Not all of us remember what it was like before, but I remember what it was like to be wild.

We slipped through the underbrush, searching for berries and stalking plump grouse. We paused, still has death, waiting for the telltale rustle of our prey. The smells of the forest and the whisper of the wind brought in as much information as our eyes and ears– there is so much humans have forgotten how to feel and smell and hear.

We danced in the moonlight and slept on sunlit rocks. We followed gurgling brooks to their sources and explored wild places that no human had ever seen. We lived every day in the moment, and every moment was joyous and fascinating. I used to dream about those places when I was little.

Now the memory grows more faint; but I still remember. We were the shadows in the thickets, the reason they whisper about predators that haunt dark places. We were the eyes that watched you, the paws that stalked you. If I step away into the forest, I can still feel it: the senses sharpen, the attention focuses, and I am just a filter for the moment. A bundle of fine-tuned senses, bone, muscle, and sinew, driven by instinct.

All the same, when we heard engines, we ran. It was an awful sound: an assault on the ears, an assault on the sacred sound-scape of the forest. I still have nightmares about being hunted, about running from bright searchlights in the misty darkness.

As a child, it took me years to overcome the urge to RUN when a motor started. The sound of an approaching engine filled me with nameless dread. My parents thought I was just afraid of loud noises. Perhaps it was not strange that a child that commented on the footsteps of mice in the attic might have sensitive hearing.

I was called strange a lot as a child. Perhaps it is strange to remember what it was like be wild, to remember what I was before I became human. Although I’ve never met another who remembered (or at least one who would admit to it,) I know I’m not alone. There are so many of you, and so few of us; is it so strange that we are recycled into human bodies when we die?

They say the soul carries an imprint of its past lives. Is it so strange that we remember? That we carry the memory of our past into your present? You who slaughtered us as “lesser creatures,” you’re not so rational or perfect. A fox or wolf or lynx is perfect. It does not kill out of spite, or seek to eradicate an entire species. It just is. It just seeks to survive another day.

You humans, on the other hand… you’re every bit the monsters we thought you were.

What It Was Like To Be Wild  © 2020 Leland Lydecker

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The whispers in the docks, fairways, and corridors of KEL Port were darker tonight. Up near general intake, where new arrivals to KEL26 were processed, Port Security officers were clustered in small groups muttering amongst themselves. In the cozy noodle shop on Sub-Level B, the little family of Tau-Ceti immigrants weren’t greeting customers with their usual cheer. And down in the Mog’s cantina, where most of KEL Port went to eat and drink, kindly, straightlaced Loadmaster Teller sat in corner, plastered out of his mind, having an angry argument with an empty chair.

Something was surely amiss, Radco thought, but puzzling out exactly what was proving to be a difficult task. Calamity was like a disease to humans; it might not have struck anywhere near them, but it deeply affected them nonetheless. To remain unaffected by the general air of unease would mark him as an outsider, unnatural and automatically suspect.

Radco shivered at the thought. Humans were notoriously cruel to outsiders.

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A crow fluttered down from the heavens and landed on the railing amid a patter of falling snow, its arrival unobserved by those inside. Dull black feathers became tattered clothing, grease-stained blacks and greys blending into the shadows of the fading day.

The crow cocked his head and contemplated the scene on the other side of the glass. A fresh-faced boy, previously engaged in daubing paint across a canvas, paused and glanced out the window. Was he watching the crow? The falling snow slowly coating the old wooden porch and the forest below? Or the way the fading light outlined the bare-branched trees?

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The humans’ offspring crawled out of the shadows between a pair of structural supports, its doughy hands and feet unprotected from the grimy corridor floor. The shadow suppressed a hiss of alarm and detoured around the tiny being as it sat up and stuffed both grubby hands into its mouth.

Humans were irrationally protective of their young. Perhaps, the shadow mused, it was because their young were so soft and helpless, and often utterly oblivious to the dangers of their surroundings. That said, for all their outraged protectiveness, humans allowed their offspring to do the most counter-intuitively dangerous things. Case in point: the creature rubbing its bare appendages on the filthy floor and stuffing them into its mouth.

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After running my Patreon page for a little over half a year and seeing what garners the most interest, I’m looking to update my tier rewards to reflect what I’ve learned. If you’re already a subscriber or looking to become one, don’t worry– you won’t lose access to anything you have access to now.

I plan to move some rewards around and add additional rewards to several tiers. The hope is that this will this attract more patrons, as well as making it easier for me to fulfill my obligations each month. (The latter has been difficult at times, what with the Other Job eating between 65 and 75 hours a week since the start of this year.)

Here’s a breakdown of proposed changes.

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This is an excerpt from a short story I wrote way back in 2011. I was going through a particularly rough patch, and I channeled it into a story about a guy haunted by loss and a series of unforgivable mistakes. It’s something of a dark science fiction mystery. Enjoy!

Ethan knew how this worked.

The assistant in the crisp white scrubs would read the questions to him one by one to verify the answers he had given on the form. It was his job to sit on the edge of the paper-lined exam table and give the man the answers he wanted.

“Occupation?”

“Job seeker.”

“Parents?”

“Deceased.”

“Spouse? Children?”

“No. None.”

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Borders: between dry land and flowing water, daylight and night, something haunts the river’s edge in the fading light.

The River’s Edge is an eerie modern horror story of the best kind: evocative of the mysteries we’ve always suspected, hidden in warnings to stay away from the water’s edge and mind the current and always be home before it gets late. It’s also the kind of story that will leave you feeling that the world has been made a better place.

Content warning for brief mention of stalking and MRA/incel ideology.

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In the distance, distorted by the nutrient gel filling the stasis tank, klaxons blared.

The vat’s seal popped, exposing him to the sting of cold, dry ship-board air. Marc’s breather unit detached, followed by the connections that kept his body functioning through the long dark sleep. The klaxon became louder, more immediate.

Red emergency lights strobed as he opened his eyes, illuminating a dimly lit storage hold. He had just enough time to realize that this was not the comfortable passenger carrier he’d gone to sleep on before the stasis pod tilted upright and dumped him out on the dirty metal decking. The nutrient gel steamed as it flowed down a conveniently located drain. Icy metal welcomed him, naked and shivering, back into the real world.

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Wind, Ice, and Willows

Mud squelched under his boots as he made his way up the dirt road. Willows waved in a frigid wind on either side of the track, their windward surfaces coated in a half-inch-thick layer of ice. The man zipped his jacket and pulled his collar up instinctively, before it occurred to him that he didn’t feel cold.

The mountain pass was enshrouded in clouds, obscuring the peaks on either side as well as the road ahead. Ragged streamers of water vapor raced past, chased by the razor-edged wind. The man paused and turned in a circle, taking stock of his surroundings. Alpine tundra stretched away into the mist on either side of him, dotted with lichen-covered boulders, scrub willows, and the occasional stunted spruce.

Back the way he had come, lights glowed weakly through the fog. A black SUV rested half off the road, its hood impaled on the end of a guard rail. There had been a sharp corner. Icy mud. A loss of traction.

Continue reading “Wind, Ice, and Willows”

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It’s hard to believe that yet another summer is nearly over. The leaves are turning yellow in my corner of the world, and the infamous low-lying areas experienced their first frost a few weeks ago. Where does the time go?

In my case, time flies when you’re screaming busy. I’ve been invited back for Part II of a superb speculative fiction anthology, Trumpland 2020: Divided We Stand, and am currently working on my entry.

Hel’s Fury, my submission for the first Trumpland collection, was extremely dark. It was kind of a worst case scenario, a hodgepodge of national news and the worst of my state’s own tendencies.

I’m happy to announce that my as-yet-untitled submission to 2020 will be much brighter. My goal is to highlight some of the good in Alaska and Alaskans, the spirit of community and resistance that I grew up with and still see occasionally in Alaska’s remote corners.

I’m also exploring Patreon as an avenue to get my short fiction in front of more readers and support myself while doing it. The first wave of September tier rewards are now live and I’m particularly excited about this month’s story, which digs into the origins of my cyborg OC Frank the Tank.

As some of you who’ve been with me the longest may know, Frank started out as a bit character in a piece of flash fiction.

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