The messenger who burst upon my chamber favored me with the sort of worshipful gaze I hadn’t seen in years. I was not best pleased to see him or his starry eyes. At my breast, Matilda sucked placidly, undisturbed by the stranger’s entrance. I didn’t bother to cover myself; if this sight embarrassed my visitor, […]
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“We need to talk.” The nixie did not reply at first. She leaned her elbows on the embankment and laid her head to the side. “It’s warm,” she said. “For the time of year.” “Yes, it is.” Harold shifted his weight and glanced at the trees surrounding the nixie’s pool, their yellow foliage beginning to brown. A squirrel chattered in a tall oak and hefted an acorn at him. “They don’t like you,” said the nixie. “Well, they don’t like me, but they know better than to give me trouble.” She lay back in the water, examining the fingernails on her long, sleek hands. “When you have married me, they won’t trouble you either. I’ll see to it.” “Actually, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about.” “Go on.” Though her tone remained casual, she froze absolutely still. He thought he could see the water at her sides starting to ice over.
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Kara followed the New Year’s procession through Chinatown, deep drumbeats echoing in her ears punctuated by the pop of fireworks. Smoke from the fireworks hung low in the windless air, filling her lungs with an acrid scent and making her cough. She welcomed the smoke. It gave her an excuse for her tears. Chinese New Year had always been celebrated at her grandmother’s home, where banquet tables groaned under the weight of the food. Rooms filled with cousins she adored, even though they threatened to drive her mad. Then, they would finish off the night with a family trip to view this parade. All of those traditions ended the night her grandmother died.
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From the roof of his house, Andrew can see everything in the town of Pandora. Right below is his yard of wispy yellow grass that breaks at the touch. A little way down is the dead creek, a stinking, mucky place. And above him, always, is the hand of God. Briefly, he trains his flashlight on the underside of the hand, studying the whorled, grayish flesh, then he stares back toward the outskirts of town, peering through his binoculars at the mushroom farmer’s trailer. The farmer makes a drug. Andrew’s not supposed to know about the drug, and he certainly isn’t supposed to take it, but the farmer’s daughter goes to school with all the other kids, so word gets around. He must have mixed a new batch. The townspeople are lined up all the way back to the old Sunoco station, their headlamps making a broken ant trail in the ever-present dusk.
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Half the county figured my big brother Samuel had bricks for brains. There was mighty good evidence in favor of that, like the time he decided to walk through downtown naked simply cause it was a hot day and clothes just plain didn’t feel good. But I knew Samuel wasn’t a dummy, just quiet, with his mind in a different place than the rest of us. So when I heard him with two speakers of dark words, I knew to hunker down and listen. Here by the barn was the most private spot on our property—or would be, if I wasn’t up in the rafters. I smelled the bad guys before I heard them. Mama didn’t get to teach me much, but she did teach me to heed my nose when it came to good and evil and all the grey in between, and those men stank like the septic tank being sucked out on an August afternoon. I gagged against my wrist to keep quiet, Mama’s old chain bracelet warm at my lips.
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She’s got her system down: a fly on a string, to lure a snapper to snap; a sharp carving knife to sever an extended neck. Simple. Safer than other methods. She’s lost toes to other methods. She’s lost fingers. Snappers have wickedly sharp beaks. No one knows that better than she does. There are safer ways, of course. A heavy enough rock lobbed from a distance can shatter a carapace. Shatter a spine. You don’t have to get close enough to lose digits. But that way is cruel. Jenny doesn’t like cruelty. She doesn’t like killing turtles, either. But it has to be done. There are two turtles today, which is the right number of turtles. They’re near the pond, behind the house where Jenny lives with her grandmother. Where Jenny’s parents used to live. It is a place where turtles rarely go anymore. A place the turtles have learned to avoid. The coincidence of finding them here heartens Jenny. It is as if they have been guided here. By something inside them. Guided to Jenny’s fly on a string. To Jenny’s knife.
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“Nothing but the world is real and true,” Grandfather began. His voice was soft, whispery and wise. His eyes were as black as the darkness beneath the good ground. “Everything that does not belong to the world is false and untrue,” he continued. “It is the stuff of spirits.” “It is a lie,” Raven continued, knowing the lesson by heart. “Spirit stuff only looks like green grass and white sand.”
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Sir Percival spurred the borrowed police horse as far as the corner of York Avenue and 67th, where he swung his armored bulk down from the saddle to land on the sidewalk with a clangor that stopped the startled street vendors in their tracks. Grail in hand, he ran in past the security guards at Sloan-Kettering Memorial Cancer Center, who called after him, “What room number are you visiting, sir?”
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Written by Josh Brown, art by John Fortune © 2015 Josh Brown 2,597 total views, no views today
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Waking up on a chipmunk’s back racing through the underbrush might sound cute. It’s not. Up close, chipmunks sorta smell like a dumpster fire. Plus, the first time you see a parasite, a semi-translucent tube sock full of dark blood the size of your forearm, emerge from the fur and then disappear like a breaching whale, you lose all thought of Alvin, Simon, and Theodor.
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Captain Lawson stood in front of the wall-sized painting of the Battle of Melusinae, where he’d died. He did not hear the wind blowing or the chilled waves pounding the rocks far below the inn. He did not hear Madame Shirley, the proprietor of this place, speaking to him, as she usually was or the lead crystal glasses clinking with rough chips of ice and fingers of gin.
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You didn’t know me the second time you said “Hello.” You couldn’t have known we’d met before, because people don’t believe in spirits in this modern day. Everything is decided, neatly parceled into little bits of what is considered possible and what is not. I am just a myth. But when I look at you, gazing back at me from your seat beside my hospital bed, I know what is real. We are real, what we share is real, and I am dying.
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The day we met, Prasad asked me how many times I had died. I answered without hesitation. “Forty-four.” That number is part of my identity. As important as my womanhood, my occupation, my name. My soul had occupied forty-four bodies. Had experienced forty-four deaths. And the memories of those forty-four are in my head. Unforgettable. Unshakeable.
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Eliška huddled in her laboratory during that short autumn before the predicted onset of the Dark. She poured over her star-maps, scrawled calculations on a black ink diagram of planetary epicycles. She hefted bound volumes of research by Copernicus and Kepler, Brahe and Galileo, about Mars and the moon, about the ascendency of Mercury and the dangers of spotting a comet in Taurus.
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I‘m practicing juggling again, because it’s raining outside and there’s nothing else to do. Big fat bloodwarm drops drum on the tent’s waxed canvas. In an hour, as the day’s light vanishes, the circus’s light will flicker to life, powered by the ancient turbine/treadmill pulled by three ponies and a servobot. Townsfolk will wander the […]
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It happened one day that the Blessed Lady of Dark Forever went for a walk in her garden of black leaves, past the Seven Broken Doorways, and down to the ferries, where the refugees arrive in endless outpourings. She was watching her servants—”facilitators” they called themselves these days—play a game of Snatch The Bone when […]
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The stranger’s back is turned to me when I enter The Cactus Tap. Lost in his whisky glass, he does not spare an old lady like me a glance. Once black hair spills across his once black clothes, draped dusty and bedraggled over his tall and angular frame. A mercenary, I guess, a Near Kingdom […]
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When Raine went kicking through the flower beds of the forest, Paylee knew their mother had returned from the village with a heaping basket still brimming with pungent, dried herbs and weeds. He wondered what she offered the people this time. Wartberry Fairvbell? Arrowhead Groundsel? Yellow Skullcap? She could offer them the Fountain of Youth, […]
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“You won’t tell anyone this.” I don’t remind Magnus that I can’t. Besides, his is a knee-jerk sort of question, the one he always asks at the start of a session. “You’re the only one I can talk to,” he says. I nod, doodling on a piece of paper, its edges so charred that the […]
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“Let’s race to the shore,” William challenged. “I’m not interested,” Arthur said. He watched his twin’s shoulders droop and his gait slacken, then he took off toward the water. Deceit was always his surest path to victory. “That was a dirty trick,” William protested as he caught up to his brother. Arthur ignored him. His […]
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