OldEarth Melchior Encounter Excerpt

Our Natures That Deceive

King Radburn waved Lord Gerard’s comment away. “I accept your offer, good Father. I know that once you hear all the facts, you will see fit to punish the guilty and free the innocent. I have no other interest in my mind.” The king smiled benignly.

The widow snorted this time.

Harold smiled and settled his stance into a comfortable position. This ought to prove interesting, if nothing else.

It took the better part of the morning for everyone to have his say, recalling events as they knew them. Father Neumann listened carefully and interrupted several times to ask detailed questions.

Though he had not been near the actual scene, Harold could soon imagine the series of events in vivid detail.

Servants slipped in twice, offering food and drink. No one ate, though many accepted drinks.

In the dwindling afternoon heat, Wilfred was finally allowed a chance to give his account of what happened. His summary sounded like the desperate pleas of an already condemned man. “Everyone was screaming and shouting. I didn’t know what to do, so I ran!”

Harold furrowed his brow, perplexed. Though it seemed clear to him that Wilfred did not kill Lady Nadine, it was equally obvious that no one else in the room had either. Too many witnesses testified that everyone in the room had been somewhere else when the deed was done. Still, something about Lord Gerard’s testimony did not add up, and Father Neumann’s frequent glances at his brother priest hinted at his doubts.

In red-faced passion, Lord Gerard stood up, pointing his finger at the boy and shouting, “You little liar! You arranged to meet my daughter outside the hall, and when Lady Nadine found you, she tried to stop you, and you—like the coward you are—stabbed her!”

Grasping the edge of the table for support, Wilfred’s face drained of all color. “I didn’t! I swear it! I was going to meet your daughter, that’s true, but we never saw each other. I heard someone calling, and I became frightened, so I hid. I saw Lady Nadine come forward, a-a-and-I saw her fall into your arms.”

Everyone stared at Lord Gerard, who had grown pale in turn. “How dare you accuse me? I’m not the one on trial!”

Nolan climbed to his feet. “You, as well as anyone, had a good reason to kill the lady.” He leaned over the table and looked meaningfully at Lord Gerard. “Melchior told me about Wilfred.”

Widow Brunswick wavered to her feet, strands of hair flailing like naughty children from the crooked bun on her head, and pointed a shaky finger accusingly. “Yes, he certainly did have good reason to wish his wife dead and this boy to take the blame! His wife hid the fact that she had switched her living son for a dead one, and Wilfred was really her own. How long have you known the truth, Lord Gerard?”

Lord Gerard fell heavily back onto his chair. “By the gods, I didn’t know. Not until the king told me yesterday.”

All eyes swiveled toward the king.

Widow Brunswick let out a cackling, half-mad laugh. “He has his own secrets to keep, so he thought to cover them with other men’s tales. He killed his own son yesterday, though he professes he knew nothing of the matter.”

Father Neumann gasped.

The widow wagged her head. “We are not among angels, Father.”

~~~

A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.

Make the most of life’s journey. 

For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page

https://www.amazon.com/author/akfrailey

https://amzn.to/3nyfkEJ

OldEarth Melchior features many of the best aspects of both historical and science fiction.~Reedsy/Discovery

the overarching plot with the aliens ties everything together to make a cohesive, epic novel… ~IndieReader

Photo https://pixabay.com/photos/lake-district-landscape-sky-clouds-1009459/

OldEarth Georgios Encounter Excerpt

What Just Happened?

—Gaelic Lands—

Seanan struggled to his feet. He had been having a good time, but the scent of morning was in the air, and birds stirred in their nests. It was time to finish this celebration so that he could attend to the duties of the day. Unsteady, he had to step closer to Gutun to grasp the cup. He drank a good measure and then tried to decide who should have it next.

Gutun bumped Seanan’s arm, knocking the cup aside. He snatched it, poured in another full measure, and with a wide grin handed it back to Seanan, nudging him toward Rueben.

Irritated, Seanan drew back. He hated it when Gutun touched him. Such long, dirty fingers made him feel as if death were trying to grab him. Instinctively, he did the opposite of what Gutun wanted. Alexios certainly looked like he needed a drink.

With furrowed brow and confused eyes, Alexios shook his head in refusal.

Quick to save Alexios any discomfort, Marcus accepted on his behalf. He took the cup and drank deeply. Gutun’s cheeks flushed, and he seethed with spittle forming on his lips. He clawed at the cup.

“This was your idea. Remember?” He looked around and met Rueben’s stern expression. Clearly, he rebelled at the thought of drinking to a foreign god. Only Georgios and Ian were left.

Gutun’s fingers darted as he spluttered, “Give it to me! It’s not your place to offer to the gods!”

Weariness mixed with rage boiled Seanan’s blood. “Oh? Why don’t you enjoy good fortune yourself! Here, take a drink!” He smashed the cup into Gutun’s face.

Gutun jerked backward.

Georgios stood and reached for the cup. “Stop. I’ll drink. Then we can end—”

Ian called out. “Wait! Something is wrong with the Roman.”

Marcus clutched the air as spasms rippled over his body.

Ian jerked forward, knocking Seanan aside.

The mead splashed on Gutun’s face. “Aye!” He leapt to his feet, frantically wiping his lips.

All eyes snapped to Marcus as he fell limp, his eyes wide and terror-stricken. The frantic struggle, sudden and horrible, ended abruptly.

Alexios screamed, “No!” as he grabbed Marcus’ tunic and shook him as if to wake the man from slumber.

Georgios knelt at his father’s side, pried his fingers free, and closed Marcus’ eyes.

As one body, all eyes turned to Gutun.

Gutun jumped to his feet and pointed accusingly from Marcus to Alexios and finally to Rueben. His high-pitched scream sent early birds screeching from their nests into the dawn. “The gods have judged! They are guilty of heinous crimes. Kill them, now!”

A raucous din of voices rose as clansmen argued in favor or against the clan priest.

Seanan thrust his arms into the air, demanding silence. His voice matched his mood, furious and quite sober. He glared at Gutun. “I was going to offer that cup to my son! Georgios, who fought against our enemy, was about to drink from that cup! Of course, you wanted me to give it to Rueben first!” Rage blinded Seanan. “You wanted me to poison your rival? You devil!” Seanan swung at Gutun, but his encounters with the resplendent jug of ale ruined his aim.

Gutun ducked.

The fearful crowd sobered quickly, offering no response.

Tainair grabbed Gutun’s shoulder. “You’ve escaped the punishment due to a traitor once too often. We can’t trust you to live any longer.”

Ronan stepped up and gripped Gutun’s other shoulder. Together, the two men forced Gutun onto his knees. Seanan slipped his knife from his belt.

Stunned, Gutun stared wild-eyed, his gaze darting around the crowd. “The gods will demand your blood if you harm a hair—”

Georgios clutched Ronan’s arm. “Wait! I was an outsider and yet you welcomed me. My father was your enemy, and yet you allowed him to live. You have done no wrong in offering forgiveness. Let me take Gutun into exile. Then you will be free of him without blood on your hands.”

Seanan glared at Georgios as he spoke, his words flying in a spluttering spray. “I don’t mind killing him, Georgios! It will be my pleasure!” He stared hard at Gutun. “I will rid the world of his treachery!”

His arms flapping helplessly, Georgios shook his head. “But—”

Rueben gripped Gutun’s shoulder, as if claiming him. “He meant to kill me, so he’s mine.”

Seanan tried to regain control of the situation. “He must die!”

Rueben stared Seanan in the eye. “In the end, he may prefer death.” In silent understanding, Georgios and Rueben asked for rope, bound Gutun hand and foot, and led him away.

Seanan faced his eldest son. “What just happened?”

With red-rimmed eyes and a face drained of all color, Ian offered a weak smile. “Many think that the gods will seek vengeance if we kill their priest. This way, if he lives or dies, it’ll be the providence of the gods.”

Seanan pursed his lips in a petulant pout. “It won’t break my heart if he falls overboard during the journey. He’d survive. He’s the sort that always does.”

~~~

A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.

Make the most of life’s journey. 

For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page

https://www.amazon.com/author/akfrailey

https://amzn.to/3v7w8oI

“Nice adventure book interlaced with sacred moments.”

“…romance, trial, and faith.”

“A wonderful story of adventure and courage…” 

“Inspiring tale for young and old.”

In the first century AD, Georgios, must battle a world of dark secrets, deceptive promises, and hope renewed to discover the true meaning of fatherhood. A mysterious alien condemns the human race, but the watching universe looks to humanity for renewed strength.

Photo https://pixabay.com/photos/fantasy-landscape-castle-mountains-4192535/

OldEarth Neb Encounter Excerpt

—Neb’s Village—As Evil as You Wish

Leah sat on the bank of a clear, flowing stream and watched the reflected clouds billow past in the small side pools.

The rushing flow bubbled and twinkled in the failing sunlight.

Her nausea rose and fell. Only the silent, still pools calmed her. She had relived her father’s death uncountable times and heard her brother’s defiant words repeated in her mind. Should she have chosen death?

She laid her hand on her belly, caressing her skin in slow, meditative circles.

As Meshullemeth scurried in the background, Leah shook her head. Always in a hurry but never doing anything.

Neb appeared, limping toward her, and a blush crept up her cheeks. He looks like a boy, an earnest child, with his heart pulsing through his eyes. A shiver ran over her arms.

Neb stood a moment, watching her. Pain etched a furrow across his brows.

With her hand resting comfortably on her belly, Leah met his gaze. “Are you all right?”

Neb jerked his head and attempted a smile. “I’m quite well. I came to check on you.”

Leah accepted this kindness. “I’m better. The baby is moving. He’ll be very strong.”

As he gentled himself onto the creek bank beside her, Neb’s smile grew genuine. “He’ll be the strongest baby under the sun.” He winced as he adjusted his leg.

Leah glanced aside until he was comfortably settled.

Neb turned his face to the setting sun, staring at the long shadows, and shivered.

Leah felt the child inside her body and knew that when this baby found his way into the world, Neb would lose himself. She smiled sweetly, though it tasted bitter.

“My mother has not been bothering you?”

Leah faced him. “Your mother?”

A flock of birds settled in a nearby tree, arranging themselves for a night of rest.

“No, why would she? I told her that all the decisions are yours, not mine.”

Neb nodded, his gaze downcast. “I do not mean that she would be unkind. I mean, rather, she wants the baby for herself.”

Her skin crawling, Leah wrapped her arms around her middle. “What do you mean? This child is ours, flesh of our flesh.”

Neb grunted. “She failed to mold me into the serving vessel she imagined, so now she wants to try with my son.” Neb gripped Leah’s arm, staring into her eyes. “She uses dark powers, and she’d stop at nothing to gain a new tool.”

Nausea rose from Leah’s middle. She tried to stand but crumpled on her attempt.

Using each other for leverage, Neb and Leah leaned on each other and rose to their feet. Neb clasped her arms, supportive and yet supported. “I didn’t want to upset you but rather warn you. My mother is not what she seems.”

Tears sprang to Leah’s eyes. “Is anyone?”

As if he had not heard, Neb wrapped his arm around her shoulder, hugging her close, and led her home.

The quiet bustle of families settling in for their evening meal, bees returning to their hives, birds warbling their goodnight songs, and a soft pink glow on the horizon mellowed Leah’s mood and reminded her of the still pools.

Neb’s voice, gentle but insistent, broke the peace. “Do you believe in me?”

Heavy, suffocating weariness enveloped Leah. “You are neither as good as you claim nor as evil as you wish.” Letting go of his grasp, Leah hobbled ahead, one hand rubbing her aching back while the other caressed the jerking kicks of her baby.

~~~

A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.

Make the most of life’s journey. 

For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page

https://www.amazon.com/author/akfrailey

https://amzn.to/3iGqGlQ

“A classic good vs evil scenario. Well written. Fast-paced and adventure-filled. Readers both young and old will enjoy.” ~My Book Addiction 

“…looks at humanity’s ancient past. The vivid descriptions of different clans bring early humanity alive. While part of a series, Neb works well as a standalone.” ~Rachel

Raised in a world of wild beasts, craven spirits, and noble souls, Neb dominates everyone around him. His mother feeds his lies, his father falls before him, and his brothers flee. Only in love does he meet a force he cannot resist. His wife bears two sons who take opposite paths. Neb’s curse follows both. Heaven and hell await their answer. Through the eyes of three alien worlds, so does the watching universe.

Photo https://pixabay.com/photos/waterfalls-stream-trees-moss-falls-1908788/

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter Excerpt

Desert—God Help Me

Tobia watched Ishtar lead the sheep to their watering hole. Exhaustion sapped his strength and sorrow confused his thoughts. A faint light of hope tried to spark, but he could not keep it alight. He glanced down. The pain in his chest should show through…somehow. “Ishtar?”

With his gaze fastened on the sheep, Ishtar coaxed them to the waterhole. “Yes?”

“What happened to Vitus?”

Once the sheep began to lap at the water, Ishtar halted, propped his arm on his staff, and looked at Tobia. “When he lost his mind or when he lost his way in the desert?”

“Both.”

A grimace spread over Ishtar’s face. “I’m the last person you should ask.”

Tobia’s eyes glimmered. “But he’s dead now—gone forever. I should’ve kept a closer eye on him.”

With a quick shake of his head, Ishtar motioned toward a rocky outcropping. He waited for Tobia to shift into the shade and leaned against the cool wall. “When I first came here, I was a shell of a man, not unlike Vitus. I had neither eyes to see nor ears to hear. I was dead inside. But Matalah’s kindness rekindled a spark of life within me.”

“Was I not kind enough to Vitus?”

Waving as if to dismiss the thought, Ishtar glanced away. “Matalah gave me the freedom to decide—but I had to make the choice myself. In time, I decided to live and pay back his kindness. Only then could hope flourish.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “Apparently, the Creator still has use for me.”

Tobia plopped down on the ground and sat cross-legged. “But it was God who struck down Vitus.”

“Are you sure?”

“Vitus called—demanded—that God speak with him and then lightning struck…”

Ishtar shook his head. “But He did not kill him, did He? Vitus followed in your footsteps for many a day after that.”

“But no one saved him when he wandered into the night. I didn’t even know he was gone until—”

Ishtar’s expression softened. “Tobia, you’re asking what happened between God and Vitus.” He peered over the horizon. “I can’t say and neither can you. All I know is—Matalah could not have saved me unless I wanted him to, and you could not save Vitus for the same reason.”

Pain tightened Tobia’s throat, and tears stung his eyes. “Ishtar?”

Ishtar met his gaze. “Yes?”

Longing tore through Tobia. “I want to go home.”

As a frolicking lamb nuzzled Ishtar’s hand, he patted it. “I’ll show you the way.”

~~~

Ishtar entered Matalah’s tent and bowed low.

Taking Ishtar’s hands, Matalah peered into his eyes, his face haggard and lined, looking older than his years. “Though my sons turned to evil, still, I pray on their behalf. May your fortune be better than mine.”

Ishtar blinked back tears. “I love you as I could never have loved my own father.”

Matalah nodded. “God knows…for I surely needed your love, my son.”

~~~

A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.

Make the most of life’s journey. 

For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page

https://www.amazon.com/author/akfrailey

https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF

“Enjoyed the second book of the trilogy even more than the first and can’t wait for the next adventures…” Ellen

“The story was wonderful and well written.” ~Culver

“…characters walk in the sort of uncertainty that characterizes real-life” ~Pam

 “a complex tale of sorcery, slave raids, and heroic rescues – dramatic events that bring the pre-biblical world to life.” ~David 

Forced to leave his clan and his children behind, Ishtar staggers into a vast wilderness and encounters a desert nomad who loves him as a son. When foreign raiders approach, Ishtar must discover if he can move beyond madness, protect his people, and reclaim his family. Eager to know the source of Ishtar’s strength, a watching Universe must learn if humanity can save them from a spreading darkness.

Photo https://pixabay.com/images/search/desert%2C%20oasis%20/

OldEarth Aram Encounter—Excerpt

—Grasslands—Lake Clan— Believe Me

Aram and his men followed dusty footprints, scanning broken stems of grass and twigs crushed under hurried feet. The trail was so obvious—neither Namah nor Irad had taken much care. At one point, they found a crushed spot where one of them had fallen and the other had dragged the companion a short way. Aram’s eyes squinted. Surely, Namah could not drag Irad. But why would Irad drag Namah? If she were sick or exhausted, he could carry her. Sweat trickled down the inside of his tunic.

Who was Irad? The question came sudden and unbidden. Or rather, he clarified his thought, who had Irad become? Evil possesses the man, directing his actions. This was not the man he knew. Or had Irad always been different than he had imagined? Aram’s mind floundered on questions he could not answer.

When he came upon the footprints at the edge of the cliff, he peered around. No one—no body—was there. Then he glanced down.

A solitary figure crouched by the shore. Something floated in the water.

Scampering down a craggy pass, Aram let his men follow in due course and jumped from ledge to ledge. Finally, he slid to the shore. As he ran, sand flew in a backward spray. His gaze locked on his wife, and he came to an abrupt halt.

Namah crouched, huddled over, rocking and moaning.
Irad, his clothes billowing in the water, floated face down. Clenching his jaw against tearing pain in his middle, Aram lifted his head and strode to his wife. Crouching at her side, he laid a hand on her shoulder.

Namah continued to rock, shaking and groaning.

Lifting her chin, Aram peered into haunted eyes. Her face, streaked with mud and blood, held shock and grief so deeply etched that words failed. Aram wrapped his arms around her, and held her, rocking and groaning with her.

With a scream, Namah pulled away. She hesitated, her words dropped to a mere whisper. “It wasn’t my fault.” Swallowing, she cried. She gripped her leg in agony but still stared at the body. “He’s crazy—evil! You didn’t know him, Aram. But I did!”

Aram rubbed away the tears coursing down her face. He surveyed her body. Her leg lay twisted at an odd angle. Bile rose in his throat.

Gripping her thigh, Namah sobbed. “He tried to kill me, but I killed him. He killed Lamech—Shem—Anikar. Now he knows what it feels like.” Shivering through a feverous tremor, she clawed at her leg. “I’ll die too.”

Rising, Aram whistled to his men who scrambled to the shore. With quick instructions, they tore off their outer tunics and formed a soft cradle to carry Namah between them.

Holding her steady, Aram helped to carry her past the body of his one-time friend. He kept his eyes averted. They negotiated Namah up a gentle incline and started the journey home.

Namah whimpered, clutching at Aram’s arm. “You’d have killed him yourself. He’s an animal—a dangerous animal.” Her head sank back, and, covering her face, she sobbed.

Without willing it, Aram looked back. The floating body rocked with the ebb of the morning tide.

~~~

A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.

Make the most of life’s journey. 

For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/author/akfrailey

https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

“…more complex and thought-provoking than your usual alien/human encounter.” ~D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

The history is fascinating, the characters are uniquely intriguing, the plot is very rich, and the events are fascinating.” ~OnlineBookClub.org

“Tense encounters, crisp action, failures of leadership, and dramatic surprises power the story’s main thrust…” ~BookLife Reviews

“Frailey writes in a crisp, lean, and richly detailed style, building a fascinating, absorbing world.” ~Blue Ink Review

Escape into a world of monstrous cats and epic journeys in the Tolkien style. Frailey succeeds in creating a new world, but also succeeds in spinning human emotions that keeps the reader grounded in timeless themes. ~Swegart

Aram must lead his clan to safety, protect an innocent man, forgive his wayward wife, and challenge a curse that haunts his soul. As Aram encounters both good and evil, an alien world watches and waits for their part to play in humanity’s future hope or despair.

Photo https://pixabay.com/photos/waters-nature-mountain-lake-3102729/

Homestead Parts 15 and 16

Audio of this post https://anchor.fm/ann-frailey/episodes/Homestead-Parts-15-and-16-e17g8me

It Was Not to Be

July decided that it wanted to make a name for itself before August elbowed its way to the front of the line, so the temperatures sky-rocketed in the latter half of July. It was weird to see empty fields where rows of corn and beans used to dominate the summer landscape.

Sure, families had planted gardens, but they were tiny compared to what I was used to seeing. What the winter would look like, no one could tell. I shuddered to think about the spring. Few people had supplies to last that long.

My zucchini was all but done, and only one giant sunflower lifted its head against the bright blue sky. The lettuce had bolted, though I pulled the last few tough leaves off the thick stems to add garnish to every meal. All the potatoes and onions had been pulled and hauled inside. I was rather proud of the cardboard boxes layered with my homegrown produce. I shifted the boxes onto a dark shelf in the basement where they were sure to stay dry. I planned to use lots of white onions when I made salsa. Just waiting for the tomatoes to do their thing and ripen in a big bunch to make a canning day worth the effort.

Feeling a tad lonesome, I let the oldest cat, Earl, into the house where he slept on the chair in the living room most days. His rickety old body could hardly jump the distance, and I knew there’d be a day when he’d fall back to the floor in cat disbelief. But for now, he was someone to talk to. Even if I knew full well that he was dreaming his last days away.

With the high humidity and heat, I didn’t feel terribly hungry mid-week. I had spent most of the day clearing out the back shed in the expectation that when Liam and the kids did make it home, we’d have to think seriously of getting a couple of cows and expanding our chicken run. We’d have to store hay for the winter and figure out how to grow our own feed grain. Other people were making adaptions—necessitating the use of every old barn and shed in the county. Wood and metal for roofing were going for a premium price. I had to make the most of what I had. And that meant clearing out the dusty space and shoring up the frame so it wouldn’t collapse over the winter.

Hot, sticky, and fearing the revenge the spiders would perpetrate on me for wiping out their webs, I trudged into the kitchen planning on nothing more than tomato slices and a glass of water for dinner.

I nearly had a heart attack when I saw a man sitting at my kitchen table. My first thought was that Liam had finally made it home, but then I realized that this guy was much too young.

“Jared?”

He stood up and faced me, not a hint of a smile on his face. “I’ve got bad news, Mrs. Oxley.” I swallowed and gripped the kitchen counter. I didn’t want him to tell me…

I Had a Spirit

Early August

The temperatures continued to zig-zag right into August, but a storm front promised cooler temperatures soon. At least, that’s what Ben said when he returned with Dana and Juan following at his heels like lost puppies.

I was too depressed to care if an arctic winter was in the forecast. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that I’d never see Liam again. That I had missed his last days, his last moments. His burial.

The tomatoes and peppers had ripened nicely, and with the pile of onions I had stored away, I had enough fresh ingredients, with bartered cilantro from a family in town, to make a decent batch of salsa. Luckily, I had stocked up on vinegar last year. The extra gallon came in handy with all the pickling and canning I was doing.

After washing the five gallon’s worth of tomatoes, I sat on the hardwood bench at the kitchen table and cut off the bad parts, and sliced the juicy red goodness into tiny pieces. Next, I worked on the pile of bright red and green peppers, and finally, I faced the dreaded onions. I didn’t need a reason to cry. I had plenty.

Flies swarmed the pots and dove into my face, adding to my frustrations. Hot and sticky with a storm front pushing the humidity into the unbearable zone, I worked mechanically. Focusing on one step at a time.

Grab an onion by the tail

Slice one side.

Peel.

Chop into rings.

Turn and chop into cubes.

Drop the pile into the pot.

Wipe my stinging eyes.

Repeat.

“You want some help?”

I looked up. There was Dana reaching for a knife and settling across from me at the table. Guess I didn’t need to answer. She could read my mind. Or so she thought.

I sniffed back stinging tears and lost my rhythm. I was supposed to be cubing, but I went to the sink and splashed water on my face instead.

After patting my eyes dry with a towel, I looked at my daughter. Why was I so angry at her? She hadn’t done anything wrong. In fact, she had done everything right. Found her brother. Made her way home. Gone off and looked for her dad. And found him. And buried him.

“Mom? You okay?”

I stared at the onions. I wanted to hate them. But I couldn’t. “No. Not okay.”

Dana stopped chopping. “Me neither.” She had dropped her head onto her chest and I could tell by the heaving action that she was either sobbing silently or about to throw up. Or both. Maternal instinct to the rescue, I ran over and…

For more of these episodes and others, check out Kindle Vella Homestead or

for other books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/A.-K.-Frailey/e/B006WQTQCE

Homestead Parts 13 and 14

Podcast https://anchor.fm/ann-frailey/episodes/Homestead-Parts-13-and-14-e174jbl

It’s a Deal

What did Liam mean in his letters? And what about Josh? Did the aliens get him? Were the kids okay? And what about Ben—yeah, what about Ben…

Five o’clock on a mid-July evening, and I was ready to spontaneously combust. Too many questions and not nearly enough answers. I invited Linda over for supper, and we slapped flies away as we ate egg salad sandwiches. No chips, of course. Pickles, though. I had finally gotten enough cucumbers to make a decent batch. Vinegar, garlic, a dash of sugar and salt, and lots of dill made us pucker up big time, but they went well with the meal. I even made a blackberry cobbler for dessert. If the flies didn’t eat it all first.

I got up and draped a towel over the deep dish. Then I slumped with Monday weariness onto my chair and took another bite of dinner, crunching on the garden lettuce I had added for body since I didn’t have many eggs. I glanced at Linda.

She was eating, a good sign. But the dark lines under her eyes, glazed expression, and slow motions bespoke depression’s tenacious hold.

“So, have any of your tomatoes ripened yet?” A pertinent question, considering the need for healthy food to be packed away for the long winter. I tried not to think of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s version of the Long Winter. Where they nearly starved to death.

Linda dragged her gaze from the flower-rimmed plate and met my gaze. It seemed to take a minute for the question to process. “Oh, no. Not yet. They’re getting big though. All the rain. Just hope they don’t rot.”

Setting that pleasant image aside, I opened my mouth to try again, when she interrupted me—her brows scrunched in concentration.

“What about Liam’s letters. You never told me. What did he say?”

I sighed. How much to share? Or how little? A strong desire to make something up—something truly interesting—washed over me like a cool bath. It would be fun to imagine that he had spent the last weeks frantically busy, heroically saving the Pacific coast. But no.

“They weren’t terribly fact-filled. The first was ridiculous; he was in complete denial that technology had let him down, let us all down. He insisted that it was some kind of prank. Though by the end of the letter, he seemed to be considering the idea that it might be a nefarious attack by a group of villainous hackers. His words, not mine.”

“The letters were from was early on and just got to you now?”

Mail had been traveling in spurts and drips. All his letters, at least the three that I received, were written in the early days. The second seemed to take the situation more seriously, but he was still convinced that the “snafus” would be cleared up quickly. He made a joke of the fact that everyone in the hotel was swapping medications to manage their various conditions. I cringed at the thought of him trying to substitute something for his daily prednisone. Not the kind of medicine that you want to play merry-go-round with.

I studied Linda, knew she had bared her soul about Jared and had to tell the truth. “Liam spent the first two letters telling me that the whole thing wasn’t really happening. But by the third, he had faced some version of reality. He spent that letter telling me that he loved me and the kids.”

Linda clasped my hand and squeezed. We both tried not to cry.

I would have failed miserably had it not been for a sudden squawking outside the door. Linda ran into me as we both rushed for the door. Bouncing off each other like school kids racing outside for recess, we managed to make it to the door, disheveled, but—

Humans Among Us

Linda and I returned to our repast and did an amazing job finishing off the egg salad and an embarrassing amount of the cobbler. Though it was still mid-summer, the days weren’t getting longer but slowly shortening with lingering evenings being the best part of the day.

We decided to sit out on the front porch as the sun set and the sky turned from pink and yellow into a fiery red. If I had any wine on hand, I would’ve offered her some. The trees across the road rippled in a gentle breeze, and birds twittered from the electrical lines. I wondered what would happen to those ubiquitous black wires? Would they surge with energy once again someday? Or become useless like dead snakes and drop to the ground in imitation of some dystopian novel?

I glanced aside and saw a tear slip down Linda’s face. For the first time, really, I cared about her. Not the usual, “Hope you’re doing well” that we send in quick messages or the “How’s everything?” in passing, but the heart-wrenching sensation you get when you feel another person’s pain. I rubbed her back. “Josh and Jared will be okay.” It was an ignorant comment. I knew it, and she knew it.

She swallowed, gulping sobs, and clasped her hands, shaking with pent-up tension. She slid her gaze my way. “You don’t know, do you?”

I attempted an easy nonchalance and shrugged. “Tell me.”

“Jared wasn’t crazy. There are aliens.”

That was enough. I didn’t want to go any further, but yet, I had to know. Either everyone was going mad or I was way out of the loop. “Aliens? Seriously?”

She snorted, should’ve had a whisky to belt back. “Yeah. They’ve been here a long time. Since humanity got started, I think.”

Whoa! This was a new take on an old theme. “They’ve been watching us since—when?”

Linda straightened, rubbed her listless arms, and exhaled a long breath. A weary pedagogue having to go round ten with a recalcitrant student. “Not watching. They’ve been raised with us. Look, I don’t know the whole story, but I get the general drift. When life first started on this planet, for a time, everything was just at animal level—you know, fish and birds, creepy crawly things, and then mammals and more adaptable critters. At some point, I have no clue when, there was a divide. Actually, from what I understand, there were several splits. Some of the more intelligent or adaptable animals, pre-human-kind survived while others fell by the wayside. Was there warfare, a genocide of sorts? Can’t say if they were capable of comprehending that sort of thing. But it happened nonetheless.”

My gaze strayed to the flowering Rose of Sharon bushes. Their starburst pink flowers with white centers sure looked beautiful. I didn’t want an anthropology lesson. I always figured that we could clog the Earth with what we didn’t know about our past, and our ever-changing hypothesis about our true origin should be taken with a proverbial grain of salt. “Anyway” Linda must’ve sensed my mood shift. She hurried on. “These alien beings came along and decided—

For the rest of these and other episodes visit Kindle Vella Homestead by A. K. Frailey

https://www.amazon.com/Homestead/dp/B094PVCT26/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=a.+K.+Frailey&qid=1626266332&s=falkor&sr=1-1

Books by A. K. Frailey

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend Novels

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF

OldEarth Neb Encounter https://amzn.to/3iGqGlQ

OldEarth Georgios Encounter https://amzn.to/3v7w8oI

OldEarth Melchior Encounter (In Production)

Science Fiction Novels

Last of Her Kind http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Short Stories

It Might Have Been—And Other Short Stories https://amzn.to/2XXdDDz

Encounter Science Fiction Short Stories & Novella https://amzn.to/3dq6q5l

Inspirational Non-Fiction

My Road Goes Ever On—Spiritual Being, Human Journey https://amzn.to/2KvF3Ll

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings https://amzn.to/3rtAy6S

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Poetry

Hope’s Embrace & Other Poems https://amzn.to/3cn22X8

Photo https://pixabay.com/photos/fantasy-ufo-spaceship-future-hover-5025661/

Homestead Parts 11 and 12

https://anchor.fm/ann-frailey/episodes/Homestead-Parts-11-and-12-e16qdtf

Ponderations

Dana couldn’t stand still for a minute. Even perpetual motion machines of the world took notice.

I sat on the back steps letting a cool front work its magic. For the end of June, it was gorgeous. Cool sunny mornings, warm days with afternoon rainstorms, and blessedly chilly nights. “I wish this would last forever.”

Dana stopped pacing under the maple tree and stared at me. Glared really. But who am I to quibble? She had stayed longer than she intended, only because I threatened to get on my knees and beg.

“You’re okay without dad?”

I shook my head and tried to wave her comment into oblivion. “That’s not what I meant. I was talking about the weather.”

Her hands went to her hips. “It’s time we left. You’re not going to give us any trouble, right?”

Juan slipped out my bedroom door and stopped on the top porch step. I didn’t see him. But I didn’t need to. I knew the sound of my son’s footsteps as well as my own heartbeat.

I waited. Juan didn’t want to leave home. I knew that, but there was an unspoken understanding that he would go with Dana. He had to. She was going no matter what I said. But she couldn’t go alone. And I was hardly fit enough to traipse across an out-of-control country. I’d do better to keep the home fires burning. Literally.

I peered at Dana. She was the same woman who had driven to St. Louis weeks ago, but at the same time, she seemed so altered that I hardly felt comfortable in her presence. There was something she wasn’t telling me. And I was weary of not knowing—fighting off the horrors that raged in my mind. So, I countered with a question of my own, “You want to tell me about the aliens?” That threw her. I knew it would. The look that crossed her face when…

Into the Deep End

It was late by the time Ben left and the kids settled down for a good night’s rest before their adventure the next day.

To my everlasting gratitude, Ben offered to go with the kids. He didn’t start with that offer though. Ben is far wilier than I had realized. What comes across as boyish innocence masks a deceptively perceptive nature. He outfoxed Dana better than I ever could.

He spent the majority of the evening asking her advice, taking her lead. Even glancing her way when I suggested an early bedtime. Almost as if he and she had formed an inside club that knew better than color-in-the-lines-can’t-be-too-careful mom.

Juan sat back and luxuriated in someone else taking the burden of conversation off his shoulders. Though he did add texture to the stories, Ben got Dana to share details about their travels.

No one mentioned aliens.

I wished Ben had asked. For some reason, I thought he might be able to get away with that line of inquiry when it was clear, I’d be blown to smithereens for my efforts. Still, it was a great evening. A memory I could snuggle close to, comforting me through the ordeals ahead.

When I heard knocking on the kitchen door at six in the morning, I assumed it was Ben ready to roust the kids out of bed and hit the road for a fresh start before the sun climbed too high. I poured the last of the pancake batter into the frying pan and wiped my hands on a clean towel. “Coming, sir. Right in time for—”

Josh stared at me through eyes glossy with exhaustion, his body limp and his clothes filthy.

“Josh? What—?”

“Is he here?”

“Who? Ben? He’ll be coming along in a bit.”

Pushing past me, Josh stumbled into the house and landed on the kitchen bench, his whole body sagging. “No, Jared. Has he come by? Or said anything to you?”

I hadn’t seen hide nor hair of the young man. Didn’t want to either. “No. Everything has been quiet here. Ben and the kids are heading out this morning—”

Josh wavered to his feet. “Don’t!”

I swallowed the fear lodging itself in my throat. “Why?”

This time the knock was followed by the door opening in quick succession. Ben swung into the room, his gaze locking on me. “You okay?” Footsteps pounded down the stairs, and Dana joined the coffee klatch though no coffee had been served yet, and I was as confused as…

For the rest of these episodes and others visit Kindle Vella Homestead by A. K. Frailey.

https://www.amazon.com/Homestead/dp/B094PVCT26/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=a.+K.+Frailey&qid=1626266332&s=falkor&sr=1-1

Books by A. K. Frailey

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend Novels

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF

OldEarth Neb Encounter https://amzn.to/3iGqGlQ

OldEarth Georgios Encounter https://amzn.to/3v7w8oI

OldEarth Melchior Encounter (In Production)

Science Fiction Novels

Last of Her Kind http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Short Stories

It Might Have Been—And Other Short Stories https://amzn.to/2XXdDDz

Encounter Science Fiction Short Stories & Novella https://amzn.to/3dq6q5l

Inspirational Non-Fiction

My Road Goes Ever On—Spiritual Being, Human Journey https://amzn.to/2KvF3Ll

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings https://amzn.to/3rtAy6S

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Poetry

Hope’s Embrace & Other Poems https://amzn.to/3cn22X8

Photo https://pixabay.com/de/photos/neuseeland-haus-heimat-h%c3%bctte-2609034/

Homestead Parts 9 and 10

If I Could Get the Movie Rights

It was nearing the middle of June, and I still didn’t know where Liam or the kids were, but perhaps I was the lucky one.

After receiving a strange note, Ben had advised Josh and Linda to intercept Jared at Terre Haute where the boy had been taken for evaluation. Apparently, he was raving about aliens and could get violent if people rolled their eyes in skepticism.

The day after they got back with a disheveled, skinny son in tow, they invited me over for a mid-morning snack. I fought down jealousy and cleaned up after a battle in the garden, trying to direct the zucchini vines away from the potato plants. What I said to the tomato plants doesn’t bear repeating, though the lettuce was behaving well and offered enough to share when I felt neighborly.

After getting settled on their plush couch in their purple-walled room, I stifled a gag in the rancid air.

The temperatures had rocketed to the low nineties with high humidity. Add the fact that Linda couldn’t get used to the idea that with no air conditioning, the inhabitants still had to breathe, so she had to keep windows open, but she often forgot.

I panted like a dog,

Linda perched on the edge of a straight-backed chair in the corner while Josh stood strangely indecisive in the doorway.

Jared paced like a caged animal before the clean fireplace.

Becoming more uncomfortable by the minute, sweat dripping down my back, and prickles spread over my arms at the sight of the twenty-five-year-old man. He had changed so completely; I almost didn’t recognize him. I glanced at Linda, then at Josh.

Neither offered a word.

Never one to jump off the deep end, I took tentative steps. “I’m so glad you made it home safe and sound, Jared. I’m rather jealous. My kids were supposed to be back a couple of weeks ago, but…still traveling…I guess.” My brave smile died a quick death. Jared stopped pacing. I’ve heard of people being frozen in place. An overused literary device that ought to be dropped. But as I stared at Jared, his still form brought the expression…

Winding Road Ahead

I didn’t have to wait long.

It may have seemed an eternity, but on Saturday, the nineteenth of June, I heard a familiar tromp of feet climbing up my back porch steps. Two pairs. My beloved kids had returned.

Or so I hoped.

I dashed my hands in the old ice cream bucket of cooled, boiled water I kept beside the sink to wash my hands, quickly rinsing sticky dough off my fingers. Though there was still a bit of kneading to finish the daily bread, that duty faded to insignificance.

I wiped my eyes, hoping that I’d keep from crying.

First, Dana stepped into the kitchen.

You guessed it; I burst into tears.

Always a little on the plump side with a sweet round face and pink cheeks, long shiny brown hair, and dressed professionally, she now presented a very different image. All extra weight gone, her face lean with high, tight cheekbones, and her hair had been whacked off to ear length. I wondered if she had done it with a machete. Her clothes had certainly seen better days. I pressed my fingers to my lips to suppress an involuntary gasp.

Juan stepped in behind his sister. My overwhelmed gaze immediately recognized his state of malnutrition—bone-thin, the ghost-like pallor, sunken cheeks, dark cavernous circles under his eyes. But when he smiled, my son showed though.

They hesitated only a moment when I held out my arms, aching for a hug.

Sobbing, I gripped each of them, hanging on for dear life, but also, acutely aware that their bones felt sharp against my body.

Dana let go first. As usual, she wanted to get down to business.

“Where’s dad?” I ran my fingers through my short, unruly hair, recognizing the fact that it had come loose from its tie, and I probably looked like a seed pod ready to take flight. What could I say? I shook my head, my gaze…

For the rest of these episodes and others, visit Kindle Vella Homestead by A. K. Frailey.

https://www.amazon.com/Homestead/dp/B094PVCT26/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=a.+K.+Frailey&qid=1626266332&s=falkor&sr=1-1

Books by A. K. Frailey

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend Novels

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF

OldEarth Neb Encounter https://amzn.to/3iGqGlQ

OldEarth Georgios Encounter https://amzn.to/3v7w8oI

OldEarth Melchior Encounter (In Production)

Science Fiction Novels

Last of Her Kind http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Short Stories

It Might Have Been—And Other Short Stories https://amzn.to/2XXdDDz

Encounter Science Fiction Short Stories & Novella https://amzn.to/3dq6q5l

Inspirational Non-Fiction

My Road Goes Ever On—Spiritual Being, Human Journey https://amzn.to/2KvF3Ll

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings https://amzn.to/3rtAy6S

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Poetry

Hope’s Embrace & Other Poems https://amzn.to/3cn22X8

Photo https://pixabay.com/de/photos/frau-zaun-ranch-br%c3%bcnette-gesicht-1996283/

Homestead Parts 7 and 8

Gather My Shattered Wits

Amazingly, I lived through the next week and into the following week without falling into a heap of withered anxiety. If I had been a plant, I’m certain that my leaves would have turned brown and scattered to the four winds. As it happened, I turned out to be more resilient than I expected.

At first, I kept busy organizing my supplies. I grabbed my banking notebook, a hard-covered thing, and took a seriously honest inventory.

The cupboards weren’t bare, but they were hardly full either. I realized with chagrin how much food I threw away on a daily basis. In ordinary times, if we didn’t feel like leftovers, we gave them to the chickens. Oftentimes bones were given to the dog with plenty of meat still attached. And I had let milk spoil in the refrigerator more times than I could count. Suddenly, waste didn’t seem like a minor happenstance. It felt like a crime.

It wasn’t until nearly two full weeks had passed that I finally got word from Dana. Ben stopped by on that second rainy Wednesday morning with a satchel slung over his broad shoulders. He made his way inside the kitchen door after I had identified his unique, “Hey-ya!” and told him to come in.

His face looked older—lined with concern. His eyes a little sadder, like he has seen troubling things. More troubling than our small-town-techno-disconnect? I wasn’t sure.

But he forced a smile as he dug into his bag. “Feel a little like Santa delivering gifts to waiting families.” He pulled out a folded envelope. “Hope this helps.” Despite the grin, worry lined formed around his eyes. Gluttonously, I snatched it, tore the envelope open, and…

Living in Paradise?

I felt so proud of myself. One of the deadly sins, I know, so I should have surmised I was heading for trouble. By Thursday afternoon, I had cleaned the whole house, organized all the kitchen and downstairs storage shelves, written a complete inventory list, and even clipped the hedges so the house looked neat outside and as well as in.

By five in the afternoon, I was in a pleasant state of exhaustion and treated myself to a tall glass of sun tea. I sat relaxing before the garden under the grape arbor on the rickety old wooden swing, which was still servable if I didn’t sway too far.

The sound of a distant siren caught my ear. I remember thinking that it was in my imagination, a memory of some cop show where sirens blared across the cityscape. But this was rural countryside. A quiet backwoods world where police hardly bothered to flash their lights much less sound a siren. If one rolled up close behind, that was signal enough to pull over and find out if you’d surpassed the 30-mph speed limit. A definite no-no that earned a standard ticket and accompanying fine.

The siren continued unabated—no routine practice or alert for a single driver.

My heart began to pound.

I rose and glanced around. No smoke rising. I could safely assume no one’s house was on fire. An accident? A call for help?

I squinted at the falling sun. It was still bright, and I could easily traipse to town and see what was happening. But what good could I do? I’d more likely just get in the way.

Conflict tightening my stomach into knots, I paced back to the house with my empty glass in hand.

Josh jogged along the road.

I blinked and waved. “Hey, you heading to town?”

He nodded, slowing his pace but still moving forward. “Yeah. We arranged the siren as a signal for all able-bodied volunteers to meet up if something important happened.”

Not wanting to delay him, I waved him on. “Don’t let me slow you down. Just tell me what’s going on when you get a chance.”

He picked up speed. “Check on Linda, if you can. She’s not doing great.”

I called after him. “Sure thing!” Though checking on Linda was last on my list of want-to-dos. I really needed some solid food and a chance to gather my frightened wits. Oh, heck. Linda is probably chewing her fingers to the bone.

I ran inside, pulled a bowl of spiced pasta and tuna from the dark refrigerator, and speed-walked down the lane. Once at Linda’s house, I climbed the porch steps and knocked on the doorframe. “Hey, want to join me for dinner? I brought something tasty.”

Linda came to the door, her face red and blotched with the traces of tears still on her cheeks. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and forced a determined smile. “I’m not hungry, but I’m glad to see you.”

Completely unable to deal with her meltdown, but knowing that my only alternative was to trot home and have my own, I decided to forge ahead with my unwanted charity dinner. “Come on and try a bit. You need to keep your strength up.”

After setting two servings of my meager meal, I sat down opposite Linda at her kitchen table and tried to decide if I’d even attempt prayers before eating. What the heck. I made the sign of the cross and then halted when Linda burst into fresh tears.

“She died. Just like I thought she would.”

My heart jumped into my throat. “Who?”

“My mom. Got word last night. Some guy at the nursing home wrote—said that the folks are passing at an alarming rate. He can hardly keep up with notifications, much less burials. But, good news, she passed without pain or complaint.” Linda peered at me through narrowed eyes. “You don’t think someone is helping them to pass along, do you?”

“Oh, God! Why you’d think that? It’s probably just the shock and the lack of—well, everything. Medicines must be hard to come by and—” I didn’t know what else to say. Knowing that the at-risk population was succumbing for a whole range of very good reasons hardly made it more acceptable.

Linda stared at the tabletop, her eyes dry now, but her gaze unfocused. “I just don’t know what to think. It’s like evil has been loosed against everyone. I don’t know what terrible thing will happen next.” She sniffed and glanced up. “Do we deserve this?”

Dread rose like a monster inside me. I forced it down with the fact that Dana and Juan were due home in the next few days, and they would help us manage through our dark future. Thank Heaven for my kids. “So has Jared started home, yet?” A shout brought us to our feet. It sounded like…

For the rest of these episodes and others, visit Kindle Vella Homestead by A. K. Frailey.

Books by A. K. Frailey

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend Novels

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF

OldEarth Neb Encounter https://amzn.to/3iGqGlQ

OldEarth Georgios Encounter https://amzn.to/3v7w8oI

OldEarth Melchior Encounter (In Production)

Science Fiction Novels

Last of Her Kind http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Short Stories

It Might Have Been—And Other Short Stories https://amzn.to/2XXdDDz

Encounter Science Fiction Short Stories & Novella https://amzn.to/3dq6q5l

Inspirational Non-Fiction

My Road Goes Ever On—Spiritual Being, Human Journey https://amzn.to/2KvF3Ll

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings https://amzn.to/3rtAy6S

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Poetry

Hope’s Embrace & Other Poems https://amzn.to/3cn22X8

Photo https://pixabay.com/de/photos/haus-himmel-sturm-wolken-feld-3981366/