March 25, 2017

A Sneak Peek at Our Latest Eclipse Tale

On sale now!

Hey, we wrote another story!

This week, we thought we’d offer the first 1,000 words of our latest eclipse-fueled scifi tale Class Field Trip for our very favorite price: free. Like what you see? You can read the entire tale here. And we’ve got lots more science fiction tales at our Amazon author page…

Here’s a rollcall of our science fiction eclipse tales:

Exeligmos

Peak Season

The Syzygy Gambit (a Solar Winds tale)

Shadowfall.

So without further fanfare, here’s our latest:

 

Class Field Trip

By

David A. Dickinson

 

Unlike my more classic blackouts, I awoke on this sunny South Carolina morning with my shoes on. I also came to wearing a work shirt and tie, which was just a bit strange, when you get right down to it… was I finally approaching the vaunted ranks of high-functioning alcoholics?

How I’d both hoped and feared that this day would come, a time when I could both consume Jack Daniels to my heart’s content and still function as a high school science teacher…

Mr. Donovan, Mr. Donovan, the eclipse is today!!!”

I looked down as Sasha pointed skyward, her welder’s mask already swung down in place, looking like a faceless scientist in the desert determined to witness a thermonuclear explosion.

Could this truly be happening, I thought? Usually, my withdrawal induced hallucinations were not this forgiving.

The last thing I’d remembered was ordering a triple-shot at Kelly’s Tavern shortly after cashing my severance check. How I’d loved teaching science and astronomy, though in time, the principal and my boss Mrs. Cockburn discovered that I loved the bottle even more. A few counseling sessions, and a few dozen tries at going clean and sober later, and I’d found myself relieved of a job and released back into the big bad world.

Could that all be behind me now?

It’s starting; it’s starting!”

I followed the childrens’ prompt and held a piece of dark green tinted Number 14 welder’s glass to my eyes. There. The Sun looked like a neon martini olive punched into the sky through the tint of the filter, with an improbable ‘chomp’ taken out of it and growing in one corner.

Look kids, first contact!” I said, sliding immediately into teacher mode. It’s an instinct that never truly leaves, once it’s in your blood. Bills, groceries, a collapsing life, even getting dismissed from my job and singular passion could all wait for a moment. Learning was afoot.

How long until totality, Mr. Donovan?” a voice next to me called out. I looked at Billy as he stood transfixed, his filter-covered face turned skyward. Frowning, I realized I hadn’t quite remembered his hands appearing that curious shade of gray before…

August 21st, 2017. How I remember, as a kid, first seeing that far off date etched in my mind’s eye. I’d caught the 1979 total solar eclipse as a deep partial, and I remember how our science teacher (another alky, who didn’t fool anyone with the vodka he’d kept in the back of his filing cabinet) said triumphantly that ‘there wouldn’t be another total solar eclipse to grace U.S. skies’ until this far off date. Such a distant time seemed unfathomable to me; would we be commuting to work daily on Phobos and traveling via pneumatic tubes by then? Two failed marriages and one stumbling career later, here we are. Sure, warp drives and phasers have yet come to pass, but everything is made of plastic, and everyone now carries more computing power in their pocket gadgets to find out what shenanigans their favorite celebrity is up to than we’d used to make the first atomic bomb. Progress. Did a sublime event such as a total solar eclipse even grab kids anymore?

I held the green welder’s glass up to my face once again. It seemed that the partial phase was nearing the halfway mark. Good. The Sun looked like a green Pacman through the filter, not that these kid would know what Pacman was. We’d have about another half an hour or so before we started to approach totality, and things would get really interesting. Plenty of time to drum up excitement from the class to keep them occupied. I felt for the flask inside my jacket pocket. It felt full by the weight. It was reassuring to know that it was there if I needed it.

Partial phases have begun,” I said to the class as my teacher instincts kicked in. “We’re 30 minutes away from totality.”

Cara says this world’s Moon isn’t always big enough to cover the host star,” Jimmy called out.

Is so,” Cara shot back. I thought I could just make out the curious keyhole slits of Cara’s eyes as a secondary nictitating membrane slid down over them. I winced and instead focused back on the Sun. I knew that if I could just make it to totality, no one would see or care as I took a long draw on the flask, its comforting burn chasing the hallucinations away for a short time without fail.

Cara’s correct,” I stepped in, glad the kids were engaged in the reality of what was happening above. “Sometimes, the Earth is closer to the Sun and the Moon is farther away in its orbit and it appears tinier, and we get what’s known as an annular eclipse.”

Our moons never cover our suns,” Sasha pouted, calling out of turn. “Mom says they’re too tiny.”

I’ll bet your Mom can cover the Sun,” Jimmy shot back.

Enough,” I said. It was somewhat reassuring that kids still used Mom jokes in this day and age, even if Sasha seemed to be sprouting tentacles from her back as I watched, and the tips of Jimmy’s extra appendages occasionally blinked and flashed at random.

We only have total solar eclipses from our vantage point in time and space. The Moon is moving slowly away from the Earth,” I said. “Which means that over a billion years from now, the Moon will appear too small to eclipse the Sun.” There, I thought. That should wow them…

Read the full story here.

 

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