More Great Short Stories for Free

I have a big stack of novels (including the sequel to Odd Thomas) to read, I finally got a copy of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's Preacher - Gone to Texas, I'm right in the middle of Chef Season One, and the hardback volume of 1602 is on my nightstand wondering when the heck I'm going to read it. Why is the entire world of entertainment on hold at my house? It's simple really; cute guys in tights are skating on television every time I turn it on. Of course I'm going to be distracted and unable to concentrate long enough to read any novels (graphic or text). But I have been able to read some really terrific short fiction and, since I am naturally generous, I'm going to share it with you. I've also got a song about our favorite Olympic sport, curling.

Oscar Wilde wrote one of my favorite ghost stories. I read The Canterville Ghost when I was in elementary school and, for the very first time, thought of a supernatural entity as something other than just plain scary. The frontispiece describes it as "An amusing chronicle of the tribulations of the Ghost of Canterville Chase when his ancestral halls became the home of the American Minister to the Court of St. James." The ghost starts to run into trouble almost as soon as the Americans move in. There is a bloodstain in the sitting room that has been there since 1575. It's part of the ghost's heritage, so to speak, but Mrs. Otis says she won't tolerate it and Mr. Otis; the American Minister swings into action.

"That is all nonsense," cried Washington Otis; "Pinkerton's Champion Stain Remover and Paragon Detergent will clean it up in no time," and before the terrified housekeeper could interfere, he had fallen upon his knees, and was rapidly scouring the floor with a small stick of what looked like a black cosmetic. In a few moments no trace of the blood-stain could be seen.

No self-respecting ghost is going to stand for this so a civil war starts. You can download the story for free here and find out how it turns out.

Special Edition by Simon Bewick is a different kind of ghost story. It's about a man who buys a secondhand VCR and ends up with more than he bargained for. When he plays the original film version of King Kong it has a happy ending. It's an ending that works, it's not stupid or cheesy, it seems to be a natural ending that makes sense. A magical VCR isn't very important in the scheme of things but then something happens to make the machine essential. You can read it for free at Strange Horizons, a website full of fantastic things to read.

Inappropriate Behavior by Pat Murphy has no ghosts in it at all. It does have a man stranded on an island; a girl in the shape of a metal bug, an ethical dilemma and a struggle to do whatever it takes to do the right thing. It's told mainly from the perspective of the girl, who has Asperger's syndrome, a type of autism, and the shipwrecked man who will die unless she can fight both her neurological obstacles and a doctor who won't listen to her at all. This story is not just suspenseful, it's a very thoughtful piece and does a wonderful job of showing how the girl sees and feels the world in a very different way from the traditional type of literary protagonist. It can be read for free at the scifi.com site.

Finally, Free Dirt by Charles Beaumont is a little horror story about what happens when your love of getting things for free overrides your common sense. "Mr. Aorta felt a familiar sensation come over him. It happened whenever he encountered the word FREE - a magic word that did strange and wonderful things to his metabolism. Free. What was the meaning, the essence of free? Why, something for nothing. And to get something for nothing was Mr. Aorta's chiefest pleasure in this mortal life." You can read this story for FREE here.

Last year I wrote a column focusing on Jonathan Coulton, creator of the best song about mad scientists ever. Like so many of us he came down with Olympic fever but he seems to have a cure, a catchy song called Curl. Check it out; you'll be singing it in the shower for sure.