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.

Hello?

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This post was originally published through Patreon on August 22, 2018.

Alex woke to his cell phone ringing and answered just before it went to voicemail.

“Hello?”

“It’s been a long time.”

“Who’s this?”

The voice sounded familiar, but Alex couldn’t place it.

“You know who I am. You haven’t forgotten.”

“Kevin?”

Laughter was his only reply.

“Susie?”

Again, that laugh, hollow and dry.

A memory flashed before Alex’s mind like a shard of bright stained glass, a missive from the distant past: a pair of sunken eyes and a toadstool smile. Alex couldn’t remember who it was, but he was certain that face matched the voice on the other end of this call.

“Hello?”

A moment later, a name materialized to go along with the face. Not a normal name, not in the least, but just as familiar as that awful poisonous smile.

“Melthane.”

“You see?” said the voice at last. “I told you you hadn’t forgotten.”

Now, memories were piling one on top of the other. Flashes of another life. Flashes of another world.

“What do you want?”

“A marvelous place, Earth. We had all the magic, but this science and technology—this miraculous ability to build, to organize, to brute-force one’s ideas into existence—that’s its own special kind of magic, wouldn’t you say? Arguably more powerful than the sort you and I once dabbled in.”

It was all coming back to him now. His home, along with the reason he’d left it. But oh, God, he didn’t want to remember. The darkness. The destruction. Until Melthane reminded him of who he was, he’d managed to forget. Now, the peace of ignorance was gone, and it was never coming back.

“What do you want?” Alex said again, locking the bedpost beside him in a white-knuckled grip.

Melthane maintained silence a moment longer, but Alex could sense his deepening smile as if it had made a sound.

“My dear Alex, I only wanted you to remember.”

Click.

“Hello? Menthane, are you there?”

But Alex already knew the line was dead.

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The One That Got Away

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Giles has the man right where he wants him. He’s not a man, of course—at least on the inside—but something much worse, something dangerous. As more than a man himself, Giles easily recognizes the creature for what it is. Trailing twenty or thirty feet behind, Giles watches as the man sits down at a bus stop and pulls out the L.A. Times.

He angles around to get a better view, and once the man is clearly within Giles’s sights, he pulls out the leather notebook and pen he always keeps in his right pants pocket, opens to the next blank page, and begins to write.

It’s a binding, something he’s practiced a dozen times before in his own private language. Of course, the language isn’t important, only that the meaning of the words is clear and concise enough to capture the creature’s essence, to draw it out from the fabric of reality and into the pages of his notebook.

He starts with the more superficial details and works his way in, capturing all the nuances of the man’s behavior as he thumbs through the pages of his newspaper. If Giles does his job properly, the man won’t realize what’s happened until the binding is nearly complete, and by then it will be too late.

The man is already starting to fade like the end of a silent film when Giles hears a horn, followed by the sound of two cars colliding, and he turns to gawk at the accident. His concentration is only compromised for a moment, but a moment is all it takes. When he turns back toward the bench, the man is gone.

Giles’s heart stops and his mouth runs dry. It takes him a few moments to process what’s happened, to truly appreciate how badly he’s screwed up.

The man is gone. The man. Gone.

Oh, no.

Giles starts riffling through the notebook, checks to see if perhaps he’s written enough to complete the binding after all. But of course, he hasn’t. He can feel the man, floating between two realities, angry and disoriented.

What have I done?

Giles has, until now, considered himself to be a careful man. And yet, after allowing himself to be distracted, the man got away. Now, all he can do is stand beneath a bright yellow sun, the late afternoon heat rolling off his neck and shoulders, and wonder what he’ll have to do to finish the job before the man can hurt anyone else.

To read the whole story, pick up my short novelette Inkbound  here.

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The World Inside the Rain

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This post was originally published through Patreon on August 15, 2018.

Samantha steps into the rain with her head down. But even with her eyes set upon her feet, it’s impossible to look away. The world is gray and lifeless, the sky overhead smothered by ominous charcoal clouds. Yet there is also light, and it is that first and foremost which catches her eye, though she’d rather look away.

She glimpses her reflection in a nearby puddle, haloed by colors that can’t be be found in her own darkened sky, and jerks away.

But now, the sight is no better, for the rain has started to fall in massive pelting sheets, and the light that emanates from it is the same light from the puddle: blindingly bright and multi-hued, an impossible composition that always leaves her bewildered and disoriented.

Twirling the umbrella in her hands, Samantha hunkers against the storm and breaks into a sprint.

Most people, when they see the rain, see drab smudges of gray. But not Samantha. Samantha sees light, as if the rain is composed not of water but of thick shining shards of glass. And what she sees in the puddles that accumulate beneath her feet are often stranger, not only the reflections of her own world but the reflections of another—the world inside the rain—as if they’re not puddles at all but windows, made up of that same glittering glass.

It used to fascinate her as a child. In those days, the world exuded some mystical property that transformed everything, not only the rain, into something extraordinary, otherworldly. In those days, the rain was just one more mystery, one more miracle stacked atop a mountain of other miracles.

Then she grew up, and she learned that what she saw in the otherwise gloomy weather was not what other people saw. She reached the only possible conclusion she could think of: that there was something wrong with her mind, that if she wasn’t careful, madness would take over.

So now, whenever the weather turns dark, she looks away. She refuses to see what can’t be real, regarding the lies her senses feed her as an affront to her dignity. She stays inside whenever possible, and when she has no choice but to walk the sparkling streets in the midst of a storm, she keeps her head down, squinting whenever her vision strays too near a glowing puddle and focusing instead on the grass or the gravel, the asphalt or the cement, until she’s tucked safely inside a nearby building, away from that which she cannot—dares not—understand.

But today, the weather is rough, more so than ever before. The wind has transformed into the howling whistle of a nightmare made manifest, and the rain that cascades from the sky is like an omnipresent waterfall, with that other glittering world at its center.

Perhaps most disturbing is that it’s no longer just her eyes that register this alien environment but her skin. She feels the heat of a sun that can’t possibly be her own, and no matter how loudly she proclaims that “this can’t be real,” that “this can’t be happening,” both her body and her heart are beginning to suspect otherwise.

Samantha runs faster. To where, she doesn’t know. She only knows she has to get away. She is propelled by a raw and primal fear that pushes her further along unfamiliar streets and avenues, until she finds herself facing a flooded alley, the light so strong, so impossibly brilliant, it fills her vision like an ocean.

“This isn’t right,” she whispers. But, in fact, there’s a blossoming feeling in her chest that tells her it is right, that whatever fate or destiny she’s spent her entire life running away from has come to claim her at last.

Though the air is cold, the heat of the world inside the rain suffuses her skin. And when she strains her ears, she thinks she hears a voice, soft and gentle, calling to her from a distance.

“Come,” it says, tugging at her heart like a soul-magnet.

She steps forward, toward the flood in the alley and the light inside.

Don’t go, she thinks. None of this is real.

Then again, that otherworldly voice: “Come.”

And Samantha, though she’s feared the rain and what it might mean her entire adult life, is now caught in the gravitational pull of something larger than herself, something larger than the entire world. She no longer sees the drab and the gray, but the promise of another life, the fulfillment of a mysterious destiny she can no longer deny.

“Come,” says the voice one last time.

This time, Samantha listens. She backs away on legs like coiled springs, then leaps into the light.

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