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/

Rise Above

For a read-aloud of this post, check out https://anchor.fm/ann-frailey/episodes/Rise-Above-e1aiog2

“SpaceX’s successfully launched four astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA on Nov. 10, 2021. They will arrive at the station Thursday evening. 

Known as Crew-3, the mission will mark SpaceX’s fourth crewed spaceflight and will ferry NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, Kayla Barron and European Space Agency Matthias Maurer on a six-month mission to the space station.”

I find it rather startling that anyone would want to get into a space ship, blast off Earth, and live on a space station for any length of time. Isn’t life precarious enough? Don’t we have problems a-plenty that need to be solved right here?

Yet that has never been the human trajectory. Rather like a seed that is not content to stay under ground, we must break through the soil of our ordinary lives and reach for stars and the possibility of alien life in a reality we can’t fully comprehend.

As I deal with the most recent trial in the form of my father’s death, I have to face the fact that part of me would like to take a ride to a far-off uncertainty than deal with complex, often unpleasant, experiences here on Earth.

Perhaps that is why I enjoy writing science fiction and enter a different world with problems that aren’t mine. It is also why I enjoy writing poetry. A poem can get to the heart of human experience without any actual bloodshed. It wiggles between the barbs of misunderstanding, flounces right past correct judgment, and digs deep into shared truth.

Poetry is in a class by itself, bucking the system from the get-go. Though not always considered classy, rhyming poems offer me more than common-everyday prose. I like their feel and sound. I enjoy the challenge of finding words to fit a theme. But most importantly, I like how poems mean something even when they appear to be hanging upside down from a tree branch. In a poem, I can’t really be wrong or out of style, stupid or ignorant. I’m simply seeing. Feeling. Living through words. Becoming more than just me in a we-centered communion.

Perhaps that is how astronauts feel while circling the Earth. They literally are “above it all.” They fly hi and see what they can see. Learn what they can learn. Like explorers of old, they take the human imagination into new territory. Writers attempt much the same. Reaching up on our tiptoes and then taking a leap into the air, which can’t possibly sustain us, we move from certainty into the “what if?” unknown. Though we can’t touch the sun or—as of yet—an alien hand, for a brief moment, we can see ourselves, our earthly existence, from a new perspective.

So, though I’m not heading out into space myself, I get it. Precarious as our lives may be, full of troubles aplenty, we’re also an amazingly strong, brave, inventive, creative, determined race of beings who can—on occasion—rise above.

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

Hope’s Embrace & Other Poems 2nd Edition

https://amzn.to/3cn22X8

https://www.space.com/news/live/spacex-crew-dragon-mission-updates

Photo https://pixabay.com/photos/astronaut-astronomy-satellite-moon-1849401/

Science Fiction Asks Awesome Questions 

A read aloud of this post is found at https://anchor.fm/ann-frailey/episodes/Science-Fiction-Asks-Awesome-Questions-e196vto

Dreams are as natural to human beings as breathing. We need to dream to stay sane. Occasionally allowing our minds to wander into the distant universe allows us to wrestle with some pretty awesome questions.

How does science fiction fit into our natural tendency to dream or imagine? Perhaps more than any other genre in recent history, science fiction has altered humanity’s trajectory. For good or for ill is not for me to say.

Let’s visit three early science fiction works and consider serious societal issues in light of their meaning.

Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein in 1818. The book centers on a doctor, Victor Frankenstein, who creates new life in the form of what he later considers his monster. Frankenstein’s initial excitement, obsession even, with his work is based on the fact that he is doing what no one has ever done before. His mind is filled with glorious possibilities. The consequential reality is something much more poignant and tragic, however, as innocent lives are destroyed by his monster creation.

The point of Shelly’s work stands as tall as the mountains that readers cross throughout the journey. Science in general and medical science, in particular, bear a moral responsibility to be careful and not turn a blind eye to unintentional consequences in the face of wondrous possibilities. Today, the US works under the auspices of the FDA, in which the approval of most drugs and medical advancements must be considered under the scrutiny of many eyes, various experiences, and the glaring light of time.

It is a leap to state that the FDA or any medical oversight came about because of a science fiction book. And that would never be my claim. But it would, perhaps, be fair to say that the same forces that impelled Mary Shelly to write her science fiction novel and those who subsequently read it did create an environment where the FDA could be successfully created.

H. G. Wells first serialized War of the Worlds in 1897. In his story, aliens are taken very seriously and met with complete bewilderment by humanity. It’s a look at what “might be” in terms of the universe and how humans don’t know what we don’t know. There is almost a sneering undertone in the book as to our naiveté. The most remarkable aspect of the book, for me, is not the storyline but the fact that readers latched onto the concept of aliens so absolutely. By the late 1800s and into the 1900s, humanity was learning at a faster rate than ever before, peering into a vast universe that held innumerable secrets. This love affair with alien life, albeit with fear and trembling, has sustained many space exploration programs and created an exploding genre of fiction. Would the whole chain of events leading to William Shatner taking a ride into space on Blue Origen in October 2021 have happened if sci-fi writers hadn’t started imagining who might be “out there” back in 1897?

George Orwell wrote and published 1984 in 1949. The basic premise behind his best seller involved the power of a government to manipulate the meaning of words and control whole populations. I won’t go down the political and societal rabbit hole by conjecturing on just how embedded the power of word manipulation has changed our culture today. Just consider the vast amounts of money and the huge influence of lobbyists who use particularly powerful trigger words: reason, choice, honesty, freedom, news…and more. I am not qualified to discern the manipulation of certain words over others, but clearly, words are used in media to push emotional buttons. Click bate, anyone? With bots often directing the merry-go-around, power words beget more power words, not necessarily reason, choice, honesty, or freedom.

In my book, Last of Her Kind published on 2017, the characters reel from a host of challenges. Primarily, humans inability to conceive new life and subsequent world challenges. Humanity must prioritize medical advances and consider—not how did this happen and who do we blame—but how do we handle extinction staring us in the face? Unintentional realities happen. Now what?

Anther major aspect of LOHK relates to the watching alien world that comes into the clearest focus through Cerulean, an alien from Lux who has fallen in love with Anne, the last woman to conceive a child on Earth. Lux has its own problems, as does Cerulean. No matter how different aliens may be from humans, family conflicts beset us all.

Throughout LOHK, news reports, blog posts, international events, family reactions, neighbors’ reflections, marriage fractures, and every imaginable human form of communication lies the corruption of the message. The fact that even when a human being speaks as honestly as he or she can, there is an element of incompleteness. We do not know ourselves. Thus, it makes it impossible to know anyone else completely.

The interaction between humans and Luxonians creates an “illuminating” juxtaposition. As a writer, I had to get outside my own skin and attempt to see the human race from a higher perspective. How might we appear if someone from another planet took a long look at us? We are loveable, certainly, but are we admirable?

Science fiction, in a way, embodies all genres and adds a fresh perspective. That’s why I find it has such power in the human imagination. We see, we act, and then—we look up and dream about the biggest question of all—Who am I?

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/A.-K.-Frailey/e/B006WQTQCE

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 5 and 6

Light

My stomach rumbled. So much for the Celestial realm. I considered my guest’s quiet form for a moment then promptly rose to the challenge of finding a quick nourishing meal that didn’t require an engineering degree. I swept past Ben, marched down the porch steps, and crossed the backyard to the woodpile. I grabbed a couple of thick logs, snatched a handful of twigs from the brush pile, and charged into the house.

After assembling a conflagration in the woodstove, I popped the four limp loaves onto two shelves and closed the door with a sense of accomplishment. Next, I gathered three plastic containers, usually used for juice, and plodded to the prairie grass. I waded through the green tangle and stopped at the well pump. The steel handle glinted in the fading light. I pumped a bit and, sure as shooting, clear water gushed out. Before I could break a sweat, I filled the three containers and then realized that I only had two hands. Plodding back and forth, I managed to get all three containers to the woodstove where I poured their contents into a large metal pot on the stovetop. I covered it with a lid, checked the fire, added a few more sticks, and nearly pounded my chest with happy satisfaction.

Sitting at the kitchen table, Ben chuckled. To my surprise, he hadn’t deemed my marvel of efficiency as a proper excuse to run off and help some helpless neighbor. Linda perhaps?

Ben pointed to the chrome refrigerator. “You might want to use what’s in there before it goes bad.”

I blinked. Images of sour milk, rancid cheese, and brown lettuce rose in my mind. Before I could stop them, rude words poured forth from my lips. “How long have you been here?”

He tapped his watch and shrugged. “Don’t know, but too long apparently.” He rose to his feet and smiled, tipping his head in a gentleman’s goodbye. “Glad to know that you can manage so well. I’ll head out now.” He paced to the kitchen door and nodded. “If you need me, just call.”  

I didn’t know how to answer. I didn’t want to need him. “Thanks. If you need me, you know where I am.” I rolled my eyes. The guy was only trying to help. It wasn’t until after he’d left that I realized, he’d forgotten that the phones didn’t work. I couldn’t call him. My stomach rumbled—a volcano with dire predictions if I didn’t attend to internal matters. I swung open the refrigerator door and decided that…

A Day of Impossibilities

Yes, okay. You got me. I did forget the bread. But since I completely forgot the woodstove and let the fire go out, I stood amazed the next day—like a child on Christmas morning—to discover that instead of four burnt-to-a-crisp-loaves, I actually had something eatable waiting for me in the woodstove.

Still dressed in my pajamas, it was the sudden memory of the bread that shot me out of bed, I gingerly pulled out the pans and placed them on the cool stovetop.

If I hadn’t been so bloody miserable missing Liam and the kids, I probably would’ve done a happy dance. But happy was not to be. Not with my heart constricted and panic ready to seep from the pores of my skin. Liam had an auto-immune disorder, nothing terribly serious, but his body could go into painful flairs without his medication. He’d taken enough for his trip to L. A. but as he had no intention of staying more than the required three days, he probably hadn’t packed extra. I tossed a prayer to Heaven. “Please, God, assure me that he took extra. Or that a doctor is near at hand. Or he meets a pharmacist who happens to carry around extra doses of prednisone.”

A gentle breeze wended its way through the open window, fluttering the lacy white curtains. I took that as a sign. Then I snatched up one pan and carried it to the table. I plopped it onto a breadboard, snuck the jam jar from the dark refrigerator, and slathered a slice. “Oh, and—” I prayed between chews. “Thanks for this day’s bread.”

A headache slowed my reaction time, so it took me longer than usual to realize that someone was knocking at my kitchen door. Ben? Surely not. I glanced out the window. It couldn’t be much after 6:00 AM.

Linda peered through the storm door window. Anxiety lined her face, but she lifted a thermos like a peace offering. “I know just what you need.”

Conflicted between the need for my morning coffee and irritation, I opened the screen door and stepped aside.

She pulled a second thermos from behind her back.  “We’ll chat over hot coffee like old times.”

My mind ricocheted around the room. The morning light streaming in the kitchen windows. A hen clucking in annoyance at the collie’s advances. Linda sidling over to a chair and plopping down as if the last couple of days had never happened. My headache sped into overdrive. An image of Ben with his hands folded, concerned, yet strangely peaceful, flittered through my mind. Liam, Juan, and Dana should be sitting at the table, joking and eating breakfast together. Oh, God, when will I see them again?

Linda took a hearty swig from her thermos. “You better drink up. It took Josh an hour to get the fire warm enough to heat up our camp coffee pot. Lucky I still had that old thing. I got the rust out, don’t worry.”

I unscrewed the top and took a tentative sip. Yowch! It was definitely hot. But the scalding actually felt good going down. Caffeine addict that I was, relief cruised through my body. I sank back into the chair and realized, with only slight discomfort, that Linda was fully dressed while I was still in my morning rumpled condition. My hair undoubtedly looked like I had spent quality time in close proximity to a wind turbine.

Linda didn’t seem to mind. Especially not considering the fact that she was drooling, quite literally, at the sight of my home-baked bread.

Being a good Christian woman, I sliced a thick piece, placed it delicately on a napkin, and nudged the jam jar with a strategically placed spoon in her direction. “Eat up. I’ve got three more.”

Linda didn’t waste any time. I shouldn’t have been surprised when…

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/brot-laib-handwerker-artisan-brot-1510155/

Homestead Parts 3 and 4

Before Things Get Bad

At precisely noon, my brown kitchen light dimmed to black. The clock blinked off. The internet disconnected. The refrigerator stopped humming. The hot water heater stopped heating. The freezer stopped freezing. And I couldn’t get a dial tone on my phone.

Discombobulated, I knew I should be freaking out, but a strange calm flowed over me.

The crunching of a car heading down our gravel lane broke the silence.

I stepped out on the porch and waved.  

Our neighbor, Josh slowed down. He rolled down the window and came to a stop. A perplexed grin spread over his face. “Something funny’s going on, Rosie.”

I shrugged his concern away. “Just a power outage. We’ve had ‘em before.”

He blinked and shook his head. “I was at the café in town, sitting around with the guys talking, and Mark said his daughter was having a brown out, just like we were.”

Six of my aged hens crossed the driveway, heading for the pine woods behind the woodpile. I watched the collie out of the corner of my eye. She liked to bark at them, thinking she could scare an extra egg loose. “Well, it’s no—”

“Mark’s daughter lives in Australia.”

I snorted in disbelief. “Coincidences do happen.”

So, Ray called his brother in Anchorage, and would you believe it? But they’re having power issues too.”

Another car came up behind, Josh’s wife, Linda. Under normal circumstances, I’d have waved Linda inside for a cup of tea, but the look on her face told me that she knew I wasn’t going to be heating up a pot of anything soon. Her eyes, wide and scared, sent prickles down my arms. “Hey, Linda. Don’t look so worried! You’ll scare your husband—”

Linda ran from the car to her husband’s cruise and practically tore the driver’s side door open. “The power is out in every town and city as far as anyone knows!”

“But you can’t know.” I shoved fear away, as far as I could with every ounce of logic that my brain could muster. “So, there’s some power outages across the world. That hardly means that everyone is out. Could be a weird sun thing. A grid failure that knocked out a bunch of places at once. Perhaps there’s an internet virus.” I shrugged. “Give it a few hours. There’s no way we won’t get this fixed.”

Linda turned on me and for the first time in our friendship, I realized that I didn’t really know her.

“You’re being stupid, Rosie. Completely stupid!” She stalked back to her car, yelling over her shoulder. “Get home, honey. We better prepare for the worst.” She slammed her car door and opened the window as she passed, following Josh. “Just be glad your family is with you, Rosie. My mom is three states away, and Jared is working in Indiana. I just hope to God that they can make their way here before things get bad.”

Without the least regard for one of my cats ambling across the road, Linda raced after her husband. I knew I wouldn’t be inviting her in for anything any time soon.

But as I made my way toward the house, her words rang in my ears. “Before things get bad…”

Part 4

Failed to Send

There was nothing to do but finish making bread. It seemed like the most reasonable course. Besides, whole wheat bread straight from the oven soothes even the most troubled soul. I ambled back to the kitchen, put the loaves in the oven, and turned it on low to help them rise.

The oven didn’t respond.

I nodded. So okay. Not a brilliant move, but I wasn’t about to be thrown off by my first setback. I placed the loaves on the counter. They would rise eventually. On impulse, I texted my sister. Sarah always maintained an upbeat disposition under the most trying situations, and besides, I wanted to know what happened to poor Bill. He wasn’t really poor. The guy made more money than Liam. I dashed off a quick note.

Failed to send.

Then my heart started to race. I dashed off a text to Liam.

Failed to send.

I tried calling Dana.

Nothing.

I tried Juan.

Nothing again.

I stared at my phone like it had betrayed me…really let me down.

Now I knew what being lost at sea must feel like. The ground had fallen away, and there were no walls to grab onto. No ceiling. Nothing but a world of non-functioning tools and toys.

I looked at the stovetop to see the time, but, of course, that didn’t tell me anything. The house was quiet. Even the road was silent. I walked outside and strolled into the backyard.

The sun perched high and the birds were singing their pretty little heads off. I wanted to talk with someone, but town was a couple of farm fields away. A long walk.

My stomach clenched into a tight knot.

The big maple outside my bedroom window sported seed pods that helicoptered to the ground. It usually seemed amusing to watch them whirl about and land in masses, covering the ground. But they didn’t seem particularly funny now.

I told them the hard truth. “Most of you won’t make it to the next season—you realize that don’t you?”

Well, that was morbid.

I shivered in the sun. A big wooden swing set that Liam had arranged under the grape arbor beckoned, so I made my way over and perched on the edge. The garden beds had recently been turned over and potatoes, onions, even lettuce seeds had been planted. The tomato and pepper plants still sat in flats on the front porch. Liam would get to them next week.

I swallowed.

My fingers inched toward me phone, so I pulled it out, leaned back on the swing, savored the earthy garden scent, and imagined the story I would tell my beloved—once I got ahold of him.

I tapped his number. Nothing. I texted. Failed to send. I squinted in the strong light, trying to make out how much battery power I had left. About half.

I rubbed the back of my neck.

What now?

A couple of vultures circled overhead. Thanks, guys. Really. Can’t you go intimidate someone else?

Before I knew it…

For more 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/illustrations/hands-heart-torn-broken-smartphone-1822956/