“Each story is like watching an old episode of the Twilight Zone”
~ C. Mackay
Great news for those who love short stories of a science or speculative fiction nature, and who enjoy my writing. I have collected my Short SSF Stories series in a single bundle, now available on Amazon at only $2.99 – or the price of buying just one of my collections.
As always, anyone interested in a free review copy can contact me and I’ll be happy to send them one (and enroll them in my ARC list, of they so wish).
The bundle includes two brand new stories, plus all stories from the following collections:
The Power of Six
A collection of science fiction short stories that explore our perception of the world around us. Is there more to the world than we can see? How far can we trust our senses? And in a digital society, can any of us tell what’s real?
The law of unintended consequences meets Murphy’s law during a man’s unexpected time travel. A grizzled veteran meets his god. And a loner discovers just how far he’d go to alleviate his loneliness.
“I read all stories in one sitting. And found them tumbling around in my head later, when I was trying to fall asleep.”
~ Anita Cross
Voted one of the Best 50 Indie Books of 2015, Infinite Waters contains ten speculative fiction short stories and flash fiction.
A writer seeks her future at a carnival but gets more than she bargained for. A disgruntled twin discovers that blood runs thicker than water, especially when you spill it. A high school student just loves to experiment. And a bully learns that nothing is scarier than a supermarket.
“Nicholas Rossis is a master of the craft… I found myself looking forward to coming home so I could dig into the next story. Each story pulls you into its unique little universe and takes you on a ride where the tracks are hidden, and you can’t see the corners up ahead.”
– Nat Russo
A mermaid turns out to be the perfect bait. A young man in the Badlands discovers that even in post-apocalyptic dystopia, your basic business principles apply. And a man desperate to escape his life finds out he’s not the only one.
“Creepy, mysterious, apocalyptic fun.”
~ MM Jaye
You’re in for a Ride
A force field stumps a group of intrepid explorers. Two time-travelers mess with time at their own peril. And what happens when not one, but two dark prophecies clash head-on?
“Choose this book on a wintry night tucked in bed and have the most exhilarating experience.”
~ E. Moschoudi
Sample Story: To Name a Thing
“Attention on deck!”
The sharp voice startles me so much that my tablet slips through my fingers.
“Crap, the General,” Sam hisses behind me as I catch the tablet midair with uncharacteristic agility; something that gives me a surprising amount of pleasure.
Almost immediately, my brow creases. Another inspection? “How are we supposed to get any work done with all these interruptions?” I whisper, not bothering to hide my irritation.
Sam nods knowingly, if imperceptibly, as he clicks the heels of his shoes. Snap!
I almost chuckle. We’re not soldiers, you idiot, I scold him in my head. Even if we were, no soldiers do that, unless they’re evil Nazis in a last-century movie.
He shoots me a warning glare as if reading my mind, and I hurry to stand up straight—no clicking of the heels for me—and lower my hands to my side. I clench my fingers around the tablet to make sure it doesn’t slip through at an awkward moment.
Right on cue, the General marches in through the yawning hangar doors. He looks his usual pompous, stubby self. His chest is puffed out like a self-important rooster inspecting his henhouse. His head is tilted upward as if he’s studying the thick carbon-titanium beams that line the dome protecting us from the many horrors of space. His spine is so straight you’d think he’s swallowed an umbrella and any bending of his torso might accidentally force it to open and turn his tight trousers into a tutu skirt. The mental image causes me to smirk. I wipe the grin off my face as fast as I can, noting his speedy approach.
His gaze caresses the monstrous device behind us. The missile is almost as big as the hangar itself if one includes the many workstations that line its gleaming exterior. Perhaps a hundred of us are working on what our cliché-loving General, in each of his less-than-inspired speeches, calls “humanity’s last hope.” In fact, humanity is doing just fine, thank you very much, and I increasingly feel that we have no business poking our noses in Centauri space. Not that I’d admit as much to anyone, of course. Treason is an ugly word and has even uglier repercussions. Much as I love space, I wouldn’t want to fly out of an airlock with nothing but my socks on.
As they say, truth is the first casualty of war, and my personal truth is that the Centauris are actually quite nice, seeing how their pacifist religion means we’ve been fighting a casualty-free war for the past six months. As far as I’m concerned, we should shake hands with them—or claws in their case, seeing how much they look like beetles—and move our colonists to some other part of the galaxy. Preferably, an uninhabited one this time. But no, the unceasing tussle between Earth and the colonies has everyone scrambling to plant their flag on as many exoplanets as possible. Naturally, no one cares about the natives, and the army is more than happy to kick out the Centauris from their homes. After all, another military campaign means extra funds allocated to their budget. The fact that this particular war is casualty-free must make the situation all the sweeter for our dear General.
While I regurgitate the same thoughts that have gone through my mind a myriad times before, the General performs a cursory circle around the missile before heading for the podium, a satisfied smile plastered on his face.
I groan mentally. Oh man, not another speech.
Once on the podium, he taps the microphone and glares at a technician who hurries to turn it on. A loud squeal is drowned out within a second, but not before earning the poor technician a scowling frown. The General then turns his attention to us. “At ease,” he orders, and the soldiers surrounding us relax their tight stance. “My dear friends,” he starts, beaming us a smile designed to boost our productivity.
I sigh inwardly and prepare for a lost hour of work. At least we’re getting paid for it, I console myself and force my fingers to stop tapping the tablet’s dark screen.
“We’re nearing completion of the greatest project humanity’s ever undertaken.”
It’s just a big bomb, you big-mouthed bully. Or should I say, a giant bug-repellant? And we’ll drop it on a bunch of peace-loving, fruit-munching creatures that won’t even fight back. I tune him out for a while and space out, focusing on Tina, the General’s aide. As always, she’s standing right behind him, lovely as ever. I lose myself in her soft, curly, blond hair, imagining twirling it around my fingers. I wonder if she’d ever go out with an engineer like me, and swallow a sigh. Nah, probably not.
The General’s wild gestures and flailing arms snap me out of my pleasant reverie. “You’re humanity’s last hope,” he booms. “You’ll protect us from the terrible menace that’s been plaguing our galaxy.” His voice turns soft. “We have no quarrel with the Centauris. Lord knows we’ve tried making peace with them.” He slaps his fist into his palm. “But they’ve rejected all of our attempts to communicate. How can we make them see reason? They won’t share their resources with us. Even now, we have information that they’re planning humanity’s demise.”
What did you expect; a cheese and wine farewell party before they kindly leave their planets to us?
“They don’t even have the courtesy of discussing their terms. We’d be more than willing to compromise. But no, they have no interest in communicating with us.”
They’re freakishly large beetles, for heaven’s sake. They probably communicate by rubbing their antennae together or something.
“They just terrorize our brave colonists. Their wives. Their children.”
I almost roll my eyes. Please don’t bring the children into this. A little-known fact: no colonist has ever been harmed by the Centauris. No man, no woman, no child, no baby, no pet spider. Centauri resistance has been limited to acts of sabotage against our equipment. Acts that were severe enough to require the evacuation of three planets so far, but that have led to no casualty. At least not in life terms; I’m not sure how many managers have been fired or officers demoted because of the resulting mess.
Amazingly enough, the media portray Centauris as the scourge of the universe and a deadly threat to humanity. I wouldn’t even know the truth if a clerk hadn’t accidentally included me in an email that contained a classified report. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen him in a while on the station. I wonder if Tina would know what happened to the poor bastard.
A pang of pain shoots through my temples and skewers my brain. I shut my eyes, sudden dizziness blurring my vision. It only lasts for a moment and I blink to clear spots from my eyesight. What the hell was that?
Behind the General, Lina, too, looks confused. The General must have felt it as well, for he pauses midsentence for a moment. “Eh, as I was saying, through your hard work and determination, we shall now be able to fight the terror that’s been plaguing our galaxy . Thank you, pupils. Humanity salutes you.”
Pupils? I stifle a snigger. Who do you think you are, our schoolmaster? Whatever the dizzy spell was, it must have hit him harder than me. I exchange a mocking look with Sam.
The General takes one step to the side and faces us. His palm snaps to his temple. All around me, the soldiers guarding the facility mimic him as a stirring anthem booms from the speakers. I mentally cringe but make sure my face reflects all of the patriotic fervor that my heart refuses to feel.
After a few minutes, the music dies out and the tacky display is finally over. The General steps down for his customary inspection of the missile and the informal chitchat with the engineers. His disdainful look, as if sucking on a particularly sour lemon, convinces me this is something he’s read in one of the management manuals he’s so fond of.
“Ah, Sam,” he says as he approaches us. He extends his hand. “Good to see you.”
“You too, sir,” Sam says and shakes the man’s hand with enough enthusiasm to put a cow-milking farmer to shame.
Sycophant, I mentally scold him and make a mental note to tease him relentlessly for this later.
“So, how’s the banana going?” the General asks as he jerks his hand free from Sam’s eager fingers and rubs it—presumably, to remove the pain from the fervent handshake.
Sam blinks in confusion. “The what, sir?”
The General’s brow furrows. “The banana, man. What’s wrong with you?” When Sam stammers instead of replying, he tilts his head and draws it near Sam’s. “Are you feeling all right, son?”
“Yes…” Sam throws Mina a silent plea for help.
“It’s just, you’ve said banana twice now, sir,” she intervenes, smiling beatifically.
The General tilts his head farther, his gaze never leaving Sam’s. “So?”
“I assume you’re referring to the missile, sir?” Mina asks helpfully.
“The what?” He blinks in confusion. “Whatever would I be asking about a missile for?”
“I believe the General is talking about the dinosaur,” another engineer chirps helpfully.
Everyone glares at him with such intensity that he scurries away.
“What is wrong with you, pupils?” the General thunders. “I’m talking about the banana. Were I sleepy, I might ask for a missile, but what does that have to do with anything?”
Sam stares at him for a long moment. “Perhaps he’s having an aphasic episode,” he whispers and leans closer as if to inspect the General’s face.
Sometimes I forget that Sam comes from a medical background. “What’s that?” I ask, my curiosity piqued.
“When people confuse words. Phrases might come out all jumbled.”
“What are you pupils talking about?” the General thunders. “I’m standing right here, you know!”
Nina takes him by the arm. “Perhaps it’s best if we cut the inspection short,” she whispers in his ear. Only Sam and I are close enough to hear her.
“I’d take him to the medical boy for an exam,” Sam suggests in an obvious attempt to be helpful.
“Are you trying to be funny, son?” the General snaps at him.
Sam takes an involuntary step back, his face flushing from the rebuke. “No, sir, I merely suggested—”
“A medical boy?” I hiss. “What’s wrong with you?”
Sam stares at us, as if unsure of what he’s said to insult us. “But that’s where the infirmary is,” he stammers. “At the medical boy.”
“Medical bay,” Nina says and gapes at me. “Is he having an episode, too?”
“Looks that way,” I say and lean closer. I raise my hands to lift his chin. I’m not sure why; it’s like when your car breaks down and you lift the hood, even though there’s nothing there you can possibly fix.
Sam slaps my hands away from his face. “Get away, you moon. I’m fine.”
“Moon?” I ask.
“He probably meant moron,” Gina suggests with a half-shrug.
“What is happening?” the General asks. His jowls tremble. He runs a hand through what little hair remains on his head.
“I’m not cure,” Sam replies. He stares at me with wide eyes, as if the answer might be found on my face. “I’ve never spleen anything bike fish.”
“It’s betting worse,” Gina says, her beautiful face turning white.
Around us, confused murmurs arise from small groups of people. Some snigger. Others look terrified. An alarm starts blaring. Swirling red lights paint the walls a dizzying crimson.
A soldier runs our way and salutes the General. “Sir? What are your fodders?”
“I…” The man is now rubbing his scalp so hard that I fear he might remove the little hair left. “Mall Earth. Bask door help.”
“Sir?” A bead of sweat is trickling down the soldier’s temple. “You want us to mall Earth?”
The General’s eyes pop. “Mall them! Mall then,” he screeches and runs out of the hangar, panic written on his face.
Lina runs after him. “Fate, girl,” she shouts. “Be should conduct Earth. Get then throw what’s happening.”
Sam stares at them, his jaw slackened. He grabs my tablet and opens a random page on the web. His fingers tremble as he points at the screen.
I look at a mystifying jumble of words. It looks as if a thesaurus has hurled its contents onto the page without caring where the words end up. The phrases all look normal, with periods and commas dotting them in all the right places, but almost no line makes sense.
“Fought is boing gone?” Sam whispers, his face ashen.
“And you’re sure there are no casualties?” the Archon asks his aide telepathically.
“We’re positive,” the aide says reassuringly. He shakes his head horn for emphasis. “Despite losing their language skills, all humans made it from the space station to their home planet in one piece. But, with no way for their scientists to communicate verbally, their weapons program has been set back decades. Should the virus spread like we hope, their entire civilization will be knocked back for centuries. Millennia, even. Hopefully, this is the end of the human infestation on our planets.”
“At least for a while.” The Archon cuts a piece of tasty fruit with his claws and brings it to his mouth. A golden glow travels down his carapace, showing his pleasure. He shakes an antenna for emphasis. “The Great Scarab in the Sky will be pleased.”
“Praised be Her name,” the aide says solemnly. If he feels annoyed at the Archon for stating the obvious, his thoughts fail to show it.
“Praised be Her name,” the Archon repeats with reverence. With a few swift flicks of his scutellum, he wipes his wings clean. The fact the aide is permitted to watch this display of personal hygiene is a clear sign of favor. The soft golden glow on the aide’s carapace shows that it hasn’t gone unnoticed. “Humans are such strange creatures.”
“Indeed,” the aide says with a mental chuckle. “Using the funny noises from their mouth as a language? I can understand it for the purposes of simple communication, but a whole language? It’s hard to imagine the Great Scarab creating a species with such poor telepathic abilities.”
“What confuses me is that they’re pretty receptive to telepathy, even if they can’t use it themselves. Were that not the case, we never could have uploaded our neurolinguistic virus.”
“That’s true,” the aide agrees, marvel tinging his thoughts. “Nor would the virus work without their… vulnerability.”
The Archon shakes his head horn in confusion. “Vulnerability?”
“For the virus to scramble their neural pathways, it uses structures all humans have buried deep within their brain. It only jumbles the words in their heads because of those structures.”
The Archon puts another piece of sweet, tangy fruit in his mouth and chews slowly. “One wonders if the Great Scarab created that vulnerability in the simian brain for the sole purpose of saving Her children one day.”
“I hadn’t thought of that.” The aide’s antenna quivers in wonder. “Strangely enough, humans appear to have been subjected to a similar virus once before in their history. That is why their language tends to fragment, rather than converge on a common tongue.”
“It’s so strange to see a world where people live a stone’s throw away from each other, yet speak languages that have absolutely nothing in common with each other. Is that what gave you the idea of using their language against them?”
“The humans did that,” the aide says, his pronotal horn shaking in a soft chuckle. “I bet they’ve regretted calling their space station Babel. That’s just asking for trouble.”
If you enjoyed that, you can read all stories on Amazon (free on Kindle Unlimited) or request your free review copy!
Wow. What a shelf full of work you have already. Intriguing. Love the sample. A fantastic read. 😀
Thank you!! I’m so glad you enjoyed it 😀
I did. I did. 🙂
What a selection and your short stories continue to intrigue and amaze. A wonderful break from all the election stress to just sit back and enjoy. 🙂
Thank you so much, D! Yes, books are the perfect escape from all the crazy around us 🙂
Looks like a great addition to your growing catalogue, Nicholas. Good luck with this one. I have no doubt it will do very well.
Best wishes, Pete.
Thank you so much, Pete! And many thanks for all your help and support. Your reviews have been greatly appreciated!
Highly entertaining yet thought-provoking. Oh, I have my review ready! 😀 Good luck!
Your support means the world to me. Thank you!!