Ladies and gentlemen, friends and rock stars …
Welcome to the dark, often humorous world of Fatal Distractions, featuring seven stories and one poem for your enjoyment!
While most of this book is my work, I have also assembled a small-yet-powerful pool of talent to help flesh out the project: authors Loren A. Douglas and Catalyst Jost, and poet Chris Taylor. I have never worked with a more talented crew, and I am VERY honored to have them on board!!!
So without any further ado, let’s take a peek at the stories!!!
Borrowed Time, by Virginia Wallace
“Ellie, why did you leave me? Why did you stay away? Was there another man?”
“Never!” spat Elinor heatedly, suddenly wide-eyed.
Her assertion was followed by a violent coughing fit; fortunately, she had a glass of water handy.
After the fit subsided, she took a deep breath and resumed talking.
“Do you know what it’s like to live on borrowed time, Willis?” she asked gently.
“Yes. It’s kind of like when you’re at a picture show, you know. But nature calls, and you duck off to the restroom. The lights in the bathroom feel garish, unreal, and you have this desperate feeling that you’re missing something important. You don’t belong in the bathroom, and you feel it in your gut. You belong in the theater, and your spell in the bathroom is just that: borrowed time. It feels unnatural, doesn’t it?”
“Why is that important?” asked Willis, raising a grizzled eyebrow.
“Because that’s how I’ve felt for seventy-eight years now: like I’m in the bathroom, when I’m supposed to be in the theater. Nearly eight decades, Willis; I’ve been trapped in seventy-eight years of borrowed time.”
“How did it start, this stretch of ‘borrowed time’?” asked Willis. “I loved you so much, Ellie. And then you were just … gone.”
“It was pretty simple,” said Elinor.
The Budsem Affair, by Virginia Wallace
And so Bubba began his trek, heading for the school with his usual shuffling gait. As he neared the building, he noticed something else written below the bold Mistress Mary’s School for Girls logo.
BDSM Club, read the smaller letters.
“Budsem?” Bubba said to himself, squinting. “What the hell do that mean?”
He thought for a moment, trying to figure out what the word meant …
And then he decided that he didn’t care. All he needed was a phone, so he shrugged his shoulders and kept walking.
As he neared the building, a tall, black man with dreadlocks opened the outer door, and stepped outside.
“Howdy!” said Bubba. “You work in there?”
“Yeah, mon. I watch the desk. Wha gwaan?”
“How are you?” said the dreadlocked man, speaking more carefully this time.
“Dandy!” said Bubba. “Kin I use yer phone? My truck’s on the fritz.”
“Sure, mon. It’s on the front desk. Me be back soon, but gwaan help ya’self.”
“Much obliged,” said Bubba, tipping his baseball cap.
The desk attendant walked away, and Bubba opened the door underneath the Mistress Mary’s sign.
He stepped inside, grateful for the dawning relief of air conditioning. The front desk was right in front of him, and—as the dreadlocked man said—there was a phone there. There was just one problem …
Someone was talking on it.
That ‘someone’ was a pretty young woman. She was dressed in black leather, and her corset was cut scandalously low upon her ample bosom.
Bubba averted his eyes. T’ain’t nice to stare, ‘specially at a young lady, his mama had often said.
So there stood Bubba, awkwardly shuffling his feet.
“He makes, like, a terrible sub!” said the young woman, holding the receiver between her cheek and bare shoulder. “He wants to be a dom, but he can’t seem to understand that he has to pay his dues first!” Her accent was distinctly Californian, which Bubba found rather annoying.
What was even more annoying was this: he didn’t have the foggiest idea what she was talking about …
Thirst, by Catalyst Jost
“Hey,” I managed to croak. The strobing golden light further revealed that the glass eye was the lens of a camera. A tiny black speaker acted as its silent neighbor; that’s when I noticed an extra kick to my voice.
“Hey, what is this?” I demanded.
I gasped out greetings and pleas toward the camera for what seemed like hours, until my lungs felt like inhaled, putrid smoke.
“You can’t fuckin’ DO this!” I shouted. “Wait ‘til I find a way out of these chains, punk! You gotta let me out sometime.”
My threats finally elicited a response …
Instantly, I regretted those threats.
The apparition stepped into my prison. It wore a black robe, which draped ominously over its hulking frame. Its shrouded face had the appearance of a pitbull. Its jowls were an envelope for what I assumed were rows of glistening white teeth, yet I could not make out any strands of saliva that would normally gleam in the light. The fur was short and had a phosphorous tint that resembled snow, or a spirit yet to have passed on.
Where normally the eyes could produce a plethora of ethereal colors of blue, gold, and green, I only saw the void. Starless, obsidian space. Jagged cracks ran down all sides of its face, almost like that of the jigsaw puzzles my dad would help with when I was little.
I could feel gravity bearing down upon me, as the pale hand of the apparition reached for me. I closed my eyes, anticipating pain …
Instead, I felt a sudden sense of freedom as the apparition un-shackled my feet and wrists. I looked up, appalled by the grinning leer of my ‘savior.’
My only greeting was the offering of a clear goblet. It was filled with a murky red liquid; its scent had an aroma of seduction, and foreshadowed mortality.
At first, I assumed the command came from the robed golem towering over me. The voice, though dominant in tone, had an artificial resonance to it.
“Maxwell, you must drink from that bowl immediately …”
The Protocols, by Virginia Wallace
It was agreed that Asus’ crew would begin by examining one of the basics: cuisine. It would be good to know if Plutonians could stomach earth’s food in the event of more invasive investigations.
After doing some cursory research, Captain Asus decided to hover the flying saucer over the American city of San Francisco. It was an impressive metropolis, which surely possessed some of the most talented chefs in the world.
After a few brief adjustments, the chief technical officer zeroed in on someone working in the kitchen of a large restaurant. After double-checking the coordinates, he teleported him aboard.
The security team stood behind the captain, armed with their stun rifles as they looked through the glass at the reassembling human. They were trained to follow the hallowed Prax/Dreezus protocols to the letter; there would be no Plutonian blood shed on their watch!
At last, the human came into view. He was wearing a white uniform and a small, matching cap.
He was also waving around a dead, gutted—and plucked—animal by its neck. In his other hand he held a meat cleaver, which he was also waving around.
“Scan that animal,” ordered Captain Asus tersely. “Find out what it is, and check it for contagions!”
“The auto-scanner says it’s a ‘duck’,” said the technical officer. “Checking for unknown pathogens now …”
The technical officer punched a few more keys while the chef slammed his duck against the window, shouting at the top of his lungs.
“你在做什么? 你们疯了吗? 我发生什么事了? 我的厨房在哪里?” screamed the chef, repeatedly whacking his duck against the window as he waved his meat cleaver about. “马上送我回家!!!”
“Did you catch any of that?” Captain Asus asked the technical officer.
“We don’t know much about that language, I’m afraid,” said the technical officer. “I’m sorry. Also, I’m getting uncertain readings on the duck; we may need to probe it.”
“Gentlemen,” said Captain Asus, “if you’d be so kind as to relieve the gentleman of his … duck, please. And also his weapon, if it isn’t too much trouble.”
The security personnel marched grimly toward the door, as the crew chief punched the security code into the panel. The door slid open as the men lowered their stun rifles, prepared for the worst.
“Sir, if you would please just …” said the crew chief calmly.
“诅咒你!!!” screamed the chef, flinging his duck at the crew chief.
As the crew chief stumbled backward, the chef ran past him. He looked both ways upon exiting the transport room …
And then he charged straight toward Captain Asus, holding his meat cleaver high …
Five Candles, by Virginia Wallace
Jake remembered the next few weeks only in snatches.
There were the bright lights of the hospital, and the surgical ward. And there were doctors, their faces hidden behind masks like characters from a horror film.
He only vaguely remembered the inquest. Deputy Jones was represented by the same lawyer who prosecuted his arrestees, and the same judge who signed his search warrants presided over the affair. The grand jury cleared him of any wrongdoing, as juries are wont to do when a cop gets into trouble; the last thing anyone wants is retribution from the police department.
The whole affair was a grotesque charade, a kangaroo court. After the initial inquest, the court moved on to Jake’s competency hearing.
The images jumbled together in Jake’s fevered, withdrawal-plagued brain. The whole aftermath felt like a dream; he had no drugs now to keep him focused, and no alcohol to keep him calm.
He had trouble separating the memories of his hearing from his memories of Deputy Jones’ disciplinary inquest. The only thing that stood out was a single phrase: incompetent to stand trial.
Had his testimony been that garbled? Jake could hardly remember testifying. The prosecutor’s face was a nightmarish memory; the man was a fat, ghoulish specter with a red slash across his face for a mouth. His eyes were black holes, twin abysses of darkness that radiated gleeful condemnation.
He only vaguely remembered his mother being at the hearing, wringing her hands and begging the judge for mercy. She, like the prosecutor and the doctors, also seemed a bit unreal.
When it was all over, Jake found himself alone in a cell. The walls were padded, and his cot had leather restraints at the corners. He thought that he vaguely remembered them being used a time or two, but perhaps that too was just a nightmare.
Time didn’t exist here, in this padded haven that protected the world from the criminal known as Jacob DeCarlo. One minute segued seamlessly into the next; hours did the same, and so did days and months.
The orderlies slid his trays of food through a slot in the bars. Jake ate each meal dully, three times a day. Then he would relieve himself in the stainless steel toilet. Even that one perverted guard—who always stopped to watch him going to the bathroom—ceased to bother him after a while.
Jake was simply … dead inside. A shell of a man. A walking dial tone …
A Time to Die, by Loren A. Douglas
From his back stoop, Adam watched his neighbor’s door through the broken board in the fence. Any time now.
He was so sure that tonight she would exit that the hours had slipped away. Fireflies had ceased their mating rituals. Even the frogs in the swampy woods behind them had ceased their singing. Soft, rhythmic breathing through the open window told him that his wife was asleep, but it made no difference. Rose was unaware that he had left their bed long ago. To watch. To wait. In silence.
When Lily would slip out, the neighbor’s pit bull would not growl. Adam had seen to that a day ago. His neighbor had not been sober enough to notice that it was gone. He paid no attention to it but kept the dog chained in the backyard to guard his pile of junk: old cars, refrigerators, aluminum siding, and a boat. Nor would he miss his daughter. Lily, so pretty and lithe, like her namesake—and so alone.
Her mother had abandoned her teenage daughter to this unshaven and big-bellied sot during one of his drunken rages years before. For a decade, Adam and Rose, both research scientists, had heard the shouts of their uneducated neighbor, the smashing of dishes, and the throwing of furniture next door. They had pitied the young Lily who had remained behind and become the focus of her father’s abuse—which only intensified as she grew older.
But no longer. After tonight, Lily’s healthy body and ravaged mind would no longer have to endure her father. Such a pity. But what Adam would do for her tonight was out of pity. It was a kindness.
Adam heard a noise ever so slight; no, not a noise but its absence, and the weight of the loneliness he had endured pressed harder upon his heart. What he wouldn’t give to hear his wife say her name for him just one more time. To have her converse upon her deep theories of brain activity connected more to the soul than the body … or just complain about their aging golden retriever that slept all the time. Like her. He sighed to release the ache. When Rose passed, that old dog would be a short-lived companion. No, it would work. It had to.
It already had …
Find Me in the Mirror, by Virginia Wallace
The Repeating Universe Theory claims that there are infinite universes, representing endless possibilities. If you were to travel through infinite space and time, you might actually encounter another universe much like our own …
And even another you.
Amanda rose from her piano, modestly smoothing down the hem of her nightie as she eyed herself in the mirror. She walked towards it, eyeing her reflection.
She was aging well; she was forced to admit this despite her inclination to self-criticism. It seemed like a lifetime since she’d been that sad, little girl, miserably playing a piano to which she desperately wanted to take an axe.
Her mother had been gone for ten years now. Amanda took a fair amount of heat in the press for playing a show the day of her funeral, publicly ‘scorning to attend,’ as Rolling Stone magazine had put it.
But Amanda had felt nothing that even began to resemble scorn …
She felt nothing at all, and no need to pretend that she did.
Somehow, that sad little girl seemed like another entity altogether, as though her memories were borrowed, or stolen. Scarcely aware of what she was doing, Amanda Hunter placed her hand gently upon the surface of the mirror …
Rime of a Fairy, by Chris Taylor
No fairy and man may join in this land!
And he breathed out a thick rime.
My love was caught, amid this cone.
Then, my maiden so fair, frost and ice in her hair,
Stood frozen to the bone …
And THAT’S our preview, folks! On 1/14/2023, Fatal Distractions will be available on Kindle and in paperback! Order your copy TODAY!!!
Cheers! – V
(P.S. – Kind of like Santa Claus in reverse, my friends and I will be compiling a list of everyone who doesn’t order our book. And at the end of the year, we’ll be sending the Plutonians after ‘em. So yep! S’best just to order the book, and be done with it!)
TO ORDER FATAL DISTRACTIONS: https://tinyurl.com/Fatal-Distractions