A Stroke Of Lightning In The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias from LVP!

Lycan Valley Publications is set to release their new anthology The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias, edited by MJ Sydney, with interior illustrations by Luke Spooner and a cover from Kealan Patrick Burke.

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From the publisher:

Phobias are defined as an irrational and extreme fear to something. It could be anything as long as it causes an intense and debilitating fear.

What happens when these irrational fears/phobias become reality? When the irrational becomes rational and there’s a reason to be scared? Find out in The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias.

We’ve created an A to Z phobia list and elevated each one to a new level of fear. These stories come to life in ways that will make you want to sleep with the light on, double check the locks on your door, and think twice before dismissing your fear as irrational.

A — A TOUCH OF MADNESS — Tim Waggoner
B — IT CAME FROM THE GRAVE — James Pyne
C — ENTWINED — Colleen Anderson
D — DESTINY’S ROAD TRIP — Jay Troy Seate
E — MORBID DREAD OF THE DAWN — Philip Athans
F — MUTUAL POSSESSION — WT Paterson
G — RIGHT OF CROSSING — James Chambers
H — PASSING JUDGEMENT — Chad Lutzke
I — THE CLINIC — Asher Ellis
J — NOT JUST DESSERTS — Jonah Buck
K — THE MAN WHO FEARED THE SKY — John Skipp
L — CHILDREN OF BLOOD — Greg Chapman
M — THE YEARNING JADE — Hank Schwaeble
N — THE CEMETERY MAN — JG Faherty
O — WHITE TO BLACK — Michael Bailey
P — THE HUNCH — Richard Chizmar
Q — FIVE IN THE SIX — Sephera Giron
R — THE TOXIC MAGICIAN — Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel
S — FEEDING THE ORISHAS — Gabino Iglesias
T — MUNCHAUSEN — Max Booth III
U — TRUE CONFESSIONS OF THE HAPPIEST PISTACHIO — Mehitobel Wilson
V — BEAUTIFUL WOMEN — Ray Garton
W — A BOLT OF LIGHTNING — Edward M. Erdelac
X — HALFPENNY — Steven M. Vance
Y — TOO HOT IN BOILERTOWN — Jill-Hand
Z — THE CATALYST TO GROW SOME GUTS — Kerry Lipp

My contribution, A Stroke Of Lightning (a nod to Ray Bradbury’s ‘A Sound of Thunder’), follows a grad student buried under a mountain of debt seduced by a fantastically wealthy entrepreneur into participating in a radical time travel engineering project and explores the niggling fear of such an endeavor actually coming to fruition, with all its attendant ramifications.

Here’s an excerpt:

On Thursday, November 16, 2018, Martin Emmet finally solved the equation that would make time travel possible.

But he didn’t share it with anybody.

He’d been a twenty four year old physicist at Berkely finishing up a doctorate with a pending application at CERN when the wild-haired, white bearded Dr. Gavan Columbarius had burst into his lab like some eccentric Gandalf in tweed and scuffed Oxfords firing off a volley of rapid-fire questions about altering the mass and gravity of harnessed microsingularities utilizing a hypothetical electron injection manifold.

Martin had been amused and played along, thinking the bizarre old man part of some prank put on by his colleagues. After some engaging back and forth, Columbarius had pushed a plain business card into his hand and offered him a place on an independent research team in Chicago for five times what CERN was paying.

Skeptical, Martin had shown Columbarius’ card around Berkely.

“Sure, Columbarius,” said one of his colleagues, looking over the business card. “The guy’s some kind of independently wealthy nutjob. Got booted from, I think it was UIC particle physics, years ago. What he does, he insinuates himself into the lives of exceptional young scientists and coaxes them from legitimate avenues of study into his crazy pseudo-scientific experiments. He’s a good way to make a quick buck, if you’re not above bilking a senile old crackpot.” He’d handed the card back.  “Ask one of the professors.”

He had.

“A scientific Bluebeard,” said his instructor, rather over dramatically, Martin thought. “That old man’s a serial killer of reputations. He baits gullible theorists struggling under college debt with dollar signs and then strangles their best years with his dead-end navel gazing projects. If you’re smart, you’ll forget about him.”

Neither of them knew exactly what his projects were, however, because upon further questioning, both had admitted that they’d actually never been personally approached by Columbarius.

The man was eccentric, sure. Martin had pegged him as that from the first, unexpected meeting. But despite his perpetually frazzled appearance and his unsavory reputation, Columbarius had known what he was talking about, which was not something Martin could say a hundred percent of the time about his peers.

And there had been the money.

Martin had more than student loans to worry over. Jay, his eight year old kid brother, had terminal cancer and his mother was struggling to ease the boy out of this life as smoothly as possible on a substitute teacher’s wages. Chemotherapy, nurse visits, escalating medical bills, maybe Columbarius wasn’t as prestigious as CERN, but he could wipe a good portion of that worry away. It would mean leaving behind steady employment and cutting short his studies, but after his brother Jay died he could always return, and debt free.

The next time he took Columbarius’ card out of his wallet, it was to call and accept the position in Chicago.

Columbarius’ lab was located in a palatial house on Sheridan Road in Kenilworth, a wealthy North Shore village bordering Lake Michigan, about a half hour north of the city proper.

Columbarius had introduced him to the rest of the team, which read like a list of Bermuda triangle victims. They were respected names who had mysteriously dropped out of the scientific community over the years.  David Eccleston, applied lasers, from Princeton, nuclear physicist Anna Wells from Stanford, Taniguchi, the genius engineer and designer from the frontier sciences department at University of Tokyo, a few others. All of them had been lured to Columbarius by money, though, he found, they universally asserted that they had stayed for the stimulating nature of the work.

And what was the purpose of that work?

“A time machine,” Columbarius had told him in his rich, wood paneled office looking out on the lake after Martin had made the rounds, seen the extensive research lab, and settled in the leather chair before the old oak desk. “Specifically, a temporal tunnel generator, a projector, utilizing elements of the Tipler cylinder theory. I’m calling it a Merlin Tunnel. It’s the right of the man with the money to slap a name on the end product, and it’s so much less of a mouthful than Columbarius Tunnel, don’t you think? Have you ever heard of the Garden of Joy? It’s from Arthuriana, a magical forest planted by the wizard Merlin. Via the Garden, one could step through a hedge and emerge in any forest in the world. That’s what we’re building here, really. A time travel station. A hub that will allow us to pass through any point in time. “

Martin had chuckled, but the old man had met that response without a hint of mirth.

“Stop there,” Columbarius warned, holding up one hand. “We’re in the latter stages of producing a working protoype, Mr. Emmett.  What we need help with is building a computer that can calculate gravitational field fluctuations and make corrective spatial navigational decisions instantly. Time can be traversed, but we have to account for the movement of planetary bodies, else our first chrononaut will step out of the Merlin Tunnel into a space along our planet’s orbit which the earth unfortunately no longer occupies. It would be like jumping from a bridge onto a moving train after it’s already passed.  I’ve enlisted you to work in tandem with Dr. Taniguchi in fine tuning a gravity sensor of his design. I’ll also ask you to assist from time to time in contributing calculations to the development of that manifold we spoke of on our first meeting.”

Martin had stifled his instinct to grin, remembering what they’d said about Columbarius at Berkely. This was how he was going to earn the money to help his kid brother.

“That’s….a lot of variance in work,” he managed.

“I believe you’re capable of it,” Columbarius said, “and I’m paying you a great deal. You may live here at my estate. A suite’s been prepared. If you find that disagreeable you may elect to stay elsewhere nearby and I will send a car for you each day, but I will deduct your rent from your pay accordingly. Do you need to make any arrangements for direct deposit or anything like that?”

“Well,” Martin had said, “I would like to have a percentage diverted to my family back home.”

“Of course. Biola, California, isn’t it?”

Martin hadn’t bothered asking him where he’d found that out. Any reasonably proficient web surfer could have learned that in five minutes.

He had nodded.

“I’ll have someone take your bank information.  Are you ready to get to work?”

Really, he hadn’t expected much from the work. He’d imagined the other researchers were daily engaged in a high stakes game of a distraction to keep themselves on staff, a long running con. He expected humoring Columbarius would be challenging given the old man’s learning, but ultimately it would be possible to drag the project out indefinitely given the extent of his delusion. He had already spent millions of dollars outfitting and staffing a state of the art facility dedicated to his obsession, after all.

Time travel.

But after a few days working with the team, Martin had realized they weren’t just taking advantage of the old man’s limitless resources. They were all quite sincere.

And more, they truly were working towards a real breakthrough.

It seemed fantastic at first, but the proof was there. The calculations were solid, the engineering radical but sound.

Eccleston proudly demonstrated an elaborate emitter that could project a focused, visible blue beam at the lab’s mascot, a white rat called Dorian. At first the beam appeared to disintegrate Dorian, then, miraculously, reconstitute him. But a second look at the process via video played back at a slower speed showed the rat aging rapidly to the point of death and decomposition, and then, somehow, reversing its course, flesh and fur regenerating at an astounding rate.

“We can even make him younger,” Eccleston had said proudly. “This is just an offshoot of our research. We only threw it together to impress the noobs. We’re calling it a Chronal Pulse Ray till we can come up with an acronym that won’t be confused with Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation.”

Martin had come away more than impressed.

He’d come away terrified.

Pick it up here!
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1645629511/

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