Justin Short’s story is not for the squeamish or arachnophobic. Just how many bites are too many? What will it take to be accepted into a new world? Finalist in the 2013 Story Quest competition, this story gets under your skin. SY
When I first came to the valley, the elders gave me a tick. I didn’t think too much of the gift, especially since there was nowhere to return it. The place, as you know, is fairly inaccessible. A big, greenish space surrounded by acres of nearly vertical hayfields, natural silt traps, and the thorniest woods imaginable. No realistic possibility of escape. No company except that lone chair in the exact center of said valley.
The gray-haired bug-bearers arrived shortly after I took my seat. Their tick was a gray one, small and unthreatening. His tiny feet circumnavigated my torso a couple times before he injected his teeth into my shoulder. It hurt at first, but I gradually got used to the tight discomfort there.
Within the hour, one of the old men brought me my second one. This time it was a seed tick. Almost microscopic. When he released it on my skin and wished it luck, I could scarcely distinguish it from my freckles.
Reviewed by Sophie Yorkston
This is story of Little, a wayward girl scraping by. At the crux of her desperation, when she offers her virginity for a new opportunity, Arsen arrives and whisks her away. She’s offered a home, and kindness, and maybe love, but the offer itself is enough. When Arsen has won her mind, he says he wants to take her to his home on Sub Rosa, but to be accepted there she has to survive the ordeal of the Dark.
When problem solver and amateur cryptographer Layne becomes involved with translating an ancient druidic diary, it looks like a hopeless case. But when the cadences start to create rhythm, Layne starts to connect with the work in a way he couldn’t have predicted. SY
Layne had spent the entire morning hunched over the pinned-out vellum leaves and all he had to show for it was a crick in his neck.
He’d filled two pages of his notebook with beautiful cursive, but that was entirely because he enjoyed exercising his fountain pen. He had produced little more than a continuous ink line. There was no greater meaning in it than there was in the old manuscript.
Layne put the pen down and let out a long breath. “This isn’t prose.” The insight surprised him as he said it.
“What?” Trimby looked up from his workstation, across the lab and near to the window.
“It’s not prose.”
“Of course it’s prose,” said Trimby, pushing at the cuffs of his tweed jacket as if ready to engage in fisticuffs. Layne wanted to laugh almost as much as he wanted to punch him. “The wallet clearly states that it’s a diary.”