Plugs

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.

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.

Jason Fischer has a story appearing in Jack Dann’s new anthology Dreaming Again.

Jonathan Wood’s story “Notes on the Dissection of an Imaginary Beetle” from Electric Velocipede 15/16 is available online.

A Winter’s Fantasy II

by Rudi Dornemann

A follow-up to last year’s A Winter’s Fantasy.

It was a good thing we looked in urn before using it as a wicket for roller-croquet in the west ballroom. Otherwise, we would never have found the governess.

Great-grandfather’s governess, who all the family stories had eloping with a traveling salesman after a fancy dress ball, still in her frog mask and lily-pad green gown.

The next morning, Edmund and I found we’d had the same dream: the governess, ethereal, wander-drifting the hallways, muttering a word over and over. Best we could figure, the word was, “Nog.”

It was late December, and that had been when she’d died; we knew what she wanted.

We swiped a cupful from the countesses’ own icebox, sprinkled on nutmeg thick as dust in the library. A cup and saucer, governess-neat, right in front of her urn.

It wasn’t enough: we did long division in our dreams all night, squeaking chalk on blackboards while she chanted, “Nog nog,” in our ears — which really didn’t help the math.

Our winter break wouldn’t amount to much if that kept up, so we raised clouds of dust in the library trying to figure out what she was after. A whole bookcase of cookbooks, but nothing on “ghost nog,” “ghoul nog,” or “spectral nog.” Eventually, we found something called the Gastronomicon propping up a broken-legged table, and among its burnt-oil-smelling pages we found a recipe for ectoplasmic nog.

I won’t bore you with what we went through to gather the ingredients, what Aunt Fiona said when she discovered who’d swiped her favorite perfume, what the vicar did upon finding the ox liver in his boot, or with what smoldering hatred our older sister’s fiance looked at us when he found out what we’d been skinning with his razor; I’ll only say that, after all that, it didn’t work.

Bleary-eyed after a night of copying Caesar’s Gallic Wars onto an infinite chalkboard, it came to me: Norton Osgood Guernsey, the tutor back in Great-Grampa’s day. The murderer.

In spite of the blizzard, we bundled up, rousted his coffin from the servants’ crypt, chopped a hole in the end of the pond that’d be froggiest come spring, and sank him.

That was enough: in our dreams that night, she smiled in the winter garden, not a stick of chalk in sight, just snow, behind her, out the window, falling faintly and generally, upon all the living and the undead.

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