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Steampunk anthology – call for submissions

Runs Like Clockwork will be a full length all action, steam driven romp into Victorian excess and mechanical madness. Dip those quills, crank up the gears, oil the engines and send us your best – 10,000 word limit.

Wyld FLASH – every FRIDAY!

News from Home

Aeryn Rudel

We called them messages in a bottle. A term someone dug up from the vid-library in the colony hub. Centuries ago, people on Earth had put hand-written notes inside glass bottles and set them adrift on the ocean, hoping someone would find and read their messages.

The messages we received on Proxima B arrived in small, ovoid spacecraft, like shiny metallic eggs. They came every two years, and we’d take the capsules into the colony hub, assemble everyone, and listen to recorded messages from Earth. Much of it was well wishes from the leaders of different nations, sometimes notes from relatives to specific colonists, but what we wanted to hear most was Dr. Dryden’s update on the state of our home planet. Dr. Dryden was the administrator of SpaceNow, and the driving force behind the program that sent a hundred scientists and dreamers out into the void. The doctor surreptitiously added his messages at the end of the others. No one else would be so truthful.

We’d been settled on Proxima B for four years when Dr. Dryden’s messages changed, became ominous, even fearful, still the first was nothing like what would come. 

Food shortages continue to escalate, but the European Union and The United States have made progress on synthetic food stuffs that look hopeful. Still, millions starve every year. War between China and Russia continues, and the death toll is so high they don’t count it anymore. Here at home, the president began his fourth term, and the demonstrations after his inauguration—and more precisely, the response to these demonstrations—left eleven major cities in flames.

Sometimes I can block out the sirens and thunder of stun grenades in the square by looking at the stars and thinking how far away you are from all this. I hope my words find you well.

The conversation after that message had been quiet and grim. We all grieved for the people of Earth. I reminded everyone we served them best by making our small colony work and thrive. We were humanity’s hope, a miracle of science and cooperation that had escaped a beleaguered planet.

Life and work continued for the next two years. The colony grew into a small village. There were thirty-one births, and we lost only a single child. Our crops took root in the alien soil and thrived. Everyone had shelter, food, and community. We forgot about Earth until the next capsule came.

Again, we assembled in the hub, one hundred and fifty of us now. The message was similar to the first, though the conspicuous absence of certain world leaders—namely China and Russia—concerned me. There were fewer well wishes, and nothing from family or friends. There were questions, however, and the capsule came with a new bit of technology, a compact laser array that could send messages across the vast gulf of space, though it took considerable energy to do so. The president of the United States, the same one who had been in power when we left, wanted an update on our colony. That was strange; the government and the president had largely ignored us. In fact, many of us were seen as political agitators and the general sentiment from the ruling administration had been nothing short of “good riddance.” Then Dr. Dryden’s voice filled the hub.

My friends, conditions on Earth have become dire. Last year, twenty-seven million died from a strain of flu so virulent it seemed a plague sent from a vengeful god. China and Russia annihilated one another in nuclear fire, taking much of Eastern Europe and Central Asia with them. Here in the United States, the president closed the borders and declared martial law. He has been declared president for life, and all future elections are cancelled.

The SpaceNow program has not been defunded, however, and the government shows renewed interest in our project. I worry, my friends. I look to the stars, and I worry. If I am unable to send another message, know that you are humanity’s best and last hope.

The hub exploded in cries of fear and panic after the message ended. Many begged me not to send word back to Earth. Let them believe our colony had failed. Let them believe we died in the cold vacuum of space. I listened and part of me agreed, but I told them we represented hope to humanity, that peace and cooperation between all nations and peoples can achieve miracles. Earth needed our guidance.

I sent the message the next day. I recorded it myself, and filled it with our successes, our glorious harmony. I told them about a thriving collective of humanity committed to equality and fairness, to community and building each other up rather than seeking and exploiting our differences.

Another two years went by, our village became a small city, our numbers grew. The planet yielded to us her secrets—precious titanium ore in the mountains, strains of local fruit more nourishing than anything we’d brought from earth, seas rich with edible fauna.

Then the capsule arrived.

It was different from the others. Not the smooth shining egg Dr. Dryden had sent but a black jagged thing, a spike of dark metal hurled at us across the inestimable blackness of space. We took it into the hub, and the message played.

We heard nothing from world leaders, no hopeful or encouraging missives from the people of Earth, just his voice.

I want to congratulate you on your successes, on your tireless efforts to build a new home for your fellow patriots.

The people in the hub took in a collective breath of terror. But the worst was to come, a prophecy of doom spoken by a man who ruled a dying planet and looked to the stars to continue his reign.

Prepare for us, friends. We are coming.

Author bio: Aeryn Rudel’s short fiction has appeared in The ArcanistOn Spec, and Pseudopod, among others. He writes at www.rejectomancy.com

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The Instant Karma Vending Machine

Ian C Douglas

Wykd FLASH April 2nd 2021

I spied him in the distance. Rumbling towards me like a two-ton tank. Lardie Hughes. My worst nightmare. The school’s most legendary bully. I hated him. His massive quivering body. Those huge fatty arms. The stink of cheese and onion crisps on his breath. I owed him this week’s pocket money. A pocketful of coins I was hoping to save. Had he seen me?

I dived into the train station. Waving my pass at the ticket collector, I pelted down the steps, onto the last platform. I kept running, past the guards’ office, the waiting room and the loos, until I reached the building at the far end. No idea what that was, just a half-forgotten brick shed.

But I could hide around the back. Out of sight. Hidden from Lardie’s bulging, gobstopper eyes.

And that’s where I found it. I thought it was a Speak-Your-Weight machine for a second. It was about my height, with this big circular top. The name was embossed around its edge. The Instant Karma Vending Machine. A large bulb sat in the centre of a dial. A needle pointed to the top of the dial, where it said; Enter A Coin. There were more words written around the dial. A row of smaller coloured bulbs lined the edge.

“Why not?” I said to myself and slid a ten-penny piece into the slot. The machine whirred into life, like a robot waking up. The outer bulbs flashed in sequence, blues, greens and yellows. The needle spun. There was a ping and it came to rest. You’ve been good, said the dial.

“Scam,” I muttered.

“Oi, you piece of dog muck,” bellowed a voice.

My stomach churned. It was Lardie.

“Think you could skip your dues, mate?” he said in his growling voice. He grabbed my shirt collar and lifted me off my feet.

“N—n—no,” I stammered.

“You need a lesson, matey,” he said, lifting his fist high. My brain raced, looking for an escape.

“Wanna try this machine, Lardie? It’s on me,” I said, terrified.

“What is it? Some sort of game?” he asked, peering at the dial.

I nodded, fumbling for change in my pocket. I handed him another silver coin and pointed to the slot.

Lardie Hughes popped in the coin. The machine lit up again. The needle whizzed around. He looked closer. The needle slowed to a full stop, pointing at its ten-penny judgement; ‘Tsk, tsk. You’ve been a bad boy.’  

The Instant Karma Vending Machine pinged. And the central bulb, the big white one, flashed. So bright it hurt.

Lardie copped flare close up.

“Can’t see,” he screeched, staggering backwards, frantically rubbing his eyes. Back and back he stepped.

“Look out!” I cried.

Too late, Lardie grasped the danger, teetering on the platform’s edge. Still blinded, his arms waved in a desperate attempt to regain balance. And failed. He toppled from the platform and into the embrace of the half-past-three express.

Author Bio: Ian C Douglas is from Nottingham and works in the genres of science-fiction and fantasy. As well as several published novels and shorts, Ian teaches creative writing and mentors emerging writers. He is a founder of the Nottingham Writers Studio.

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Hearken

Craig Aitchison

It’s happening again. At first, the voices murmur like a stream over stones, then louder like water in spate. They rush towards him. He drowns in everyone’s thoughts and worries and fears.

‘Stop,’ Sean says, but he can’t even hear his own voice. He roars, ‘Stop.’

But it doesn’t stop. The dam’s burst: nothing can prevent the flood of others’ emotions – unfiltered, sordid, raw. They crash over him, words running into each other, overlapping.

Inccean’’tgffwthodrkeetderg’htnccean’’tgffwthodrkeetderg’hthgooingdtaseclIgocthodrkpnccenccean’’tgffwthodrkeetderg’htncgotcean’’tgfftaewthodrkeetderg’hthgooingdtaseclIgocthodrkpan’’tgffwthodrkeetderg’htnccean’’tgfotfwthodrkeetderg’hthgooingdtaseclIgocthodrkpnccean’’tgffwthodrkeetderg’htncceantae’’tgffwthodrkeetderg’hthgooingdtaseclIgocthodrkp.

It’s like he’s roused a wasps’ nest – thoughts buzz around him and climb over his face, hair, eyes. They swarm round his head, so he just wants to scream.

He runs down the stairs, out of the flats, the door clattering behind him. He runs into the street, and a car’s brakes cut through the buzz for a second. He hears the driver too – little prick, arsehole, should’ve kept going – though his mouth doesn’t move.

The swarm spills out the door that hasn’t shut right, out the gaps round the badly fitted windows, through the cracks in the plaster.

He runs again, pursued by peoples’ thoughts and fears and all the overwhelming, petty shit they fill their heads with. He turns away from the town, running towards the woods, leaving the noise behind. Something sharp snags in his mind and he slows his pace, trying to locate it but this lets the swarm catch him; he tugs free and runs again, into the woods.

The trees shelter him. He leans against a tree to get his breath back, to let the quiet fill him up. He can stay out here until he feels the quiet settle on him, let the part of him that receives it all shut down, go offline. Then he can go home. He might even be home before his mum. He can make dinner. She’ll be pleased.

But something sticks in him like a splinter. He walks further into the woods, off the path. He shakes his head, trying to loosen the nagging shard but it won’t go, just digs deep under the skin. What is it?

It doesn’t matter, he thinks. Forget it. He tries to focus on the rustling of the leaves, the birds tweeting. When he was a boy, his grandad taught him to really listen to the birds, picking out the different sounds, the layers. If he leaned into it, concentrating, he could tell the robin from the blackbird, the jackdaw from the crow. Now, he listens again – sparrow, woodpigeon – and can almost feel a strong callused hand on his shoulder.

That’s what he can do, he thinks. He picks up a stick, and holding it at his side like a sword, he walks towards home. The thoughts return as a static hum, so he wants to run back, to gather branches and twigs and leaves so he’s hidden from the world, and it’s hidden from him, but he keeps walking, like wading upriver. As he walks, he strains to tease apart the layers pulling threads from the weave, holding each one to the light, studying its colours.

He stops across the road from the flats and drops his stick. He can make out single thoughts now – I’m hungry; She should’ve called; Cup of tea first, then I’ll start. Just a quick cup of tea.

He hears boredom, worry and anger. And then he feels the sharp thing; he pulls it closer, making the other voices fade away. He shivers.

Help.

It stands out now, like neon in the dark.

Help.

Guided by the word, walking upstairs as if floating, he comes to a bright red door. 3B.

He knocks. The door looks solid but feels flimsy against his fist. There’s a noise inside. People talking, the telly maybe. Cutting through that background noise, that one word. Help.

He knocks again. Footsteps come down the hall and the door opens a little. It’s the woman he sees coming and going to work in an opticians’ uniform.

‘Can I help?’ she says. He can imagine her at work, giving him the same smile, friendly but professional.

‘Sorry. I was looking for someone else.’

She looks at him.

‘Somebody from school. A friend.’

‘Okay,’ she says.

A man pops his head round the door, smiling. ‘Who’s there, Love?’

‘It’s fine,’ she says, closing the door.

But as she does the voice comes back. Screaming, desperate, cold. Help.

Sean looks at the red door, his head filled with the word.

HELP.

He knocks again.

Author Bio: Craig Aitchison is a teacher and writer from the Scottish Borders. He is a graduate of the Masters course in Creative Writing at Stirling University. His fiction has been published in Northwords Now, Pushing Out The Boat and the Crowvus Press anthology, ‘A Ghost For Christmas.

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Wyldblood Magazine # 2

Eleven great fantasy and science fiction stories.

A stifling obligation—a genie’s duplicity—a stranded astronaut—an abandoned dinosaur— a house full of stifling memories—a god greening the South—a woman stuck in traffic hell—a brain stuffed with adverts—an android boy stuck in mid stride— a chance to live a new life in a new body—an ostrich feather in the Old West.

£2.99/5.99



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Advance Readers

We’re planning an exciting slate of novels for the new year – and we’re looking for advance readers to give us feedback (and, let’s be honest, hopefully write some reviews on Amazon and Goodreads). So if you’d like to join our list and get some free e-books before publication, let us know at contact@wyldblood.com

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Wyld Flash 37 – News from Home

Always good to hear from the folks back home – or is it? Messages across the light years in Aeryn Rudel’s News from Home – #freefiction live on our website now.

Steampunk submissions call

Resending ’cause the submissions link didn’t work first time around (I shouldn’t be let loose round technology). Following the succcess of our first anthology, the Call of the Wyld, we’re gearing up for a couple of new anthologies. So today we’re launching a call for steampunk stories for Runs Like Clockwork to publish in printContinue reading “Steampunk submissions call”

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