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

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

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

Angela Slatter’s story ‘Frozen’ will appear in the December 09 issue of Doorways Magazine, and ‘The Girl with No Hands’ will appear in the next issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet.

First Night Rain

by Kat Beyer

I look down from my high window, forgetting the brush in my hand, because the night is that beautiful. The rain drifts like smoke. The round paper lanterns, not yet put out by the water, gambol in the wind, and the leaves pattern and re-pattern against the light.

We had lanterns just like these at my fifteenth birthday party. (Was it that long ago?—Now the servants hurry out to take them down in the swinging dark. This storm couldn’t put out a fire, should the roofs catch.)  At my party, my father waited until the moon warned us it was rising. Then he lifted my sake cup out of my hand and said, “Now we must go, Kaida.”

We walked up the hill to our shrine. Two of our strongest bodyguards had to pry open the doors, for they had not been opened since my father was fifteen. The hinges squealed and growled.

We lit the lamps on the altar, and left incense sticks burning in the old drifts of ash. In the dim light I saw the clean, deep gashes in the wooden floor.

“You must blow out the lamps when I go,” he reminded me.

“Yes, Father,” I said.

So he left me. I blew out the lamps and waited in the dark, among the columns like trees.

By the time the moon was up I had no doubt—if I ever had—of my paternity.

I have to say, I was magnificent. My fingers and toes lengthened into perfect claws; my white skin burst into shining white scales; I coiled and uncoiled, sliding over myself, and when I roared, I brought rain to the fields: with my new dragon ears I could hear the clouds gathering in the night.

Tonight, I can hear the fields shouting greetings to the rain. After the moon rises behind the clouds I will shed my smaller form for a while, climbing up into the flying dark, coiling and uncoiling, telling our valley its name, and hearing it tell me mine.

Even though I’d spent my whole life knowing this might well be my inheritance, I still felt frightened that first night, waiting in the dark, wondering if the first telltale shimmer and strength would come. It takes time, to grow into the dragon woman one can be.

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