Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Spotlight : Flight of Destiny by author Francis H. Powell

A big hello to everyone visiting Literary Flairs! Today's special feature showcases a collection of 22 intriguing short stories of the science fiction, dystopian and literary fiction genres by the award-winning storyteller and artist Francis H. Powell. The stories promise to take interested readers into a completely different world of unexpected endings and dynamic possibilities. We'll learn more about this special spotlight today.

Francis H. Powell

                                                                                                                     Flight of Destiny

 Connect with Author Francis H. Powell

Book Spotlight - Flight of Destiny

Book title : Flight of Destiny

Author : Francis H. Powell

Genre : Science fiction, short stories collection, dystopian, literary fiction

Book ISBNs -- ISBN-10 : 0988664097 and ISBN-13 : 978-0988664098

Achievements : Winner of compilations/anthologies - Flight of Destiny by Francis H. Powell at the 2016 Pacific Rim Book Festival

Trivia : "I also illustrated each short story and designed the front cover, as well as doing the music for the book trailer ". Francis H. Powell  

Book Summary  

My first published book is a collection of 22 short stories about misfortune characterized by unexpected final twists at the end of each tale. "With 'Flight of Destiny', I want the reader to squirm at the behavior of some undeniably despicable characters, be charmed by their wit under duress, and be totally drawn into the harrowing world of the oppressed, all while savoring these dark, surrealist stories," says Powell. "'Into this anthology, I have injected my vast accumulation of angst and blended in my warped sense of humor."
 From the author's desk 
What better way to put all my angst into short stories. Born in a commuter belt city called Reading and like many a middle or upper class child of such times I was shunted off to an all-male boarding school aged eight, away from my parents for periods of up to twelve weeks at a time, until I was 17. While at my first Art college through a friend I met a writer called Rupert Thomson, who was at the time in the process of writing his first book “Dreams of leaving”. He was a bit older than myself, me being fresh out of school, but his personality and wit resonated, despite losing contact with him. 
I had a stint living in Austria,  where I began writing.  It wasn’t until I moved to Paris, that my writing began to truly evolve.  I discovered a  magazine called  Rat Mort (dead rat) I sent off a short story, in the hope it would match the seemingly dark world the magazine seemed to embroiled in. I got no answer. Not put off I sent two more stories. Finally I got an answer. It seemed the magazine editor was a busy man, a man prone to travelling. It seemed my first story really hit the right note with him. His name was Alan Clark.  I began writing more and more short stories, some published on the internet. A bit later my anthology Flight of Destiny slowly evolved,  published April 2015, by Savant publishing.

 Chapter excerpt


Louisa Cranston was slowly becoming aware that something wasn't right. First and foremost, she was rocking gently, submerged in saline fluid in some kind of large container, her body awash with strange, unnatural sensations. She had plenty of oxygen to breathe. Attached to her skin were various monitor leads, that she supposed were tracking her heart beat and blood pressure. Beneath the sound of the sloshing water, she could make out a secondary sound: the rumble of an engine. From this, she concluded she was being transported to some unknown destination.

Louisa flexed her fingers and felt with their tips the smoothly rounded casing surrounding her. Her thoughts were hazy. Her mind kept meandering from one indistinct memory to another, suggesting to her that she had been heavily sedated. Worse, as the drugs slowly wore off, the throbbing pain below her waist steadily increased until her lower half felt as though it had been stung by an enormous wasp. 

An abrupt thud jolted her further into consciousness, and she suddenly recalled being involved in a terrible road accident. The driver had shouted something as the car hurtled off the road. There had been a loud crash. Yes, she remembered that. They had smashed into a tree, and she had somehow survived, despite her legs being crushed beyond recognition. The driver had not been so lucky and had died. Things were beginning to get clearer. The driver was not her husband; he was her illicit lover.

Her husband, Crawford, was a world-renowned surgeon. His private passion was ichthyology, but it is true to say he was a man of eclectic and diverse interests. In his fledgling scientific career, he'd held a defamatory view of art, as it conflicted with his natural predilection towards logic and order. Then one day, he caught sight of a pickled shark in a display cabinet at a business associate's art gallery, awakening within him something new and wondrous. 

If before he had been a man of things purely scientific, he was now a man with an eye for the world of the eclectic and absurd. Having acquired a sizable fortune, investing in art seemed a logical next step for a man of his standing. But it was the unusual, the bizarre, that attracted his artistic attention, and into which he decided to pour his time and money. This left him little time for his wife, Louisa, who he pointedly excluded from his two great passions.

They'd married when she was still a young student. He'd been invited to give a lecture at her medical school, and she had been blinded by the enormity of his intellect and rapidly-growing fame. If indeed she'd ever really loved him, at least her admiration for him had never flagged.

The much-heralded Professor Crawford Cranston made it clear immediately before their marriage that he didn't want any children getting in the way of his career. Apart from being authoritative, her husband was intolerably possessive, while at the same time showing little interest in fulfilling her physical needs. He'd recently built a research institute, aptly named after him, on the confines of his estate, and was fast becoming reclusive, to the point of maintaining only a small select circle of moneyed friends with similarly bizarre interests.

Further developments on the estate included building his own personal art gallery in the spacious basement of his mansion, boldly claiming that the works he was collecting would push the boundaries of both art and science further than they had ever gone before. Louisa, left more and more alone to herself, had fallen for one of Crawford's less acclaimed assistants, who'd taken the time to show her a modicum of attention, something which her cold-fish husband had never done. She and her lover carefully chose the places and times for their trysts, their lovemaking stoked by the ever-present risk of discovery.

Unfortunately for them, on the day of the accident they'd both been careless. Somehow, Crawford had found out, and, filled with jealous rage, he'd taken action. Tampering with the steering and brakes of her car being beneath him; he instructed a lackey to perform the
deed. That was probably what her lover had been trying to convey in his last words, she thought. Yes, it was all coming back. Upon being informed by the local hospital of the accident, as well as the death of the driver and the hopelessness of his wife's injuries, Crawford insisted she be placed under his care. 

Rather than being mortified by extent of his wife's injuries, an exciting new idea germinated in his mind. As soon as her condition allowed, he had her transferred to an exclusive private hospital to further stabilize in strict seclusion. The hospital wing, operating theater, and passage from her room to the operating theater were cordoned off. Immediately after what proved a lengthy, but apparently successful operation, Louisa, still heavily sedated, was prepared for a covert transfer elsewhere.

The sound of wheels crunching on gravel momentarily distracted her thoughts. She seemed to have finally arrived at wherever they were taking her. She heard vehicle doors open, and the indistinct sound of human voices. Then she felt the container she was inside slowly sliding out of the vehicle. A moment later she felt the capsule being delicately hoisted and carried by several men the way the way pallbearers might carry a coffin. Shortly, her bearers' footsteps stopped their crunching on gravel and began clacking on marble, creating echoes inside a large building. Suddenly she began to hear familiar sounds.

She could just make out the chime of a grandfather clock, one she knew well. She could even make out the distinctive sound of two dogs sniffing, panting urgently, following on either side of her container. They were her dogs, Bachus and Griffin, she was certain. She was, she felt certain, in Cranston Hall. The tank stopped sloshing. She could hear muffled instructions being given the tank bearers in the brusque manner her husband commonly used when talking to underlings. 

A moment later the sloshing rebegan. This time she felt her capsule being carried down stairs. If she was indeed back at Cranston Hall, she couldn't fathom why she would be taken downstairs to the basement. Her husband had always made a point of keeping her away. The tank soon leveled out, the entourage came to an abrupt halt, and the container was lowered with a decided "thunk" onto the stone floor.

The black cloth covering the tank that had been making sight impossible, was unceremoniously pulled off, the brightness of the lightshining on her causing her to blink rapidly and look away. She felt a lurch as the transparent capsule within which she was contained was attached to a winch, which, moments later raised the capsule, leaving her suspended upright, totally naked. Her long golden hair, falling loosely about her chest, covered her breasts from the view of the circle of men gathered in attendance about her.

Terrified, she followed their line of gaze and arched her head downwards until the full horror of her husband’s deed hit her with devastating force. Her husband, the greatest surgeon in the world, had discarded her pulverized lower limbs and grafted on what looked like the tail of a fish. To reaffirm her new situation, he'd even preserved the decapitated fish head and placed it on display for her to see. The gruesome remains glared up at her with a pained expression. The shock was too much, and she passed out.

Upon regaining consciousness, she found her husband, Crawford, standing before the capsule admiring his work, the ultimate synthesis of surgery, science and art. He was taking pleasure in pointing out the details of his outstanding work to his entourage, which had now swelled in numbers, consisting of businessmen who’d paid huge sums to be present at the unveiling. All sick voyeurs, mouths hanging open, eyes agog, they nodded perfunctorily at each point. All peered incredulously at the half-woman, half-fish before them, Crawford's most outlandish accomplishment yet. 

During the course of their ritualistic homage to her husband, Louisa again lost consciousness. When she woke this time, she found herself in new surroundings: She was encased in a spacious rectangular plexiglass container, her body resting lengthwise on an elevated shelf-like dias with a huge white scalloped shell behind. Misting water slowly cascaded from above onto her lower half and, from there, into a pool below the dias just large enough for her to slip into and swim a few strokes. Whether resting on the dias or swimming, the enclosure showcased her new body for anyone present to see.

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