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Karma at the Charlie Hotel: Fiction by Louella Lester
Acceptable Margin of Inventory Loss: Fiction by Charlie Kondek
The Racing Rocks: Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
The Preacher Woman of Reverie, Oklahoma: Fiction by Ann Marie Potter
Justice Served: Fiction by Glen Bush
A Broken String of Love Beads: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Revenge and Redemption: Fiction by Walt Trizna
Thirst: Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
The Solar Punks: Fiction by James Blakey
Rito Was a High Number: Fiction by Fred Andersen
The Parcel: Fiction by Robb White
Red Wine and Cyanide: Fiction by Adrian Fahy
The Crowd: Fiction by Jack Garrett
The Offal Truth: Fiction by Scott MacLeod
Madam Maree Sees Your Future: Flash Fiction by Jon Park
Wereworm: Flash Fiction by Daniel G Snethen
Promises: Flash fiction by Richard Brown
No Need to Cry: Flash Fiction by Zvi A. Sesling
The Classy Woman: Flash Fiction by William Kitcher
oh how i wish: Poem by Rob Plath
Bird in Flight, Nullarbor Plain, 1967: Poem by John Doyle
Pools: Poem by Bernice Holtzman
I Exist Inside an Invisible Poem Everlasting & Overflowing: Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
Let me drop the last chapter: Poem by Partha Sarkar
Excursion: The Cruise Ship Chronicles: Poem by Jake Sheff
We'll Always Have Two Things to Hold: Poem by Chandu Govind
why nothing else matters: Poem by John Sweet
the pale grey light of forgotten afternoons: Poem by John Sweet
Orchestra Class: Poem by Elizabeth Zelvin
The Old Lady Shows Her Mettle: Poem by Elizabeth Zelvin
Eggs Over Easy: Poem by Peter Mladinic
Pretty Face: Poem by Peter Mladinic
Another Saturday Night: Poem by Richard LeDue
My Death Knells: Poem by Richard LeDue
Poems as Cheap as Christmas Lights: Poem by Richard LeDue
Dead Work: Poem by John Grey
How He Died: Poem by John Grey
The Man in Their Midst: Poem by John Grey
First at Pimlico: Poem by Craig Kirchner
4 AM: Poem by Craig Kirchner
Leap Year: Poem by Craig Kirchner
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Strange Gardens
ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Kenneth James Crist: The Racing Rocks

104_ym_racingrocks2_sophia.jpg
Art by Sophia Wiseman-Rose 2024

The Racing Rocks

 

by

 

Kenneth James Crist

 

 

The dry lake bed lay sweltering in afternoon heat. No movement showed other than the ripples of the false water, mere mirage caused by the baking temperatures. That and the wind, always invisible, but ever present. No signs of life that the casual observer might focus upon, although life was here, less abundant than at most other places on the planet, this being a waterless, sun-puckered place, well below sea level.

Scattered across the miles of perfectly flat, cracked and wind-scoured mud were a number of rocks, darker than the terrain and randomly positioned. These were made chiefly of basalt and were nearly as old as the planet itself. From each of these a slide mark extended for some distance, gouged into the dry surface. Some were thousands of feet long. This place was called Death Valley by men. To others, it was merely home.

In the afternoon breeze Lujane heard Ulthu whisper her name. His voice came almost as lightly as the breeze itself, which on this day was only a fraction of the harsh wind that could dominate and decimate the landscape.

At first, she tried to ignore him, she herself being occupied by a dream. She often dreamed of flying, of being a bird or other creature, of soaring high above Earth, where it was cool, of going up into the mountains and bathing endlessly in chilled water. Her dreams had been known to last for millennia.

Ulthu whispered again. “Lujane.” When he pronounced her name, he always made it sound lush, sexy. The soft “J,” the accent on the second syllable.

“What is it this time?” she asked testily, her dream broken and fast fading away. She didn’t bother to whisper. There was no one about to hear.

“Wanted to see if you were awake,” he said, then, “Were you dreaming?”

“Yes.” In spite of the fact that he’d stolen her dream, there was no rancor in her voice.

“You look especially lovely today.” Again, that quiet whisper. She always marveled at how his deep voice, so gravelly when used out loud, could be so smooth when he whispered.

She gave a derisive snort. “And you’re an old flatterer, too. Not to mention a liar. I look just as haggy today as I have every day since I can remember, and I can remember a long time.”

Sensing she was digging for another compliment, Ulthu whispered, “Now, you know, at a distance I might have mistaken you for your daughter . . .”

“Oh, stop! Only if you were gazing in from another galaxy, Old One.” But she was smiling, now.

“No, it’s true. You almost have a glow about you…tell me, are you

     . . . with child?”

“No! Definitely not! I’m too damned old for that, I suspect.” She was practically simpering now and inwardly she was cursing herself, knowing what would soon happen, but too excited to stop herself.

“Ahhh, Lujane, you’ll never be too old.”

He was coming toward her now, making his way carefully, and she made a quick decision as to whether she should run. Perhaps, just a little, to make the pursuit all the sweeter. She turned and sauntered a ways, before looking back.

Over the next seventy-two years, Ulthu moved eleven feet and Lujane a mere nine. He was definitely gaining on her, she could see, when she looked back, but that was fine.

Watching him strain, she decided to taunt him a little. “You’re not going lame on me, are you, Old One?”

“Don’t call me that,” he panted, “I’m no older than you. Just larger. And no, I’m not going lame. I’m in great shape for my age.”

It was true. At a hundred fifty-six pounds, he was nearly twice her bulk and, she thought, almost brutally good-looking. Time and the elements had only served to make him more handsome. Cragginess always looked better on the males. Feeling an old stirring inside, she slowed her pace just a little.

As the sun shot through the sky again and again and the days and nights flickered across the dry lake floor, Lujane gradually allowed Ulthu to catch her, even though she could have easily outrun him. At last, he slid up next to her and they touched, a mere bumping at first, but then they drew closer.

“You smell nice,” he said as he nuzzled her.

You smell like an old rock,” she teased, pushing him slightly away, “a horny old rock.”

“I assure you, my intentions are pure.” he said, and there was laughter in his voice.

“The only thing pure about you is the pureness of your lust, Old One. I know you.”

Their banter continued for some time, until at last Lujane surrendered herself to Ulthu’s attentions. They might make love for the next thousand years, if Ulthu was up to it.

 

 

The big silver tour bus with the dark-tinted windows pulled up to the observation point and stopped. The driver/tour guide turned on his microphone and spoke to his customers.

“On your tour of Death Valley today, we felt you should see this area of dry lake, known as the Racetrack. Here, as you can see, the rocks scattered around on the lake bed actually move and leave tracks. This was a mystery until 1967, when Professor Robert Sharp, of the California Institute of Technology, determined that the rocks move because of common forces of nature. He found that even a slight rainfall can make the dry lake surface very slick and then wind gusts are sufficient to cause the rocks to move. If anyone would care to step out and walk around and get a closer look, feel free to do so, however, be warned: the outside temperature right now is a balmy one hundred twenty-six degrees.”

As if to illustrate his point, the tour guide reached over and flipped the lever to open the door to the blast furnace heat and wind. Just as the doors finished opening, everyone on the bus clearly heard an eerie sound, a long, ululating moan that died slowly away.

Bernie Hoffstead, a spoiled and smart-assed ten year old sitting with his mother and older brother Michael, piped up and said, “What the hell was that?”

“Probably just the wind,” the tour guide said, “we sometimes hear some sounds out here. Nothing to worry about.”

“Wind, my ass,” the fourteen-year-old and worldly wise Michael said, “sounded more like some woman gettin’ it off.”

“You mean gettin’ her rocks off?” Bernie quipped, to snickering from the other passengers.

His mother grabbed them both by their ears and hissed, “Both of you better watch your mouths.”

The tour guide said, “Well, if nobody wants to hop down for a closer look, we’ll move on, then.”

“No, wait, we wanna go look!” Bernie said, looking to his brother for backup.

Michael looked outside, then shrugged and said, “Yeah, okay, why not?”

They tumbled down off the bus and the doors hissed shut behind them.

“Jesus, tits, it’s hot!” Michael said. He could swear all he wanted now, his mother having chosen to keep her fat ass on the bus.

“No shit!” Bernie was no slouch when it came to being foul-mouthed, either.

They walked around a little, marveling that their clothes didn’t stick to their backs. It was so dry that their sweat was evaporating at a rate that would kill them in a day without water.

They spent some time looking over the “racing rocks,” as their guide had called them, until Bernie called Michael over to two that had actually collided.

“Now, how the hell did they do that?” Michael said.

“What?”

“Well, if the wind moves them, wouldn’t they all move the same way? And at the same rate?”

“Beats the shit outta me.” Bernie volunteered.

“Somebody oughta beat the shit outta you!” Michael yelled, grabbing his younger sib and getting some pretty good rib-noogies in before Bernie managed to squirm away, panting and laughing. He sat down on the larger of the two stones to catch his breath, then leapt up with a yell, spinning and staring at the black stone, his mouth hanging open.

“What’s the deal, sporto?” his brother asked.

“It moved.” He said, shuddering.

“Oh, yeah. Right.”

“I’m not shittin’ ya, Mike!”

Michael stepped to the rock and placed his hand on it, and stood, staring at Bernie.

Presently Bernie made a face at him and then smiled. “Gotcha!” he said, then he turned and raced for the bus.

“You little fuck!” Michael laughed, and the chase was on.

When they were back aboard, in the coolness of the air conditioning, the bus rolled away, farting diesel fumes into the dry heat.

 

 

“Easy, darling, they’ll hear you.” Ulthu said. Lujane had always been vocal during their trysts, and he loved making her cry out when it was especially good.

“Who’ll hear me?” she asked, looking around.

“Never mind, they’re gone now.” In fact, by the time he finished speaking, the tour bus had been gone almost a year.

104_ym_racingrocks1_sophia.jpg
Art by Sophia Wiseman-Rose 2024

Kenneth James Crist is Editor of Black Petals Magazine and is on staff at Yellow Mama ezine. He has been a published writer since 1998, having had almost two hundred short stories and poems in venues ranging from Skin and Bones and The Edge-Tales of Suspense to Kudzu Monthly. He is particularly fond of supernatural biker stories. He reads everything he can get his hands on, not just in horror or sci-fi, but in mystery, hardboiled, biographies, westerns and adventure tales. He retired from the Wichita, Kansas police department in 1992 and from the security department at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita in 2016. Now 74, he is an avid motorcyclist and handgun shooter. He is active in the American Legion Riders and the Patriot Guard, helping to honor and look after our military. He is also a volunteer driver for the American Red Cross, Midway Kansas Chapter. He is the owner of Fossil Publications, a desktop publishing venture that seems incapable of making any money at all. On June the ninth, 2018, he did his first (and last) parachute jump and crossed that shit off his bucket list.

Sophia Wiseman-Rose (aka Sr. Sophia Rose) is a Paramedic and an Anglican novice Franciscan nun, in the UK.  Both careers have given Sophia a great deal of exposure to the extremes in life and have provided great inspiration for her.  

 She has travelled to many countries, on medical missions and for modelling (many years ago), but has spent most of her life between the USA and the UK. She is currently residing in a rural Franciscan community and will soon be moving to London to be with a community there.  

 In addition, Sophia had a few poems and short stories in editions of Black Petals Horror/Science Fiction Magazine

The majority of her artwork can be found on her website.

 

https://www.artstation.com/sophiaw-r6

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2024