Plugs

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.

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

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

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

Dana Takes a Dare

by Kat Beyer

The Women’s Battle College didn’t have nine days of chariot races, law-giving, marriage-sanctioning, and mead-drinking on Samhain. They had a special dinner instead, and contests all afternoon.

The students had their own custom: they dared someone to walk nine times around the standing stone on the headland at midnight. They said Skye herself would come and grant a favor.

Dana took the dare.

Nobody came with her. She swished through the long dead grass, wondering how they would know she’d really done it. At least it wasn’t raining, for once; the moon rode the wind.

The stone made her nervous even in daylight. It always seemed about to turn, grating on its axis, to have a look at who had come to visit.

Nine times around, counterclockwise; then she stood and waited, feeling cold and foolish.

“You’re up late, Yamamoto,” said a pleasant voice from behind her.  Dana squeaked.

It was Dr Eire, the headmistress, who laughed kindly, saying, “so much for back awareness.”

Dana ducked her head. “Yeah.”

“It’s all right. I’m supposed to be that good,” grinned the headmistress. “Come sit.”

Dana followed her.

“Mead,” offered the headmistress, passing her flask. Dana took it.

“Thank you, Dr Eire,” she said. “Am I in trouble?”

The headmistress looked out over the bay.

“I suppose you ought to be,” she said. “But I generally come here on Samhain, to see who took the dare this year.”

She paused.

“Supernatural beings grant favors at a price. Students never seem to remember that. Still, now that you’re here, did you have something in mind? If I can grant it, I will—at a price.”

It was good mead. Dana passed the flask back.

“I’m such a terrible student, and now I’m benched for a couple of months with this broken wrist. I just want to do better.”

Dr Eire turned, but Dana couldn’t see her face, angled into darkness.

“You’re not a terrible student,” she said. “Your coming to this headland proves rather that you are a determined one. The trick will be for you to see that yourself.”

Dr Eire helped Dana up. The headmistress stopped at the stone and poured some mead at its foot.

“And the price?” Asked Dana as they went down the hill.

Dr Eire chuckled.

“Don’t tell anyone what happened,” she said.

“Fair enough,” Dana grinned.

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