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Tales from the Threshold

Tales from the Threshold

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Tales from the Threshold

243 pages
3 hours
Nov 25, 2013


From a slayer of the undead going on a first date with the girl of his dreams; to a middle-aged woman confronting four doppelgängers of herself; to a middle school geek coming to grips with the consequences of being able to hack into other minds; to three individuals encountering the weird in the Wild West—these and the other tales in this collection explore the threshold between endings and beginnings, reality and fantasy, despair and hope.

"…  this is a voice that is unfortunately not often heard from."—Albuquerque The Magazine on Parallels.

The tales in this collection include: A Maze of Cubicles; Green Grow the Rushes; Just One Date; King of All He Surveyed; Parallels; Shade Town; The Enchantment of Coyotes; and Writer's Flight.

About the Author: Lynn Kilmore writes mostly dark fantasy, suspense, and science fiction tales. Stories published include novels such as Cubicles, Blood, and Magic and Soul Cages, as well as short stories such as Just One Date. She made her debut with a short story in Albuquerque The Magazine.

Nov 25, 2013

About the author

Lynn Kilmore writes mostly dark fantasy, suspense, and science fiction tales. Stories published include novels such as Cubicles, Blood, and Magic and Soul Cages, as well as short stories such as Just One Date. She made her debut with a short story in Albuquerque The Magazine. Lynn earned degrees in geography and physics. She worked as a research assistant and software quality engineer before becoming a full-time writer. She and her family live in the New Mexico desert. Visit her website at for more information, free stories, and upcoming book releases. Lynn Kilmore was previously published under the pen name of L. M. May. Two novels (Cubicles, Blood, and Magic; Soul Cages), one collection (Tales from the Threshold), and eight short stories (Parallels; Writer's Flight; Green Grow the Rushes; The Enchantment of Coyotes; Shade Town; Just One Date; King of All He Surveyed; A Maze of Cubicles) were published under that name. Everything will either be reissued under Lynn Kilmore or taken off sale.

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Tales from the Threshold - Lynn Kilmore

Tales from the Threshold

Lynn Kilmore

Tales from the Threshold second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore

Tales from the Threshold copyright © 2013 by L. M. May

Tales from the Threshold published 2013 by Osuna Publishing

Book and cover design copyright © 2014 by Osuna Publishing

Cover art copyright © by Indigocrow/

All rights reserved.

This story is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogue, and locales are either drawn from the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, and locales is entirely coincidental.

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

Table of Contents

Title Page


King of All He Surveyed

The Enchantment of Coyotes

A Maze of Cubicles

Green Grow the Rushes

Writer's Flight

Shade Town

Just One Date

Other Stories by Lynn Kilmore


Author Bio

Copyright Information

One of the (many) fascinating things I discovered after joining my local PTA chapter as a volunteer was that while to the world at large we appeared to be just stay-at-home moms and dads, the reality was much more complex. There were writers, artists, retired military veterans, accountants, teachers, et cetera among the stay-at-home parents that I crossed paths with over the years.

Everyone has past experiences, random accidents, and hidden talents that could have impacted their lives in unexpected ways with only a slight change in what had happened.

My college education was in physics and geography, and I found myself thinking about the countless parallel universes that could result from someone making different life choices or from slight changes in the randomness of life. What would it feel like to encounter other selves? From those musings came the spark that triggered this short story.


Kate was walking back to her minivan, arms piled high with gifts, humming Hark! The Herald Angels Sing under her breath. The tiny flakes were coming down harder from the twilight sky, the air smelled crisp with snow, and she needed to get a move on and leave Old Town since driving home in the dark while it snowed would be no fun.

But there was a beauty to how the flakes swirled down that made her feet slow so she could savor the sights around her.

The Albuquerque city lights lit up the underbelly of the snow clouds with an orange glow, and the Christmas lights and streetlights around Old Town Plaza made the flakes glitter coming down. Looking up, the way the flakes whizzed around made her think of a snow globe.

She loved snow globes, and she had her favorite three (one of a skater, one of a snowman, and one of Santa in his sleigh with the reindeer) in the living room on the mantlepiece above the fireplace. When the kids were younger, she'd get nagged for the globes to be brought down and shaken in turn so that the kids could watch each globe become filled with flying flakes and glitter.

These days her kids never asked to see the globes anymore, they were all grown up and serious and had moved away. Having the youngest head off to New Mexico Tech back in August had been hard for her to bear, for now the house was too empty and silent. Her husband Neal had no intention of retiring any time soon, so it would be just her and the house during the day for years and years to come.

And here she was, fifty-six years old, and wondering what would fill the emptiness now that all five kids were flown. She'd given them everything, held nothing back, made them the center of her world, and now that center of gravity was gone, and she was flying off into the dark void to a place she'd never been before.

Her hair was dyed black to hide the gray, and Neal was still with her and loved her, but both of them were as plump as turkeys, and she could see in her children's eyes when they came home from college or their jobs to visit that they thought she was boring and washed up. All used up.

And yet her professors in college had considered her a girl of promise. Instead she'd gotten her biology degree, married Neal right after graduation, taken a lab technician job to support him while he did his master's in engineering, then stayed home to raise their five kids. She'd never done medical school as her parents and teachers had wanted her to.

It was too late for medical school now.

The snowflakes hit the raised hood of her parka and the packages, making a soft crackly noise on impact. The flakes had started off the size of pinpricks, but were getting bigger, turning into the pillow feather kind.

It was looking up into the sky again, as she walked past the San Felipe de Neri church, which was her undoing. She didn't pay enough attention to the sidewalk, and her booted foot slipped on the patch of ice, tripping her backwards. The packages she carried kept her from using her arms to recover her balance, and so she fell backwards and hit the snow-covered sidewalk hard.


Kate laid there on the ice to catch her breath back, staring up at the snow-filled sky, feeling like a darn fool for landing backwards on her butt, the packages scattered in the snow around her. Chilled flakes drifted onto her face and lips.

Someone must have seen her fall, for she could hear the crunch of snow as footsteps rushed toward her.

Are you all right? A woman's voice, urgent.

I'm fine, Kate said.

The woman reached her and squatted down to check out her limbs.

That's when Kate realized she was looking up into an odd reflection of her very own face.

Okay, this isn't possible, Kate thought. She just looks like me by accident. Sorta. We're not the same. Her hair is completely gray and she looks to be older. And she's as skinny as a rail.

I'm a doctor, the woman said. Can you move your fingers and toes?

Kate made to sit up, but the woman put a firm hand on her shoulder to stop her.

Please, lie still, the woman said. Does anything feel broken? Wiggle your fingers for me.

Kate wiggled her fingers. Then wiggled her toes. I'm fine, she said. Just a bit shaken up. She sat up, and the hood of her parka fell back, exposing her head to view.

The woman did a double take.

Kate held out her hand. Kate Brown, she said. Nice to meet you.

"Dear God, the woman said, then recollected herself to quickly shake Kate's hand. Taking a deep breath, she then said, I'm Dr. Kathyrn Cochran."

Hearing her maiden name spoken by this other woman made Kate feel like she'd been flipped upside down on a roller coaster too many times. Despite Dr. Cochran trying to stop her, she staggered to her feet and began to swiftly scoop up her dropped packages. She knew she was almost babbling as she spoke, saying, Well, nice meeting you and all, Dr. Cochran. I need to get going home. Busy. Four days until Christmas, and three of the kids are coming home for the holidays.

Dr. Cochran seized hold of Kate by her parka, before Kate could grab the last package, and said, "Do you realize the implications of this?"

Yeah, but big whoop, Kate said. The world is large enough for the two of us. She tried to tug her parka out of Cochran's grip, but the doctor held on too tight.

"Think, Dr. Cochran said. Mom and Dad would have said something if this was the usual order of things."

That was true, if there were two different versions of her running around, her parents ought to have noticed.

As she was opening her mouth to agree, another voice said, Is everything okay?

Both she and Dr. Cochran turned toward the woman walking up to them. This woman wore a woven wool jacket in a geometric pattern, her long gray hair in two braids on either side of her face, her bare head dotted with snowflakes. There were thick cascades of Navajo turquoise jewelry hanging from around her neck, and huge loopy silver earrings that nearly touched her shoulders.

She was another one of them.

"Who are you?" Kate said, wondering just how many versions of herself were hanging out on the Old Town Plaza this evening.

The woman froze as she got a good look at the two of them. "Dear God, she cried out, you are both—"

Yes, we are, Kate said. It was funny, almost. My name's Kate Brown, but I was born Kathyrn Cochran. You are?

I call myself Kat, she said, fingering the turquoise stones around her neck. Kat Cochran.

"Hell, Dr. Cochran snapped. Now's there two of you."

Kate noted that Kat had turquoise rings on her fingers, and thin silver bracelets on her wrists. The woman had a definite jewelry thing going, though Kate could understand it. Silver and turquoise had always been her favorite kind of jewelry to look at. Perhaps she ought to get some to wear.

"Who are you?" Kat said to Dr. Cochran.

Dr. Kathyrn Cochran, she said, not bothering to offer her hand this time to shake, instead folding her arms across her chest.

This is kinda funny, Kate thought. Here I am, split in three. She said to Kat, Let me guess, you're a painter.

No, jeweler.

Figures, Kate said. But I always assumed I'd do painting if I went to art school.

"You didn't go to art school? Kat said, sounding taken aback. She looked Kate up and down. What did you do to yourself?"

To her aggravation, Kate could feel herself blushing. Five pregnancies.

There's more to it than that, Dr. Cochran said.

Kate didn't like how Dr. Cochran was studying her in a professional manner.

Dr. Cochran continued. My hypothesis would be severe bouts of untreated clinical depression resulting in eating binges, combined with pregnancy weight gain.

It's none of your business! Kate shouted. Really, it wasn't. Her problems were her own, and she wasn't going to be looked down at by an alternate version of herself.

I speak from experience, Dr. Cochran said. "I had problems with severe depression and bulimia until I got treatment in my early thirties. So don't you dare get defensive with me. I know how you feel."

Kate bit her lip. This Dr. Kathyrn Cochran—this parallel version of herself—knew her too well, knew how it felt to be barely able to drag herself out of bed to face the pointlessness of another day, and would see through any lie Kate chose to spout.

And then there was the way that Kat watched the two of them. Instinctively Kate said to Kat, You had the depression, too.

Sighing, Kat nodded, then kicked at a lump of snow.

The motion of Kat's foot drew Kate's attention to the last package of hers that lay on the ground from when she'd slipped. A thin layer of fallen snow now lay upon it, and she quickly bent down to pick it up before it became impossible to find in the growing dark of evening.

Kat said to Dr. Cochran, So, what do we do now?

I don't know. Dr. Cochran put her hands on her hips and looked around, then recoiled at the sight of something across the street under the plaza trees.

"What? Kate said. What's wrong?" She looked in the direction Dr. Cochran was staring, to see someone jaywalking across the street to reach them. As the figure staggered up to them, reeking of sweat and beer, Kate realized it was another version of herself.

This version of us, Dr. Cochran said sotto voce, obviously decided to self-medicate her depression with alcohol instead of food.

I know you all, the drunken woman said, slurring her words. She threw her arms around Kate and Kat as if they were her best buddies, nearly making them sink under her weight as she slumped forward.

What's your name? Dr. Cochran demanded.

I don't know, the woman said, then belched.

Kate leaned away from the stench of beer and rotting teeth, but the woman kept a firm grip on her and Kat.

As far as Kate was concerned, this multiplication of herself was getting out of hand. We'll call you Kit, she said.

Kit staggered, bumping into Kat, but Kate dropped her packages to free her hands, so that between her and Kat they kept the drunken woman upright.

Twilight was rapidly turning into night, and the flakes were coming down faster. All Kate wanted to do was go home and forget this whole silly farce. Let the others deal with being in her world.

"I really need to get home," Kate said.

What home? Dr. Cochran said. Don't you realize what this means? Depending on where we are, your family could very well not exist.

That made Kate shiver.

For all we know, Dr. Cochran continued, "none of us could be where we're supposed to be. This could be the residence of a completely different version of ourselves that we haven't met yet."

Except for the drunken Kit, all three of them gazed about at the empty plaza and the silence of the luminaria-lit churchyard next to them.

"This plaza should be full of people and traffic, Kat said, her voice rising in panic. There's no one else here."

Kit belched again, and then leaned forward to vomit a foul-smelling liquid onto the ground.

She's drunk too much, Dr. Cochran said.

No duh, Sherlock, Kate said. She and Kat hauled Kit away from the steaming puddle on the snow. Look on the bright side, Kate thought, at least Kit's puke missed my dropped packages. But this is really starting to worry me. Surely there must be other people somewhere around here.

But before Kate could propose that they conduct a search by walking a block over to Church Street, she saw a figure pass under the plaza trees.

Do you see her over there? Kate whispered to Kat and Dr. Cochran. I think version number five has come to visit us.

She heard Dr. Cochran mutter Crap under her breath.

Kat just gave a laugh that sounded almost crazy. Let's go look, she said. The more the merrier.

There didn't seem to be anything better to do, so Kate followed Kat's lead, which made Dr. Cochran decide to come with them, and between the three of them (with various huffs and grunts), they escorted a woozy Kit across the snowy street and onto the plaza.

The shadowy figure caught sight of them, and strolled under the nearest streetlight so they could see her.

Kate let Kit's weight slip fully onto Dr. Cochran and Kat for support so that she could get closer to the waiting woman.

The woman wore Kate's favorite blue cocktail dress from over twenty years ago (the one with the big shoulder pads), and had no winter jacket on, so that snowflakes covered the silk. Her black hair had been frizzed into a halo around her head, and her coloring was that of a reanimated corpse.

This was an earlier version of Kate Brown, age thirty-four. Kate was certain of it. Herself dead. Dead Kate.

Kate said, The station wagon accident on Central, back in '89. But I walked away from it safe and sound.

I didn't, Dead Kate said. Her mouth moved in an odd way, the muscles not quite working together.

I'm sorry, Kate said. She became aware that the other three versions of herself were lingering behind her, as if she could shield them from Dead Kate.

Kit moaned, and weaved on her feet, making Kat stagger. Kat said, I don't think we can hold her up much longer, she's about to pass out.

Kate's body was shaking, but she wasn't sure if it was because of the cold or the fact that the dead version of herself had a glassy stare.

She said to Dead Kate, How do we get out of here?

Fall back where you came from, Dead Kate said.

I don't understand. Then Kate shut her mouth, as she thought about hitting the ground after her fall. Okay, I think I've got it. Back to the patch of ice it is.

Kate walked back toward the icy sidewalk where her dropped packages lay upon the snow, the other women following—except for Dead Kate, who retreated into the shadows of the plaza.

The other two kept the drunken Kit upright as Kate again gathered up each package, shaking off the snow, to tuck under her arms.

Then Kate went to stand next to the patch of ice, and rubbed one booted foot across it. Sorta slick. She said to Dr. Cochran, I'm worried. What's going to happen to all of you? How will you get back?

I think you're the linchpin, Dr. Cochran said. Once you're back in place, the rest of us can scatter.

Kate hefted her packages, holding tight to them, as she stood on the edge of the ice patch, making sure she faced the direction she'd been in as she'd fallen down the first time.

She took one last look at Dr. Kathyrn Cochran, Kat Cochran, and Kit. Kit sagged between Dr. Cochran and Kat, nearly pulling the two women off their feet.

Then Kate scooted forward with her booted feet onto the ice, but couldn't find a way to fall. Her body kept instinctively saving her before she tumbled.

Dr. Cochran pushed Kit onto Kat to hold, then came to stand beside Kate. Here, let me help, Dr. Cochran said in an annoyed tone, and gave Kate a shove that had her slipping to fall down onto the ground.


That's how it always ought to be when one falls, an encounter with another universe, Kate thought to herself as she lay on her back on the sidewalk, the whirling snowflakes lit by the plaza lights as they fell. The sky was back to early twilight, and she could feel the cold of the snow through the back of her jeans.

She wriggled her fingers, then her toes. Nothing seemed broken.

Sitting up, she sighed, and looked around at the cars driving along the plaza streets, their headlights throwing the falling flakes in stark relief, then staggered to her

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