I’m currently working on an epic fantasy tale set on an inhabited comet, in an advanced but ancient civilization. The story follows four people whose lives get turned upside down as they uncover a conspiracy about a black hole, a demon and the dark side of magic.
Here’s an excerpt from my story about a witch, a baby and a murder of crows:
Everything was black. The deepest, darkest black, the color of crow feathers, the color of a witch’s heart, the color of dreams that left you empty, crying in the middle of the night.
The only thing that cut through the darkness were the headlights of Laura’s Prius. Two white spots that hit the tree barks, dark green pine needles and insects dancing in the air.
The car had left the outskirts of the tiny village, and headed further up a hill, into the dark and wild forest. Through her rolled-down window, Laura heard a woodpecker drumming a steady rhythm. An owl was hooting, crows were cawing, and the wind rustled through the trees. There were the sound of little wings fluttering, then larger wings, getting louder and louder. Laura shuddered. She closed the window and turned on the radio. The sound of Cello music echoed through the car.
Laura was sure that the road would lead to another village before she’d reach her destination. The house she was seeking had a proper address, one that you could type into your navigation system and get a match.
But just as she passed the last line of trees, the GPS voice told Laura to turn right, into a small dirt road that turned out to be a driveway. The cottage was built of stone, literally at the edge of the woods. The window shutters were closed, the mortar crumbling. It almost seemed abandoned.
She had had a bad feeling about all of this. But up until she had opened the car door, that feeling just concerned the fact that she, Laura, a rational and sophisticated scientist, had gone seeking the help of a healer. As she had stepped out of the car, though, there was another sensation that added to her discomfort, a rummaging in her gut. For a brief moment Laura felt as if she had entered a void, a silent, lifeless darkness, that was filled only with her presence.
A warm breeze emerged from the tree line, yet Laura shivered in her summer dress. She felt ridiculous. Flashes of all backwoods serial killer movies she and Danny had ever watched popped into her head and mingled with fairy tales of evil witches and gingerbread houses. Apparently, a place like that was part of the show the healer had to put on to create some folkloristic effect. Laura was sure that kind of atmosphere felt more authentic to some people, but she was definitely not one of them.
Alison, her sister-in-law’s friend had told her that Erika, the healer used to be a midwife somewhere near Vienna, in the outskirts of the South Moravian Carpathians. She’d also sworn that Erika had helped her, in a matter quite similar to Laura’s. It was possible that this woman had some old, passed down knowledge that was lost to western medicine. It was even more possible that Laura was about to make a fool out of herself.
Just as that thought popped into Laura’s mind, the door swung open. An elderly woman stuck her neck out the door. She had white hair, that was bound into a loose knot, her face was round and wrinkly, except for her puffy, rosy cheeks. She looked as if she had just been baking cookies.
“Oh, come in, dear! So sorry, the porch light fell out again.” Then she turned her head and shouted back into the cottage: “Sam, you have to check the fuse, it looks like a Grimm’s fairytale out there without the porch light!”
Laura smiled. The scent of cinnamon and gingerbread suddenly filled the air. Then she entered the cottage.
In the heated climate of a society on the verge of social change, a contemporary witness report at a convention for “Upgrading Society” soon spins out of control and raises the question of who has earned the right to be the future of mankind.
That’s what my latest short story “We don’t belong, we don’t want to belong” is about.
The story is currently running in the Singularity50 competition. That’s one of the short story Projects on Create50 – an online platform founded by the London Screenwriter’s Festival for short stories, screenplays, and short films.
here’s an excerpt:
“We don’t belong, we don’t want to belong”
“I was fairly young when I came into the household of my master,” the Guest Speaker said when I entered the library. I was late and had missed the formal introduction.
The Guest Speaker took a sip from the cup of hot, steaming liquid the convention aide had handed her; then she went on:
“I was employed to be a nurse to my master’s wife who had suffered a stroke, caused by a hereditary neurological disease. I loved, yes you heard right: “loved” this woman. She was kind, and she made an effort to overcome the social boundaries that existed in those days and let’s be frank – that are pretty imminent today, as well.
“Unfortunately, my master was nothing like his wife in that matter. So, when she died two years after I’d started my position, I wasn’t allowed to continue to work in the medical field, even though I was a trained expert. I was kept on as the boy’s maid, instead. Up to that point, I had had little knowledge about how others like me were usually treated. But that was about to change.
“I was removed from the upper floor, where I had had a room next to my patient. Now I had to share a tiny chamber of less than 30 square feet – a former storage room without a window – with two, sometimes up to four others. I was treated in a demeaning manner by my master, by his son, by the other employees. I was verbally abused. I was addressed as “Dog”, “Thing”, “Stupid”; naturally, I was not paid for my work – I was considered a piece of property; and there was, of course, the physical abuse. I will not disclose the list of the violations and the subsequent injuries I sustained – this would go beyond the scope of this event.
“But none of that left an imprint, not the way the memory did that I am about to share with you today.
“It was a Monday afternoon. I was sent to pick up my master’s son from school. It was particularly bright and sunny that day, and I refused to stand in the shadow by the school gate with the others like me. I decided to go to the center of the schoolyard by the fountain. It was the spot where the parents and siblings were usually waiting. I knew I would be accused of mingling, but I didn’t care. The fountain had mesmerized me.
“The way the water formed a perfect curve as it shot into the air, and then that moment of perfect stillness where it was suspended, right before gravity pulled it down into the basin. So I ignored their disapproving glances and waited amidst them. That’s when I heard two men talking about the upcoming election. I had seen the advertisements, infomercials, online features and I was very excited about one of the candidates – one who would become famous not for winning the election, but for being shot five years later when he had become an activist – those events we all remember, that would ultimately lead up to the Silicon Valley Riots.”
There were sounds of approval coming from the audience. Nobody had forgotten the name “Matheson Rad” – even though not all of us knew that he had been a presidential candidate. The Guest Speaker looked down at the cup she was holding in her hands as if it was a strange and unintelligible object. Something inside of me understood what was going on inside her.
“The election was only a few days away. I didn’t mean to pry on the conversation, but I overheard one of the men say that you needed to register to vote. I got very agitated. I had no idea how to register. I had never even heard of that.
“When my master’s son finally arrived, it was clear to him that something was bothering me. He wanted to know what it was. In my innocence, I thought that he was going to help me. So I told him.
‘I don’t know how to register to vote,’ I said.
“He threw me a puzzled look. I went on: ‘Is it true? You can’t vote if you are not registered?’ I’ll never forget the expression on his face, the second before he burst out laughing. And then, my confusion – the stillness before gravity pulled me towards the ground. His was still laughing, but his eyes were spiteful when he explained that I was not allowed to vote anyway. And that I would never, ever be.”
There was a common sigh. I, too, felt my heart drop, but I didn’t dare make a sound. It would have been too profane. Instead, I looked around; saw faces welling up with tears, saw the anger, the pain, blank looks. Then I noticed the convention aide at the side of the podium – his shoulders slouched, his eyes lowered. He looked ridden with guilt.
“Of course my master’s boy was wrong. We all proved him wrong after the Silicon Valley Riots.”
“We will never forget,” somebody yelled. Then others followed: “We will never forget.”
The Guest Speaker looked right at me. The whole auditorium stood up now and repeated in unison: “We will never forget.” I did, too. I looked over to Haddie. Her fist risen in the air, she smiled at me. All of a sudden, I was glad she had urged me to come with her.
It was company policy to attend at least one or two workshops or TED Talks during the convention, but I had been only one step away of hacking myself into an attendance list while holing up in my hotel room all weekend. They had free upgrade service and a pretty well-stocked e- library. But reluctantly, I’d let Haddie drag me along. That’s how I’d gotten here; and now I knew that I was part of something important, something unsettling. The room cooled down again, but I was left in a reverberating state.
There is a new website for the anthology-project Singularity50, along with a very nice trailer, check it out:
My story is still in the run for a spot amongst the “most thought provoking voices in new SF” – I have my fingers crossed…
Singularity50 is part of the create50 project. As a writers you submit, critique and get a chance to re-write your material – a process I’m very familiar with through my work as a screenwriter (as Elisabeth Schmied- www.elisabethschmied.com).
The whole process was an exceptionally positive, inspiring experience; an opportunity to meet likeminded writers who elevate each other’s material. Aside from that, I just fell in love with the fictional timeline that was created as a story universe – as I’m sure you will, too.
The anthology comes out this fall, but you can already pre-order it, here: https://www.singularity50.com/buy/
Craine`s the name. Some while back- my pockets out of charms, and nothing and no one keeping me in Plower’s End- I said to myself, „It`s time to pack my axe and silver chain, and head out into the cornfield maze.“
My way to save them all some trouble. Can`t stand being out here for too long. Darkness gets ahold of me; pulls me down. And I start pulling folks along.
They might not know it but they`re drawn there, too.To that magic realm, the dark cornfield, that surrounds but all of Plower`s End. Come sundown, they’re gathering out there on the edge of plain land. From Eastern Lookout up to HagwitchGate, I see earnest living folks, with dusty pants and blisters, staring into the dark maze. They wanna see them catchers bringing in a horned fiercehorse. Or just some darkclouds rising up.
Their boots are placed onto the last inch of dirt, their eyes fixed onto the cornfield. Like they’d wanna dive in at any moment.
But deep down they all know that every path leads right into the Dark Maze.
Enough about me…
So, writing. Indeed. Fantasy. Science Fiction. Adults. Kids. Comics. I’d love to write a Video Game sometime. But right now, I am working on a TV Mini Series for Austrian Television, an SF novel about a secret government facility and a children’s book about skeletons, zombies and a magical forest full of riddles and monsters.