Month: April 2018

In Hiding

Image licensed by Shutterstock.

Rhonda stood at the edge of a prim, neatly trimmed lawn. Watched the man who lived there go outside at precisely 7:45 a.m. to retrieve his copy of the Orange County Register. Gazed at him as if from a distance while he peered in her direction from only five feet away with unseeing eyes, holding a newspaper she knew he would never read.

It had been seven years since she left her husband to go into hiding, since she donned the glamour of invisibility to protect a dangerous secret. Seven years, and the loss still hurt, still burned deep inside her chest—a merciless, unquenchable fire that only intensified with time.

“I love you,” she whispered. The air in her lungs rattled as she choked back a sob.

The people she was hiding from would do whatever it took to steal her secret. She couldn’t let him be a part of that.

And yet…

Even now, seven years after her disappearance, he still hadn’t remarried, still hadn’t removed the gold wedding ring from his finger.

She could go to him now. She could explain what had happened and why she’d had to leave. She could tell him she still loved him, tell him she was sorry and that she would never leave again.

So many ifs and coulds. So many missed opportunities. Why hadn’t she returned? He would have wanted to share this burden with her. He would have risked his life if it meant remaining a part of hers. So why the hell had she not gone back already?

Why the hell not?

Hope kindled in her chest, momentarily smothering the fire that had burned there these past seven years. She would charge up the concrete walk, knock on the door, and when her faithful, loyal husband answered, she would let the invisible barrier fall from her figure like rain and take him into her arms as she had so long ago.

*               *               *

When Sam opened the door, there was no one there.

“Hello?”

He scanned the porch, the mailbox, the street at the end of the walk.

Alone.

Just some kids playing a prank, he thought, yet something stirred deep inside, something he hadn’t felt since Rhonda disappeared.

He hesitated a moment longer, then receded back into the shadows, closing the door behind him.

He didn’t see the woman fleeing down the street, though she’d been standing right in front of him.

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I’ll Send You a Signed Hardcover Copy of “Snapshots”

Snapshots: The Collected Flash Fiction of Jeff Coleman, Volume 1.

Over time, people have asked me if I would ever publish a print collection of the flash fiction I write for my blog. Last year, I finally decided to act on that idea, and in February, though I never made a formal announcement, I finally released the book, which is now available from most online bookstores.

Periodically, I offer my readers a hardcover book in exchange for a monthly pledge on Patreon that goes toward helping me build a full-time career around my art. This month, I want to offer you my flash fiction collection, Snapshots: The Collected Flash Fiction of Jeff Coleman, Volume 1.

If you pledge to my Patreon campaign at the $2 level or above, I’ll send you a signed hardcover copy.

Please note that this offer is only available to new patrons. Unfortunately, former patrons aren’t eligible. If you’re an existing $5 or $10 patron, don’t worry: you’re going to get a copy 🙂 To my existing $2 patrons, I can’t afford to send you one for free (I really wanted to), but I do plan to offer the book to you guys at cost in a few months when I return to the States to visit family and can order and sign more copies, so stay tuned.

Please note that Patreon pledges are recurring monthly charges. I post four paid pieces of flash fiction on the platform per month, which means a $2 pledge amounts to $8 per month. If that’s too much, you can make a $2 pledge, then set a lower monthly limit so you won’t go over your budget.

If you don’t want to become a patron, don’t worry: I’ll provide information at a later date about how to order a normal non-signed copy (paperback or hardcover) through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

I had to order and sign a limited number of books in California before returning to my wife in the Philippines, so there are only 10 copies available.

That means if you want one, you should act soon 😉 When I do these promotions, it usually takes me two days to give away 10-15 books.

Books will ship out May 7, 2018, after the first round of pledges have been processed.

Your first pledge must process successfully in order to receive the book, but after that, you’re free to cancel for any reason, no questions asked.

Here are the rules (there are only three.)

1. You must have a shipping address in the United States. I try to make these offers available in other countries, but because this is my own book that I’ll be mailing out from a US address, I have to be more selective. A huge apology to my international friends 🙁

2. You must become a patron at or above the $2 level on or before Tuesday, April 24, 2018, 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time, and your first pledge at the beginning of May must process successfully before I can ship out the book. After that, you’re free to cancel, no questions asked.

3. This offer is only available to new patrons. Unfortunately, former patrons aren’t eligible.

That’s it!

Once you become a patron, I’ll send you an email to request your shipping address. Then, once your first pledge clears at the beginning of May, I’ll ship out your signed book.

To become a patron and receive your signed hardcover copy of Snapshots: The Collected Flash Fiction of Jeff Coleman, Volume 1, click the “Become a patron” button below.

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Totem, Part 6

Images licensed by Shutterstock.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

The master, Jahi began, had an unusual ability. No one knew of it, not even myself until he entrusted me with the secret later. Haven’t you ever wondered how he amassed so much power and influence? He was strong, yes, but even a powerful magician such as he would have had a hard time bending the world to his will. But he had an advantage, one he believed to be his alone, and there came a morning, just as I returned home to the estate, when he told me what that advantage was.

*               *               *

“I can read minds,” he said before sitting back into a dark brown chair and waiting for Jahi to react.

But Jahi didn’t reply, for the statement had flown right over his head. He’d understood the words, but not their meaning. He’d just arrived from a long and tiring meeting with a group of influential priests who held sway with the Pharaoh and his court. It was now early in the morning, and he’d slept little during the late night journey back. He hadn’t known what to expect upon answering the master’s summons, but certainly not this.

“I intend no double meaning,” the man said when Jahi didn’t speak. “I can read minds. Forgive me for being so abrupt, but I need your help, and I believe you to be loyal.”

True enough. Jahi had cast his lot with the man years ago. He’d always believed the master to be, if not exactly a good man, at least an effective ruler—one who relied not on fancy clothes or public recognition, but on the strength of an iron will and an unshakable resolve. He was the unseen glue that held much of civilization together, and Jahi admired him greatly for it. At the master’s side, he’d flourished as a skilled diplomat and negotiator. He’d brokered more than his fair share of deals with some of the world’s most powerful leaders, facilitating the master’s consolidation of power these past several years, and for Jahi, this shared accomplishment was a source of intense and ferocious pride.

“Sit,” said the master.

Jahi pulled up to the empty chair before him and did as he was told.

“The others can’t know of what I’m about to tell you. Not Rashidi. Not Azibo. No one. It stays between you and me. Swear it.”

“I swear.”

“Good.” The master relaxed a little, sinking further into his chair. Jahi thought he’d never seen him look so vulnerable. “I find myself troubled, and I don’t know where to turn.”

Jahi gazed up at him, all harsh lines and wrinkles, and thought he looked unwell. Once more, he didn’t know what to say, and so said nothing.

“There’s a talent,” the master began, “one I thought had died along with the rest of my family long ago. Imagine, with only a thought, that you could inhabit the minds of others, that you could feel their happiness, their joy, their sorrow, their grief—that you could hear every passing thought, every fleeting desire that courses through their heads as if it were your own. My mother and father used that ability long ago to negotiate peace between rival families and tribes, but I always had loftier aspirations.”

He paused, considering.

“Anyway, all that is to say my talent has played no small part in my success.”

Could this be true? Jahi reeled with the possibility. With the power to read minds, the master could do almost anything. Politics thrived on misdirection and deceit, and one’s skill at reading his enemies was tantamount to one’s success. If the master could peer inside the heads of those he competed with for power, if he could read their true intentions as easily as words written on a scroll…

“Then I could do almost anything I wished. Yes, Jahi, you’re right. Which is why I’ve always kept it a secret.”

Jahi’s face turned cold. How long had he and the master worked together? How many of Jahi’s secrets did he know?

“Enough to know you’re no threat.” The master said this in the affectionate tone normally reserved for pets and small children. “The others would rise up against me if they could—particularly my young apprentice, Azibo. But not you. You know yourself too well. You understand that your power has always been greatest when placed at the service of mine. I know I can trust you, which is why I’ve shared such a startling secret.”

“But why tell me this now?”

“Because something is amiss, and I need your help to set it right.”

“Of course, I’ll do whatever you ask, but…”

“Just listen, Jahi. As I said, until now, I’ve always believed myself to be the exclusive steward of this ability. But yesterday, while I napped in my chambers, someone appeared to me in a dream. Not a part of my imagination, but someone real, someone who wasn’t supposed to be there. Like me, they were able to cast themselves into my mind, though I have the feeling it was an accident—an early manifestation of a nascent power yet to be unexplored. I tried to catch a glimpse of their face, but they’d fled before I could discover who it was.”

“What can I do?”

“Keep your eyes open. See if anyone appears unusually perceptive, if anyone seems to know what you’re going to say before you say it, that sort of thing. I suspect the guilty party is close, maybe even one of my advisers. Will you do this for me, Jahi?”

“If you can read my mind, then you already know the answer.”

The man nodded.

“I knew I could count on you.”

So dismissed, Jahi stood, knelt, and exited the master’s study.

*               *               *

It was Azibo, wasn’t it? Rashidi turned his dark glassy eyes toward the both of them. The one who entered the master’s dream.

Yes. But as I’ve already told Azibo, he hid himself well. I had my suspicions, but never any firm evidence.

And you kept this from us until now? Kasim.

I couldn’t tell you before. The master might have seen it in your minds, and then he would have known I’d broken his promise.

What about after he turned us into birds? Couldn’t you have told us then?

What would it have mattered? How would it have changed anything?

No one answered.

Then Zane barged into the conversation.

Azibo, that was how you knew the master would be gone the day we decided to overthrow him! He wanted his absence to be a secret, but you read his mind, and when you realized he was leaving, you and Jahi convinced us to try and take control of his affairs.

Azibo nodded.

But Jahi, the master saw in your mind that you were loyal, which means it must have been true. What changed?

I got to know his true nature. Actually, it would be more accurate to say I was forced to acknowledge his true nature. I should have seen it from the beginning. But I’d accomplished so much at his side that I didn’t want to admit he was a monster. Only after he grew increasingly paranoid and prone to suspicion did I realize, with enough time, not even I would be safe.

The others were silent for a while. Like Jahi, they remembered all too well the master’s cruel and increasingly erratic behavior in those last days.

I want to hear more about Azibo’s part in this, said Rashidi. Will you tell us, Azibo?

But the youth only drew back into the lengthening shadows of the night, unable or unwilling to speak.

You might as well, said Jahi, not unkindly. No harm can come to you now. Our only worry is the bracelet, and the more we understand about your talent, the better. Maybe we can use it to communicate with the girl.

Azibo hesitated, then nodded.

Yes, you’re right. It’s been a long time. It’s just that I had to keep myself hidden for so long… Azibo paused, then nodded. All right. I’m ready to tell my story.

And after a moment of silent brooding, Azibo did.

Read part 7 here.

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