Plugs

Ken Brady’s latest story, “Walkers of the Deep Blue Sea and Sky” appears in the Exquisite Corpuscle anthology, edited by Jay Lake and Frank Wu.

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

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

David Kopaska-Merkel’s book of humorous noir fiction based on nursery rhymes, Nursery Rhyme Noir 978-09821068-3-9, is sold at the Genre Mall. Other new books include The zSimian Transcript (Cyberwizard Productions) and Brushfires (Sams Dot Publishing).

Archive for the ‘Kat Beyer’ Category

Dana Takes a Dare

Monday, October 11th, 2010

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.

First Night Rain

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

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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