Plugs

Jason Erik Lundberg‘s fiction is forthcoming from Subterranean Magazine and Polyphony 7.

Kat Beyer’s Cabal story “A Change In Government” has been nominated for a BSFA award for best short fiction.

Susannah Mandel’s short story “The Monkey and the Butterfly” is in Shimmer #11. She also has poems in the current issues of Sybil’s Garage, Goblin Fruit, and Peter Parasol.

Ken Brady’s latest story, “Walkers of the Deep Blue Sea and Sky” appears in the Exquisite Corpuscle anthology, edited by Jay Lake and Frank Wu.

Emilio’s Case

by Kat Beyer

The case is slightly longer than a man’s hand—call it a man’s hand and two knuckles—bound in black leather, with enameled iron fittings. It could be tucked in the pocket of a well-tailored jacket.

Near the catch, someone long ago stamped and gilded the name G. G. Della Torre. Above it are other names, some stamped and gilded, some cut carefully into the leather, some painted in white ink in the script of other days: G. L. Della Torre, Martegno D. T., Stefano Strozzi Della Torre, and more, a long column of names, and at the bottom of the list, close to the hinges, in an elegant gilded script, Emilio Roberto Della Torre.

The back of the case has a deep scar in the leather, and there are singe marks near the hinges, so with a bit of Milanese history we can guess what the case is for, but only when it’s open can we be sure. Only then do they show themselves, neatly stowed each in their compartments: Bell, book, and candle.

The book is singed like the case. The pages are of good hemp paper, edges finger-dirty with the ages. Many hands have written recipes and rituals for contending with all that humankind can raise from the depths, with notes in the margins, and notes on the notes. “Ineffective variant of early Byzantine exorcism.” “Works well on lost spirits.”

The bell is small and brass and battered, but gives a sweet sound, a little-sister laugh that mocks the big sister church bells of the city. It’s easy to imagine how a demon might rise to the surface at the sound of such a bell; anyone would.

The candle is a stub of yellow beeswax. A box of matches from Ristorante Nobu, the good sushi place in via Manzoni, is wedged in next to it.

The case holds a few other items, like 13 silver nails, each individually strapped to the wood, an excellent fountain pen, and a grocery list written in a grandmother’s hand—”500g of grana, eggs, butter, olive al forno, tickets to La Scala for next Friday, Nonno’s razors, stamps”—this last obviously tucked in by a busy grandson, this Emilio.

But let us put the case away, back in the drawer in his desk; we are not ready to face what he faces.

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