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PrologueStrings of Fate
By Vylot Hart
"Magic is an individual action, undertaken because the cosmos is
not believed to be benevolent by nature, or, at least, not benevolent
enough to that person"
-Maya Deren, Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti, London, 1953
Salem, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
September 20th, 1692
A tall woman, young but prematurely aged by grief, pain a
Bone MongerEva was dying. Her parents spent all their time, all their money on the search for a solution; for a way out. Eva didn't mind if she died, she'd been in pain for so long that she wasn't scared any more. But, more than anything, her parents wanted her to live, they were desperate to the point of being obsessed. So she went along with them, she drank the foul-tasting medicines, she took the vitamins, she travelled far and wide with her parents, going from doctor to doctor. The problem, though, was that no one knew why she was dying, and no one knew how to make her stop. Eventually, of course, her parents ran out of options and they had no one left to turn, no hope of life-saving advice. But one of the doctors, of the faceless multitude of beings clad in white coats, suggested her parents take her to a man called Cain Mayhew. While rather unscrupulous, the man had a history of saving those who had long been hailed as lost causes. It took a lot of asking on her father's b
Ever since Lira was a little girl, for as long as she could remember there had been a box in her attic. It was a large wooden crate, perfectly square and dark blue in colour. Painted designs interrupted the smooth dark blue that lazily spread across the wooden surface. Golden swirls curled across the top, and silver vines trailed along the sides. It was rather like a jack in the box, except that it was taller than her, and there were no seams. No gaps that might indicate the presence of a lid. Even painted. She should've been able to find those lines. It was almost as if the box had always been one single part, with no opening.
But that was silly. Her father called it a box, and all boxes opened. So there must be a way inside.
Lira had always wondered what was inside the box. Spending many hours sitting beside the box, tracing the shape of the swirls and the vines with one finger. Sometimes her mothe
BryonyMany years ago, before humans had overrun the Earth, and when the Fey and the Old Gods ruled, there lived a woman called Bryony.
Dancers in their dozens, clad in velvet and lace stamped patterns across a marble floor. Four walls wrought from silver and finely carved ebony and spaced far apart surrounded them. Musicians, armed with fiddles, drums, harps and a litany of other instruments, enchanted their listeners, enticing them, forcing them to sway and glide.
The musicians were led by a tall woman in a black silk gown, batwing sleeves on full display as she sang, arms raised but held close to her chest. Long dark hair draped over her shoulders, carelessly arranged. The greatest of all Chantresses, her voice sweeter than birdsong, warm and slow as dripping honey; more skilled than any opera singer.
Her name was Bryony and she was a Pied Piper.
At her command violins wailed and drums pounded, the dancers' movements mirroring each other perfectly, moving exactly how she wanted
Words: A Study in SynesthaesiaSynaesthesia: A Study in Words
Tastes and colours race across the page, Words flash, brilliant and made flesh. Become what they describe, embody who they name; those who are, those who have been, and those who never were. Words, tampered with by Human minds and voices, become afraid, vulnerable. Diminished by the time their Human captors were done with them. Awesome was no longer to be feared, his personality changed accordingly, to correspond to the new meaning Humans had attributed to him.
By changing the meaning of a Word, you change the shape of it.
Then new words, poorly formed, over-casual and sometimes offensive muscled their way in, demanding equal attention and love.
Some Word-Slaves, like poor dear Aerodrome and Shenanigan, were taken out to the woods and shot by decree of the Humans. No longer wanted, no longer needed.
The Words became angry.
They started to fight among themselves.
Pain and Joy fought a mighty battle; and would have fought to the Death, but he was busy that
His EyesIt has been three months since we heard from the mainland.
Speculation abounds. Some catastrophe has befallen them there; a plague has ended them, or a war, or perhaps something so dreadful that we cannot even imagine it. We are left here to starve, slowly, as we wait for news and supplies.
This morning we saw a boat on the horizon. Through the spyglass we saw that its occupant is a lone boy, and that his skin is patterned with lesions. Sula saw something in his eyes, he said, though he did not say what it was; but he was so shaken by the sight that he begged us to shoot the boat down before it reaches us.
We have no choice but to obey. We may pity the boy, but if he carries a plague a show of mercy might doom us. We will fire the cannon as soon as he comes within range.
We burned the flotsam brought in by the tide. There is no sign of the boy's body. With luck the current carried it away.
Sula woke with fever today. He sweats in rivers, and he will not open his eyes. He begged f
FFM 25: The Delivery BirdMom pressed her feet into the stirrups with all of her might, tears of joy and agony streaming down her face. The last push was the hardest, working out the shoulders and wings that followed the long, slender neck. After that, the rest of the stork slid out easily.
Mom and dad wrapped their arms around one another and looked upon it with a combination of euphoria and crippling exhaustion, eagerly waiting to see what the white sack in his beak held. But the messenger only looked back sympathetically, bowing its head in a solemn apology.
The pouch was empty.
In the Valley of the DevilsThis is how we prepare for winter in werewolf country: by lighting all the torches on the ramparts around the encampment, because werewolves fear fire, and so that we can see them when they come skulking in the dead of night. Sometimes, beneath the flames, we see the werewolves in our midst, the ones standing beside us. This makes the winter longer, and darker.
This is how we prepare for winter in the forest outside the camp: by catching rabbits and deer and possum, and roasting them on spits on our little fires, which we keep small so that the village will not see the smoke. If they locate us, they will come with guns and silver shrapnel, and tear us to bloody bits.
By first frost, we have finished digging the ditch around us. It is filled with blades pointing up, and hemlock and mistletoe, which the werewolves avoid as a vampire avoids garlic. We toss in the cut branches, and also some parts of their brethren, a skull or tooth, or a hand, which was once a paw
Do You See What I SeeRed.
It starts with a simple color. A simple color that results in the end of everything that was. Everything that would be. A simple color that destroyed the futures of so many. Who would have thought the world could be ended by the simplest of colors in the eyes of one girl.
She jumps from broken rooftop to broken rooftop. She glances back every other second. She pants and sprints, her auburn hair flying behind her in the wind. She has been running for only a couple of minutes, but the jumping has taken a toll on her body.
She looks up to the sky, the sun had been gone for years now. Darkness and plague raved the world. This was her fault. She tries not to think about it as she runs for her life. Haunting memories of what she did. She can still hear the screams of people whose lives she took. She begins to cry, each tear is hot and heavy of her face. She begins to stop, slowing with
Rising Like SmokeRising Like Smoke
Darkness rose from seemingly nowhere like smoke
From the junction of the backstreet and Darkwood Road in municipal Arkham, Massachusetts, where most residents believed to be uninhibited, the darkness suddenly and mysteriously rose like a heavy blanket of smoke from an enormous bonfire. In fact, there was neither fire nor smoke; but someone or something was summoning the darkness. To be exact, the residents were too scared to investigate the junction, fearing very dark evil. There was a rumor that someone was reading from the black book.
"I swear to ya, someone has got that black book "Necronomicon"."
"You may be right. Darkness don't rise like smoke from anywhere."
They were both right, actually. Someone hid in the backstreet and recited something from Necronomicon to create that darkness. That happened at 5 pm, hours before real darkness fell. Eventually, when real darkness came, it mingled with the spell. Everyone in that side of the town locked door and
The Ghost Dear Diary,
Today, Lizzie made a new friend. She says I should come play with them, but I’ve seen the scratches on her arms and the smile that tells me she’s hiding her pain. Felix doesn’t like the new friend either – he hisses every time the boy comes near him.
I don’t think anyone else can see him. Just me, Lizzie and Felix. It’s almost like we’re at war – Lizzie and the boy against Felix and I. The grown-ups try and tell us that it’s good to have an imaginary friend, and that it will help us become friends with other people, but I think they’re wrong. I don’t think the pale boy who walks through walls and wears a scary grin is Lizzie’s friend. Friends don’t hurt each other – Miss Eddy said so.
Felix has gone missing. The last time anyone saw him, he was with Lizzie. I think the boy had something to do with it – the mar
Morning RitualIt was a known fact of life that Arnold could not function without his morning coffee. Thankfully, he had married a woman who made an amazing brew. Jessica was amazing, and Arnold knew that a shlub like him didn’t deserve an angel like her. He made sure she felt duly appreciated, too—after her coffee elevated him above his zombie state.
The weekend had come and gone, and once again Monday was making its forceful presence known. Not that he had to go in to work today… instead, he would have to attend his mother’s funeral. Not that he was grieving. In fact, it was going to be all he could do not to dance on the woman’s grave once the last scoopful of Earth was atop her. Six feet was not enough. She had always tried to control his life. And she had downright hated Jessica. Perversely, as horrible as she had been, she had also always insisted she was a good mother even to her last breath. No one in the family missed her.
Arnold navigated his house my memory, n
Last MealLawrence Russel Brewer was a Texan white supremacist who, along with three of his friends, was tried and convicted for the 1998 murder of African-American James Byrd, Jr. and sentenced to death row. On September 21st, 2011, Brewer was executed by lethal injection. He expressed no remorse for his crime, and stated he would do it all over again if he could. Make no mistake, this man was a monster in virtually every sense of the word. In all likelihood, he deserved to die, and his death was probably too quick and painless to be honest. However, that isn't the point of this little story you're reading.
The point, rather, has to do with Brewer's last meal request...
Shortly before his execution, Lawrence Russel Brewer was given a choice of what his last meal would be, as is customary in many US prison systems when executing inmates. Brewer's last meal request was a veritable feast: Two chicken fried steaks smothered in gravy with sliced onions, a triple meat bacon cheeseburger with fixings
The Mirror BladeThe mirror was smooth and cold to the touch as she ran her fingers across it. They didn't leave a mark - not a whisper of fingerprints trailing a pale grey line. It shouldn't be there; there was no record of a mirror being brought in, but here it was, completely out of place and completely intriguing. She pulled her hand away and stepped back. The mirror was huge, standing at least six foot tall and surrounded by silver gilding that formed twisted celtic patterns and drew the faces of children and faeries.
Liz looked around as the soft sound of music drifted towards her ears. The doors were shut and she was the only one in the room. She swivelled back towards the mirror as the sound grew louder: It was coming from beyond the glass.
"What?" she whispered to herself as she took a step closer to the glass.
The music grew louder and she could pick out voices amongst the melody. She couldn't understand the voices but they were clear and pure, singing high and bright but muffled through the
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The Coffee GodThe Coffee God behind the counter shuffles foot to foot, a dance of steam and espresso. Black painted fingernails, inch gauged ears and a gray striped sweatshirt, hood crooked on his back. There's a cigarette tucked behind one ear; it bobs and twitches with each step.
“Non-fat caramel latte,” he calls, just as he always does, part of a spell, part of a mantra, toneless (just a tuck at the end). I reach. He looks up.
The espresso maker hisses.
There's something like a grin, something like a spark, something like a shared secret linked eye to eye. When he passes over the drink (rough cardboard sleeve hot to the touch), he lingers. Our fingers brush, a shiver, a jolt, a ten-watt shock.
The Coffee God tilts his chin, shouts, “Hey, mind if I take my break now?”
and ducks around the counter without waiting for a reply.
He slips his cigarette between his lips without taking his eyes from mine. I follow him out the door.
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