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Evolution Volumes I and II

Evolution Volumes I and II

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Evolution Volumes I and II

369 pages
5 hours
Jun 8, 2022


Two Anthologies of Contest Winners in One Volume:

Laugh a little, cry a little, think a little in this eclectic mix that will excite, interest, and intrigue from the first story to the last.

EVOLVED PUBLISHING PRESENTS 20 great stories by 19 authors featuring many genres and many voices, all with one goal: provide the reader with a fun and entertaining journey through the short fiction format. [DRM-Free]


  • If I Should Die by Amanda Papenfus [Grand Prize Winner]
  • The Last Earthling by D.T. Conklin
  • Timothy by Anjuli Bowen
  • Grain Neutral Spirits by A. Frank Bower
  • One Last Thought by Lane Diamond
  • A Building This Size by Jeffrey B. Burton
  • Sirius Issues by Ariyana Spencer
  • Imagination by Stephen Patrick
  • Courage through Fear by Ruby Standing Deer
  • A Boy and His Monster by Matt Mok


  • Sixteen Down by Brian Panowich [Grand Prize Winner]
  • The Million Dollar Club by David Ballard
  • Tunnel Vision by Lane Diamond
  • The Drying by Voss Foster
  • The Living by Ranee Dillon
  • Walk Knock by Conda V. Douglas
  • Ursus Americanus by John Anthony Allen
  • Beneath the Skin by Ioana Visan
  • En Plein Air by Erin Ryan
  • Behind Family Lines by Stevie Mikayne


Jun 8, 2022

About the author

Lane Diamond is the pen name for David Lane. He grew up in Algonquin, Illinois, where he graduated from Harry D. Jacobs High School in 1978. After a short college stint, he served in the U.S. Air Force at Ramstein AB, Germany, 1980-1982, and at Lowry AFB, Denver, CO, 1982-1983. For more, please visit his website and blog at www.LaneDiamond.com.

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Evolution Volumes I and II - Lane Diamond



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EVOLUTION Volumes I and II

Two Anthologies of Contest Winners in One Volume

Copyright © 2022 Evolved Publishing LLC


Original 1st Edition Collections Separately:

VOL. 1: Copyright © 2011 Evolved Publishing LLC

VOL. 2: Copyright © 2012 Evolved Publishing LLC


ISBN (EPUB Version): 1622534670

ISBN-13 (EPUB Version): 978-1-62253-467-8


Lead Editor: Lane Diamond

Assistant Editor: D.T. Conklin

Cover Artist: Lane Diamond

Original Cover Artist (First 2 Covers): Sarah Shaw

Interior Designer: Lane Diamond



If I Should Die Copyright 2011 Amanda Papenfus

The Last Earthling Copyright 2011 D.T. Conklin

Timothy Copyright 2011 Anjuli Bowen

Grain Neutral Spirits Copyright 2011 A. Frank Bower

One Last Thought Copyright 2011 Lane Diamond

A Building This Size Copyright 2011 Jeffrey B. Burton

Sirius Issues Copyright 2011 Ariyana Spencer

Imagination Copyright 2011 Stephen Patrick

Courage through Fear Copyright 2011 Ruby Standing Deer

A Boy and His Monster Copyright 2011 Matt Mok



Sixteen Down Copyright © 2012 by Brian Panowich

The Million Dollar Club Copyright © 2012 by David Ballard

Tunnel Vision Copyright © 2012 by Lane Diamond

The Drying Copyright © 2012 by Voss Foster

The Living Copyright © 2012 by Ranee Dillon

Walk Knock Copyright © 2012 by Conda V. Douglas

Ursus Americanus Copyright © 2012 by John Anthony Allen

Beneath the Skin Copyright © 2012 by Ioana Visan

En Plein Air Copyright © 2012 by Erin Ryan

Behind Family Lines Copyright © 2012 by Stevie Mikayne



At the end of this anthology of approximately 70,000 words, you will find two Special Sneak Previews: 1) FORGIVE ME, ALEX by Lane Diamond, the critically-acclaimed, award-winning first book in the Tony Hooper series of psychological thrillers, and; 2) THE HOLOCAUST ENGINE by David Rike and Stephen Patrick, the award-winning first book in The Holocaust Engine series of pandemic post-apocalyptic adventures. We think you’ll enjoy these books, too, and provide these previews as a FREE extra service, which you should in no way consider a part of the price you paid for this book. We hope you will both appreciate and enjoy the opportunity. Thank you.


eBook License Notes:

You may not use, reproduce or transmit in any manner, any part of this book without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations used in critical articles and reviews, or in accordance with federal Fair Use laws. All rights are reserved.

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only; it may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, please return to your eBook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.



This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or the author has used them fictitiously.

What Others Are Saying




"A Masterful Collection, and Well Worth the Read: There is a blend in this collection of established authors and new contest winners. To see the raw ideas of some, or the refined writing styles of others is truly interesting. Overall, I feel this collection was put together with a mix of the right stuff." ~ Thomas Stonewall


"A Rich Dessert: ...a diverse set of short stories that evoke feelings of wonder, morality, love and just plain fun. While you can read this collection in a day or two—don’t: read one story each day and savor it like a rich dessert. A few stories left me begging for a sequel or a novella to extend the moment." ~ Ben Bartman


"Endlessly Enjoyable: Evolution: Vol. 1 is an endlessly enjoyable collection of stories that, while lacking a set theme or shared genre, somehow gravitate towards philosophical examinations of Being & Nothingness. Here you will find death, lost love, wasted life, hope reborn, stands made, courage summoned and even The End Of All Things. Tremendous stories by D.T. Conklin, Amanda Papenfus, Lane Diamond and Ruby Standing Deer not only entertain and enlighten, but seek out new answers to age-old questions. Do yourself a favor, and dive into this rare collection of intelligent and heart-felt fiction, that flourishes somewhere between faith and understanding. There is not a weak tale amongst them, and every one will tickle your brain and your heart." ~ Axel Howerton, Author of Hot Sinatra


"Fun Stories in Contest-Winner Anthology: This anthology intrigued me—partly because it was a contest, with winning entries published along with stories from veteran writers, and partly because its theme was many themes: science fiction, suspense, fantasy, mystery, basically pulp-style or speculative fiction genres. It's fun to read such a mix of styles and subjects. If one story doesn't move you, the next one likely will." ~ David E. Ballard


"A Story for Everyone: I would read one of the short stories, fall in love, and then declare it my favorite. Then I would go on to read the next story, fall in love and declare it my favorite. It continued like this until I had read them all. There wasn't one story I disliked, and though I am partial to certain genres, I found each story intriguing, beautifully written, and the characters drew me in. It didn't matter if the story fell in a genre I read or not—it didn't matter." ~ ALC




"Short on Quantity... Long on Quality: Evolution: Vol. 2 is not only the perfect carry along collection for readers on the go, but readers period. The writers in this collection all have a unique ability to fill a small space with a lot of story goodness. My favorite short stories are those with that ‘twist’ and I found those here in spades." ~ John Cannon


"Quirky Surprises: I wasn't sure what to expect from this batch of short stories, but I walked away from it pretty damn impressed. ...There are more than a couple gems that stood out to reassure me that there is some good stuff happening in the indie press world." ~ Chuck Regan


"An Excellent, Wide-Ranging Collection: This collection bounces effortlessly from one genre to the next, each story standing on its own and complimenting those around it. I enjoyed how one story was Sci-Fi and the next was Horror. Throw in some words about the evils that lawyers do and you have this book." ~ Ryan Sayles


"Wonderful Compilation of Stories from Various Genres: What can I say? It's a great compilation of stories expanded across several genres. It's not often that I can sit and read straight through in a matter of hours, but this book had me hooked! I was emotionally attached, thrown across the floor and blown away. As an artist I am constantly on the look out for inspiring ideas and concepts and within its pages I was presented with a plethora of natural readable stories all served up in a tidy package." ~ JesterDev


"Literate Again: I have found it increasingly difficult to make time to enjoy a full-length novel, however when I decided to create a reading window for the occasional novelette after downloading Evolution: Vol. 2, I ended up reading the whole, brilliant collection in one sitting." ~ Ruth Toombs


We’re pleased to offer you not one, but two Special Sneak Previews at the end of this book.


In the first preview, you’ll enjoy the first four chapters of Lane Diamond’s FORGIVE ME, ALEX, the award-winning first book in the Tony Hooper series of psychological thrillers..



The Kindle Book Review says: "Lane Diamond has succeeded in bringing to the surface the dark and horrifying mind of a psychotic serial killer, while at the same time bringing forth the desperate need for humanity and justice for the victims and their families."




TONY HOOPER Series at Evolved Publishing

In the second preview, you’ll enjoy the prologue and first chapter of THE HOLOCAUST ENGINE by David Rike & Stephen Patrick, the award-winning first book in The Holocaust Engine series of pandemic post-apocalyptic adventures.



...a chilling community horror adventure like no other, and one which leaves you with a lump in your throat throughout. ...one of the most interesting and original virus-style thriller novels I’ve read in a long while. ~ Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews, K.C. Finn (5 STARS)




THE HOLOCAUST ENGINE Series at Evolved Publishing

Table of Contents


What Others Are Saying


Table of Contents




IF I SHOULD DIE by Amanda Papenfus


TIMOTHY by Anjuli Bowen


ONE LAST THOUGHT by Lane Diamond

A BUILDING THIS SIZE by Jeffrey B. Burton

SIRIUS ISSUES by Ariyana Spencer

IMAGINATION by Ruby Standing Deer

COURAGE THROUGH FEAR by  Ruby Standing Deer



SIXTEEN DOWN by Brian Panowich


TUNNEL VISION by Lane Diamond

THE DRYING by Voss Foster

THE LIVING by Renee Dillon

WALK KNOCK by Conda V. Douglas

URSUS AMERICANUS by John Anthony Allen


EN PLEIN AIR by Erin Ryan



More from Evolved Publishing

Special Sneak Preview: FORGIVE ME, ALEX by Lane Diamond

Special Sneak Preview: THE HOLOCAUST ENGINE by David Rike & Stephen Patrick


For those of you who, like us, still love a great short story.


For every aspiring author who pursues that ultimate dream.


Shortly after we created Evolved Publishing, we published the winners of our first short story contest in December 2011, in Evolution: Vol. 1. We were thrilled with the result: 10 great stories from 10 talented authors. When we opened up our second short story contest for submissions just a few months later, we were admittedly concerned about matching the quality of that first anthology, given that we’d set the bar so high.

Well, our concern quickly evaporated, because in Evolution: Vol. 2, we were thrilled to offer yet another fantastic 10 stories from 10 authors.

Now, 10 years on, we’ve combined the two anthologies in this one volume to bring you an even greater value. The end-result is an eclectic mix that will keep you interested from start to finish. We hope you enjoy it, and that you’ll take a moment to post your review and spread the word. Those reviews mean so much to us.

On behalf of each of the authors represented here, and on behalf of the entire Evolved Publishing team, we thank you. As a hybrid small press, we’d never survive without you.

And this anthology represents so well our initial and perpetual promise at EP: Quality is Priority #1.

And who knows... maybe there will be an Evolution: Vol. 3 somewhere in our future.

~ Lane Diamond, CEO, Managing Publisher/Editor, Author – June 6, 2022

If I Should Die

Amanda Papenfus

(Grand Prize Winner)


Does this coffin make me look fat? I asked my friend Madeleine as I stretched across the red satin like a model, my left arm above my head, the right resting on my knee-length skirt. My right leg rested over my left, the long vine-like scar looking beautiful, if only for a moment, in the sun filtering through the skylight.

Madeleine stood a couple feet away, twisting the chain to her skirt around her finger.

I blew her a kiss.

She dropped the chain. You’re morbid, Jes.

She looked toward the funeral home attendant, so I looked too. He had the same tight-lipped, perhaps constipated, expression he’d had since we got there. We’d shown up with my parents, my mother holding my hand, my father shuffling his feet behind us. I asked if Maddie and I could go alone, told them it would be an exercise in facing fear. They agreed. The funeral attendant had refused at first, but my mother whispered something in his ear, and he let us in. My parents retreated to the car, and we were alone with various caskets, save for the funeral attendant.

He stood against the wall now, hands folded in front of him, and stared straight ahead.

Come on, Jescha, Maddie said, pulling at her fishnet sleeves. Get out of there.

She only used my full name when anxious, but I didn’t listen. Instead, I laid my head against the pillow, stuck my legs out, and imagined what it would be like to lie in here with my eyes closed as family and friends walked past, kissing my cold forehead and crying. Would I look like myself, or would they put me in a pink frilly dress and heavy lipstick?

I’m not morbid, I said, just practical. I’m preparing.

Maddie sighed. She felt bad; I was, after all, dying. She placed her hands over mine, her black fingernail polish matching my own.

Can you put the lid down? I asked.

She hesitated, looking back at the attendant. With a sigh, she put the lid down over me.

The stagnant air smelled faintly of formaldehyde. My heart beat faster, and I took a couple shaky breaths. I wanted to pound on the coffin lid, ask to be let out, but I needed to do this. With eyes closed—hardly necessary in my entombed state—I imagined dirt being thrown on top of the casket, deep red roses landing on the smooth cherry wood, prayers to a god I wasn’t sure existed being said above me by a preacher I couldn’t trust.

Hey, someone shouted over me. Hey, that’s enough!

The attendant opened the coffin, and I opened my eyes. His face was red, and a little blue vein in his forehead pulsed like a snake. You, Missy, get out of there this second. You are not going to play around in there anymore.

I’m not playing, I said, I’m practicing. You lie down on a bed before you buy it. Why should my coffin be any different?

He opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again—like a goldfish in a bowl. I almost expected him to blow a bubble.

Out, he finally said. Get out. If you want to shop further, come back in with your parents. They could bring a leash. He pointed a yellow-nailed finger toward my collar, black with a couple chains connected to a metal ring.

Come on, Jes. Maddie tugged at my hand.

I sat up, crouched and jumped onto the floor. In my thick-soled boots, I landed with a thud. I felt as if tears were about to flow. Maddie must have sensed it because she said, Don’t, your eyeliner will run, and hugged me so tight I thought she would suffocate me.

I almost hoped she would; it would have been better than the death awaiting me.


Cancer sounds like it should be gentle. Those two syllables: kan’sər. They look more menacing spelled phonetically—simple and short, yet neither of the above. How do you get from a crab to a malignant tumor? Who decided this constellation within me was going to share the same name as the constellation in the sky, as if there’s any of that shining beauty in those cells? Then again, what are stars but balls of gas, destined to burn out?


Usually, melanoma occurred in those over thirty, or girls who spent each week getting a perfect orange glow. I was fifteen, and hardly the sun goddess, when I’d sat on the doctor’s chair, watching him draw out a diagram explaining that the melanin cells, which create pigment, were multiplying and had become malignant.

My head swam with m words, and then I focused on the last: malignant.

I could die from this, a mole that shape-shifted and became cancer, seeping below the skin like acid. The good news was that they’d probably been able to remove it all in the surgery I’d just had. They’d cut out the cancerous cells, and a radius around and below them, then sewed me up like a rag doll, black-stitched skin resembling a cocoon.

I don’t want to scare you, the doctor said, but if it’s going to come back, it’s most likely to do so within five years. If it did, it would probably be in a different spot, and he would remove it, same as he’d just done.

And if it doesn’t? I asked. If it’s in the same spot?

He looked down at the chair for a moment before looking at me again. Then it’s as bad as if you’d never treated it to begin with. We can do radiation, but there really is little we can do to prolong life.

A year later, I’d sat in his chair again, listening to the options. We’d decided to try radiation. May as well. But he’d said it would be best to start preparing. Just in case.

Physically, I was trying to prepare, from talking about my funeral openly to searching for the casket, but really, my struggle was with the uncertainty of what would happen afterwards. I could pick out every detail of my death beforehand, except what would come after I died.

I wanted to believe, but wasn’t sure what to do. I had no idea how to prepare for that.


I want to believe that death is not forever. I want to believe I’m going somewhere nice, where this cancer has been erased and the forecast for my future is seventy-two degrees and sunny. I want to believe I’ll see those who passed before me. I want to believe God loves me, whatever his/her real name is, wherever he/she is, just because I’m me, and I lived, and I tried. I want to believe this is not the end of me. I want to believe. I want to believe. I want to believe.

Fuck that! I want to know.


I was reading a book on the afterlife, trying to figure out what awaited me, when I felt Maddie’s eyes on me. I turned to see her dark, blue-green eyes peering over the top of her book.

What are you doing? I asked, not accusing, just curious.

Savoring you.

I felt my cheeks get warm, unsure whether to be creeped-out or flattered. Um, okay.

Sorry. She dropped her book. Is it freaking you out?

No, I lied. I just wasn’t sure what you were doing.

Well.... She scooted closer to me on the couch, I was just thinking. Soon you’re going to be gone, and... I don’t know. I have pictures and stuff, but I really want to remember you. I want to be able to close my eyes and see you—every detail.

You can’t right now? I’m hurt. Although I laughed, I knew how it was. Maddie had been my friend my whole life. People always thought we were sisters, and we never told them otherwise. I knew what she looked like, long black hair, pale round face with a few freckles, eyes dark blue-green like the sea at night. But when I closed my eyes, I couldn’t see her.

Do you think... I don’t know... that you might be able to talk to me?

I’m talking right now. I knew what she was getting at.

No, I mean, after you’re gone.

That was always the word she used for it—gone. We’d both come to accept that I was going to die, but she couldn’t call it that. She’d call it gone, like it was some kind of trip and I’d be back. I wanted to scream, "Dead, just call it that!" No. I couldn’t do that to her.

I don’t know, I said. I’d like to think we could still communicate somehow. Guess we’ll have to wait ‘til I’m gone, and then you can find out.

Well, what if you can’t... like... talk? How will I know it’s you?

Who could possibly answer such a question? I wasn’t even sure if I’d be a spirit—or if I’d be anything. What did she want? Flashing lights and rain? Some ghostly echo of my voice calling to her at night? A chill to run down her neck, stopping at her heart-shaped birthmark mid-back?

A finger snapped in front of me.

Where were you? Maddie asked.

Trying to figure out your question.

My mother called for dinner.

I said, I’ll have to get back to you on it.


I once ate at a Chinese restaurant where I sat by a fish tank. Seven huge goldfish swam around faux plants, nearly running into each other. One of them had a tumor on its side, a thick grayish bubble tinged black at the bottom. I wanted to smuggle the fish into my water glass and take him to the ocean, let him loose. It didn’t matter—or occur to me—at the time that goldfish don’t live in saltwater. He looked nearly suffocated in that tank. All I wanted was for his last moments to be free, to have some space at least to breathe.


It felt as if someone had slapped a pillow over my face and rammed a knee into my ribs. I tried to suck in air, but couldn’t. I tried to sit up, to move my hand, even. Couldn’t. I tried to move my mouth, screaming without sound, but my lips and eyes were closed. The pillow was forced down tighter, shoving into my mouth, nearly gagging me. Darkness started to spin; I was dying.

Finally, I was able to sit up and suck in air. I put a hand to my chest, over the wild beating of my heart.

You okay? Maddie asked.

She sat up in her sleeping bag and scooted a little closer. She stayed over more often, almost every night now. Her parents understood, and mine didn’t seem to be bothered by it.

I shook my head.

Panic attack?

I nodded. Finally, my heartbeat slowed, and I let my hand drop. Maddie laced her fingers through mine and squeezed.

I reached under my pillow and pulled out a book on paganism. As a religion, it fascinated me, drew me to it. But further, something had struck me about the holidays, called Sabbats, and I was intrigued by the possibilities of Samhain, also called Halloween, as a means to answer Maddie’s earlier question. On this night, the veil between the worlds was thinnest. On this night, if it were truly possible, I’d be able to come back to see her.

But to come back... it would be easier if I were expected.

I turned to a page about passing over. Here.... I pointed to the ritual. I want you to do that for me.

The ritual, though largely open—an important to me—required that she light a candle before my wake, and ask if I was ready to pass on. She would be able to tell when I was, then snuff out the candle after I’d departed, and save it to burn on Samhain.

This way, I told her, not only will you be sure when I’ve moved on, but you’ll have a light to guide me back each year.

Maddie nodded but said nothing. When I asked her what she thought of the idea, of my answer to her question, she could only cry.

I held her and said, None of that, please. I don’t want you to cry after I’m gone.

I explained how my parents and I had discussed the possibility of an Irish wake. Although I didn’t expect them to follow it in terms of location—they favored a funeral home over our house—I wanted them to follow it in terms of tradition.

I don’t want to look over a bunch of tears and sadness, I told her. You and me, we’ve had a lot of years together. Remember that. Tell people some stories about that. Make them laugh, and know that I’m laughing too.

She laughed then, her eyes still clouded with tears.

Good. I reached out to brush the tears from her cheeks. "See, you can do it.

Now, are you going to tell me what got you laughing?"

There are so many things, and maybe it would be inappropriate to mention, but I was thinking about the time you asked me if the coffin made you look fat. Who asks that kind of question? I could tell people about your sense of humor. And how you were brave, more brave than I’d have been, lying inside there. How you were quick with words, to fight back with the funeral attendant. She laughed again. And remember how you made fun of him later? Said he looked just like a goldfish about to blow a bubble?

I gave a weak smile.

Part of me liked to hear this, coming from her. It almost made me want to have a wake before my death, for people to say to me what they might not otherwise. But a lump caught in my throat, also, thinking back to picking out the coffin, how soon I might

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