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Darkly, Darkly

cover design © 2002. Judith Huey

 

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Darkly, Darkly
collection of SF/F stories

Robert Marcom

 

Dracu's Lament

 

  The call of the robot door startled him. He couldn't seem to get used to the disembodied voice, nor to the sudden apparition of a holographic image of his visitor. He wished he could turn it off.

Ordinarily he would have, but not today. Today, his monthly supply was delivered. Other deliveries might be left for him in the delivery bin -- but not this one.

"Delivery is by hand, Vladimir. You are required to receive it in person."

"I know. Announce that I'm coming, please." He didn't know why he tried to hide his irritation with the door answering device. The device wasn't neurologically intelligent enough to take offense. The biological enhancements were restricted by law from possessing anything close to human intelligence. This one was, in Vlad's opinion, dumber than dirt.

Vlad made his way to the front entry, turning the lights up to dusky glow. He disliked doing so, but he thought the delivery-waif might not have low-light vision.

"Yes?"

"Vladimir Drakeson? I have a delivery for you. Do you have your certificate?"

Vladimir fumbled with the plastic card, turning it so that the little connection strip was available to the delivery... person? Vlad stopped in mid-gesture.

"Are you bio-engineered?" The comment passed from Vlad's lips before he could stop it. The question was impolite, and worse. Vlad was always concerned that such a personal question would invite unwelcome curiosity in return.

"Yes. This is my first day. Virtual Intelligence Certified, number Ten, six sixty-six. You are a hematosexual, aren't you?"

Oh mother, thought Vlad, here we go. "Yes. Yes I am. Is that my package?"

"Yes it is. Insert your certificate here, please."

"I didn't know they were approving virtual intelligence. I thought it was prohibited."

"Not anymore sir. We were authorized by World Congress joint bill A-six sixty six. I'm the tenth VIC grown."

"I just can't seem to keep up anymore."

The VIC-ten smiled. "Sir?"

"Yes?"

"I would like to know more about hematosexuals. You see, delivery will be my occupation. I am expected to learn on the job. You seem very open. Do you mind?"

"Hummf. I suppose not. What do you want to know?"

"Well, I know that 'hemos' were declared a legitimate alternative life-style by the Civil Rights Extension Act of 2056. I understand that your lifestyle is a protected one. I just don't know what 'hemos' do differently than other people. Could you explain it to me? If you have time, that is.

"Well, first of all; I'd rather be called a vampire, than a hematosexual. Do you mind?"

"Oh no, sir. This is the sort of information I need."

"Good. We aren't really all that different. We do use bio-farmed blood. That is a bit personal though." Vlad looked more closely at the VIC-10. It looked rather generic; asexual, really. Rosy skinned and full of life, he thought. Full of life.

"Would you like to come in? I'd rather not explain it out here in the vestibule."

"I suppose so -- but I can't stay long. I have other deliveries."

"Just drop the blood on that table. Say, tell me, are VICs biologically similar to human beings? You look amazingly like a little boy. Do you know your blood type?"

* * *

Dracu, the Old Dragon, stirred. The great serpent who slithered between the Realms of Light and Dark had awakened. It had indigestion. The pitifully meager soul it just received was decidedly substandard.

No substance really, Dracu thought. Everything seemed so bland these days. Dracu yearned for the old days. My son Dracula, he ruminated. Now, there was a vampire. What feasts we had! He knew how to harvest souls....

 

 

Table of Contents


"Kiowa Nights"
I grew up in Colorado. The legends of the Old West are strong in this western state, and were especially so in the 1950's. Colorado has had a unique relationship with its Native Americans. While there were depredations by Anglo-Americans against Native Americans ( the Sand Creek Massacre comes to mind) the exchanges were often of a more respectful nature.

Still, there was a clash of cultures. This story is born of the spiritual differences between the Anglo-American and the Kiowa religions.

"Gates of Ashtoroth"
Soon after the Gulf War, I began to write a short story about the most ancient of archaeological sites, the ruins of Babylon. My experience of work and study in the area of archaeology demanded that I write about it, and my love of the mysteries of the cosmos suggested I work the spirituality of that ancient place together with the most ancient mystery of all: the Cosmic Reality.

You won't find the answers to either of those mysteries in this story; merely a vigorous shove toward your own solution.

"A Day's Work"
How many times have you dreamt of some very important place for you in the future? I wrote this story from a feeling of guilt at my own idle musings--when I should have been hard at work writing.

"Dracu's Lament"
It seems that we are a culture bent on inclusion of lifestyles, rather than a shunning of life ways we don't understand. I explore the fringes of political correctness with this story of a clash between life style and techno-culture.

"Winter of 100 Years"
The United States has no solitary claim for cultural and religious imposition on a native population. In this story, I explore the end of the Druids and a resulting consequence for the Christian victors. The story is fiction, however, the horrors of the "Dark Ages" are historical fact. Who knows; perhaps the gods Druids were so offended...?

"Welcoming Committee"
This is one of those "the universe is not only stranger than we know," stories. While it is possible to conceive of the idea that a being is so alien, we can't begin to understand it, here is an alien being we might understand, but too late.

My one thought about beings so alien we can't understand them: what could we write about them that would constitute a story? That's a rhetorical question. If you have the answer, please don't tell me what it is.

"Estre's Night"
Sometimes, evil is in our perceptions, not in the actuality. If there is a world of spirits, and if they could talk to us, then how would we perceive them?

"Last Word"
With the recent preoccupation of the news media regarding serial killers, I decided to try to climb into the mind of one. Surprisingly easy, was my conclusion.

"Reality Test"
As our culture of technological dependence unfolds, we are presented with individual consequences once reserved to the ill-advised actions of governments. Add to this, the idea that amateurs are often the first to exploit a new possibility, such as building a two-way radio, or an aeroplane, or a computer or....

"Beta One"
In this story, I suppose the first use for a personal avatar in a virtual world will be for the experience and entertainment of those daring enough to "push the envelope." What if the line between avatar and physical is slightly blurred by the technology?

"Alyse-X in Wonderhood"
I cannot be satisfied, it seems, staying inside the lines. My wife is of the opinion that I will get myself into more trouble than I can handle with some of my stories. She hates this one, but I find Alyse-X in a situation that requires my attention.

"Refuge"
This is my "give it back to the Indians" story. Perhaps we should. After all, they new much more about "it" than did the Anglo settlers. The Indians did, from time to time, have their own problems with the environment. Sometimes, a writer can have it both ways.

"Terwiliker, Time Trader"
The Time Paradox often draws a writer to the time-traveler story: what if you went back into time and killed your grandfather? The question is a lot simpler to ask, than it is to answer. I have fun with the time paradox in this story. Don't look for a serious answer here. Bring popcorn, wear funny cloths and think "iconoclast."

"Old Salt"
This story was conceived during a substantial wait for service at a fast food restaurant. I try to be productive with my down-time. By the way, this is a story of which my wife heartily approves. I call this my "here, be dragonnes" story.

"Freighter's Gravy"
When you drive a tractor-trailer truck for hours at a time, you tend to forget that you ride a behemoth that can turn on you in an instant. Take my word for it. Another thing you can take my word for, is that you have a lot of time to think.
This story is the result of such a rumination. Although the idea occurred to me twenty years ago, I didn't write the story down. Writing behind the steering wheel is an invitation to the behemoth. This one, you really should take my word on.

"Cold Justice"
One of the great things about writing, is the ability to place yourself anywhere in time and find out what you think is important about then and there. This story evolved (literally unfolded) out my own intellectual struggle between the ideals of law and justice. I throw in religion for no additional charge.

My Poems
Each of these poems is a creative wrestling match. They are personal and revealing. If poetry is useful--beyond being a personal purgative--then they must convey something universal; if they are to be literary, then they must convey the universal in a rich and unique manner. If that sounds like a contradiction of terms, then perhaps I've explained why poets are such a strange collection of people.

I bid you welcome to my personal-universal-unique thoughts and images. ~ Robert Marcom.

 

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Author Bio

Robert Marcom is the Chairman of the Electronic Authors & Artists Guild and the founder of and moderator for Net Author, an online writers community. He resides in Houston Texas where he is gainfully unemployed as an author, illustrator and photographer. His non-fiction works A Voyage Through The Cosmos and Earth Rocks! are available from Waltsan Publishing.

Visit Robert's web site

 

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Dracu's Lament Copyright 2001. Robert Marcom. Previously published in Twilight Times ezine. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.

 

 

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  Reviews

Looking for a quick evening's read that will leave you thinking? Darkly, Darkly fills that need. A collection of seventeen short stories and eight poems ranging from the surreal to hard science fiction in the far future, to the witch trials in our dark history, this book will keep you turning the pages. I especially liked the short blurbs at the end of each story telling the reader a bit about the background of the story.

...Darkly, Darkly is a wild trip through one man's vision of what might have been and what may be yet to come. The stories will make you stop and think. They will make you wonder. They will make you afraid--perhaps very afraid. They will stay with you long after you turn the last page. I highly recommend this book to any lover of short stories in any genre.

Reviewed by S. Joan Popek, author of Sound the Ram's Horn for KnowBetter.com. Read the entire review.
 



In this book of 17 short stories and eight poems, we encounter a lot of questions. Most of them can be prefaced with the phrase "What if", and many of them ask questions dealing with the spiritual. The stories all seem to be meditations on the established world around us, especially when it comes to religion. Sometimes slightly uncomfortable, the stories nevertheless challenge you to consider religious aspects from different angles. His tales on organized religion, especially Christianity sway more towards the indifference aspect, that God is not all that caring. He paints God as a bureaucrat in some stories, in others he basically has God say, "Tough, you don't like it, deal."

[Marcom] challenges the views of the world we see. I loved his take on political correctness in "Dracu's Lament " and his view of what happens when capital punishment is outlawed, as in "Alyse X in Wonderhood," the name itself a clever twisting of another, older book. "Sea Salt" is very cute, and Estre's Night is odd and a little scary. My favorite story was "Terwiliker -- Time Trader!" a cheery time paradox story that I felt shone the brightest of all these tales because it is shamelessly (almost) cheerful, and after some of the other deep, almost hard stories, I needed the cheer.

There are a lot of strengths in this book. He does know how to tell a story...he makes them interesting, and he is good at choosing his words for impact. ...Marcom relies heavily on mythology in some stories, and it can be interesting. In several of the stories, such as "The Quantum of Dharma" he skewers scientific conceptions and challenges us again to think about his view of the world....
Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer, GWN Book Reviewer

 

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