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.

Sara Genge’s story “Godtouched” may be found in Strange Horizons.

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

Trent Walters, poetry editor at A&A, has a chapbook, Learning the Ropes, from Morpo Press.

Missing Death’s Bad Beer

by Kat Beyer

Author’s note: this story is a Gothy present for my fabulous stepdaughter, Rain Lochner. Happy birthday, Rain! Hope you like it.

The trouble with playing poker with Death is that he has no tells. He carefully guards his reputation for total unpredictability.

“There’s a woman,” said Thomas. “She’s got red hair and a smile like sun on a porch.”

“Are you going to go goopy?” Intoned Death.

“I don’t think so.”

“You’re going to go goopy.”

“I’m not going to go goopy,” Thomas grumbled. “See you and raise you 20 bucks.”

“Nobody pays the ferry man anymore,” Death complained, feeling around for his wallet, a present from Thomas. It showed Death riding a Harley, because the artist couldn’t know that Death rode a ‘52 Vincent Black Lightning.

“She’s not for you anyway,” Death added, slapping the bills down.

“How do you know?”

Death waited for him to find the answer on his own.

“Oh,” said Thomas finally. “When?”

“Tomorrow, in the bar. Jealous ex-boyfriend,” said Death, flicking a maggot off his wrist.

Thomas felt sick (not from the maggots—he was used to them). He looked at his hand: nine of hearts and jack of spades.

“What if I broke the rule?”

Death had one rule, and that was money bets only.

“You could do that,” said Death. “But I’m looking at a pretty good hand.”

“And we probably wouldn’t hang out again,” said Thomas.

“There is that,” said Death. “Probably.”

“I would miss Thursday nights.”

“Bad beer,” grinned Death, who always brought it.

“Maggots in the peanuts,” smiled Thomas. He added, “I’m sorry.”

Death said, “I told you you’d go goopy,” and placed the bet on the table: a small glittering shape that smelled of thunderstorms. Thomas held his breath while Death dealt the first card.

When a box of chocolates skated down the long counter to her, Nina wondered if Rob was trying a cute way of getting around the restraining order. But when she looked up the row of startled regulars, only Thomas looked back. He came down the bar.

“These from you, Thomas?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“What for?”

“Because I’m lucky you’re alive,” he said. “Want to go out after work?”

She didn’t say she’d honestly never thought about him that way before, or that she had an odd feeling she might be looking at a man who would go the distance for her, or that she had an even odder one that she would start a new life if she said yes. She just said yes.

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