Of all my stories, Cathuranjalee is the most satisfying. Like the title character, the tale had a rough road to freedom. Quite a bit of research went into it because I wanted authenticity in the characters’ clothing and locations in the Nubian desert. I dashed off a 2,000 word first draft and my writing group advised me that the ending was abrupt and unsatisfying. A couple of rewrites later, length tripled, it was ready for submission. Almost immediately, it was snatched up by a publisher of fantasy fiction. I signed a contract and waited. It never saw print, but I was contractually obligated to wait a full 18 months before I could submit elsewhere. When I did, Inked In Gray Press published it in “What Remains,” an anthology of excellent short stories available on Amazon.
Here’s another sci-fi tale that packs a lot of story in a small space. It tells how a moon got its first homesteaders and how society grew. It’s also about a mother teaching her son about death. All in 1,462 words. Published in September 2020 by the speculative fiction magazine All Worlds Wayfarer. To buy the issue, find a link on my Amazon author page.
In an interesting addendum, writing this story lead to an author interview.
Mourning on Calendas
by DL Shirey
“There.” Lalin’s first word since I explained the rules of quiet.
He had been emulating other mourners he’d seen today: their slow, exaggerated strides, prayer-hands folded beneath chins, heads tilted downward. Now, Lalin remembered the path from a year ago and ran up the switchback to the top of the slope.
When he looked back and saw I hadn’t altered my lockstep, he flattened his palms together and pulled them to his chest. When he bowed his head again I could see his silvery blond hair needed cutting.Continue reading
Mt. Tabor is a park atop an ancient cinder cone, within walking distance of my house in Portland, Oregon. It is quite a climb up that hill. There
is used to be a statue at the summit, of a newspaperman pointing west. The trek up to the statue was the inspiration of the story. In actuality, he stands alone. For the story I invented Statue Boy, to add an element of surrealism and to have another character to interact with the protagonist.
I don’t know the politics of the newspaperman, but Oregon has a history–to be polite–of not being particularly welcoming to minorities. This is also a theme I wanted to touch on in the story. This piece was first published in September 2020 by Fleas on the Dog. And, by the way, this is the second Portland statue that inspired a story.
Stone Man & Statue Boy
by DL Shirey
Alone at the top of 79 stairs, only my footprints follow. Each step below has a concrete space kicked from the steep, powdery incline. I pause to catch my breath, feel the rasp at the back of my throat from cold air and tired lungs. SUVs will soon brave the snowy streets, depositing children and sleds and romping dogs in the parking lot below this hillside park.
Even though I’ve stopped walking, there remains a sense of forward motion as clouds push fast overhead. Yet there doesn’t seem to be any wind down here in the park; nothing to help the trees shrug off their burdens of white.Continue reading
Less than a year had gone by since I started writing pretty much every day. I was really into flash fiction by then; virtually all the stuff I was cranking out was 500 words or less. Monocle is for M was 500, Surf Guitar was 100 and Spat was 350. With these publishing opportunities under my belt, I was sharing a new story to my writing group practically every week.
At the same time I was having issues tracking all of my submissions. I was keeping an Excel spreadsheet (which eventually became The Short List) and trying to log those few acceptances along with the many, many, many, many, many rejections. I vividly remember the “personal note” from an editor, telling me that I had duplicated a story submission and that he didn’t like it the first time he read it.Continue reading
This story was prompted by my own neglect and/or stupidity. On my first night vacationing in Scotland, I looked the wrong direction (the right way in America), saw no cars and stepped into the street. Nothing happened, but when I looked the other way, a big double decker was halfway up the block. I stepped back before the driver could honk his horn.
The “what if” became H__NGS, published in September 2020 by Potato Soup Journal.
by DL Shirey
The American looked tired. The paper band of airport codes wrapped around the handle of his luggage told of boarding at La Guardia and deplaning in Edinburgh. He had caught the local rail here, to Waverley station. He was unfamiliar with the city in particular, Great Britain in general, and all of Europe, in fact. It was his very first business trip traveling abroad.
He exited the train. The only person on the platform was a young woman in a slicker, her blue hair plastered down from the rain. The American pulled out a phone and the directions to his hotel: cross the one-way street, left for two blocks and turn right. Hungry, he consulted Yelp, saw the sign for HONGS across the street and re-pocketed the phone. Looking left for oncoming cars he saw nothing, so he popped open his umbrella, regripped his rolling suitcase and stepped off the curb.Continue reading
Back in the day I was a fan of the Grateful Dead and one of my favorite songs was (and is) Sugaree. There’s another tribute inasmuch as the title character wears a GD T-shirt, but that’s as far as the nostalgia goes. This story is about headaches and a cure that’s pure speculative fiction. Published in Issue One of the Australian journal Curiouser Magazine.
Hypochondriac isn’t the proper description for the character in this story. He’s more an ignoraphobic when it comes to illness. 99 times out of 100, when he disregards an ache or pain, it will go away in a day or two. If it doesn’t, this fellow will ignore it and self-diagnose a likely, commonplace malady. Above all he voids websites such as WebMD like the plague.
Of course, every once in a while, if the symptoms get really bad, he is forced to go get it checked out. When that happens, the treatment can be far worse than if I had just gone to the doctor in the first place. I mean HE, the character in this story published by Flashes Lit Journal.
I was given the opportunity to submit audio for Micro, a podcast that features writers reading flash fiction that had been published elsewhere. Subject matter is quite heavy on all three of these pieces. My reading was Yesterdays’ Pictures which originally appeared in Reflex Fiction. Give a listen to this and all the other episodes.
Welcome to 2037. The future is not some bleak, post-apocalyptic wasteland. Oh, contraire. The world is exceedingly happy. Everything is good. All needs are met. Everyone is going to have a nice day. Originally published in April 2020 by Freedom Fiction.
Have A Nice Day
by DL Shirey
The cavernous assembly area is far behind me, but I can still hear the pleasant lilt of the repeated message, “Please face forward. Remove your hats. Keep the line moving. Thank you for your patience.” The voice isn’t robotic nor is it a recording. A live human is speaking with an amiable drawl, her words reverberating enthusiasm.
She is obviously enjoying herself. We all strive to be like her. It’s what I want, too. I look forward to my morning placement because I can’t wait to find my perfect job.Continue reading
Before she started proofreading this story, I remember cautioning my wife that this one was quite twisted. So when I saw that there was an anthology looking for “body horror,” to be named Twisted Anatomy, I had to submit. Please do not venture into this anthology unaware: there are more than two dozen stories, some of which should be labelled with warning stickers. My story, “Under the Avatars” is right at home among them. Available for purchase on Amazon.
And check out my author’s page for other publications in which my stories appear.