Yen-Lo-Wang in "Scream Weaver"

By Steve Pool

sfgenreEven gods take vacations, so when Yen-Lo-Wang sent a divine email suggesting a “Spring Break” trip to Las Vegas to a few of his friends — Ho-Masubi, the Japanese god of fire and volcanoes; Eris, the Greek goddess of strife and discord; and Namtar, the Mesopotamian god of disease and pestilence — the idea was quickly agreed upon. With much pleading, Yen even convinced Kali, the super-hot, famously dismissive Indian goddess of death, to come along. Rumour was that Yen had been trying to win her favour for five centuries, ever since the two had met at one of the DeathCons.

Yen chose his travelling companions for their devil-may-care attitudes and their willingness to take things too far. After four days of non-stop eating, drinking, gambling, karaoke crooning, fighting, getting arrested, starting a jailhouse riot, escaping from jail, playing a few rounds of Russian Roulette, gambling some more, stopping a casino robbery before robbing said casino themselves, leading the police on a high-speed chase, then barhopping some more, the five of them sat in a 24-hour diner, bored out of their minds.

“Sooo,” Yen nervously asked, “...everyone still having a good time?”

He didn’t need a reply. He knew his party boat was sinking fast. How did the mortals do it, taking a boring two weeks away from their rewarding jobs and routines, and not lose their minds?

Ho, who loved Korean gangster films and dressed the part, yawned, causing a burst of flame to erupt in the back of his throat. Eris, a Joan-Jett-look-a-like rocker girl, somnolently emptied sugar packets, one after another, into a cup of coffee that she was never going to finish. Kali, figuratively and literally drop-dead gorgeous in her black leather pants and cut-too-low tank top, was busy giving attention to her phone. Namtar, currently going through a hipster phase, offered Yen a reassuring smile. “Hey man, this has been an absolute blast.” Pushing up his vanity glasses and reaching for his pork-pie hat, Namtar made to leave. “But I was just thinking that it might be time to head back. Mom and Dad are watching my insects, and Mom hates them. She’s always looking for reasons to throw them out.”

Yen knew he had only one chance to keep his vacay from abruptly ending. To get and keep a god’s attention, one must ask about that god’s exploits. So Yen got them talking about their most precious treasures and how they were acquired. Ho told a story about liberating a beautiful pearl dragon’s egg from the fiery heart of Mount Aso after making a drunken bet with the God of Mischief Amatsu Mikaboshi. Eris told of playing with a Grateful Dead cover band along the River Styx and afterwards getting Jerry Garcia to sign her guitar. She’d later demolished ten blocks of downtown Hades during the afterparty. Kali snorted when asked about her favorite treasure and resumed browsing on her phone. Namtar told the story of how he’d once snuck a magic saddle onto the back of a scorpion man and rode him around during Burning Man. The two later became friends, and the scorpion man had bequeathed Namtar his beautiful ebony stinger, capable of penetrating battleship steel, upon his passing. Yen told a story about how he’d bottled the tears of a dying angel on a battlefield. He’d promised her that he’d deliver that bottle to her true love but then had put it in his pouch and had forgotten. When he had come across it two centuries later, he’d been too embarrassed to deliver it to the kami she’d loved, so he’d just kept it for himself.

Kali finally spoke up. “Great story....” She sounded even more bored than she looked.

“See, that’s what happens when we don’t have any mortals around to validate our greatness,” Yen replied. “These are great stories, but they just sound like regular exploits to us gods.”

Ho, Eris, and Namtar nodded.

Yen’s eyes suddenly sparkled. “I...have an idea! We all represent different aspects of death and destruction. Let’s have a contest to see which of us can get a mortal to scream the loudest. What better validation is there than that? And...we can sweeten the deal by wagering the treasures we just mentioned.”

After bickering over the details, the group, except for Kali, agreed to the bet. A scheme to stage an audition for a fake movie titled “Scream Weaver” was agreed upon. Each god would use his or her gifts to induce a chilling scream from one auditioner. To avoid troublesome questions from The Powers, it would be a scare-only contest — no actual harm would come to the humans. Despite declaring that the contest sounded “lame”, Kali agreed to be the judge and hold the treasures.

***

Melanie couldn’t believe her luck. She had come to Vegas with her girlfriends for the weekend to blow off of some steam — and to make Brad jealous. That she was now auditioning for a Hollywood movie at the Palacio Hotel was beyond crazy.

The hot Asian guy — literally, as his skin was super-warm to the touch — handed her a script and told her to relax and just be herself while reading the lines.

“Are you ready, Melanie?”

She beamed. “Yessir!”

When he gave her the go-ahead, Melanie took a deep breath and looked down at the page…

***

Melanie and Brad breathe hard, scrambling down the mountain as fast as they can. It is a complete fluke that the summit crumbles away and the dormant volcano erupts on the very weekend of their camping trip. As they flee, she begins to doubt that they will make it out alive. The air grows hotter and more poisonous by the second, and now the ground breaks apart under their feet. They lose sight of their friends Diane and Rick just as the four of them run into a thicket of trees at the top of the ridge. Melanie prays for their safety.

Brad stumbles and falls to his knees. Melanie crouches beside him, and tugs at his shirt to get him on his feet.

With sorrow in his eyes, Brad says, “It’s all my fault....”

“Wh..what’s your fault?”

“Well, not my fault...it’s my dad’s. He’s been secretly mining the mountain even though he couldn’t get any permits approved. Too geologically unstable, the inspectors said. I guess they were right....”

“So...your dad caused...this?”

“Yes,” Brad replies. “And it feels good to get it off my chest.”

Melanie can’t believe what she is hearing. “Are you crazy? Your dad triggers a volcano and you feel good admitting it?”

Brad smiles. “Confession is good for the soul. And while I’m at it, I have one more confession to make...I slept with Diane...and Rick.”

Melanie punches Brad so hard that he tumbles backwards. A crevasse opens up behind him, and Brad plunges, screaming, into a sea of molten rock.

Dumbstruck, Melanie can only stare for what seems like a long time before finally protesting. “Hello...? Hello? Hey, I wanna stop now. I’m sorry, but this script really isn’t working for me...oww!” Melanie looks down and sees that her arm was singed by a drifting ember. “Hey, this isn’t funny anymore.”

Looking around, Melanie realises that she is no longer in the hotel but is, instead, on the side of an actual erupting volcano. Panic-stricken, she begins to sprint once again down the slope, screaming for rescue.

Something heavy slams into the back of her head, and she falls facedown onto the now-muddy slope, which was dry only moments before. Sitting up, she has just enough time to see a wall of wet, flaming mud choked with broken trees and boulders engulf her like a tidal wave. Her screams of fear and anguish are cut off by the hot slag that fills her nose, mouth, throat, and lungs…

***

Ho lifted an unconscious Melanie over his shoulder and dropped her onto a sofa at the back of the room. The others congratulated him on his fine results. Kali, however, only seemed mildly impressed. She held up a scorecard imprinted with the number “7”.

“Seven? Didn’t you hear her...?” Ho’s complaint was cut off by Kali’s glare. “Seven it is. Seven is very fair.”

Eris got an airman named Scott, who was stationed at nearby Nellis Air Force Base. Her script turned him into a helicopter pilot flying combat missions over a nameless, dark jungle. After shooting down all of the enemy helicopters, Scott thought that he’d won the day until they all rose and attacked again, as zombie helicopters. Scott also tried to end his audition at that point and screamed protests as his now-flaming helicopter crashed into the jungle below and exploded. For her effort, Eris got an “8” from Kali, partly because Kali liked the idea of zombie helicopters and made a mental note to experiment with such things.

Namtar’s script was especially disturbing since it involved exposure to parasitic, mutating worms contracted from the bad food at a cheap buffet. Caroline, his unfortunate victim, actually vomited all over herself in real life and not just within her own illusion, where she had been devoured from within. That garnered a round of applause, even from Kali. But unfortunately for Namtar, Caroline’s throat was too clogged to give an effective scream, so he was only given a “4”.

Yen got to work with a pretty blonde named Mickey, a girl who probably had a good chance of landing a role in a real movie, especially if she decided to get “friendly” with the casting agent. Yen sighed at that lost opportunity.

Handing her the script and a small mysterious packet, he whispered into her ear. She grinned and gave him the thumbs-up.

“Okay, Mickey, whenever you are ready.”

“Got it. I’m so excited.”

She hopped around a little bit, cleared her throat, and grew deathly still before entering into Yen’s illusion. The other gods wondered what Yen had in store. They knew he could be especially cruel when his honor or a bet was on the line. Eris, still in the lead, looked on nervously.

Moments later, with her eyes popping open in sheer terror, Mickey fell to her knees and loosed an ear-piercing shriek. It was instantly clear who had won the contest even before she collapsed. Yen smiled as he picked her up and moved her to the couches in the back.

“Shimatta,” Ho yelled out, “what did that girl see in your spell!?”

Namtar grinned. “That was totally wicked, brah. Congrats.”

After they had memory-scrubbed the victims and sent them away, Kali announced that Yen had indeed won and handed the prizes over to him.

“Thanks, beautiful,” Yen said, handing the pearl dragon egg back to her. “For you, for being a right and fair judge.”

Eris made a face while muttering under her breath. Yen stepped up to her and extended his hand.

“Fine,” Eris allowed as she shook his hand. “Nice job, Yen. You continue to live up to your reputation as one super-disturbed motherfu—”

She never got to finish her sentence, as Ho and Namtar bellowed, “Cheater!”

A flaming katana appeared in Ho’s hand. Namtar had drawn a similarly wicked-looking scimitar.

“I did no such thing,” Yen replied. “My girl screamed louder than any of your auditioners did. We never said anything about why.”

Now Eris caught the gist, and the three of them tackled Yen and gave him a vicious beating.

Kali grinned as she looked down at the dropped script Yen had given Mickey. On it, he had written, “You can keep the $1,000 if you act terrified and scream your head off. Good luck, and tell no one.”

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About  The Author

Steve Pool

steve pool 150Steve Pool is an urban fantasy and horror writer, photographer of nouns — persons, places, and things — and gaming geek. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife Robin. You can read more about him on his website at: <storiesbystevepool.com>.

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In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 236

Australia, A Story
by Ovidiu Bufnila

Castle Bridegroom Bear
by Michael Richards

Decrypted Message Thread
by Theodore Irvin Silar

Non-Event Horizon
by Kevin J. Phyland

Satisfaction
by Nicholas Sheppard

The Traveller
by Robert David

The Twelve Moments
by Eugen Samolin

Upstairs
by David Scholes

You Can Always Change The Past
by George Nikolopoulos

You Can't Always Get What You Want
by Wes Parish

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AntipodeanSF February 2018

ISSUE 235

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AntiSF Narration Team

 

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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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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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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laurie bell 150Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She spent years writing and making audio plays with her sister using an old tape player. Life is a performance! She is a singer and has performed on stage once for her local theatre company. Now she helps out as a volunteer. She loves to read her stories out loud to anyone who will listen. She has recorded several audio readings of her own short stories here at Antipodean SF and is now a member of the audio team.

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

Laurie's debut book The Butterfly Stone will be published in Autumn (Aus) 2018 and another titled Blood Fever will be published in Winter (Aus) 2018.

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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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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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SF News

SF News

AntiSF Author Eugen M. Bacon Publishes Two New Anthologies

Antipodean SF author Eugen Bacon has published two new speculative fiction anthologies:

Dying & Other Stories, <http://www.fiction4all.com/books/b13195-dying-and-other-stories.htm>. Literary speculative fiction that offers up death. Dirges that cross genre.

Thirteen Wicked Tales, <http://www.fiction4all.com/books/b13148-thirteen-wicked-tales.htm>. A collection of literary speculative fiction by Fiction4All

Congrats AntiSF Author Laurie Bell...

Laurie Bell is set to have two new novels published in 2018. One is an adult sci-fi noir thriller novel "Blood Fever" through Incendia Books, and the other is a young adult urban fantasy "The Butterfly Stone" from Wyvern's Peak Publishing.

ASFF Supports The Swancon Short Story Competition 2018 - Entries Now Open

Swancon 2018, the 57th Australian National Science Fiction Convention, is running a short story competition with the support of the Australian Science Fiction Foundation. More information at the Swancon website. Theme: Transformation

For more SF news why not join the ASFF and get the ASFF newsletter “The Instrumentality” delivered straight to your inbox!

Upcoming Aussie Cons

Walker Stalker Convention: Walking Dead convention The Dome at Sydney Showgrounds. 3-4 February 2018 and 10-11 February 2018 Melbourne Showgrounds. <http://walkerstalkercon.com/sydney/>.

Confurgence 2018: Furry convention 23-25 February 2018. Amora Hotel Riverwalk, Melbourne. <http://ausfancons.com/confurgence/>

Swancon 2018 (Natcon): Pan Pacific Hotel, Perth. This is the 2018 Australian National Convention: “Transmogrification”, (Easter) 29  March to 02 April 2018 . Guests: Kameron Hurley, Ryan Griffen, Barb de la Hunty.  More information: <http://swancon.com.au/>

Continuum XIV: Conjugation. Melbourne’s SF Convention. 8th – 11th June, 2018. More information: <http://www.continuum.org.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/>

For more up-to-date Aussie SF info join the ASFF: <asff.org.au>

AntiSF will be at the National Convention, Swancon (2018).

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antipod-show-50The AntipodeanSF Radio Show delivers audio from the pages of this magazine.

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