“A branch tripped me just as the bells jingled for the first time. I fell, cold mud sopping my jeans, and peered through snarls of undergrowth as tangled as my hair. I saw nothing but the charcoal smudge of forest. Bells jingled again, and
then a man wheezed and I heard what sounded like reins striking a horse. An animal whinnied, and there beyond the
ancient oak, a neon-blue wheel crunched across dead leaves.
I scrabbled to my feet and headed toward the wheel. I’d never seen a horse and buggy in these woods, but then, it was only August and I’d never known the woods to sink into death this time of year either. Mind you, none of this particularly frightened me. At twelve, I was a tomboy, and I was accustomed to being on my own and taking care of both myself and my older brother.”
“Fire spun high into the city night sky and low into the night river right through the rapids, leaving streaks like stars newly lit and stars falling, sizzling in the riverbank weeds so dry from weeks without rain, illuminating and surely sometimes singeing the spinner’s pale forearms and long white-blond hair. Laura watched and trembled.
The fire-spinner was very tall, unless that was just angle and reflection and fire drawing the eye upward. Sirens sang
past, not coming here, not for this place. The fire-spinner made crazy music with a million voices, with some sort of instrument that gleamed like teeth, with ankle- and wrist- and nose- and ear-bells and -rattles invisible except for near-invisible glint. Laura thought, I could do that. Not throw fire and catch it, but my voice jumps around all over the place and my tremors could make music if I put bells on my wrists. There was always drum-play, a single kettle or a concert set or rows of them like blood beats on both sides of the river. There was always weed and wine.
‘That’s what I want to do,’ Brett said beside her.
‘Why?’ A single-word question often sounded like a challenge, but it was all she could manage right now. She hoped
he knew she was eager to understand this about him.”
“He arrived in the city’s harbor overlooked by the giant female statue on the eleventh day of their September, seeking
work that he might bring his family over. Haggard and somewhat changed by his journey, but unable to sleep at night, he nestled in trees of downtown’s long green park. He sniffed their passing words until he could speak them.”
“Picasso was drunk again last night. But that was not unusual. He could often be found drunk at Le Bacchanal, a seedy tavern in the 18th arrondissement, down the street from Lapin Agile and not far from his Montmartre studio. With the Nazis still occupying his beloved Paris, he had more than sufficient reason to render himself continuously insensible . . .”
“Officer Adohi Youngblood unsnapped his holster as he circled to the driver-side door. He knew the kind of driver he would see in the red Mustang he’d just pulled over: only a reservation drunk would barrel so fast down the winding, dusty back road. He steeled himself, prepared for anything.
Anything but the little old lady smiling up at him.
Youngblood felt the tension ease out of his neck and shoulders. He’d been dreading hauling in another intoxicated tribesman. He was fed up listening to jokes about redskins and firewater, and he’d heard enough comments on the number of reservation drunks he’d pinned. Hell, it wasn’t his fault if a guy couldn’t hold his liquor. Every man had his weakness—he’d been there himself—but drunkenness couldn’t be excused.”
“Remedios awoke to the bruja’s smiling face. Arylola’s wrinkles and teeth were brown and porous like a paper towel soaked in coffee grounds.
‘It was that inquisitive Spaniard, no? The jellyfish man?'”
“My trip to hell started around four o’clock at the St. Andrew subway station. I wanted to beat the crush of people heading north on the Yonge branch or at least have the luxury of sitting down. My stomach didn’t feel great and had bothered me all day. I hoped it was just the flu because I didn’t want to be pregnant again. That was what the Pill was for. The guy had used a condom too, just like the one from last year, but I didn’t know what he was until it was too late. Angels are real considerate that way.
You’d figure I’d have learned to watch out for them by now. They’re always too good to be true, too beautiful, too charming, kind of like some gay men I’ve met. Amazing, except for one little thing.”
There are fifty(!) contributors to A Darke Phantastique. Our next spotlight is on Misty Dahl. Her flash fiction piece, “Forgetting”, begins: “Chet Baker’s ‘My Funny Valentine’ wafts through the café courtyard and he starts to remember. The memory always finds him around this time of year. The way she looked shuffling her papers in frustration. Her hair, a blond mix… Continue reading Author Spotlight: Misty Dahl
Nothing had gone right in the week before the Con.
Edgar Wagner’s son Mike had come out as gay, and Edgar could handle that, he really could. Mike also decided to leave Stanford mid-semester and live with his lover. Edgar’s wife of twenty years asked that “they take a break.” Edgar’s doctor was not happy about his blood pressure or his bad cholesterol. Edgar’s latest novel Those Outside had a mixture of a couple of bad reviews—and worse still NO reviews from some of the big newspapers that had lauded him for the last decade. There were big stacks of the book at various dealers tables at World Horror, and the adoring lines of fans asking for an inscription had died down to the few asking for an autograph as a possible E-bay investment. Edgar was wondering what it would be like to go back to teaching at his age.
It was fall and it was Providence, Rhode Island so it meant that every other panel Edgar was on had to do with Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937). Every writerly virtue (‘My god his imagination!’) and every writerly vice (‘Do you really need to use the word eldritch twenty three times in one story?’) of Mr. Lovecraft was being discussed again and again. But Edgar Scott Wagner was not getting the panel he needed. He needed the panel called ‘What do you do if you have an idea for four horror novels and you are writing your ninth?’ It was late afternoon and Edgar walked out of the hotel and took off his badge and headed downtown. He always loved to walk. There was lots of walking in his books. He wrote a novella about walking, called “Walking” which (as almost every reviewer pointed out) owed a great deal to Stephen King’s The Long Walk. There were four things that Edgar Wagner loved: walking, pawn and thrift shops, history, and horror stories.
Over the hill and into town he came. He walked, bent and straining. Behind him a sled scraped deep gouges in the earth, stacked with leather bags, rasping along. His beard covered most of his face, touched his belt. He muttered as he trudged along the bleak, rock-strewn tundra, sled harnessed to his chest. He turned his head, looking side to side, swatting the air around him.
He was dressed in the tattered remains of old clothing he had sewn together in a jigsaw of filth-encrusted denim and animal skin. Scrapes on his arms trailed up under his sleeves, scabbed over and black. A rope held up his makeshift trousers, and tucked under the rope was a crude tool, its wooden handle tapping his leg with each step.
He stopped where the general store rose from the muddied boardwalk, hefting a leather bag, cashing in.