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.

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

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

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.

Form Prayers to Broken Stone

by Trent Walters

This is the third in the four-part Hollow Men series. Although this could be appreciated alone, three others have appeared (now revised):  part I, part II and part IV.

I trudged for a day in a direction that had not existed the day before.  Tramping to the bleak beacon was like plowing through mounds of slushy snow seeping through your boots.  When the pair of shining black beams smote me, the going slowed to a crawl.

I’d passed beneath the beacon’s lower angle of the lantern room’s reach before the sensation in my goose-pimpled flesh returned.

A white-bearded dwarf exited the base of the beacon waving a replica of the lantern squatting above.  “Turn back!  Look not into eyes!”  His voice was the grinding of gears.

The journey had worn my patience, so I toppled him.  He fell back flinging his lantern behind.  He hit with a clang; the lantern’s hinged glass door swung open and cracked against the rocky soil, and the cold, coal-black flame soared, guttered, and winked out in the indifferent wind.  The man groaned as I carried on.

Years of severe weathering had pocked the formerly sleek obsidian surface of the beacon.  I ran my hand along its rough flank and steered myself up the inner winding.  The rotting wooden planks protested my weight.  I pushed wide the trapdoor.

Inside the lantern room, I swung open the glass lens and slid shut the iron vent to suffocate the coal-black flame.  Ice crystals formed in the cracks and spread across the vents.

The giant lens separated into smaller, distorting glass blocks–each chanced to point at the spire that had been my home since my days as unformed crockery.  From this vantage, it looked little more than a mossy screw, but each lens block also pulled it in some direction that made my attachment to it laughable–fat, skinny, hour-glassed, warped.  Watching, I noticed the screw turned when the hollow men climbed its slope.  In fact, hundreds of screws turned just beyond this one.  I daydreamed of erecting a bridge to cross the gaps so that no one had to fall off.  Vertigo filled my skull and numbed my fingertips.

Pivoting to the opposite direction, I gazed across a broad desert, into a land leviathan’s slow blinking gaze.

“You fool!”  The dwarf was hoisting himself up on the floor.  “You’ve opened the misery gate!”  The dwarf lisped the words, so it was hard to tell if the gate were a “misery” or “mystery.”  He brandished a dagger, slashed and thrust.

I dodged.  “Wait.”  Again, the dodge.  “I see your point.  Please.  Let me open the door, so the flame can breathe, and men won’t look in this direction.”  With an elbow, I cracked the ice and slid the door open, careful not to let the chill black light fall on me.

The dwarf tilted his head back, basking in the light.

Yanking him off his feet, I tossed the dwarf’s heavy metal frame into the flame and slammed the door shut.

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2 Responses to “Form Prayers to Broken Stone”

  1. natalief Says:

    November 28th, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    The link to part IV goes to a 404 page (file not found).

  2. Trent Walters Says:

    November 28th, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Hi, natalief,

    Hopefully, the story will be available early tomorrow morning. Thanks for letting us know!