In my most recent post -- way back on Friday -- I made reference to the Pill Hill Press, and their open call for submissions to "BUGS." (I was going to provide a link to the BUGS page, but it's already gone.) I haven't posted anything here since then because I've been BUSY! They had a deadline of January 31, and I had a short story that was in progress.
Since I almost always make it up as I go, I had no idea many how words I still needed to write. All I knew was that I had 1,865 words, and I needed a minimum of 4,000. I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen. But I lacked the details.
So I take great pleasure in reporting that after a heroic effort (cue the heraldic trumpets) I was able to finish. I would not have been able to do it, though, without a lot of help from my voice recorder and my Dragon voice recognition software. After getting our oldest to bed at 9:00, and then the twins down at 10:00 (what is WRONG with those kids?) I cranked out the last few paragraphs -- not knowing exactly what words would be coming out as I tapped the keys -- and hit the "submit" button around 10:45. The final tally: 9,582 words, 418 shy of the max.
Will they like it? I hope so.
The original post shared the opening. Below is a sample from somewhere in the middle. To set up the scene, my protagonist, Slim, has just dived into a hole in the "Cave Of Swiss Cheese Floor" in an effort to rescue his partners.
I looked around. I was in some sort of tube. It was transparent, or translucent. I never was very good at those “trans” words. The point is, they weren’t like windows. I couldn’t really see through the walls. But light—from somewhere—was coming in.
Suddenly I felt a tug, which was strange, since there was nothing I could see that was tugging on me. But I was being pulled down. Whatever it was, it was so strong that I couldn’t keep my arms by my side. They were dangling down in front of me, just waving in the breeze, although there was no breeze. But with my arms down there, they were not in a position where I could tug three times and signal for Tiny to get me the hell out of here. I assumed he would feel that I was being pulled, and yank be back up, any second now.
Any minute now.
“Any day now, Tiny!” I yelled. But for some reason, I couldn’t hear my voice. I tried calling out, screaming anything that came to mind. (For some reason, that “anything” turned out to be an old Irish drinking song that my Grandpa taught me when I was a boy. How odd.) But no matter what I tried, the hollers just didn’t seem to want to leave my mouth. So I came up with another idea. I started kicking my legs, in the hope that Tiny would feel me struggling, and pull.
It was a good idea in theory, but a bad one in practice. You see, as a skinny guy, I’m skinny all over. That includes my legs and—more central to my dilemma—my ankles. So whether or not Tiny felt me, before he had a chance to do anything, I slipped out of my boots.
This bad day was just getting worse.
At least I still had the rope.
I fell. I fell and fell. And fell. I was kind of surprised how long and far I fell, considering that the riata was only about 30 feet long. It would have been about 20 had I wrapped all the way around Tiny, rather than just through two of the belt loops. Finally, I hit bottom with a thud, though I suppose it was more like a “mush.”
I spit out the dirt, and wiped the dust from my eyes.
The first thing I saw were shoes. Red shoes. Red women’s shoes. Red women’s shoes that glittered. Looking a little higher, I saw black and white striped socks. Further up, a black dress. Above that was a woman, pretty, if you could overlook the green skin on her face. But she had a nice smile. At the top of it all was a black, pointy hat.
I’m no expert on the classics and other works of fine fiction. But I know a witch when I see one. I jumped to my feet and was about to draw my six-shooter. But she looked at me with kind, even caring eyes, dusted me off, and said, “Are you all right?”
Her gentleness took me aback. I’ve never met a witch before, though once when I was a boy back in Massachusetts, I saw one at the bottom of a pool, weighed down with stones. (Wait, if she didn’t float despite the stones, then she “passed” the “witch test.” Then I guess I haven’t seen a witch. But from what I’ve heard, they’re evil, and in possession of a hairy eyeball, or something like that. Her eyeballs were not hairy, though the lashes were fairly long and silky.
If you can't figure out where he is, based on the image of a green-faced witch wearing striped socks and red shoes...well, you have to know.
Should you want to see more, please write the folks at Pill Hill Press, and tell them that they just HAVE TO include "Worm Herding" in their BUGS anthology. And be prepared to purchase a copy on the spot.
No, that probably won't work.
Or, just leave a comment here asking for it, and I'll email you the whole thing.