Snippets

A few snippets to whet your appetites…

The Short Go: A Future in Eight Seconds

Published in Bluegrass Symphony

Buy the collection to read the rest of this story.

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Soil From My Fingers

Published in Tesseracts 14: Strange Canadian Stories anthology

I could convince falconers to trade six hawks for two of my hens. I could navigate borderlands without steering the caravan into Meito ghost fields. I could ford winter rivers, violent with fast-moving ice, without losing any of my stock. If duty called I could lead the Pasha’s warriors into battle, and guide most of them back out again. My clan was ten wagons strong; my brothers’ sons would add three more to that count before we set out on our next travelling days. Some believed I could make dead vines bear fruit or teach lame goats to walk, if only I wielded the right tools. Had the right ingredients. Spoke the right words. These things I could do and more. But it all meant nothing if no one remembered me, if I couldn’t give my wife a child.

To read the rest, get yourself a copy of the anthology here, or a copy of the Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2010 here.

 

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Their Own Executioners

Published in ChiZine’s June-September 2010 issue

‘It’s not so bad there, most of the time.’ Fog wafted around his mouth as he spoke, drawing pale curlicues on the night air. The building was quiet around us.

He looked like condensation, liable to slip out of sight without solidifying.

He smelled like wet pavement.

‘Why do you keep coming back?’ I asked.

He looked at me, rubbed a hand along his irregular jaw. Stubble created no friction beneath his fingers; just a silent back and forth movement as he considered my question. I didn’t mind that he was unshaven. At least he’d set his face to rights before he came this time.

‘Must be the view.’ The skies were thick with pamphleteers negotiating the airways around the ‘stacks. They tossed news bundles on rooftops and lowered charity packets to the sewer grates on guy wires. Balloonists touched down none too gently on public landing pads; immediately lifted off once parcels had been exchanged. Countless lives sped past us, all tucked away in windowless flying boxes. I took a sip of my grog, tried hard not to think about the distance between the edge of my balcony and the ground. You’d think the council might’ve installed nets.

He smiled his lazy grin, drifted closer to me. Seemed like he didn’t notice the deepening lines on my face, the threads of silver in my dark hair, the rattle of smog in my lungs. His ever-young hand reached out to brush a few strands from my eyes, but didn’t complete its action. Rain slid through his retreating arms, his recoiling fingers, puddled where his body should have been.

‘It wasn’t you, you know.’

You can read the rest of this story here.

 

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The Good Window

Published in Fantasy Magazine, September 2009

The tape measure recoiled into its pocket-sized case with a satisfying snap. Ned smiled, wiped flecks of nail polish from the tape’s metal tip, and slid it back into her knapsack. Today had been a long time coming. Too long.

Her toenails had lengthened more than 3mm since the last good window day. They had nearly grown bare in the dark interim, leaving the slightest crescent of colour on the tips of her toes. Cerulean blue, speckled with white polka dots. She celebrated the good days with brilliant toenail polish—but until today, the view hadn’t been worth the paint.

Not more than an hour earlier, a wedge of geese had flown past her window. What a sight! Now Ned was dying to get at her collection of nail varnishes. She’d packed a few bottles in her knapsack—they nestled at the bottom like bubbles of promised pleasure, beside her tape measure and a fossilised rain shower (over 250 million years old!)—but Tantie would kill her if she stopped to repaint her nails now.

The sun broke through the clouds, gilding Ned’s face, as her matronly aunt accused her of lying.

“Don’t be wicked, Ned,” Tantie May said. “There are no geese outside. You know that full well. Be a good girl, now; it’s almost time for us to leave—”

“Call me Lavinia,” Ned said. “Please, Tantie. It’s such a lovely name. And I’m not fibbing, I swear.”

Ned’s wordwind fluttered in V-formation around her, spilling little white lies in its wake, immediately retracing its path to cross them out. Words swirled through her hair, pale tendrils lifting as paragraphs tornadoed above her head. Ned pinched the slowest phrases between her fingers, popping them into her mouth before they could escape.

“We’ve been over this, Ned,” Tantie said, her own wordwind buzzing with ferocious energy, spinning tales of naughty children, bottomless pits, and rotten cheese as she spoke. “I will not call you Lavinia. Or Clarissa. Or Enchantée. Your name was set down in ink the day you were born. And that is that.”

“But they made a mistake,” Ned cried, wishing she knew who had recorded her name—it was meant to be Nell—dooming her with their atrocious penmanship.

“Yes, Ned. They made a mistake. Just as you did when you thought you saw geese outside.” Shaking her head, Tantie shooed her wordwind toward the bedroom door, swiftly following it. “Your ’wind must’ve obscured your vision, dear. It has been known to happen.”

The rest of this story can be found here.

 

***

Singing Breath Into the Dead

Published in Mutation Press’s Music for Another World anthology (2010)

It is twilight in the upworld: the time of seduction, of passing thresholds, of becomings. The sun, though setting and veiled with battle smoke, is much yellower than Swan expected. The rubble-strewn path is a stream of chalk mortar, russet bricks, rich charcoal beneath her bare feet. Scattered shards of glass are redder than the painted spots on her skin, bluer than the shadows beneath her eyes. Grass, which is always pale turquoise or sepia in the faded pictures she lovingly studies, now shines the same green as her irises. Every colour is saturated, outlandish; even commonplace grey zings beyond her optical range. Up here, grey is so vivid it hums.

Swan shivers as she moves away from the vaulted tunnels of her childhood, takes her first steps above ground. She and the rest of Thevessels, with their faux-freckled complexions and fairy-floss waists, are laced into white corsets, robed in sheer fabric and begartered with lingerie ribbons. Soft veils fall before their kohl-rimmed eyes, which are kept modestly lowered, as Themothers lead them up into an unfamiliar shade of evening.

Anthology on sale from Mutation Press!

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