Entombed

By Deborah Sheldon

sfgenreOh God, they had buried him alive.

Within the first moment of coming awake, Emil knew he was in the ground. The blackness, the silence, the fecund, ripe and familiar smell of turned earth could mean nothing else. A jolt of panic thrashed him. His limbs struck the wooden sides of the coffin and his forehead banged against the lid. For a time, Emil did nothing but scream, filling his lungs and emptying them, again and again, until he stripped his throat raw and tasted blood.

Panting, he lay back, thinking.

Trying to think.

He had been ill. Desperately ill. He could remember that much. The pain and fever still raged in him. Perspiration soaked his tunic and trousers. What had happened in his final hours of consciousness? He must have been abed, surely, yet his memory failed him, flitting in nonsensical remnants as if from a dream: sitting at the table with his wife, Agnes; a strident kind of chaos like a thunderstorm; dogs scampering and scattering from the village…

So, he had been ill. What then?

The women must have tried, and failed, to cure him with their leeks and healing herbs.

He had fallen into a deep sleep, the kind that didn’t show his breath against a mirror.

The villagers had performed the rituals and buried him.

The rituals.

Emil scrabbled his callused hands about the floor of the coffin, groping for his axe, his scythe. They weren’t there. The villagers had buried him without belongings. His illness, whatever it was, must have mimicked leprosy; the villagers would have wasted no time. But how would be escape without axe or scythe?

By God, he would use his hands.

They were work-toughened, weren’t they? Gnarled and knotted like the bark and boughs of red-tingle trees from years of working the earth, steering oxen. The coffin lid sat close. No room to swing fists. He placed his palms against the lid and pushed, pushed, while the veins popped in his face. Pushed while his molars cracked.

The iron nails squeaked and gave.

Emil took a breath of fetid air and pushed again, his joints creaking, popping, breaking.

The lid snapped in two. A shower of dirt collapsed onto him.

Could he dig through six or more feet before suffocation?

Twisting around, coughing and choking, Emil got his hands and knees onto the floor. He pressed his upper back against oak and earth. The weight of the world lay upon his old shoulders, yes, but his shoulders were broad and used to hard labour. Pushing, pushing, Emil got his toes under him, doubling himself into an awkward squat. Putting his hands atop his head, squeezing his palms together as if in prayer, he began to stand up, inch by inch. Muscles burning and shuddering, he parted the soil, his clasped hands forming the pointed share of a plough. His lungs needed air.

Craved air.

His every breath sucked in dirt.

No, he would not make it. Could not make it.

A breeze wafted over his fingertips. Emil strained to reach his full height. Desperate, cleaving up and up, his arms burst free. Lungs exploding, he struggled, kicked, shoved until air broke over his face at last. He sucked in breath after breath. Sweet, so sweet, even sweeter than the first crop of baby peas. And he wept.

Nearby, a woman shrieked.

And who could blame her? He had appeared like a corpse, a draugr, rising from the grave. Emil wiped dirt from his stinging eyes.

It was evening, the autumn sky painted orange and yellow. The fenced grounds of the church lay some yards distant. God, they had buried him in unhallowed ground. Why? He had been a good Christian, hadn’t he? An even-tempered husband, a disciplinarian to his children, a doter on his grandchildren. A steadfast provider and protector. One evening, when someone — something? — had broken in, he had defended his wife against teeth and clawing hands, had defended her with his very life…

He hesitated, frightened.

Could he actually be dead?

A ghost?

No. He still breathed. Ghosts don’t breathe.

Emil hauled his body from the earth and stood up, unsteady. He squinted about. The woman’s shrieks had brought a crowd. Many villagers surrounded him. He looked for Agnes but couldn’t see her. His sons, nephews and cousins, friends, acquaintances, customers who bought his produce at market were all staring at him, holding aloft their knives, chisels, clubs, hammers. Indignant, he tried to explain — You bastards buried me alive — but his ruined throat could only groan.

A few people gasped, recoiled, but the crowd stayed fast.

Their dozens of white and plump faces reminded him of freshly plucked geese ready for the roasting. His empty stomach growled. He clutched at his abdomen, glanced down. The sweat on his tunic was not sweat after all, but blood. His own blood. His bare arms were covered in wounds, the skin bruised and tattered.

Memories of his last hours came back.

A madman had broken into the house during a storm. Emil fought and killed the man yet sustained dozens of bites. Delirious, he staggered outside. Dogs howled and fled from him, cowering. Villagers soon converged to stab and bludgeon him. For a moment, he couldn’t remember why. And now, they were converging on him again.

Emil’s mouth watered.

Those faces.

All those pale, soft, warm, fatty, meaty faces.

Emil licked his chops and bared his teeth. Ah, he knew what he must be: a draugr, a living corpse. And he liked it. Liked this long-forgotten sensation of vigour and youthful energy surging through his weary old body. Who would have believed that rising from the dead could feel so marvellous, so intoxicating?

The villagers came at him with their feeble weapons.

Hungry — hungrier than he had ever felt in all his long life — Emil decided he would slaughter and consume each and every last one of them until he was sated. Until he was done.

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About The Author

Deborah Sheldon

deb sheldon 200Deborah Sheldon writes about herself:

I'm a professional writer from Melbourne, Australia. My latest releases, through several publishing houses, include the dark literary collection 300 Degree Days and Other Stories, the bio-horror novella Thylacines, the dark fantasy and horror collection Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories (winner of the Australian Shadows Award "Best Collected Work 2017"), and the creature horror novel Devil Dragon. Upcoming titles include the noir-horror novel Contrition later in 2018, and a retrospective dark fiction collection in 2019. My short fiction has appeared in many well-respected magazines such as Quadrant, Island, Aurealis, SQ Mag, and Midnight Echo. My work has been shortlisted for numerous Aurealis Awards and Australian Shadows Awards, long-listed for a Bram Stoker Award, and included in “best of” anthologies. Other credits include TV scripts, feature articles, non-fiction books, stage plays, and award-winning medical writing.

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mark web 200Mark Webb's midlife crisis came in the form of attempting to write speculative fiction at a very slow pace. His wife maintains this is a good outcome considering the more expensive and cliched alternatives. Evidence of Mark's attempts to procrastinate in his writing, including general musings and reviews of books he has been reading, can be found at www.markwebb.name.

One of Mark’s very best forms of writing procrastination is to produce the eBook series for AntipodeanSF, which he has been doing since issue 175.

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In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 244

Darkstar
by Ishmael A. Soledad

Fairies At The Bottom Of The Garden
by Louise Burch

Hollywood Product
by J. H. Malone

Jerry Cornelius (The English Assassin)
by Roger Ley

Miscalculations
by Imogen Cassidy

Old City
by Trent Jamieson

Silver Lining
by Rex Caleval

Silverware
by Simon Petrie

A Necessary Intervention
by Zebuline Carter

Star Dream
by Theodore Irvin Silar

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AntipodeanSF October 2018

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AntiSF's Narration Team

timonthy gwyn 100Timothy Gwyn is a professional pilot in Canada, where he flies to remote communities. During a lull in his flying career, he was a radio announcer for three years, and he is also an author.

In addition to short stories at AntipodeanSF and NewMyths.com, his SF novel is available internationally in print and ebook formats. "Avians" draws on his love of alternative aviation to tell the tale of a girl who runs away from home to join a cadre of glider pilots on a world without metal or fossil fuels.

On Twitter, he is @timothygwyn, and his blogs are at <timothygwyn.com>.

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david whitaker 200David Whitaker is originally from the UK though has travelled around a bit and now resides in India. He has a degree in Journalism, however decided that as he’s always preferred making things up it should ultimately become a resource rather than a profession.

His stories, covering everything from sci-fi to philosophy, have been published across the globe and links to each can be found at <wordsbydavid.com>

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mark english 100Mark is an astrophysicist and space scientist who worked on the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn. Following this he worked in computer consultancy, engineering, and high energy research (with a stint at the JET Fusion Torus).

All this science hasn't damped his love of fantasy and science fiction. It has, however, ruined his enjoyment of rainbows, colourful flames on romantic log fires, and rings around the moon. He has previously been published in Stupefying Stories Showcase, Everyday Fiction, Escape Pod, Perihelion and also on AntipodeanSF where he is part of the narration team.

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marg essex 200Margaret lives the good life on a small piece of rural New South Wales Australia, with an amazing man, a couple of pets, and several rambunctious wombats.

She feels so lucky to be a part of the AntiSF team.

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pixie willo 100Pixie is a voice actor, cabaret performer & slam poet From the Blue Mountains in NSW.

She enjoys writing short fiction, plays for radio and stage as well as her own brand of weird poetry.

She hosts the 'Off-Beet Poetry Slam' held bi-monthly in Katoomba,

And is a theatre reviewer for 2SER FM in Sydney.

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garry dean narratorGarry Dean lives on the Mid Coast of New South Wales Australia, and has been a fan of SF for most of his natural life. Being vision impaired, he makes good use of voice recognition and text to speech in order to write. Many of his stories have appeared in AntipodeanSF over the years, and his love of all things audio led him to join the narration team in 2017.

You can read examples of Garry's fiction on his website <https://garrydean.wordpress.com>

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lauriebell 2 200Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She was that girl you found with her nose always buried in a book. She has been writing ever since she was a little girl and first picked up a pen. From books to short stories, radio plays to snippets of ideas and reading them aloud to anyone who will listen.

She is the author of The Butterfly Stone (available now).

You can read more of her work on her blog Look for her on Facebook <www.facebook.com/WriterLaurieBell/> or Twitter: <@LaurienotLori>

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Carolyn's work spans devising, performance, theatre-in-education and a collaborative visual art practice.

She tours children's works to schools nationally with School Performance Tours, is a member of the Bathurst physical theatre ensemble Lingua Franca and one half of darkroom — a visual arts practice with videographer Sean O'Keeffe.

(Photo by Jeremy Belinfante) 

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SF News

SF News

Roger Ley's story in this issue "Pilgrimage"  has gained an Honourable Mention in the Writers of the Future competition.

Congratulations Roger!

 

Upcoming Aussie Cons

Oztrek 14 Adelaide — Saturday Oct 6, Brisbane — Sunday Oct 7, Melbourne — Saturday Oct 13, Sydney — Sunday Oct 14. Guests John Billingsley & Sara Mitich. <http://www.firstcontactconventions.com.au/oztrek14.html>.

2018 SciFi Film Festival 18-21 Oct Event Cinemas George St Sydney <http://scififilmfestival.com/>.

Monsterfest Horror Movie Festival 22-25 November, Cinema Nova Melbourne <https://www.monsterfest.com.au/>.

INDIE COMIC CON 2018 8 Dec Northcote Town Hall, Melbourne Free event. <http://www.indiecomiccon.com.au/>.

Nullus Anxietas VII: The Australian Discworld Convention — will be held in Melbourne on April 12-14, 2019, and is themed on Going Postal. More information: <https://ausdwcon.org/>.

Continuum 15 Other Worlds (Natcon 58): Continuum 15 is the Australian National SF Convention, to be held in Melbourne on June 7–10. More information and memberships <https://continuum.org.au>. AntipodeanSF will be at Continuum 15 and celebrating Issue 250 of AntiSF!

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SF Quote

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