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pumps

Photo credit: Lloyd Barrett

As much as writers are allowed to have favourite stories, this is one of my favourites. I was gripped with the urge to write this story three weeks after the Goo-boy was born, as I was lying in bed trying to rest. Instead I propped myself up and wrote the first thousand words, based on the image that jumped into my mind that I couldn’t purge. I “saw” a girl huddling behind a rusted old petrol bowser, but she wasn’t a normal girl: her skin was red, she was naked and completely hairless.

And thus “Banned Girl” was born.

This story was semi-finalist in the Writers of the Future contest, and finally found a home at Fictionvale. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it! (Click the image below to buy).

Excerpt from “Banned Girl”:

Just north of Boonah, an abandoned petrol station rotted on the outskirts of the Forbidden Zone. The rusted gas pumps thrust up against a tainted, toxic sky, like giant robot warriors standing guard against the threat to the east. Normally the only menace was the odd mutant wallaby or giant goanna, but there were more sinister dangers to look out for. The adults would’ve been angry if they knew we were there, but they didn’t, and we were well inside the Wards, so it was okay.

I was there with Abby and Alice, the mayor’s daughters, when I saw the banned girl. She’d crept out of the Zone and hidden behind one of our robot warriors—useless as a sentinel, obviously. Abby hadn’t seen her and ran toward the line of warriors.

“Abby, ’ware!” I called. “Banned girl!”

Abby turned midstride and bolted for the crumbling building. Alice met her on the step and, huddled together, they turned and peered with dreadful fascination at the banned girl’s red skin, which oozed from every pore. Her hairless body trembled, poised on the brink of flight.

Through all this commotion the girl hadn’t moved. She clung to the rusty pump and watched us. Fear and disgust welled inside me. I stooped and grabbed a rock. Abby and Alice, strengthened by the support of each other, egged me on with matched, twinny glee.

“Throw it, Ben! Don’t let it come near!”

I hefted the rock and pretended to toss it. The banned girl swayed and flinched but her grip didn’t falter. With the shouts of the twins echoing in my ears, I pegged the rock at the banned girl.

It hit her naked belly and she cringed but didn’t let go.

“Another one, Ben.” The vicious harpy cries nudged my darker side. I hurled another rock at her head. It hit her and she was felled, a stunted red tree cut down by my ax. Without thinking, I started toward her, but the twins crept up behind me and their little hands tugged at my sleeves.

“C’mon, Ben, they’re dangerous. Even dead.”

I wanted to see if she was dead, but I let them pull me away.

“Don’t tell anyone. If they knew we was here…” Truth was, I’d get in more trouble than the mayor’s girls.

The twins shrugged in unison, twirling fat ginger plaits. “Okay.”

FV4-final

I was lucky enough to make the Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot this year, and even luckier to have my lovely friend Helen Stubbs interview me. I managed to get away with an elf photo as my bio pic too ;).

If you’d like to read my blatherings, head over to The Edge of Time. And thanks for your support!

Equlibrium Overturned is now available to purchase in paperback or kindle formats through Amazon. Grey Matter Press have been fabulous to work with, and their anthologies are doing extremely well so if you like a bit of darkness in your stories, you should really check them out. I’ve been waiting on this publication for quite some time, and I’m thrilled it’s finally out there. “Perfect Soldiers” is arguably the most ambitious story I’ve written and I owe thanks to Jason Fischer for helping me figure out which direction to take it.

From the blurb: The rift between this world and the one beyond has been ripped open, and a terrifying evil from the other side is gaining momentum by feeding off the hatred and fear of humankind. With a dwindling number of available soldiers, the armies of Earth are forced to resort to unspeakable measures to fight what may be the war to end all wars.

And a teaser:

Bieruń, Poland

Dominic Meyers, UN Special Forces, watches the white-haired general lean forward in his seat as the chopper begins its descent into Hell. Sweat beads on the old man’s forehead; the clammy fog of his fear blankets the cabin. He points to the east.

“Is that it?”

Dominic nods without looking. He can see it in his mind’s eye: a subtle, warped shimmer extending from the horizon and pointing into the sky like a narrow finger. Turn your head and look at it out of the corner of your eye and it becomes a dark smudge. The general is mind-blind so he says, “Yes, sir.”

“Not very impressive, is it?” The general forces a laugh. Dominic shrugs off his commanding officer’s oppressive mood.

“Sir, it would be useful if you could employ the mind-calming techniques you learned during briefing.”

The old man’s face turns pink, but he closes his eyes and remains still as the chopper bumps onto land. The fear that permeates the air subsides.

Dominic throws open the door. Two men wait just beyond the swoosh of the rotor blades.

Welcome back, Dominic, he hears in his mind. As he pivots back to the general, he sends a thought to both men.

This one’s weak. Be on guard.

undertowcover

My near-future dystopian tale “Paradise Drowned” is now available to read in the Gold Coast anthology Undertow. I want to give special thanks to Helen Stubbs and Elizabeth Fitzgerald for their hard work as editors, and particularly their editorial input into my story.

“Paradise Drowned” is set in the Gold Coast hinterlands, with the majority of the coastal strip drowned by rising sea levels. The story drew inspiration from several sources: a dream my partner Lloyd had; the photos provided as prompts; and particular controversial social issues that affect contemporary Australia. I grew up on the Gold Coast so it was really interesting to think about what the Gold Coast might look like in the future, and how the inhabitants may have to adapt. Here’s a little teaser…

I crept away from camp, wading through the shallow water that flooded the mature rice crop, and climbed up a small hill in the middle of the paddy. At the summit I lay on my back. Wisps of cloud swirled across the stars. The sounds of people drifted on the humid breeze: talking, pots banging together, the cries of tired children, the occasional raised voice. Smoke from the woodstoves lingered in my hair. My conscience nagged me to go and help clean up, but instead I gazed at the sky and wished I could fly away.

Water sloshed. I tensed, then a familiar irregular footfall crunched uphill toward me. I sighed and sat up. Guilt prickled, that I’d made Layla follow me out here on her crippled foot.

“Nasra, you must stop this. You are not a little girl anymore.” My sister’s voice was sharp but carried a note of sympathy; at twenty, she was three years older and wiser than me.

I replied in Arabic. “Every night I want to throw up, waiting for the next one. What if it’s you? What will I do then? We’ve already lost Mama.”

The night darkened as clouds gathered to obscure the stars. The first drizzle of warm rain started to fall as Layla sat beside me. She gazed off to the east, to the hills where the remnants of the Gold Coast’s residents clung, safe above the flooded streets of the coastal strip. New Venice, as it was known, was the refuge for undesirables and escapees.

“Be strong,” she said, stubbornly speaking in English. The more we speak English, the better we get. She put her arm around me and squeezed. “We will take care of each other.” She stood and tugged at my arm. “No point worrying about what might be. We take one day at a time.”

I pouted but in the darkness she didn’t see it. With a groan, I got to my feet and wiped the rain from my eyes.

“Good girl,” she said. We returned to the camp filled with temporary buildings and unwanted human flotsam.

undertowinside

I’m off to Continuum X tomorrow, but my story “Proximity” is now available to read in Tincture Journal Issue 6 (click on the link to buy). I believe this is my first non-speculative story to be published!

Table of Contents:

  • Editorial, by Daniel Young
  • Inferior Bedrooms, Part Six, by Meg Henry
  • The Horror of the Body, by Sam van Zweden
  • Waiting, by Tiggy Johnson
  • The Interesting People of Mount Kiliminjaro, by Stephen Koster
  • Christian Girls, by Nathanael O’Reilly
  • I Was Not Like the Other Kids, by Nathanael O’Reilly
  • Nathanael O’Reilly interviewed by Stuart Barnes
  • The Cicada Clock, by Adam Byatt
  • Spash, by Les Wicks
  • Carnival, by Beau Boudreaux
  • Rain of Ashes, by Rhys Timson
  • It’s a Marilyn Free-For-All, by John Grey
  • The Man Who Killed James Dean, by Sam Ferree
  • Back to Front, by Nathan Hondros
  • Memory, by Andrew Hutchinson
  • hail the goer, by Stu Hatton
  • i sit unfinished    in breath-, by Stu Hatton
  • A Look of Revelation, by Deborah Guzzi
  • The Favour, by Annette Siketa
  • Circles, by w.m.lewis
  • Only After School, by Anna Ryan-Punch
  • Mrs Fernandez, by Su-May Tan
  • The Happy Mule, by Frank Scozzari
  • Proximity, by S. G. Larner
  • White Noise, by Eleanor Talbot
  • It’s An Adventure If You Want It To Be, by Calista Fung

That’s a lot of excellent reading material right there!

Excerpt from “Proximity”:

 

Janice

The sounds melded into a seamless cacophony: the lunging dog’s throaty growls, Briony’s shrieks of laughter as she struggled to control him, Philip swearing and the repetitive strikes against wood as he wielded the hammer. Outside of this chaos I stood, one hand on my hip, the other shading my eyes, watching them grow smaller and smaller as the distance between us grew. I squinted up at the three grey lumps huddled in the tree and wiped the sweat from my brow. With the noise roaring in my ears I retreated to the cool of the house.

The stark white tiles in the kitchen glared at me. I pulled the goat meat from the freezer and dumped it into the sink to thaw, tensing my shoulders at the inevitable backlash from Briony. Outside the dog’s growls had turned to thunderous barks. Philip yelled, “Shut him in the garage!”

Moments later Briony tore through the house with the dog on its leash, a panting, unruly whirlwind that swept through and let the front door bang behind.

The hollow hammering thuds continued uninterrupted.

The fabulous Sean Wright asked to interview me for Galactic Chat, and it’s now live! I was recovering from illness so I blame anything silly I say on that. ;) Incidentally this was my first ever podcast interview.
Galactic Chat 47 S. G. Larner

My story “Chasing the Storm” is live today over at SQ Mag! Click on the image above for the Table of Contents. Even better, you can read it for FREE! It’s a fabulous issue, the special edition Australiana issue (check out that cover!). My story is set in North Queensland, where most of my maternal relatives live, so this story is pretty much dedicated to my awesome aunts, my uncle, my grandparents, cousins, and of course my mum!

Also special kudos for Jason Fischer who had the brilliant idea that inspired my rewrite of this story.

 

“There’s a big one forming up near Rollingstone. You coming?” Paul’s voice distorts as I hold the phone away and glance at my boss. He boxes a pizza, tosses it onto the warmer and faces me, one eyebrow raised expectantly.

“Please, Billy?” I turn the puppy-dog eyes on and pout. “Paul says it’s big.”

Billy rolls his eyes. “It’s always big, Chelsea. Who am I to stand in the way of glory? I’m sure we’ll manage.” He flicks a tea towel at my hip. “Go on, bugger off.”

“You’re the best boss in the world,” I say with a grin as I hang up my apron.

“Just make sure you share the photos on Facebook!” he yells as I hurry for the door. Just before I leave the pizzeria I hear him explain to a puzzled customer, “She’s a storm-chaser. Bloody crazy, but she gets good photos!”

If you enjoy the mag, share the love!

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