Friday, October 30, 2020

Gothic Blue Book VI: A Krampus Carol

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I have a new story coming out!

It's in the new horror anthology Gothic Blue Book VI: A Krampus Carol by Burial Day Books. My story, Christmas Eve, is about a young woman, forced from her home, who makes a journey on a dark winter's night in hopes of finding help for herself and her tiny son. Will a mysterious stranger offering assistance be a godsend — or something much, much worse?

Partial cover image from the horror anthology Gothic Blue Book VI: A Krampus Carol
Partial cover image from the horror anthology
Gothic Blue Book VI: A Krampus Carol

Here is a list of the stories and their authors:

The Aspirant Heiress by Deanna Baran
The Night of Epiphany by Nico Bell
When the Leaves Go by Die Booth
Yule Log by T.M. Brown
Candy Cane by Jeff Carter
The Boy Who Tricked Krampus by Malina Douglas
Sugarplum by Kevin M. Folliard
A Creature Was Stirring by Samson Stormcrow Hayes
Black Lace Binding by Laurel Hightower
Letters to Krampus by Matt Jean
I Am a Fortress by Shane Douglas Keene
All Through the House by Amanda Cecelia Lang
Secret Santa by Gary E Lee
A Desk Fit for a Purpose by Madeleine McDonald
A Very Good Actress by Sarah Michelson
After Krampusnacht by Victoria Nations
When She Visits by Cindy O’Quinn
The Path by Kathleen Palm
The Last Noel by Hailey Piper
Queen of the Wassail by Jennifer Quail
The Wreath by Monique Quintana
All Quiet on the Northern Front by Kara Race-Moore
Cast Away Stones by Mary Rajotte
Hell’s Bells by C L Raven
The Holly King’s Spawn by Sage Ravenwood
Creature of Darkness by Lawrence Salani
Christmas Eve by K.R. Smith
Krampus by Austrian Spencer
The Dark-Eyed Boy by M.C. St. John
Here We Come A-Caroling by Angela Sylvaine
The Yule Cat by Sara Tantlinger

As you can see, it's sizable collection of tales! There should be something for everyone in this huge book!

It's available on Amazon (Kindle only for now).

© 2020 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Human 76 - How Maeve Came To Be

When I was asked by Lisa Shambrook if I wanted to write a story for a post-apocalyptic anthology she was developing, I jumped at the chance. Lisa had been a part of other anthologies that looked like fun, and this seemed to have even more potential. This offer came about because I had once asked her if she knew of any open anthologies like the ones with which she'd been involved.

Of course, it was only after I said yes that I stopped to think about what this actually meant. The original time-frame was short. I was already working overtime at my day job and had another story in process. On top of that, I'd never really considered a story of that genre (post-apocalyptic). And it wasn't as if I could just make something up that stood by itself. My characters had to have some interaction with Lisa's creations, Ghabrie and Nahria who were the central characters in what would become the Human 76 anthology. How could I do that without causing problems in another writer's story? How would it all tie together? Post-apocalyptic? What had I gotten myself into?

Still, I'd made the commitment, so I had to come up with something.

I came up with Maeve.

She's young, somewhere between fifteen and eighteen. She may not truly know how old she is. Being from the sparsely populated Northlands, she's had little social interaction, and is a bit naïve. Maeve doesn't have any special "powers" or skills. She can't leap tall buildings at a single bound—or even read. I didn't think there would be many schools left in a post-apocalyptic world.

In addition to being born into a disastrous situation, she has to deal with the stigma of having red hair. It seems a disease has targeted those with coppery curls sentencing most to an early death. Of those, the few who are still alive are mostly mutants, and they don't have the best reputation. Unfortunately for Maeve, people see her red hair and make that leap, deciding she's a mutant. And Maeve isn't very happy about that.

She's also a bit on the meek side, a giggly teenager who asks for nothing more than to spend time with her cousin making soap and growing herbs to sell. She's not someone with dreams of world domination or conquering evil empires.

Overall, other than the problems her hair creates, she's just a normal teenager.

Doesn't sound like much of a heroine up to this point, does it? Certainly not very exciting.

How did I see Maeve? What did I expect from this tale?

I wanted this to be a coming-of-age story. I wanted Maeve to have characteristics that the average person could relate to, meaning she just a young person working at store. Many teenagers get their first work experience in somewhat the same way by working at a small business, often a retail establishment. I also put her into a reasonably comfortable existence (or as much as can be expected in her post-apocalyptic world), then ripped her out of it, tossing her into a situation where she must grow and comprehend the true nature of the world, adapting as necessary. That is something we all do as we grow up. Well, we give it a good try. 

Yes, I've heard that starting a story where "everything is right with the world" doesn't grab the reader quickly enough, but that would leave me the problem of filling in the blanks through flashbacks or some other device. That could work in a novel, but with the length constraints of a short story, especially one that was running longer than requested by a considerable amount, using those methods would have taken too much space. Even if they were accepted by the anthologist, it wouldn't be fair to the other authors to take up extra space when they followed the rules.

So, what does Maeve bring to the story? How does she see herself?

She doesn't think of herself as brave or strong, but she does have an inner strength that comes to the surface, even if involuntarily, when required. And she's a determined young woman—she doesn't give up easily. Yet, even when forced, she's a reluctant warrior. In the situations that arise in The Song of Aiden, it is this contrast between her gentle persona and the harshness of her post-apocalyptic world that makes the story work. At least I hope it worked and that this contrast came through.

At this point, I have a character, but how do I work Ghabrie into the story? I can't just have her walk up to Ghabrie and say, "Hi!" I needed a situation to bring all the characters together. So, I decided on—romance.

What? Romance? Really? Me? I'm not a romance writer! I'm not a post-apocalyptic writer, either. I'm barely a writer at all! What was I thinking? I already had one sub-plot (the mutant / red hair thing). Would the romance be considered a sub-plot, too? How many sub-plots can a short story carry? What had I gotten myself into (again)?

All I can say is that's what popped into my head. I have no idea where all these silly thoughts came from. (Okay, I'm going to blame Beth Rhodes who, as a challenge, enticed me to write my first sort of romantic bit on her blog almost a decade ago.) Will it sound ridiculous? Unbelievable? Only time (and the reviews of the readers) will decide.

I can't tell too much more without giving away the whole story, but this may shed some light on how I developed the character Maeve. I can only hope readers enjoy the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

In the years since Human 76 was published, the thought has crossed my mind (more than once) to write a follow-up story with Maeve, one that fills in the gap, picking up where she leaves Ghabrie and returns to the Northlands before re-entering the Human 76 world. I can imagine a few adventures she in which she might partake. What do you think? Would you be interested in reading it? Let me know!

Human 76 is available from Amazon.

Cover image: Human 76 © 2013 Bekah Shambrook
Cover image: Human 76

© 2020 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Two Spaces Or Not Two Spaces

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That, it seems, is the question.

Typewriter Photo by MILKOVÍ on Unsplash

Photo by MILKOVÍ on Unsplash

Not long ago, I was participating in a Skype session at work with a few other staff members. We were reviewing and updating a document. Once we had agreed on a particular change, one of us would make the change. I watched as a staff member (who will remain nameless) type in the new sentences, then dutifully return to put an extra space between them where only one space existed. This was not a formal document; it was an internal checklist of a process.

Interesting, I thought.

I had heard of this two-space thing, as I recall, long ago in some distant corner of my life. I had never seen anyone do this before. Was it a difference in schooling? I had never been taught there was a correct (or incorrect) amount of spaces to be placed between sentences.

Had I read writing with two spaces after a period? I was certain I had, though I couldn't say where or when.

My curiosity was aroused. I decided to research the subject. I'm almost sorry I did. Apparently, this is a sore subject among many in the writing and typography communities. The level of fighting makes the turmoil between political parties seem almost tame.

There are many reasons given on both sides, but I'll only mention a couple here.

"Only old folks used to using typewriters put two spaces after a sentence."

The term "old folks" generally refers to those over 40 years of age in these arguments. I can assure you I am over 40 in both age and IQ, although the second value is often questioned. I don't, however, use two spaces.

"It only applies to monospaced fonts. They aren't needed with modern proportional fonts."

This is summarily dismissed by the two-spacers.

There are other arguments, of course, and the issue has been discussed for at least the last few hundred years according to the articles I've read. I wouldn't be surprised to find the fossilized remains of two opposing tribes of prehistoric cave dwellers where one painted the images of their hands two hand-lengths apart while the other tribe preferred only one. In all likelihood, the very first war was started over this.

There have even been several (supposedly) scientific studies on the matter, all of which resulted in every possible outcome as to whether the one or two spaces made a difference in clarity or reading speed.

As I was thinking about all this (as an excuse to avoid another Skype session in work), I was wondering if those who use two spaces have a problem sending text messages. If you hit the space button twice on a smartphone it puts in a periodand a single space. If you want two spaces, you have to hit the space button again after an indeterminate amount of time. On top of all that, some folks don't use or like punctuation in their text messages. If you're a devout two-spacer and don't use a period between sentences when messaging, this could possibly drive you insane.

Do I have a preference?

No. I can't say I notice a difference when reading either format.

If you wish to use two spaces after a period, I won't mind. I probably won't even notice—unless you make me watch you do it.

When writing, I'll continue to use a single space, though not because I believe in its superiority. It's all I've ever done. I'm not sure I could change now if I tried. No one has ever asked why I only use one space, so it would seem it's not a major issue with everyone. For those it does bother, however, if thy right eye (or left) offends thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee. Just make sure it doesn't land on my keyboard. It might hit the space bar.

© 2020 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Beth Rhodes Has A New Book Out!

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I got the newsletter today from Beth Rhodes - and she has a new book out. It's titled Counter Strike. This is number 5 in her Hawk Elite Security series. Beth writes military romance novels, and they're always good. 

And yes, I've already purchased a copy. Here's the blurb:

She buried her fighting spirit along with her father twelve years ago…

Marguerite Bellamy Fuentes spends her life hiding from the Mexican cartel, who murdered her family. She's terrified of their retribution should they find her and unable to commit to the man she loves for fear he'll suffer the same fate.

He follows orders, doesn't give them…

By the book operative for Hawk Elite Security, Jamie Nash globe trots all over the world at Hawk's command. But now he's tired of the rat race, and he's ready to settle down. He wants to marry Missy, and he's quite capable of keeping them both safe…if she follows the rules.

Then Jamie is taken hostage. Faced with losing him, Missy's fighting spirit awakens and with it her need to right the wrongs done to her family. Her life with Jamie might be safe, but she can no longer stand by and do nothing. It's time to stop hiding and face the enemies from her past. Jamie doesn't agree. He spent years making sure no one can find her.

Will Missy's determination to fight for justice drive away the man who has been her rock? Or will they learn to take on the world together?

If this piques your interest, please check it out on Amazon! Here's the link:

That's all the news for now! Thanks for dropping by!

© 2020 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Patreon Post On Freelancers

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Making a living as a freelancer has never been easy; it's been even tougher lately. I know a few who have given up trying. Many others are on the fence.

Free-falling Freelancers

I've put a short article on Patreon about this (free access for all).

If you know an artist, writer, or performer who is having a rough time, please help them out if you can!

© 2020 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 159

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Flash fiction lightning streak image

This story is for Miranda Kate's weekly flash challenge. This is from Miranda's post: This week's picture prompt is Jeannie Anne Numos aka i-am-JENius over on their page on DeviantArt, an artist based in the Philippines. They have some incredible pieces. I might have to use a few more. This one's titled 'Vanished Route to Demirville'. 

Here's a link to the prompt image. This is a very short story, even for a flash fiction. Please note that anyone can join in with a story up to 750 words. Mine has 747 words for those who are counting (not including the title, scene break marker, and byline). I've also placed the story on my Patreon site (free access!). There is also downloadable PDF version of the story there.

All That Glitters

K. R. Smith

The fog was thick. Brad almost missed the old man digging around the base of a large oak as he walked along the tracks. The man said nothing as he approached, but watched him as he picked his footing over the slippery, moss-cover ties between the rusting tracks.

"Hello," Brad said, waving his hand. Still, the old man remained silent. Brad introduced himself again, then asked, "Do you live around here?"

The old man took a moment before replying. "Not far. But I can tell you don't."

"Really? How?"

"Because you're headin' towards that deserted mine."

"You know about it?"

The old man laughed. "Everyone around here knows."

"I've bought the mineral rights, but I can't find any record of when the mine opened. 

Somebody had to dig it out. You wouldn't have any local knowledge on that, would you?"
"Nope. But I've heard folks say that dark hole was here as long as anyone can remember."

"You've been there?"

"Near enough not to want to go back."

"People say there's gold inside."

"People say a lot of things."

"I take it you don't put much stock in those stories."

"Don't know either way."

"So, what treasure are you searching for?"


"I can buy more ginseng with a few nuggets of gold than you can dig in a month."

"Gold don't do ya no good when your dead."

"Neither does ginseng."

"True enough. But I don't plan on dyin'."

"So, you're not interested in gold?"

"Not from that place. Folks around here are wise enough to know better," the old man said as he looked over the stranger in front of him. "Unlike some others."

"Look, I know mines are dangerous. I've spent my life working these old claims. Made a decent living at it. What's so special about this one?"

"There's something down there. Something that don't like sharing."

"Something? That's all you can tell me?"

"Never met it. Don't want to, neither."

"Does everyone around here believe this?"

"The smart ones do. Some say it's a beast of sorts. Others say it's spirits, like the Kachinas."

"Well, I don't believe in monsters or magic. And the Hopis are a thousand miles west."

The old man just shrugged. "It's what some folks say. Then again, it might be people's imagination, I suppose. Hard to figure, though, why so many folks would be imaginin' something like that."

"So, you're afraid to even go in?"

"Going in ain't the problem. Comin' out is. Especially if you're taken anything out with you."

Brad smiled. "Or the boogeyman will get you?"

"Or something. That's why it's closed. No one was willing to work there. These tracks ain't been used in years."

"I guess I'll have to take my chances then, won't I?"

"Or you could find another old mine somewhere's else. Up to you."

"If it's all the same, I'll take a look for myself."

"I can't stop ya, but ya might wanna think twice."

As Brad continued down the tracks, he yelled back, "I'll think twice about the gold."

The old man wiped his brow, shook his head, then returned to his task. After half an hour, he heard twigs snapping in the woods. His eyes squinted. There was movement, but he couldn't identify what it was.

"Johnny?" he called. "Johnny Redfeather, is that you?"

"Yeah, Jake. It's me." A man in a blue flannel shirt appeared from behind a stand of large trees on one side of the tracks. "I see you've gotten a head start."

"Not much o' one. I heard someone was comin' to nose around that damned hole. Thought I'd best get moving. He left a short while back. Anyway, glad you're here. I'm about wore out."

"I heard the news, too. After the gold?"

"What else?"

"Then we'd better gather all we can. Ginseng's the only thing that seems to placate whatever's in there."


Johnny laughed. "Sorry. It means to calm down."

"Oh, okay. I can't understand half of what you say since you came back from that big-city college. Don't any of them smart folks know how to get rid of this thing?"

Johnny shook his head. "They don't teach about stuff like that there. Or even believe in it."

"Dang. Well, I hope there's enough ginseng left."

The sound of thunder echoed around them, but they could feel through their boots that the source was deep within the Earth.

Johnny glanced down the tracks. "Me too, Jake. Me, too."

© 2020 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Monday, May 25, 2020

Goodreads And Advertising

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I know I'm a bit late on this, but I have been busy...

Goodreads has ended their self-serve ads product.

I've run a number of Goodreads ad campaigns, and I do think they helped sell books, though it always helped if they were in conjunction with other ways to draw attention. Best of all, they could be done quickly and cheaply on a site that focused on readers. 

That's no longer an option.

This is from the Goodreads site:

Why did you end support for self-serve advertising? What will happen to my existing funds?

Feb 5, 2020 Knowledge

Goodreads no longer supports self-serve ad campaigns as of February 4, 2020. If you have advertising funds on Goodreads, please contact us – we will be able to refund these to you.

To promote your book, we encourage authors to use one of our other available offerings, such as:
  • Sponsor a giveaway (for U.S. and Canadian authors)
  • Participate in Ask the Author, which allows you to answer questions from your fans and readers
  • Share excerpts of upcoming publications and communicate with readers on your author blog
  • Join Goodreads groups that allow book promotion according to their group rules
  • Publicize upcoming events, such as book signings and speaking engagements
  • Consider Amazon’s self-serve ad product
The Goodreads staff didn't really answer why they ended the ads (they didn't even try), but I think it was to have ads run under the Amazon umbrella only. I also wonder if they were getting much revenue from the Goodreads ads. I didn't see anything about this on the internet. No complaining or flaming. I found out about it when I received a message saying they were refunding the few dollars I still had in an account. So maybe it's just me. As I mentioned, they could be done rather inexpensively. And I found the Goodreads ad campaign statistics useful at times. It seems the tools available for the small author are slowly disappearing.

I'm not sure what it would cost to run an Amazon ad campaign, but I have a feeling it will be more. At some point, I may try it. Or I may not. I'll let you know!

© 2020 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

From Quantico National Cemetery On Memorial Day

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A couple of pictures for Memorial Day 2020:

Quantico National Cemetery - May 2020
Quantico National Cemetery - May 2020

Quantico National Cemetery - May 2020
Quantico National Cemetery - May 2020


© 2020 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Holy Cow! Blogger Has Been Updated!

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I haven't been doing a lot of blogging here - most of my work has been going to my Patreon site.

Tonight, I logged in to make an update to a page and found the interface for editing had completely changed. Surprise!

New Blogger editing interface

I hope this means that Blogger will be around for a while and that has become a better tool. I'll have to spend some time with it to see. It also means relearning the tool, though it appears that won't be difficult. A lot looks like interface-only changes, but I'll play around a bit and see. It looks like spell-check is done automatically now. At least the attention means Google hasn't given up yet.

Maybe I'll even blog more often here!

© 2020 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Shore Leave 2020

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I can't say it was unexpected.

Shore Leave 42 has been cancelled.

Technically, it has been postponed until next year, but the effect is the same. They say postponed as it will still be Shore Leave 42 when it starts up again and most of the scheduled guests have confirmed they will appear next year.

So, there will be no book giveaways this year. I had a few copies already set for this. I'll put them in a box to await the next convention.

On the plus side, it does give me time to do art work and, perhaps, get additional stories published. I have two (a story and a poem) in the pipeline that have been on hold for quite a while, but the publisher is behind. I have a knack for going with slow publishers. What can I say?

I'll wait for the e-mail from the Shore Leave folks so I can use my registration fees for next year. I hope that goes smoothly. I do have to cancel the hotel reservations and check with my guests to see what they intend to do, but there's not a lot I can do but wait for the next time.

And hope a wayward asteroid doesn't decide to strike about that time...

© 2020 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 148

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This story is for Miranda Kate's weekly flash challenge. This is from Miranda's post:

This week's photo is from Christopher Marr, a Scottish photographer.   He shared this on twitter on 21st of September 2019 and said "I have so many questions ... I found this bench in the middle of some woods I was visiting for the first time. No paths or walkways, literally stumbled across it perfect".

Here's a link to the prompt image.

Please note that anyone can join in with a story up to 750 words. It's been a while since I've done a poem for a flash challenge, so this one's a bit short - only 111 words for those who are counting (not including the title and byline). And it doesn't even rhyme, so if you were worried it might be one of my rhyming poems, you may proceed without concern. Some people have an aversion to poems that rhyme, and while I don't, I promise to warn all future readers when one is posted here.


Alone with my thoughts, I listen in the stillness For a memory. The bench is still here, Neglected, Moldering away in the wood. It was this place, many years ago, We sat together, Also alone. If I close my eyes
I can hear her words, Her laughter. That was our first time together, But not our last. That would come much later. And, so, here I am again, As if my presence would change things, Make it all like it was. But I am old, too, Like this bench; Worn out and unneeded. Perhaps, though, I'll sit for a while And enjoy her company once more If only in my mind.     -- K. R. Smith

© 2020 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Poetry: Where The Truth Lies

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This post is to link to an short poem I wrote years ago. I submitted it to a lit site, but it wasn't accepted.

It's on Patreon now, but there's free access for all. And a PDF download! Here's the link:

Where the Truth Lies

© 2020 K. R. Smith All rights reserved

Friday, January 31, 2020

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 142

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This story is for Miranda Kate's weekly flash challenge. This is from Miranda's post:

This week's photo is of a sculpture by Rook Floro. He calls it 'Shadow.' If click on the link you will see a variety of angles it is taken at. 

Here's a link to the prompt image.

Please note that anyone can join in with a story up to 750 words. Mine has 699 words for those who are counting (not including the title and byline).

The Shadows of Vagus

    by K. R. Smith

    The planet is officially known as HD 254618 c, but as best we could tell, the primitive beings who live here call it Vagus. It was chosen to be the most distant outpost humans had ever attempted. Because of that, we would need to be self-sufficient for decades.

    As planets go, it was quite hospitable. The few native inhabitants were peaceful, even timid, and as accepting of our presence as could be hoped, even offering to help build our shelters. It was not always easy to communicate with the Vagusians, as we called them for wont of a better name. They had a limited vocabulary, relying on hand signals much of the time. Still, they were patient, and we all seemed to manage things together somehow to the benefit of both.

    While life wasn't the easiest on Vagus, it wasn't terrible, either. The days, filled with the routine tasks of farming, setting up the base for future arrivals, and making sure the shelters were clean and repaired had become routine — even dull, to be honest. Until the comet appeared, that is.

    The first thing we noticed was the Vagusians mostly stood around to watch the comet once it became visible. That slowed our progress considerably. When we attempted to inquire about their fascination with the comet, they would point to the sky, the ground, and then the dark hills in the distance. It didn't make any sense to us.

    As the comet grew nearer, they became anxious and wouldn't come out of their huts when it was visible. We tried to explain that the comet wouldn't hit their planet, but that seemed beyond their comprehension. Must be a superstitious lot, we figured. Any of their children, who seemed to be as excited as we were about this otherworldly event, were given a harsh scolding if caught outside. Well, that's what it sounded like to us. The Vagusians had never exhibited that sort of behavior before. Eventually, they didn't come out at all.

    On the night the comet passed, many from our colony stood on a small rise to enjoy the display. I had duties inside and was more than a little perturbed to miss what might be the chance of a lifetime. During our break, the few of us pulling shifts decided to check the external cameras. Even a little peek at the action was better than nothing.

    A few hundred meters away, we could see our crewmembers looking up at the comet. Then Sarah, who was watching on a bigger screen in the main section, said it looked like it was starting to snow. We were passing through the comet's tail, and talk came up that perhaps there was enough water coming down to cause this to happen. It was just a few flakes at first. Then it came down so fast we could barely see the crew.

    That's when the radio calls came in. It wasn't voices, just screams. Whatever was in the snow appeared to stick and burn. Perhaps dissolve would be a better word. A few wanted to put on hazard suits and try to rescue them. We weren't really sure if that would work. Before we could make a decision, the snow had stopped. So had the calls on the radio.

    When we finally ventured out, all that remained of those watching the comet were black, glassy ashes in the form of humans, looking like frozen shadows. The celestial snow was gone.

    When the Vagusians arrived, they began to carry our dead towards the hills. Not knowing what else to do, we followed. They seemed quite solemn, almost grieving, while they performed their task. As we approached the dark hills, we understood. Body upon glassy body of Vagusians, from who knows how long ago, were stacked high above the plains. Now many of us would join them.

    It took a while, but our small group slowly began to comprehend the Vagusian language as their mixture of words and gestures became clearer. They had tried to explain the cycle and how the comet had returned. And they hadn't been pointing at the ground; they had been pointing at their own shadows — the shadows of Vagus.

© 2019 K. R. Smith All rights reserved