Plugs

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).

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

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.

Sara Genge’s story “Godtouched” may be found in Strange Horizons.

Archive for the ‘Winter’s Fantasies’ Category

Another Winter’s Fantasy

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Here’s this year’s installment in the series that includes A Winter’s Fantasy and A Winter’s Fantasy II, once again a tip of the hat to the esteemed Mr. Ogdred Weary.


Uncle Cuthbert summoned us to his rooms in the North Wing. Edmund and I found him there, propped up on a heap of pillows with a lily-pad-pattern comforter pulled up to his chin and fires blazing on either side of the bedroom.

He was always sick, but we’d never seen him this bad.

“The countess assures me of your discretion,” he said, and we tried to act humble while he caught his breath. “I have… a task.”

He coughed several minutes before continuing. “The pond. Where I studied. Many years. Dangerous. In this cold. Creatures. Keep in. Walls up. Don’t…”

That was all he had strength for. His doctor wouldn’t let us wait for him to wake.

The woods were frigid — tree trunks coated with ice, path glazed slick. It was hard to walk, but not hard to find the pond. A little path led from the shack that had been Uncle Cuthbert’s research station.

We didn’t see any wall, although we tromped through the woods until our feet felt like stones. Pieces of glass lay everywhere on the ground, like windowpanes without windows. A few leaned up against trees.

“That could be a wall,” said Edmund.

We made quick work of it, setting up a wall of glass all around the pond, then hurrying home to thaw by the fire.

The glass was still there the next day; it must have worked.

Dark came quickly under the trees. We’d worn warmer coats and triple socks, and thought we’d wait to see what we were holding back.

They lifted themselves from the pond around moonrise. Long fingers, long noses like icicles — they were icicles. When they rickety-walked closer, I could see air bubbles, trapped insects, and bits of water plants inside their transparent bodies.

I backed up. They could just slip through between the panes. But the glass distracted their sharp fingertips. They drew patterns, lacy, intricate, mesmerizing to them and us. We wouldn’t survive sitting there like statues until morning — our coats weren’t that warm, and our socks were full of snow.

I couldn’t move my eyes, but could — barely — move my hand. I found a rock. I don’t remember throwing it, just the crash, the shrieking, their icy-sharp fingers on the backs of our necks as we ran all the way back to the house, and the shivers we couldn’t shake until summer.

A Winter’s Fantasy II

Monday, December 15th, 2008

A follow-up to last year’s A Winter’s Fantasy.

It was a good thing we looked in urn before using it as a wicket for roller-croquet in the west ballroom. Otherwise, we would never have found the governess.

Great-grandfather’s governess, who all the family stories had eloping with a traveling salesman after a fancy dress ball, still in her frog mask and lily-pad green gown.

The next morning, Edmund and I found we’d had the same dream: the governess, ethereal, wander-drifting the hallways, muttering a word over and over. Best we could figure, the word was, “Nog.”

It was late December, and that had been when she’d died; we knew what she wanted.

We swiped a cupful from the countesses’ own icebox, sprinkled on nutmeg thick as dust in the library. A cup and saucer, governess-neat, right in front of her urn.

It wasn’t enough: we did long division in our dreams all night, squeaking chalk on blackboards while she chanted, “Nog nog,” in our ears — which really didn’t help the math.

Our winter break wouldn’t amount to much if that kept up, so we raised clouds of dust in the library trying to figure out what she was after. A whole bookcase of cookbooks, but nothing on “ghost nog,” “ghoul nog,” or “spectral nog.” Eventually, we found something called the Gastronomicon propping up a broken-legged table, and among its burnt-oil-smelling pages we found a recipe for ectoplasmic nog.

I won’t bore you with what we went through to gather the ingredients, what Aunt Fiona said when she discovered who’d swiped her favorite perfume, what the vicar did upon finding the ox liver in his boot, or with what smoldering hatred our older sister’s fiance looked at us when he found out what we’d been skinning with his razor; I’ll only say that, after all that, it didn’t work.

Bleary-eyed after a night of copying Caesar’s Gallic Wars onto an infinite chalkboard, it came to me: Norton Osgood Guernsey, the tutor back in Great-Grampa’s day. The murderer.

In spite of the blizzard, we bundled up, rousted his coffin from the servants’ crypt, chopped a hole in the end of the pond that’d be froggiest come spring, and sank him.

That was enough: in our dreams that night, she smiled in the winter garden, not a stick of chalk in sight, just snow, behind her, out the window, falling faintly and generally, upon all the living and the undead.

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