Presents: The Ethereal Tales Special Issue Edited by Teresa Ford Table of Contents EDITORIAL
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WILLOW BY AMY J. BENESCH
RECESS BY DAN DEVINE
UNDERGROUND BY J.S.WATTS
OBADIAH’S FARTHING BY PETER SIMON
A GRIMM DAY BY M.B. MANTEUFEL
HIGH LONESOME ROAD BY STEVEN LEE CLIMER
MORNING FLIGHT BY PAUL MICHAEL MOREAU
RED DUST BY MICHAEL A. KECHULA
TORCH SONGS IN PURGATORY BY CHRISTINE MORGAN
OAR-‐STEED BY JOSIE GOWLER
I’M SCARED OF THE DARK BY ASHBY MCGOWAN
STRANGE ENCOUNTERS, CHAPTER 7 -‐ THE HAUNTING OF HAYWARD BY JASON FISCHER
THIS TOWN AIN’T BIG ENOUGH BY JAMES AUSTIN MCCORMICK
BLACK BEAR BY VONNIE WINSLOW CRIST
IN THE FATHER’S IMAGE BY ALAN LOEWEN
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Willow By Amy J. Benesch In a cool glen by a rushing stream, a willow tree leaned over the water, shook in the wind, and held birds’ nests in her branches. In time, humans with their earth-moving machines invaded and built houses near the stream. All the humans agreed to keep the stream as well as the trees and bushes that grew beside it, because, after all, they were the point of living there, weren’t they? But as the city expanded and demand for housing grew, some of the humans felt that cutting down the trees and bushes and dredging the stream was the best course of action. It was regrettable, of course, but humans needed to live somewhere, didn’t they? When the machines rumbled in, trampling the grasses and wildflowers and uprooting the trees, a portal opened up. Most of the Nature spirits rushed into that portal emerging into another realm, where they could live as they always had. But one spirit, that of the willow tree, hesitated. She wasn’t used to moving and the thought of it frightened her. Besides, she thought, this is my home, why I should I leave? By the time she realized what the humans had in mind, it was too late; the portal had closed. So now she stood in the spot where she had always stood, beside the stream that was now only a memory, that was, in fact, someone’s living room. She justified her failure to move with a kind of stubborn resolve. This is my home, she thought, however altered in appearance. Eventually the house that contained the spirit of the willow tree was bought by a man and a woman. The woman left after a year, saying she didn’t feel comfortable there. She kept hearing strange noises, as if someone were crying. The man heard the crying as well, but instead of being disturbed by it, he was intrigued. After coming home from work, he would pull off his boots, pour himself a Scotch and water, close his eyes and try to sense where this spirit was. He felt himself drawn to the southeast corner of the room, so he bought a wicker rocker and placed it there. He would sit there in his stockinged feet with his drink, close his eyes, and wait. After a while he would feel the rocker begin to move gently, without his doing a thing. One warm spring evening, as the man sat, as usual, in his rocker, it began to move back and forth rapidly, so rapidly that his drink sloshed onto his lap. This was the signal he had been waiting for. “Who are you?” he asked out loud. “And what do you want?”
Recess By Dan Devine Tick-tick-tick; the thin copper hand of the glass-globed, circular wall clock aggravatingly announced each passing second, but the minute hand seemed eternally trapped between one boldfaced black number and the next. To Diana the sound was a tally of every precious moment being swallowed by this pointless lecture. She fidgeted in her seat, unable to find it in herself to care about the Industrial Revolution. It was unlikely she’d ever find a way to put the knowledge to good use. Wasn’t it the revolution that had led to this? These schools painted a lifeless grey, each room stocked with uniformly made desk chairs, arranged in similar squares. All aligned towards the goal of graduating their occupants into cars speeding down the highway of life in route to their nine to five careers; a grind she wasn’t going to have to worry about. Diana glanced at her friend Kevin in the seat beside her. The chubby, dark-haired boy brushed a finger over his upper lip, a silent reference to their secret joke about their teacher’s moustache. Diana giggled, instantly drawing Mrs Mannard’s ire. “I’m sorry, Ms Hunter. Did I say something amusing? No?” The stern, squarish woman stared at her for a moment before adjusting overly large glasses and patting down frizzy yellow-dyed hair. “Perhaps you could name for us the creator of the first steam engine?” Diana could not, and Mrs Mannard eventually called on Bethany, who proved all too eager to show off her knowledge. If Diana was supposed to feel shamed into paying closer attention, she didn’t. Instead she merely sensed her futility and frustration growing all the stronger. Oh, she and her parents had had this discussion; long and tearfully shouted, all through the night. Yes, they didn’t know how much time Diana had left. Yes, it was hard, but it was no reason to give up. How much braver she would be, to soldier through and experience life the same as any other child her age. Besides, what good would it do her to spend her days moping around her home with nothing to do? All of her friends were in school and she would soon realize she was happier there too. Father didn’t seem to grasp that there had to be better ways she could be spending her fleeting time. This was how he’d spend his, and he’d enjoyed it. He seemed to look at these wasted days of studying boring books and learning facts she’d never need as a gift, a chance to be just like everyone else. Diana wasn’t fooled. She was not the same as everyone else, and pretending would not make it so. Father had even gone so far as to move his daughter here to a new school, because her friend Miss Vivia had been “too sympathetic” towards Diana’s “condition.” Diana glanced out the window towards the playground and the small park beyond it, the only patch of real living green that seemed to exist around the school for countless city blocks in every direction. She wished she could just go outside, to feel the sun on her skin and breathe the fresh air. Perhaps it was simply a type of jealousy, a desire to greedily soak up as much as life from nature as she could, for that was what she was most lacking. She found the urge to escape this room of petty, human-made authority and order almost overpowering.
Underground By J.S.Watts She was already late. The London crowds were flowing like a tidal river in the wrong direction. The more she tried to swim upstream, the slower and later she became. If she didn’t get to the tube soon she wouldn’t make it for the end of Feo’s gig, let alone the beginning. Finally, at Seven Dials, she saw an entrance to the Underground she hadn’t known was there. Elbowing her way across the flow of the late night crowds, she made it to the entrance and down the stairs without bothering to check which station it was actually for: probably Covent Garden, but both The Garden and Leicester Square were on the Piccadilly line so it didn’t really matter which. She was just grateful the crowds had thinned out and she could now walk briskly and without hindrance. If the trains were running normally she might just get there for the middle part of the gig, if not its start. The pedestrian tunnel she was walking down was an old one and both long and full of bends. Then, Seven Dials was quite a distance from both Covent Garden and Leicester Square stations so she couldn’t expect to get to the tube without a bit of a hike. The route was quite poorly lit and she was becoming increasingly conscious that she was a lone woman walking through a dim and clearly infrequently used tunnel at night. She was starting to question the wisdom of abandoning the crowds on Monmouth Street when the tunnel opened out onto a larger circular area that looked like it should contain a ticket office or at least one of those automatic ticket machines. Unfortunately, it boasted neither and only served as a meeting point for her tunnel and three others. More inconveniently, there were no signs indicating which tunnel led where. Damn! She hadn’t got time to wander up and down aimlessly. She needed to get to the trains pronto. The tunnel on the right was clearly a no-go. It appeared to be going back up to street level and looked rarely used, full of rubbish and broken glass and no doubt broken needles. Right at the end, a metal gate had been pulled across, apparently blocking access to whatever lay beyond. The left hand tunnel was a much more attractive option: wider, uncluttered, and extremely well-lit. If anything, the multiplicity of bright neon lights and supposedly enticing electronic ads was a bit too much. The bottom end of the tunnel curved away to the left and she couldn’t see where it ended up, but something about the reddish glow reflected off the far wall put her off. It didn’t seem the right sort of light for a tube station, more like a parade of brightly lit, cheap shops and an amusement arcade or perhaps a lap dancing club. The middle tunnel seemed the best bet. It was the widest of the three, well-lit without being migraine-inducing, amazingly clean and well-kept, and she thought she could hear music drifting up and along it. That meant a busker and buskers set up where the most people came and went, namely down near the platforms. She hurried along the middle passage, glancing at her watch, which seemed to have chosen this precise moment to need a new battery. Damn! Was nothing working in her favour this evening?
Obadiah’s Farthing By Peter Simon The dark jostling of the horse-drawn coach had seemed to go on forever. Obadiah had boarded at Baxter’s Nook: many, many miles from Fairfield, the town he had chosen, at random, for his new home. It had just felt right when he had pinpointed it on the map. He nuzzled down into his heavy overcoat, feeling the warm exhalation of his own breath. A bitter night! An interminable journey! His bones ached from the endless buffeting of the carriage. Yet weariness could not overcome his excitement. He was making yet another new beginning, with all the hope and fear that it entailed. Perhaps people would accept him here; perhaps they would be more open-minded. All things were possible. For Obadiah, hope sprang eternal. He had never forsaken the bright possibility that miracles happen. Baxter’s Nook had been horrendous. Bigoted, benighted, blind! He was glad to have left; glad that no one would know where he had gone, or be able to follow him. No one would know him in Fairfield. He would remain Obadiah but would, of course, change his surname. He would think of something. As usual, it would probably depend on his experiences. During his troubled year at Baxter’s Bridge he had named himself Obadiah Morosia. Now, the jostling worsened as the carriage lurched and tumbled over rough cobblestones, rather than the smooth sweep of the highway. In the thick swirl of snow, he dimly guessed the amber glow of town lights. He wiped his gloved hand across the cold condensation on the windows, but it availed him little. The blizzard was so thick and savage that he could see nothing, save for a translucent fiery glow. Street lights, burning heartily and warmly, after hours of dark emptiness in the rolling carriage. As they rolled into town, huge shadows stalked past the windows; he could hear laughter and song, and the tramp and jangle of horses as they crunched through the snow. At last, the coach stopped, and Obadiah climbed out into the night. As he opened the door, the snow whipped viciously against his face. He settled with the coach driver quickly, and strode off into the town. Everything was a shock of white. People rushed in all directions, eager to escape the blizzard. Buildings were like vast igloos, their timbers sagging under the ponderous weight of snow. Freshly swept driveways, partially shielded from the storm, glittered with tiny sparkling diamonds of frost. Icicles hung like silver stalactites over latticed windows. Through ice-encrusted panes, clerks held freezing quills before their hearths, and ladies of the night turned on bewitching, avaricious smiles. At the end of the road stood a great building with a hearty fire lighting up its arched window from top to bottom. Furious smoke billowed raggedly from three great chimneys, mingling with the rage of snow. Swinging from a great hook was a wooden sign, which carved letters were only just visible through the snow: The Fairfield Arms. Footprint after heavy footprint, Obadiah crunched and staggered through the snowdrifts towards the tavern. He imagined a place of golden light and cheer; a frothing tankard of fine ale; a seat by the fire; the comforting, motherly gaze of a landlady, the welcoming gleam in the eye of a young barmaid; warmth, a welcome, a host of cheery strangers – all he wanted was to come in from this bitter night. But there, on the side of the road, something caught his eye. It looked at first like a dark bundle, but no, it was a person crouching on the ground: a cowled figure, swaying gently from side to side, and clutching a huge sack.
A Grimm Day By M.B. Manteufel Greta opened the oven and stared at the gooey little blobs of dough on the cookie sheet. That’s odd, she thought. She had put the cookies in ten minutes ago. As she looked around the kitchen and saw the blank digital displays on all the appliances, her suspicion was confirmed. The power had gone out. “Great,” she muttered under her breath. Her book club meeting was in less than an hour. No fresh-baked gingerbread cookies for the group tonight. She reached in to take out the baking sheet, but quickly drew back her hand when the dough suddenly started to rise. Greta glanced at the clock again. Nope, still off. So how in the world are the cookies–? “Oh my!” she exclaimed, her thoughts quickly forgotten, as the dough didn’t just rise but, well, stood up! Greta scrambled back from the oven door and watched in amazement as a gloppy, disfigured gingerbread man plopped out of the oven and ploddingly made his way toward the back door. “Cath me, cath me, if oo can . . .” he warbled through doughy little lips that hung loosely and askew on his glistening wet face. As slow as his progress was, Greta could have easily caught him. But she was too transfixed by the insanely ludicrous scenario playing out in front of her to do anything but watch with a slack jaw that almost, but not quite, matched that of the gingerbread man’s. He had a good six feet to go before he reached the door, his presumed target, although Greta couldn’t help but wonder how exactly he planned to go through it. At the moment, the doughboy’s more pressing concern was keeping his body parts from falling off. Definitely in need of more baking time, his arms and legs continued to droop and slide toward the floor, while tiny gobs of dough dropped from his pie-shaped face, until he found himself glued in place by the sticky drippings. In a last-ditch effort toward freedom, the gingerbread man swung his right leg forward with a mighty heave, a move which unfortunately left his foot behind. Nonplussed, he then tried to bring his left leg around to complete the step. Instead, he stayed firmly planted and proceeded to morph into a mound of tawny flour, sugar, and spice. “This thux,” he squeaked, right before his head melted into a pool of ooze. Thinking it might be a good idea to check on the rest of the batch at this point, Greta turned her attention back to the oven. She peered cautiously inside, fully expecting to see a horde of half-baked gingerbread men rising up. But to her relief, she saw only cold and limp cookie cut-outs lying lifeless on the baking sheet. A few looked slightly dishevelled, like they had attempted to rise, gave up, and fell back down in a heap. She looked around the kitchen quickly, half-expecting to see a beanstalk sprouting through the floor. Spotting nothing else out of the ordinary, Greta took a deep breath, grabbed her book, her purse, and headed out the door. Wait ’til they hear about this! Though she often griped about not having a car, she was thankful for tonight’s walk to the book club meeting. She needed the fresh air to clear her head after what had happened in her kitchen. Plus, she didn’t want Hans beating her again this week on the scales. Her brother would give her the shirt off his back, but when it came to their weight loss competition, he was ruthlessly competitive. That and he loved the extra attention he received from Granny each week when he boasted of his accomplishment. She always made him a special treat as a reward, which infuriated Greta, not only because she wanted the treat too, but mostly because Hans could eat it and still beat her at the weight loss game.
High Lonesome Road By Steven Lee Climer There’s something about a hot night in August, when fireflies fill the sky. They collect in the dark, shadowy pools of air beneath the trees, rising and falling between leaf and trunk. Drifting lazily over the grass wet with dew, their bellies blink on and off and on and off, desperately trying to attract a girlfriend. Buddy had his mayonnaise jar in one hand, the lid in the other. He’d taken great care to stock the empty glass with leaves and twigs; he wanted his bugs to be the happiest in the neighbourhood. But there weren’t many bugs around the houses in town. The cracked concrete stored the day’s heat and threw it back into the sky at night. If you wanted to find fireflies by the millions, you had to walk behind the row of run-down clapboard-sided homes that had baked for too many years in the western Tennessee sun. Down into the deep woods, past the bridge over the creek, and into the cotton fields. That’s where the good bugs were, and that’s where he knew he had to go. Buddy had a mission; he wanted to fill his jar with as many bugs as possible, maybe even enough to make it shine like a lantern. Every night he went on his hunts. He liked to be alone and away from the other neighbourhood kids. They were mean, hateful little white kids. Buddy couldn’t help the fact that his teeth were a little too large and crooked, that his hair was a little too unruly and nappy, or that his skin was black. The sun had made it shiny, deep and rich like ebony. Out in the woods and fields, looking for fireflies, no one called him names or beat him up for riding on a section of the sidewalk that had been claimed as exclusive territory. It wasn’t fair, he’d tell Momma. She was so nice about it, and loved him deeply. She couldn’t change the white kids, though. They were as hateful as their parents, she’d say. Don’t waste your thoughts on them, she’d say. Don’t pay them no mind, she’d say. That was hard to do when they went out of their way to hit you, throw rocks at you, make you cry. Buddy didn’t want to think about them anymore. He had more important things to do. As the sun’s last traces melted from the sky, the moon’s full orange face peeked through the thick trees on the edge of the cotton fields. Behind him, Buddy could see the tiny electric lights of the row houses. He paused to catch his breath in the humidity before continuing through the shallow glen that ringed Mr Puckett’s cotton fields. Beyond that, were the deep woods and all the bugs he could catch. He turned to face the woods once again. In the shadowy recesses, Buddy saw ribbons of flickering little fireflies dancing. They enchanted him, wooing him into the trees. Buddy captured a few lazy bugs in his jar. He held the jar up to his big brown eyes to get a closer look at his captives. They were fascinating; their tiny abdomens looked like shingles on a house, and were a translucent white when dark. Suddenly, they would glow bright yellow, then fade. Buddy broadly grinned. The night closed in quickly. Buddy could feel the much cooler air that had gathered in the low areas as he made his way to the cotton fields just beyond. He’d been there a million times before, and the way was familiar. He knew every twist in the trail, every crooked tree along the way, and where the Copperheads were beneath the rocks. That’s why the strange sound of a woman singing confused him.
Morning Flight By Paul Michael Moreau They went over the seawall two hours before sunrise, out onto the salt marsh to begin the hard-slog slipping and slithering across shifting sand, racing against the onset of dawn over a landscape seen only as darkness more solid than the starless arch of the night sky. John led the way, his black Labrador at his heels as so often before, both keen to reach the mudflats over a mile distant in time to lie in wait for the raw glow in the east and the rise of the clamorous skeins as they greeted the glorious morning with their wild song. Adrian stumbled along behind hoping their early start gave him time to set-up his cameras and already regretting trading another plush red-carpet night-assignment in London for the biting cold of the North Sea coast on a whim of his editor. The two shivering men, dressed alike in waders, camouflaged jackets worn over heavy sweaters, caps, scarves, and gloves were distinguishable only in build and gait, although Adrian had overloaded his slight frame with camera bags, tripods, and other paraphernalia of the professional photographers in place of John’s slung shotgun, cartridge belts, and game bag. The old fowler took his customary path, moving with surprising agility for such a big man in contrast to the clumsy and ungainly motion of his encumbered guest, lighting the way with his torch as the cadence of their boots upon the marsh played against the constant rustle of the wind and the plaintive cries of distant birds. He spoke without looking back, his deep voice booming even when lowered. “So how long have you been down in the city?” “Over ten years now, it’s a good life.” “If you say so, but I don’t think I’d be happy with it.” John paused, turning to face the photographer. “What surprises me most is that, despite hailing from these parts, you say you’ve never been out on the marsh nor even handled a gun.” “It never appealed.” “Notwithstanding your grandfather and uncle being among the best wildfowlers I’ve ever known?” Adrian gave a lacklustre smile but made no reply as John barged ahead, sometimes stepping over narrow gutters or skirting the upper reaches of tidal creeks, and at other times descending to splash through pools of brackish water, all the time keeping up a muttering monologue as he carefully picked his way. “I can’t imagine anywhere I’d rather be than out here during the season, laying low behind the lip of a creek, watching silently with dog and gun while the geese call far out across the mud, waiting for them to take flight as one for their inland feeding foray. It has to be pink footed or graylag for me, mind you, as I never cared much for Canada, and you can’t shoot Brent geese anymore, they’re protected nowadays. “We can’t stay out too long though, once dawn breaks, the tide will soon fill the creeks leaving no line of retreat. The other thing to watch for is quicksand; I don’t want to spend half our time pulling you out so stay close to me, I know this marsh and foreshore as well as I knows my own face.”
Red Dust By Michael A. Kechula The priest sensed a profound change of atmosphere the moment someone entered the darkened confessional. Gripping his pectoral cross, he blessed himself, and mumbled prayers of protection in Latin. He’d encountered dreadful phenomena during his forty years as a missionary in the Haitian jungle, but none darker than this. Opening the sliding panel to expose the metal grill that separated their faces, he noticed a peculiar odour. The stink of Hell, he thought, blessing himself again. Another dark entity sent to harass me. He quickly unscrewed the top on a small bottle of holy water. “Why are you here?” he asked. “I’m so happy, I could burst,” said a woman’s voice. “I just wanted to tell somebody.” “This is not a place of levity. This is a confessional. A place where evil is purged.” “I thought priests were bound to listen to anybody in a confessional, no matter what they had to say.” “You heard wrong. Tell me what you have to say. Make it quick.” “Suppose I buy your time. Say, five minutes worth. For that, I’ll put $1,000 in the poor box before I leave.” “Don’t bother to lie. Evil can do nothing good.” “Evil is good fun,” she said. “More than you could ever imagine.” “Your mind is foul.” “How true. Do you know what I am?” “Vampire.” “Verrry good. How did you know?” “I can smell it on you.” “Ah. A holy man who can discern essences. Let me ask you, Holy Man, have you ever bitten into a neck and drunk your fill?” “It’s a stupid question,” he said. “Hardly. It’s a life-changing experience. It’s so erotically satisfying, nothing else approaches it. You may be celibate, but I’ll bet you deeply crave erotic adventures.” “We’re not here to talk about me. Get to the point.” “I just wanted to tell you how happy I am. I can barely contain myself.” “How many victims fell into your clutches tonight?” he asked. “Fifteen. Five an hour. I’ve achieved a record. I know the Master will richly reward me for being so wickedly industrious. Would you like to be the sixteenth?”
Torch Songs In Purgatory By Christine Morgan Night after night. Show after show. All the same. Always the same. Blurring into one another. Indistinguishable. The music, the stage, the darkened lounge beyond the spill of the lights, the waiters and waitresses circling, the cigarette girls plying their trade with their short skirts twitching and sleek caps of hair shining. The audience, at the tables, in the shadows, beneath the floating haze, were shapes with familiar faces in the smoky gloom. Men, with glittering eyes reflecting the glow of their expensive cigars. Women, sparkling with jewels. Always the same. This night, however … this night seemed different. Felt different. That, she thought, was strange. Disquieting. Unsettling. It was supposed to be the same. Night after night. Show after show. No surprises. Even the occasional raid, shootout or fight was to be expected. Part of the routine. Part of the smooth machinery that was the Chateau Marmont. Tonight, though? Different. Strange. Disquieting. Unsettling. Still, the show must go on. And so must she. Conversations quelled at a brassy flourish from the band. “And now, ladies and gentlemen, for your listening pleasure, the Velvet Lounge is proud to present our own Nightlark, Cinnamon LaRue!” Applause. The opening strains of her next number, pulsing through the room, slow and insinuating. She moved out across the stage in a smooth, rolling glide of a stride. Black heels. Black gloves. Black dress. The long sweep of her trademark cinnamon-coloured hair. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw what she suspected might be the source of the unsettling disquiet. At Benny’s table. The best table in the room. The table. Ice buckets and champagne, lush red velvet chairs. Its own dedicated waitress, a prestigious honour hotly competed for by the girls who worked the lounge. Where Benny only invited the rich and famous, the beautiful, the notorious to join him. That man … She hadn’t gotten a very good look at him during her previous number. Didn’t think she knew him, though something about him did seem familiar in a passing, eerie way. Wealthy, certainly. Important, influential. A gangster, perhaps. Visiting from out of town. Vegas, Chicago, New York. Dressed to the nines, she could tell that much even from here. And watching her. Of course he was watching her; everyone in the audience was. After all, she was the one on stage. She was the star, she was the Nightlark, she was Cinnamon LaRue. Something about the way he watched her, though … “Here in the night… here in the city…” she sang, her voice rich and throaty, rolling like her hips, pulsing like the melody. “A million souls go by. Some seek the light … some have no pity… and some just wait to die.” The way he was looking at her, that man on Benny’s left… Not quite the way she was used to having the men here in the Velvet Lounge looking at her. Not lechery, not lust … not entirely, at least; there might’ve been elements of those as well. But this was something else.
Oar-‐Steed By Josie Gowler “Allow me to introduce myself.” I sat up, opening my eyes and shielding them from the low glare of the evening sun. The voice was clipped and precise. So was its owner – she wore her yellow prison issues like the best of court dress, clean and crisply pressed. I never did find out how she managed it. Her greying hair glinted in the sunlight. I gestured and she slowly sat down next to me, back against the fore gunwale. She held out a hand. “I’m Hild Kenan,” she said. “Asa Hakonsdottir,” I replied, shaking hands. “Admiral Hakonsdottir,” she corrected me. “It’s easy to forget one’s standing, in a place like this.” I nodded, studying her. Even sitting, I had to look up at her, and I’m not short. “You don’t look much like your average criminal,” I said, “so I suppose you must be a prisoner of war like me.” Hild nodded. “Does the name Rodya Crozier appear familiar?” I tumbled it over in my mind for a few seconds before it clicked. “The most famous underground writer in the Prime Thalassocracy? Is she here?” “It’s a nom de plume.” I gave her a blank look. The corners of her mouth turned up a little. “I am she,” she explained. “Ah...” Again, I thought about it. “But she disappeared years ago, and she wasn’t young then!” I used to read her works in my cabin during the war. “Quite. I’ve been living here on the Oar-Steed hulk for fifteen years.” I gaped at her. “Why didn’t they just...” I shut my mouth before I could embarrass myself further. Luckily I hadn’t needed tact to reach the top of the navy. “Why didn’t they just kill me when the Thalassocracy took power and save themselves the trouble of feeding me?” Hild smiled a gentle smile at me. “For the same reason that they put you on this prison ship and didn’t kill you, my dear Leader of the Fleet. They didn’t want to make a martyr out of me.” “I was at war for a decade before we lost, and I’ve been shunted about camps for another five. I think I’d rather they killed me,” I said, running my fingers over the remnants of a dragon-carving on the tackle-block next to me. The anti-rotting spell it had guarded the ship with had long since worn out.
I’m scared of the Dark By Ashby McGowan I have always liked stones and rocks. Not being that intelligent, I have never read books on geology but still, I love rocks. Whenever I am at a beach, I spend most of my time looking at the stones rolling about at the water’s edge. Every one unique. Every one a work of art, with two creators: Nature and Time. My bedroom is filled with rocks collected from all over the place. I have quartz and jasper and even a bit of a Bronze Age flint arrowhead that I found near Urie Loch. It’s fantastic. Most are of no monetary value. I just love the colours and the texture of the surface. The most expensive rock I have is a rough ruby I found at the Black Rocks in Arran. Many people believe that each rock vibrates with a different energy. That each can calm you or motivate you, according to which type it is. Red rocks are often seen as being able to stimulate earthly passions. Because of my fascination, whenever I can, I try to seek out interesting or unusual rocks. Perhaps even rocks that have a story to them. So it was that one blustery November evening I found myself at sunset searching through an old deserted graveyard. The place was a mess. It seemed that none of the dead bodies had ever been loved enough to warrant a visitor. Headstones were defaced or had fallen over. For colour, there were only old brown flowers in old broken vases. It was amusing to see how many people had decided to have bad bits of poetry placed on their gravestones. I couldn’t help but laugh at these sad people, that they couldn’t find a poem that was worthy of a school newsletter, never mind a comment left for eternity to ponder. Some of the dead had glittering shiny junk scattered about their grave. It seemed that the relatives of the dead either had no taste, or had a strange sense of humour. For me, it was hard not to laugh at these long forgotten people and at their humdrum empty lives. What difference did any of them make to this world? What a waste of a life. The last rays of the cold sun illuminated a huge ugly gravestone. Yet, the sheer size of it impressed me. It wasn’t infected with the mediocrity of the other monuments. A part of it had cracked and had almost become detached from the rest of it. As the grave had obviously never been visited, I took out my hammer and, after a quick look around to see that I was alone, helped the piece of rock to totally detach itself. The gravestone cracked like a roll of thunder. I thought that, for a moment, a voice could be heard. It sounded like it was coming from the velvet-lined coffin buried deep, deep below me. Sounded like it was saying my name. The way the shadows fell, it seemed as if the soil was moving. Seemed as if something was pushing up from beneath. I am not a brave man and fled. I managed to place the piece of the stone in my haversack as I ran. Unfortunately for me, a pigeon chose that moment to fly past and I crashed into it. In anger or terror, it clawed at my face. I managed to throw it away from me and ran as fast as I could towards the gate. Every branch and twig that grabbed at my arms caused me to shriek in fear. The gate was rusty and did its best not to let me out. For what seemed an age I was trapped. In a fury, I kicked it and it flew open. When I finally reached the car and slammed the door shut, I listened to my breath. Tried hard to slow the thump, thump of my heart. The road was as empty and dismal as the graveyard. Unfortunately, the streetlights had all been smashed.
Strange Encounters, Chapter 7 -‐ The Haunting of Hayward By Jason Fischer The following correspondence was found on February 15, 1965 under a bed in a small farmhouse near Hayward, Wisconsin. It was contained in a black box with the initials B.S. on it, presumably from the woman who wrote some of the letters, Beatrice Schiebe. It describes a haunting encounter with a noisy spirit who wouldn’t rest until its message was delivered. Beatrice’s husband John, briefly mentioned in the letters, would later comment in a local newspaper that the events described below eventually “drove [his wife] to madness.” Beatrice was institutionalized less than three months after the final letter and died suddenly less than a year later. We invite you to the read the letters below and decide for yourself. Madness or eerie premonition? ### March 1, 1950 Steve, Greetings again, little brother! I hope this will be the last time that I need to write to you. We received a letter from the phone company stating that they will be installing a line out to the house next month. It will be great to hear your voice! It can get pretty lonely out here on the farm, especially now that planting season is about to kick up again and John will be spending most of his days in the fields tilling and seeding. At least the radio works! We are fine otherwise. Things don’t change much around here, so I’m afraid this letter will be short. How are you? Have you decided on which college you are going to attend next year, or are you still considering joining the Army? I know you want to follow in dad’s footsteps, but I hope you decide to go right to school. Either way, I’ll support you! I had something a little crazy happen last night. John and I had just gone to bed when I swear that I heard someone knocking at the window. We don’t have any trees that close to the house (you should really visit sometime so I can show you!) and the balcony isn’t close enough to the window where someone on it could reach to knock. I got out of bed to see if anyone was outside, maybe throwing a rock against the window, but I didn’t see anyone. I know living in the city we wouldn’t throw a rock against the window, but out here if one of our neighbours really needed help they might do that to wake us up, after all they can’t call anyone...not yet! Don’t wait for me to call, write back and tell me how everyone is doing! Love, Beatrice ###
This Town Ain’t Big Enough By James Austin McCormick “The mayor was acting crazy when he got back from the meeting the judge,” the burly sheriff said as the thin, pale figure studied the lupine form snarling back at them. “He attacked me and… “ he glanced at the red haired youth standing close by. “Even tried to tear Frank’s throat out with his bare teeth.” He shook his head, “We just managed to get him into the cell when he turned into that thing.” The pale man nodded. “Most unfortunate,” he commented, leaning forward on his silver headed cane. “He appears to have contracted a severe case of lycanthropy.” The two lawmen threw each other puzzled looks. “A very rare disease,” the councillor explained, “I first came across it in the Black Forest in Germany; very disturbing.” The sheriff gasped. “We have to get Doc Samuels!” he said. The pale man shook his head. “Alerting the good doctor would merely spread alarm,” he said, “besides the condition is incurable. No, I have a better idea. With your help sheriff, and yours Frank, we can keep this unfortunate matter quiet and also ensure the rest of the town stays safe from infection.” The deputy ran a hand through his long hair. “But you said the disease is infectious,” he said. The pale man smiled at him. The expression didn’t touch his coal black eyes. “Only on three nights of every month,” he said, “when the moon is full.” The sheriff sighed, “I don’t know councillor,” he said, “I mean this all sounds kind of sneaky, dishonest even.” The pale man threw his hands up. “Not at all,” he said, “we’re just doing what’s best for this town.” He looked at the snarling creature swiping its claws at them from its cage. “Something Mayor Cobbs couldn’t be accused of these days.” He put a hand on each of the men’s shoulders. Frank flinched as he felt the icy skin touch his own.
Black Bear By Vonnie Winslow Crist When she rounded the bend in the trail, Dani spotted a bear grazing on some tall grass. She stopped walking so suddenly, the bear-bells attached to her back-pack jangled and her hiking boots kicked a handful of pebbles off of the path and down a rocky embankment to her left. The creature responded to the noise by lifting his head, grunting, then twitching his ears. Surprised by the enormous size and close proximity of the animal, Dani inhaled quick, shallow breaths. She’d always prided herself on being prepared for anything, but all the wildlife fact sheets she’d read hadn’t accurately described the long curving claws on each of the bear’s paws. Those claws were designed for ripping open logs to expose insects, tearing into earth to find tasty roots, over-turning rocks to uncover reptiles and amphibians, shredding carrion, and scratching bear-sign on the trunks of trees. She hoped they wouldn’t be used on her. Stay calm and don’t run, she reminded herself. Running would excite the bear’s natural chase reflex, so she needed to back away slowly. As Dani took a couple of steps back, the bear stood upright on his hind legs. He’s just trying to get a better look, she thought. Though to be entirely factual about the situation, bears rely on their sense of smell more than eyesight, so he was probably trying to figure out where this new smell was coming from. “Don’t look him directly in the eyes,” she whispered to herself. “He’ll think it’s a threat.” And since she’d already invaded the animal’s personal space, any additional threatening behaviour was likely to result in a charge. Forgetting the steep drop-off to her left, Dani took another step backwards, and found herself teetering on the edge of the embankment. The bear huffed, woofed, dropped to all fours, and ran towards her. Just then, Dani’s feet slipped out from under her and she fell to her stomach. Fighting the weight of her back-pack plus the gravelly hillside, she grabbed at rocks and small bushes in an effort to avoid tumbling twenty or thirty meters down to the next level spot in the trail. The bear was only about two meters away when Dani realized her vulnerable predicament, and surrendered to gravity. The last thing she remembered before blackness enveloped her, was bouncing and crashing through the brush and over fallen logs, slamming into the base of an oak tree, and seeing the face of the bear looming over her. ### As Dani regained consciousness, she was greeted by the sound of a faucet turning on, water running, and the clank of a kettle being placed on a gas stove burner. She tried to speak, but her mouth felt like it was filled with cotton. “Give yourself a minute,” said a deep voice. “You’ve had quite a fall. You’re lucky to be in one piece.” She opened her eyes, squinted at the sunlight streaming through the window over the sink. A large man with black hair, beard, and moustache stood by the stove watching her.
In The Father’s Image By Alan Loewen Ariana stopped in frustration and looked around, trying to grab her bearings. She had started on Portabello Road with all its quaint shops and now she had gotten herself lost in the maze of London streets. She sighed to herself in frustration. This was not the first time her wanderings within her new home city had caused her to get lost. Her mother would hit the roof when she found out. Ariana’s father had only a tiny role in the U. S. Diplomatic Corps, just one of the unknown minions that simply kept the machinery of the new Kennedy administration working in its relationship with Great Britain, but her mother lived in constant terror that kidnappers and spies daily stalked her 16-year-old daughter. No reason for panic. Ariana still had a good hour before she would be missed at the dinner table and she could always catch a taxi cab. If only she could find one. The narrow cobblestone street she had found herself on sported little pedestrian traffic and oddly enough, no automobiles at all. There weren’t even any of the little tiny cars that seemed to scoot around London and could creep down the narrowest of alleys. Ariana continued her trek through the backwater streets trying to find a major thoroughfare where she could hail a taxi or catch a bus. Pride kept her from asking directions of the few people who walked about. A few minutes later, she found herself on a street completely deserted of people, but filled with interesting little shops. To her right, a shop with a large window boasted dozens of teas from around the world. Through the window, she could see an elderly woman sitting at the counter engrossed in a copy of the Times. The next window brought Ariana to a sudden stop. The shop’s simple marquee bore the name Walden Street Dolls and the huge front glass window overflowed with them. Separated from her by only a thin pane of glass, the dolls ranged from a foot to almost a yard in height. Ariana stared in delight at what she had previously known only through catalogues and pictures. Harlequins stood silent sentry to Victorian-era maidens. Lads in old English country attire courted maidens dressed as the same. Almost every era of London fashion from the 15th century to the 19th had its representative and, here and there, dolls in recognizable Dutch, French, German, and Italian dress stood in frozen silence. What captivated Ariana were the eyes. Glass elements of every colour sparkled back into Ariana’s blue ones. On a whim, she entered this wonderland. A bell above the door tinkled lightly as she entered the shop. Inside, shelves on all the walls stood covered with dolls of every imaginable design, a riot of brocade and silk and petticoats and corsets. Open-mouthed, Ariana drank in the view, her gaze slowly taking in the pictureperfect interior of the little shop. “May I help you?”
Morpheus Tales Presents The Ethereal Tales Special Issue Preview, edited by Teresa Ford. Featuring: WILLOW BY AMY J. BENESCH, RECESS BY DAN...
Published on Feb 6, 2014
Morpheus Tales Presents The Ethereal Tales Special Issue Preview, edited by Teresa Ford. Featuring: WILLOW BY AMY J. BENESCH, RECESS BY DAN...