Tag Archives: Free stories

Two Sales on Read an Ebook Week

It’s Read an Ebook Week from March 2 to 8, and so two stories have been discounted at Smashwords in celebration. You can get the short story, A Maze of Cubicles, for free by using the sale code at checkout. Soul Cages is available at a 75% discount. I encourage you to wander over to their website to take a look at the ebooks available on sale from small presses and independent authors.

Later this week, for 3 days (March 6 to 8), Soul Cages will be discounted to 99 cents on Kobo, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes. I’ll post real quick the links when that starts.

Have fun! L.M.

Soul Cages – Part One. Dreams in the Desert. 23.

The news for the week is that print editions of Tales from the Threshold and Cubicles, Blood, and Magic should come out before Spring 2014 (unless the snafu that delayed them continues). The editing of Book Two in the Dorelai Chronicles continues, and Lies, Magic, and Nightmares should be out this winter as well.

As a complete change of pace, there will be a swashbuckling YA fantasy series of mine published in 2014. It’s less emotionally intense than Soul Cages, with younger protagonists. It’s much lighter in tone than my previous published works (I needed a break after writing intense stuff for so long).

On to Soul Cages. This week we reach a milestone: the last chapter of Part One. This novel is PG-13 for language and situations, so please be advised.

Soul Cages

 Lynn Kilmore

Second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore

Copyright © 2011 by L. M. May

Published by Osuna Publishing

This story is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogue, and locales are either drawn from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, and locales is entirely coincidental.

Part One. Dreams in the Desert

23

Friday morning came all too soon. Even the distraction of having to drop Dad off at work couldn’t help me keep from dwelling on the upcoming meeting with Andervender.

Henry and I discovered that Dad worked in a glass-and-concrete office building near I-25. “Nusystech is on the top three floors,” Dad told us. “After the October software release, I’ll be able to work less hours.”

Dad and Mom then fought for over ten minutes about what time Mom should pick him up. Mom wanted him to come home early since it was Friday. Dad felt it would look bad if he left while the programmers he oversaw were still working. In the end they compromised on six o’clock.

After Dad got out, I had to get into the front passenger seat. Next stop, First Beginnings.

Mom drove hunched over the wheel, fuming about Dad refusing to leave early.

Near the end of the drive, Henry sensed Mom’s upset. He pointed at a gathering of pigeons on a streetlight. “Pigeon party!”

Mom didn’t laugh.

“Pigeon party!” Henry said again.

“Hush, Henry,” Mom said.

We pulled into the cracked parking lot for First Beginnings. On a weekday the shopping center was even more depressing to look at. Except for First Beginnings in the center, most of the storefronts were empty. Only a locksmith and a tax service were in business on the far left side of the center.

Mom led the way, pulling open a glass door that let out a blast of chilled air. To me, Mom’s heels echoed too loudly in the empty sanctuary. As we approached Andervender’s office, I smelled his aftershave and heard his chair creak as he shifted in it.

Mom rapped on his office doorframe. She peered in to exchange joyous greetings with Andervender, as Henry and I lingered behind.

“You ought to get a secretary,” Mom said.

“Next year,” Andervender replied, “perhaps the church can hire one. With the way we’re growing, we’ll soon have the funds to do so. And I’m thinking we’ll be ready for a Wednesday night service. Maybe even a second service on Sundays.”

I realized, appalled, that Mom might apply for the secretary job.

Mom said to me, “I’ll take Henry. You come get us when you’re done.” Mom led Henry over to the Sunday School room, entered, and closed the door behind them—leaving me in the hall.

I took deep breaths and shoved my shaking hands into my pockets as I slowly walked into the dim bookshelf-lined office. Lighting came from two desk lamps on either side of Andervender’s desk.

Beneath the aftershave reek was the scent of decaying books.

“Ah, there you are, Marian.” Andervender sat in a high-backed leather chair behind a mahogany desk, hands clasped together, laptop and papers neatly pushed to the side. “Please shut the door behind you.”

I closed the door, and walked as slowly as I dared toward his desk, studying the room.

There were no windows. Three filing cabinets took up the wall next to the door. On the bookshelves were religious books—Bibles, theological tomes, references, and who knew what.

Andervender waved a hand at the two leather chairs before his desk. “Please, Marian, have a seat.”

I avoided looking at his face as I sat, instead watching his hands. How I wish I never had to listen to another sermon of yours. How I wish I never had to see you again.

My silence got to him, for he tapped a silver pen against his desk blotter as he waited for me to speak. When it became clear I wouldn’t, he said, “You and your family have had quite a week.”

“Yes.” I looked at the shelf behind his desk with its Bibles of various sizes and colors.

“You’ve hurt you parents quite badly.”

No way was I responding to Andervender’s guilt bait. I eyed his laptop. It looked new, probably purchased in the last year or so.

Andervender steepled his fingers together. “Your parents have sacrificed much to bring you and Henry out here.”

I studied the glass-enclosed shelf above the Bibles. It held ceramic vases.

“Your mother tells me you asked to go to the Methodists.”

“Yes. I want to go to the nearest Methodist Church instead.”

“Would you mind telling me why?”

“It was my Grannie’s church.”

He shook his head sadly at me. “So many have lost their way from the Gospel, lost the gifts the Church once held. You would be lost there to God and Christ.”

I took a deep breath, gathering my strength, and shook my head in return. “No I wouldn’t.”

“You are mistaken.” He pointed his pen at me. “Almost all have lost the power of the Spirit, the power to heal your brother, the power to see the visions of God, to speak as the prophets spoke.” His voice rose in indignation. “Your parents have brought your brother to me to be healed, and by the power of the Spirit through me he shall be. Are you so enamored of Henry’s dependency on you that you would stand in the way of him being cured?”

I gripped the armrests, feeling the leather grow slick under my sweating palms. “That’s what you think.”

His voice boomed like thunder. “That’s what ‘I’ think! That’s all you can say to me on such a grave matter as your brother’s cure?”

I trembled, but made myself stare into his eyes, not saying another word. No excuses, no pleadings.

Andervender flung his pen down. It rolled off to clatter on the floor. His mask of kindly concern was gone, replaced with rage. “Your selfishness knows no bounds. I am very disappointed, but in time, you will come around. The truth will out, as Scripture shows.” He gave me a knowing smile as he reached a hand inside the central desk drawer. “I had a long talk with Mrs. Hawthorn about your life in Alexandria. I sensed, by the guidance of the Spirit, that there was much you’d kept hidden.” He pulled out a silver ring, rolling it between his thumb and fingers as he showed it to me. “Do you know what this is?”

My throat went dry.

“Well?” He held the ring out in his palm. Watching me, weighing me. “You do, don’t you? I can see it in your face. It’s a purity ring. But if I asked you to wear it, as a symbol of your pureness of mind and body and soul, you’d refuse, wouldn’t you? You’d say it was because you don’t believe in wearing such a ring, but we both know it’s nothing like that.” He lowered his voice to a whisper. “Trent Fenchel. Yes, I know his name. And his phone number. He remains angry about the way you dumped him.” Andervender dropped the ring onto the blotter. “You’re not a virgin.”

Humiliation and rage flooded within me. Any denial would sound weak to my own ears, let alone Andervender’s.

Andervender nodded. “I give you credit for not wasting my time with pathetic lies.” He scooped the ring back up and put it away. “Here are how things are going to be, Miss Marian. I shall not require you to wear a purity ring, for now, since you have much to atone and cleanse your soul for. You’ll go to Youth Group, stop the nonsense about leaving for another church, and not interfere as I heal your brother.”

“N-no.”

“I must have misheard you. What did you just say?”

No.”

Andervender pinched the bridge of his nose. “Very well then. You can leave.”

I rushed out, feeling like I’d nearly been struck by lightning. When I threw open the Sunday school door, Mom took one look at me and said, “Marian, what’s wrong?”

Andervender came to his door, smiling, and called out to my mom, “Mrs. Hawthorn, may I have a moment of your time, please?”

I watched with dread as Mom got up and went into Andervender’s office. Andervender gave me a stern look, and shut the door.

The deep rumble of Andervender’s voice was muffled by the door. But I knew he’d decided to punish me by telling Mom about Trent. Waiting here was more than I could bear.

I said to Henry, “C’mon, let’s wait outside.” Henry swept the blocks back into the box without my help, then jumped up to follow me down the hall.

As we made our way through the curtains, Henry said, “Do we have come here again?”

“Probably.” I shoved open a glass door with my shoulder, and stumbled into the sunlight to warm up my chilled skin.

No matter how I tried, I couldn’t think of a way to head off the coming fight with Mom.

Henry sat on the shopping center’s curb and pointed out the circling pigeons to me.

Finally Mom came out, eyes red. She said not a word to me or Henry as she drove us home.

************** End of Part One. 23. *****************

Links can change over time, so click here to go to the main page for Soul Cages to find the most up-to-date links for the print and e-book editions.

Have great week, L.M.

A Maze of Cubicles: A Dorelai Short Story

The short story collection Tales from the Threshold is being released this week in e-bookstores. It will be popping up in the next 24 hours for sale in e-book form at places such as Kobo, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

To celebrate, for one week only the short story A Maze of Cubicles will be available to read in its entirety here. Then next Monday half of it gets deleted so that it’s an excerpt instead.

This short story is PG-13.

(Dec. 2, 2013: This short story has now been changed to an excerpt.)

A Maze of Cubicles: A Dorelai Short Story

 Lynn Kilmore

Second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore

Copyright © 2013 by L. M. May

Published by Osuna Publishing

This story is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogue, and locales are either drawn from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, and locales is entirely coincidental.

February, Year 2

Mather, Massachusetts

There were days I felt ambivalent about my job at AOX Investigations. Especially on an icy grey Saturday afternoon, sitting at my workbench in the AOX computer lab in the subbasement of Knossos Tower, dealing with a filthy old computer desktop that reeked of cat pee.

O’Keefe (one of the founders of AOX, and a strange magical mishmash of human and cockroach) had carried the desktop into the computer lab with his four hands, and dumped it on my workbench with a curt, “Recover the deleted files, Trelton. Evidence.” He’d given the desktop an annoyed smack that made it shed cat hair.

As he’d strode off, he’d grumbled under his breath, “I may be a roach, but I gotta wash up after searching that crummy shack o’ cats.”

I eyed the computer. There were no magical glows from any part of it. It was just a regular desktop … except for stinking like a litter box.

So I took out the frame screws, trying not to touch the gunked-up bottom of the computer where the ammonia stink was strongest, and when I finally shoved the frame off, clouds of dust fuzz, cat fur, and dried catnip spilled all over my workbench and clothes.

AOX had a strict dress code for those on duty. Business formal.

Swearing, I brushed the catnip off my grey wool slacks, but I definitely now smelled like an ancient catnip mouse.

So when O’Keefe popped his head back through the lab doorway, he curled his two antennae into question marks at the sight of me frantically brushing myself off. “Aw, shit, don’t tell me there’s fleas.”

“No,” I said. “Not fleas. Just catnip, dust, and God knows what else sucked in by the computer’s cooling fans. It’s a miracle this machine even worked. Just how many cats did the owner live with anyway?”

“Ya don’t want to know. It’s—”

Ump-pa. Ump-pa. Ump-pa. O’Keefe’s cell phone. Last week he’d changed its tune to blare out the Cuckoo Waltz, because it irritated the hell out of all of us.

O’Keefe said into the mouthpiece, “AOX Investigations. O’Keefe speaking.” A pause. “Uh-huh. Yeah, Trelton’s here at AOX today.” He held his cell phone out. “Call for ya. An old friend, Stuart.”

I took the cell phone (with its silver-blue magical aura) from O’Keefe, and felt annoyed—as I always did—about how the magically shielded cell phones used by AOX wouldn’t work for me. My resistance to magic had reached the point that magical items acted as if they were broke when I tried to be ID’ed by them for access. I had to use a typical cell phone to make calls, and the only phones that worked down here in the subbasement were the magically shielded ones.

No telephone, cable, or internet lines ran to the subbasement, so those options were also not available to me. Security was kept tight in Knossos Tower. On the outside it looked like your ordinary office building, but in reality it crawled with magical shielding and various other forms of protection (magical and otherwise).

“Hey, Stuart,” I said. “How are you? How’s the job at Idealcode going?”

“Dorelai,” he said, “I need your help.” Utter panic in Stuart’s voice. “I can’t find my boss.” His voice rose. “I’ve looked everywhere Tabitha might be in the cubicles, but she’s nowhere to be seen.” Gusts of wind made static-like background noise on his phone. “I’m calling from the parking lot. Her car is still here, but I can’t find her anywhere. I’m really, really worried.”

This was bad. Stuart was not the sort of person to panic without reason. I’d become friends with him back when we both worked as programmers for Granite Hills here in Mather. After I’d been laid off last August, we’d stayed in touch, though only by email. Circumstances had made it necessary for me to drift away from seeing old friends and coworkers for their own safety. I’d told Stuart that I’d taken at job at AOX Investigations that required very long hours. He had no idea that AOX dealt with magical issues … actually, most typical people had no idea that magic even existed.

Lucky them.

I asked, “When did you last see Tabitha?”

“About thirty minutes ago.” Stuart’s teeth chattered. “W-we’re the only two left. Everyone else went home for the day at lunchtime. I won’t leave until I know she’s okay.”

O’Keefe hovered nearby, listening in on my part of the conversation. “Stuart,” I said, “does anything seem different … or a little weird?”

“N—maybe … yes. There’s been these odd rustlings and scratching sounds in the cubicles. Probably mice.”

My stomach tightened into knots. “Stay out of the cubicles.”

“Why?” Stuart said. “Mice don’t scare m—you think someone is in there?”

“I don’t know.”

“It didn’t sound like someone sneaking around, Dorelai. It sounded like mice eating a pile of printer paper.”

“Just trust me on this,” I said. “Keep out of that area until I can join you. Where’s this place located?”

“Near the interstate exit, in the Mather industrial park.”

My mind began to race, thinking of what I would need to bring.

“Watch out for the ice patches,” Stuart added. “The industrial park’s road is slick.”

“Then I’ll drive slow. I’ll call you as soon as I’m within five minutes of pulling into Idealcode’s parking lot. We’ll meet at Tabitha’s car.” I handed the phone back to O’Keefe, who quizzed Stuart on the situation, then ended the call.

“Whaddya think it is, Trelton?”

“Cursed object.”

“Yup, that’s my hunch as well. Tabitha’s huddled up somewhere in that building, under the thrall of whatever thingamajig carries the curse, or I’m a goldfish.”

I smiled, despite my worry, at the thought of O’Keefe being half-human, half-goldfish. “Well,” I said, “I’d better go and get ready.”

Ahem.” O’Keefe shook his head. “Go armed. Holster.”

“But—”

“That’s an order, Trelton.”

O’Keefe knew I’d lost my taste for guns and gunplay, and he’d guessed—correctly—that I would’ve conveniently “forgotten” to take my semiautomatic pistol if he hadn’t told me to do so.

I didn’t like to carry a loaded gun snuggled up against my side if I could help it. I grumbled under my breath as I dug the unloaded gun and its magazine out of my workbench’s drawer. I removed my shoulder holster from where it hung on a wall hook, put it on, double-checked that the gun was unloaded, and put the gun in the holster. The gun’s magazine I stuffed into the holster’s magazine pouch. Lastly, I yanked on my grey wool business jacket to hide the holster and weapon from view. “Better?” I said.

O’Keefe gave an approving grunt.

“I’ll get the usual supplies,” I said. “Do you want me to call this in once I get there?”

O’Keefe had to think about it. If I used the speakerphone on my cell phone, he’d be able to listen in to what was going on at Idealcode. The problem was that the lack of magical shielding meant my cell phone was open to magical attempts to tap into the signal. However, while my phone had no magical protections, it did have the best cryptohacks possible to keep my connection to Knossos private and secure. So even if someone succeeded in tapping the phone call, they were unlikely to be able to crack the scrambling being done that made it impossible to understand what was being said.

But the scrambling wasn’t a 100% guarantee of a secure connection. Magic was all about cheating.

“Yeah, phone it in,” O’Keefe said. “This ain’t no undercover gig.”

*

Stuart was right. The road through the Mather industrial park was slick. My car nearly skidded twice into the drainage ditch that ran parallel to the icy road.

Winter in Massachusetts was always the season where I wondered why the hell I wasn’t living in California or Arizona instead.

Idealcode was located outside the Mather city limits, in a sprawling industrial park of manufacturing companies, building contractors, and warehouses. There were also a couple of software companies sprinkled into the mix.

As I slowly drove into the ice-coated parking lot past the IDEALCODE logo sign, I noted that Idealcode’s office building was a converted warehouse. Little better than a giant rectangular box to work in, with a faux brick exterior, and no windows except for the front entrance.

Stuart (wearing a ski jacket) stood next to a blue compact car, frantically waving his arms at me as if he stood in a crowd instead of an empty parking lot.

When I pulled in next to the car, I was annoyed to see him goggle at my hearse-like black Cadillac.

I found the old company car assigned to me an embarrassment to drive, but it’d been magically and physically modified by AOX to protect the driver, so I had no good excuse to reject it.

As I got out, I said to Stuart, “Company car. I’ve nicknamed it ‘deathmobile.’”

Stuart’s mouth turned upwards, the skin crinkling near his eyes. He held up his fingers like a director to frame the view of the car and me. “All you need is a black suit. Dorelai Trelton, undertaker by day, detective by night.”

“Har, har. Very funny.” I opened the deathmobile’s trunk, and dug out my toolkit to slip onto my belt. Fiddling around with my belt gave me the cover I wanted to hit the button on my cell phone to dial in to O’Keefe. My mentor would listen in while keeping his own mouthpiece on mute. So far on the jobs that I’d gone solo on, I’d been able to avoid him deactivating his mute feature. The last thing I ever wanted to happen was to have a client hear my mentor’s voice bellowing through my speakerphone that I was screwing up a job big time.

I lifted out my backpack of equipment from the trunk, slipping its reassuring weight across my shoulders, then locked up the deathmobile.

Stuart pointed at the blue car. “This is Tabitha’s.”

“Let’s see what we’ve got.” I went over to the driver’s side, and cupped my hands around my eyes so that I could peer through the tinted glass at the interior.

My hands clenched, a chill that had nothing to do with the cold weather going from my spine to my fingers, at the sight of the empty gift box ripped open on the passenger side. The gift box was just the right size for a cursed music box … but Stuart hadn’t heard any music playing in the cubicles.

“You didn’t see my do this,” I said to Stuart as I selected a slim jim out of the toolkit on my belt.

I proceeded to jimmy the car lock.

Stuart gingerly stepped around so that so that his body blocked the sight of me from the road. He said, jokingly, “I didn’t know you’d once been a thief.”

“Picking comes in handy during an emergency.” It felt odd having O’Keefe’s words come out of my mouth, as if I knew what I was doing. I unlocked the car door, and put the slim jim back with a sigh of relief.

“I’m in,” I said for O’Keefe’s benefit. I knew he had to be grinning right that moment as he listened. I’d done the jimmying faster than ever. His training had really begun to sink in.

After I swung the car door open, I unslung my backpack and got out an evidence bag and tongs. I kneeled on the driver’s seat and its chill seeped through my woolen slacks as I bent toward the gift box with tongs in one hand, evidence bag in the other.

With the tongs I picked up the gift box and studied it closely, making sure not to touch it. There were no magical traces either inside or out. Flicking the evidence bag open, I shoved the box deep inside, then sealed the bag shut.

“Evidence,” I said over my shoulder to Stuart. “I’ll take it back for analysis.”

I put the bag and tongs in my backpack, then popped Tabitha’s trunk. Nothing was in there of interest—except that I could now confirm that Tabitha was compulsively neat. She had a plastic storage container for her folded oil rags and another container that had her car tools neatly stacked within it.

She hadn’t been neat about the present, though. She’d left the torn remains of the box on the passenger seat.

There had been no card, or note, attached to the gift box.

That worried me.

I slammed the trunk shut and locked up her car as quickly as I could. “Did Tabitha say anything about getting a present?”

“No. She was rather quiet today. Withdrawn.” Stuart furrowed his brow, concentrating, then jerked his head up as he snapped his fingers. “Wait! She had a small polished wooden box when she came in—from the color, I’d say cedar.” He frowned. “But I didn’t get a good look at it. She shoved it in a drawer.”

I jerked my thumb at the Idealcode building. “I want you to show me where she sits. I need to take a look at that box.”

*

The receptionist’s area was plush with thick beige carpeting and comfy-looking beige waiting chairs. The Idealcode logo hung on the beige wall behind the receptionist’s beige desk. Above the logo was the company’s motto … in dark beige plastic letters screwed into the wall: We Code Tomorrow’s Software Today.

“I see they like beige,” I said as I stared at the motto.

Stuart gave a derisive snort. “Silly motto, isn’t it?”

“It’d be more interesting if it read, ‘We Code Today’s Software Tomorrow.’ But then they’d have to change the company’s name to Procrasticode.”

We both snickered.

Stuart led me to the wooden office double doors to the right of the receptionist’s desk, and slid a key card through an electronic lock above the door handles.

He pulled open one of the two doors, and waved his free hand in a doorman’s gesture. “You first.”

I walked through, and when I caught sight of the interior, the first word out of my mouth was “Hell.”

It was the biggest, worst-designed cubicle farm I’d ever seen, and I’d seen plenty in my time as a programmer. But that sight wasn’t what had me upset. It was the view, under the fluorescent lights, of how all the cubicle walls glowed a malevolent burgundy—the sign of blood magic at work.

A faint stink of blood and cedar lingered in the air.

Tabitha was in deep shit.

Stuart couldn’t see the burgundy glow or smell the stink of magic at work, but he could tell that I was upset about something. “Everyone has a cubicle in here,” he said, “even the CEO. We all endure its awfulness together. My first two weeks, if I didn’t pay close attention to where I was going, I always ended up in marketing.”

As a fellow programmer, I understood why Stuart sounded appalled by this. Programmers and marketers were like oil and water—they didn’t mix, and they looked upon each other’s lives as a fate worse than death.

Stuart went to stand next to the nearest cubicle wall. “See how high the walls are? No one can see over them. There are no windows in this place, so we can’t use those as landmarks. Tabitha thinks the company should paint one of the warehouse walls navy, so that we can orientate ourselves that way.”

Getting lost was going to be the least of our problems.

I swallowed a couple of times. While Stuart couldn’t see the magical glow, he would be vulnerable to any magic in here. But I needed to find Tabitha’s cubicle as quickly as possible. “Please take me to Tabitha’s desk.”

Stuart led the way through the second opening before us in the long cubicle wall. “The whole place is cubicles,” he continued, “except for the receptionist’s area, the kitchen, and some enclosed conference rooms. I feel like a rat in a maze some days. But it’s cheap. And pranking the marketing department by moving their walls around keeps us amused.”

“Is there anyone who doesn’t like Tabitha?”

“No, no one. She’s a wonderful manager, everybody loves her.”

“How long has she been in her position?”

“Three years or so.”

It wasn’t sounding as if someone had gotten ambitious for Tabitha’s job. “What about her personal life?”

Stuart raised a finger in an “aha” gesture. “Bernard. Her ex-husband. They tell me it was an ugly divorce. You don’t think he … damn it, he’d bett—”

A shifting, rustling sound came from the cubicle farm.

“Shh,” I whispered. “Did you hear that?”

Stuart held his breath.

This time we both heard the noise. It sounded like papers being ripped up.

I put a hand on Stuart’s arm. “I know this sounds weird, but we’re going to run like hell for Tabitha’s cubicle.”

Stuart squinted at the cubicle walls, then raised an eyebrow at me. “Fine.” He got into a running stance. “Let’s go.” He broke into a run.

I ran after him, and despite my best efforts, I couldn’t keep track of all the twists and turns as he led me deep into the cubicle farm. My arms kept squeezing themselves instinctively closer to my sides to keep from touching the magically glowing walls.

Stuart glanced over his shoulder. “Tabitha’s cubicle is only two more turns from here.”

We both froze at the vibrations felt through the office carpet, and a sound like … cubicle walls being moved around.

Oh, shit.

Stuart audibly swallowed. “There’s someone in here with us. Leave the walls alone! We know you’re in here!”

“Shut up and follow me,” I hissed at him. I seized hold of Stuart’s sweaty hand, and yanked him into the nearest cubicle, jumping up onto the desk, pulling him up with me.

Stuart was spooked enough to follow my lead without arguing.

Standing on the desk, I was able to see over the cubicle walls.

He pointed at what we could both see quite clearly: the cubicle walls had rearranged themselves behind us so that we couldn’t reach the receptionist’s area by the way we had come.

No walls moved as we surveyed the cubicle farm, but I could hear more rustling noises. “Do you hear it?” I whispered.

Stuart looked washed out under the fluorescents. He nodded.

“Help me figure out where the sound is coming from,” I said.

That’s when all the lights went out.

Stuart gasped.

Far away, there was a speck of a glow from an emergency EXIT light, but it wasn’t enough to light up this cavernous space. There were no skylights or windows in this giant box to help see.

I squeezed his hand, hard, to reassure him. I could still see the cubicle walls easily since their magical glow outlined them to my eyes.

Some of the walls were shifting around again to create a new maze for us. …

************** End of excerpt for A Maze of Cubicles *****************

A Maze of Cubicles is part of the short story collection Tales from the Threshold, which goes on sale the week of November 25, 2013 in various e-bookstores such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. The collection includes all eight short stories and novelettes that have so far been published.

You can read more adventures about Dorelai in the novel Cubicles, Blood, and Magic, and in the upcoming sequel Lies, Magic, and Nightmares.

You can also obtain A Maze of Cubicles by itself in e-book format (click here for the link).

Until next time, L.M.

Soul Cages – Part One. Dreams in the Desert. 22.

Hello, and welcome back. This week is a double feature of a chapter of Soul Cages, and the short story A Maze of Cubicles (which will be available in its entirety to read for a week).

Here’s Chapter 22 from Soul Cages (rated PG-13).

Soul Cages

 Lynn Kilmore

Second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore

Copyright © 2011 by L. M. May

Published by Osuna Publishing

This story is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogue, and locales are either drawn from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, and locales is entirely coincidental.

Part One. Dreams in the Desert

22

I found Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday followed the same schedule as Monday. Morning run, then watching Dad drive off at seven. Unpacking boxes, then John arriving after lunch to fix things. Helping with repairs, then participating in a prayer circle with Mom and John at five-thirty when he left. Eating a too-silent dinner with Henry and Mom, then taking Henry out to play at Piñon Park; Ben, Sarah, and Fermat joined us on Wednesday evening. Sneaking off to call Nicole, then Dad stumbling home exhausted at nine from work.

Through it all, the winds blew, kicking up reddish dust to hang above the city. And the upcoming meeting with Andervender on Friday loomed in the back of my mind.

I asked Ben to stop by with Jin on Sunday to meet Dad. Ben was willing, so we set the time for one-thirty.

Every day John and I talked, but kept to safe topics since Henry and Mom interrupted us frequently. We talked about Alexandria versus Albuquerque; about autism; about Habitat for Humanity; about the yard work he did for Mr. Brown, Mrs. Girady, Mr. Rickmand, Miss Wratham and others; about East Alexandria High School, though I left Trent out; about my summer trips with Grannie and Aunt Letty to the Outer Banks; about the black sheep in John’s family—Uncle Arn, who was an entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles; about Grannie’s love of writing poetry and poetry slams; and on and on.

Each night I wondered if I ought to fake a fight with John to take the pressure off him to change my mind about First Beginnings. On Thursday night’s call I asked Nicole for advice.

“Forget it,” Nicole said. “It’s too late. They know you two get along, and would expect any fight to blow over. But if you told your mom you wanted to date him, his parents would freak since they think you’re not a good Christian. He’d be ordered to stay away.”

My heart sank. “I’d do it, except I’d lose John’s friendship.”

“Well, it’s the only solution I can think of. You sound so lonely and stressed out there. Once Mom’s past the chemo, I’ll come out to visit.”

“That’d be great.” But I wondered how willing Mom and Dad would be to have Nicole visit. They had left no friends behind, just acquaintances and coworkers. I doubted they would want to find out how First Beginnings looked through Nicole’s eyes.

************** End of Part One. 22. *****************

If you are reading this after December 2, 2013, you should be able to click here to go to the main information page of Soul Cages to find Part One. 23.

Links can change over time, so click here to go to the main page for Soul Cages if any links don’t work.

Happy Thanksgiving! L.M.

Soul Cages – Part One. Dreams in the Desert. 21.

Hello, and welcome back! The short story A Maze of Cubicles is available in e-bookstores (except for Sony), and the short story collection Tales from the Threshold will be released as an ebook this month (November 2013). The print edition is looking like it will be delayed for release until December due to a snafu that my publisher is trying to get fixed as quickly as possible.

Make sure to come back next week or to sign up for blog posts, because for one week only the short story A Maze of Cubicles will be available in its entirety here for loyal readers like you to read… then after a week, half the story gets deleted.

We’re approaching the end of Part One of  Soul Cages (PG-13). Just a few more chapters, and then it’s on to Part Two.

Soul Cages

 Lynn Kilmore

Second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore

Copyright © 2011 by L. M. May

Published by Osuna Publishing

This story is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogue, and locales are either drawn from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, and locales is entirely coincidental.

Part One. Dreams in the Desert

21

I spent the morning helping Henry unpack his boxes and hanging up his white boards (one used for his daily schedule, the other for his monthly calendar). But the overstimulation of the last few days had taken its toll on him. Henry began to repetitively flick his legs, arms, and face after lunch.

“Hey,” I said, “do you need a deep pressure session?”

Henry ran for the white couch and got the seat cushions pulled off before I caught up with him. He flopped onto the carpet and lay on his stomach.

I piled the cushions on his back and legs. He preferred that I start with his back, so I placed both hands on the cushion, which rose and fell with Henry’s breathing, and pushed down as hard as I could.

Henry gave a happy sigh.

Then the blasted doorbell rang. I let Mom answer the door since I had no keys to unlock it. I was relieved to hear only John’s voice in answer to Mom’s greeting as I kept up the pressure on Henry’s back.

John’s toolbox rattled as he said, “I’ll start with the main bathroom faucets you told me about. Then I’ll look over the irrigation system.” He caught sight of Henry and me in the living room, and paused, bemused.

“Marian is helping Henry to calm down,” Mom said.

John put down his toolbox and came into the living room. He had fresh grass stains on his jeans and T-shirt. “Can I help?”

I leaned forward to whisper in Henry’s ear, “Is it okay if John pushes the leg cushion?”

“Yeah,” Henry said.

“Go ahead and push down on the cushion on his legs,” I told John. “Henry will say ‘more’ or ‘less’ if he needs you to push harder or relax.”

On his first attempt, John pressed gingerly on the cushion, and Henry said “More.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “You can’t hurt him with that cushion.”

John studied how much weight I was putting on mine, and adjusted his arms accordingly.

Henry gave a pleased grunt.

“Now you’ve got it,” I said.

“How long do you apply pressure?” John asked.

“You don’t have to keep doing this,” Mom interjected. “Marian’s got it under control.”

“No, it’s all right,” John said to Mom. “Like I said, I want to understand Asperger’s better.”

Mom fiddled with her keys. I could tell Mom was embarrassed about John seeing Henry like this.

I said, “I usually do this for ten to fifteen minutes per cushion. Feel free to get up whenever you’ve had enough.”

But John stayed the entire time, asking questions. I ended up giving a rather detailed lecture about the nervous system difficulties of kids with autism. At some point Mom wandered off to unpack boxes in the kitchen.

Once done, Henry followed John to the main bathroom to watch him work on the faucets and clogged sinks.

I went back to work on Henry’s boxes. But I could hear bangs and clangs from the main bathroom, and the muffled rise and fall of Henry’s voice asking questions.

Then I overheard Mom go into the main bedroom and scold Henry for bothering John. Which shut Henry up. But the clatter of tools and hammering went on. I was impressed that Henry didn’t come running into his bedroom with his hands over his ears. The lure of a toolbox had proved to be strong enough to overcome Henry’s noise sensitivity.

I’d gotten to unpacking Henry’s CDs of animal recordings— whales, frogs, and wolves were his favorites—when the racket stopped.

Henry said in the hall, “Here’s my dead bug collection.” He dragged John by the hand into his bedroom.

John caught sight of Sydney’s closet, and paled.

“Henry, let me get the collection for you.” I rushed for the shoebox on top of his short bookcase. “You can take it out to the backyard where the light is better.” I put the box in Henry’s free hand, and he whirled around and tried to drag John out of the room.

But John resisted, his gaze fixated on the closet. The raw pain on his face made me look away.

Henry tugged harder at John’s hand.

John snapped out of his thoughts. “It’s okay. There’s enough light for you to show me the collection here.”

I watched him struggle to listen to Henry as my brother pointed out the various dead insects and spiders he’d gathered.

When it became clear Henry was stuck in a monologue, I said to him, “Henry, how about you take your box outside and add those dead spiders we found near the apple tree?”

Henry raced out of the room. I made to follow, but John reached out toward me and said, “Stay, please.”

We both stared at the closet.

“There’s something I need to do,” John said. “If you would warn me if you hear your mother.”

I moved over to the bedroom door and listened. “Mom’s in the kitchen,” I whispered.

John walked over to the closet door slowly, as if he moved underwater, and gently grasped it to pull it all the way open. He took a sharp breath when the scent of roses hit him, and then flicked on the closet light.

The grimy interior was just as depressing as I remembered it. John stepped inside, kneeled, made the sign of the cross, and bowed his head.

He began to pray, too softly for me to hear.

My ears strained to place Mom’s movements. A faint sound of ripping cardboard; Mom tearing open a box.

John finished his prayer, made the sign of the cross upon the floor, and then stood up and proceeded to say the Lord’s Prayer while making the sign of the cross on the walls, closet door, and into the air.

Then he came out, flicking off the light. He said, sorrow in his voice, “I’ve done what I can.”

I was unable to hide my confusion.

He touched the cross around his neck. “Some say the souls of suicides are lost or damned.”

I thought of Sydney and shivered. “What does your father believe?”

“He believes they’re damned.”

“And you?”

“I’m pinning my hopes on grace.”

“You were praying for her soul, weren’t you? Praying she finds her way if she’s lost.”

John nodded.

Henry’s room felt too dark and damp. I needed sunlight. “Let’s take a break and join Henry in the backyard.”

I headed for the kitchen, John following. Mom was busy putting fine china in high cabinets where Henry couldn’t reach.

Mom caught sight of John. “How’s the faucets?”

“Fixed,” John said. “I’m going to look at the back irrigation system.”

I hurried into the backyard.

“I’ll bring out lemonade in a few minutes,” Mom called after us.

Henry sat in the house’s shadow watching anthills. The bright sunlight was welcome after Syd—no, Henry’s—room, but the gusts of dirt-filled wind were annoying.

John moved past me, and kneeled next to a plastic cover in the ground. “Stay back. May be black widows.” He flipped the cover up and over, and studied the interior. “All clear.”

Henry and I peered over John’s shoulder into the moist graveled pit in which the line valves for the irrigation system were laid.

Henry said, “Found two dead wolf spiders, and one dead daddy longlegs to put in my collection. I want any dead black widows.”

No,” John and I said in unison.

Henry groaned “Jinkies” in protest, and went back to watching anthills.

Mom came out, handed around plastic cups of lemonade, took a look at the valves, and then retreated back into the house complaining of the dust and heat.

John said in an undertone, “I’m going to check the irrigation sprinklers before I flip this system on. Come with me.”

His tone hinted that I wouldn’t like what he had to tell me. Something about Matthew or his parents, no doubt. “Okay.”

He went around the side of the house to the apple tree—out of earshot of Mom if the kitchen window was open. He studied the ground, and nudged a broken irrigation head near the tree. “Cracked,” he said to himself. “The ‘official’ reason I’ve been sent over here is that your parents need help getting this place fixed up.”

I tugged a leaf off the tree and crumpled it in my fist. “What’s the other reason?”

“Your mom told my parents about you demanding to go to a different church, and about the screaming match in the street between you and Matt.” John looked impressed. “That must have been some fight, because Matt swears he never wants to speak to you again. My mom’s given up on you two going out. I was supposed to help.”

“Yeah, I got to watch you stomp your brother’s toes and kick his heel.”

“Glad it’s over.” He shook his head. “My new commission is to change your mind about Youth Group and First Beginnings. But I think you should go where you want.”

“What happens if you fail in changing my mind?”

“That’s not your problem.”

“My feelings aren’t your responsibility!”

“They’ve now made it so. I’ll cope.” He pulled out a screwdriver to poke around the cracked irrigation head.

John acted like it was no big deal, but I sensed he was under intense pressure to get me in line. Anger simmered in me but I couldn’t think of an immediate solution. If I confronted Pastor Andervender, he’d figure out John was talking about things he was supposed to keep quiet.

There’s time, I told myself. I don’t have to have an answer now. Dad’s commitment to First Beginnings is weakening, and soon Mom’s will as well. I just need to be patient.

************** End of Part One. 21. *****************

If you are reading this after November 25, 2013, you should be able to click here to go to the main information page of Soul Cages to find Part One. 22.

Links can change over time, so click here to go to the main page for Soul Cages if any links don’t work.

Have a great week! L.M.