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

Read Daniel Braum’s story Mystic Tryst at Farrgo’s Wainscot #8.

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

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

Archive for the ‘Alex Dally MacFarlane’ Category

A Brief Guide to the Windiest City

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Remember, first of all, that this is no ordinary city. The wind has teeth and they bite exposed flesh — cover up, plan your route to minimise time spent outdoors, accept the inevitability that the clever wind will find its way to your wrists and cheeks.

The main attraction is the prison, a construction of stone and exquisitely painted wood that funnels the wind into a series of passageways. A century ago, prisoners were chained there, tormented for as long as their crime — or the need for information — dictated. Now, tourists gasp at the chain-stumps and shriek when the wind sneaks up their sleeves.

It is a unique experience. No visit is complete without at least an hour there.

Opinions are divided on whether you should do this first of all, or save it until last so that the rest of your stay is not as painful. However, this latter option means you might have accumulated too much pain from the preceding days and find the prison almost as torturous as its inmates did.
We recommend seeing it first. Overleaf, see a map showing the safest passageways, as agreed upon by our team of independent travellers.

Other major sights include the moaning bridge, the museum, the art gallery (the often surreal depictions of the wind on the second floor are excellent) and, of course, the palace.

Much of the former rulers’ home is in ruin, after the uprising of 1904 and the end of the city-state’s independence, but the preserved parts are worth viewing: throne hall, with spectacular granite thrones; various tiled floors; enough intact walls to give an impression of the shape; and, most eerie of all things in this city, fallen pieces of the wooden roof. Bite-grooves from centuries of wind flowing over the palace are boldly visible. No other buildings are made of wood in these times.

A favourite cultural experience is the basement club, where the city’s youth remove their armoured clothing and dance. Their pale skin, sluiced with the clever wind’s marks, is unsettlingly beautiful: their wrists, ankles and faces seem the epicentres of strange white and red jewellery. A few visitors consider the dancers’ ages, usually in the 20s, and wonder at the appearance of their grandparents.

It is a mostly cheap city, although we recommend paying extra for a thoroughly insulated hotel. Evzen Hotel is good. The following restaurants are especially fine: Damek’s, Vaclav Grillhouse, The Wind-Sliced Rabbit.

Some risk-takers skimp on clothing, to “experience the true city”. Do not copy them.

The Queen’s Eyepatch

Monday, June 8th, 2009

It was said of the queen’s eyepatch that beaver-bees wove it, meshing the finest and most pliant twigs — more like hair than kindling — and fastening them into that characteristic square with honey.

It was said, occasionally, that a man with an ocean in his belly removed it from a fish’s jaw and delivered it by rainfall into the queen’s private orchid garden.

It was said by many in the city that a lone merchant appeared out of the desert, bearing a stilted house on her back, and from it withdrew all manner of artifacts in the palatial square to woo the young, half-blind queen. The eyepatch, golden-white and strung on minute beads of jade — so small that only close examination revealed that it was not a soft green thread — secured the merchant’s place in the young queen’s bed. Their heirs fluttered out on ruby wings.

One disgruntled suitor commonly muttered that the rear side of the eyepatch, when pressed to the queen’s empty socket, each day showed a different breathtaking panorama from the merchant’s wandering years. In this way the merchant secretly taunted her lover. That barbed foreigner!

The merchant’s name was Lixhi and her eyes, amber-orange, reminded everyone of her unknown origins.
The city loved its queen nonetheless. Eventually, the sensible men said, she would stop knitting ruby bird-girls with her womb and take a man to bed, producing the regular four-limbed boy-children of the land. The merchant-woman would wander again.

It was said that if the queen removed the eyepatch, the merchant-woman would forget their heady lovemaking.

It was said that the queen made it herself, from the wonders gifted to her temple, to woo the exotic visitor unloading fine merchandise in the palatial square.

To speed this along, an attendant was bribed.

The scissors snipped, the string snapped, the tiny jade beads rattled into cracks on the floor. The empty socket, exposed, made the queen cry. She hated the feel of air against it.

“Men are idiots,” the merchant-woman said, kissing that ruined hole, after shouting at guards to capture the fleeing attendant. “I’ll make you a new one, if you want? I found beads made of parrot beaks, fabrics made of seal-silk.”

“And I’ll make a boy-heir for them: seven-winged and beaked, jade-feathered, in love with tigers,” the queen said, embracing her lover. “Can you imagine their faces when we all step out tomorrow?”

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