So, it is going to be awhile before the second story in The Tales of Lucas White is available anywhere but Kindle and Smashwords. I’ve entered it in Smashwords Summer/Winter Promotion, so you can get it free until the end of the month. Use code SSWSF at checkout for Smashwords/Stanza/Aldiko. Stanza is iStuff app for ebooks, Aldiko is Droid’s. The free price should extend to Amazon in a day or two from price matching. Freeness ends at end of month, at which point Smashwords will hopefully have ISBNs available and The Game will get shipped out to Nook and such. Still waiting for The Bar to show up on Nook store, it shipped from Smashwords on the 8th, so hopefully soon. It is available on Smashwords and Kindle for the bargain price of 99 cents if you’d like to read the first story of the Tales. To entice you to go check out The Game for free, I give you this sample here.
Lucas trotted behind his niece, traipsing through Patterson Park with abandon. It was a glorious spring day, and the plastic vessels of candy they sought as participants in the park’s annual egg hunt stood out like flowers against the rejuvenated grass.
“Uncle Lucas, what’s this?”
Lucas turned toward the sound of his niece’s voice, blown back to him on the breeze of a late March morning. His flannel shirt swished in the wind, mindless.
Cassie held a purple apple in her small hand. Its mulberry skin matched the flowers on her Easter pinafore with horrid precision. Lucas shuddered, dashed forward, and whisked the fruit away, running twenty feet into the trees before hunching over it.
The dead sound of plastic mocked him when he tapped the side, and his hands trembled in embarrassment as he squeezed the bottom half of the apple and popped off the top to reveal the egg hunt’s grand prize–two tickets to the Lyric’s spring musical, The Wizard of Oz.
Lucas was still in Kansas.
Cassie ran up behind him, panting with the effort. As he turned around, she asked, “What is it, Uncle Lucas? Something dangerous?”
“No, boopy,” Lucas said, handing her the apple and putting his arm around her slender shoulders. “You won! I didn’t want any of the older kids seeing your prize and mauling you for it.”
Cassie looked down, bewildered, but grinned as soon as she popped open the apple. “Tickets for The Wizard of Oz . . . will you take me, Uncle Lucas?”
Lucas sighed, and gripped her shoulder a bit with his hand, comforted by the reality of it. “Sure, squirt, as long as your mom says it’s okay.”
“SQUIRT! Why you . . .”
Lucas took off into a run after the initial gut punch from his niece, and breathed in city air with relief and satisfaction.
That night he dreamed again.
The mulberry face was huge, surrounded by a great bubble of water, its swirling surface like oil on asphalt, shimmering in the sun.
“Eat the fruit, Human,” the tiny voice droned. “I need you this time, and you owe me for saving you from your ignorance.”
Lucas awoke at seven in a clammy sweat, and when he went to brush his teeth, he had to spend an extra ten minutes to scrub the purplish juice off his tongue.
The day was typical. Blank stares, blank manila folders with printed labels centered on their anomaly, the tabs. Lucas trudged the path from label printer to file cabinet without thought for the task at hand. His mind strayed to the voice in his dream.
Was it the midget who helped him the night he got too wasted at the Tavern?
Though by all accounts, he didn’t have a single drink that night. Everyone, including Lucas himself, wrote it off as some crazy random encounter he had on the way home from the office.
But he remembered the barmaid, her pierced ears and corset burnt into his mind’s eye for the rest of eternity. He remembered the gnome’s voice, like someone who sucked the gas out of a helium balloon, yet endowed with a tone of command that couldn’t be denied.
And he remembered the mulberry fruit–almost purple, almost pink, almost red–it sucked him back to his own world with a bite and a word from the strangest creature he ever met. No wonder he was seeing purple fruits and their juice everywhere.
A bender like that changes a man.