Plugs

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

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.

Jason Fischer has a story appearing in Jack Dann’s new anthology Dreaming Again.

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

Masker

by Rudi Dornemann

I don’t remember the stairs down, or grabbing my coat, or going out, but I’m part of the procession now. Masked and singing, we walk in a line through the snow. We sing the song that I’ve been hearing in my head since I first put on the mask a few weeks ago, the words that came clearer as the solstice approached.

Repeated for hours, the words become nonsense, then seem to mean something else. My fellow marchers are blurred as if by tears, no matter how much I blink, and there are no tracks in the snow but my own and the drummer’s. After a mile or two, I realize I’ve forgotten my name, and every other memory that isn’t about the mask or the procession is a distant as a dream lost on waking. The wind blowing the drummer’s clothes shows he’s skeleton thin. He grins with all his teeth.

I keep singing, even though I don’t know how much sound makes it past my scarf, which is pulled up over my freezing nose. The ghost-wind stings my eyes and there are frozen clumps of tears along the bottom of my mask. If I don’t keep singing, I know they’ll find me in a snowbank when the spring melt comes, and I wonder if that’s who the rest of the marchers are–recipients of the same mask, who sang and marched until the winter overcame them, and can’t help but come back to walk the longest night.

I can’t stop singing the words that are pulled out of me in an unending thread. And I’m running because I can see the sun’s glow, and I keep running, because the procession will end when it’s up, but the sun gets halfway over the horizon, then I swear it’s going down again, and there are hills, each valley a pocket of night, but we charge up the next incline hoping the sun will be higher, and I can’t tell, it should be up by now, I keep running, and then, at the crest of one hill, it’s the moon, not the sun, and I don’t know how many hours we still have to go. The beat of my heart, and the beat of the drum in time with it, slows back to marching. My feet are stumps of ice.

The drummer drums. I march.

The drummer grins. I sing.

Continued tomorrow with “In the Bleak Midwinter.”

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