Short Stories

 
   



   



CARROLL'S SHORTS


An anthology of science fiction stories


REVIEWS

"Good stories: up past midnight reading them!"

"Grabs one's attention and refuses to let go."

"Easy to identify with the characters."

"Excellent use of descriptive language without being stuffy."

"Looking forward to reading more!"

Aphelion-WritersHood-Dementia-Steelcaves


ISBN: 978-1-4523-4881-0

 

  • A chronicle of science fiction short stories with a bonus humor/satire at the end to leave the reader with a smile.  Though fiction, the science depicted in these stories never strays (too far) from the plausible and never fails to grip the reader with a sense of staring into the future.



Print and eBooks: amazon.com, smashwords, barnesandnoble.com,











Slipping Away 

by Noel Carroll

Published on four webzines: Aphelion, Dementia, The Outpost and WritersHood

and in the magazine Lost Worlds. 

 

“I think it is a wonderful story. I found it engrossing and moving.”

“I hated that your astronaut played such a cruel trick on his comrades, but

it provides your story with a real kick in the end.”

Short Story Editor, Aphelion  


 

Sample

When you find and read this narrative, you will be literally addressing the past. You will not, I can safely tell you, be addressing me. I am in relapse now, and when it ends … well, whatever you get of the story, it is more than I was inclined to give even an hour ago. The meat of it is, I’m here now, "here" being where your ancestors sent us 48 years ago. What I found, however, is not what they expected us to find.

In the event you have mislaid our file, we are here as a result of a Hubble sighting in late 2013. The amplified spectrograph, new to us but probably ancient history to you, permitted us our first confirmation of a life-bearing planet. It orbits HR7698, is trillions of miles from you and contains, as you saw from Earth, an oxygen atmosphere, a sure sign of biological life. I am looking at it now; we are orbiting at an altitude of two hundred kilometers. I can see the deep blue of water and the pale haze of atmosphere. Weather systems as well--except for the alien topography, I could be orbiting Earth.

One other thing, and this bothers me, considering what I am about to do. There is evidence of civilized life. No cities, at least none that are obvious to my Earth-trained eyes, but here and there are large clearings, some by navigable rivers, wide and showing the deep blue of depth. On the dark side of the planet, I see flickers of light, maybe controlled but surely huge—even with the enlargers, I cannot say they are naturally occurring. What I can say is I will never get to meet whoever or whatever is down there.

Except for Natasha, but let me work up to that.



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The Galapagos Incident

by Noel Carroll

Published on Dementia webzine, WritersHood and Aphelion 

 

“I really liked your story, I would even say that it is my favorite in the issue.”

“I'm sure your talents would be appreciated in any of [our] genres.”

WritersHood

 

“A very good story, well plotted, and solidly told.”

Short Story Editor, Aphelion

 

 

Sample

A rogue wave, huge and foaming, vaulted up from an empty sea, slammed into our sailboat with the vengeance of an angry god and sent us reeling to the bottom. We were below decks and did not see it, but we sure as hell felt it.

It caught us with four sails flying and the galley entrance wide open, five of us on a fifty-two foot sailboat, midway between the Galapagos islands of Isabela and Santa Cruz. My wife Nicole and I and a young friend we knew only as Carlos went down with the boat, but as regards the other two, an elderly couple renewing a sailing past, I have no idea what happened to them. At the time my thoughts were diverted by the sound of our mast and rigging being ripped away, by the rapid inversion of the cabin and by the enormous quantity of seawater rushing in upon us. The Titanic could not have moved faster toward the sea bottom than we, yet all we could think to do was stab out at any handhold that presented itself: a twisted floor panel, a table leg, each other. When we hit, it was with such force that had it not been for the cushioning effect of the trapped water, we could not have survived.

A small pocket of air, a few hundred square feet at best, was all that remained of our world, and the fact that it pressed with such force against my ears told me we were further down than was healthy. I shouted to the others that we had to get to the surface before the accumulation of pressure on our bodies made it impossible to do so—too long at this depth and a mortal dose of the bends would be our only reward. Taking my words to heart, our young friend dove for the submerged galley opening but managed only to get himself stuck in the clutter brought about by the wave and its aftermath. In spite of our efforts to free him, he drowned, leaving a shocked Nicole and me to wonder, not only what we might have done to save him, but what we might do to save ourselves. I managed to free the poor fellow but spent some forty minutes in the doing then another ten clearing the debris so the same thing would not happen to us. By then, of course, it was too late.







Silent Obsession

by Noel Carroll


Semi-Finalist in Tom Howard’s Short Story Contest.  

Published on WritersHood and Aphelion webzines, and on the British eZine, Steelcaves. 

 

 “You’ve maintained your high standard of quality.”

Science Fiction Editor, WritersHood

 

 “This is another enjoyable and thoughtful story by Noel Carroll may the 

husband and wife duo keep coming back with more cool tales.”

WritersHood

 

 “Silent Obsession is a real killer story.  You broke several rules, but the content 

is so appealing that the reader who is just looking for an enjoyable read 

is not going to complain. It works and it is highly original.”

Short Story Editor, Aphelion

 

 “I felt the authors did an excellent job on the whole of 

presenting the mind of a young girl.”

Aphelion


  Sample
 I don’t think Earth is going to make it. Dad doesn’t agree; he says it will survive but not as we know it. It’s just humanity that won’t make it. 

I don’t think it’s fair to put all the blame on me. I’m only one little girl, and I was just ten at the time; I needed guidance, and didn't get it; certainly I didn't get it from my dad, whose business it is to know such things--he's a scientist, an astronomer; he goes back and forth to the moon like I go back and forth to school. My mom died while I was being born.

Most of the year since it happened I’ve been on the moon too--not my choice, I can tell you; talk about boring! My dad says there’s no other place to go. There are people living on the space stations, but Dad says they’re just in denial. It’s final, he says, at least it’s final for us. He says even if there were a future for humanity, he would not want to be part of the trying--he’s no pioneer, my dad. He says sooner or later the people on the space stations will come to the moon colony like we did. I hope so; I’m lonely here.

I know how to free my mind from my body. I used to think this was all in my head, mostly because that’s what Dad kept telling me, but now I know better. Maybe he does too. What I do is, I lie in bed and think of a place I’d like to be: the moon, a planet, even the stars. Then, if I concentrate really hard, I can free my mind to go there. Yeah, I know, a lot of people do that, but in my case I really go there. My body is still in bed, but my mind or my spirit or whatever you want to call it is zipping around the universe at the speed of thought, which is a gazillion times the speed of light. I visit fiery suns that don’t burn even when I fly right into them; I watch exploding nebula throw rocks all over the place; I’ve even found planets, some with squirmy things on them.

One other thing, I can influence the direction of things--I found this out by accident. Specifically, I can move objects toward me. Once, while mentally reaching out for a passing comet, thinking this might get me there faster, I moved the comet ever so slightly--I could see this by the little bend that appeared in its tail. Not sure at first, I tried the same thing again. Sure enough, another bend appeared. I had a lot of fun with that one, bouncing that poor little comet around like a basket ball.

I never get lost. At first I feared I might, but then I realized all I had to do was wake up. I tried this once, staying out on a fat gassy planet until my body called me back. Took all night, but it worked.









Recycled

by Noel Carroll


Published on two U.S. webzines: WritersHood and Aphelion , and on the British e-zine, Steelcaves.

 

“Noel Carroll did a good job: the ending surprises, but it is a fair ending. The reader has 

a sporting chance of figuring it out.  It is one of those [stories] that 

gets even better upon a second reading.”

Aphelion

 

“A story that is an exercise in irony.”

Short Story Editor, WritersHood

 

   

Sample

I cannot shout, but I make myself known in other ways. I push against the chamber, first with one arm then the other then with a leg that I have managed to straighten. I twist and turn, hoping in this to discover a weakness that will lead to an opening. I run my hands along the sides of the chamber in search of a panic button or something else that might serve as a means of communicating to those outside.

But all I succeed in doing is to invite calming agents upon myself--the chamber, or someone monitoring it, is compensating.

They are concerned about me. I cannot hear what they’re saying, but I know the sound of concern. Trouble is I should not be hearing anything; my life functions are suspended, at least they’re supposed to be. Not only can I hear but I can feel as well. Something is horribly wrong.

Sometimes what I hear is soothing, like music or laughter or whispered thoughts, but at other times, such as now, there is that ambiance of concern. I know this even if I haven't a clue why.

I try to remember how I got to this point. And who I was before I started--it’s not amnesia, it’s just … well, confusion. But I produce nothing more than supposition. The suspended animation thing, though supposition as well, stands a reasonable chance of being correct, but I am unable to fit into this theory why I should be suspended while those around me are not.

There it is again, and this time it is more like … agitation. I try shouting to whomever is out there, this to let them know I’m okay. But there is no air in my lungs to propel the thought--I am not breathing. The realization of this should shock me, but I can only consider myself fortunate since I am totally immersed in liquid.

Suspended animation also makes sense for another reason; I remember something of my life, that I am involved in some way in the stars. The disorientation I face at the moment will not let me know the specifics, but that much is for sure. I can even picture specific groups of stars. And selected others that shepherd planets I have known--from close up or from Earth I cannot remember. I suppose it is possible that I am on my way to visit one now.

But then, why am I the only one suspended?


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The Collection

by Noel Carroll


Published on two U.S. webzines: WritersHood and Aphelion , and on the British e-zine, Steelcaves.

 

“Noel Carroll did an excellent job of building suspense and horror 

without revealing any antagonist.”

WritersHood

 

“The Collection is well done. I could easily visualize the protagonist on the glacier

and I could feel the horror of the trap he fell into.”

Short Story Editor, Aphelion

 

“The Collection is a well-written and haunting story, telling us how 

the greed of humanity seldom wins out over the raw power of nature.”

Aphelion

 

   
Sample
It is pure luck that I see it at all. And in truth, I’m not sure, not sure that it’s anything more than light bouncing in a playful way off the ancient, blue-tinted glacier. I am sure of one thing, however, and that is I don’t want to tell anyone about it.

It’s there for a few seconds only, and this because the early-morning sun touches the ice in a certain way, reaching in rather than bouncing off. And only in that tiny spot where a recent calving has opened a vein of blue ice, the deep blue of ice long under pressure—it will return to a cloudy-white condition before long. But even though brief and slight, the sighting is enough to convince me that I was right in coming here. What I see is human; it’s got to be. Equally as certain, it is the missing partner of the corpse found floating down the river yesterday morning, an explorer lost since the twenties and now given back to us by glacial ice that cannot make up its mind whether to advance or retreat.

Once the sun ends its tease, I can no longer be sure, but I know my calculations are correct. That corpse came from here, not only from this glacier (there are a dozen in the area) but from the blemish I just saw. Inside it the poor fellow’s partner waits. Waits for me.

To insure that I remember its location, I line the spot up with the crest of the mountain from which the sun, peaking mischievously over the top, first revealed it to me. I match this with an irregular outcrop of rocks on the northernmost edge of the river, the river on which I and the cruise ship I share primarily with tourists ride. I take care to keep these tourists from picking up on my quickened interest--they know about the corpse, and are themselves speculating on where it came from. I do nothing to enlighten them.

The boat moves on and the blur again takes on meaning, not to my fellow tourists but to me, who had seen it as it was momentarily bathed in sunlight. I guess it to be a foot into the ice, if even that, and fifteen feet from the top of the two-hundred-foot glacier wall. I also guess that it will not be long before it breaks off to join the other bergs floating down the river.

I do not want that to happen, not until I get what I came for.

There was a notebook found with the floating corpse, badly abused by water, ice and time but still readable, at least in part. The words are vague to the others but less so to me. They claim the discovery of an "ancient treasure," which in Alaska means gold, either raw or crafted by some primitive Indian culture—I am the only one to figure that out. If I am right, there is a better-than-equal chance that the entirety of it lies within that block of ice, guarded by a frozen corpse.



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Butterflies

by Noel Carroll

Published on the Aphelion webzine 

Also published in audiobook format by AudioRealms

 

....

 

“I have to compliment Mr. Carroll on his vision.”

Aphelion

 

  Sample
It isn’t Russian; there is too much sophistication evident in its simplicity for it to be theirs. 

For that matter, too much to be ours.
It appears to us as a perfect circle some two meters in diameter, its skin as smooth and as dark as that of a pilot whale even as it offers a hint of transparency, a taste of what that skin is protecting--from time to time and with more randomness than mathematical precision, spots of dull light appear on its surface, light that we first think to be reflections of distant stars.
I watch as Lee, other than myself, the only one left of our shuttle crew, floats closer to the porthole, his need the same as mine: to know more about it, our awakening to what it must be forcing a rush upon us that is hard to put down. Likely it is the same for Mission Control, likely that their curiosity is closer to the boiling point than to the trickle of interest which was all they would admit to at the start--it had appeared to them only two days before our launch, and generated such a "trickle" that checking it out was bulldozed into an already tight schedule, unheard of in these days of stringent rehearsal before any deviation is permitted.
Not much of a deviation, though. We were, in a sense, going that way anyway, our primary mission to drop off the first US contingent to the newly-completed International Space Station. That and the science that preceded it now done, we have only this "fly-by" before heading home.
My job is to fly the shuttle, while Lee is a combination of scientist and astronaut, but titles mean little when faced with something like this. For this, we have common drives and common interests, the latter as equal citizens of a planet that is aching to know if anyone is out there. Excited and only slightly alarmed, we feel the answer sits less than a mile away. 






 

Stairway Through Agony

by Noel Carroll

Published on Aphelion 

 

“I loved the story. Very original and emotional. You are very good

at conveying the emotions of the people involved.”

Aphelion

 

Sample

I am the only one who can see the eighth floor of our condo building. Others, were I foolish enough to ask them, would say it doesn’t exist. I saw it for the first time late yesterday afternoon during a stroll along the beach. When I looked up to admire the building’s silhouette against the fading embers of a Florida sun that rarely tires, there it was: eight stories where there should only be seven. I stood there for a long while counting layers of windows, each time certain that the mistake, which surely it was, would become apparent. Nothing changed; eight rows of windows, not seven. This was not a mirage; this was not the shimmer one sees waxing up from an exposed roadway on a hot summer day--just to be sure, I check it again at night

I tell no one, afraid they will think me insane. (There is even an ordinance in this area that limits the height of buildings such as ours to seven stories—my hallucination is illegal!). And insane is what I feel as, wallowing in indecision on the beach like some kind of fool, I stare for an hour or more, all the while hoping that this will prove to be tired eyes matched against overworked emotions--lately my days have been filled with anxiety and depression … and fear--I am upset and cannot remember when or why it started. I know it must relate somehow, unexplained and tormenting emotions and the hallucination, but the how of it escapes me. Perhaps the former brings about the latter.

I do know one thing, however: There is something on that floor that terrifies me......



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Beyond Sapiens

by Noel Carroll

Published on the Aphelion webzine.  (Selected as one of Aphelion’s “Best of 2004.”)


Courageous diary-like recounting of a classic "what goes around comes around.”

Good irony. Good tale.”

“You really get a sense of the personality of the character.”

Aphelion

   Sample 
 I hate putting this down on electronic paper because, in doing so, I concede failure for the first time in my short life--at the time of this recording, I am nineteen years old. I suppose I should also state that I am the biological mother of hundreds of children, all under two years of age.

I have no idea who or what will receive this, but I would not mind if my Homo sapiens of Earth got a chance at it--my way of apologizing, I suppose. In the event some entity wishes to accommodate me in this, Earth is located on the outer arm of a spiral galaxy inside a solar system of one sun and nine planets—ours is the third from the sun. If that isn’t enough, work it out with your computers.

I am about as miserable a human being as there ever was, yet I can fault no one but myself. I took too long to grow up and was too spoiled in the process, spoiled not by others, who wanted as little contact with me as possible, but by self deception. Youthful emotions lagged behind a genus intellect, permitting me to feel that whatever I did, it must be correct.

Failure has taught me a lot.

I had always thought failure for me was impossible. Even during my growing-up period, which lasted until age one and a half, I was seldom wrong. Those around me thought otherwise, but they think in three dimensions while, even then, I knew no dimensional limits. This intergalactic voyage of mine, however, has not gone as I expected it would. For example, as hinted at above, I do not know where I am. Oh, vaguely I do, I suppose. As I put Nikki, my computer, to the task of locating known galaxies, she pauses more than she should but then ventures a guess that is reasonable. I will not ask the poor thing for a confidence check; I would likely not appreciate nor agree with the answer—I know more than she at this point. In both voice and mannerisms, my computer is female, the engineers thinking this would please me, make me feel less of the loneliness that, on a journey such as this, is unavoidable. Sort of a girls night out, big-time.

I was ordered to fly this mission to everywhere and nowhere, but I could have turned it down, presented my "superiors" (I used to give a know-it-all smirk when I used that word) with arguments that they, with their inferior intellect, could not counter. In truth, they only think they sent me here. So subtle was I in my persuasion that, even now, they would vehemently disagree that this was anything other than their collective will. They saw a problem and they solved it in a very logical way. I knew exponentially more than they about the subject, thus it was I who should conduct the test.

That was their official reasoning. More to the point was that I was a pain in their collective butt. My vastly superior intellect overwhelmed even the most ego-secure among my scientist colleagues, and I instilled in them so much fear for their continued existence (I ridiculed them constantly) that they had to act to save themselves.

wanted to leave. I had this feeling that I lived with monkeys, that if I did not soon escape their monkey noises and monkey thinking I would go mad. They were the old, the once was, the ancients whose time was drawing to a close, their path to extinction assured.

Oh God, how I miss them!.....




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End Of The Beginning

by Noel Carroll

Published on the Aphelion webzine   

 

“Good story, … it made me think.”

“Thoroughly enjoyed the read.”

“That's some vision.”

“An intriguing read.”

“Obviously tons of work and thought went into this.”

 “ I rate this story as one of the best.”

Aphelion

 

“Very original and interesting plot.”

Zeotrope Stories


 

Sample 

Seventeen thousand years is life enough for anyone. The truth of this came to me suddenly, and I have been unable to shake the gloom it brought with it. I tire easily and find little interest in a new day. Friends I once sought out with anticipation, I now avoid. I resent routine, in particular the unending rejuvenations that do nothing but condition me for more of the same, more of a life that has passed to the heavy side of tedious. Just a short while ago I was content, saw promise in the future, felt desire and love-of-life flow through me as forcefully as it had for seventeen thousand years. Now I feel dead inside.

I have seen this in others but never imagined it could happen to me. There is so much to my universe, so much still to happen, celestial bodies to be born, others to make a show of ending their existence, an unending variety of creatures that will someday reveal themselves, others that will evolve into something we can not even guess at. So much, yet I am bored. With all the power we humans possess, more than I have found a use for, you would think I could manufacture a way out of my lethargy. I have tried, believe me, though lately it is more lip service than determined effort.

We have the power to create life or influence its direction, and having a number of times enjoyed exercising this power, I thought a remedy to my problem would be to involve myself in it again. This worked for a time, the gratification it brought with it enough to capture the most reluctant interest--lesser creatures both awe and fear us, just as our early human ancestors awed and feared what they did not understand. But then, like everything else I tried, it failed.

There is no denying that we are superior beings, that we enjoy powers as godlike as anything yet devised by desperate imaginations. Not only the creation of life, but its termination as well. Were it in our nature to do so, we could eliminate all biological life on any given planet. Fortunately for those who share our universe, we are benevolent, having advanced beyond the need to support egos. Comfortable in our power, we do not hunger after praise or other pettiness that the primitives of old insisted was required of their gods......




 






By Invitation Only

by Noel Carroll

Published on the Aphelion webzine 

 

“Very descriptive, and very idyllic.”

“Excellent research is evident.  A fun read, indeed.”

“Loved the richness of the language and descriptions.”

“This is one that will stay with me.”

Aphelion

 

Sample

We must go back!  A year has gone by, and it has been filled with such mental agony that it leaves us no choice.  There is an explanation that will make folly of what our imaginations persist in shaping and reshaping, and that explanation can only be found in the place where it all began, the Greek island of Santorini.

Our agony stems from the dichotomy of what we believe and what our minds tell us cannot be real.  None of it can be real, not the people not the restaurant and not the flames that I at first attributed to a combination of local trickery and more Oozo than Cassie and I were accustomed to.  The more reasonable side of me thinks this a weak argument, but deep down, even as we do not say so to one another, it is the only answer that brings with it a semblance of sanity.

If these people are magicians, as we still think is possible, they are good ones. So clever was the magic they preyed upon us and so spectacular did they make the ending that even now we have no clue how they did it.  When we get together with the others, the discussion is limited to what our minds can accept, which is to say we have trouble discussing it at all.  Mostly we express wonder at how we could have been so taken, so willing to fall into this cleverly-laid trap, the unpleasant aftermath of which, rather than surrender to time and reason, has swelled like a deadly virus......





 



The Elite

by Noel Carroll

(Not yet reviewed)


Sample

I'm a louse!  I think I knew that all along, even as I tried to convince myself otherwise, pretending there was nobility attached to what I did. My name is Gilbert Carter, and I write this knowing I must hasten to get it done or my poor Nicole will never come to know how I felt as disaster closed in on us. But then, maybe that would be some kind of justice, the gods saying I don’t deserve either understanding or relief.

God, how quickly things can change!  As little as one year ago, I had everything going for me. I had just graduated with a degree in aeronautical engineering and was ready to set the world on fire—not the best way to put that as you’ll soon see. I had the woman of my dreams, soul mates she and I, a pretty dark-haired thing about five inches below my six feet. Nicole and I lived together for all of our college years with the idea that we would marry as soon as I landed a job. We swore unending mutual fidelity, even imaging ourselves dying in each other’s arms in some kind of elderly-lovers’ suicide pact.

When the surprise explosion happened, Nicole and I regarded it as spectacular, a cosmic event that we knew would occur some day, even as we expected it to be in someone elses lifetime. On a moonless night, the sky suddenly radiated a flash of light from horizon to horizon, leaving in its wake a brilliant star about a quarter the size of our moon. Surprised and just a little apprehensive, the two of us watched with fascination, the event a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

Our apprehension soon faded as a panel of scientists appeared on TV and explained to the world that what we were seeing was the huge star Betelgeuse going supernova. The excitement they radiated was contagious, even as much of what they said went over our heads. Betelgeuse, they told us, was huge, reaching 100,000 times the size of our sun. Earth was but a pimple on its butt in normal times, but now, with the explosion pushing that giant star well out into the cosmos, we would be to it as an atom is to the moon. They said Betelgeuse had actually gone supernova some 640 light years ago, that it took all that time for the light of the explosion to reach us. 640 light years is considered by those in the know to be close to Earth, but not dangerously close, thus the citizens of the world could regard it as nothing worse than an unusually bright light in the heavens.

Nicole and I joined the rest of the world in fixating on the sky, even during daylight hours and even while crossing busy streets—accidents were common during this time. Betelgeuse was a magnet that drew everyones attention no matter where on the planet they were. No one had ever seen a star so bright, so...close!  TV screens became filled with romantic (and often exaggerated) descriptions and pictures, what it was, how long the effect would last, when it would go back to being just another star. Nicole and I ate it all up and asked for more.

It was Nicole who first noticed a shift in the way the “experts” were covering the phenomenon. The confident faces we viewed earlier began to fade toward the side of uncertainty. At first we considered that these scientists were tiring of the subject, but when uncertainty turned to something bordering on fear, I joined Nicole in doubt. Looking back, I count that as the moment when we both awakened to the possibility that our future might not be entirely ours to decide. It was just a feeling, but I could see in her eyes that it was shared. It was as if we could no longer be sure of anything.……….