Visions

Short Fantasy & SF

by Lawrence C. Connolly
Art by Nathaniel G. Sawyers


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Coming Spring 2017

VISIONS Cover

Twenty classic and two all new stories explore three realms, in one visionary collection!

For three decades, Lawrence C. Connolly has defied category, writing across genre to create stories where dreams are reality, the future is now, and a lone madman may be the sanest person in the room.

Presented here with all new introductions that discuss the origins of the stories and featuring a retrospective essay about the road to publication and beyond, Visions: Fantasy & SF is a must for lovers of dark fantasy, science fiction, and heroic adventure.

Hold the book. Behold the visions!

Product Details

Dark Fantasy/ SF /
Heroic Fantasy

268 Pages
22 Stories

Trade Paperback • 6" x 9"

ISBN 10: 1-934571-01-6
ISBN 13: 978-1-934571-01-9


Table of Contents

Illusion
“Aberrations”

Night Visions
“Echoes”
“Great Heart Rising”
“Buckeye and Spitball”
“Horror by Sunlight”
“Flashback”
“Step on a Crack”
“Ghosts”

Prophecy
“Prime Time!”
“Flow”
“Julie of the Shadows”
“Cockroaches”
“Errors”
“Rope the Hornet”
“Daughters of Prime”
“The Others”

Dreams
“Wayward Wilder”
“Gwythurn the Slayer”
“Mercenary of Dreams”
“Beerwulf”
“On the Brink”
“Strands”

Hindsight
“Looking Back”

Reviews & Blurbs

Praise for the Author

“Connolly provides plenty of entertaining and satisfying reads.”
      —Publishers Weekly

Visions is . . . the sort of collection that gives genre fiction a good name. . . . the stories display an unusual degree of humanism and a deep regard for nature. Best of all, perhaps, Connolly writes good sentences.”
      —Bill O'Driscoll, Pittsburgh City Paper

“Plain and simple, this guy can write.”
      —Thomas F. Monteleone, Bram Stoker Award winner

“Sharp images . . . etching depictions of eerie scenes and telling analogies are this writer’s forte.”
      —Jetse de Vries, The Fix

“One of the joys of my days at Twilight Zone was encountering the work of an extraordinarily subtle and imaginative writer, Lawrence C. Connolly, who brought enormous power to the shortest of stories.”
      —T.E.D. Klein, author of The Ceremonies and Dark Gods

“For years I’ve been an admirer of Lawrence C. Connolly’s exquisite and deeply affecting short fiction—he always writes with great skill, intelligence, compassion, and subtle lyricism. . .”
      —Gary A. Braunbeck, award-winning author of Destinations Unknown and Mr. Hands

“[O]utstanding short stories.”
      —Robert Morrish, fiction editor of Cemetery Dance

“[A] captivating writer who crafts drum-tight plots, loaded with realistic characters and fantastic settings with great style and substance.”
      —Michael Arnzen, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of 100 Jolts.

“Lawrence C. Connolly writes with clear beauty and a purity of prose. . . . Connolly is a writer to follow, and his work a thing to savor.”
      —Mary SanGiovanni, author of The Hollower, from Leisure Books

Praise for the Stories

“Flashback”
“. . . great psychological tale of deception.”
      —DreadCentral.com

“Beerwulf”
“. . . vivid characters . . . lush dialog . . .”
      —Tangent Online

“Buckeye and Spitball”
“. . . a beautifully frightening story . . .”
      —“Intercom,” Amazing Stories, July 1981

“Prime Time!”
“Clever stuff.”
      —The Fix

“Daughters of Prime”
“. . . an anthropological SF tale with a difference . . . a tantalizing enigma.”
      —Locus

“Great Heart Rising”
“. . . gritty believability.”
      —Tangent Online

“The Others”
“. . . showcases Connelly's ability to cross the sub-genres from SF to horror and back.”
      —Suite101.com

Excerpts


“Flashback”

What have I been doing?

The answer was obvious. The condition that Auntie Ariel had helped her overcome nine years earlier was out of remission and back with a vengeance.

She stood. Clumps of dirt fell from her nightgown. Her feet were clean, but her shoes (lying on their sides at the foot of the bed) were as filthy as her arms. She recognized the signs. She had been sleepwalking again.

Fully awake now, she hurried toward the door, following the tracks of her muddy shoes, stopping abruptly when she reached the far side of the bed.

A pile of wood lay between the bed and door. The pieces were familiar: twelve three-foot slats, two fifteen-foot stringers—the remains of the rickety basement stairs that she had ripped out and dumped in the landfill behind the tool shed.

I brought them back.

She had done such things before. In her early teens she would awake to find her room full of garbage: pizza boxes, milk cartons, coffee filters, all retrieved from alley dumpsters and arranged into patterns that defied reason.

Sometimes the piles came with notes, the writing always as cryptic as the garbage.

But that had been long ago. Auntie had cured her. But now Auntie was gone.

And the condition was back.

 

A long strip of decorative wood sat atop one of the stringers. And there were other things, too: a power drill with a Philips-head bit, a box of screws, a crowbar.

Don’t ask what it means! Auntie’s voice came back to her as she stared at the pile. Knowing what it means isn’t as important as knowing how to stop it.

Rachel turned and faced the door. She had evidently closed it herself after bringing the wood and tools into the room, and now, as she gripped the knob, she realized she had done something else, too.

The door was locked.

 

Two keys could open the door. One was a master that unlocked everything in the house. She kept that one in the kitchen. The second worked the bedroom door alone, and that key she kept in the top drawer of the nightstand.

She turned, retraced her steps, and opened the drawer.

The key was gone. In its place lay a dirt-smeared note:

THE KEY IS IN THE CROWN.

GET TO WORK!

Unlike the cryptic notes she had left herself in the past, this one seemed to mean something. The bedroom occupied the top floor of a pentagonal tower on the house’s northeast corner. High overhead, plaster gave way to a peaked ceiling of galvanized tin, and between the two, softening the transition, ran five strips of wood molding—crown molding.

THE KEY IS IN THE CROWN.

The key was up there. She could just make it out, jammed into the molding, shoved so deep that only its handle was visible. The trim, she thought, realizing how she had placed the key. She looked down at the long piece of decorative wood lying atop the disassembled stairs. A notch had been cut into one of its ends, perfect for holding a key and pushing it into place, useless for pulling it free. “You want me to work,” she said, speaking to her compulsion. “It’s Sunday morning, and you want me to build something.”

She looked at the long planks of roughhewn pine, each tooled with a succession of right-angle cuts. Placed parallel, the stringers would support the planks, transforming them into a series of risers that would almost reach the key in the crown. She stepped back, trying to estimate the actual distance. With one end of each stringer wedged against the foot of the bed and the other elevated and pressed high against the wall, the reassembled stairs would get her close enough to hook the crowbar against the molding. She had no doubt she could dislodge the wood with a few well-placed tugs. But why had her sleeping mind felt a need to goad her into working on the Sabbath?

She sat on the bed, trying to understand, and it was then that she became aware of something new inside the room. It was silent, invisible, but definitely there—becoming more noticeable each time she took a breath.

Somewhere in the house, something was burning.

 

“Flow”

Alone, I returned to the ruins, stepping down into the bowed streets as the evening sun poured between the spires. Shadows streaked the pavement. And the ground quivered with a strange pressure, as if the stones themselves were waiting to exhale.

Up ahead, I saw more wild machines gathered in a sunken courtyard. They didn’t dart as I approached, but instead kept their faces pressed to a line of grated holes. And then it happened. The ground heaved, and with a silver roar the conduits erupted. Liquid pillars spewed and rained over the pavement. Rills formed. Currents converged, becoming waves . . . and still the machines held their ground, eyes flashing with dull submission as currents crashed with bone-rending roars. . . .

I stepped back, suddenly afraid.

The fluid had changed. Gone was the alluring light. In its place, savage forces buckled and swirled, thickening as the machines were torn to pieces by the liquid’s churning craw.

I screamed, my voice flashing against the trees.

The fluid turned, following the light of my scream, and then it surged, coming toward me as I fled into the forest.

I ran.

The fluid followed.

Ahead, a stone bridge arced over a jagged river. Waves crashed in the ravine, and I decided, as I climbed the arch of interlocking stone, that it would be better to die in those indifferent rapids than give myself to the flowing beast. Feeling the creature’s misty breath on my shoulders, I turned and threw myself from the stone arch. Tumbling, looking skyward as I fell, I glimpsed a wave collecting on the bridge’s center. It pivoted, curled, then plunged after me.

My back slammed the river. Water parted and folded back, pulling me down into racing darkness. For a moment I felt safe, weightless, suspended. . . .

And then, with a misty blast, I broke the surface to find the monster gone. The stone bridge veered from sight, vanishing as the river carried me over a ledge of rounded rocks. And that’s when I saw it once again, a fist of black fluid rising from the rapids. It grabbed the rocks, curled into a column, and lifted itself from the sheeting water. Then, stretching like a shadow, it shot back into the forest, gathered itself into a wedge, and angled back toward the Temples of Rain.

I hurtled onward, riding the currents, wondering how long I could survive in the cold water.

Skeletal trees overhung the banks. I reached for them, caught one, and held on until the roots lost their grip and we tumbled together. Folded in the branches, I drifted as the river widened. Currents slowed. My thoughts flickered, sputtering out as I plunged into a dreamless sleep . . .

. . . only to be awakened by the pounding flukes of an approaching leviathan.

 

“Mercenary of Dreams”

“Now tell me,” she said, pointing to a hooked dagger. “Who is that?”

Jason picked up the blade, studying it. Filaments of reinforcing iron spiraled down the length of the curved shaft, giving the weapon a cruel, serrated edge. “It’s Olc-fiacail.”

“Show me what she does.”

His arms blurred as the dagger cut the air.

“All right,” Cara said. “Now tell me who you’re going to wear?”

He turned, looking back at the armored suit that hung behind him. The suit was made of leather and reinforcing plates of iron. “Cogadh-garda,” Jason said. “The war guard. The iron skin.”

 

Cara and Jason left the burrow and stepped out into the green light of evening. Jason walked ahead of her, moving toward the ravaged land on the mountain’s east slope. Trom-tua, the two-headed ax, hung from a leather sheath between his shoulders. Olc-fiacail, the hooked dagger, hung from his belt. All around him, Cogadh-garda, the massive suit of skin and iron, clattered and creaked. Cara noticed the confidence of his gait. It was clear that he had given himself over to the suit’s will, just as moments before he had given his arms to Trom-tua and Olc-fiacail.

He walked like an elfin warrior.

The forest opened before them as they reached the end of the trail, and suddenly they were standing on a barren slope, the ground parched and brittle. A few hundred feet down, a dirt road snaked around a pile of uprooted trees. Beside the road stood a row of partially constructed homes. Between the homes lay skids of cinder blocks, bricks, plastic-wrapped wallboard, and a numbing assortment of prefabricated wooden frames. Farther down, a herd of earth-moving vehicles slept in the leafy shadows at the clearing’s edge.

“Where’s the dragon?” Jason asked.

“Be here soon.”

Jason sat on the edge of a felled tree and scanned the slope. “It’s weird,” he said.

She expected him to go on. But instead he slipped into a pensive silence. He looked almost thoughtful, sitting with an elbow on a leather-clad knee and his fist clenched beneath his chin. The weapons and the armor had begun to change him. He looked heroic.

“What’s weird?” she asked.

“That a dragon would get pissed about a few mountainside homes.”

“Not so weird,” Cara said. “The dragon’s not the only one who’s . . . what’s that word?”

“What word? Pissed?”

“Yes,” Cara said. “The dragon’s not the only one who’s pissed.”

 

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About the Author

Lawrence C. Connolly’s books include the novels Veins (2008), Vipers (2010), and Vortex (2014), which make up the three-book Veins Cycle. His short story collections, Visions (2009), This Way to Egress (2010), and Voices (2011), collect his stories from Amazing Stories, Cemetery Dance, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Twilight Zone, and Year’s Best Horror. Voices was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award, Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection. He serves twice a year as one of the residency writers at Seton Hill University’s graduate program in Writing Popular Fiction.

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