With all the accepting and rejecting of anthology submissions I’ve done lately, it got me thinking about my own stories.
Alas, many of them are not very good; all rejected several times by editors. While some I revise and continue to push out into the world in hopes of finding a home for them, most I trunk. But now and then, I figure there’s one or two in the ol’ trash bucket I think should see the light of day.
So, I thought, I’d put them here!
By N. E. White
The night they killed Neptune, I attended a conference of walruses deep in the cold reaches of the southern seas. When Neptune’s death throes pulsed through the ocean depths, pounding us like a tsunami, I knew they would come for me next.
My roar answered Neptune’s cry. Around me, the advancing traitorous creatures were stunned immobile, but no matter how powerful my voice, it would be too late.
I raced to him anyway.
They followed, attacking with their tentacles, needle-sharp teeth, and vicious fins. I fought with my powerful tail and bared my own teeth and claws. Twice the sea dogs nearly had me with their swirling maneuvers and chirping voices.
When I entered the palace, my heart lurched at the torn limbs of my children strewn about Neptune’s feet. Already the fishes ate at their edges. Neptune’s trident speared his great chest. Its shaft broken, part of it half buried beneath the sands. I picked it up, clenching my fingers about its thick shaft and let my tears join the fouled-red ocean.
A shudder ran through the coral walls of the palace. The sea creatures invaded still and the highest columns threatened to crush me. My heart ached for the family I had lost and all I wanted to do was allow my battered body to rest, but something urged me to leave.
It tugged at the edges of my mind. It felt as if I swatted at imaginary, tiny jellyfish battling for my attention when a contingent of sharks found me in their new lair. One charged while the others circled above me.
As they taunted me and desecrated the remains of my family, my blood boiled and I fought with a power I did not know I had. I speared each traitor with the jagged end of Neptune’s broken trident until their blood drifted into every crevice of our palace.
The walls trembled again and the tentacles of a hundred krakens gripped the coral columns. I let out a roar from the depths of my soul, sending out a wave to stun them all into temporary oblivion.
I swam then; towards the song that urged me forward for I did not know what else to do.
The sea is vast and so are its creatures. Though I had bewildered some, legions gave chase as I dashed away. Every muscle in my body screamed in protest, but each time I slowed, a whale attempted to swallow me or the sea dogs nipped at my tail-fin.
After a journey I thought would never end, I came to a jagged shore. Neptune’s final storm raged above, battering the coast, sending towers of ice splashing into the roiling sea. I crawled upon old lava, its sharp edges drawing blood. I stained the black rock as I made my way up a cliff.
The seals, sea lions, and walruses lumbered after me. Though they tore at their own bellies, they snapped their jaws, gnashed their tusks, and barked their curses. I bared my teeth, and used my clawed hands to drag my tail across the broken surface.
A strange music filled the air. The same song that had distracted me in the palace and called me across an ocean emanated from something above me. It promised safety, but all I could think of was my dead family and the creatures that turned against us; their crime unfathomable and unforgivable. With trembling limbs and a broken heart, I vowed to avenge Neptune and my children.
After what seemed like an eternity, I crested the lip of the precipice and lay upon my back. The light of a full moon broke through a break in the clouds and I lifted an arm to shield my eyes.
A gasp escaped me.
My arm was not my own. It was thin and pale. Muscle and sinew gone. The claws I used to gather barnacles and tear fish-meat were replaced by pink, weak appendages. I sat up and saw my tail transformed into two thin, knobby legs.
A pitiful scream tore from my raw throat. No longer did my voice have the power to move water. In the thin air above the sea, it did not even reach the moon.
It was then I noticed the human and the music stopped.
In one hand, he held a weapon made of bone and skin. A handful of Neptune’s seawater was at its base. In the man’s other hand was a stick. It was then I suspected the instrument was the source of the sounds that had captured me.
“I did it!” he said. “You came.”
There were tears in the man’s eyes and a smile cracked his face.
Something worked its way up my belly and crawled from my mouth, and I quelled at the man’s magic that gave me human speech.
“No one commands me,” I gasped. “I did not come at your behest.”
The man threw back his head and laughed. And then he bade me stand.
My limbs were like a newborn’s, but my will was stronger. I forced my legs beneath my torso and balanced upon my feet until I towered above him. He took a step back and held his instrument like a shield, ready to strike the bones that had bound me into this form.
I could feel his magic, and though he had a power I envied, it would not contain me. But I could use it.
Grabbing the lapels of his coat, I drew him near. The rough fabric on his chest brushed against me and I noted his greedy eyes roving over my body. Yes, I could use him indeed.
“Together, human,” I said, “we will avenge Neptune. If it takes a thousand years or more, we will rid the world of them all.”
By N. E. White
The thief stands across the desk, gun in hand.
“This won’t work,” I say, my hand trembling, screwing up my signature.
Would that be enough? Will the bank refuse the check if the signature is wonky?
Shouldn’t matter. Jeeves assured me the Neuro-link technology is fool-proof. Even if I sign the draft in good faith, and later decide not to honor my obligation, my signature will unravel when I change my mind.
“Of course it will,” the thief says and fires with an aim as true as a surgeon’s scalpel.
The precise bullet passes through my frontal lobe, severing the Neuro-link connection.
One last thought tumbles through my shattered brain: There’s always a loophole.