Tag Archives: short stories

BQB on Freebooksy

Hey 3.5 readers.

Your old pal, BQB here.

I bought a Freebooksy promotion, which ran yesterday, and wanted to tell you all about it, seeing as how it was a good experience.

It was for Freefall, my short story about a man who goes on a skydiving trip, only to jump out of the plane and find that his parachute has been sabotaged:

In the past, I have had moderate success with Facebook ads. Sometimes they would translate to 10 or 20 free copies. At times, I have given away approximately 100. That was the highest and I thought that was something.

Yesterday, thanks to Freebooksy, I gave away a mind boggling 1,337 copies in one day!!! Ergo, I am sold on their services. When you buy a promotion, you can plan it for a specific day. They will list your book as free on their website for the day and will send it in their email to their subscribers for that day.

Makes sense, right? If you use Facebook ads, you might reach a lot of people, but out of those, maybe a handful will actually click on the link, and an even smaller amount will actually bother to get a free copy.

Meanwhile, Freebooksy subscribers are serious readers with a passion for the written word. They have signed up for these emails so they can be notified when it is time to snatch up free books. Thus, unless something changes, I foresee myself focusing on Freebooksy in the future as my go to site for advertising when one of my books is free.

Of course, we want to transition to the point where we actually get paid. Rarely happens to me, but I am still relatively new to self-publishing. Part of the problem is you have to collect the so-called “social proof” i.e. you have to rack up positive reviews. I did receive one positive review yesterday thanks to Freebooksy. I thought maybe I’d receive more but one thing I have noticed is sometimes people will get a free copy and then they’ll come back a week, or two or a month later and buy a book or leave a review or a rating. It takes time for people to read your book. They grab your book when it is free but then it might sit on their virtual shelf for awhile before they find time to read it.

I did notice a number of people on Goodreads listed it as a book they have or have read or want to read, etc.

Overall, a positive experience so far. As of this morning, the free copies have tapered off to 48 for today as of the time of this post, but that’s still a lot more in one day that I am used to.

Oh! Freefall also ended up being ranked #2 in 90 minute Literature and Short Fiction reads, #2 in Single Author Short Stories and #2 in 90 Minute Mystery, Thriller and Suspense Short Reads. It is now #131 in the Free Kindle store.

That last one? I have to assume if you can make it into the Top 100 Free, you’d get a lot of free book grabs, so if you 3.5 readers want to grab your free copy and put me over the top, I would appreciate it.

Seriously, what else were you going to do today? Cut your toenails? Wash your hair? Mow your lawn? You can take less than one minute to grab a free copy and be able to go to bed tonight secure in the knowledge that you actually achieved something awesome, i.e. you helped Bookshelf Q Battler inch his way toward the Top 100 Free on Amazon.

Thanks for listening, 3.5 readers. Oh and if you are a self-publisher and were wondering about the cost, it cost me $90 and I consider it $90 well spent. You can go to Freebooksy.com and see the prices for various genres, some of which are lower. It’s a good deal. If you want to do it for one of your books, I’d recommend going to their site to make sure the day you want isn’t already sold out, and then pick a day and set your book to be free on that day and voila, free books.

Will you have similar results? Eh, I can’t say for sure. I mean, look at that cover. It is pretty awesome. And the story is pretty great too, if I do say so myself. You still need to bring your A game to your writing and book production but I would assume you’ll still see an uptick in free copies.

Thank you, Freebooksy.

One more note – Freebooksy also offers Bargainbooksy, where if your book is priced low enough (I forget how low it has to be) then you can also buy a promotion on that. I haven’t tried that yet. I generally find it is like pulling teeth to get people to actually buy books, though I heard a rumor it does happen if you keep putting the time and effort in. Maybe I’ll try that someday. If you have tried Bargainbooksy and want to share your experience, please do so in the comments.

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Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and GET A FREE WEREWOLF BOOK!

Hey 3.5 readers.

Some thoughts:

#1 – Merry Belated Christmas. Sorry I did not stop to wish all 3.5 of you a Merry Christmas when it was Christmas. I have been busy. My bad. I hope it was a good one.

#2 – Happy New Year. I wished you a Happy New Year on time.

#3 – GET A FREE WEREWOLF BOOK!

Yes, one of BQB’s Twisted Shorts, “Quarantine” is totes free. That means you don’t have to spend any money. You probably just spent a lot, what with running up your credit cards to buy all those expensive gifts and gadgets that your loved ones didn’t need and honestly, aren’t going to make them appreciate you anymore anyway.

So, get yourself a FREE book. Remember, it’s free. Just go to the link below, get your free copy and if the mood strikes, feel free to leave me a review.

FREE! HA HA HA! TOTALLY FREE! MY PRICES ARE INSANE I’M GIVING THESE BOOKS AWAY!!!
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GET A FREE BOOK – FOR FREE!!!

3.5 readers, my twisted short, When Superheroes Quit, is totes free this week, so be sure to grab a copy and find out what happens to Horrendous City when The Righteous Champion quits being a superhero to focus on his budding pop music career.

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Freefall Cover

Hey 3.5 readers.

My next installment of BQB’s Twisted Shorts is about an average schmuck who goes skydiving for the first time, only to find his primary and backup cords aren’t working.

With 5 minutes before he hits the pavement, he needs to figure out how to save himself, if he can. Also, foul play is suspected, so will he be able to figure out who sabotaged his parachute and why?

Here it is. The cover for BQB’s Twisted Shorts – Volume 1 – Issue 5 – Freefall.

I think this is the best of the 5 covers. The other 5 were great but this, wow, I mean, if you’re browsing through a bookshelf and see this cover, you want to open it up and find out what happens to this guy, don’t you?

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GET MY FREE BOOK!

Hey 3.5 readers.

I have a new FREE short on Amazon. Totally FREE. Did I mention it is FREE? Now and for the next few days you can get a FREE copy.

Harry Blanding is a crazy old conspiracy theorist…or is he?

Every day he arrives at a subway stop in New York City, ringing a bell as he shouts out wacky claims, each one sillier than the next. Pudding cup labels that contain subliminal messages. A nuclear warhead stockpile inside Teddy Roosevelt’s head on Mt. Rushmore. Bigfoot is a hitman in the employ of Russian spies.

Absurd, right? When cell phone videos of Harry’s antics go viral, most assume the old man is a performance artist with a twisted sense of humor.

One particular agency that may or may not exist isn’t laughing.

GET YOUR FREE COPY TODAY!

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It’s not too late to get my Free Shorts!

Hey 3.5 readers.

Have you gotten your hands on my free shorts yet? No? Why not? What, are you too good for my shorts? You think there are better shorts to be had out there? What, are you made of money? Do you prefer shorts that are not free?

Sorry for the guilt trip. Anyway, my BQB’s Twisted Shorts series has begun with “When Superheroes Quit” and you can still get a free copy on Amazon tonight and all the way through tomorrow night.

You want to wait to Sunday? Don’t do it. If you wait till Sunday, my shorts will no longer be free. You’ll be kicking yourself in your shorts over losing out on this great opportunity to get my free shorts.

Do you know how many people have gotten my free shorts this week? 18. Can you believe it? 18 people cared so much about my free shorts that they grabbed my free shorts for free. They didn’t leave a review about my free shorts, so if you grab my free shorts and you want to leave a review, please do so. I love it when people review my free shorts.

In conclusion, please get your free copy of my shorts:

 

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FREE TWISTED SHORTS!

Hey 3.5 readers.

My new mini-book, BQB’s Twisted Shorts – When Superheroes Quit, is free until the end of the week

What if a super villain attacked the city and the local spandex wearing caped flyboy decided to stay home? Feeling unloved and unappreciated, the Righteous Champion decided to leave Horrendous City, opting to get out of the superhero game to move to Florida to become a pop star.

Get your copy today. It is FREE and also FREE and did I mention that it is FREE?

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BQB’s Twisted Shorts – The One That Got Away – Cover

Hey 3.5 readers.

Have you ever sat around, crying into a frosty brew about the one that got away? If only you had been nicer, kinder, more attentive, more attractive, more successful, more whatever, maybe they would have stayed but now they’re gone and you feel like dirt because you’re sure you’ll never find anyone who compares to the one who flew the coop?

You sound like Evan Brooks. He was once an up and coming lawyer but he blew it all on booze, so depressed was he when his fiance Lisa walked out on him.  He has spent the past 20 years drowning his sorrows at a bar, telling his tale of woe to anyone who will listen…except no one ever wants to listen to such a depressing lush.

One day, a mysterious stranger does listen. Actually, he does more than that. He transports Evan to an alternate reality, one where Lisa stuck with him and….dun dun dun…their son became the next Hitler.

As Evan gets a taste of the life he would have had as the father of a cruel totalitarian dictator, he starts to realize maybe that bar stool wasn’t so bad…and maybe, just maybe, things happen for a reason. Sometimes a personal dream falling apart is the best thing that ever happened to you…and the world.

COVER 4

Here we see the White House which, in the story, becomes “The Eye House” or the home of the dictator, who refers to himself as “The Eye” because he watches everything. America is kept under heavy surveillance in this dystopian nightmare.

Anyway, I haven’t put any of these stories yet but I believe I have found a sustainable approach.  Editors and formatters are worth every penny but they are expensive so I think for now, the short story route is the way to go, as these take less time and less money to format.

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Resurrection Inc.

BQB NOTE: Hey 3.5 readers.  I’m thinking about getting into the short story market.  My thought is I could occasionally self-publish a short story, around 10-20,000 words and when I have enough of them, package them as a book.  I’m not sold on the idea because I have found that whether short or long, it takes me at least a year to self publish anything.

But anyway, I rattled this first part out yesterday and I was quite pleased with it so far.  Let me know what you think.  It takes place in a world where a comedy has perfected the art of bringing people back to life so much that they have franchises on every corner like they are fast food joints, teenagers being paid minimum wage to bring back the dead….and of course, all the ethical dilemmas that ensue.

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In the span of a mere five years, the process of resurrecting a deceased human being went from a very complicated procedure that could only be performed by the renowned Nobel prize winning physicist, Dr. Elijah Benjamin to a rather simple set of tasks that could be performed during an after school shift by a high school senior earning minimum wage.  Resurrection Inc. franchises had popped up on virtually every street corner in America and while Benjamin enjoyed the fruits of his labor on a beach in Malibu, the Wall Street jackals he appointed to control his life’s work were aggressively pushing into Europe and Asia, yearning to dominate the global back from the dead market before the numerous upstart rivals seeking to patent their own life restoration techniques could get off the ground.

At one such franchise location, seventeen-year-old Liam Tate gnawed on the end of a lengthy licorice rope, playing a game on his cell phone as the office television blared in the background.  In truth, the lad had the attention span of a fruit fly, and as such, he had been fired from part-time gigs as a fast food joint cook, big box store stock boy and movie theater usher.  Ironically, the position of junior resurrection associate was a lot easier.  Just listen to the AI voice emanating from the B.A.D.S. or “Benjamin Automatic Death Stopper,” the large, boxy machine in the center of the lab and do as it said.

Ding! “Insert DNA sample now.”

Liam ignored the request, too engrossed in beating his high score to earn his meager paycheck.  No worries.  The B.A.D.S provided a prompt reminder.

Ding! “Insert DNA sample now.”

Liam unleashed an uproarious sigh, as though taking a moment to do his job was going to literally kill him, not that such an event even mattered anymore.  In fact, homicides had reached an all time high in the free world, largely due to murder parties in which unruly young folk would schedule their resurrections in advance, and then have a wild, carefree time chasing each other around their dormitories with knives, hatchets, military grade weaponry and the occasional chainsaw.

Ding! “Insert DNA sample now.”

              “Alright, alright,” Liam mumbled.  The kid stepped over to a filing cabinet and pawed through a series of manilla envelopes.  “Who’s up next?”

Ding! “Harper, Mary Ann.  Age 18.  Passed March, 10, 2085.  Cause of death – collision caused by distracted driving.”

Liam located an envelope with Harper’s details scrawled across the front.  He reached in, fished out a pink toothbrush, then pushed a green button on the side of the B.A.D.S.  A metal tray popped out of the contraption.  The toothbrush was inserted, the tray was retracted, and various lights flashed as the machine made a humming sound.

Ding! “Printing body now.”

Liam looked at an invoice, then gazed at one of many screens attached to the B.A.D.S. This one displayed the schematics for a young human female.

“B.A.D.S.?”  Liam said.

“Yes?”

“Looks like the family paid for the upgraded package.”

Ding!  “All upgraded packages are to be entered prior to…”

The kid flipped one page of the invoice, then another, studying it intently.  “Another botch job at the call routing center.  Mr. Harper’s credit card didn’t go through but he called back and put it on his debit and…yeah, right here.  Those dummies forgot to log the upgrade.”

Ding! “Implementing upgrade package now.”

Liam tried not to stare as the female form on screen grew in breast size and declined in waist size, but stare he did.  Various blemishes and flaws were erased as Mary Ann’s new body went from ho hum to hot-cha-cha.

Ding! “Isolating consciousness from the beyond realm now.”

“Soul” was a word that Dr. Benjamin never liked using.  How he cracked the code that allowed B.A.D.S. to extract the set of beliefs, memories, attitudes and quirks that comprised one’s state of being from a metaphysical dimension that could not be seen or touched was proprietary information that he heavily guarded, refusing to share it with religious leaders despite their numerous pleas and lawsuits.

Liam sat down and grabbed a remote control.  He flipped through the channels on the office television.  First up was a news channel where a debate between two pundits was underway.

“Look, I’m not knocking the guy, but the Constitution is very clear on this.  Two terms and that’s it.”

“But the Twenty Second Amendment wasn’t in effect while…”

              “That doesn’t matter.  It’s in effect now.”

              “He never finished his second term.”

              “But he was elected twice and that’s all you get.”

              “Are we sure about that?  I don’t think the Supreme Court has definitively weighed in on…”

              “Sarah, don’t you think we’re putting the cart before the horse?  I love Abe as much as the next guy but he hasn’t even expressed in running againDid you read his new book?”

              I Preserved the Union for This?  Yes, it’s topping the bestseller lists and making the third coming of Jeff Bezos a ton of scratch.  I, for one, was fascinated to learn that Abe and Mary Todd have decided to see other people, but even so, you can’t discount the possibility that…”

Flip! Liam was now watching a game show.  The host held a blue card in hand as he addressed the camera from behind a podium.

“Welcome back to Canoodling for Cash, the only game show where celebrities are subjected to all sorts of madcap, wacky shenanigans, all in the name of raising money for charity.  Boy, oh boy, if you’re just tuning in, you missed a heck of a spectacle as Marilyn Monroe dominated all challengers in the raspberry gelatin wrestling competition.  Norman Mailer, Sir Winston Churchill and Shaka Zulu are backstage, picking little bits of that super slippery low-calorie desert treat out of their nether regions as we speak.  Coming up in the next hour, Biggie and Tupac are going to settle their differences in a best two out of three rock, paper scissors competition but first, who is the best piano player to ever tickle the ivories?  Liberace and Beethoven are about to square off, so don’t touch that…”

Flip! Liam watched an infomercial featuring a man with a stern face and slicked back hair.

“Hello.  I’m Jimmy Hoffa and it turns out I was in the last place everyone thought to look.  You might know me from days as an infamous labor leader or my alleged and totally unproven ties to organized crime, but today I’m here to promote a new venture.  Operators are standing by to help you order your very own Jimmy Hoffa Brand Convection Oven, the last kitchen appliance you’ll ever need to cook a plump, juicy, moist…”

Flip!  Another news channel.  Two more pundits.

“I’m sorry, but there are certain people who should just never be allowed to come back.”

              “That’s not your decision to make.  Two years ago, the Constitution was amended to declare resurrection an inalienable human right.”

              “Monica, you insufferable cow, are you really going to sit there and tell me that Hitler’s existence is a benefit to society?”

              “Of course not, Steve, but he’s not hurting anyone, is he?”

Liam watched as footage rolled of Adolf Hitler in an orange vest, holding up a stop sign in front of busy intersection as he blew a whistle and waved a gaggle of schoolchildren through a crosswalk.  An irate mother sipping from a coffee cup blared on her horn.

“Come on, Hitler!  You’re slower than molasses!”

Hitler’s face went red and spittle sprayed from his lips as he wagged his finger through the air.  His hair flopped about as he screamed at the driver.  “Nein, Fraulein Hotchkiss!  You vill vait patiently in your Subaru Outback for as long as it takes for das kinder to crosszen zie streetzen!  You vill shutzen your mouthzen and drinken zie delicious frappucino beverage while I do mein job for the glory of the father land and forge a new reich of crosswalk safety that vill last a thousand years!”

The pundits returned to the screen.

“It looks like he’s learned the error of his ways and is trying to become a productive member of society.”

“Monica, I’ll never be able to get used to…”

              “Well, get used to it, Steve, because once Congress passes the Affordable Resurrection Act…”

              “You mean my tax dollars will go to bringing history’s greatest assholes back to life?”

              “Everyone has a right to live again, Steve, even those whose descendants have either forgotten or don’t care about them, or who can’t foot the bill for…”

Flip!  Another news channel.

“The last funeral home went out of business today.  I took a moment to speak to ex-Funeral Director Martin Sinclair of this now defunct Sheboygan, Wisconsin establishment, and he informed me that people just aren’t willing to splurge for send-offs for their loved ones anymore, not when those loved ones are expected to return within seven to ten business days.  Like many of his colleagues, Sinclair intends to roll with the punches and convert his building into a Resurrection, Inc. franchise.  Yes, the days when you’d call the undertaker to cart off your dearly departed are long gone, folks.  All you need do now when your loved one kicks the bucket is collect a few hair snips, fingernail clippings, and any used toiletries left behind, pack them up in a handy DNA collection kit and mail it to your nearest Resurrection Inc. facility.  Police departments across the country are reminding older generations that it is perfectly legal to leave dead bodies at the end of their driveways for curbside pickup.  Meanwhile, 50 state legislatures have passed a controversial law that absolves alleged murderers of any and all homicide charges provided that they pay for their victim’s resurrection procedure within 48 hours.  Coming up next, I’ll be talking to Ray Goodman, Chairman of the Grave to Save project, a new non-profit initiative that seeks to dig up and bring back the long buried, so that cemeteries can be turned into affordable housing projects.”

Flip!  Liam switched off the television and dumped the contents of a brown paper bag on his desk.  He decided to save the cheesy chips for later, opting to nosh on his baloney on rye first as he scrolled through the latest headlines on his phone.  One caught his eye: “Skydiving Excursions Become the New National Past Time; Smoking, Substance Abuse, Overeating and Reckless, Indiscriminate, Unprotected Sex with Multiple Partners on the Rise.”

Ding! “Consciousness extracted.  Melding body and consciousness now.”

              Liam sipped from a juice box as he perused another headline. “Stalin Projected to Win 2086 Democratic Primary.  Rival Trotsky Disappears Under Suspicious Circumstances.”

              The lad checked his social media profile, laughed at a joke posted by a friend, then clicked on a video that had been shared by several of his contacts.  A group of unshaven, unkempt doctors in stained lab coats warmed themselves by a dumpster fire on Skid Row.  One doctor blew into a harmonica as he song a sad little ditty:

“I used to fix your headaches,

              Your heart and your liver too.

              I wrote indecipherable prescriptions,

              And hit the golf course before 2.

              Oh, I got the out of work doctor!

              Out of work doctor blues!

              Lord have mercy!

              Yes, I got the out of work doctor,

              The out of work doctor blues!

              Hey, I went to Harvard, people!  Yeah!

              Oh, from my head down to my shoes,

              I got the out of work doctor blues!”

Liam looked up from his phone and took a bite out of his sandwich.

Ding! “Resurrection complete.”

Liam set his lunch and phone down, stood up, and approached the machine.  He turned a crank and steam poured out of a nearby valve.  Once it dissipated, Liam grabbed two handles, one and in each hand and pulled out an elongated slab about which laid the newly returned customer…naked as the day God, or well, in this case, as an eighteen year old who was getting a C- in Civics had made her.

The boy tried not to stare, but stare he did.

The resurrected’s eyes popped open.  She took a deep breath, then exhaled.  She then sat up and screamed wildly.  “Arrrrrrrggggghhhhh!”

Liam held his hand out in front of Mary Ann’s eyes and snapped his fingers.  He then moved his fingers to the right.  Mary Ann’s eyes followed.  He snapped and moved his fingers back to the left.  Her eyes followed.

The boy scribbled some notes on a clipboard as he mumbled to himself.  “Motor skills test passed.”

Liam recited a tongue twister.  “Rubby baby buggy bumpers.”

Mary Ann remained silent and confused.

“Repeat after me,” Liam said.

“Pootie tay,” Mary Ann replied.  “Pootie tay tay regaldo malan fraz, mimbo bibby?”

“Rubber baby buggy bumpers.”

“Pootie tay tay tay zeebo zeebo zeebo glarf.”

“Rubber baby buggy bumpers.”

“Rubber pootie tay tay…”

Liam shook his head.  “No pootie tay.  Rubber baby…”

“Rubber baby…”

“Yes, that’s it.  Rubber baby buggy…”

“Rubber baby buggy…”

“Rubber baby buggy bumpers.”

“Rubber baby buggy pootie tay tay tay…”

Liam slapped his forehead.  Mary Ann followed suit and slapped her forehead.

“Rubber baby buggy bumpers.”

Mary Ann nodded.  “Rubber baby buggy bumpers.”

“Good,” Liam said as he jotted more notes.  “Subject was slow to pass speech test but eventually got there.”

“I got there pootie tay blimmel rabba mmmmmm’wippo!”

Liam read from a prepared statement.  “Your name is Mary Ann Harper.  You were born in the year 2067.  Your parents are Dave and Karen Harper.  Your father is a prominent tax attorney and your mother recently quit her position as a public relationship specialist to start her own online designer soap business, which your father griped about at first but is now onboard ever since it started making money.  You have a younger sister, Molly, and a dog, Mr. Scruffles.  Your favorite color is purple and you enjoy the musical stylings of the Melancholy Trio.  Your best friend is Susan Kinitsky.  Last year, you and Susan were suspended from school for three days when you were caught buttering up a ham with…”

Mary Ann shook her head to the left, then the right.  Left, then right.  She sat up.  “Liam?”

“Mary Ann?”

“Uh…yeah.  Who else would it be?”

“No more pootie tays?”

“No.  What’s a pootie tay?”

***

Mary Ann was dressed in a surgical gown and standing upright now, looking at her gorgeous new body in a full-length mirror.

“Damn,” the girl said as she made a pouty fish face and threw up a peace sign.  “If Tommy Miller doesn’t full on jump my bones now then it’s never going to happen.”

Liam hung back.  He cleared his throat with a cough in his hand.  “So, you’re uh…satisfied with the work?”

“Yes,” Mary Ann said.  “It’s amazing…it’s…it’s…like you kept the best parts of me and replaced the worst parts with better parts.”

Mary Ann looked down at her newly ample bosom.  “Way better parts.”

Liam jotted more notes down.

“I didn’t know you worked here, Lee-Dubs.”

“Yeah,” Liam said.  “About a month now.  You know, Mary, you really shouldn’t…”

“What?”

“Text while you’re driving.”

Mary Ann turned around and faced her classmate.  She broke out into laughter.  “What?  Is that what the cops said?”

“Distracted driving.”

“As if,” Mary Ann said as she turned her gaze back to the mirror, running her hands through her long, full blonde hair.  Previously, her locks had been a drab shade of brown and quite stringy.  “You know how many times I asked my dad if he’d hook me up with the upgrade package if I killed myself?  You know how many times he said no, that there was too much risk involved?”

“So, it wasn’t an accident?”

“Duh.  I straight up rammed that wall.”

“Morbid,” Liam said.  “But I’ve seen too much here to judge.  Can you answer some feedback questions for me?”

“Sure.”

“On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being least happy and 10 being most happy, what number would you assign to your new vessel?”

“My vessel?”

“Your body.”

“Ah,” Mary Ann said.  She pulled her upper lip out and checked her teeth.  Perfectly straight for the first time in her life.  “Nine…maybe nine and a…well…hmm…”

Liam looked up from his notes.  “Hmm?”

“The nose.”

Liam stepped closer and stood over the subject’s shoulder.  “What about it?”

“It’s a little big, isn’t it?”

“Is it?”

“I don’t know.”

“I’m not saying it looks terrible.  I just…aw, crap.  I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“It’s fine,” Liam said.  “Resurrection Inc. encourages feedback.  That’s what the survey questions are for.”

“Yeah,” Mary Ann said as she tapped the tip of her pointer finger against her nose.  “All I’m saying is that if it were, say, the teeniest, tiniest millimeter smaller, I’d give this thing a 10.”

“OK.”

“But…ugh.”

“What?”

“It would be gross to go again, wouldn’t it?”

“It’s up to you.”

Mary Ann clicked her tongue.  “I mean, nothing’s perfect.”

“Perfect is in the eye of the beholder.”

“This is great as it is now,” Mary Ann says.  “I go again and it could get worse.”

“You have unlimited do-overs,” Liam said.

“I do?”

“All part of the upgraded package.”

Mary Ann flashed a wicked grin.  “That dad of mine.  What a guy.”

“You called his bluff.”

The subject shrugged her shoulders.  “What the hell?  In for a penny and so on.  How do we do it?”

Liam cleared his throat.  His cheeks flushed.  “I…you know, this is the first time I’ve resurrected someone I know.”

“Really?”

“Yeah,” Liam said.  “There’s a company policy against employees resurrecting their own family members but it doesn’t say anything about friends.  I’m wondering if maybe I should have assigned your case to another…”

“You did fine, Lee-Dubs.”

“Anyway,” Liam said.  “There’s a problem with the sleep cocktail.”

“The what?”

“The mixture of drugs we usually use to inject the resurrected with when they aren’t happy with their vessels and want to start the process over again.”

Mary Ann raised a quizzical eyebrow.  “Sleep’s a euphemism, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Liam said.  “The board of directors of the company that makes it believes it is immoral for Resurrection Inc. to use it over slight defects in a new body.  They won’t sell it to us anymore.  There’s a big lawsuit going on.  No one tells me anything though because I’m just an underling.  All I know is what I heard on the news.”

“So, without the drugs, how do we…”

Liam opened a nearby desk drawer and pulled out a lock box.  He punched in a code and pulled out a large, shiny .45 Magnum revolver.

Mary Ann’s newly blue, formerly hazel eyes widened.  “Holy shit.”

“Yeah,” Liam said.  “Listen, I hate to ask this…”

“What?”

“I mean, I’m supposed to…be professional but…”

A single tear rolled down Liam’s cheek as he sniffed snots of sadness up his nose.  “Don’t make me do it, Mary Ann.  We had play dates and made pillow forts while our moms baked cookies and…”

Mary Ann looked at the weapon.  “You want me to…”

“If you wouldn’t mind.”

The classmates were quiet for a moment.

“I mean, your dad paid for the upgrade package,” Liam said.  “So, if you want me to do it, I’ll do it.  I do this like a dozen times a week, no problem.  It’s just a lot easier when it’s people I don’t know.”

Mary Ann winced, then smiled.  “I’ll be right back?”

“Yes.”

“Like nothing ever happened, right?”

“Exactly.”

The young woman took a deep breath, then exhaled.  “Fine.  Hand it over.”

 

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Text of The Star from Tales of Space and Time by H.G. Wells

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It was on the first day of the New Year that the announcement was made, almost simultaneously from three observatories, that the motion of the planet Neptune, the outermost of all the planets that wheel about the sun, had become very erratic. Ogilvy had already called attention to a suspected retardation in its velocity in December. Such a piece of news was scarcely calculated to interest a world the greater portion of whose inhabitants were unaware of the existence of the planet Neptune, nor outside the astronomical profession did the subsequent discovery of a faint remote speck of light in the region of the perturbed planet cause any very great excitement. Scientific people, however, found the intelligence remarkable enough, even before it became known that the new body was rapidly growing larger and brighter, that its motion was quite different from the orderly progress of the planets, and that the deflection of Neptune and its satellite was becoming now of an unprecedented kind.

      Few people without a training in science can realise the huge isolation of the solar system. The sun with its specks of planets, its dust of planetoids, and its impalpable comets, swims in a vacant immensity that almost defeats the imagination. Beyond the orbit of Neptune there is space, vacant so far as human observation has penetrated, without warmth or light or sound, blank emptiness, for twenty million times a million miles. That is the smallest estimate of the distance to be traversed before the very nearest of the stars is attained. And, saving a few comets more unsubstantial than the thinnest flame, no matter had ever to human knowledge crossed this gulf of space, until early in the twentieth century this strange wanderer appeared. A vast mass of matter it was, bulky, heavy, rushing without warning out of the black mystery of the sky into the radiance of the sun. By the second day it was clearly visible to any decent instrument, as a speck with a barely sensible diameter, in the constellation Leo near Regulus. In a little while an opera glass could attain it.

      On the third day of the new year the newspaper readers of two hemispheres were made aware for the first time of the real importance of this unusual apparition in the heavens. ‘A Planetary Collision,’ one London paper headed the news, and proclaimed Duchaine’s opinion that this strange new planet would probably collide with Neptune. The leader writers enlarged upon the topic; so that in most of the capitals of the world, on January 3rd, there was an expectation, however vague of some imminent phenomenon in the sky; and as the night followed the sunset round the globe, thousands of men turned their eyes skyward to see–the old familiar stars just as they had always been.

      Until it was dawn in London and Pollux setting and the stars overhead grown pale. The Winter’s dawn it was, a sickly filtering accumulation of daylight, and the light of gas and candles shone yellow in the windows to show where people were astir. But the yawning policeman saw the thing, the busy crowds in the markets stopped agape, workmen going to their work betimes, milkmen, the drivers of news-carts, dissipation going home jaded and pale, homeless wanderers, sentinels on their beats, and in the country, labourers trudging afield, poachers slinking home, all over the dusky quickening country it could be seen–and out at sea by seamen watching for the day–a great white star, come suddenly into the westward sky!

      Brighter it was than any star in our skies; brighter than the evening star at its brightest. It still glowed out white and large, no mere twinkling spot of light, but a small round clear shining disc, an hour after the day had come. And where science has not reached, men stared and feared, telling one another of the wars and pestilences that are foreshadowed by these fiery signs in the Heavens. Sturdy Boers, dusky Hottentots, Gold Coast Negroes, Frenchmen, Spaniards, Portuguese, stood in the warmth of the sunrise watching the setting of this strange new star.

      And in a hundred observatories there had been suppressed excitement, rising almost to shouting pitch, as the two remote bodies had rushed together; and a hurrying to and fro, to gather photographic apparatus and spectroscope, and this appliance and that, to record this novel astonishing sight, the destruction of a world. For it was a world, a sister planet of our earth, far greater than our earth indeed, that had so suddenly flashed into flaming death. Neptune it was, had been struck, fairly and squarely, by the strange planet from outer space and the heat of the concussion had incontinently turned two solid globes into one vast mass of incandescence. Round the world that day, two hours before the dawn, went the pallid great white star, fading only as it sank westward and the sun mounted above it. Everywhere men marvelled at it, but of all those who saw it none could have marvelled more than those sailors, habitual watchers of the stars, who far away at sea had heard nothing of its advent and saw it now rise like a pigmy moon and climb zenithward and hang overhead and sink westward with the passing of the night.

      And when next it rose over Europe everywhere were crowds of watchers on hilly slopes, on house-roofs, in open spaces, staring eastward for the rising of the great new star. It rose with a white glow in front of it, like the glare of a white fire, and those who had seen it come into existence the night before cried out at the sight of it. “It is larger,” they cried. “It is brighter!” And, indeed the moon a quarter full and sinking in the west was in its apparent size beyond comparison, but scarcely in all its breadth had it as much brightness now as the little circle of the strange new star.
      ‘It is brighter!’ cried the people clustering in the streets. But in the dim observatories the watchers held their breath and peered at one another. ‘_It is nearer_,’ they said. ‘_Nearer!_’
      And voice after voice repeated, ‘It is nearer,’ and the clicking telegraph took that up, and it trembled along telephone wires, and in a thousand cities grimy compositors fingered the type. ‘It is nearer.’ Men writing in offices, struck with a strange realisation, flung down their pens, men talking in a thousand places suddenly came upon a grotesque possibility in those words, ‘It is nearer.’ It hurried along wakening streets, it was shouted down the frost-stilled ways of quiet villages; men who had read these things from the throbbing tape stood in yellow-lit doorways shouting the news to the passersby. ‘It is nearer.’ Pretty women, flushed and glittering, heard the news told jestingly between the dances, and feigned an intelligent interest they did not feel. ‘Nearer! Indeed. How curious! How very, very clever people must be to find out things like that!’
      Lonely tramps faring through the wintry night murmured those words to comfort themselves–looking skyward. ‘It has need to be nearer, for the night’s as cold as charity. Don’t seem much warmth from it if it _is_ nearer, all the same.’
      ‘What is a new star to me?’ cried the weeping woman kneeling beside her dead.

      The schoolboy, rising early for his examination work, puzzled it out for himself–with the great white star shining broad and bright through the frost-flowers of his window. ‘Centrifugal, centripetal,’ he said, with his chin on his fist. ‘Stop a planet in its flight, rob it of its centrifugal force, what then? Centripetal has it, and down it falls into the sun! And this–!

      ‘Do _we_ come in the way? I wonder–‘

      The light of that day went the way of its brethren, and with the later watches of the frosty darkness rose the strange star again. And it was now so bright that the waxing moon seemed but a pale yellow ghost of itself, hanging huge in the sunset. In a South African City a great man had married, and the streets were alight to welcome his return with his bride. ‘Even the skies have illuminated,’ said the flatterer. Under Capricorn, two negro lovers, daring the wild beasts and evil spirits, for love of one another, crouched together in a cane brake where the fire-flies hovered. ‘That is our star,’ they whispered, and felt strangely comforted by the sweet brilliance of its light.

      The master mathematician sat in his private room and pushed the papers from him. His calculations were already finished. In a small white phial there still remained a little of the drug that had kept him awake and active for four long nights. Each day, serene, explicit, patient as ever, he had given his lecture to his students, and then had come back at once to this momentous calculation. His face was grave, a little drawn and hectic from his drugged activity. For some time he seemed lost in thought. Then he went to the window, and the blind went up with a click. Half way up the sky, over the clustering roofs, chimneys and steeples of the city, hung the star.

      He looked at it as one might look into the eyes of a brave enemy. ‘You may kill me,’ he said after a silence. ‘But I can hold you–and all the universe for that matter–in the grip of this little brain. I would not change. Even now.’

      He looked at the little phial. ‘There will be no need of sleep again,’ he said. The next day at noon–punctual to the minute, he entered his lecture theatre, put his hat on the end of the table as his habit was, and carefully selected a large piece of chalk. It was a joke among his students that he could not lecture without that piece of chalk to fumble in his fingers, and once he had been stricken to impotence by their hiding his supply. He came and looked under his grey eyebrows at the rising tiers of young fresh faces, and spoke with his accustomed studied commonness of phrasing. ‘Circumstances have arisen–circumstances beyond my control,’ he said and paused, ‘which will debar me from completing the course I had designed. It would seem, gentlemen, if I may put the thing clearly and briefly, that–Man has lived in vain.’

      The students glanced at one another. Had they heard aright? Mad? Raised eyebrows and grinning lips there were, but one or two faces remained intent upon his calm grey-fringed face. ‘It will be interesting,’ he was saying, ‘to devote this morning to an exposition, so far as I can make it clear to you, of the calculations that have led me to this conclusion. Let us assume–‘

      He turned towards the blackboard, meditating a diagram in the way that was usual to him. ‘What was that about ‘lived in vain?’ whispered one student to another. ‘Listen,’ said the other, nodding towards the lecturer.

      And presently they began to understand.

      That night the star rose later, for its proper eastward motion had carried it some way across Leo towards Virgo, and its brightness was so great that the sky became a luminous blue as it rose, and every star was hidden in its turn, save only Jupiter near the zenith, Capella, Aldebaran, Sirius and the pointers of the Bear. It was very white and beautiful. In many parts of the world that night a pallid halo encircled it about. It was perceptibly larger; in the clear refractive sky of the tropics it seemed as if it were nearly a quarter the size of the moon. The frost was still on the ground in England, but the world was as brightly lit as if it were midsummer moonlight. One could see to read quite ordinary print by that cold clear light, and in the cities the lamps burnt yellow and wan.

      And everywhere the world was awake that night, and throughout Christendom a sombre murmur hung in the keen air over the country side like the belling of bees in the heather, and this murmurous tumult grew to a clangour in the cities. It was the tolling of the bells in a million belfry towers and steeples, summoning the people to sleep no more, to sin no more, but to gather in their churches and pray. And overhead, growing larger and brighter as the earth rolled on its way and the night passed, rose the dazzling star.

      And the streets and houses were alight in all the cities, the shipyards glared, and whatever roads led to high country were lit and crowded all night long. And in all the seas about the civilised lands, ships with throbbing engines, and ships with bellying sails, crowded with men and living creatures, were standing out to ocean and the north. For already the warning of the master mathematician had been telegraphed all over the world, and translated into a hundred tongues. The new planet and Neptune, locked in a fiery embrace, were whirling headlong, ever faster and faster towards the sun. Already every second this blazing mass flew a hundred miles, and every second its terrific velocity increased. As it flew now, indeed, it must pass a hundred million of miles wide of the earth and scarcely affect it. But near its destined path, as yet only slightly perturbed, spun the mighty planet Jupiter and his moons sweeping splendid round the sun. Every moment now the attraction between the fiery star and the greatest of the planets grew stronger. And the result of that attraction? Inevitably Jupiter would be deflected from its orbit into an elliptical path, and the burning star, swung by his attraction wide of its sunward rush, would ‘describe a curved path’ and perhaps collide with, and certainly pass very close to, our earth. ‘Earthquakes, volcanic outbreaks, cyclones, sea wa ves, floods, and a steady rise in temperature to I know not what limit’–so prophesied the master mathematician.

      And overhead, to carry out his words, lonely and cold and livid, blazed the star of the coming doom.

      To many who stared at it that night until their eyes ached, it seemed that it was visibly approaching. And that night, too, the weather changed, and the frost that had gripped all Central Europe and France and England softened towards a thaw.

      But you must not imagine because I have spoken of people praying through the night and people going aboard ships and people fleeing toward mountainous country that the whole world was already in a terror because of the star. As a matter of fact, use and wont still ruled the world, and save for the talk of idle moments and the splendour of the night, nine human beings out of ten were still busy at their common occupations. In all the cities the shops, save one here and there, opened and closed at their proper hours, the doctor and the undertaker plied their trades, the workers gathered in the factories, soldiers drilled, scholars studied, lovers sought one another, thieves lurked and fled, politicians planned their schemes. The presses of the newspapers roared through the night, and many a priest of this church and that would not open his holy building to further what he considered a foolish panic. The newspapers insisted on the lesson of the year 1000; for then, too, people had anticipated the end. The star was no star–mere gas–a comet; and were it a star it could not possibly strike the earth. There was no precedent for such a thing. Common sense was sturdy everywhere, scornful, jesting, a little inclined to persecute the obdurate fearful. That night, at seven-fifteen by Greenwich time, the star would be at its nearest to Jupiter. Then the world would see the turn things would take. The master mathematician’s grim warnings were treated by many as so much mere elaborate self-advertisement. Common sense at last, a little heated by argument, signified its unalterable convictions by going to bed. So, too, barbarism and savagery, already tired of the novelty, went about their nightly business, and save for a howling dog here and there, the beast world left the star unheeded.

      And yet, when at last the watchers in the European States saw the star rise, an hour later it is true, but no larger than it had been the night before, there were still plenty awake to laugh at the master mathematician–to take the danger as if it had passed.

      But hereafter the laughter ceased. The star grew–it grew with a terrible steadiness hour after hour, a little larger each hour, a little nearer the midnight zenith, and brighter and brighter, until it had turned night into a second day. Had it come straight to the earth instead of in a curved path, had it lost no velocity to Jupiter, it must have leapt the intervening gulf in a day, but as it was it took five days altogether to come by our planet. The next night it had become a third the size of the moon before it set to English eyes, and the thaw was assured. It rose over America near the size of the moon, but blinding white to look at, and _hot_; and a breath of hot wind blew now with its rising and gathering strength, and in Virginia, and Brazil, and down the St. Lawrence valley, it shone intermittently through a driving reek of thunder-clouds, flickering violet lightning, and hail unprecedented. In Manitoba was a thaw and devastating floods. And upon all the mountains of the earth the snow and ice began to melt that night, and all the rivers coming out of high country flowed thick and turbid, and soon–in their upper reaches–with swirling trees and the bodies of beasts and men. They rose steadily, steadily in the ghostly brilliance, and came trickling over their banks at last, behind the flying population of their valleys.

      And along the coast of Argentina and up the South Atlantic the tides were higher than had ever been in the memory of man, and the storms drove the waters in many cases scores of miles inland, drowning whole cities. And so great grew the heat during the night that the rising of the sun was like the coming of a shadow. The earthquakes began and grew until all down America from the Arctic Circle to Cape Horn, hillsides were sliding, fissures were opening, and houses and walls crumbling to destruction. The whole side of Cotopaxi slipped out in one vast convulsion, and a tumult of lava poured out so high and broad and swift and liquid that in one day it reached the sea.

      So the star, with the wan moon in its wake, marched across the Pacific, trailed the thunderstorms like the hem of a robe, and the growing tidal wave that toiled behind it, frothing and eager, poured over island and island and swept them clear of men. Until that wave came at last–in a blinding light and with the breath of a furnace, swift and terrible it came–a wall of water, fifty feet high, roaring hungrily, upon the long coasts of Asia, and swept inland across the plains of China. For a space the star, hotter now and larger and brighter than the sun in its strength, showed with pitiless brilliance the wide and populous country; towns and villages with their pagodas and trees, roads, wide cultivated fields, millions of sleepless people staring in helpless terror at the incandescent sky; and then, low and growing, came the murmur of the flood. And thus it was with millions of men that night; a flight nowhither, with limbs heavy with heat and breath fierce and scant, and the flood like a wall swift and white behind. And then death.

      China was lit glowing white, but over Japan and Java and all the islands of Eastern Asia the great star was a ball of dull red fire because of the steam and smoke and ashes the volcanoes were spouting forth to salute its coming. Above was the lava, hot gases and ash, and below the seething floods, and the whole earth swayed and rumbled with the earthquake shocks. Soon the immemorial snows of Thibet and the Himalaya were melting and pouring down by ten million deepening converging channels upon the plains of Burmah and Hindostan. The tangled summits of the Indian jungles were aflame in a thousand places, and below the hurrying waters around the stems were dark objects that still struggled feebly and reflected the blood-red tongues of fire. And in a rudderless confusion a multitude of men and women fled down the broad river-ways to that one last hope of men–the open sea.

      Larger grew the star, and larger, hotter, and brighter with a terrible swiftness now. The tropical ocean had lost its phosphorescence, and the whirling steam rose in ghostly wreaths from the black waves that plunged incessantly, speckled with storm-tossed ships.

      And then came a wonder. It seemed to those who in Europe watched for the rising of the star that the world must have ceased its rotation. In a thousand open spaces of down and upland the people who had fled thither from the floods and the falling houses and sliding slopes of hill watched for that rising in vain. Hour followed hour through a terrible suspense, and the star rose not. Once again men set their eyes upon the old constellations they had counted lost to them forever. In England it was hot and clear overhead, though the ground quivered perpetually, but in the tropics, Sirius and Capella and Aldebaran showed through a veil of steam. And when at last the great star rose near ten hours late, the sun rose close upon it, and in the centre of its white heart was a disc of black.

      Over Asia it was the star had begun to fall behind the movement of the sky, and then suddenly, as it hung over India, its light had been veiled. All the plain of India from the mouth of the Indus to the mouths of the Ganges was a shallow waste of shining water that night, out of which rose temples and palaces, mounds and hills, black with people. Every minaret was a clustering mass of people, who fell one by one into the turbid waters, as heat and terror overcame them. The whole land seemed a-wailing and suddenly there swept a shadow across that furnace of despair, and a breath of cold wind, and a gathering of clouds, out of the cooling air. Men looking up, near blinded, at the star, saw that a black disc was creeping across the light. It was the moon, coming between the star and the earth. And even as men cried to God at this respite, out of the East with a strange inexplicable swiftness sprang the sun. And then star, sun and moon rushed together across the heavens.

      So it was that presently, to the European watchers, star and sun rose close upon each other, drove headlong for a space and then slower, and at last came to rest, star and sun merged into one glare of flame at the zenith of the sky. The moon no longer eclipsed the star but was lost to sight in the brilliance of the sky. And though those who were still alive regarded it for the most part with that dull stupidity that hunger, fatigue, heat and despair engender, there were still men who could perceive the meaning of these signs. Star and earth had been at their nearest, had swung about one another, and the star had passed. Already it was receding, swifter and swifter, in the last stage of its headlong journey downward into the sun.

      And then the clouds gathered, blotting out the vision of the sky, the thunder and lightning wove a garment round the world; all over the earth was such a downpour of rain as men had never before seen, and where the volcanoes flared red against the cloud canopy there descended torrents of mud. Everywhere the waters were pouring off the land, leaving mud-silted ruins, and the earth littered like a storm-worn beach with all that had floated, and the dead bodies of the men and brutes, its children. For days the water streamed off the land, sweeping away soil and trees and houses in the way, and piling huge dykes and scooping out Titanic gullies over the country side. Those were the days of darkness that followed the star and the heat. All through them, and for many weeks and months, the earthquakes continued.

      But the star had passed, and men, hunger-driven and gathering courage only slowly, might creep back to their ruined cities, buried granaries, and sodden fields. Such few ships as had escaped the storms of that time came stunned and shattered and sounding their way cautiously through the new marks and shoals of once familiar ports. And as the storms subsided men perceived that everywhere the days were hotter than of yore, and the sun larger, and the moon, shrunk to a third of its former size, took now fourscore days between its new and new.

      But of the new brotherhood that grew presently among men, of the saving of laws and books and machines, of the strange change that had come over Iceland and Greenland and the shores of Baffin’s Bay, so that the sailors coming there presently found them green and gracious, and could scarce believe their eyes, this story does not tell. Nor of the movement of mankind now that the earth was hotter, northward and southward towards the poles of the earth. It concerns itself only with the coming and the passing of the Star.

      The Martian astronomers–for there are astronomers on Mars, although they are very different beings from men–were naturally profoundly interested by these things. They saw them from their own standpoint of course. ‘Considering the mass and temperature of the missile that was flung through our solar system into the sun,’ one wrote, ‘it is astonishing what a little damage the earth, which it missed so narrowly, has sustained. All the familiar continental markings and the masses of the seas remain intact, and indeed the only difference seems to be a shrinkage of the white discoloration (supposed to be frozen water) round either pole.’ Which only shows how small the vastest of human catastrophes may seem, at a distance of a few million miles.
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