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beginning April 17, 2016
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When Bolaji’s husband died, people cast her aside as if she were dead, like she didn’t exist anymore without her man, that dead woman.
But lots were drawn and it was her turn at the night job, and with it, all the things unseen in the dark, the loneliness of the task, the tales of Masquerades and demons, marauders and spearrangs that had a little too much fun spinning up people’s insides. There were people that took their turn and came back different, never came back, died in strange ways.
Who taught them to fear the night? Who taught them this darkness was evil, sinister, a hand trying to bind them? Why did the fear persist? She stood, shoulders high and back tense, eyes alert. And when everyone was shut in for the night, when it was pitch black, she set out.
If you were a dog,
if you were in a cage waiting for someone to take you,
to take you out the Good Door and home with them,
if you could change your size and shape and color to please them,
of course someone would pick you right away —
Most of the Windy City’s secret places are gone now. But every once in a great while at summer twilight, when soft lamps have filled the tree-lined streets with a faint silver glow, you may happen to find Brady’s Sandwich Shack.
Your smartphone will lose its signal. Attempting to document the retro interior on Instagram causes the app to crash. Twitter and Foursquare will be unable to triangulate your location, and reviews on Yelp mysteriously refuse to upload.
Don’t panic. Relax. Enjoy the blues. Savor the smell and order some food. If you’re with someone, enjoy each other’s company…
…you never know who may drop in.
It was too wild, all jagged rocks and sun-bleached driftwood. But it suited me, this beach and this night, a night one could believe in monsters….
Just as the last of the sun disappeared I saw him. He emerged from the grey waves dripping wet and perfect. His hair was black as sin and his pale skin shone like the moon. His body was slender and his face all strange angles, but he was heartbreakingly beautiful. My Irish grandma had told me the old stories and I could see the danger — but his fathomless black eyes fastened on me, ensnared me.
I’d only glamoured him so I could get a better look, maybe ask a few questions, but when I looked back the man was dead. Riding a storm down from the snowline, cloaked in swirls of wind-driven ice, I went to find his family, to explain, to help. But when I found her sitting next to the embers of a dying fire, she was cursing the storm, the unseasonable cold, the dying crops.
She was cursing me.
The stars are hard diamonds against a jet black sky and yet still it snows — not from clouds: in the near vacuum there are none — from the geyser two klicks away, the ice crystals sent high above the crusted surface of Enceladus. The falls are heavier now that the geyser is getting closer. Much closer. Two hundred kilos of ice crystals and water vapour every second
The one thing we never expected, we didn’t plan for, when we established our base at a ‘safe’ distance.
Magda practically lived in the tree, and she wouldn’t leave it to the mercy of Harris and his chain saw, in spite of Carla and her pizza bribes, policemen, firemen, dire threats from Child Services, rain, hunger… and that beast from the Paleolithic.
What was this woman doing disturbing Deifilia’s nest on the belfry? Offering frogs and asking for a baby for her daughter!? Hah! From the looks of the old crone she probably wanted the infant for some unsavory purpose. Perhaps to boil into a stew.
No deliveries for her. Deifilia was sure of that.
The dignified woman in gray and the little man in loud tweed were both in Lincolnsville about the goblin reports. To her they were marsh gas and poppycock. To him they were certain proof of his theories. And he had plenty of theories.
The battle lines were clear, but the outcome was not.
Scout Krell hadn’t expected to crash land on her first mission. But then she hadn’t expected a pack of frenzied humans to stuff her infiltration pod with beer and stumble off into the woods with it. To get it back before she froze in the snow would require psionic contact with these primitives who reeked like spawning pits and perceived an interstellar pod as a beverage locker.
The sooner it was over, the better. But then, she hadn’t counted on Mistress Molly.
The Undine is a pain-artist In the perpetual dusk that haunts the caverns, she strains the shadows for prey, seeking her next masterpiece.
The stranger who sweeps from the shadows, his smile pale and puckered as a scar, his breath spiced with smoked marrow and charred bones, offers her a spoilt city to paint in pain, on one small condition,
Nemesis bragged about his hacks – cash machines spitting out currency, CEOs donating money with no recollection of doing so, government ministries leaking data. And now the cy-brain hack that drove Henry Muross to jump to his death from the roof of his own skyscraper had electrified protesters to the point of revolt.
It was a blow to the Special Taskforce. People were saying Nemesis had supporters in police and government. The Taskforce was turned over to Marcel. But who was Marcel? And who was Nemesis?
“Rudolph, is that you?” bellowed the old man. The wind was starting to pick up again, blowing his baker’s apron behind him. Sandra could see the code of her Autumn Day shredding under the power of the storm. The bubble of calm was shrinking fast.
“I hoped I’d be the one to bring you down, lunatic. Now here you are, in my bakery.” Weatherman Fawkes laughed and strode forward, unconcerned as the clouds closed in on him. “And it’s not even my birthday!”
She stood atop the wall and stared at the shifting black towers of the Nameless City, as if this time she might spot the shadows of its bygone masters. She flexed her toes against the rampart’s top, the basalt as cold and solid as ever. Only the wall and her vigilance held the City in check, but one of those would not last.
An article on the dark side of fairy tales…
The original villainess of Snow White’s story was her mother. Grimm Brother’s first edition was faithful to the tale they heard and recorded, the tale of a mother who orders the murder of her adolescent daughter out of jealous vanity and devours what she believes to be the dead child’s lungs and liver…
The river’s daughter had hair as long and green as eelgrass, and skin the livid white of a fish belly. Her teeth were sharp, and through her thin lips, she sometimes whispered spells and curses, for her mother had been a sorceress.
Since her mother’s departure, swathed in furs in the middle of a winter storm, the river’s daughter had not seen a single outsider to the valley. She spoke to the winds and her siblings the creeks, and she amused herself by practicing charms to change her shape.
This dwarf, this outsider who moved with such purpose, fascinated her. She watched him from silent concealment in the forest.
The Fo’dekai could write in blood, and now he had their stories in him. Thousands of them, crowding his dreams, bleeding into his waking consciousness, his mind groaning from their weight.
The first dreams were visions of a strange world, flying over blood-red deserts, black oceans, purple forests. Darren sensed a planet being constructed, layer-by-layer, in his mind.
He wanted to talk about the dreams, but no reason to be alarmed the doctor said.
No reason? He had literally dived into a dark ocean and plummeted into a black chasm. He could see, monochromatically but with precise resolution. He could feel his short undulating tentacles, and his skin rapidly oscillating through a kaleidoscope of patterns.
“In here. Name’s Ben Wilton. Been possessed thoiteen times now.” She held out her crosses as if they were shields, and shuttled backwards.
“Ma’am, it’s not a vampire. Crosses won’t help.” Father Belloch unlocked the decrepit old door, and let it slowly creak open.
The walls were covered with blood-red heretical writings, curses, evil symbols, and dirty limericks. The green ooze covering the floor added a foul smell to the overall ambience. What he didn’t see was the victim in question.
He rummaged through his backpack and brought out a small umbrella. He popped it open and stepped cautiously through the doorway.
He was singing another song
to the rusted chain dangling from the ceiling when a black hole opened in his chest. It sucked his heart out from behind his ribcage and he knew with a ghost’s certainty, with the instinctual sympathy between the dead and those close to death, that his brother was dying.
He had not seen Michael, hadn’t been able to see another human being, since the day he died bloody in the street, listening to the screeching of wheels on concrete.
We cloudweavers specialize in different shapes — we collaborate and mold the textures of air and rain, cold and heat. The sun and moon are pallets to tint our canvasses.
But now the sun is dying. People no longer look at our art, our gifts, and as they stop looking, our clouds thin and fade. We grow weaker, less aware. Without our mediums, our art, what are we?
Her skin was mottled blue, like storm clouds on a night sky. On days when the stares got to her, she’d throw on her old military coat and a pair of sunglasses. If it were up to her, she’d be wearing a pair of concrete shoes at the bottom of the surf. The bacteria coursing through her veins had other ideas.
And now, after all the cover-ups and slashed pensions, the brass was back. Calling for her to clean up their mess again.
“We are within the hill and beyond the stream that stains like blood,” she said. “I will tell you now one true thing: when you bargain with those who live within the hollow hill, you give us things which it amuses us to take, and we give back things which it amuses us to give.”
In the darkness overhead, Ilianthe saw a point of light flash into being.
Flash and hold steady.
Another way station in the void.
Another star, created of angel light and dragon fire.
Their victory allowed them to create stars, to reshape the Cosmos Hundreds more would be scattered through the darkness of the heavens, and the Holdings would no longer hang cold in the lightless emptiness. Yet victory had not brought peace.
“Tell him no! Absolutely not!”
I groaned inwardly.
In my six years as sous-chef at Zarbok’s Of Aldebaran, I had told Chef Z again and again that the customer is always right.
But Zarbok was an auteur. You don’t get to run the galaxy’s only fifty-star restaurant by compromising your compound vision.
Elu smelled demon.
It was a raw scent, like blood in the mouth. The smell that promised a belabored death, a clawing death, a fangs-upon-flesh death.
Sometimes, the memories of his ancient heroics played themselves out in his mind, and the gore colored his sight, but the scent of demon was always there.
It kept his fear alive.
And fear had kept him alive.
They call me Black Annis, the village folk do. I walk the woods alone, my voice gone dry as old leaves, and I’ve not forgotten how to make me a glamour when I need one, with claws of iron and hair like duckweed.
But what does that do against a bargeust from the lands to the north, fangs like blades, breath a bellows blast, eyes of flame?
I just knew the lights were looking for me, so I ran for my life and forgot about that old played out Sun Lizard silver mine. Suddenly I was lying at the bottom of a fifty‑foot shaft.
I hope I got a decent funeral.
I was instantly stone cold sober, and that’s when I figured out the lights hadn’t been looking for me. Stupid idea, aliens flying across the universe to get back a few goddamned gold nuggets.
But I wasn’t wrong thinking they were looking for something.
lead illustration: “By the Light of the Moon” digital illustration © Textures courtesy of Renderosity.com
At first, I thought I had been sent for her. She was so very small, barely a breath in her tiny body. But no, it was her mother, eyes fixed on me, on the tipping point between life and death. And her mother said, “Will you look after her?”
digital painting “I Waited”, by Kim Myatt
Gene concerned me. He never spoke, didn’t seem to breathe, never took off his head.
Happy New Year Everyone. We hope 2017 will be a good year for us all.
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When she clawed her way up out of the frozen earth she tried to gauge how much time had passed – were all her kin asleep, gone this time? Her husband had died before his time and she had vowed never to leave her children, for death or nobody — she’s always come back when they had need of her.
My grandmother picks up dead things. She brings them home. Sometimes she scares people because they don’t understand. Nobody does. Except me. And that’s the scariest thing of all.
Lead illustration “Peregrine Ghosts” photograph © Dave Cox
Opono had spent the entire first third of her life convincing peers and family that there was sentient life in the cosmos and she could find it. They had finally believed her, financed her, and some had even contracted future offspring to combine with hers so their lineage would have memories of the momentous occasion. She had failed them all.
I think Father has forgiven me now. He’s been telling me of upstairs, where people live in buildings taller even than Joe’s tunnel. He says they have ‘windows’, big holes filled with glass that they can look through and watch the City. He says there is no sludge up there, and people have soft skin and clothes that aren’t torn and muddied. He said he once saw one of the Four that came on the Ship and rule over the City with an iron fist. I don’t know what iron means…
The small sward of earth and patchwork hut where the crippled tailor and his demon bride once lived was shunned for its evil, or so the villagers would claim; but whether it was for the evil that once dwelt there or the evil that was inflicted upon it none would say.
April 25, 2016: Science Fiction,
Sonical — Locker X This fractal animation video was created by Brian May. He wrote the music first. While writing it, images of science fiction scenes came to him, and inspired him to make the video!
Sonical — Locker X has found it’s way into six festivals so far, in Germany, Australia, UK, Martinique, and Hong Kong!
Sonical Locker X images and sound © Brian May
April 23, 2016: Fantasy, “Lacrimae Knows“, by C..J. Jessop
Even in the dark, especially in the dark, she knows.
illustration by Omnia
A very short history of our universe, and a cool experiment you can do at home with Hydrogen, that very ancient element that was created just about at the beginning of the big bang — nearly 14 billion years ago.
April 9, Science Fiction: “With the Taste of Oblivion in Her Mouth“, by M.E. Garber
illustration: “Cosmic” © Leozo
March 23, Fantasy: “Dawn Blossom“, by John Eckelkamp
March 6, Fantasy: “The Magpie of Souls” by David Tallerman
Sword, sorcery, and enchanted castle
March 5, Myths, Legends, & Fairy Tales: “Out of Brambles“, by Leenna Naidoo
A short, spooky Halloween story to make you smile.
Feb 28, Eldritch: “The Clockwork Sky“, by Alexandra Davydova,
translated by Anatoly Belilovsky.
Repairing the World, one page at a time…
And here it is in the original Russian version:
Feb. 27, Science Fiction: “Boomerang Zone”, by Robert Dawson,
Illustration “Make a Wish” by Karim Fakhoury,
photographs courtesy of NASA
When even that thin lifeline is cut, what do you rely on?
Feb. 17, Science Fiction, “Then We Stood Still“, by Bojan Ratković
Digital Painting “Silence” by Priya Johal.
An homage to the works of Isaac Asimov
Feb. 14, Eldritch, “Lunatic“, by Kate O’Connor Photograph, “She, Eidolon”, ©Jennifer Rhoades Photograph of Moon © Wyldraven
Oh, what the moon can do to you…
Feb. 10, Interviews, A Talk with Howard David Johnson
We talk with David about his latest projects, and he shares with us special previews of his paintings of Norse mythology he’ll be sending on international tour, and images from his latest project — a fantasy book on Atlantis. David combines media and legends to bring us his own take on the fabled city.
Feb. 10, Science Fiction: “Bob, JustBob”, by Liam Hogan.
A reprise of the story of Bob, who carries a spaceship in his pocket.
Jan 23, Eldritch: “Tryst”, by Brian K. Lowe — Why don’t you forsake me, oh my darling? photos of women © Peter Allert photo of stairway © stengchen photo of candle © Jeet Sen
January 14, 2016: Science Fiction: ” A Walk in the Sun”, by Geoffrey Landis — Reprise of the classic hard science fiction story.
January 5, 2016: Article: “A Practical Guide to the Proper Positioning of Space Stations”, by Nancy Fulda — For those of us writing a story that includes a space station, or have a space station but just don’t know where to park it, here is a handy little article to help out.
January 4, 2016: Eldritch: “The Wendigo”, by Algernon Blackwood, illustrated by Cathal Ó Hanlon and Alexandre Mahboubi. The classic, chilling tale
Midnight, New Year’s Eve, 2015 into 2016. Greetings and Happy New Year. Here is the very first of our stories — Fantasy: “TO THE MONSTERS WITH LOVE”, by A. Merc Rustad, illustrated by Rob Shields A short wild ride. Have fun!