Jeff Coleman

Jeff Coleman is a writer who finds himself drawn to the dark and the mysterious, and to all the extraordinary things that regularly hide in the shadow of ordinary life.

Not of This World

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Below a drab and dreary office, in a park, there stands a tree. A sprawling oak, gnarled and ancient, she lies in wait for one who is lost. She is patient and she is persistent, for she knows that someday, the one she searches for will hear her call and answer.

Above a verdant, sunlit park, in an office, there sits a woman. Driven and motivated, Diane excels at everything she does. But she is haunted and she is restless, for no matter how successful she becomes, she cannot find a place in the world where she belongs.

Now, after years of dissatisfaction, Diane hears the tree speak. At first she thinks it’s her imagination, but she discovers soon enough that other powers are at work. As Diane’s life is upended by a celestial mystery that threatens to undermine her very sense of self, one thing becomes clear: Diane is not of this world.

This week, I’m pausing the usual piece of flash fiction to announce that my next book, Not of This World, will be published in December of this year, just in time for Christmas! For the past few months, I’ve been working with my editors to get this novella ready for print, and it’s time for me to reveal its existence at last (my patrons and mailing list subscribers, of course, have already been hearing about it for a while.)

This week, most of my time has been spent laying out the book’s interior and getting ready to work with my new cover artist, Alejandro Comesaña, who will be bringing this story to life. He’s incredible, and I’ve been a fan boy of his for a long time (you can find some of his work here.) For a few years now, I’ve been watching his posts on social media, waiting for the right project to throw his way, and I’m so happy that he was willing to work with me on this.

The novella will be available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover formats, and as always, I’ll be offering free signed copies to my higher tier patrons, as well as hosting a couple giveaways through my mailing list the closer we get to the official launch date.

That’s it for now, but I’ll be sharing more details with you guys in the coming months.

P.S. Regular flash fiction posts will resume next week 😉

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The Letter

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This post was originally published through Patreon on March 27, 2019

Dear Sandra,

It is with great sadness that I pen this letter. I love you so much—I always have—and I wanted desperately to embrace the human side of my nature so I could share my life with you. But I’ve learned that I can’t change what I am, and I can’t continue to deny the part of myself that keeps me awake with its alien secrets long after you’ve fallen asleep at my side.

This morning, I made you breakfast—your favorite: bacon, scrambled eggs, and toast. This morning, I kissed you on the forehead and bade you a good day at work. This morning, I watched you pull out of the driveway, your head filled with hope for the future I promised we could share. And then, this morning, I peered into the vast blue sky to ponder the immensity of the cosmos. I got into my car, and after peering through the driver’s side window in silence, hoping my melancholy would pass, I pulled into traffic and headed south along the I-5.

It’s impossible for me to describe what happened next. Words are a human invention, and my experience behind the wheel was anything but human. My body never left the car, but as I wended through unfamiliar avenues, the early morning sun blazing across the windshield like burnished brass, my soul came unmoored. I began to drift, to rise above the Earthly plane and into the infinite dimensions beyond. I beheld, in a single instant, a thousand other worlds, each placed atop the other like Russian stacking dolls.

In that moment, I was whole. In that moment, I was complete. I felt the beauty and immensity of life outside the linear progression of space and time, and my human body in the car began to weep. Aware once again of my physical aspect, I startled and slammed on the brakes, terrified I’d cause an accident. Despair rushed to fill the vacancies in my soul that had, for one glorious moment, been filled, and after the deepest sadness I’ve ever known passed over me like a heavy storm-cloud, I returned home, shaken.

I spent the next three hours brooding, wanting to drift some more, to merge with the cosmic substrate as I had so many times before taking on this human skin.

That was when I realized the truth.

As much as I want to remain human and love you, I cannot. My body is only a shell, a tattered garment made to be donned and then tossed aside. I was never supposed to stay, and as much as I’ve tried to delay the inevitable, I know now that I must go home.

When I met you, I thought we could make it work, that I could somehow nurture my humanity and grow it into something more, something enduring, something everlasting. But I realize now that I was wrong, and I must break your heart and leave you here alone.

Sandra, you must understand: I don’t want to leave you. My fingers are trembling as I write this letter, and even now my mind is reaching for any way to make this strange relationship work. But my longing to go back is too great, my need to burst free of this constricting body too profound, and by the time you read this, I’ll be gone, just another afterimage left behind in the wake of a brilliant cosmic flash.

You’re a strong woman, and I know that whichever path you choose, you’ll find happiness. That’s one thing I’ve always admired about you, and I can only hope that in the meantime, as you grieve for what you’ve lost, you’ll think of me and the love we shared with fondness.

As for my own love, it will never die. It is ageless and eternal, like the form I’ll take when I finish writing you this letter.

I love you, now and for always.

—Sammuel

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Witch’s Brew

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This post was originally published through Patreon on March 19, 2019

Martha tipped her plate and a hillock of diced onions dropped into a tall aluminum pot. Steam rose up at once, and she grabbed a metal spoon and began to stir.

“If there’s no browning, there’s no flavor,” her father used to say, “but too much browning and you’ve spoiled the meal.”

Martha knew how important it was to get this dish right, so she sprinkled in some salt to bleed the onions and watched with a hawk’s eye as it turned first translucent, then gold, then finally a light caramel brown.

Next came the minced garlic, followed by the carrots and celery. Martha gave the vegetables time to release their magic, then dumped into the pot two cans of crushed tomatoes and waited for the concoction to start bubbling like a witch’s brew.

And that’s really what it was, wasn’t it?

She’d feed it to her customers, and in a few minutes, or a few hours, or a few days, something would happen. Something would change, and for better or for worst, their lives would never be the same.

After ten or fifteen minutes, Martha stirred some more. She didn’t have to—the heat was low and the bottom wouldn’t burn—but she needed to do something with her hands. The anxious energy inside of her had started to boil alongside the soup and she was restless.

Should I serve this to my customers or send them home?

Every day, she asked herself the same question, and every day, she reached the same conclusion.

This is what I do. It’s my life’s work and I’m good at it.

The soup on the stove spat its approval.

The happy endings were, of course, a fundamental part of what kept her going—spontaneous marriage proposals, miraculous cures, and unexpected fortunes were just a few of the things that occurred in Martha’s restaurant—but what really got her fired up was that she got to play such a direct role in the outcomes of people’s lives.

“You’re not changing their destinies,” her father once explained, “just hastening their fulfillment. Some people prefer to meet their fate head-on, and for almost 200 years our family has helped them do so.”

But it was hard for her not to feel responsible for the things that happened, and whenever her soup led to someone discovering their fortune, Martha swelled with pride.

There is, however, a dark cloud for every silver lining—isn’t there always?—and while many of her patrons departed under much-improved circumstances, many more did so having suffered some traumatic loss or heartbreak—or didn’t depart at all, at least not alive.

Yesterday, a seemingly happy husband had confessed to his wife of forty years to numerous infidelities, and the day before, two men had suffered massive coronaries, dropping dead before the rest of Matha’s horrified patrons. On both occasions, she’d found solace in her father’s explanation, assuring herself that these horrible things would have come to pass anyway in their own good time.

Still, such experiences took their toll, and Martha felt as if she’d aged twenty years rather than five since inheriting her father’s restaurant. At the end of his career, the man had, for the first and only time, taken a taste from his own spoon, and today, Martha considered doing the same.

Her father was now comfortably retired, having received an unexpected windfall from a past investment. What would happen to Martha if she, too, partook of the mysterious soup? Would she find good fortune or bad? She had no children to carry on the tradition should her life take a sharp and sudden turn for the worst, but then again, whatever happened to her would have been destined anyway, so what did it even matter?

Before, Martha hadn’t understood why her father had been so impatient to meet his fate. Now, she thought she did.

And so, with some trepidation, she dipped her spoon into the aluminum pot. She stared at its contents with avid fascination, and, heart pounding, lifted it to her lips and took a sip.

Now, there was nothing left for Martha to do but stand before her famous brew and wait for her fate to catch up to her.

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