Jay T. Harding; to delve into one of his stories is to enter a place as complex as the maze from "The Shining" or as perfectly delicate as a Shakespearean Sonnet.
Reading was his first love and is what compelled him to read War and Peace and Crime and Punishment by the time he was 8 years old. He started writing as a child and never looked back. Knowing it was his calling he pursued a BA in English: Creative Writing at Western Michigan University.
Jay puts the Bible on the top of his list of favorites and absolutely loves John Irving’s “A Widow For One Year.” He is a collector as well and is always on the hunt for anything by Robert Heinlein and Kurt Vonnegut.
Of course, Shakespear is on the top of his list of favorites as well as Poe, CS Lewis, Twain, and many more. Mr. Harding has written horror, spiritual fiction, poetry (both fixed and free), over 600 sonnets, stage and screenplays, TV drama and comedy, newspaper op-eds as well as anything else he can dabble in, but ultimately science fiction is his favorite to write.
Currently, Jay is sitting on a spectacular sci-fi cable series. He has the pilot, and the first season complete, now he just needs the right agent or a break.
Enjoy another short story from Jay’s book “Harsh Wind” below. It will definitely have you craving more.
She was in the music room playing something soft and well. Jacker Backers, his morning self-grooming out of the way, sprawled on the carpeted floor right in a sunbeam’s warm light, dead to the world. McDuff, our resident Macaw and sworn enemy of Jackers crouched on his tall perch across the room and practiced his purr. Everyone accounted for, I stretched out for a nap on the deep and cozy couch hoping to get a couple hours sleep before having to go to work.
As I reclined on that couch, listening faintly to the muted piano and outside to the low buzz of a distant lawnmower, I began to relax by concentrating on the thin, reedy keen of silence that pierces every sound. Within five minutes I was drowsy and calm and well on my way to the beginning of what I hoped would be a refreshing pause from life. As I floated in the warm, peaceful sea that separates this world and dreams, I suddenly heard a thin, scratchy voice say from under the couch “Can we go now?” Normally something like this – although nothing quite like this had ever happened to me before, or since – would have launched me at least three feet in the air for any one of a dozen reasons, but I was so far from the shore of sensibility that I only nodded child-like as if somehow, I had been asked the question and felt the situation safe enough to ‘go’. My vision was still wrapped in black gauze, but this did not concern me as I continued to slide toward sleep.
Then I heard a deep, stony voice under the couch also as if it were not accustomed to being quiet. “Help me move this.” A distant part of me still clinging to logic very much wanted to know what ‘this’ was, as it might be something that belonged to me and thus something I didn’t want anyone to carry away. My imagination, however, provided plenty of logic by constructing from just those two sentences two bushy brown squirrels, their noses and tails in a constant state of twitch, trying to make off with a coconut they had acquired from God only knows where. Had the stony voice not spoken again I would have fallen completely asleep and missed the events that followed. “Stop starin’ at him and help me!”
Curiosity over who or more probably what was staring at me (being the only ‘him’ in the house, not counting the cat and bird) dragged me up from the well of unconsciousness I had been slipping into and demanded I at least open one eye just a smidgen, but when I tried I found this simple act impossible to do. This prompted both of my eyes as well as the majority of the rest of my face to want to come to life, but I was as frozen as the grape popsicles in my fridge. I wasn’t accustomed to being immobilized, and with rising panic tried to move anything, with no results at all. This wasn’t as if I were somehow trapped in a blanket or being held down somehow. I literally could not move a single muscle! As if that weren’t enough, I could only see the inside of my eyes; I was as blind as a potato. Abrupt and gripping terror instantly replaced any casual interest that might have lingered in me, but I could not even tremble on the inside. There were two beings under my couch trying to move something, and I was unable to move at all! It then occurred to me that I might be the ‘thing’ the two wanted to move, and I began to panic. Unfortunately, the only thing able to panic was my mind, and all it wanted to do was deny that this was happening.
“I fixed it,” the smaller of the two squirrels said. Again, I immediately imagined being the ‘it’ the thing somehow fixed. If being completely paralyzed was fixed, I was without a doubt.
“Big deal! Get over here!” The gruff-sounding voice under the couch seemed impatient, and this heightened my anxiety. Boss squirrel had a job to do and didn’t want to be distracted by something obviously not a ‘big deal’ that needed fixing. For some strange reason, I found myself rooting for the big squirrel. The little one had no business staring at or fixing anything, not when there were things to move. Then a thought struck me that blew all the others away. They were supposed to move me! But where?
Just then the couch shuddered as the ground beneath shifted heavily as if someone were pushing a thousand bulldozers across the living room floor. The piano suddenly grew quiet and I heard the sound of the bench sliding backward as she stood up. The normalcy of that familiar scraping I had heard so many times before brought me completely out of whatever dream-state I had fallen in, and I took in a deep breath that sounded like fabric ripping. I was able to move! I opened my eyes just in time to see the fifty-two-inch television fall from its place in the entertainment center and land with an electronic crash on the tiled floor below, startling McDuff from his contemplation with a squawk and a flurry of feathers. McDuff launched himself from the perch just as I stood up drunkenly, waving my arms as if I wanted to testify. She came into the room with all her beauty, holding onto the swaying door frame, her eyes round with fear. “We’ve got to get out of here!” I felt the words come up from my throat but did not recognize the voice as mine.
The thick sliding intensified and we both fell to the floor. We reached for each other and drew close, our faces tight and grim. I glanced beneath the couch, and what I saw made me forget all about being crushed to death or trying to escape the earthquake. “Look,” I said to her and she followed my gaze.
On the floor beneath the couch, between a stuffed catnip mouse and a kernel of popcorn, two tiny black spiders crouched side by side as if they were holding on to each other for support. As I strained my eyes it seemed as if the spiders were both trying to stand on the same spot with all of their legs, an appendage here or there popping out from the knot and then diving back in. The building shook and quivered around us as we clung together with our eyes glued to the unusual phenomena happening beneath the couch.
Then I saw one of the spiders break away from the dual octo en pointe and unless my mind was playing more than its usual bag of tricks on me, it seemed as if the little creature actually pointed at me with one of its hair-thin legs. The other spider immediately stepped off the spot and fled with an unnatural sense of urgency. After a moment that seems to stretch with every telling, the other little spider followed its partner and vanished from sight.
We were both so astonished we lay transfixed to the spot where the two spiders once stood, not aware that the earthquake stopped the instant they ran away, nor later, once the broken things had been thrown away and life tried to return to normal and the official earthquake authorities guessed that the seismic event originated in our vicinity, we were astonished even more but decided to keep the incident to ourselves in the name of prudence. After all, who would believe that two tiny spiders might have caused an earthquake?
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