it cool, she glanced down at her data pad. “Wendy… And Wendy will be very happy living in the Safe Zone.”

“You’re going to make her into a vegetable.”

“Somastasis is nothing like that,” she lied right to my face. No compunction, no hesitation, just the party line.

“What is it, then?”

“When the invasion began, Dreamers were the only reason mankind survived at all. Less than one percent of the surviving human population has the genetic capability to fight off a Dreaker attack during REM sleep. On their own, a Dreamer can only protect a small area, and only for short periods of time. The Public Safety Program developed somastasis so that special individuals—like your daughter—could share their gift with the whole community.”

“You didn’t answer my question. I know damn good and well what somastasis does. It’s a medically induced coma. You can lie all you want, but everyone knows what really happens.”

“It’s a medically induced coma, because sleeping all night isn’t enough for you. Oh no, once you figured out how the Dreamers worked, you put them on drugs and forced them to sleep ten, fifteen, even twenty hours a day. For the public good, you said, but that still wasn’t enough for you parasites. You need them to fight twenty-four seven, and you don’t give a shit about what it does to them.”

From the look on her face, I was beginning to get on her nerves. “It’s a sacrifice for the good of mankind….”

………………..

Read the rest of this story and eleven more nightmare-inspired tales in Shared Nightmares, coming soon! 

 

Coming soon: SHARED NIGHTMARES anthology!

Coming next month: Shared Nightmares, an anthology of dark dreaming fiction! Edited by Steve Diamond (of the Hugo-nominated Elitist Book Reviews) and Nathan Shumate, Shared Nightmares features new fiction by Larry Correia, Sarah Hoyt, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler, Michaelbrent Collings and many others! Cover art is provided by Dan Verkys, familiar from previous covers for Cold Fusion Media books. Mark your calendars!

in_dreams_we_weep_x900_by_danverkys-d7a3wst

Now available: Ethnic Albanians Need Not Apply

INNOCENT ILLUSTRATIONS, RECONTEXTUALIZED AGAINST THEIR WILL!

Plumbing the depths of forgotten illustrations as grist for the mill, the cult webcomic CheapCaffeine is here presented in its first print collection. These first 300 cartoons introduce running gags and recurring characters—the Martian, the Egyptian embalmers, and of course the irrepressible Grievance Gorilla—in a daily dose of surreal, postmodern wit. And now, in semi-permanent dead tree format, accompanied by behind-the-scenes factoids and a smattering of bonus content!!1!, these moments of ephemeral non-sequitur humor can be gifted to luddite relatives, ensconced on the back of the toilet, or placed in studied casualness on a coffee table to impress attractive houseguests!

Cold Fusion Media table at LTUE!

This Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Cold Fusion Media will have a table in the dealers room at Life, the Universe, & Everything in Provo, UT.  Not only will we have copies of The Golden Age of Crap, Arcane and Arcane II, and Space Eldritch and Space Eldritch II for sale, but a goodly number of the contributors of both Space Eldritch volumes will be one hand if you’re looking for signatures.