Short Fiction

Tuesday Tales: Endless Doors Part 7

The Tuesday Tales feature continues with a new story this week. The previous story was Shadow of the Beast  To read the story, click on each link: Shadow of the Beast Part 1Shadow of the Beast Part 2Shadow of the Beast Part 3

This story is a a departure from fantasy for me and into a bit of science fiction where the science is more setting and the fiction is nuanced with it. Click this link to read Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Endless Doors

by P. H. Solomon

Part 7

Weeks of preparation followed. Jake moved aboard his ship, The Pilgrim’s Rest, and met his officers. He organized his command and explained his expectations. Anyone he deemed deficient in proper motivation–regardless of age–he requested be replaced. Unknown danger in the form of lost ships awaited his own expedition so he reserved no tolerance for hopelessness. Archangel-Commander Patterson approved every request.

Jake attended more meetings, especially smaller ones and dinners where George Patterson detailed the assignment and its dangers.

George drank his brandy as they sat after dinner the night before the launch. “Jake, with those lost ships exploring between The Afterlife and The Jesús, that quadrant remains unexplored. Many here don’t care, but we’re serving for life and that means we keep moving forward.” Patterson brushed his close-cropped tufts of white hair.

“I understand. That’s why I’ve asked for those most motivated. It’s an earth-year of travel to the other station.” Jake sipped from his own glass.

“And why I’ve given you what you need. Who knows what happened to the others but I’ve got to give you every chance to succeed.” Patterson stared at the darkness beyond the nearby porthole. “Who knows what happened. I think sickness of the mind is just as bad as that of the body. With all us geezers on-board it can be like a plague once it’s loose. Mistakes are made then.”

Jake nodded.

George held up his glass. “To discipline and success.”

Archangel Lassitter joined the small group with them in the toast.

Jake slept in his ship quarters and rose fresh and ready for the launch. He ate with a smile and checked through last minute well-wishes from officers he’d gotten to know in his short time aboard The Afterlife. He sat back as time drew near to embark. The ship floated in the bay like a babe in a womb waiting for birth. It was good to do something. All the waiting at home had sapped his morale. Purpose renewed him. He leaned back in his chair. His wife followed him in space by now. If only he knew her destination.

Bridge com lights flashed and he opened the channel. “Captain-Archangel, here.”

His older second, Baxter, appeared in the projections. “We’re near launch time, sir.”

“Just coming, old man, just coming.”

Jake didn’t need his ID to show him around his ship anymore. Projected console lights winked in the dimness of the bridge. The crew acknowledged him and he sat.

“Status report, please.” Lassitter plugged his ID into it slot in his chair. His controls projected in front of him.

Baxter stood near Jake. “Plasma screws are functional and providing optimal energy for all ship systems and engines, sir.”

Jake suppressed his grin. “Good, and guidance rockets?”

“Fueled and on-line.”

“Well done. Show screen of the bay door. I believe we’re ready. Baxter, request permission to open bay doors and embark.

Across the bridge, the screen displayed white bay doors with lights trained upon them.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Baxter relayed the request to The Afterlife. “Request acknowledged and permission granted.”

Jake leaned forward as the bay doors parted to empty space. “Engage rockets.”

The navigator tapped his console. “Engaged.”

The Pilgrim’s Rest accelerated toward the bay. As the ship left the station, the bay lights filled the screen for a moment and then the ship cleared its host.

Jake stared at the ceiling. He drummed his fingers and sat back. If only they could reach their destination. If only his wife arrived there. Jake and his crew left all that was familiar in search of The Jesús in the boundless, cosmic void.


Thanks for reading today. For more information about my writing, please see the page about my epic fantasy series, The Bow of Hart Saga, which includes two award-winning books.

About the Author


Short Fiction Post: For No Reason – Part 5

The following is the next section of a short story entitled, For No Reason. I hope to include this story in an anthology in several months. The main character, Dax, is stuck in a magical rut that’s not headed toward a good ending…

Previous posts for this story: part 1  – part 2 part 3 part 4

Fire“Tell us where good stuff is or we start with her fingers, then her toes.” The leader’s bellow carried over the cacophony of weeping women and roaring flames among the houses. Men shouted complaints cut short when the outlaws kicked or clubbed them.

Dax gritted his teeth and blinked. None of my business. He dismounted. His smirk spread as he crept closer. The mule trailed him on the lead. Dax frowned at the animal. “I guess you’re in this.”

The mule tossed its head.

The girl squealed. Firelight her face with fear.

Maybe they’d toss those fingers his way. Dax almost vomited. The cursed beast clawed for release. No, he couldn’t let it out. He steadied himself against a wall and hunched among shadows. He should go. It wasn’t his business. He’d take his chances these men would end the curse for him. He took one step backward. If only the cursed beast would leave him.

“You’ll be telling us now.” The lead ruffian slapped the girl, his dirt-smudged face twisted with a delighted grin at his power.

One outlaw held the girl down while another set a knife to her thumb.

“No, no, no!” The girl’s desperate screams mingled with her terrified sobs. Men shouted. Ruffians menaced their captives with cudgels.

Dax squeezed his eyelids shut and clenched his jaws. They’re like me. No, I’ll be worse if the village won’t let me…”

His eyelids snapped wide. He lurched into view and the mule followed. His lips curled. He didn’t need those hateful people.

“Leave the girl alone.” He removed his gloves.

The villagers shrank away and gasped.

Dax stood with his hands curled like claws and panted.

The leader and his men froze a moment and then squinted at shadows between the buildings.

The bearded ruffian laughed and swaggered toward Dax. “What you gonna do by yerself? Why, look at you all sickly and poxy.” The outlaw shoved the cursed man.

“You can’t hurt me but I can kill all of you.”

The leader laughed and his men joined him. “You ain’t gonna do nothing.” He stepped closer and Dax smelled his sour breath as the ruffian yanked him close by his shirt. “We gonna take that mule and drag you behind it, see how long you last, Poxy.”

Dax pried the outlaw’s hands from his shirt.

The bearded leader pulled away and drew back his fist. His eyes bulged as he gaped at his blackened hands as disease spread along his hairy forearms. The brigand screamed, stumbled back and crumbled to his knees. He clawed his chest and throat. The outlaw fell onto his side and writhed for fleeting moments. A death gasp rattled out of a mouth that never closed again. His eyes glazed and stared into the smoky night.

Dax lifted his gaze from the lifeless man, shook his head and sighed. He shoulda listened. Couldn’t worry about him. His shoulders relaxed and he stepped over the body as the corpse’s lips pulled back in a desiccated grin.

The girl lay under her attackers, her sob frozen as a hush gathered among bandit and villagers alike. Then the outlaws murmured and tensed to attack.

The mule brayed.

Dax whirled at a grunt.

An outlaw fell and writhed from the animal’s well-aimed kick. Animal needs a name after that. Another sallow-faced brigand snatched at the reins and received a vicious bite followed by another whirling kick. The outlaw ducked and scrambled away with a cry. Another ruffian snorted at his fellow.

The other outlaws stared at Dax. They’re afraid but willing to fight. Their sweaty faces sneered.

“I’ll gut you for that.” The lean man with the knife at the girl’s hand stood and displayed a gap-toothed grimace.

“You can’t hurt him, sick as he is.” Felton’s warning hushed the outlaws. “It’s the old crone’s curse. He can’t die, just suffer. Whatever touches him dies.”

“Then we’ll hurt the whole lot of ya while he watches.” The other outlaws nodded and flexed their arms to make good the threat.

“The whole place is cursed.” Dax advanced and grasped the knife-man’s sleeve.

The outlaw shouted. He yanked his arm away and scrambled from Dax’s reach. He waved the knife as he circled and split his glower between the villagers and Dax. “Stay back.” His gaze flitted to the corpse lying stiff in the firelight.

Dax stepped toward the outlaw. The fight’s left them. His voice sounded steady with his even breathing. “Put out the fires and leave with nothing.”

“But–” The sallow-face man glanced from Dax to the corpse again.

“Do it!” Dax’s snarl snapped like a whip. He lifted his bare fist.

The men jumped at his sweeping glare.

The outlaws beat at the fires with their tattered cloaks. Dax surveyed their work but never put his gloves on his hands. Felton and some of the men joined the outlaws while women aided with pails of water from the nearby creek.

The raiders wasted no time retreating from the village at Dax’s approval. When they were gone, he tied the corpse to his mule and pulled the remains out to the cemetery.

“What’re we gonna do with him there.” Elon flinched from Dax.

“Just dig the grave and kick him in.”

“We gotta do more work for you?”

Dax raised his hands and yanked his gloves on at Elon’s eye level. The other man dipped his head and trotted away, his face pale in the remaining light.

Dax walked his mule along the road home with a yawn. He stretched his arms and hummed an old lullaby. The beast was hiding. He’d better go before it came back.

“Thank-you.” Elon’s wife lifted her hand with an uncertain wave when he glanced over his shoulder.

Dax tugged his hat-brim lower but neither spoke nor paused.

“Wait, Dax!” Felton scampered alongside as Dax reached the village edge. The shopkeeper gave the mule wary space. “Why did you do it?”

Ash drifted between Dax and the shopkeeper.

Dax cocked his head sideways and arched an eyebrow at the other man. He shrugged after three strides. Suffering for life ‘cause no one had no money wasn’t right. He yawned again and never looked Felton’s way. “For no reason.”

“That’s all?”

“Yep.” Dax mounted the mule, jerked his hat at Felton and urged the animal to a trot.

Dax swayed with the mule’s motion. He slouched by the time he reached the cabin. His eyelids drooped against approaching sunrise. He slid off his mount stumbled to bed.

Dax woke near mid-day and washed his face in the stale basin water beneath mirror. He stood straight before his reflection in unmarred glass. He blinked and gasped. Dax touched his face. No weeping sores lingered. He touched the mirror where cracks once marred his diseased expression. The good deed done. The curse was broken!

He whirled and staggered. Dax inspected his hands and viewed unscarred skin. So tired he never noticed. He rushed out the door where he flopped on his porch steps as both laughter and weeping shook him.

Much later, the mule stared into his face while it crunched fodder, sprigs jutting from its mouth. The animal shied when he touched it bare-handed and grasped the bridle.

“Every good deed needs a reward. I’ll name you Hope.” He mule tossed its head in his grasp and he laughed. “Let’s take a trip, Hope.”

sun on mist through treesDax departed a few days later. He left the stack of unbroken mirrors–save the last–on the porch for Felton. The shopkeeper could sell them back to the village. He kicked Hope’s sides and the animal strolled away.

The pines creaked in the fresh breeze off the hills. “Until unmerited kindness he performs.” Shadow faded in the hollow.

Dax patted the mirror in his bag and searched the surrounding treetops with his eyes. “Can’t say I’ll miss you.”

The end of part 5 and the story!

Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. The next part of the story will be posted on 3/9/2016. Sign up for my Archer’s Aim Digest mailing list to receive notification of these posts and those for other upcoming fiction projects to appear on Archer’s Aim as well as news about the upcoming release of An Arrow Against the Wind, the second novel of The Bow of Hart Saga due out later this year.

Book 1 of The Bow of Hart Saga: The Bow of Destiny can be found at these online retailers: Barnes & Noble, KoboiBooksAmazon – Kindle & Smashwords. See the book trailer.

Prequel short stories to The Bow of Hart Saga:

Trading KnivesKobo, iBooks & Barnes & NobleSmashwords & Amazon

What Is Needed Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Smashwords & Amazon

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Tuesday Tales: Endless Doors Part 6

The Tuesday Tales feature continues with a new story this week. The previous story was Shadow of the Beast  To read the story, click on each link: Shadow of the Beast Part 1Shadow of the Beast Part 2Shadow of the Beast Part 3

This story is a a departure from fantasy for me and into a bit of science fiction where the science is more setting and the fiction is nuanced with it. Click this link to read Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Endless Doors

by P. H. Solomon

Part 6

Clip Art Image Copyright by Microsoft. Clip Art Used by Permission of Microsoft

No one indicated interest in the assignment when Jake checked later. That was good – and not. Missing ships indicated danger. He tapped a finger on his desk. “These officers act like they expect to go home. But then, life shouldn’t be wasted either.”

“If you have lost an item please note it so–”

“Nothing is lost.” He sighed. Sometimes automation wasn’t useful. “Note, I volunteer for this duty assignment.”

“Noted in the agenda.”

“Lead me to food.”

“Guidance to the cafeteria will be indicated on your card.”

With several hours until the meeting, Jake planned his own preparations. He yawned away the dregs of his thirty years of stasis. His stomach rumbled so he followed it and the card to a meal. The meal suited Jake almost as much as the crisp uniform.

When he arrived at the meeting, a soft murmur greeted the new Archangel when the door whispered open. Jake stepped into the bustle of command officers and slipped into a seat. He maintained silence but squinted at those around him. There wasn’t any excitement from this wrinkled crowd. They displayed a mix of complacency and purpose. Jake shrugged. It was probably hard to maintain morale without the motivations of youth.

“You may be seated ladies and gentlemen.” The commander, his face festooned with age-spots entered.

Jake’s eyebrow twitched. Aside from the wheeze of age and the slow gait, his commander exuded purpose. Surprising, given his age and circumstance. The effectiveness of these command assignments probably varied with each new commander’s willingness and interest.

The senior officer leaned on his podium and rattled through the agenda. Jake waited for the inevitable. He fixed his eyes forward. But his mouth went dry–even after all these years.

“And then there’s the volunteer without even a ship. Lassitter!” The aged commander managed a whip-like tone through his wheeze.

Jake stirred and stood. “Sir.”

“Not taking the easy way out, are you?”

“Sir?” Jake suppressed a frown but it carried in his answer.

“Others have used dangerous duty to check out early.” The commander leaned over his podium like a vulture eying a dying animal.

“I, uh-” Achrangel Lassiter cleared his throat. “I just want something to do. Don’t want to let moss grow under my feet.”

“Ah, I see.” The old man tapped his podium. “Still motivated.” His gaze fanned over the room. “Unlike so many here.”

Someone nearby snickered. “That won’t last long.”

Jake resisted slouching but his mouth felt drier. So it was worse than he’d assumed.

The commander cleared his throat. “Well, I’ve a ship for you and this mission. It’ll be weeks before you’re ready though. During that time you’ll dine with me, I hope? Good! Now, let’s wrap this up.”

Jake sat after a sharp nod.

Another voice commented nearby in low tones, “Can’t hold his prunes.”

Few of those gathered spoke to Jake. Those that did patted his shoulder with a rueful shake of their head. He remained in his uniform and later arrived as requested to dine with his commander. The portal doors swished apart to laughter from elderly voices.

He stepped over the threshold and saluted his commander.

“Oh, none of that here, Lassitter.” He shook Jake’s hand. “George Patterson, always glad to have some military discipline show up around here.” He spread his arm wide. “Welcome to dinner.”

At the end of Commander Patterson’s arm was a glass of brandy. Beyond the alcohol, a long table covered with sumptuous food beckoned.

Jake grinned and stepped toward the table. “Don’t mind if I have a spot of that?”

Archangel Lassitter left behind his old friendships and embraced new ones over the feast.

Thanks for reading today. For more information about my writing, please see the page about my epic fantasy series, The Bow of Hart Saga, which includes two award-winning books.

About the Author