Eleven of my personal favourite short stories have been compiled into my first anthology. For a limited time this anthology is free to download at Smashwords.
Here's a taste of what's inside:
“I don’t know what all the fuss is about?” my boss shouted down the phone line. “You go skydiving all the time. Either you’re on the plane to London or you’re looking for a new job. Got it?”
The line went dead. So did my insides at the thought of a plane trip.
That night during dinner Susie put down her cutlery and said, “You look like someone’s died.”
“I’ve got to go to London tomorrow.”
She’d resumed eating. Susie never let anything spoil her appetite since falling pregnant with twins. “So you’d better get packing.”
“I can’t go to London.”
“You’re not afraid of flying. You go skydiving every month.”
“It’s not that.”
“You have a passport, though god knows why, it’s not like we can afford to go anywhere on your salary.” Her shoulders drooped. “Sorry, love. I didn’t mean to be such a bitch. These kids had better pop soon or I’ll be a nutcase.”
I pushed the plate away and reached for the bottle of cheap wine instead. I understood her agitation. I was anxious for the twins to be born, too.
“It’s not heights I’m afraid of, Suse. It’s x-ray machines.”
Susie’s face froze mid chew. Her cheek looked stuffed like a squirrel’s. She gulped and looked me square in the eye. “Craig. If x-ray machines were dangerous they wouldn’t use them.”
I managed a weak smile. “Are you trying to get rid of me?”
She sighed. “I’d love to leave this huge belly at home and come with you. Christ knows I’m dying for a few days off from carrying these boys around.”
I said nothing.
“Look, if you really don’t want to go, don’t go. You’ll get another job.”
We both getting another job wasn’t an option. There just weren’t any other jobs to get.
“But what if you go into labour while I’m away? I’ll miss the birth.”
She gave me a comforting smile. “I’m sure I’ll be on so many drugs I won’t even notice if you’re there or not.”
Hearing Suse laugh away her ordeal sent a knife through my heart. She’d be in terrible pain. The worst kind of pain she’d ever experience in her life, and if the twins came early, I wouldn’t be there to help her through the pain. I would’t be there to explain.
“Napier Insurance. How may I help you?”
I was calling from a public phone so the call couldn’t be traced, but I had to call, for Susie’s sake. “I have a question about my life insurance policy. Do you have to have the body as proof of death, or does a disappearance count?”
“What do you mean by disappearance?”
“Well, if there are witnesses to a disappearance, but no actual body could be found after this disappearance, would the policy still be paid out?”
“Sir, I’m going to have to put you through to my supervisor.”
I hung up. I was fast running out of options. I couldn’t get another job. I couldn’t disappear and leave Suse flat broke with twins on the way. But I also couldn’t go to London. I was screwed.
The cab pulled up at the airport. Why London? Why not Brisbane or Melbourne? I could drive through the night and make it in time to conduct the briefing. Damn the global economy forcing our company to expand.
Inside the terminal, everything went against me. No long lines. No problems issuing tickets and checking in the luggage. No choice left but to confront the x-ray machines and hope my worst fears didn’t come true. I placed my carry-on onto the conveyor belt and stepped through the body scanning machine. And that’s when everything went dark.
A TV screen flickered on and a face came into view.
“Can I help you?”
I decided to start with the truth. “I’m Argaron. I’m wanted for treason.”
The face on the screen remained impassive while it downloaded information. “Ah, Argaron. Welcome back. You need not look so worried. You will be pleased to know you are no longer wanted for crimes against the government. Since you’ve been gone there have been twelve changes in government. All escapees were pardoned decades ago. You are free to return to your old life here on Tetron 5.”
My old life? I could barely remember it. I’d escaped the war on Tetron 5 as a boy, an act punishable by death but a band of us had escaped anyway, via the portals our government used to steal knowledge from other planets. Because my father was head of security for Tetron 5, I knew the portals to capture escapees would be installed inside airline x-ray scanners on Earth, the place where I’d fled to. I’d lived amongst the humans knowing I’d be safe, as long as I didn’t have to fly in a commercial airline. To avoid that, I’d stayed in low paying jobs to ensure I’d never be able to afford to fly anywhere. Six months ago Susie had fallen pregnant, she’d lost her job, I’d been promoted by threat, and yesterday I’d been ordered to London.
“What if I don’t want to come back?” I asked.
“If you don’t wish to return, the portal will remain open for two minutes and your time here will be reversed so it will appear as you have not disappeared. But you do realise that staying on Earth is problematic? You know what you are. Are you sure this is what you want to do?”
I didn’t wait around to explain. I turned and ran towards the light.
Susie picked me up at the airport. “You’re alive so you obviously overcame your fear of x-ray machines.”
I kissed her on the cheek and smiled. “And you’re obviously still pregnant so you never gave birth while I was away.”
“And have you miss out on a single day of nappy changing? No way. Seriously, you were very worried. Is everything all right?”
I leaned my head back into the head rest and closed my eyes. I was a free man. I could live the rest of my life without fear of persecution. Now all I had to do was figure out a way to cover up the fact that I wasn’t human.
I opened my eyes to find Suse watching me. “You look like you’re hiding a secret,” she said.
“I’m just tired.” I didn’t want to tell her that she’d find out my secret soon enough...when the twins were born.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
D L Richardson is the author of speculative fiction. She has three teen novels and one short story anthology published. Her first novel reached number 2 at OmniLit and number 38 at Kobo Books. Her second reached number 1 at OmniLit. Little Red Gem is her third novel and recently won 2nd place Best Books of 2013 Paranormal Cravings. She lives in Australia on the NSW south coast with her husband and dog.