In the middle of a nighttime battle during the latter stages of the French Revolution, a British ship smashes into a massive black cliff hundreds of miles from any known landmass. Just as bewildered as its now crippled adversary, the pursuing French ship holds its fire until morning, when the crews of both vessels are struck dumb by the impossible regularity of the cliff’s endless surface.
Over the next week, Ryan, the English captain, and Martin, the French captain, form an uneasy alliance in their quest to unravel the mystery of the cliff and keep its inescapable presence from causing their crews to mutiny.
“Charted Waters” first appeared in the Spring 2008 edition of Mysterical-E under the pen name Tom C. Underhill. Get your copy in Outcasts (my collection of short stories).
After a sudden car accident, Blake opens his eyes and sees nothing but darkness and scrolling text: “The fact that you’re reading this means you’re a) literate, and b) dead. Congratulations. You’ve met both preconditions.” Before he can read much more, Blake is transported to 1905 Russia, where he’s killed (again) moments after arriving.
Over the next several days, the pattern repeats itself twice more as Blake’s tossed into first-century B.C. Rome and then 1941 Hawaii (just before Pearl Harbor). In between these visits—and the deaths that violently end each one—Blake tries to learn the truth about what’s happening to him from his cryptic new mentor, Galen.
“Revisions” first appeared in Battered Suitcase, volume 1, issue 4, September 2008 under the pen name Tom C. Underhill. Get your copy in Outcasts (my collection of short stories).
A dead writer asks you to help him kill. He’s not asking for complicity in a murder, however; he’s asking for vengeance.
The target is a monster of a man who did terrible things to the writer’s family.
The choice is yours: finish the story and help administer justice, or put the tale down unfinished and leave the monster’s fate in someone else’s hands.
“Ghost Writer” first appeared in Allegory Magazine, vol. 7, issue 34, September 2008 under the pen name Tom C. Underhill. Get your copy in Outcasts (my collection of short stories).
While Tammy, a teenage soccer star and budding writer, contemplates her adolescent problems and waits for her flaky mom to pick her up from practice, a stranger snaps a secret picture of her. Tammy shivers as the camera captures her image, but she doesn’t notice anything else out of the ordinary until the next day, when the stranger starts to develop his film.
Then her life begins falling apart.
Piece by piece, the things that make her Tammy are parceled out to other girls, and she starts to feel more and more invisible, fading from real life as her image comes into focus on the stranger’s light-sensitive paper.
"Smile" first appeared in The Cynic Online Magazine, volume 10, issue 10, October 2008 and Bewildering Stories, issue 335, May 2009 under the pen name Tom C. Underhill. Get your copy in Outcasts (my collection of short stories).
They’re stranded on an island. They don’t have any food or water. Their captain’s all but lost his mind.
Things could be better.
But they could also be worse. While the rest of humanity continues to fight World War III, six members of the Citizen’s Brigade gradually learn to coexist with their remote environment and each other.
“Permanence” first appeared in the February 2009 edition of Perpetual Magazine under the pen name Tom C. Underhill. Get your copy in Outcasts (my collection of short stories).
A nameless stranger lingers in a dingy tavern, trying and failing to stay one drink ahead of the memories that won’t let him be. He seems weaker than mere drunkenness would explain: the room’s paltry illumination still seems too bright for him, and even the softest sounds make him cringe. Just as he summons the will to put down his cup and leave, a group of traders barge in and loudly discuss the latest developments in the religious war between the followers of Jonders and Jenowade. Part of the stranger hopes they don’t recognize him for the Jonderin messiah-turned-demon; another part of him searches for the slightest provocation.
"Branded Faith" first appeared in Bewildering Stories, issue 330, March 2009 under the pen name Tom C. Underhill. Get your copy in Outcasts (my collection of short stories).
Caroline’s brother ran away from home shortly after her dad walked out. She doesn’t know why either left.
Then she finds her dad’s watch.
It’s not particularly pretty, and it doesn’t tell time anymore, but when she inserts the family heirloom into her homemade dioramas, the shoeboxes’ static scenes come to life and reenact the series of events that led to her household’s disintegration.
“Low-Limb High” first appeared in Bewildering Stories, issue 339, June 2009 under the pen name Tom C. Underhill. Get your copy in Outcasts (my collection of short stories).
Jim’s let his mind wander to other women during sex with his wife before. He’s even strayed physically a few times. But he’s never cheated on her with a prostitute... until today.
Bad move. Sleeping with the hooker transports Jim back to whatever intimate moment he’s thinking of when their act of adultery begins. At first the literal flashbacks are intoxicating, but when they cause him to destroy his present, they become the only means of salvaging what’s left of his life... and finally doing right by his wife.
“Time Trick” first appeared in Bewildering Stories, issue 351, August 2009 under the pen name Tom C. Underhill. Get your copy in Outcasts (my collection of short stories).
Aliah knows some of the artifacts stored in the bowels of the Chicago Field Museum are coated with arsenic, but as long as she keeps her gloves on, she doesn’t think any of the items are actually dangerous... until a sliver of bone knifes through her skin and swims off in her bloodstream.
Shortly thereafter, Aliah starts to experience the past of every artifact she touches. This unasked for ability quickly entangles her in one of the greatest Who Dunnits? of all time: the murder of Philip II, Alexander the Great’s father.
"Love and World Eaters" first appeared with Books To Go Now in August 2011 under the pen name Tom C. Underhill. Get your copy in Outcasts (my collection of short stories).
Without warning, the ceiling above Jason’s hospital bed bends, collapses, and then vanishes all together as another dimension fills the void. But the transition isn’t about replacement: impossible as it seems, the two worlds are merging into one. Jason flees the hospital just in time to avoid the final, violent implosion... only to return to the resulting portal when the mysterious stranger who saved him insists there’s no other way to prevent the same thing from happening to every version of the universe.
“Splintered” first appeared in Bewildering Stories, issue 443, August 2011 under the pen name Tom C. Underhill. Get your copy in Outcasts (my collection of short stories).
Unwilling saviors, fumbling gods, speechless leaders, helpless villains, misguided detectives, abandoned heroes, misled daughters, repentant adulterers, murdered authors, jilted conquerors...
These are my outcasts.
And these are their stories.
Outcasts includes all the short stories above and was published on February 27, 2012. Get your copy here.