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.
The man Denara had her eye on is missing, and she may have made a catastrophic mistake. An old legend tells of an aged helper of the mountain, so Denara decides she has no choice but to fix it. Tom Howard weaves a seaside community, beaten down by time, unawares of looms behind them. -SY
The unexpected silence woke her. For the first time in Denara’s life, no raindrops fell on the roof tiles over her head. She left her bed, pulling her homespun robe around her, and made her way to the kitchen. Her mother, tall and thin, stared out the window at a morning sky lightened much too early.
“The rain has stopped,” said Denara.
“Don’t worry,” said her mother, returning to washing the breakfast dishes. “I saw blue skies for two hours when I was your age. It’ll start raining again in a few minutes.”
Denara scooped chunks of fish out of a bubbling stewpot into her bowl, appreciative of the stove’s warmth. “Would you like some breakfast, Mom?”
“Why did the rain stop?” Denara asked, pushing the bits of fish around in her bowl and hoping her mother had a logical reason for the rain stopping.
“I don’t know,” replied her mother. “It might have something to do with the low tide last night. Your father said he’d never seen the ocean that far out.”
When I saw the clown hatch from the egg, it all made sense. Of course they weren’t human. Who the hell would grow up and decide to become one of them? I can’t say that it all fit together—zoologically speaking—of course, but then I don’t know much about all that. There’s all sorts of weird shit out there, and when I won the big black shell at the showground I knew there would be some kind of trick to it. Who gives away a fifteen-kilo egg as a prize in a guess-the-jellybeans-in-the-jar game? Calling it a ‘fortune egg’ did nothing to further its appeal. I didn’t even want the bloody thing. The show hands had to push it to the car in a wheelbarrow.
So in the garage it went, covered with an old dust sheet. I would’ve forgotten all about it, but about a week later I went in to get some wax to buff my Mini Cooper. As soon as I got through the door I heard a loud tapping from the egg. Pulling back the sheet, I saw that it was already cracked. As I watched, a section of shell was pushed out by a meaty paw, and a pudgy white face thrust itself into the gap. Its lips and eyes were black, its ears red. It looked like an obscene baby.
A Franciscan monk slips among the stars, in communion with other species, spreading his word. Where the journey will take him next, he knows not, nor what awaits at the end of his road. Mike Adamson brings us on a journey of discovery. SY
To step out upon the plane of the universe is a consummately spiritual experience; and deeply terrifying.
The universe is infinite. A human being is finite but connected to infinity through consciousness and the ability to conceive of something greater than self. In this burgeoning age when humans have spread their seed among the stars, a few among us have not forgotten our past. We cherish and safeguard the treasures that made our species who we were—a young race filled with promise and hope for the bright tomorrow which has arrived; but at what cost?
I, Gerome DelCanto, am a Franciscan monk, and my role in life is to bring the Cosmic Christ to the universe.
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.”
Philip felt Ellie’s grip tighten around his hand. Opposite them, almost lost behind the enormity of his comma-shaped desk, sat Arturo Maldonado, a small, balding man in an immaculately-pressed pastel grey suit.
‘I must admit,’ Maldonado said, ‘we here at the Directory are largely unimpressed when couples participate in unsanctioned conceptions. It speaks to us of a certain…irresponsibility.’
‘Doesn’t it mean something that we’ve come forward?’ Ellie asked.
‘That depends upon your motivations,’ Maldonado said.
‘Us conceiving was-was…an accident.’ Philip bowed his head. The whole office—with its white carpet, white walls, and glass furnishings—was pristine. ‘But we’ve taken—’ He gulped, and forced the tremor from his voice, ‘—we’ve taken responsibility. We didn’t go underground, didn’t try and have an unlicensed baby.’
The Russian ballet is in town performing Swan Lake. An understudy watches the Prima Ballerina from the audience with awe, and she is not alone. The performance floors the audience, in ways it is not supposed to. Beth Deitchman brings the house crashing down in this paranormal tale. SY
The opera house hummed with opening night excitement. Voices rose in animated conversation, punctuated by bursts of laughter. Beautifully dressed people stood near their seats, scanning the auditorium for their friends, their eagerness to see the great ballerina palpable. The men cut gallant figures in their tuxedos and crisp bowties; the women dripped with jewels, hair coifed to perfection.
Although my seat awaited me above, I lingered near the dress circle railing. From my vantage point, I observed with amusement the dance of interactions—a nod here, a smile there, the flourish of a fan, the flash of opera glasses. Below us the orchestra warmed up, its well-ordered cacophony of trills and glides cutting through the symphony of voices.
I turned my gaze to the heavy gold curtain where a spotlight played against the plush fabric. Backstage, pre-performance preparations would be underway—a last-minute costume check, a final stretch, a quick review of choreography. I almost regretted having the night off to watch the ballet from the theatre.
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.
Brutally stripped from her place in the forest, the oak remembers. As she feels the call of new life, she takes steps to return her life. Patrick Freivald strips back our love of wood and shows us the horror of our consumption, and the consequences. SY
She remembered the men, the saws and the smoke and screaming agony and bleeding sap. She remembered the darkness, when they took her and stripped her and killed her and shaved her down to cruel planks. She remembered the darkness, the tepid warehouse harsher than any winter, and the brief kiss of sunlight before her imprisonment.
But she didn’t remember before. The dappled sunlight through the forest, squirrels scrambling through her boughs, the deer resting in her shade, the rabbit warren under her roots. She knew these things, but she couldn’t recall them.
Brutal geometry stole her form, a giant kiln her essence, mankind her purpose. Jagged steel screws bound her to dead sisters, gave her a form both alien and hostile. Wrapped in cold vinyl and fiberglass and sheetrock, she hardened, stiffened, became as bone to this new thing, this monstrosity, this structure. Eyes of glass saw nothing but her sisters’ torture, and concrete roots drew no water to slake her thirst. Read the rest of this entry