When consciousness first found her, the moonlight seemed impossibly bright. Powerful gusts of wind continually shuffled all but invisible leaves. At the edge of vision, a wall of trees stretched leafy arms toward the heavens. Momentarily disoriented, she shifted her gaze, first to the dark clouds moving too rapidly through that luminous sky, then to those remarkably tall trees and finally to a small gray flash of movement off to her left.
Shaking sleep from her eyes, she propped herself into a sitting position in order to get a better look at it. At first she could not find the cause of the disturbance. Then it moved again and she saw it. It seemed so ordinary next to the rest of the tableau, that she laughed. Startled, the creature sat up on its hind legs and froze in the manner of rabbits throughout history.
" Well, hello there," she said. "Don't be afraid. I won't hurt you."
The rabbit, perhaps sensing her gentleness, began to shift about, though it still kept a wary eye on the stranger. A night bird, hidden within that impossible forest, added its unearthly call to the scene.
" It can't answer you," rasped a voice from the shadows.
At once the woman snatched up her blanket and held it before her, as if somehow it might have power to protect against a stranger in the night. The approaching rustle of footfalls through leaves chilled her. She held her breath, until the intruder was close enough to behold.
It was tall, perhaps nine feet, with brownish skin not unlike the bark of a sycamore. Its legs resembled the boles of saplings, its arms, slender branches. Its eyes, only now illuminated, were brown and so very old. Its lips, a shade paler, were thin and cracked. The creature shook itself and she realized it wasn't only its approach that created the dry crackling that preceded it. She rose slowly and waited, not yet certain whether or not she was in danger.
" Animals can no longer speak, since the Grand Dawteer has taken the magic." There
was such a note of sadness in that all too ancient voice, that she
took a step forward and reached out a tentative hand.
Brimstone and Nitro
Inspired by the art of Stanley Pratt
The sky above town was a deeper shade of blue than it had any right to be. The sun, already beginning its slow descent toward the horizon, hung in the heavens, a pure golden orb showering the plain below with light and heat. The grass, which might have been vivid green under more forgiving conditions, leaned to brown. In spite of the lack of healthy vegetation, the colors were so vibrant, it was as if a layer had been peeled off reality to reveal the true nature of the universe lying just underneath. And no human being had ever seen it.
The town was named Destiny and the denizens that wandered its sun-baked streets were of all shapes, sizes and colors. They dressed as they willed, for heat had little power over creatures such as these. The men wore suits or denim, the dames dresses or slacks. Some were naked, but no one paid them any mind.
The main street of Destiny, which they had never bothered to name, was an area of great activity. If there was anything unusual about the town, it was the number of garages, which, by the laws of probability, should have been fewer.
At one end of the broad avenue stood a small wooden building, slightly separated from the strip. Three faded wooden steps led up to the porch area, upon which sat an empty bench. Beyond was an outer door with a ripped screen and a second one that remained opened, leading to a seldom used office. Raphael preferred his garage. All the angels did.
Today however, he sat leaning over a wooden desk that many years before might have been considered a valuable antique. He ignored the uncomfortable way his wings felt, folded as they were around the back of the chair. Before him, standing almost eight feet tall, stood a humanoid figure. He was muscular, yet perfectly proportioned in spite of his massive build. He stood inflexibly, his brownish-red skin standing out in stark contrast to the faded wooden backdrop, a pair of large leathery wings folded neatly behind his back.
Raphael spoke, his voice a trumpetís blare, a normal tone for him. "Then
you still want to go through with it, Asmodeus?"
The demon roared with laughter. "I care? Why should I? If I lose that
miserable piece of land, will it stop the spread of evil? I think not."
Raphael sighed, imitating the human gesture so perfectly, it was sometimes hard for Asmodeus to remember he was an archangel.
" You are correct, of course. It is tomorrow's contest that holds my
For a moment, two flames appeared briefly in the demon's eyes. He snorted
and shook his head. "As well it should. But that territory is ours by tradition. You have no driver to compare with my Lilith." He
leered at the angel, displaying a row of pointed teeth. Raphael was
" Perhaps, but I may yet have a surprise for you." Raphael had not wanted to tip his hand so early, but that damned demon was so smug. "I
can't wait for you to meet him."
Asmodeus looked thoughtful, but did not reply. He stared into the face of the archangel. Their eyes met and locked. After a long while, Asmodeus broke the gaze. He might have continued indefinitely, but such a contest of wills did little more than waste his time.
" Well, I best be off. If I leave them for too long, they start rutting
like animals. You know how demons can be."
Raphael smiled in acknowledgment. He did know.
Life and Death in the EDMC
The room smelled of antiseptic and internal organs. A trio of lights
illuminated the patient's stomach. There was too much bleeding for
me to see clearly. "Suction," I snapped.
A faceless nurse complied immediately. I was looking for a wound that needed to be closed and had yet to find it. This much blood must be coming from somewhere.
" Doctor, pulse rate is falling fast."
I didn't look up. The patient had already lost so much blood, it would take a miracle to save her. Lately, miracles were not my strong point. Even were I to find the wound now, she had precious little chance for survival. Still I continued, wading through hopelessness as thick as the blood. When she flat-lined less than a minute later, I lowered my arms in defeat. Though the other doctors and nurses were all masked, I could read the anguish in their eyes. I took a step backwards and turned away. I had lost another one.
No one said anything as I pulled off my gloves and turned from the table. I ignored them as well. They knew what had to be done. My job was over. Oh God, please let it be over.
I untied and removed my surgical gown and mask. I was tired beyond imagination, yet there was no rest in sight. Even were I to get a break, the ghosts of the patients I lost would keep me from sleep. Perhaps I cried for a few minutes. I can't remember.
I left the operating theater and made my way through mostly deserted
hospital corridors. It seemed as if these corridors had become a prison
of late. I could only barely remember the last time Iíd returned home.
I needed a shower and a nap desperately, but as always, there was too
much work. I entered a break room where a single table sat surrounded
by four chairs. I walked to the counter, poured myself a cup of black
coffee and spent a minute searching for sugar before I gave up. We
were out of sugar again. I drank it as it was.
That kind of skewed vision, and the ability to handle it with the aplomb of a pretzel-maker tying knots, is what makes Steve such fun to read. Just when you're sure you know exactly what's going to happen, he spins you around and takes you into a completely different direction. And makes you like it. His characters tend to be the social outcasts, the misfits who have something about them that sets "normal" people's teeth on edge. Yet often it's those misfits who turn out to have a true sense of what's real and what isn't. There's also a touch of ironic humor in most of the stories, but one that never gets bitter or sarcastic. If you like your SF and fantasy with a bit of a bite, then introduce yourself to Steve Lazarowitz-- and prepare to be entertained.
Liz Burton, Blue Iris Journal
I have to admit I found some stories I read more than once. Like,
TIME DIVER, where the equivalent elapsed time negative 729.4 days
a moment of disorientation, but gave Jerry Tanner a second chance
to recapture his lost love. THE GIFT, gives a new meaning to
squeamish ... But my favorite was BRIMSTONE AND NITRO, which takes
in a town called Destiny where auto races between angels and
demons determine territorial jurisdiction of mankind.
Priscilla A. Maine is the author of "Journey of the Eagle"
But the purpose here is not to prematurely open the jack-in-the-box
plot twists that keep a reader scrolling as fast as possible down
the pages of "Dream Sequence." The purpose is simply to state that for those who like a ride through a fictional fun house, where it's not easy to tell reality from illusion - even after the story is finished - "Dream Sequence" will offer a good read. And it will leave some intriguingly nagging questions in the reader's mind long after the book is finished.
Jean Goldstrom, Another Realm