A Liminal Sky Short Story

by J. Scott Coatsworth

Lamplighter - J. Scott Coatsworth
Editions:Kindle - First: $ 0.99
Pages: 50

A city plunged into darkness.

Fen Theora’son is a handsome journeyman in Thyre's Lamplighter's Guild. He's in love with Lewin, a Mason's Guild journeyman, but they have to keep their affair secret. If they're discovered, the cross-guild relationship could get them both thrown out.

When the spindle - Forever's main source of light - goes dark, the whole city looks to the lamplighters to bring light and hope. Fen must choose between loyalty to the Guild Masters and compassion, and risk putting himself, Lewin and his friends on the line.


Panting heavily, back against a whitewashed wall, Fen prayed for the shaking to end. He mumbled one of the Guild Cantos: 

We are keepers of light

In the river of night

when the black tides of darkness advance.

Then he ran as if Davien the Betrayer were after him. Behind him, walls that had stood since long before he was born crashed to dust, and the smell of char and the metallic tang of blood hung heavily in the morning air. Clouds of smoke and dust blotted out the spindle above, blocking its golden light, and Disembodied voices screamed around him. He needed something to light the way….


Fen Theora’son woke with a start, sweat-drenched, alone. He looked around—his narrow bedroom was empty, with only the whispering of the wind through the open window. He ran his fingers through his black, sweat-drenched hair, unsettled. Just a dream. 

Why not believe in the world-mind too, while I’m at it? Fen snorted. His mother had spun tales of the creature that made the winds blow and the light of the spindle shine and the rain fall inside this pebble of a world, but he'd always taken it for a fairy tale.

Another of her old stories sparked in his head. The one about liminals, who in his mother's telling were half human and half something else, people who did magical things, like talking mind to mind or communing with the world by touch. Who dreamed strange dreams that often came true.

I'm letting the quiet and the darkness get to me. He laid back and closed his eyes, pulling his blanket up over his lanky form, but the easy rhythms of sleep were lost to him. The hard straw pallet that was the journeyman lamplighter’s only bed for his first year was worn down and flat, but at least he had a bed frame now. And his own small room.

There’d been no new straw for weeks to stuff the mattress with. The scent of Lewin’s amber skin was gone too, worn out of the sheets like an old half-forgotten song. Anger creased red at the edges of his mind, but he thrust it away. I won’t let him do this to me. Slowly it receded.

Sleep eluded him, dream fragments and unwelcome memories and overheard rumors chasing one another in his head like a pack of street dogs. So many rumors, filling the city like worms in a rotten apple.


About the Author

Scott lives with his husband of twenty five years in a Sacramento suburb, in a cute little yellow house with a brick fireplace and two pink flamingoes out front.

He inhabits in the space between the here and now and the what could be. Indoctrinated into science fiction and fantasy by his mom at the tender age of nine, he quickly finished her entire library. But he soon began to wonder where all the queer people were.

After coming out at twenty three, he started writing the kinds of stories he couldn't find at Crown Books. If there weren't many queer characters in his favorite genres, he would will them into existence, subverting them to his own ends. And if he was lucky enough, someone else would want to read them.

His friends say Scott's mind works a little differently than most - he makes connections between ideas that others don't, and somehow does more in a day than most people manage in a week. Although born an introvert, he forced himself to reach outside himself, and learned to connect with others like him.

Scott's stories subvert expectations that transform traditional science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something different and unexpected. He runs both Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, and is an associate member of the Science Fiction Writer's Association (SFWA).

His romance and genre fiction writing brings a queer energy to his stories, filling them with love, beauty and power. He imagines how the world could be - in the process, he hopes to change the world, just a little.

Scott was recognized as one of the top new gay authors in the 2017 Rainbow Awards, and his debut novel "Skythane" received two awards and an honorable mention.

You can find him at Dreamspinner here, Goodreads here, on Amazon here, on QueeRomance Ink here, and on Facebook here.

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