From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

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Fiction

Fiction

The Petticoat Government

I was twenty years old when Hamida Bano, the Padshah Begum, supreme wife of the Emperor, entrusted her infant prince to my arms before fleeing across the Thar desert. Her opium-addled husband, steeped in the luxury of his harem, had no defense against Sher Shah Suri’s advancing armies, which squeezed Agra like a coal between tongs. The Sur Empire then settled its traitorous haunches on North India, and Hamida Bano, trailing her husband’s camel, trekked across the blistering desert, while I, still a young concubine, nursed the boy who would inherit the throne.

Flash Fiction

Lessons

 I know exactly how many times I’ve tried to leave. The last time, I walked right up to the edge of the playground, as if the swings and the seesaw weren’t penning me in. Weren’t a boundary I couldn’t cross. I pushed my toe against the air, right above where the blacktop meets the meadow. I’m not sure if I imagined it: the thin film flexing and shimmering like a soap bubble against my shoe.

Fiction

Obstruction

Nellie kept moving, expecting to blend into the ridgeline, but the hiking guide spotted her. He called out in Italian first, then English.

“I don’t think you belong out there.”

His group, tourists with brimmed hats and walking sticks, stopped and stared with dull curiosity. The steep slope under her feet was loose gray rock, treacherous for amateurs perhaps, but she’d been wandering terrain like this almost forever.

Flash Fiction

Emily and the What-if Imp

Emily was nine years old when she met the what-if imp. She was rereading her favorite book when the thing she loved turned sour. Something had its hooks in her mind. It worried her like a dog’s teeth as she sat motionless on her bed. “What if you ran away?” the what-if imp asked. “What if you ran away from home, like the girl in the book?”

Fiction

Heirlooms

I’m excited about this new apartment, its shining glass windows overlooking Harlem, until I see her peeing in the park one morning, shortly after we move in. Insulated glass dampens the screech of taxi honks and sirens below and gives us a great view of the nearby park: a huge swath of hilly green in the middle of the city, where evergreens reach up like pining lovers and silent figures walk along its paths. And yet one morning, while sipping my cinnamon coffee, I see her.

Flash Fiction

Breath of the Dragon King

There were three tragedies in Drea King’s life, all of which occurred before it even began. The first was that her parents, like many other parents, tried to birth her in the year of the dragon. Not only was the dragon the most powerful persona, but it was the year 1988, and 8 was a lucky number, so everybody knew the Dragons of ’88 would be special.

Fiction

An Arrangement of Moss and Dirt

I have spent a lifetime in front of this window, mortality seeping out in waves of nausea and lost weight. There she is, just beyond the grime-cornered glass, in the yard, playing like all children should. I almost tap to get her attention, to give a weak wave of longing and vanished time, but I only watch her move through the grass and tree trunks, hair blown by the breeze.

Flash Fiction

Lost Portals

In a furniture showroom in Stockholm stood a large wardrobe called a Kleppstad. It was made out of cheap particle board and wooden pegs. If the shelves were removed and a person scrunched inside, the back panel would disappear and a passage would open into the shuddering woods of Myrkvior, where the highland trolls dwell. But a forklift backed into the wardrobe and it was taken to a dumpster.

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.

Flash Fiction

Sounds for Crustaceans

“I’m a crustacean.”

Disbelief meets my gaze, then moves away. Jewel looks to the shells that decorate my room, the aquariums, the marked-down netting draped over my window. She looks to anything to save her the embarrassment of meeting my eyes, or the trouble of telling me I’m just a person, like her, like anyone. When she finally meets them, it is with resignation, and I know I’m being humored.