“B-36”by Douglas W. Texter – Free Story Extract

We will be providing extracts of each of the stories in the latest issue of Alt Hist. Check out the first one below.

Set in a world in which the early Cold War grows very hot, “B-36”by Douglas W. Textertells the tale of what might have happened if the Soviet Union had taken Berlin during the Berlin Airlift. In this world, Secretary of Defense James Forrestal orders a B-36 piloted by Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Drummond and a very special mission commander to fly to the Soviet Union with a secret “gimmick” on board.  The results of the mission are world-changing.

Visit the page for Alt Hist Issue 6 if you want to order a copy to read more of this and other stories.

Free Extract from “B-36”by Douglas W. Texter

As Soviet troops overwhelmed US forces in West Berlin on July 5th, 1948, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Drummond soared over Key West, Florida, at 10,000 feet. He and his crew were on their way back to Eglin Field, the proving-ground command for the USAF. They were passing over the bridge to the Keys and into the Gulf toward home.

The new B-36 Peacemaker, the 44-2004, that Drummond was putting through its paces was a monster, its size making the B-29s he had flown over Japan three years before look tiny. Each tire on the main landing gear was taller than a human being. As Drummond’s arms, sore from fighting the stick, indicated, the B-36 was proving anything but easy to fly. Not only that, but the plane’s six engines possessed a disconcerting tendency to burst into flames at inopportune moments. Drummond thought that the combustibility problem had something to do with the locations of the engines. Mounted on the rear of the wings, they pushed the plane rather than pulled it. The warning lights indicated that a couple of them were very hot now.

“Radio traffic, sir, about Berlin,” Sparks said.

“Good or bad news, Sparks?”

“’Fraid it’s very bad, sir. Clay has surrendered, and the Russians are storming the rest of Germany. The Ruskies even shot down the Candy Bomber.”

“No shit?” said the copilot, Major Ben Matthews. He let out a whistle. “I actually knew Halvorsen. I met him flying transports to South America. Mormon. Wore weird underwear, saw it in a locker room once. But he was a good pilot. Too bad.”

Drummond shook his head. The demise of Uncle Wiggly Wings was the least of their problems. There existed only one way to stop the Soviets if they weren’t going to halt at the border with France. And as a Progressive, a Wallace supporter, Drummond hated to even think about that solution. He had seen Hiroshima after Tibbets had destroyed it. Although he didn’t know the candy bomber, he did indeed know the atomic bomber, and Drummond did not like him and what he stood for.

He had met Paul Tibbets in the Pacific, at an officer’s club. They had talked for a while, and Tibbets had seemed to take a liking to him. Tibbets had even talked about bringing Drummond into his 509th Composite Bomb Group, which had been up to something very special. While Drummond had been flattered, he had thought Tibbets’ eyes looked glazed over, as though he were on some kind of holy mission. Drummond didn’t believe in holy missions involving long-range bombers. Although he lived to fly the big planes, he was far to the left of most pilots he had met. War might be necessary, but it was never holy. After politely listening to Tibbets, he had turned down the offer. And in retrospect, he was glad he had. Drummond was a bomber pilot, and he understood that the destruction of war served larger ends. But atomic destruction was so terrible that it seemed to serve no ends at all.

Unfortunately, at the moment Drummond had more pressing problems than world affairs. An alarm sounded. “Skipper,” Matthews said, “Engine Six is on fire.” A bit of panic laced the co-pilot’s voice.

“Take it easy. Let’s fly the plane, Ben,” Drummond said.

Drummond knew that there existed two kinds of pilots in the world. The first kind, at any sign of danger, panicked and prayed to God or screamed out the names of his wife and children. Dramatic but ineffective. The second kind just flew the plane. In a B-29 over Japan during a very bad mission, Drummond had once listened to the voice of his squadron commander, Max, whose plane had burned. Max’s voice had been dead calm as he gave orders to the gunners, feathered one engine, and tried to pull out of a dive. Max flew the plane until the moment of impact. His gunners even took out a Zero on the way down. No panic there. Drummond aspired to that kind of calm.

“Put the fire out, and feather the engine,” Drummond said. He checked his watch: about two hours or so until they made it back to Eglin. The B-36 was a miracle in aviation technology, able to fly from the US to Europe without refueling. But they had to work out the engine problems before the behemoth was put into regular service.

“Doing my best, Skipper,” Matthews said. “Haven’t had an engine on fire since two ME-109s almost took us out over Berlin.” After a minute, the alarm was silenced. “Number Six out and feathered,” Matthews said. The co-pilot’s voice was calmer now. Their airspeed slowed to around 185. While the B-36 could carry 80,000 pounds of bombs and cross oceans, it had a maximum cruising speed fully loaded of about 230 miles an hour. Thank God, Drummond thought, that it was also armed to the teeth and could reach 50,000 feet, above the ceiling of almost all pursuit planes.

“Let’s give the mechanics a workout,” Drummond said to Matthews. He turned on the intercom and said, “Drummond to crew quarters.”

“Sergeant Watkins here, sir.”

“Sarge, sorry to interrupt your card game, but I just feathered Number Six. Do you want to take somebody and go have a look at it?”

“Yes, sir. I was losing anyway. We’ll be in the communications tube and then the wing in five minutes.”

“That is amazing,” Matthews said to Drummond.

“It sure is, Ben,” Drummond said. “Welcome to the future.”

And that future, Drummond knew, was enormous. The B-36 was so big that it carried 15 crew members, and the plane could hold enough fuel to stay in the air for up to 40 hours, so they had sleeping quarters on board. A communications tube ran over the bomb bay between the forward and aft cabins. The wings were huge and hollow so that mechanics could get inside them and crawl out to effect repairs in flight.

As they limped back to the Florida panhandle, Matthews said, “Think the President will declare war on the Ruskies?”

“I have no idea, Ben. It’s a disaster, either way.”

“You got that right, Skipper.”

As they approached Eglin, Sergeant Watkins came on the intercom. “We took a look, sir. It’s not too bad. About an hour’s worth of work when we get on the ground. I’ll also make sure that we have all the tools we need if one of these babies goes out on us again.”

“Sounds good, Sarge. Ben, ready to do the landing checklist?” They went through the list, and the landing gear clicked into place. Drummond lined the plane up with the ultra-long runway designed to accommodate the B-36. They would need every inch of it to stop, Drummond knew. Piloting the B-36 was like flying a house.

They landed at about 120 miles an hour. Matthews put on the brakes and read out the descending speed: 90, 80, 70, 60, 50, and then they were safe, not about to speed off the end of the runway. They taxied to the huge hangar that accommodated the B-36.

After killing the engines, Drummond said over the intercom, “Gentlemen, a pleasure to fly with you.” As the rest of the crew left the B-36, Drummond spent about 10 minutes in the Aircraft Commander’s seat filling out the flight report: “These problems must be corrected before the B-36 becomes fully operational and is put into production. Once this difficulty is addressed, the B-36 promises to deliver the strategic superiority desired by the US Air Force.” That sounded official and optimistic, he thought as he put the cap back on his fountain pen.

After exiting the plane, he walked into the hangar locker room, changed into civies, and walked over to where his motorcycle was parked. Although his wife Jenny had told him that he was too old to ride, he loved the feeling of the warm humid air in his face as he drove to and from the little bungalow he and his wife and son lived in. He kick started the bike and headed for home.

Just another day at the office.

§

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Drummond turned his motorcycle into the driveway of the family bungalow. Levittown this wasn’t, but it was comfortable in a tropical sort of way. Jenny’s little red convertible sat next to the house. White picket fences, over which red roses climbed, surrounded the bungalow. The top of a palm tree swayed in the breeze. This place bore no resemblance to where he had grown up, in Erie, Pennsylvania, with its knee-deep snow, dark basements, and huge, spidery coal furnaces. The bungalow didn’t even have a basement or a furnace, and everybody complained about the cold if the temperature dropped below seventy.

After turning off the bike’s engine, Drummond heard his 12-year old son, David, playing “The Drunken Sailor” on his trombone. He smiled. Maybe the kid would be the next Tommy Dorsey. Then Drummond heard David hit a wrong note, and thought: maybe not.

He walked to the screen door and opened it. Jenny sat on the couch reading for her course work for her Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of Florida. They had met in Cambridge at a party on Massachusetts Avenue in 1936. Excited about Spain and the fight against Franco, she had been the charming local Irish girl with the brains to get into Radcliffe. He had been the MIT engineering student who jabbered about becoming a pilot.

“How’s that paper on Moby-Dick coming?” he asked.

“Hey, honey! I’m sailing round Perdition’s horn. How was the flight?”

“It was pretty good. One of the engines caught on fire and conked out. We’ll get it working right, eventually.”

David, having left the Drunken Sailor with the captain’s daughter for the moment, ran out from his bedroom and said, “Hey, Dad. The Reds are taking Germany. Are you going to go into action?” The boy hugged his father.

“I don’t know, David. We might see some. I hope not. The world’s already had two major wars in this century. A third isn’t going to help anyone.” No more wars, Drummond thought.

Jenny said, “Let’s turn on the radio. Truman is supposed to address the nation.” She walked over to the radio, on top of which sat David’s model B-17. There were a couple of old Seventeens at Eglin. Drummond had even taken David up in one for his tenth birthday. No one on the ground had questioned Drummond about his four-foot-high co-pilot.

After adjusting the dial, Jenny honed in on a signal from the NBC studio in Miami. “Ladies and gentlemen,” the voice said. “We are now switching to our Washington Bureau, where we bring you a live broadcast from the White House.”

There was another pause, and then a voice both familiar and distant came on the air: Harry Truman’s.

“My fellow Americans, I regret to inform you that General Lucius Clay, surrounded by 50,000 Soviet troops under the command of Marshal of the Soviet Union Zhukov, has surrendered Berlin. General Clay and his troops were airlifted out of the city a few hours ago. I have been in telephone contact with Mr. Stalin, who has assured me that the Soviet Union desires only to pacify Germany and protect its borders. At this moment US divisions in Germany, along with some British and French forces, are encountering the vanguard of a Red Army.

“Shortly—in keeping with my belief that it is men who make history and, not, as the Soviets believe, history that makes men—Mr. Stalin and I will be meeting at an undisclosed location to discuss the fate of Germany and arrange a cease fire negotiated according to mutually acceptable terms. While I do understand the Soviets’ desire to protect their Western borders, I will not allow this desire to serve as an excuse to invade not only the western portion of Germany but also France and the rest of Europe. To show Mr. Stalin that we mean business, Secretary of Defense Forrestal, with my approval, will send to England in the next few weeks a squadron of B-29s capable of delivering an atomic bomb to Moscow. While we do not desire war and will enter into good-faith negotiations with the Soviet Union, we will not allow an Iron Curtain to be drawn across France or any other European nation. Immediately after my conference with Mr. Stalin, I will report to you again on the steps he and I have taken to address our concerns. Ladies and gentlemen, I urge you to be calm. We will not be bullied, and we will not be coerced into a war that could mean the end of European civilization. I wish you good afternoon.”

Jenny said, “I think he’s going to let Stalin have Germany.”

“Maybe,” Drummond said. “God knows that right now, we don’t have the strength to push the Soviets back. Maybe, though, Truman has something up his sleeve.” God, not those bombs again.

David looked up at his father and said, “Dad, do you think there will be war?”

“I don’t know. I sure don’t want it, and Truman doesn’t want it. But that Forrestal is a real crusader. He will probably want to punish the hell out of the Ruskies for what they’ve done. Who knows? Maybe the Soviets will just stop at the border with France.”

As they talked, the phone rang. Jenny went over to answer it. “Honey, it’s for you.”

Drummond walked over and picked up the receiver. “Joe Drummond here.”

A voice that Drummond knew came on the line: “Colonel Drummond, this is General Jones.” It was Eglin’s commanding officer. “I have orders for you. This is top secret. You are to leave in three hours with your B-36 from Eglin. You are to fly to Walker Air Force Base, New Mexico. From there, I don’t know your destination. The orders were given by Secretary Forrestal himself. We’re calling your crew back now. You are to talk about this with no one. Is that clear, Colonel?”

“Yes, sir. I’ll get back to the base right away.” He hung up the phone, walked over to Jenny, and said, “I have orders. I can’t talk about them. I have to get back to Eglin.” Drummond thought for a second. Oh, no. Walker is the closest base to Los Alamos.

“Be careful, Joe. I want you back in one piece.” She kissed him. He walked over to David and gave him a hug.

“I’ll see you soon. Keep working on that trombone playing. OK?”

“Sure, Dad,” David said. “Be safe.” Having said goodbye to his family, Joseph Drummond went outside, kick started the motorcycle, and sped back to Eglin and an uncertain future.

END OF FREE EXTRACT
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Alt Hist Issue 6 Published – just about!

Alt Hist Issue 6 Front CoverAlt Hist Issue 6 is pretty much published. We are just waiting for one more retailer to sort their catalogue out – Apple iBooks, but otherwise you can now get Alt Hist Issue 6 from the usual suspects. I’ll post fully all the details next week when iBooks is up to speed!

You can currently get it at:

Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | All the other Amazons!

Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords – and others too numerous to list!

Alt Hist Issue 6 includes four wonderful alternate history stories, plus a great “straight” historical fiction set in 1914 about a teenage girl accused of war crimes. The alternate history stories cover some classic areas for speculative fiction and of interest to alternate history buffs: what if Hitler won the war, what if the Germans invaded Britain in WW2, who really killed JFK and what if the Cold War turned hot? But none of these tales are just speculation on alternative versions of history. They all share what you have come to expect from Alt Hist: a strong story and engaging characters.

Alt Hist is the magazine of Historical Fiction and Alternate History, published twice a year by Alt Hist Press.

Stories featured in Alt Hist Issue 6:

  • “B-36”by Douglas W. Texter
  • “ Battalion 202: Worm in the Apple” by Jonathan Doering:
  • “The Iceberg” by Andrea Mullaney
  • “When Shots Rang Out” by Lynda M. Vanderhoff
  • “Hitler Is Coming” by Martin Roy Hill

Set in a world in which the early Cold War grows very hot, “B-36”by Douglas W. Texter tells the tale of what might have happened if the Soviet Union had taken Berlin during the Berlin Airlift. In this world, Secretary of Defense James Forrestal orders a B-36 piloted by Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Drummond and a very special mission commander to fly to the Soviet Union with a secret “gimmick” on board.  The results of the mission are world-changing.

The next instalment of Battalion 202 by Jonathan Doering: “For all I know, you’re dirty as well.” Christopher felt his chest flare. “Alright then, if you don’t believe me, shoot me.” A worm enters an apple. It is seeking food, shelter. It is only acting on its nature. But sooner or later the apple will turn rotten. Everything will explode. There is a traitor in Pontefract Auxiliary Unit. A traitor who places his own survival and success in the new Nazi state ahead of everything – even the lives of his comrades….

On Boxing Day, 1914, a teenage girl sits in an Edinburgh prison awaiting trial for a war crime. Her lawyer finds himself captivated by her as he tries to establish the truth of the case, whose roots lie in the Titanic disaster two years before. ‘The Iceberg,’ by Andrea Mullaney, is based on an extraordinary true story.

In “When Shots Rang Out” by Lynda M. Vanderhoff JFK was a well known ladies man, but his family has suffered under a curse that is nearly Shakespearian in scope.  Could it be that Kennedy upset the wrong person with his philandering, putting in motion the death and bad fortune that would see his family destroyed?

What would the United States be like if Hitler won the Second World War? In “Hitler Is Coming” by Martin Roy Hill protagonist Paul Klee is an OSS veteran and police investigator on temporary assignment to the post-war American SS to stop a plot to kill a victorious Adolf Hitler on his first visit to the U.S. From fascist cabbies to corrupt Party gauleiters, Klee wends his way through an America most Americans today never knew once existed.

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Alt Hist – Latest News

The good news is that Alt Hist Issue 6 is nearly available – I anticipate being able to announce it next week! Subscriber copies should hopefully be dispatched fairly soon – they will get copies before anyone else.

Another piece of good news is that the eBook versions of each issue of Alt Hist are currently $3.99 – so if you haven’t yet go and check out a copy. See How to Get Your Alt Hist for more details.

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Classic Historical Fiction Short Story: Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Young Goodman Brown is a well know short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne set in 17th century Puritan New England. It’s also a classic historical fiction short story.

Enjoy!

YOUNG GOODMAN BROWN

Young Goodman Brown came forth at sunset into the street at Salem village; but put his head back, after crossing the threshold, to exchange a parting kiss with his young wife. And Faith, as the wife was aptly named, thrust her own pretty head into the street, letting the wind play with the pink ribbons of her cap while she called to Goodman Brown.

“Dearest heart,” whispered she, softly and rather sadly, when her lips were close to his ear, “prithee put off your journey until sunrise and sleep in your own bed to-night. A lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts that she’s afeard of herself sometimes. Pray tarry with me this night, dear husband, of all nights in the year.”

“My love and my Faith,” replied young Goodman Brown, “of all nights in the year, this one night must I tarry away from thee. My journey, as thou callest it, forth and back again, must needs be done ‘twixt now and sunrise. What, my sweet, pretty wife, dost thou doubt me already, and we but three months married?”

“Then God bless you!” said Faith, with the pink ribbons; “and may you find all well when you come back.”

“Amen!” cried Goodman Brown. “Say thy prayers, dear Faith, and go to bed at dusk, and no harm will come to thee.”

So they parted; and the young man pursued his way until, being about to turn the corner by the meeting-house, he looked back and saw the head of Faith still peeping after him with a melancholy air, in spite of her pink ribbons.

“Poor little Faith!” thought he, for his heart smote him. “What a wretch am I to leave her on such an errand! She talks of dreams, too. Methought as she spoke there was trouble in her face, as if a dream had warned her what work is to be done tonight. But no, no; ‘t would kill her to think it. Well, she’s a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night I’ll cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven.”

With this excellent resolve for the future, Goodman Brown felt himself justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose. He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind. It was all as lonely as could be; and there is this peculiarity in such a solitude, that the traveller knows not who may be concealed by the innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead; so that with lonely footsteps he may yet be passing through an unseen multitude.

“There may be a devilish Indian behind every tree,” said Goodman Brown to himself; and he glanced fearfully behind him as he added, “What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow!”

His head being turned back, he passed a crook of the road, and, looking forward again, beheld the figure of a man, in grave and decent attire, seated at the foot of an old tree. He arose at Goodman Brown’s approach and walked onward side by side with him.

“You are late, Goodman Brown,” said he. “The clock of the Old South was striking as I came through Boston, and that is full fifteen minutes agone.”

“Faith kept me back a while,” replied the young man, with a tremor in his voice, caused by the sudden appearance of his companion, though not wholly unexpected.

It was now deep dusk in the forest, and deepest in that part of it where these two were journeying. As nearly as could be discerned, the second traveller was about fifty years old, apparently in the same rank of life as Goodman Brown, and bearing a considerable resemblance to him, though perhaps more in expression than features. Still they might have been taken for father and son. And yet, though the elder person was as simply clad as the younger, and as simple in manner too, he had an indescribable air of one who knew the world, and who would not have felt abashed at the governor’s dinner table or in King William’s court, were it possible that his affairs should call him thither. But the only thing about him that could be fixed upon as remarkable was his staff, which bore the likeness of a great black snake, so curiously wrought that it might almost be seen to twist and wriggle itself like a living serpent. This, of course, must have been an ocular deception, assisted by the uncertain light.

“Come, Goodman Brown,” cried his fellow-traveller, “this is a dull pace for the beginning of a journey. Take my staff, if you are so soon weary.”

“Friend,” said the other, exchanging his slow pace for a full stop, “having kept covenant by meeting thee here, it is my purpose now to return whence I came. I have scruples touching the matter thou wot’st of.”

“Sayest thou so?” replied he of the serpent, smiling apart. “Let us walk on, nevertheless, reasoning as we go; and if I convince thee not thou shalt turn back. We are but a little way in the forest yet.”

“Too far! too far!” exclaimed the goodman, unconsciously resuming his walk. “My father never went into the woods on such an errand, nor his father before him. We have been a race of honest men and good Christians since the days of the martyrs; and shall I be the first of the name of Brown that ever took this path and kept—”

“Such company, thou wouldst say,” observed the elder person, interpreting his pause. “Well said, Goodman Brown! I have been as well acquainted with your family as with ever a one among the Puritans; and that’s no trifle to say. I helped your grandfather, the constable, when he lashed the Quaker woman so smartly through the streets of Salem; and it was I that brought your father a pitch-pine knot, kindled at my own hearth, to set fire to an Indian village, in King Philip’s war. They were my good friends, both; and many a pleasant walk have we had along this path, and returned merrily after midnight. I would fain be friends with you for their sake.”

“If it be as thou sayest,” replied Goodman Brown, “I marvel they never spoke of these matters; or, verily, I marvel not, seeing that the least rumor of the sort would have driven them from New England. We are a people of prayer, and good works to boot, and abide no such wickedness.”

“Wickedness or not,” said the traveller with the twisted staff, “I have a very general acquaintance here in New England. The deacons of many a church have drunk the communion wine with me; the selectmen of divers towns make me their chairman; and a majority of the Great and General Court are firm supporters of my interest. The governor and I, too—But these are state secrets.”

“Can this be so?” cried Goodman Brown, with a stare of amazement at his undisturbed companion. “Howbeit, I have nothing to do with the governor and council; they have their own ways, and are no rule for a simple husbandman like me. But, were I to go on with thee, how should I meet the eye of that good old man, our minister, at Salem village? Oh, his voice would make me tremble both Sabbath day and lecture day.”

Thus far the elder traveller had listened with due gravity; but now burst into a fit of irrepressible mirth, shaking himself so violently that his snake-like staff actually seemed to wriggle in sympathy.

“Ha! ha! ha!” shouted he again and again; then composing himself, “Well, go on, Goodman Brown, go on; but, prithee, don’t kill me with laughing.”

“Well, then, to end the matter at once,” said Goodman Brown, considerably nettled, “there is my wife, Faith. It would break her dear little heart; and I’d rather break my own.”

“Nay, if that be the case,” answered the other, “e’en go thy ways, Goodman Brown. I would not for twenty old women like the one hobbling before us that Faith should come to any harm.”

As he spoke he pointed his staff at a female figure on the path, in whom Goodman Brown recognized a very pious and exemplary dame, who had taught him his catechism in youth, and was still his moral and spiritual adviser, jointly with the minister and Deacon Gookin.

“A marvel, truly, that Goody Cloyse should be so far in the wilderness at nightfall,” said he. “But with your leave, friend, I shall take a cut through the woods until we have left this Christian woman behind. Being a stranger to you, she might ask whom I was consorting with and whither I was going.”

“Be it so,” said his fellow-traveller. “Betake you to the woods, and let me keep the path.”

Accordingly the young man turned aside, but took care to watch his companion, who advanced softly along the road until he had come within a staff’s length of the old dame. She, meanwhile, was making the best of her way, with singular speed for so aged a woman, and mumbling some indistinct words—a prayer, doubtless—as she went. The traveller put forth his staff and touched her withered neck with what seemed the serpent’s tail.

“The devil!” screamed the pious old lady.

“Then Goody Cloyse knows her old friend?” observed the traveller, confronting her and leaning on his writhing stick.

“Ah, forsooth, and is it your worship indeed?” cried the good dame. “Yea, truly is it, and in the very image of my old gossip, Goodman Brown, the grandfather of the silly fellow that now is. But—would your worship believe it?—my broomstick hath strangely disappeared, stolen, as I suspect, by that unhanged witch, Goody Cory, and that, too, when I was all anointed with the juice of smallage, and cinquefoil, and wolf’s bane.”

“Mingled with fine wheat and the fat of a new-born babe,” said the shape of old Goodman Brown.

“Ah, your worship knows the recipe,” cried the old lady, cackling aloud. “So, as I was saying, being all ready for the meeting, and no horse to ride on, I made up my mind to foot it; for they tell me there is a nice young man to be taken into communion to-night. But now your good worship will lend me your arm, and we shall be there in a twinkling.”

“That can hardly be,” answered her friend. “I may not spare you my arm, Goody Cloyse; but here is my staff, if you will.”

So saying, he threw it down at her feet, where, perhaps, it assumed life, being one of the rods which its owner had formerly lent to the Egyptian magi. Of this fact, however, Goodman Brown could not take cognizance. He had cast up his eyes in astonishment, and, looking down again, beheld neither Goody Cloyse nor the serpentine staff, but his fellow-traveller alone, who waited for him as calmly as if nothing had happened.

“That old woman taught me my catechism,” said the young man; and there was a world of meaning in this simple comment.

They continued to walk onward, while the elder traveller exhorted his companion to make good speed and persevere in the path, discoursing so aptly that his arguments seemed rather to spring up in the bosom of his auditor than to be suggested by himself. As they went, he plucked a branch of maple to serve for a walking stick, and began to strip it of the twigs and little boughs, which were wet with evening dew. The moment his fingers touched them they became strangely withered and dried up as with a week’s sunshine. Thus the pair proceeded, at a good free pace, until suddenly, in a gloomy hollow of the road, Goodman Brown sat himself down on the stump of a tree and refused to go any farther.

“Friend,” said he, stubbornly, “my mind is made up. Not another step will I budge on this errand. What if a wretched old woman do choose to go to the devil when I thought she was going to heaven: is that any reason why I should quit my dear Faith and go after her?”

“You will think better of this by and by,” said his acquaintance, composedly. “Sit here and rest yourself a while; and when you feel like moving again, there is my staff to help you along.”

Without more words, he threw his companion the maple stick, and was as speedily out of sight as if he had vanished into the deepening gloom. The young man sat a few moments by the roadside, applauding himself greatly, and thinking with how clear a conscience he should meet the minister in his morning walk, nor shrink from the eye of good old Deacon Gookin. And what calm sleep would be his that very night, which was to have been spent so wickedly, but so purely and sweetly now, in the arms of Faith! Amidst these pleasant and praiseworthy meditations, Goodman Brown heard the tramp of horses along the road, and deemed it advisable to conceal himself within the verge of the forest, conscious of the guilty purpose that had brought him thither, though now so happily turned from it.

On came the hoof tramps and the voices of the riders, two grave old voices, conversing soberly as they drew near. These mingled sounds appeared to pass along the road, within a few yards of the young man’s hiding-place; but, owing doubtless to the depth of the gloom at that particular spot, neither the travellers nor their steeds were visible. Though their figures brushed the small boughs by the wayside, it could not be seen that they intercepted, even for a moment, the faint gleam from the strip of bright sky athwart which they must have passed. Goodman Brown alternately crouched and stood on tiptoe, pulling aside the branches and thrusting forth his head as far as he durst without discerning so much as a shadow. It vexed him the more, because he could have sworn, were such a thing possible, that he recognized the voices of the minister and Deacon Gookin, jogging along quietly, as they were wont to do, when bound to some ordination or ecclesiastical council. While yet within hearing, one of the riders stopped to pluck a switch.

“Of the two, reverend sir,” said the voice like the deacon’s, “I had rather miss an ordination dinner than to-night’s meeting. They tell me that some of our community are to be here from Falmouth and beyond, and others from Connecticut and Rhode Island, besides several of the Indian powwows, who, after their fashion, know almost as much deviltry as the best of us. Moreover, there is a goodly young woman to be taken into communion.”

“Mighty well, Deacon Gookin!” replied the solemn old tones of the minister. “Spur up, or we shall be late. Nothing can be done, you know, until I get on the ground.”

The hoofs clattered again; and the voices, talking so strangely in the empty air, passed on through the forest, where no church had ever been gathered or solitary Christian prayed. Whither, then, could these holy men be journeying so deep into the heathen wilderness? Young Goodman Brown caught hold of a tree for support, being ready to sink down on the ground, faint and overburdened with the heavy sickness of his heart. He looked up to the sky, doubting whether there really was a heaven above him. Yet there was the blue arch, and the stars brightening in it.

“With heaven above and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!” cried Goodman Brown.

While he still gazed upward into the deep arch of the firmament and had lifted his hands to pray, a cloud, though no wind was stirring, hurried across the zenith and hid the brightening stars. The blue sky was still visible, except directly overhead, where this black mass of cloud was sweeping swiftly northward. Aloft in the air, as if from the depths of the cloud, came a confused and doubtful sound of voices. Once the listener fancied that he could distinguish the accents of towns-people of his own, men and women, both pious and ungodly, many of whom he had met at the communion table, and had seen others rioting at the tavern. The next moment, so indistinct were the sounds, he doubted whether he had heard aught but the murmur of the old forest, whispering without a wind. Then came a stronger swell of those familiar tones, heard daily in the sunshine at Salem village, but never until now from a cloud of night There was one voice of a young woman, uttering lamentations, yet with an uncertain sorrow, and entreating for some favor, which, perhaps, it would grieve her to obtain; and all the unseen multitude, both saints and sinners, seemed to encourage her onward.

“Faith!” shouted Goodman Brown, in a voice of agony and desperation; and the echoes of the forest mocked him, crying, “Faith! Faith!” as if bewildered wretches were seeking her all through the wilderness.

The cry of grief, rage, and terror was yet piercing the night, when the unhappy husband held his breath for a response. There was a scream, drowned immediately in a louder murmur of voices, fading into far-off laughter, as the dark cloud swept away, leaving the clear and silent sky above Goodman Brown. But something fluttered lightly down through the air and caught on the branch of a tree. The young man seized it, and beheld a pink ribbon.

“My Faith is gone!” cried he, after one stupefied moment. “There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, devil; for to thee is this world given.”

And, maddened with despair, so that he laughed loud and long, did Goodman Brown grasp his staff and set forth again, at such a rate that he seemed to fly along the forest path rather than to walk or run. The road grew wilder and drearier and more faintly traced, and vanished at length, leaving him in the heart of the dark wilderness, still rushing onward with the instinct that guides mortal man to evil. The whole forest was peopled with frightful sounds—the creaking of the trees, the howling of wild beasts, and the yell of Indians; while sometimes the wind tolled like a distant church bell, and sometimes gave a broad roar around the traveller, as if all Nature were laughing him to scorn. But he was himself the chief horror of the scene, and shrank not from its other horrors.

“Ha! ha! ha!” roared Goodman Brown when the wind laughed at him.

“Let us hear which will laugh loudest. Think not to frighten me with your deviltry. Come witch, come wizard, come Indian powwow, come devil himself, and here comes Goodman Brown. You may as well fear him as he fear you.”

In truth, all through the haunted forest there could be nothing more frightful than the figure of Goodman Brown. On he flew among the black pines, brandishing his staff with frenzied gestures, now giving vent to an inspiration of horrid blasphemy, and now shouting forth such laughter as set all the echoes of the forest laughing like demons around him. The fiend in his own shape is less hideous than when he rages in the breast of man. Thus sped the demoniac on his course, until, quivering among the trees, he saw a red light before him, as when the felled trunks and branches of a clearing have been set on fire, and throw up their lurid blaze against the sky, at the hour of midnight. He paused, in a lull of the tempest that had driven him onward, and heard the swell of what seemed a hymn, rolling solemnly from a distance with the weight of many voices. He knew the tune; it was a familiar one in the choir of the village meeting-house. The verse died heavily away, and was lengthened by a chorus, not of human voices, but of all the sounds of the benighted wilderness pealing in awful harmony together. Goodman Brown cried out, and his cry was lost to his own ear by its unison with the cry of the desert.

In the interval of silence he stole forward until the light glared full upon his eyes. At one extremity of an open space, hemmed in by the dark wall of the forest, arose a rock, bearing some rude, natural resemblance either to an altar or a pulpit, and surrounded by four blazing pines, their tops aflame, their stems untouched, like candles at an evening meeting. The mass of foliage that had overgrown the summit of the rock was all on fire, blazing high into the night and fitfully illuminating the whole field. Each pendent twig and leafy festoon was in a blaze. As the red light arose and fell, a numerous congregation alternately shone forth, then disappeared in shadow, and again grew, as it were, out of the darkness, peopling the heart of the solitary woods at once.

“A grave and dark-clad company,” quoth Goodman Brown.

In truth they were such. Among them, quivering to and fro between gloom and splendor, appeared faces that would be seen next day at the council board of the province, and others which, Sabbath after Sabbath, looked devoutly heavenward, and benignantly over the crowded pews, from the holiest pulpits in the land. Some affirm that the lady of the governor was there. At least there were high dames well known to her, and wives of honored husbands, and widows, a great multitude, and ancient maidens, all of excellent repute, and fair young girls, who trembled lest their mothers should espy them. Either the sudden gleams of light flashing over the obscure field bedazzled Goodman Brown, or he recognized a score of the church members of Salem village famous for their especial sanctity. Good old Deacon Gookin had arrived, and waited at the skirts of that venerable saint, his revered pastor. But, irreverently consorting with these grave, reputable, and pious people, these elders of the church, these chaste dames and dewy virgins, there were men of dissolute lives and women of spotted fame, wretches given over to all mean and filthy vice, and suspected even of horrid crimes. It was strange to see that the good shrank not from the wicked, nor were the sinners abashed by the saints. Scattered also among their pale-faced enemies were the Indian priests, or powwows, who had often scared their native forest with more hideous incantations than any known to English witchcraft.

“But where is Faith?” thought Goodman Brown; and, as hope came into his heart, he trembled.

Another verse of the hymn arose, a slow and mournful strain, such as the pious love, but joined to words which expressed all that our nature can conceive of sin, and darkly hinted at far more. Unfathomable to mere mortals is the lore of fiends. Verse after verse was sung; and still the chorus of the desert swelled between like the deepest tone of a mighty organ; and with the final peal of that dreadful anthem there came a sound, as if the roaring wind, the rushing streams, the howling beasts, and every other voice of the unconcerted wilderness were mingling and according with the voice of guilty man in homage to the prince of all. The four blazing pines threw up a loftier flame, and obscurely discovered shapes and visages of horror on the smoke wreaths above the impious assembly. At the same moment the fire on the rock shot redly forth and formed a glowing arch above its base, where now appeared a figure. With reverence be it spoken, the figure bore no slight similitude, both in garb and manner, to some grave divine of the New England churches.

“Bring forth the converts!” cried a voice that echoed through the field and rolled into the forest.

At the word, Goodman Brown stepped forth from the shadow of the trees and approached the congregation, with whom he felt a loathful brotherhood by the sympathy of all that was wicked in his heart. He could have well-nigh sworn that the shape of his own dead father beckoned him to advance, looking downward from a smoke wreath, while a woman, with dim features of despair, threw out her hand to warn him back. Was it his mother? But he had no power to retreat one step, nor to resist, even in thought, when the minister and good old Deacon Gookin seized his arms and led him to the blazing rock. Thither came also the slender form of a veiled female, led between Goody Cloyse, that pious teacher of the catechism, and Martha Carrier, who had received the devil’s promise to be queen of hell. A rampant hag was she. And there stood the proselytes beneath the canopy of fire.

“Welcome, my children,” said the dark figure, “to the communion of your race. Ye have found thus young your nature and your destiny. My children, look behind you!”

They turned; and flashing forth, as it were, in a sheet of flame, the fiend worshippers were seen; the smile of welcome gleamed darkly on every visage.

“There,” resumed the sable form, “are all whom ye have reverenced from youth. Ye deemed them holier than yourselves, and shrank from your own sin, contrasting it with their lives of righteousness and prayerful aspirations heavenward. Yet here are they all in my worshipping assembly. This night it shall be granted you to know their secret deeds: how hoary-bearded elders of the church have whispered wanton words to the young maids of their households; how many a woman, eager for widows’ weeds, has given her husband a drink at bedtime and let him sleep his last sleep in her bosom; how beardless youths have made haste to inherit their fathers’ wealth; and how fair damsels—blush not, sweet ones—have dug little graves in the garden, and bidden me, the sole guest to an infant’s funeral. By the sympathy of your human hearts for sin ye shall scent out all the places—whether in church, bedchamber, street, field, or forest—where crime has been committed, and shall exult to behold the whole earth one stain of guilt, one mighty blood spot. Far more than this. It shall be yours to penetrate, in every bosom, the deep mystery of sin, the fountain of all wicked arts, and which inexhaustibly supplies more evil impulses than human power—than my power at its utmost—can make manifest in deeds. And now, my children, look upon each other.”

They did so; and, by the blaze of the hell-kindled torches, the wretched man beheld his Faith, and the wife her husband, trembling before that unhallowed altar.

“Lo, there ye stand, my children,” said the figure, in a deep and solemn tone, almost sad with its despairing awfulness, as if his once angelic nature could yet mourn for our miserable race. “Depending upon one another’s hearts, ye had still hoped that virtue were not all a dream. Now are ye undeceived. Evil is the nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness. Welcome again, my children, to the communion of your race.”

“Welcome,” repeated the fiend worshippers, in one cry of despair and triumph.

And there they stood, the only pair, as it seemed, who were yet hesitating on the verge of wickedness in this dark world. A basin was hollowed, naturally, in the rock. Did it contain water, reddened by the lurid light? or was it blood? or, perchance, a liquid flame? Herein did the shape of evil dip his hand and prepare to lay the mark of baptism upon their foreheads, that they might be partakers of the mystery of sin, more conscious of the secret guilt of others, both in deed and thought, than they could now be of their own. The husband cast one look at his pale wife, and Faith at him. What polluted wretches would the next glance show them to each other, shuddering alike at what they disclosed and what they saw!

“Faith! Faith!” cried the husband, “look up to heaven, and resist the wicked one.”

Whether Faith obeyed he knew not. Hardly had he spoken when he found himself amid calm night and solitude, listening to a roar of the wind which died heavily away through the forest. He staggered against the rock, and felt it chill and damp; while a hanging twig, that had been all on fire, besprinkled his cheek with the coldest dew.

The next morning young Goodman Brown came slowly into the street of Salem village, staring around him like a bewildered man. The good old minister was taking a walk along the graveyard to get an appetite for breakfast and meditate his sermon, and bestowed a blessing, as he passed, on Goodman Brown. He shrank from the venerable saint as if to avoid an anathema. Old Deacon Gookin was at domestic worship, and the holy words of his prayer were heard through the open window. “What God doth the wizard pray to?” quoth Goodman Brown. Goody Cloyse, that excellent old Christian, stood in the early sunshine at her own lattice, catechizing a little girl who had brought her a pint of morning’s milk. Goodman Brown snatched away the child as from the grasp of the fiend himself. Turning the corner by the meeting-house, he spied the head of Faith, with the pink ribbons, gazing anxiously forth, and bursting into such joy at sight of him that she skipped along the street and almost kissed her husband before the whole village. But Goodman Brown looked sternly and sadly into her face, and passed on without a greeting.

Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep in the forest and only dreamed a wild dream of a witch-meeting?

Be it so if you will; but, alas! it was a dream of evil omen for young Goodman Brown. A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man did he become from the night of that fearful dream. On the Sabbath day, when the congregation were singing a holy psalm, he could not listen because an anthem of sin rushed loudly upon his ear and drowned all the blessed strain. When the minister spoke from the pulpit with power and fervid eloquence, and, with his hand on the open Bible, of the sacred truths of our religion, and of saint-like lives and triumphant deaths, and of future bliss or misery unutterable, then did Goodman Brown turn pale, dreading lest the roof should thunder down upon the gray blasphemer and his hearers. Often, waking suddenly at midnight, he shrank from the bosom of Faith; and at morning or eventide, when the family knelt down at prayer, he scowled and muttered to himself, and gazed sternly at his wife, and turned away. And when he had lived long, and was borne to his grave a hoary corpse, followed by Faith, an aged woman, and children and grandchildren, a goodly procession, besides neighbors not a few, they carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone, for his dying hour was gloom.

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Alt Hist Issue 6 – Cover Reveal

A sneak peak of the cover for Alt Hist Issue 6 – out in February!

Alt Hist Issue 6 Front Cover

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Review of Alt Hist Issue 5 at SF Crowsnest

Alt Hist Issue 5 coverAlt Hist Issue 5 has received another very good review – this time at SF Crowsnest from Kelly Jensen. Here are some of the highlights:

‘A.D. 1929’ by Douglas W. Texter … I really liked the ‘what if’ aspect of this story. I also thought Douglas Texter showed a great understanding of both Capone and Marinetti. It’s definitely a tale that stirs the imagination.

‘The Bridge’ by Micah Hyatt … This story is a unique take on alternate history. It could have been any bridge, but the author imbued his tale with the history of New York City, nonetheless. The supernatural element is different and unexpected. I liked it a lot.

‘After Mary’ by Priya Sharma … I enjoyed the gothic feel.

‘Rotten Parchment Bonds’ by Jonathan Doering … Doering writes well and I enjoyed his exploration of the divided loyalties of the men who reside within the skin of a soldier. I’m looking forward to further stories in this series.

Click here to read the full review. And if you haven’t got Alt Hist Issue 5 you can check out buying options by clicking here!

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What’s Coming up in Alt Hist Issue 6

We’re still working busily on the production of Alt Hist Issue 6 – all coming together nicely with final proofs being checked and the cover being designed. If you’re intrigued about what to expect then here’s a draft of the back cover copy for the next issue. Issue 6 should be available by the end of January/start of February at the latest.

Alt Hist Issue 6 includes four wonderful alternate history stories, plus a great “straight” historical fiction set in 1914 about a teenage girl accused of war crimes. The alternate history stories cover some classic areas for speculative fiction and of interest to alternate history buffs: what if Hitler one the war, what if the Germans invaded Britain in WW2, who really killed JFK and what if the Cold War turned hot? But none of these tales are just speculation on alternative versions of history. They all share what you have come to expect from Alt Hist: a strong story and engaging characters.

 

Alt Hist is the magazine of Historical Fiction and Alternate History, published twice a year by Alt Hist Press.

 

Stories featured in Alt Hist Issue 6:

 

  • “B-36”by Douglas W. Texter
  • “ Battalion 202: Worm in the Apple” by Jonathan Doering:
  • “The Iceberg” by Andrea Mullaney
  • “When Shots Rang Out” by Lynda M. Vanderhoff
  • “Hitler Is Coming” by Martin Roy Hill

 

Set in a world in which the early Cold War grows very hot, “B-36”by Douglas W. Texter  tells the tale of what might have happened if the Soviet Union had taken Berlin during the Berlin Airlift. In this world, Secretary of Defense James Forrestal orders a B-36 piloted by Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Drummond and a very special mission commander to fly to the Soviet Union with a secret “gimmick” on board.  The results of the mission are world-changing.

The next instalment of Battalion 202 by Jonathan Doering: “For all I know, you’re dirty as well.” Christopher felt his chest flare. “Alright then, if you don’t believe me, shoot me.” A worm enters an apple. It is seeking food, shelter. It is only acting on its nature. But sooner or later the apple will turn rotten. Everything will explode. There is a traitor in Pontefract Auxiliary Unit. A traitor who places his own survival and success in the new Nazi state ahead of everything – even the lives of his comrades….

On Boxing Day, 1914, a teenage girl sits in an Edinburgh prison awaiting trial for a war crime. Her lawyer finds himself captivated by her as he tries to establish the truth of the case, whose roots lie in the Titanic disaster two years before. ‘The Iceberg,’ by Andrea Mullaney, is based on an extraordinary true story.

In “When Shots Rang Out” by Lynda M. Vanderhoff JFK was a well known ladies man, but his family has suffered under a curse that is nearly Shakespearian in scope.  Could it be that Kennedy upset the wrong person with his philandering, putting in motion the death and bad fortune that would see his family destroyed?

What would the United States be like if Hitler won the Second World War? In “Hitler Is Coming” by Martin Roy Hill protagonist Paul Klee is an OSS veteran and police investigator on temporary assignment to the post-war American SS to stop a plot to kill a victorious Adolf Hitler on his first visit to the U.S. From fascist cabbies to corrupt Party gauleiters, Klee wends his way through an America most Americans today never knew once existed.

 

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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 20,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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New Historical Fiction Novels in 2014

Do you want to know what historical fiction novels are coming up for 2014? Then take a look at the Historical Novel Society Forthcoming historical novels for 2014 page.

Ones that I personally am looking forward to include:

Cover of "THE ROYAL SUCCESSION ( The Accu...

Cover via Amazon

Maurice Druon, The Royal Succession, HarperCollins UK (4th in The Accursed Kings series set in medieval France)

Matthew Reilly, The Tournament, Orion (thriller set in 1546 Constantinople, featuring Princess Elizabeth of England and her tutor Roger Ascham)

Tim Pears, In the Light of Morning, William Heinemann (British soldiers parachuted into WWII Slovenia and their relationships with the local partisans as the Axis forces close in)

Toby Clements, Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims, Century (1st in series set during the Wars of the Roses, beginning in 1460)

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Get all back issues of Alt Hist

As well as being able to subscribe to Alt Hist, and buy individual issues, you can now purchase all 5 back issues at a discount. The offer is for all 5 printed issues and includes free copies of the eBook for each issue as well as free shipping in the US – all this for only $44.95 (each print issue normally costs $9.99, so with free eBook and shipping taken into account that’s quite a good saving.

If you want to take advantage of this offer then either go to the Subscribe page or hit the PayPal button below:

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Offer only available at the moment for US customers.

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