“Dying Breath” is released!

A place of waiting.

The thought echoes over and over again through Jerome’s mind. Waking in a barn with no memory of where he’s come from, it is his only clue. But before he even has time to think, sleep bears down on him, and when he opens his eyes again, he’s someone else.

A soldier one moment, a financial analyst the next. A little girl. An old man. With each life Jerome experiences, he remembers something else of his own. Flashes of a bright light. A hospital bed. A mysterious woman named Darlene.

But what does it mean? What does each life have in common? Most importantly, what can it tell Jerome about himself?

My latest short story, Dying Breath, is released today!

About a year ago, I posted the first rough draft on Patreon. Now, finally, after having been through three editors, it’s released 🙂 I had a great time writing it, and I’m excited to share it with all of you.

You can buy the e-book for your Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nook or Google device for just $1.99.

Find it for the Amazon Kindle by clicking here.
Find it for your Kobo device by clicking here.
Find it for the Barnes & Noble Nook by clicking here.
Find it on Google Play by clicking here.

I hope you enjoy the story, and if you feel so inclined, I hope you’ll write to me at jeff at jeffcolemanwrites dot com to let me know what you thought of the story 🙂

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Get a free copy of Rite of Passage

“His name is Gol. He is not an ogre or a troll, a gnome, a fairy or a centaur. There are no stories written of his kind. He was once human like the boy, but he is human no longer.”

Gol, a creature of the Earth yet apart from it, a creature of arcane powers with an ancient mission not even he fully understands. He cannot propagate, yet he must sire offspring to continue his life’s work.

James, a boy who lives in dreams and the imagination, a boy inebriated with the wonders and mysteries of life. He will learn too soon that the world harbors darker secrets.

A bittersweet tale of loss and regret, death and rebirth, growth and transformation, Rite of Passage will remind you why you were once afraid of the dark, and will call to mind the mystical innocence of childhood that was forever stolen from each of us.

Subscribe to my mailing list to receive a free digital copy of my illustrated short story, Rite of Passage. You’ll receive a bi-weekly email with updates about my books, but can unsubscribe at any time. If you have questions, you can email me at jeff@jeffcolemanwrites.com.

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A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 10

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You can read part 9 here. Reading for the first time? You can find part 1 here.

I rushed headfirst into the closet. It wasn’t until I brushed past hanging coats and pants and nearly bumped my head against the wall that I realized the doorway to the other world had already closed.

I felt as if all the wind had been knocked out of me. I slumped against the wall, closed my eyes and covered my face with my hands.

I’d been so close.

Tears squeezed out of my eyes unbidden, and I was overcome with despair. I would never get home now, I thought. I was stuck in a hateful world with a hateful mom and a hateful brother. I would never see my real mom again, and my double would continue to enjoy the life he’d stolen from me justice-free.

“Mom.”

I stopped crying. I looked up and cocked my head so I could hear better.

“Mom.”

I heard it again. I knew that voice. It was quiet and filled with pain. Tom.

Despair vanished, replaced with the raw instinct to survive. I scrambled off the floor and ran from the closet. I paused in the doorway, looked for signs that Tom had seen me, then jogged silently toward the stairs.

I heard him call again for his mom. Each time his voice grew softer, farther. I moved down the steps as fast as I could manage without making sound.

I halted when I reached the bottom. Once again, like the first day I’d come to this place, vertigo and a sense of otherworldliness swept over me as I took in the living room before me, all at once familiar and strange.

Then Tom called again from upstairs, and the spell was broken. I dashed for the front door. I panicked when at first it didn’t open, and it took me a moment before I realized I had to undo the lock. I ran outside, sailed across the concrete path and darted off along the sidewalk, into the moonlit night.

I ran. I ran some more. I didn’t stop. I looked around at the houses in my neighborhood. Mirror-Eugene’s neighborhood. The houses were similar but different. The street was more rundown than my own, as if it had suffered years of neglect. It reminded me of some of the more destitute communities in my own world, which I sometimes saw pictures of on TV.

I ran until brief pinpricks in my right side blossomed into sharp stabbing pains. I slowed, and only when I stopped did I realize my breathing had grown ragged and that I could barely stand. Adrenaline had abandoned me, leaving me weak and disoriented.

I gazed about, lost. At some point I’d wandered away from the area I recognized, even more dilapidated than where I’d started. Large concrete structures loomed overhead, stained and chipped with age. Many were surrounded by chain link fences, some of which were topped with barbed wire. Plumes of smoke rose into the air, illuminated by the moon and artificial lighting so that they seemed like spirits rising into heaven.

I would have been scared had I not been so exhausted. I leaned against a decrepit wall and closed my eyes.

I thought I’d only take a minute to rest and catch my breath.  But when I opened my eyes again, the sun was up, I was on the ground and I wasn’t alone.

Continued next week…

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A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 9

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You can read part 8 here. Reading for the first time? You can find part 1 here.

I stepped out into the hallway, quivering with adrenaline in the aftermath of revenge. Each of my senses had stretched as far as they would go, so that I was no longer certain if the creaks and thumps I heard were real or if they were a product of my frenzied imagination. I stopped, paused to make certain the footsteps I heard were my own, then crept along the hallway like a spider, keeping as much to the feeble shadows as possible.

Soiled ivory-colored objects lined the walls at intervals, strung together so they resembled primitive necklaces. Some were long, others were short. Some were connected by balls and joints, others hung by only the string that bound them. I peered more closely, and almost gave myself away with a cry when I realized they were bones.

I moved faster.

I was halfway to the stairs when I heard a sound, a faint clicking noise, followed by what I was sure were feet padding across the carpet. It came from the open doorway of a room very close to where I stood. My head swiveled first to the room to see if I’d been spotted, then around again in search of cover.

I spied a bookcase filled with dusty weathered volumes beside me. It wasn’t much, but it was all I could find, and I dove for the shadow it provided.

I froze. Waited. Listened. When I was certain it was safe, I crept closer to survey the threat and to figure out when it would be best to continue my trek down the stairs.

The light inside was dim, and I had to strain my eyes to see. When I caught sight of my double’s mom, I nearly recoiled again. But her eyes were closed, and she was sitting Indian-style on the floor in front of her closet. She obviously hadn’t seen me. Around her neck hung a necklace like the ones I’d seen on the hallway walls. I stared at her, trying to discern what she was doing.

Suddenly her eyes popped open. I ducked behind the door frame, and I waited for ages before I dared peek again. When I did, I found her staring ahead at her closet. I relaxed.

She got up, and as if in a trance, she began to move toward the door. She reached for the knob and opened it. I gasped.

I’d seen this once before, when my double had opened my closet door and shown me another world. I was certain I’d discovered a passage home. I would follow her through the door, and then I would find mirror-Eugene and make him pay for what he’d done.

I rushed into the room. Fear evaporated, reduced only to raw instinct and determination. The door closed behind my double’s mom just as I reached the knob. I grasped it. Twisted. Pulled.

The door opened.

Read part 10 here.

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A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 8

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You can read part 7 here. Reading for the first time? You can find part 1 here.

I hid behind the door, wearing the darkness of the night like a cloak. I waited, eager for freedom, eager for revenge. I would no longer be my new big brother’s punching bag. The prey had become the predator.

I chose the night, not only because the dark gave me an advantage, but because that was when my brother usually came to see me. He liked to torture me before bed. Today, the tables would be turned.

I crouched, face hidden in shadow, and I brooded. How could my double have done this to me? He’d pretended to be my friend. We’d told each other stories. We’d shared in each other’s secrets. And then he’d betrayed me. I’d been so naive, so quick to trust. I would never make that mistake again.

I heard footsteps, muffled at first, like the sound of a distant drum. Soon the sound grew louder, until it had approached the other side of the door.

“Hey, dumbshit. I’m coming in to say goodnight.”

Tom. He laughed, a malevolent chuckle that caused the surface of my body to break out in goosebumps.

I stood there, silent, taut and alert.

A set of keys rattled. There was a clunk, a sound like a zipper as the key fed into the lock, then a click. A pinprick of time stretched, pregnant with possibilities. Then the door creaked slowly open. Light poured into the room.

“Hey Dumbshit, where are you?” Tom looked around, unable to see me from the doorway.

I’d performed a dozen thought-experiments, had trained myself with countless mental simulations. But this was not a thought experiment. This was real life, and real life was good at throwing wrenches in even the most well laid of plans. I had to tread carefully.

“Lost your voice, Dumbshit?” My new brother crept forward, eyes focused ahead as he scanned first the bed, then the space by the closet. “Get out here. Now.”

I grabbed the edge of the door to steady myself, sweat popping out of my forehead. I inched closer, one tiny step after another. I had to be careful, had to time this just right. If Tom moved at the wrong moment, if he turned his head before I was ready

Tom’s eyes flicked in my direction. I rushed him.

“Eug

That was all he managed to say before my foot thrust upward, making contact with the tender spot between his legs. Tom grabbed himself, eyes bulging with pain and surprise. He sucked in a lungful of air, hoarded it like a spoiled child before letting it out in a long and shuddering gasp. He sank to his knees, looked up and opened his mouth again.

“Mom!” he rasped. “Euge

I kicked him again. Again. And again.

Each blow produced a soft thud, a sound entirely at odds with the force of my blows. I delighted in his suffering, reveled in it. Where was that evil grin now?

“How does it feel?” I asked, planting another one squarely in the groin. “Does it feel good?” Thud. “Tell me, Tom.” Thud. “Does it feel good?”

He writhed on the floor like an injured snake, clutching at his man parts. I could hear him trying to speak, and I kicked him again.

I didn’t want to pull away. I wanted to hurt him some more, wanted to pay him back for all he’d done with interest. But I had to get out of there before my new mom wandered by and discovered what I’d done to the light of her life.

Tom curled into a ball like a rolley-polley. I left him there, confident that he wouldn’t be a problem for a while. I headed for the door.

I squinted up at the flood of light from outside my room, momentarily disoriented. I clutched the threshold with trepidation, not quite believing that I could walk away so easily. I couldn’t screw this up now, not when I was so close. I hesitated, glanced over my shoulder at the closet where my double had imprisoned me only three weeks ago. Once I left this room, that door was lost to me forever.

Actually, it was already lost the moment I’d attacked mirror-Tom. But once I left that place, I would have to admit to myself that there would be no rescue, that nobody would come bursting through the door in the nick of time as had happened so often on TV. I would have to wander through the desert of a foreign world in search of a way back home, understanding that I may never get there, that mirror-Eugene might forever enjoy what he had so callously stolen from me. The thought filled my gut with bile, but there was nothing to be done about it now.

When my eyes adjusted to the light, I spared a final look at Tom. He was no longer moving. Had he lost consciousness? I looked out the window, glimpsed the stars, spattering the sky like glitter, and thought of my double, a nine-year-old Judas Iscariot. I promised that I would come for him, that I wouldn’t let him get away with what he’d done.

Then I stepped across the threshold and said a silent prayer for deliverance. I still had to make it downstairs and out the front door.

Read part 9 here.

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A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 7

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You can read part 6 here. Reading for the first time? You can find part 1 here.

For three days, I thought about how I would get away. My double had used magic to pass from his world into mine. Unfortunately, I would have to find another way.

The window would have been a fantastic choice, had it not been for the fact that it was on the second floor and that there was nothing for me to grab a hold of on the way down. Once, in a mad desire for instant freedom, I considered jumping. But after a careful survey of the ground below, the need for self-preservation overcame the impulse. Survival was paramount. In such a world as this, I would have to look out for myself.

Querying years of accumulated knowledge from TV, I thought in a fit of desperation that perhaps I could tie mirror-Eugene’s clothes and bed sheets together, forming a makeshift rope that I could climb down to freedom. But an hour spent trying to create secure knots in thick swaths of fabric proved futile, and I learned that perhaps TV didn’t possess all the answers after all.

The only way out, I concluded, was through the door. I would have snuck out a long time ago had it not been for the fact that my new mom always kept it locked, and that she only ever opened it to give me food or to let my brother in when he wanted to see me.

For three days, I wracked my brain, and for three days, I came up short. Despair was slowly turning sour, like milk left out in the sun. I began to brood. Hatred toward my double for trapping me in this God-forsaken place transformed into hatred toward new mom and brother, not just for what they had done to me, but for the fact that they looked so much like the ones I had left behind. Their very existence was a mockery, a cruel sadistic torture.

I began to entertain dark thoughts, much like those mirror-Eugene had told me about in the few weeks he’d visited me in my own room. I wanted to hurt them, to make them pay for how they’d treated me.

It was on the third day, during one of my many fantasies, that an idea struck like a bolt of lightening. My lips curled into a slow creeping smile as I lay there in the dark. I could kill two birds with one stone, I realized. I could hurt my new brother, and I could use his pain as an opportunity to escape.

I spent the rest of the night planning, resolved that this would be the last night I’d ever spend in that house.

Read part 8 here.

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A Case of Mistaken Identity: Revised Part 6

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As I mentioned in my last post, I was going back through previously written installments to fix inconsistencies and to improve the story. I’ve finished editing part 6, concluding this round of revision. Starting next week, I’ll continue the series with new material. Thank you very much for your patience, and I hope you’ve enjoyed A Case of Mistaken Identity so far!

Please note that this installment was significantly altered. You can read the revised part 6 here.

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A Case of Mistaken Identity: An Update

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It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted the last installment. I’d like to explain why. As I was going through previous posts and sharing them with others, I was discovering that a lot of what I’d written was inconsistent and needed substantial revision. I’ve taken the time to do so, and have finished editing parts 1-5.

I’m going to revise part 6 next week, and then I’ll continue on with part 7 the following week. Thank you so much for your patience, and I hope you’ll continue to enjoy the story.

Here are links to the revised chapters:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

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A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 6

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You can read part 5 here. Reading for the first time? You can find part 1 here.

Needless to say, my experience in that house was wretched.

My true mother never did come to rescue me. Neither did mirror-Eugene return to tell me it had all been a cruel joke. I held onto this foolish hope for three or four days, staying up late into the night, staring at the inside of my new closet with the door wide open, waiting for the door on the other side to reappear.

A week later, I’d resigned myself to my fate, realizing that I would never see my home again.

I wondered what my double was up to. Was he happy with his new mom? Mom. My mom. I missed her so much my chest ached. I can’t begin to describe the despair and the torment I experienced when I realized she was lost to me forever.

My new mom was just as bad as mirror-Eugene had described and worse. Every morning, I donned torn and weathered hand-me-down clothes; whiled away the hours in my room alone, laying on my bed, staring up at the ceiling; ate a bare-bones breakfast and didn’t dine again until dinner. My two meals per day consisted of meager helpings of burnt toast or leftover stew that did little to nourish my listless body, and each day I would feel the painful teeth of hunger chomp down inside my stomach.

I wasn’t allowed to see other parts of the house, and only ever caught glimpses when someone came by to feed me or when my new brother came to see me. Each time, I regretted it. It was just enough like my own house that I ended up homesick, and just different enough that I would be left feeling dizzy and disoriented.

My new brother was a demon loosed from Hell. He would find me in my room each night before I went to bed, the corners of his wicked grin catching broken shards of moonlight from the window in the dark. He would squeeze my neck in his arms like a vice until I became light headed, or hit various parts of my body until I bruised like an overripe banana.

I would cry out to my new mom in desperation, and each time, she would come to my room in a huff. She would behold her eldest, who beamed up at her, face adorned in an immaculate smile, then turn to me, dripping venom, demand that I keep my goddamn mouth shut and slam the door. I don’t know if she knew what my brother was up to. I didn’t think she would care if she did.

My true older brother and I had always gotten along fairly well. There’d always been the occasional fight, but there’d never been any true malice, not like that between my new older brother and I. The first few nights I protested and demanded to know what I’d ever done to him. For all I knew, mirror-Eugene had brought it on himself. But Tom would only stare at me in silence, a knowing twinkle in his eye, then continue with his gruesome work.

The weight on my soul’s shoulders was too much for me to bear. It crushed me on the inside, so that I could hardly speak, eat, or sleep. My new mother never asked if I was all right. If anything, she seemed relieved when I’d at last discovered the virtue of silence.

I put up with this for three weeks.

It wasn’t until a particularly brutal fraternal beating that left blood spurting from my nose and my right eye swollen shut that my will to survive at last overtook the shock that had come over me since crossing over into mirror-Eugene’s world. I lay on my back that night and made my decision.

I was going to escape.

Read part 7 here.

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A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 5

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You can read part 4 here. Reading for the first time? You can find part 1 here.

Panic seized my chest, and I grew short of breath. I clawed and scratched and pounded at the wall that had only recently been a door, begging mirror-Eugene to let me back through to the other side.

I don’t know how long I’d been banging and shouting, but at some point I heard the door to the room burst open. I turned just in time to watch the knob smash into the wall.

“Eugene! What’s gotten into you? Stop that banging now.”

Mom!

Mom had come to rescue me. Somehow, she’d learned about my twin (or perhaps she’d known all along, a superpower that all mothers seem to have in common.)

“Mom!” I cried, basking in the familiar shape of her face. I ran to her, ready to grab hold of her and to never let go again.

“Eugene,” she snapped. She stared down at me as I attached myself to her leg. “Get off. Eugene, what kind of game are you playing? This isn’t funny.”

The frosty contemptuous tone in her voice stopped me short. I pulled away and examined her face more closely. Suddenly, I felt hopelessly and desperately disoriented. It was like gazing at my mom through a fun house mirror. Some of the features were the same, but there were extreme differences. Whereas the mom I remembered had long brown hair that ran down the sides of her face in curls, this one had short bright red hair that stuck up in uneven bunches. Whereas the mom I remembered possessed flawless alabaster skin, this one had skin that reminded me of the surface of the moon, full of pocks, divots and craters.

She was an aberration, a twisted half-truth that wrenched my stomach and made me feel like throwing up.

“Mom?” Once again, my chest tightened and it was difficult to breathe. “Take me home. Please.”

She glared at me, drilled into my skull with her eyes. I beheld nothing but malice in her features, and something inside me withered, a part of my soul that’s remained lifeless ever since.

Her face flushed, and before I knew what was happening, her right hand flashed before me and I was knocked backward through the air. I peeled myself off the floor a moment later, head swimming, and looked up dazedly to find her standing before me.

Horrified, I reached up to feel the cheek she’d struck. It burned.

I remembered what mirror-Eugene had told me about his own mom, how she locked him in his room every day and wouldn’t let him out except to eat. But I couldn’t believe this was that woman. Despite the differences, she still looked so much like my own mom that I refused to believe she could be anyone else.

God, I want to go home.

Would I ever find my way back home again? With a ferocity I couldn’t possibly articulate, I wanted my mom to reach out to me, to tell me that she loved me, that she would rescue me from this terrible place and take me home. I wanted her to tell me that everything would be okay. More than anything, I just wanted her to tell me everything would be okay.

I cried.

“Oh, stop it with the waterworks, Eugene. It won’t work. Not any more.”

“Mom?” called a sleepy voice from the doorway. It seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place it. “What’s going on?”

I watched through blurred vision as a shape emerged behind her.

“It’s your brother,” she spat. “He’s acting up again.”

The shape behind her moved closer, and as it came into focus my breath caught inside my throat. He looked older, and his voice was deeper, but I recognized my deceased brother despite the difference in years.

“Tom,” I whispered, half in awe, half in disbelief. “But, you’re dead. How did you –” I stopped. Vertigo engulfed me, and it was all I could do just to stand.

He looked down at me, seemingly impassive, but there was a sparkle in his eyes that sent a chill down my spine. “What are you talking about?”

“It’s another one of his games,” she said, pointing to me as if I were a venomous snake.

“Are you playing games?” asked my brother, stepping up to my hands, which were spread out on the floor. He pressed down on them with his left shoe until I cried out in surprise.

“Careful,” he warned, smiling. “Play too many games and someone might get hurt.”

He gazed down at me a moment longer, as if he might have more to say, then suddenly wheeled around and headed back the way he’d come.

“Goodnight, Tom,” said the woman before me, looking back at him beatifically, as if he were the only thing right in her whole world. Then she turned back to me and her smile vanished. “As for you,” she said, following in her older son’s footsteps, “I don’t want to hear another peep. You hear me? Go to sleep. Now. Don’t make me come back here.” Then she too left the room, slamming the door behind her.

But I didn’t go to sleep, and I didn’t sleep again for a long time.

Read Part 6 here.

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