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Variant Worlds 1

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458 pages6 hours

Summary

Welcome to Variant Worlds 1. This is a collection of fantasy and science fiction ranging from short stories to novellas. In these tales, everyday people like you and I must come to grips with the strange and perilous realities that have been presented to them. Only by relying on their inner strength, their wisdom and their humanity will they forge ahead and survive. Rating: MEDIUM controversy.

The Book Changes Hands

The great desert winds pummeled my body like a rag doll, dragging me and shoving me to and fro until I'd gone over the edge of a deep ravine. My arms scrambled about, my fingers clawing desperately at the loose dirt as I felt my weight slip away below me and towards certain death perhaps a hundred feet below.

Finally, I held enough of the rugged dirt to cling to the ravine’s edge like some giant bug. I lowered my head near to my shoulder, hastily trying to draw breath, but only received a mouthful of whipped sand for my efforts. I’d been warned that this task wasn’t going to be an easy one.

How long I hung there, I can’t recall. I was becoming more and more certain that I was going to die there, at the moment my grip weakened and my body tumbled down the rock face.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, a strong hand reached down and clamped my wrist. With a mighty heave, I was yanked away from the precipice and hoisted back on stable ground. Through the wind and dust, I caught only glimpses of my benefactor: a short, stout form, eyes covered by bizarre rounded goggles, and sporting an unusual and fluttering orange cape.

We both stood there, with my short rescuer’s hand firmly on my shoulder, both of us crouched and wincing against the ferocity of the wind. Neither of us spoke. Even if we had the whipping wind would have drowned our voices out like a flood.

Was this the stranger I’d been seeking for so long?

Finally, the wind’s strength waned. In this brief moment of calm, the stranger’s sharp voice boomed out. "The book!" He shouted, even as the wind began to regroup its momentum. "Do you have the book?"

Ah, yes, the book. Reaching into the canvas pouch slung over my shoulder, I retrieved the ancient tome, with its cracked leather cover and worn pages, while the frenzied desert sand invaded the opening and sought out a new haven inside my bag.

"I have it!" I tried to shout, gasping as dust and dirt slapped into my mouth. “Here!”

Although I was sorry to see it go, after so many months of carrying it with me, so much time spent studying its valuable contents and trying to fathom its mysterious purpose, here I was, simply handing it over to a man I had only just met.

Destiny could be a harsh mistress, I thought to myself, yet at the same time, I was relieved to finally be rid of the monumental burden. If the fate of such an important book rested in the hands of others, then so be it.

After all, who was I to question fate?

(A fantasy sample written to my buddy Jeff, who sported swimming goggles and an orange apron worn like a cape. For a time, we worked together at the home improvement warehouse described in the novella Snatched Up.)

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