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

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.

Alex Dally MacFarlane’s story “The Devonshire Arms” is available online at Clarkesworld.

Luc Reid writes about the psychology of habits at The Willpower Engine. His new eBook is Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories.

Minka’s Gift

by Edd

Minka’s gift was to see how others would die. “Consumption,” she would say to herself while walking through Budapesht’s Jewish Quarter. “Accident. Consumption. War. War. Heart. Consumption.” Her only comfort was that her own reflection remained free of any sign of how she would meet her end.

Came the day she was waiting tables and a man sat down alone. Minka looked at him, and looked again. “Never will he die,” she thought. “He is immortal.” She hugged this knowledge to herself, and served him coffee, goulash and halaszle. After awhile he came every week, and after another while he came every day, and always sat by himself. By and by they talked, and by and by she sat with him so he was no longer alone, and by and by she walked with him by the banks of the Duna.

Their marriage was a small affair. He had no friends, and it saddened Minka to see how hers would die. They both observed the rituals: not seeing each other for a week, the fast for the day of the wedding, her veil. The rabbi thought it a curiously quiet ceremony.

Minka did not tell him of her gift. He might think she wanted only to learn how to live forever. She became pregnant and in time gave birth to a boy and a girl. When they were born she averted her eye at first, but could not avoid gazing on her little loved ones.

“Murder,” she sighed, and “Murder.” Immortality escaped them, then. She hadn’t even known it was what she was looking for until she saw it. She mourned her children even as they suckled.

The marriage lasted a year and a day. On the last day, Minka woke as usual before her husband, and turned to gaze at him before rising. She was shocked to see the age of the man with whom she had been sleeping. His hair had fallen out, his cheeks were sunken, one hand shook as if with palsy. And yet it was still he; he with the neverending life.

He sighed in his sleep, and said a word that chilled her. “Hungry,” he murmured. She knew, with a heartbreaking assurance, that it was not mere food that he must eat. She knew now how murder would visit her children.

Minka eased herself from the bed, backing away toward the kitchen and the very sharp knife. She kept her eyes on him.


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