Nettie Lonesome follows her senses to a small town, to accidentally embroil herself in family politics and pettiness. Lila Bowen brings us into a world of fantastic intrigue, navigated as only a skin-walking vulture can. -SY
A story set in the world of The Shadow
A bird’s sinister shadow sweeps over a small town nestled between jagged mountains, rippling over neatly painted buildings and swept porches and a dusty thoroughfare. The bird has passed a dozen such goddamn towns, shiny as eggs in rough nests, but it hasn’t stopped a single time. Until now.
Something down there must’ve caught its eye.
Circling widely, the ungainly critter lands in a dirty yard by a clothesline. It’s not quite a vulture but close, ugly as sin with a bald head and a great mass of twisted tissue where one eye should be. It doubles over, quivers, and…becomes a girl just as rough and ugly as the bird. She goes by the name Nettie Lonesome, most of the time. Lanky and rib-bone thin, frizzy black hair thick with grime. She coughs into a hand, then quickly covers her chest, looking about shiftily to see if anyone noticed. Within moments, she’s stolen a faded shirt and pants off the line, slipping into them like a fish sliding back into the water. They’re fit for a child, and her bony ankles and wrists show, but at least she’s covered. At least she looks like a boy again.
The sea peeled back from the bay, sucked by a force stronger than tides. Laid bare beneath the sun, fish glittered and flopped, and deep furrows in the naked ocean floor traced the line of the currents. The horizon bulged. Ahli gaped, as cries went up around her.
Her father, Yune, dropped the net they were piling into their little round bowl-boat. He grabbed her shoulder and pointed inland.
The sight of his normally cheerful face twisted into a mask of fear gave her a speed she’d never possessed.
A few minutes of rain. Downward, a heavy punch that won’t last long. It bends you by degrees. After a quarter of an hour where it seems the rain may have exhausted itself, conditions are suddenly, once again, infiltrated by horrible and the rain continues its composition. Your behavior, how you put together your motives, wishes it were out in the country, or you were inside, somewhere dry and lacking this forecast of tears.
Forced by a solution she couldn’t paint, Claire—rushing from her spinster-packed dollhouse—set to sea. Claire sudden, work (the firmament of the loom, her attachment to DUTY) waiting to consume, out of time under a mast with no swerve immune from risk, and no easy. Wind—happening—difficult, exhausting—andherumbrellaisgoneintomisfortune. Claire’s future (short on clarity) does not see the automobile, sudden, chasing work.
Dead skunks (and other wilder fare) glare on backcountryroads…town and country no one writes songs to what’s chopped down.
2nd umbrella (group): Read the rest of this entry
An old world sacrifice means Daemiel can eat. But the eyes watch and the child squalls, awakening memories in Daemiel long forgotten. Cynthia McGean draws us into long forgotten traditions in this dark, fantastical tale. -SY
High on a cliff, a man and a woman stand beneath a lone tree, its center sliced with an ancient, charred wound. The clouds roar. A distant flash of light shoots across the sky.
In her arms, the woman cradles a small blob with red hair. “How will this put things right?” she asks the man.
“It will quiet the gods,” he says. “Just leave it!”
The bundle in the woman’s arms screeches. “Hush,” she whispers, frantically bouncing the little shape. “You’ll make them angry.”
Anna loves her garden, and the little tasty treats that are gratis for her lovely fresh herbs. The discovery of a purple spot on her finger leads her down a path where her two loves drop her in deep trouble. Rue Karney’s dark little fantasy will have us all questioning what’s in a name. SY
Anna squatted in the herb garden, secateurs in hand, and snipped off the head of each grasshopper she spied. Among the glossy leaves of basil and parsley, she cut off small green heads with tiny black eyes. Between the pale sage and dark, woody thyme, she chopped through green necks and sliced off plump-winged bodies until, through the shades of green, a bright purple spot caught her eye. She spread the secateurs’ curved blades open. She peered closer. The purple spot did not move or squirm or wriggle. It did not sprout wings and fly away. It did not belong to a garden predator.
It belonged to her.
The purple spot was small and perfectly round. It sat on her finger like a faceted jewel, perched in the centre of the flesh of her middle finger, between the knuckle and the joint. Anna twisted her hand, turning it this way and that, and contemplated drawing a line around her finger, circling the purple spot in gold felt-tip pen. Perhaps she’d flash it around like an antique heirloom at work, give the other nurses a giggle.
She picked a caterpillar off the underside of a half-chewed basil leaf. ‘Bloody pests.’
She squished the grub. Pale green caterpillar flesh oozed out between her fingertips. She wiped it on her gardening apron and searched for more.
Joseph S. Pulver, Snr submitted this dark fantasy as an invited piece, unaware of how Skeleton would perfectly embody symbiosis within. SY
(for Brian McNaughton)
Read the book. Came away with paper cuts and a wounded heart. Maybe I had the wounded heart before. Hard looking that far back…
The book was A Nightingale’s View of Autumn. The cover whispered of dark skies. Fitting. And sad…Inside the black ivy on yellowing paper were questions of blood and The Day After, an underworld of blackness that rattled with mysteries. The forest inside was thick, fog-shrouded, and hopeless.
That was the name of the town, Hopeless. And where the sea’s oblivion waves came to lick its shore with ash, it was. Skeleton felt it. Breathed it in. Found himself drowning in it.
That’s me. Skeleton. Was. A few Thens (charged with the witching-whisper of twilight and the nightingale narcosis of black stars) have changed things, but that’s where I began that night. Stood on that rocky shore and heard the rain-lashed cries of the crow. Turned and followed.
Cooperation and coexistence appear at the end of this delightful fantasy, even if only for a brief moment. SY
The last of the sunlight shafted through the water, twining through the green kelp and transforming its tips into diaphanous siren hands. Devon was mesmerised by it momentarily, and then checked the regulator and her oxygen readings. Sunset dives were tricky and more than one diver had been lost in these underwater forests as day turned to dusk, then night.
A flash, a slivering gleam far below caught Devon’s eye—she hadn’t imagined it earlier. It flickered through the fronds, a mysterious beacon in the watery gloaming. Her diving partner, Christine, was observing sea otters near the top of the kelp, close enough for Devon to feel safe to dive just a little lower.
There. With each pulse, the light outlined a gate made of glass and faded gold. Above Devon, Christine motioned for her to come to the surface. She shook her head in response, pointed below. At that distance, in these waters, she shouldn’t be able to see it so clearly and in such detail.
Unbelievable, she thought, checking her oxygen again. But it was there and behind it, a city of molten glass, rising through the green depths in spires and turrets and ever-changing gables. Mist swirled and eddied in the glass buildings and—impossibly—through the streets and alleyways between them. It glimmered, shifted, reformed, a ghostly song made into faery palaces twisting in the tide. Read the rest of this entry
Trapped in another world, lured there with lies, the servants of the castle toil in the kitchen at dishes both tantalising and glorious. If not for the beauty of this world, perhaps they could leave… SY
The flames and glowing coals on the three hearths pour heat into the kitchen like the midday sun on the Sonoran desert. I’m wet under my arms, under the cumbersome dress they make me wear, wet between my legs from clinging sweat. But my face prickles in the kitchen’s dry heat, my forehead and nose itch, and when my tongue grazes the corners of my mouth I taste salt.
I bend my head to chopping, my back to the fires, bent over one of the five tables in the center of the room. There’s a servant at every table, cutting or arranging or stirring at the overseer’s direction, and more of us running back and forth to fetch or carry.
One girl reminds me of my best friend back in another life, petite and sloe-eyed; when she’s hard at work she bites on her lower lip and scowls to intimidate the food into submission.
Fanny and Wolfram, with their faithful hound Helen, are drawn to Beesdon, investigating an usual disappearance. Their experience in paranormal investigations didn’t quite lead them to expect an offender hiding in such plain sight. Meghean’s submission to the 2015 Story Quest contest charmed the judges into making her a finalist. SY
The Maiden rumbled along the tracks, cutting through a low valley of wildflowers and docile cows. Morning dew nestled onto the crisp leaves as the sun crept across the sky. It was a picture of a rural paradise that was slowly dying. Fanny Helhouse peered over her newspaper to eye the idyllic surroundings. She had kept herself in the city, bundled in the soothing cacophony of noise and violence. But as her eyes wandered the horizon to the lazy tendrils of smoke from snug cottages, she uncovered a forgotten comfort.
Her husband, Wolfram, slouched across from her with a boot on the edge of her seat. Helen, their Leonberger, rested her head on his lap. Both were drifting in and out of sleep. Wolfram’s bowler hat had slid over his eyes. Fanny wasn’t quite able to relax as well as them. The carriage jostled her dreams, leaving her restless and irritable. She flipped through the pages of her newspaper, half-reading, half-worrying.
Fanny prodded Wolfram gently with her boot. “Darling,” she chirped, “We appear to be close to civilization.”
The Warrens move to share the Fremen’s property, a generous gift. But their home is also shared with others, those unseen, who are tied to the Fremens and the land. As Lar Fremen and Tim Warren grow, the world intrudes upon the little idyll, and there will be consequences. Anthony Rella brings to live an urban supernatural horror teeming with underground resentments in a perfectly placed backwater setting. SY
Durrell Fremen, Lar’s father, sipped his coffee by the kitchen window, watching the Warrens unload their car and trailer. “They got a boy about your age,” Durrell said. “Once they’re all moved in, you better go show him around, tell him about the spirits.”
At eight years old, Lar barely understood the spirits herself but felt obliged to do as he asked. That night, her family walked over to the house on their land where the Warrens now lived, and Lar introduced herself to the youngest boy, Tim.
“Let’s go walk around,” she said. “I’ll show you the forest.”
“Chuck, you go with them,” Tim and Chuck’s mother said. Chuck whined about how he was too old to tromp around with babies.
“What are you going to do?” their father asked. “Sit around playing video games?”
“They’ll be fine together,” Durrell said. “Lar’s been walking the woods since she was four.”