Read Rudi’s story “Detail from a Painting by Hieronymus Bosch” at Behind the Wainscot.

David Kopaska-Merkel’s book of humorous noir fiction based on nursery rhymes, Nursery Rhyme Noir 978-09821068-3-9, is sold at the Genre Mall. Other new books include The zSimian Transcript (Cyberwizard Productions) and Brushfires (Sams Dot Publishing).

Edd Vick’s latest story, “The Corsair and the Lady” may be found in Talebones #37.

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

Shells, at the Ocean’s Edge

by AlexM

A girl walks by the water, counting the shells with single-sentence stories inked onto their spirals.

One: A fish wed to a man produced five beautiful children, who each became a queen of the tides – as liminal an area as their own forms.

Two: Around the ancient shipwreck, serpents fail to summon djinn and wishes from barnacle-encrusted amphorae.

Three: The coral palaces went hunting, to snare seahorse finials and eel spires.

In a whole day, only three shells. This is how the girl knows that the squid queen is dying.

She remembers the days when every other shell wore a story, in that strange language that only the girl, of all land creatures, can read. When the stories began to diminish, she reacted like a human: floated out boxes of medicine stolen from her father’s cabinet, scattered the tides with herbs that the internet recommended as general cures.

None of it has worked.

Unable to swim, and too frightened by her father’s tales of rock-smashed fishermen to try, she cannot reach the queen and ask what she needs.

So she counts and hopes. She thinks: surely the queen will find help and recover.

Three. Only three.

And, the next day, none.

Her father laughs. “Finally! No more reason for us to stay by the sea, motherless child, if that creature is gone and can’t curse us anymore.”


The girl refuses to believe in the squid queen’s death.

But, as her father begins travelling inland to view new houses, she realises that the sea will be taken from her.

“I bet the squid queen is getting angry at you,” she says to her father. “You’ll see.”

At night, she sneaks out of their house and writes her own story on the shells. Some she leaves on the shore, to trick her father; others she throws into the waves, in case the squid queen has sisters or cousins. Or other daughters.

Her story: I am at the ocean’s edge, learning how to swim, waiting, if you’ll take me.

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