QSFer Kim Fielding has a new MM paranormal ghost book out: “Dei Ex Machina.”
Captured young and enslaved by the Romans, Sabbio died while building Diocletian’s palace. For seventeen hundred years he has haunted the city of Split, watching and listening as people pass through the old palace; but he is always alone. One afternoon he spies a handsome but sad man at a café, and Sabbio is intrigued.
Eight months earlier, landscaper Mason Gould’s husband was randomly murdered. In an attempt to comfort him, friends and family take him on a trip to Croatia. A local woman offers to help him contact his husband’s spirit, but they connect to Sabbio instead.
Mason and Sabbio quickly make an emotional connection. But Sabbio is a ghost and Mason must return to California. For two men centuries apart, it’s going to take a miracle to make love work.
This is a rerelease.
Latin was not his first tongue, just as Sabbio was not his original name. But he had been young when he was captured—barely more than a boy—and his new masters had quickly beaten their language into him. He’d resisted for a short time, but soon realized it brought him only fresh welts and bruises. And besides, Latin words were generally the only ones he and his fellow slaves had in common. Once his heart acknowledged that he’d never be free again, he found servitude was easier if he forgot his old ways, his old name.
Latin became his adopted tongue, but not long after he died, he stopped hearing it. The palace was abandoned only a few years after being built. New people entered the safety of the walls a few hundred years later as they fled invaders, and they spoke another language entirely. Nowadays, he sometimes heard Latin within the Italian that visitors spoke, or scattered in French or English, or intoned by a priest in the cathedral, but the language was not far from being the ghost that he was.
But now, as he floated in the cold depths of the pit, he heard Latin. Veni nobiscum loqui, phasma. Verba habemus pro vobis. Veni, phasma. Come speak with us, spirit. We have words for you. Come, spirit. It was poor Latin, but understandable. And while few sounds ever made their way into the chasm, these words rang clear.
Sabbio clung to them. Like the toy balloons that sometimes escaped from the children along the Riva, the words carried him upward and outward until he broke free of the hole altogether. He found himself in a bright room where a handsome older woman spoke and two men listened. It was she who had called him.
For the first time in eons, he was filled with joy. Someone knew of him! Someone talked to him! But as he listened more, he realized the words were addressed not to him, but to another ghost. He was so bitterly disappointed that he very nearly tumbled back into the abyss.
As he teetered on the edge, though, he recognized one of the men. Sabbio had seen him sitting at a table on the Riva, toying with his wineglass as his companions chatted in English. He was handsome but sad, and Sabbio regained his balance and remained in the room, standing behind the familiar man.
The man suddenly turned around and looked at him. “Who’s there?” he whispered.
It was the first time in seventeen centuries that anyone had addressed him. “Sabbio,” he answered. He didn’t think the man heard him, but the woman did. She repeated his name.
The man reached for him.
Even though he knew nothing could come of it, Sabbio mirrored the gesture. Their fingertips met—and for the briefest of moments, Sabbio felt. Pressure, heat, the steady beat of a pulse.
It was too much. He fled, sinking through walls and down to the street. Stunned, he hunched in a passageway. Someone had touched him.
His mind was still whirling when he heard laughter nearby. He turned the corner and found the two men from the apartment standing on the sidewalk and talking. The one with the very short hair touched the other man’s—Sabbio’sman’s—shoulder, and Sabbio momentarily seethed with jealousy. But then he calmed enough to scoff at himself. He’d had nobody even when he was alive; he certainly couldn’t claim anyone now.
Still, when the men parted, Sabbio followed the handsome one as he walked quickly toward the palace. The man stopped at a pekarna to buy some food, but instead of eating it right away, he carried it a few blocks into one of the buildings near the palace. Sabbio had watched with great interest as those buildings were constructed, not by slaves but by freemen who joked with each other while they worked, who took long breaks for meals, who went home at night to lie with their wives.
Now the man entered a large apartment, and although he closed the door, Sabbio easily slipped inside. While the man ate, Sabbio floated, examining the rooms and their contents. He didn’t often go indoors, and when he did, he was always amazed at the sheer number of things people owned—far more than even the wealthy possessed when he was alive. And some of the items were so strange: a box that heated food almost instantly, a kettle that boiled water without a fire, a big glassy tablet on the wall that showed moving images and played sounds.
After eating, the man stood to stretch. Abandoning his food wrappers and dirty plate, he entered one of the bedrooms. Feeling guilty yet aroused, Sabbio watched the man strip. His torso was ladder-ribbed and pale, a contrast to his deeply tanned arms and legs. Although he was thin, he possessed wiry muscles. He had little body hair aside from the nest of dark gold curls at his groin, and he was circumcised. A Jew? Perhaps.
It was barely past midday, but the man climbed into bed, pulled up the covers, and sighed deeply. He was asleep within minutes.
Sabbio crept closer. He studied the man’s face, even more handsome now that slumber had banished his sorrow and fatigue. He’d mussed his hair on the pillow, and Sabbio desperately wanted to tame the curls with his fingers. Without conscious intent, he raised his hand. And when his fingers touched the man’s head, Sabbio fell inside.
Kim Fielding has migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States and currently lives in California. She’s a university professor who dreams of being able to travel and write full-time. She also dreams of having two perfectly-behaved children, a husband who isn’t obsessed with football, and a house that cleans itself. Some dreams are more easily obtained than others.
Kim donates 100% of the royalties from her self-published stories and audiobooks to Doctors Without Borders.