Empty Sky Chapter 2 – The Clarity of Night

Help in Strange Places

(final edit before the proofreaders (he said). Chapter 2 use to be “Children of the Moon” followed by Chapter 3 “The Clarity of Night.” During the rewrite, I couldn’t see a point to keeping the chapters separate so combined them into this single chapter. This also marks the start of some noticeable rewrites (maybe))

Read Empty Sky Chapter 1 – The Cabin

Read the original Empty Sky Chapter 2 – Children of the Moon and Empty Sky Chapter 3 – The Clarity of Night

Jamie slept with Shem beside him. Both lay quietly, resting between dreams.

The Moon, her light walking through the forest on white-slippered feet, lifted her arm to better see.

Tom slept opposite Jamie and Shem, on the far side of the cabin in the bed once shared with Ellie. He’d twitch, kick off his covers, grow chill and pull them up, repeating the pattern while The Moon watched.

Her children, the Oneiroi, little black silhouettes, shadows in the darkness of night, came and went, opening and closing their multicolored, multifaceted, crystalline eyes, kaleidoscopic Gates, little rainbow bridges allowing humans passage from one dream reality to the next.

Above Tom’s bed, a dot, smaller than a piece of dust, winked into existence. It floated down, riding the heat eddies of the woodstove, as if wanting to rest in his ear. Once beside him, it grew horizontally, becoming a slit, then vertically as something stretched it open, spreading it wide. A deeper blackness, an emptiness, a hole in the night, difficult to see and unheard, formed legs, pulled itself free, walked through and stood beside Tom.

The Moon held herself motionless in the sky, her light growing from crescent to full.

“Wake up, Jamie,” beamed The Moon. “Wake up, Shem! Wake! Wake!”

The creature formed amoeba-like pseudopods ending in reaching hands and grabbed the Oneiroi hovering over Tom. Its silhouette crumpled like wadded paper, its life drained from it.

Tom moaned in his sleep, “Ellie…”

Shem stared at the creature and growled.

Jamie woke wide-eyed, his face cold with the damp night air. The smell of heavy, dying earth surrounded him like an unwelcome blanket. The Moon’s bright light screamed full upon his face from the cabin’s window.


Tom’s twitching stilled. The Oneiroi rose like mists from the cabin floor, fleeing, escaping the searching emptiness.

One Oneiroi remained to ensure Tom’s safe return from his dream.

The creature grabbed it.

Tom kicked off his covers.

Jamie sat up.

Shem stood over him, not letting him off the bed.

“Shem, get off me! Dad’s having one of his dreams.”

The trapped Oneiroi’s eyes grew dull then dark, its supple shape becoming hard and angular like flint being struck. A crystalline eye burst from its skull as its little body shattered into black flakes.

Tom hadn’t returned from his dream. He let out a quiet sob. “Ellie.”

The opening in the night winked itself shut, closing horizontally then vertically, space folding like a napkin until only a pinpoint remained, then it, too, disappeared.

Dark night filled the cabin.

Shem leapt to the floor, sniffing the air and whining as they neared Tom’s bed.

Jamie’s stood over his dad, curling his feet against the cold wooden floor tendrilling through his thick wool socks, the cold October night reaching through his longjohns, listening to his father whimper, and tucked him under the covers.

Shem put a paw on Tom’s cot and looked at Jamie.

“It’s okay, Shem. He’s dreaming about mom again. He’ll be okay in a minute.”

Shem went to the door and whined.

“You’re a pee-bucket, Mr. Shem. Come on, you old dog.”

Shem and Jamie stood in the cold in the clearing in front of the cabin. Jamie’s shadow stretched out long and full as the moon grew from crescent to full, his shadow’s lines given sharp edges by the moon’s intense light. He’d never seen his shadow like that, not even in the noonday sun.

He stood silent for a moment and watched it echo his movements, waving its arm when he did, walking when he did. The intense moonlight even shadowed the mist from Jamie’s breath as if his shadow breathed when he breathed.

It even turned back to the full mooned sky when he did.

The moon’s face changed as he watched. Mom told him about Rabbit and Mouse, about The Old Man in the Moon, all sorts of stories people believed about the moon. This was the first time he clearly saw a woman’s face, though. Mom never told him anything like that.

She looked down at him and shed a tear, turned her face away and went from full back to crescent.

“Have you ever seen anything like that, Shem? We’ll have to tell Dad.”

He looked around. Night frightened most of his friends, even Bobby Games, but it didn’t frighten Jamie. Not even full mooned nights. Uncle Jack told stories about werewolves, shapeshifting people who howled on bright moon nights. Bobby hated those stories but Jamie just sat and listened. Bobby asked, “Aren’t you scared?” and Jamie shook his head, no.

He’d always been more comfortable at night. He didn’t know why. Maybe because with the moon so bright everything could be seen, clearly revealed in black and white.

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Hey Joe! Tell us a little about yourself.
I consider myself boring and dull.

Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?

It starts with “Not only is Joseph Carrabis a fellow Black Rose Writing and Book Fiends author friend, he’s an amazingly nice and generous guy. I am looking forward to meeting him in person in November, but right now you can get to know him a little better with my next World-building Showcase interview.”

The Mighty Phoebes (Steampunk author Phoebe Darqueling, for those who don’t know) asked me lots of questions, I fumbled through several answers.

The real kicker is where I wrote “I’m told that my work is so tightly written that it’s tough to remove stuff without throwing everything else out of whack.”

The Mighty Phoebes, proving the lie, pulled about four pages from my responses and you’d never know.

The Mighty Phoebes is a Mighty Editor, she.

Take a read, hope you enjoy, be sure to leave comments. She’ll like that.


Sometimes smart women get stuck with dumb men. But not for long.

As I mentioned in The Raping of Cyrynda Strong, in the early 1990s I wrote a triptych of stories in which women took the lead and not always to their benefit. Although not part of the triptych, my success with Cymodoce, spurred me into give a female lead/POV a whirl.

The first story was Rachel, Above the Clouds, While Flying (and was recently published in Across the Margin). The Raping of Cyrynda Strong came next and this story, “Striders”, came last. I can’t tell if it still needs some polish.

Let me know what you think, and thanks.


Gladys stopped in the doorway between the comm and the ship’s claustrophobic living-room. She could see Dobrynin shuffling on his roll-bed and balanced herself in mid stride, the toe of one slipper not quite touching the floor, her tiny figure framed by the comm’s instrument lighting.

Dobrynin sat up and scratched his beard and gut. “Where’d’you go?”

“I…I had to go to the john.”

“You didn’t fuck anything up, did you?”

Alarms sounded.

“What in hell?” He glanced at her and rose. Instinctively she backed away as he hurried into the comm. “Coil chamber integrity, zero. Stabilization manifolds point-ten and dropping. Life-support viability,” Dobrynin toggled a switch which flipped the readout back and forth, “recycling heap and atmospheric plant, both failing. Well, Gladys, not even you could have done this.”

She sighed and her shoulders relaxed.

Dobrynin studied the instruments one more time. “It looks like we’re going down.”

Slowly the stars came back into view and the Venturer shook as the jump drive indicator lights died.

Gladys called up the maps and arranged them according to the emerging star patterns.

“Don’t touch that.” He slapped her hand away from the interface panel as he studied the maps for a landing site. “Emerson’s Planet or Nemel. Some choice.”.

She peered over his shoulder. “Nemel’s closer to trade routes this time of year.”

“I am trying to think.”


“We’ll go to Emerson’s Planet. It’s got breathable air and fresh water according to the map. It shows green, so there’s got to be vegetation down there, too. Computer, estimate time before system failure.”

A synthetic female voice replied, “15.7.25.”

He touched the planet’s image on the map. “Locate landing site on selected body.”

A panel lit up to Dobrynin’s right. The female voice said, “Working.”

Dobrynin moved his feet to the servos. They responded with little effort. “Good. At least we won’t crash.” He punched in a descending spiral orbit on the flight control computers, letting the planet pull them in until the computer came back with some findings.

“Landing site found,” the computer said a minute later. A series of crosshairs and circles formed on the map.

“Auto pilot,” Dobrynin said. The servos went limp as the computer assumed responsibility for the descent. Dobrynin went into the storage bay to check food, power, and weapons. Gladys followed him in. “I don’t want you in here, Gladys.”

She nodded, crossed her arms tightly over her chest and walked back to the comm.

An hour later they were on the ground. Dobrynin sent up a Caster then went back to finish checking on their supplies. Within a few minutes the Caster flew over a group of grazing quadrupedal creatures.

Gladys stood alone and observed the creatures in the Caster’s monitor. “Hmm. Morbid thorax and abdomen, at least by earth-standards. Hirsute, rounded mandibular structure, prehensile proboscis and osculates, bi-aural and ocular, apparently herbivores, three-hundred kilo by two-point-seven meter average.”

She flipped the Caster from automatic to manual and gently nudged the joystick.

The Caster flew lower and the creatures broke into a run. “Unguligrade perissodactyl tylopods, evolved for extended trotting and moving in 1-2,3-4 rhythm.”

Dobrynin came up behind her quietly. His hand snapped forward and crushed hers around the joystick, ramming it forward so that the Caster flew among the creatures, knocking some over and scything through the hides of others with its blades.

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The Goatmen of Aguirra Serialized on Piker Press

Journey to a distant planet… find home

Sand Pilarski, the genius Managing Editor of The Piker Press, is serializing The Goatmen of Aguirra starting as this week’s cover story and running for the next seven.

I am thrilled, and thanks to Sand and The Piker Press for accepting this novella.

For those unfamiliar with the story…
The Goatmen of Aguirra is based on my experiences as a cultural anthropologist working with aboriginal societies. I wrote it side by side with The Augmented Man back in the early 1990s. I sent it to a few markets. One editor requested several edits and finally rejected it with “I think I’ve done more damage with my suggestions than helped it.”

Yeah. Well. Thanks.

In the end, nobody bought it so I shelved it.

In 2015 I gave up a business I grew from my basement to having offices in the US, Canada, and the EU. Susan (wife/partner/Princess) said, “I’ve never seen you happier than when you’re writing your fiction, so I want you to do that for the rest of your life.”

It’s wonderful when the one true love of your life knows what you love in your life, isn’t it?

I included The Goatmen of Aguirra in my self-published anthology, Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires, which’s received good reviews so far.

I decided to send The Goatmen of Aguirra around again. But now it had a blackmark – “previously published.”

I saw The Piker Press and thought, sure, why not. But I started with an email entitled “Querying before submitting” and gave a two paragraph synopsis. Sand wrote back

Yes, I’d like to see it very much. Please send it along, and give me a couple days to read through.

I sent it. She wrote back

What a captivating and thought-provoking story! Once I sarted reading, I couldn’t stop. Every interruption seemed like a catastrophe.

And The Goatmen of Aguirra saw print in a recognized market earlier this week.

Remember what I wrote in 30 Years to Publication?

Yeah, I’m feeling good.

Take a read. Let Sand and me know what you think. ‘Preciate it.

The Raping of Cyrynda Strong

Is it ‘rape’ if we give ourselves willingly, even when warned of the outcome?

Back in the early 1990s I wrote a triptych of stories (I hoped) from a woman’s point of view. Cymodoce, written in the late 1980s and in limited 3rd, had a female main character and, when anonymously workshopped, people thought it the work of a female hand. It went on to receive a Nebula recommendation in 1995 (Tomorrow Magazine).

With that behind me, I went for it. Rachel, Above the Clouds, While Flying came first (and was recently published in Across the Margin). “The Raping of Cyrynda Strong” came next and I’ve hesitated sending it out due to the title (I explain the title at the end of this post). Next week I’ll share the last in the triptych, “Striders”, which I think is a great story and am still reviewing before sending it out.

Let me know what you think, and thanks.

The Raping of Cyrynda Strong

It was done and she felt herself relax.


“Care to go for a walk?” Michael asked.

She thought for a moment.

Pros slid into cons faster than she liked: she liked him, he was cute, he was a gentleman, he listened to her. It was their first date, there were some beach houses within screaming distance with lights on, the beach was deserted, he might turn into a monster — two arms, two legs, and a dick. She remembered a joke a friend told her, “…I’ve already got one asshole in my pants, I don’t need another.”

Another car entered the parking lot. A man and a woman got out, the man’s deep voice and the woman’s high laughter ran ahead of them as they made their way down to the sand. Not far onto the beach the man and woman kissed lightly, affectionately, then continued hand in hand.

Something in Cyrynda ached. “Sure. Maybe a short walk. I don’t want to go far.”

She and Michael walked from the parking lot down to the beach followed by a coterie of quietly clacking gulls. Behind them the late summer sun was setting. Red arms of dusk started in the west and reached along both north and south horizons. Above them the sky was dark. Waves licked up the beach and foamed briefly when they broke. Small pools collected in their footsteps as they walked along the sand. The ocean smelled of a rapidly cooling night, tidal pools, and sun-dried seaweed and skate-cases. When they stopped the gulls gathered ten feet from them, waiting for any scraps they might throw.

A slight breeze brought a hint of autumn and winter to come. The other couple ran past at a respectful distance, their laughter and whispers washing up and over Michael and Cyrynda like a gently tearing wake. Cyrynda took Michael’s hand and he kept his eyes on the sky.

“Do you know anything about the stars?” he asked her.

“I’m a Sagittarius, if that’s what you mean.”

He laughed. “Do you know which stars are in Sagittarius?”

“No. I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen it before. Except in books, I mean.”

“May I?” He stood behind her and gently moved against her so that their bodies were touching, then rested his head on top of hers.

She felt her belly quiver at his touch. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Now, move your head with mine and look along my arms.” He framed part of the sky with his hands. “See that collection of stars between my hands?”


“That’s Sagittarius.”

“It is?” She bobbed her head forward as if the extra inches would bring the stars closer.

“And that star at the tip of my finger?” He twitched his right index finger, “That’s called ‘Kaus Australis’.” He moved a finger on his other hand. “That one’s called ‘Nunki’.”

“What’s that kind of fog going through it?”

He laughed again. “That’s the Milky Way. The galaxy. Sagittarius – the constellation – is on the way to the center of the galaxy. The different stars aren’t, though. All those stars are different distances away. You’d eventually pass them all, but not all at once.”

“Sounds like you’ve gone out that way.”

“No,” he smiled. She felt herself getting used to him being there, behind her, wrapped in his arms. It was safe and protected. “Not out that way.”

“So what sign are you?”

“I don’t know. They don’t have zodiacal divination where I come from.”

“Zodiacal divination,” she repeated. “Sounds like some kind of disease. Where are you from that you never learned your Zodiac sign?”

“I’m from Siyo Sunka.”

He pulled away but she held his arms around her, letting him encircle her beneath her breasts.

“I never heard of Siyo…sunka? Where is it?”

“You really want to know?”

“Of course I do. I might have to go there on business someday.”

He laughed again. “Okay.” He turned them south and pointed to a bright star on the horizon. “See that?”


“I’m from a little planet orbiting a star about sixty years behind that one.”

She felt herself go cold and wondered how to gently pull away from him. Her friend’s asshole joke echoed in her mind. Her breath caught tight in her chest, her belly’s excited trills stopped and her gut twisted slightly.

He released her before she said or thought any other thing. “You asked,” he said.

“You’re serious?”

He put his hand to his forehead and scrunched his face in concentration. “Uh? What? Jimmy? Janis? Is that you?” He stared into the sky, just overhead, then to the horizons. He spun on his heels then stared back overhead. “I’m coming,” he said and smiled at her.

She didn’t smile back.

He held his hands up, palms out. “Sorry. Acid flashback to the sixties. I didn’t mean to scare you.”


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