Godforsaken – a short story

I wrote a new science fiction short story for Christmas. It’s called Godforsaken and it’s available for free at Barnes & Noble. It takes place in the same world as my science fiction novels.


Of all the archive items the Institute has tagged for my inspection, the diaries and essays of Horace Emmons are the strongest candidate for entry into our shadow history of emergence. Particularly the entries covering the Christmas of 1921.

Emmons was – like myself – a librarian by trade. We share a certain loneliness too, as family men who have chosen to live apart from their families. My solitude, sequestered in the draughty rooms of the Institute, ought to be temporary. Emmons, after abandoning his wife and six children, was intent upon a permanent separation.

In the week before the Christmas of 1921, Emmons was struggling in the aftermath of an unspecified personal crisis. He had left the family home in October to undertake one of his habitual excursions into the Smoky Mountains then chosen not to return. In his diary, he avoids mention of his family. After spending Thanksgiving in the mountains, he notes only that the hunters arrived with leftover turkey in their sandwiches. Only in December does guilt encroach upon the margins of the diary. His day notes show resolve not to return to his family for Christmas Day. But the marginalia are shivering self-recriminations, scrawled and blotted under the dull glow of a campfire. I recognise the thought process, have felt it myself often enough.Nervous dyspepsia, as Emmons puts it. The towns and cities were dry with prohibition. Moonshine came from the stills hidden in the harsh country. The Mountain Dew. Emmons was a gentleman drunk and what he hymned as the call of the wild was, in my opinion, merely the holler of strong liquor.

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