Sailing on the Tides of Burning Sand and Other Stories
by Michael Darling Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Short Stories
Ghosts. Monsters. Harry Houdini Meets Charles Dickens in Outer Space.
These amazing stories and more await between the covers of Michael Darling’s first short story collection, featuring all the stories from his bestselling Tales from the Behindbeyond series, including an exclusive new story "The Morrigan's Sister," only available in this volume. From humorous to frightening to thought-provoking, these twelve brilliant stories are an enchanting gift from one of fiction’s most inventive new voices.
“A unique, often creepy delight.” - Michaelbrent Collings Bram Stoker Award Finalist and Bestseller
"Michael Darling is a talent, a master of perspective and playful storytelling.” - Johnny Worthen Award-Winning Author of What Immortal Hand
"Sailing on the Tides of Burning Sand" - Science Fiction
A man and woman, apparent strangers, sail over a surreal desert landscape on their way to a dangerous and uncertain destiny.
"Temp" - Science Fiction
A young woman, working beneath a futuristic city, learns that some risks are worth taking.
"Two Mock, A Killingbird" - Science Fiction
A defense attorney knows her client hid his girlfriend's body for weeks in a freezer, but his motive is even more bizarre than the crime.
"Spera Angelorum" - Science Fiction
Harry Houdini and Charles Dickens meet in outer space to entertain a planet of angels, until a demon appears and there is no escape.
"Grandmother Who Breaks the Sky" - Fantasy/Horror
Ray Bradbury meets H.P. Lovecraft as a little boy defies the curse of a mummified Indian princess, prepared to halt the emergence of an ancient god, even if it costs the lives of everyone close to him.
"The Hollow" - Horror
A 19th-century scientist proves his theory that he can scare his wife to death, but when he succeeds, the real nightmare begins.
"Meredith in St. Louis" - Horror
An NSA agent wants to get close to the cute guy on the train until a viral outbreak brings her closer than she could ever want.
"Blank Check" - Horror/Comedy
Hunting demons can be hell, especially when a vengeful ex delivers two demons for the price of one.
"The Mark" - Fantasy
A Behindbeyond Tale. The Irish mob finds out that they've not only summoned a Fae from a magical realm to help them with a robbery, they've also summoned a more dangerous criminal. Winner of the United Authors Association Grand Prize.
"Lucky Day" - Fantasy
A Behindbeyond Tale. Recounts the adventures of a young Fae halfling as he attempts to fulfill his mother's destiny. A story that parallels events from the bestselling novel Got Luck by Michael Darling.
"The Morrigan's Sister" - Fantasy
A Behindbeyond Tale. Erin works for the Miami-Dade medical examiner's office and gets way more than she bargained for as she uses her magical powers to solve the mystery of the Popsicle Killer. Available only in this short story collection.
"Feasty-Feast" - Horror/Comedy
Tiny predators who live in the wall and feed on memories prove without a doubt that you are what you read. Winner of the Silver Quill award.
Dinner. Not hard to get. Not hard at all. Just reruns.
Brains not fulfilling. Not anymore. Not since Pala almost died.
No. Not since.
Full-filling. Yes. Food in tummy-tum.
Fulfilling? No. Food always reruns now. Bland. Boring. Bad.
Ingk regarded his prey.
Stupey-Stupe. Sits all day. Tiny screen. Big screen. No different. Stupey-Stupe watching crappy-crap.
Ingk stuck out his tongue.
No choice. Need to keep tummy-tum full. Need to keep pretty-pretty Pala alive for another day. Poor Pala. Broken wing. No fly.
Ingk flexed his fingers. Twitched his wings. Flew.
To the ear of Stupey-Stupe. Past the little hairs. No touch. Over the skin. No touch.
No repeat Pala’s mistake.
Through the canal. Stop at the membrane.
Through the hole he had drilled in the bone. To the brain of Stupey-Stupe.
Ingk’s light slits glowed. Brighty-bright.
Dinner. Many pits and scoops in Stupey-Stupe’s brains. Many dinners eaten.
Ingk sighed. Dinners were fulfilling before. Dinners taken from her.
Feasty-Feast had been good dinners. Delicious. Full of many tasty things.
Feasty-Feast had also been quick. Pala’s mistake. Bad flying. Touched the skin. Touched the hairs. Feasty-Feast so quick with her hand. Her finger poking in her ear.
Pala’s wing broken. Ingk had pulled Pala farther in. Into the canal. Safe place near the membrane. Heart pounding. Eyes weeping. Waiting. Feasty-Feast finally falling asleep. Ingk carrying Pala back. Back to the hovel in the wall. Barely able to fly with Pala in his arms. Barely getting home.
Not that night.
Ingk had been angry. Had wanted to go back. Back up the hole. Tear up Feasty-Feast’s brain. Rip. Tear. Scoop. Squish.
Couldn’t go. Had to care for pretty-pretty Pala.
Feasty-Feast left next day. Out the white door. No coming back.
Since then, only Stupey-Stupe brains.
Ingk went to work. Scoop from here. Scoop from there.
Stupey-Stupe never miss it.
Blood pooling at Ingk’s feet. Walking back carrying pinky-pinks. Bloody footprints through the bone tunnel. By the membrane, licking the blood off feet. No trace outside that way. Through the canal.
Light slits off.
Out. Flying away.
Stupey-Stupe moving his finger across the small screen. Staring at the crappy-crap. Absently scratching at his ear.
Too late. No broken wing for Ingk. Ha ha.
Ingk flying. To their hovel. Zip. Through the hole he had drilled in the concrete wall.
Pretty-pretty Pala waiting. Her eyes gray. Broken wing. Sad—but pretending.
Ingk let Pala pick a pinky-pink. Watched to make sure she ate. Keep the tummy-tum full. She closed her eyes after each bite. Ten bites. Tiny bites. Licked her fingers even though it was for show. Gave Ingk a small smile. Pretty-pretty smile.
Satisfied, Ingk ate. Big bite.
Closed his eyes.
Emoji of poop. Rerun.
Text: “what r u doing?” Answer: “tv.” Text: “me 2.” Another rerun.
Images: red cars. Sneakers. Girls in bikinis.
Reruns. Reruns. Reruns.
No fresh. No tasty.
Ingk’s bites all the same things. Same crappy-crap. He didn’t even close his eyes. No new tastes. No reason to bother. No reason to watch/see.
Ingk plopped down. Sat in the dust. Traced a picture. Maybe make Pala smile again.
Pointed nose. Tailfins. Jagged fire. Porthole.
Pala pointed. She knew Ingk’s favorite. Her high voice: “Martian Chronicles. Tasty dinners.”
Ingk nodded. Drew again. New spot. Ocean waves. Curve of land. Palm tree.
Pala waited. Too many good dinners. Could be a man on the beach. Robinson Crusoe. Could be a box under the tree. Treasure Island.
Ingk added a boat with a big cat.
“Life of Pi.” Pala clapped her hands, making Ingk smile. “Yummy-yum.”
Pala fluttered her wings. Happy. Then winced. Pain.
Ingk saw Pala start to cry. Ran his fingers through the dust to erase the drawings.
Stupey-Stupe dinners not fulfilling. Not helping Pala get better. Not helping her heal.
Not for a moontime.
If Pala keeps not getting better . . . no. Not good thinking.
Ingk made fake yawn. Pretending to be tired. “Nighty-night?”
Pala nodded. Pala always tired now.
Ingk stood. Took Pala by the hand. Walked to their little bed. Cotton-ball mattress and dryer sheet blanket. Settled in. Pala snuggling into Ingk’s shoulder, eyes wet. Ingk careful to keep hands away from Pala’s broken wing. Let light slits glow softly. Keep away the dark.
Ingk prayed no bad dreams.
Ingk’s eyes opened.
Good prayer answered. Morning now. No bad dreams.
Ingk slip out of bed. Look at Pala. So small. Gray. Broken.
Voices. Knew voice and new voice.
Sneak through wall. Wings itchy-twitchy.
Stupey-Stupe on the couch already. Tiny screen in hand. Big screen on too.
Bouncy-bounce. Girl with red hair. Jumping. Skipping. To the couch.
Stupey-Stupe not noticing. Playing with screen.
Girl with something. Not screen.
Ingk saw. Watched Girl open the something.
“Don’t you have a phone?” Stupey-Stupe noticed. Finally.
“This is better.” Girl showed Stupey-Stupe. Pages open.
A drop of water landed on Ingk’s foot. Water-not-water. Water-drool.
Ingk swiped the saliva off his lips.
Feasty-Feast had read those things too. Before going out the white door.
Impulsive. Ingk took off. Flew over the Girl and her book. Memorized the words. Back home. Zip.
In the hovel, in the dust, Ingk drew the words.
Pala would wake up soon. Ingk would show her the words. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
Ingk stepped back. More drool falling. Tonight, he would fly.
Pinky-pink and blood. Fulfilling. Healing Pala.
#1 Amazon bestseller Michael Darling has worked as a butcher, a librarian, and a magician. Not all at the same time. He nests in the exquisitely beautiful Rocky Mountains with his equally breathtaking wife, their normal-if-you-don't-look-too-close children and a very large St. Bernese dog named Appa. Yes, the Darlings have a "Nana" dog. Michael's award-winning short fiction is frequently featured in anthologies. Got Luck, his first novel, was published in March 2016 and the sequel, Got Hope, in 2017. Book three in the series, Got Lost, premieres in September. He continues to work on this series as well as other projects.
Michael graduated from Weber State University with a degree in English Literature and loves to blend the classic with the contemporary in his writing. His early work included several plays that were professionally produced along with a number of radio programs that aired in 80 markets around the world. Besides writing, Michael also loves to travel, dabble in languages, and cook elaborate meals.
What should readers know about Sailing on the Tides of Burning Sand?
This book is a compilation of short stories from the past five years of work. Almost all of them have been published previously, and it was time to collect the best ones and put them all together in one place. There’s a mix of fantasy, science-fiction, and horror stories, so, something for everyone! Some stories are award winners as well and several are written in the same universe as my Behindbeyond urban fantasy series.
Sounds interesting! What more can you tell us about the stories?
The fantasy stories are also the most humorous. Something about magic is entertaining and somehow loosens up my funny bone. I don’t write to a specific genre, usually, but I try to tell each story in the most interesting way and each one finds its own genre. Some stories are a mix of genres, really, like “Grandmother Who Breaks the Sky” which one reviewer said was Ray Bradbury meets H.P. Lovecraft. I thought that was a nice compliment!
The title story, “Sailing on the Tides of Burning Sand” is fully sci-fi. It relates the story of a couple trapped on a boat as it moves across a nameless desert. There’s a lot about love and marriage and forgiveness to it. I spent ten years as a professional magician, and I wondered what would happen if technology or evolution gave everyone special abilities. How would pretend magic have value to people who could actually do magical things? That’s how Harry Houdini and Charles Dickens meet on a distant planet in “Spera Angelorum.” Readers who like that one might also like my novel Hollowfall.
The scary ones are more primal. “The Hollow” is about a scientist finding out it’s possible to scare someone to death—and what happens next. The shortest story, less than 1,000 words, is “Feasty-Feast” about brain-eating parasites with a surprisingly sweet story to tell. Really! There will be an animated film for this story in the next few months. Meanwhile, I’m including it for your readers to enjoy for free!
Awesome! You mentioned several stories set in the Behindbeyond universe?
Yes. There are three stories that are connected to my book series. You don’t need to know anything from the novels to enjoy them, although fans of the novels will read them from a different perspective. “The Mark” is a backstory for the villains of the series. It’s always fun to write anti-heroes. “Lucky Day” coincides with the setting and events from chapter one of Got Luck and adds a whole lot of depth along with a separate adventure for that story’s main character. The man character of the series also falls in love with another character, named Erin. They accidentally get married in book one, which was fun to write, but that’s not the beginning of their relationship. “The Morrigan’s Sister” starts with how these fan-favorite characters meet but the story is all hers. This story has never been published and will remain exclusive to this collection. Each of these stories, however, provide a solid introduction to the series and, hopefully, readers will enjoy them and crave something more lengthy and involving. I’ve included an excerpt from the latest book, Got Lost, for your readers to try.
What’s life like for you at home?
Our family has resided in the same house since before my wife and I had our first anniversary. The house has been the victim of my efforts to add and improve on it. It's also experienced the swelling required to accommodate a growing family as we have added kids, pets, another kid, another pet, as happens in life. Our children are starting to venture out on their own now, and it’s amazing to see how accomplished and interesting they are. To keep us company, we have a big St. Bernese dog. He looks like a St. Bernard but he’s half Bernese mountain dog. While we didn’t intend to do so, the Darlings do have a "Nana" dog, which makes for a lot of jokes.
Before the pandemic, we liked to travel, and hope to resume at some point. A lot of settings for my stories come from our trips to Europe, South America, and various favorite spots around the United States. Being stuck at home, however, isn’t too bad. We like to cook and most of us take turns putting together meals that an uninformed stranger might mistake for “gourmet.”
What are you working on next?
That’s a situation that seems to change almost every day. I made a conscious marketing decision to spread my work across multiple genres and now I’m working on going deeper. I’m working on a young adult sci-fi novel next. It’s titled Earthplum and it’s about a teenage girl with synesthesia on the run from the FBI and aliens. It’s a high-concept plot that might redefine sci-fi to a degree and it would make a great movie. After that, I have a middle-grade epic fantasy series that I’ve been working on for a while. Then it will be time for another novel from the Behindbeyond. I hope to get at least two of these projects finished for next year.
How can readers find you?
I have all the usual social media. Find me at the links below! At the moment, readers can get a copy of “Grandmother Who Breaks the Sky” for free by visiting my website.