Posted in New Release, Writer's Life

Free Story Friday: The Last Hunt

I’ve been sharing free sci-fi books I’ve found on my social media for the past few weeks. This week I thought I’d shake it up a little and share a short story I wrote two years ago.

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The story,  The Last Hunt, was published in 2018 as part of the To Be Men anthology by Superversive Press.

Given recent events regarding the COVID-19 virus, it struck me that much of the backstory for The Last Hunt seems eerily similar to what we are seeing today. While there are no “super-cities sealed off from the rural lands behind giant walls” today, we have seen a cultural separation of sorts between the cities and the rural areas in the United States.

And, as mentioned in this story, the people in the big cities are trapped in lockdowns, streets are barren and stores closed while the people are “trapped” in their homes. But in many rural areas the impact has not been quite so severe and much of their everyday lives continue unabated.

So, without further ado, please enjoy this short story I wrote two years ago with the hope that it helps you pass the time – and the further hope that this story remains a work of fiction and not a forecast of things to come.

(*- All rights to this story are the authors and are fully reserved. No unauthorized copying or reprinting of this story without the permission of the author is permitted.) 

 

THE LAST HUNT

by Richard Paolinelli

 

I turn forty years old today and I will mark the milestone by making it the last day of life on this Earth for a man whose name I do not know.  I have never met him. He has never personally done me wrong, nor I him. I had never seen him before in my life until I picked up his trail just three days ago.

There will be no birthday cake, no party, no presents, no family or friends gathered around to help celebrate the day as there have been in years past. Only a man’s death, by murder or by execution depending on how you choose to look at it, and that delivered by my own hand.

In the past year, I have been the bringer of death to seven men and four women. You might call it murder while those who tasked me with the mission call it a justified execution. I, and the other seven hunters who like me embarked on this mission across what had once been known as North America, simply called it our duty. It is a duty that we have tried to carry out as swiftly and as mercifully as possible. Well, at least most of us do.

All I want to do is finish this final task and return home to my family and work my farm once again after being away for so long. It was my curse to be a skilled tracker and a marksman with a rifle from any distance, great or small. Those qualities made me a prime candidate to be a Hunter. Knowing that the fate of humanity was at stake, especially if the best at what we do did not accept our mission, gave me little choice but to put down my plowshare, take up my gun and do my duty.

The journey to this day began before I was even born with a fateful decision by the ancestors of those I have hunted. A little over a century ago ours was a united country of fifty states between Canada and Mexico and the future ahead was filled with limitless possibilities. But within two decades the country had splintered and those on either side held the view that if you were not one of “Us” then you were one of “Them.” There were a handful of course, caught between the two sides, that tried to hold the country together but the strain was too great – perhaps not even God himself could have held it intact much longer – and the inevitable finally happened.

On the one side were those that gathered in great numbers in the larger cities, living their lives in a jungle of concrete, asphalt and steel. Rare it was to find a tree, much less a blade of grass, among the roads, sidewalks and buildings that stretched into the clouds. High technology was their god. The dirty air above and the even dirtier streets below seemed to permeate into their very souls. No depravity was frowned upon and the residents of the megacities began to look down upon those living out in the rural areas beyond their city limits. Even though the cities relied on these rural areas to provide fresh water, grow the vegetables and raise the livestock that provided them with the food and water they needed to survive, they still sneered and derided the “regressive” people out in the wastelands they called “flyover country.”

Those that chose to live out in “flyover country” were more than happy to let them stay in their bloated cities as long as those big-city people refrained from trying to tell them how to live their lives. They had tech of course, but they did not abandon all of the old ways their ancestors had used to survive. Theirs might be a simpler way of living, but it was a good way to live. I can attest to that as it is the way I and my family live today. None of us feel deprived of anything by our choice, nor did any of those who came before us.

Yet, those in the big cities seemed to be enraged by the lack of envy shown by our ancestors. For years they tried to force their ways upon us without success. Then when those they had looked down upon for so long loudly and clearly rejected them and all they stood for, the big cities made a fatal decision. They disowned the country and rejected all that it had been founded on. Amazingly, those in the larger cities in Canada and Mexico quickly followed suit and cut themselves off from their former countrymen.

The cities began walling themselves off from the rest of their country. Some cities – like Phoenix, Denver, Miami and Atlanta – stood as sole sentinels of progressive perfection behind concrete walls standing forty feet in height. Others became mega-areas as multiple cities combined to build one massive wall around them. All of the Bay Area was united behind one oval wall that even stretched out into the ocean. Philadelphia stood at one end of an oval wall, with all of the Burroughs of New York City at the other and New Jersey nestled in between. D.C. and Baltimore had become one megacity, as had Buffalo and Toronto and San Antonio and Austin in Texas.

When the last of the walls were complete, thirty megacities from Montreal to Mexico City dotted the North American landscape. A hyperloop train, running on tracks miles below ground, connected all of the megacities as well as cities in Europe, Central and South America, Asia and Australia. There were no access points to the tunnels anywhere but within the cities, not that those outside the walls would ever want to access them in the first place. When the hyperloop was up and running and the tops of the walls thickly lined with razor wire to prevent anyone from climbing over, all of the access doors built into the wall were permanently sealed.

Nearly a quarter-century ago, the megacities sealed themselves behind those walls, forever closing out those that lived on the other side. Any needed food and water were shipped in along those underground trains. The progressives of the megacities were finally rid of the deplorable masses out in the hated “flyover country,” once and for all.

Oh, they liked to let us know how much better things were for them than it was for us. We could receive their news broadcasts and some kept in occasional touch with relatives living somewhere within one of the walled cities. For the most part we just shook our heads and happily went about our business of living our lives as we saw fit.

And what we saw as the perfect way to live was to limit the sizes of our towns. Few buildings ever reached higher than three stories. We ate what we raised or hunted, living not only off the land but in conjunction with it, conserving and managing it so that it would always provide enough for all of the generations to follow. We have tech of course, but it too was carefully managed so that it did not dominate our way of life. It was a tool, like any other, carefully and wisely used to our benefit.

We were content.

Then it happened. I suppose you could say it was inevitable, especially with the mega-cities having trapped themselves like bacteria in a Petri dish. I don’t know if they ever figured out where it began or even who Patient Zero was, but the Jaesmin Plague spread like wildfire to every point of the globe connected to the mega-cities by the hyperloop tunnels. We knew it was contagious, although it was not an airborne plague which meant we were not likely to contract it simply by breathing the same air blown from the cities.

It had no vaccine or cure.

Because of the close trade ties, all of the continents quickly fell victim to the disease. All except the one they had all shunned, those parts of North America outside the towering walls. We could monitor the news coming from the rest of the world and quickly moved to make sure no plague-carrying refugees landed upon our shores. We did not need to worry about the mega-cities, or so we thought, for they had so effectively sealed us out that they had literally sealed themselves within their own coffins. Yet, roughly one hundred residents managed to find a way out of the deathtraps before the plague claimed them.

Thus the Hunters were born. Eight of us, sworn to perform a grim duty, sent out to hunt down these escapees before they could spread this pandemic. For our families and friends we undertook the task, assigned to eight different regions to track down the threat and eliminate it. We could not let them live, even in exile, not with the death they carried within them. The plague was merciless, having already wiped out billions across the globe. For all we knew, the forty million of us living outside the now-dead megacities across North America were all that remained of the human race. In the name of preservation of the species, these one hundred had to die.

I was given Region V, an area that included the megacities of Kansas City, St. Louis, Minneapolis-St. Paul and the Chicago-Madison-Milwaukee megaplex. Most of the escapees I was sent to run to ground had come from that massive megaplex and they took some time to run down.

Of the eleven of them I actually got within shouting distance of or closer, they all pleaded with me to let them live. They promised to stay away from us. But it was a risk I had no right to take. I told you earlier, I took no pleasure in carrying out this mission and granted them as swift and as painless a death as I could. The bodies and the nests they had left behind were burned. After every kill I would impose a seventy-two-hour quarantine and then test myself to ensure I had not contracted the plague.

So far I’ve been lucky. The Hunter assigned to Region VII made her final kill just outside Atlanta only to discover she had become infected. Her final message included her shooting herself in the head as the shack her final target had called home went up in flames.

The Hunter in Region II had been a good man, but his sixteenth, and final, execution had been one too many and he’d gone mad. The Hunter in Region I had been sent in after him and she had been forced to kill him before he attacked a small town of innocent, and very uninfected, people.

After one long year, there remains only one living escapee, this man I am closing in on in a wooded area just outside the ruins of Minneapolis-St. Paul. With two Hunters dead and the other five having completed their mission and returned to their homes it falls to me to rid our world of the last threat of human extinction.

So here I sit, waiting beside the only water within twenty miles, waiting for my quarry to come and drink. Humans cannot survive more than a week without it and I know he has gone quite some time without any water. He has no choice but to risk coming here and hope that I am not waiting for him.

I see him now, cautiously approaching the stream-fed lake, his gaze darting all over. His clothing was not made for roughing it in the woods and was torn and tattered. He looked  pathetic and miserable out of his element. I felt a pang of sympathy for this poor creature and then forcibly steeled my heart against such a feeling. Too much is at stake for me to yield to the natural feeling of compassion one human would have for one in such dire straits as this one.

In a time long since passed, honor would have demanded that I at least give him a chance to make his peace with his maker. But I am too close to him now and the disease he carries does not allow me the luxury to risk such exposure.

I do grant him the only small measure of mercy that I can however, allowing him to drink his fill of the cool, clean water. Even this act is tempered though by the fact that if he falls into the lake after I fire, he could contaminate the water.  So I wait and let him stand up and step away from the lakeside.

Then I fire.

My last hunt is finally over.

After I burn the body and his nest, assuming that I survive the quarantine period, I can finally go home to my family, my farm and my old life. I have killed a dozen, to save millions. When I look upon the lovely face of my wife, and the sweet faces of my children, I will know why what I have done was necessary and I will be able to live with what I have done. This is the truth I will hold fast to when the nightmares come to remind me of what I have done this past year.

As I set about disposing of the body and the infected nest it had once called home an old verse from the Bible comes unbidden to my mind: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Now, I can go home.

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Be sure to check out Richard’s 1K Weekly Serial series. Every week, a new chapter of the story is added. Currently, Ricard is writing, The Calling, a Star Trek Fan Fiction that will reach across three generations of Star Trek lore. Be sure and check out the other stories that have been written in full right here.

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Like what you’ve read so far? Be sure and sign up for Richard’s newsletter, “Postcards From Infinity“, and if you’d like to become a patron you can do so right here. Any amount you choose will be appreciated and will help keep this blog, these weekly serials and Richard’s podcast, “A Scribe’s Journey” up and running. Thank you for reading and for your support.

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Posted in News, Writer's Life

New Book Club

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Silver Empire on two anthologies, Secret Stairs and Places Beyond The Wild. Now, I’m happy to help them spread the word regarding a brand new platform they are launching. It’s great for authors and even better for readers and its something you really should check out. Even better news? There’s more to come soon, this is just the beginning of what I expect will be a massive platform by the time Silver Empire gets done with it.

Check out the Book Club here.

Check out the press release from Silver Empire:

Silver Empire Book Club Launches

Huntsville, AL March 1, 2020 — Today, Silver Empire, publisher of heroic, wondrous, adventure fiction, launches its new Book Club service. Fans of fantasy, science fiction, and other genre fiction will now be able to save money on ebooks, paperbacks, or hardcovers of their choice through our new subscription service.
“We wanted to give our fans a way to get all of our latest stuff easily and at the best possible price,” Russell Newquist, Co-founder and Publisher at Silver Empire confirmed.
Subscriptions come in the forms of monthly or annual credit allotments. Monthly plans provide a monthly allotment of credits suitable to purchase a book in the user’s preferred format – ebook, paperback, or hardcover. However, credits can be used interchangeably on alternate formats and they never expire.
Silver Empire found that Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service fails to provide many readers with books they actually want to read. Furthermore, it means that readers are only renting books rather than owning their favorites. Most of all, it had no options for those readers who still prefer the feel of an actual book in their hands.
Subscription services are live now and can be purchased here. Early subscribers will be able to score notable savings on hardcover subscription plans through March 31.

Contact:
Russell Newquist
russell@silverempire.org

Posted in News, Writer's Life

UPDATE: The Calling 1K Weekly Serial

Just a quick note from the recovery room as Week #3 of the shingles gets underway. I will resume the Weekly 1K Serial Series: The Calling on March 7th. I can’t look at a computer screen for more than 10 minutes at a go without making the pain around the eye that much worse.

The Doctor tells me I should be fine by the end of the week and back up to speed by this time next week.

In the meantime, be well, and get your shingles vaccine shot!

Posted in News, Writer's Life

Anthology Submission Calls

Just wanted to send out a shoutout to any sci-fi/fantasy writers out there looking to submit to an anthology. I have three possibilities for your consideration. Check them out:
Tuscany Bay Books’ Planetary Anthology Series is still looking for submissions to the final two books in the 11-book series.
PAY: 20% split of royalty, evenly between the authors.

SATURN

Saturn_Cover copyThe most beautiful of the wandering stars, surrounded by a mysterious and remarkable series of rings, crowning the planet in glory.

Jupiter may be the king of the planets, but Saturn is the progenitor, named for the powerful and terrible Titan that fathered the gods themselves. Saturn is the lord of Time, Age, and Endings. And when everything else disperses into a heat death and the cosmos is an empty void, it is Time that will rule over all.

Bullet point form:

  • Word count is 500-10,000
  • Poems will be accepted
  • Reprints will be accepted
  • Simultaneous submissions will be accepted
  • Stories can be about the actual planet Saturn, time, age, and endings. The Titan Saturn may also feature.

 

  • Submissions should be in standard manuscript format, though please italicize instead of underline when appropriate. If the story is not in standard manuscript format, it may be rejected without being read. Seriously. I’m not kidding here. For that matter, ditto if the stories are under 500 words or over 10,000.
  • The subject line should look like this: SATURN SUBMISSION/Story Title/Author Last Name
  • The deadline is July 15, 2020. 
  • The submission e-mail is the editor’s Bokerah Brumley at:   bokerahbrumley@gmail.com

NEPTUNE

NEPTUNE_COVER copyLord of the Sea. Ruler of Pisces. Exalted in Cancer.

Mythologically, Neptune is associated with the sea, navigation, springs, horses, and racing. Astrologically, Neptune associated with idealism, dreams, dissolution, artistry, fluidity, illusion, and glamor. Astronomically, it is the beautiful sea-blue eighth planet.

All these together tie into what we think of when we hear “Neptune.”

Stories working with the genre conventions of Fantasy, Science Fiction, Weird/Pulp, or anywhere between will be considered. [Jake adds: That’s pretty broad, but if you’re not sure, feel free to pitch an idea.]

• Word count is 1,000 – 10,000
• Poems will be accepted
• Reprints will be accepted
• Stories may be connected to Neptune astronomically, mythologically, or astrologically, as you prefer

Please submit to the editor, Jake Freivald, directly at

jdfreivald@gmail.com

Subject line should appear as follows: Neptune Submission/Story Title/Author SurnameTentative submissions close date: You can submit until it’s no longer July 6, 2020 or earlier anywhere in the world.

And if Military Sci-Fi is more your thing, the folks at Midlands Scribes Publishing presents:

SPACE FORCE

EBOOK_COVER copyAnthology: Space Force: Building a Legacy

Time Frame: Present to 2120

Length: 1500 – 5000 (no poetry this issue)

Pay: Split 30% net royalties

Deadline: March 15, 2020

Submit to: dougirvin53@gmail.com

Stories are in the spirit of Heinlein’s The Long Watch, however, the story does not have to be a tragedy.

Posted in News, Writer's Life

Hiatus

Hey everyone,

A quick note today and an apology to those looking for the next chapter of The Calling yesterday.

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Friday morning I woke up looking like this:

Its shingles. Its also the second time for me (which is rare) and it hit right on top of my right eye (which is ever rarer because shingles normally strikes the torso – as it did me the first time over 30 years ago) Lucky me, right?

At any rate, as you can imagine, writing is damn near impossible. Even this blogpost is nothing short of murder.

So, the 1K Weekly serial is on hiatus for a couple of weeks while I recover.

In the meantime, if you haven’t had the shingles vaccine may I suggest you take another look at my not-so-pretty face above and make an appointment to correct this oversight? I’m off to see if I can find a good deal on eBay for a guillotine…

Posted in Writer's Life

It Isn’t Always A “Yes”

The rejection letter/e-mail is the bane of every writer. We all get them, some more than others and only the rarest of the few can say they no longer get them. The great Louis L’Amour got one for a book that I consider his best work, The Walking Drum.

s-l300His daughter was a guest of my podcast recently (Episode 41: Angelique L’Amour  / Audio Only ) and she recounted the story that every publisher he took the manuscript to wouldn’t touch it. It wasn’t a western (even though it really was, just one set in medieval times and in the Eastern Hemisphere) and though L’Amour was already an established best-seller, he couldn’t get it published.

He finally found a way, by persevering and by agreeing to write two other books in exchange for getting The Walking Drum to print, but he had to hear the word “No” quite a lot first.

For my part, over 35 years of sending out manuscripts by mail both snail and electronic, I have heard many a “No!” myself, although lately it seems like it has been happening less. But, it still happens.

Like today for example. I had submitted to a very interesting anthology a few months back, one I would have very much enjoyed being a part of. Sadly, it was a no.

“Mr. Paolinelli,

Thank you for submitting you story, “XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX,” to our XXXXXXXXXXX Anthology. Yours was a unique approach to the theme, and the editorial staff enjoyed the originality. The desperation of the main character’s attempts to bring his son back by XXXXXXXXXXXXX was quite scary, but well characterized. The editorial staff appreciates your talents as a writer.

We received over 400 stories, and more than 300 were dropped in the first round. The editorial team kept your story for a second round of consideration, and we enjoyed the chance for another look, but unfortunately it did not make the final round. Best of luck placing it elsewhere and with your future writing endeavors.”

I X-ed out the title of my story, the anthology and the plot info for obvious reasons. Besides, the point of sharing this was to show we all get these rejection letters – most are very professional as this one was.

I also wanted to share it because I see a lot of newer authors posting that they are on the brink of giving up after getting another rejection letter. I hate to see that because sometimes you have to get a ton of these and keep honing your skills in the craft before the acceptance letters start rolling in.

And rather than seeing the “No” in the letter above and getting depressed, take a look at a lot of the positives that lay within. Over 75% of the submitted stories were cut in the first round. Mine was not among them. My story got into the second round and who knows how close it came to making that final cut?

red spiritual smoke on black background with copy space

Having recently edited Planetary Anthology Series: Pluto, I can tell you the difference between the last story to make the cut and the story that just missed is razor-thin. About half of the submissions got in. The others that didn’t? They would have made an excellent collection on their own right. I can’t think of a story in the rejected pile that was so bad it got cut before I finished reading it.

But look further in that first paragraph. They were impressed with the story, its originality, how it fit the theme of the anthology overall (it was scary!) and the characters were well developed. Not bad for a slightly-over 5,000-word short story, eh?

So yes, I was disappointed that it was a “No”, but I walked away from reading this e-mail feeling very good about the story and my writing. And that is what I want every writer to keep in mind whenever that rejection letter arrives. Find the positives to build on, use any negatives as constructive criticism to improve on the next story.

And, most importantly, don’t ever let the “No” letters stop you from writing.

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Like what you’ve read so far? Be sure and sign up for Richard’s newsletter, “Postcards From Infinity“, and if you’d like to become a patron you can do so right here. Any amount you choose will be appreciated and will help keep this blog, these weekly serials and Richard’s podcast, “A Scribe’s Journey” up and running. Thank you for reading and for your support.

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