Plugs

Jason Erik Lundberg‘s fiction is forthcoming from Subterranean Magazine and Polyphony 7.

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

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

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

Winterking:Summerking

by Rudi Dornemann

A little before midnight, I followed the path through the little woods and out onto the frozen hillside, chanting lines from one of William Blake’s more mystical and interminable books. Because you asked me to. I tied the satchel to the listing wire fence by the ravine, the little bag with herbs, snips of wire, a lock of your hair. Because you asked me to. I stamped the snow into the pattern from the page of crop circle book you’d ripped out and tried to burn. Because you told me not to.

I worked around three times before it appeared, shimmering simultaneously up from the ground and down from the sky.

It had glass-delicate features of Arthur Rackham elf and the eyes of an X-Files alien.

“Minion of Los?” I said.

It didn’t move. I bowed anyway. You’d meant me to pay the last of your debt, not strike my own bargain.

“Snellsmore,” it said, “Okehampton.”

Belatedly, I started the recorder, and repeated the first two names in my head.

It droned on: “Ruislip, Haddon, Heaton, Mondrem.”

It spoke, as the far ones do, in places. England, maybe Canada. With each, I felt the twinges you’d described, down my spine, deep in my gut, behind my knees–each pinch foreshadowing a pain that would grow with the years.

The minion began to revolve with slow grandeur, its droning rapid: “WestrayOrmskirkNethertonLongthorpeBodminStonebarrowScilly.”

It shimmered apart, left and right, like light flaring on glass, and was gone.

I shivered that whole winter, no matter how many blankets I piled on, how high I turned the heat. But you’d taught me how to get through: double sweaters, soup close to boiling every meal, all the herbal supplements on the lists you’d left. (Had you known the warnings would only make your stories more irresistible?)

As the days outgrew the nights, I traced and retraced the lines on the map, the constellation of places the elf/alien/imaginary/too real thing had named. I bought tickets; consulted almanacs, starcharts, and train tables; sublet the apartment; left.

I’d travel, while the leaves greened and gain the Crown of Los, the gift of creativity that had sung in all your symphonies. The same gift as you, although maybe a more visual art for me. But the same price, same decline, same pains. But that was OK–they’d be as much a link to you as the ten-year summer of triumph.

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