From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

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Short Stories

Fiction

What is Mercy?

Nanda hauls the bucket from the depths of the well, her palms aflame with red blisters from clutching the frayed rope too tight. The thick rope, screeching against the pulley, trembling under the weight of the water, becomes heavier by the minute. The minute she goes weak, the bucket will plunge, crashing into the sweet water below, and she’ll have to start the charade for the fourth time.

Fiction

Ghost Riders at Hutchinson’s Two-Pump

Clouds rolled across the evening sky, dark and low, dragging rain behind them. Desert washes ran dirt-red, and rocky mesas shone wet when lightning flashed. Rainwater frothed down the narrow slot of Sheep Drop Ravine, a chasm with overgrown edges that had claimed the lives of countless sheep and antelope, and of the entire “Handsome Jake” Jubles Gang as it had fled, on a similar night, from a posse of enraged Winslow, Arizona citizens.

Fiction

The Failing Name

The oval fruit, uneven on all sides even when it’s ripe, is not just for eating. Spaces in the dust roads filled with reddish-brown wind are what she sees in her lost childhood. Jolainne wants to tell you, to tell anyone who’ll listen, of hiding in the leaves of a mango tree, witnessing what could have been the onset of an assault.

Fiction

I Would

I had only one defense against a woman who knew me. “Fine.” I layered venom into my voice, to make her think it a hard-won concession yet again. “I’ll prophecy for you.” Queen Iroda stood alone by the parapet, a dark silhouette against the mountains. The scant light caught the gold embroidery on her robe and the perfect braids of red and silver that draped down her chest like chains.

Fiction

A Softness of the Heart

Aunt Violet had been sick for a long time before she died. The doctor said cancer, but Louise’s Aunt Sinna said it was a soft heart. Louise was inclined to agree, knowing little of this cancer business. Anyway, Aunt Sinna never, ever lied.

Fiction

A Gift from the Queen of Faerie to the King of Hell

The designs weren’t in the window or in any of the shop’s sample books, but I caught sight of the tattoo artist tracing stencils onto transfer paper. I’d been looking for a place to finish my sleeves, and though the tumbling spike-thorn roses weren’t what I’d pictured, I could see them winding between my birds and beasts, viny tendrils and jagged rocks, the buds tempting and lush, the thorns sharp and deadly.

Fiction

Your Ticket to Hell

Your journey to Hell begins on a ferry. You clutch your ticket and line up in the stinging rain, waiting for your chance to board. You remember something about a river in Hell, and a ferryman, but in your memory, he rowed a boat more like a canoe in exchange for gold coins. You’re lined up to board a ship, a modern ship, the kind that might take you to an island.

Fiction

How I Became MegaPunch, Or, Why I Stayed with Dylan

I wake up at midnight for the third time this week. Some villain’s robbing a jewellery store. Can’t they get more creative? Maybe try . . . a high-end winter coat store? Or a candy store? Doesn’t make much sense economically, but that’s never stopped a supervillain before. Me? I’m MegaPunch. Just one of your many overworked, panda-eyed superheroes.

Fiction

The Woman With No Face

Ankuin knew she was in a sim by the mineral taste in her mouth. The other tells were more subtle: the fractal pattern of moss on the cave wall, the cyclical rhythm of the rain on wet fronds, and the lyrical birdsong piercing through the dense forest. Most people wouldn’t notice such details, because most people didn’t have a reason to doubt their senses. But Ankuin’s senses were never fully her own.

Fiction

Arenous

It starts with the patch of skin behind her right ear, where her too-large turquoise glasses frame sits awkwardly, an unbalanced seesaw upon her nose. While finishing a requisition report, she scratches there unconsciously, and her nails catch on something hard and thin, coming back with a flimsy yellow patch the size of her nail, translucent and slightly elastic.