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.

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

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

Archive for December, 2009

Cold Goat

Friday, December 25th, 2009

A seed of truth to every myth. Just think of a giant game of chinese whispers, the beginning somewhere in the dawn of history, filtering through a thousand generations, ending in the watered-down version we hear from our parents and repeat to our own children.

Let me tell you about the true Santa.

At the time I was looking for a familiar, a creature from beyond the Black that I could bind to my service. I’d called out little spirits before, nuisance demons that were more trouble than help. I wanted something with a bit more grunt, something that would give me true power.

My quest led me all over the world. I read ancient scripts printed on human skin, found mention of an elder demon in archives that most museums have never made public. There was the hint of a malevolent spirit, so powerful that only one family dared write down its name.

I learnt of a certain man, last of a long line. Keeper of a certain secret. I arrived unannounced at his house and found an old man living simply, surrounded by cats and knick-knacks. He did not die well, but at last he coughed out the creature’s name in a bubble of thick blood.

That whispered name was enough to call the demon, and it took all of my art to contain the spirit. Had I faltered once, it would have taken me into its cold, icy hands, driven the life and warmth from me.
It had a face like a goat, a goat born under a different sun, limbs that bent in ways that made my eyes swim. It wore a thousand years of ice.

I broke the demon, broke it like a wild foal, though it took two days and two nights of intense struggle. I was weak and covered in my own filth, but I bound the demon, drew it into a ring.

It is not a peaceful captive, and it whispers to me at night. I do not dare take off this ring, and it’s all I can do to hold it in.

The ice-demon gives me dreams. Of rude huts in the snow, of vengeance curses sworn in its name. The thrill of reaching out from the cold dark, through chimney-holes and out of lavatory pits, snatching at the children.

Ho Ho Ho.

The Sovereign District of Noël

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Marisa knew a high-profile case when she saw one. This one was going to take her career into orbit, and that was worth even a certain amount of public hatred.

An ancient elf showed her in silently, and a moment later Santa entered, trailed by a suave-looking elf with a briefcase.

“Please, sit down,” said the suave elf. “Can I get you a cocoa? Schnitzel, get the lady a cocoa.” The ancient elf bowed and left.

“Let’s make this very, very simple,” said the suave elf. “You’re alleging violations of trademarks, patents, and copyrights in the toys we make and deliver to children around the world. And you’re absolutely right that we violate those laws. When we make a knockoff of a Nintendo Wii or burn a few thousand copies of the latest Harry Potter movie, we’re imitating the original product right down to the shrink wrap. The thing you’re missing is that we here in the Sovereign District of Noël have no obligation whatsoever to honor the laws that you mundanes spend your time fussing over.”

“Damn right,” said Santa.

Marisa had expected this tactic. “By conducting activities within U.S. borders–”

The suave elf laughed. “Oh, please. We don’t recognize your borders. We don’t recognize your nation, your government, your corporations, or the legitimacy of your laws. Your governments are completely powerless to stop Santa or constrain the movement of the Sleigh, and you know it. I think it’s time you gave up this farce and went home.”

Marisa had expected this, too. “You’re forcing my hand,” she said. “I didn’t want to have to resort to this.” She slid a stack of glossy 8×10 photos out of her attaché case and tossed them onto the table. They featured Santa in a variety of situations not usually associated with jolly old saints.

“Santa’s personal life is his own business,” the elf said, unperturbed.

“God, was I drunk that weekend,” said Santa.

“Santa’s a public figure,” said Marisa. “If Angelina Jolie and Tom Cruise have to pay the price for that, why shouldn’t he?”

The elf smiled. “Because Santa is magic.”

Abruptly, Marisa found herself sitting in her own office back in Newark. Ignoring the impossibility of this and her own disorientation, she ran to the safe and opened it. The photo CD and the spare prints of the Santa pictures were gone.

In their place was a lump of coal.

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