Entertainingly Evil

Rats by Sandra M. Odell

The rats followed Henry home from the hospital. As his daughter massaged his hands, put a pillow under his knees, rubbed lotion into the horny calluses of his feet, they chittered in the corners of the room and watched with beady yellow eyes from behind the dresser mirror. Henry pissed himself, and his left side felt warm.

“Rats,” he said. It came out: “Wuts” “Behind the dresser.” “Bain ah drrh.”

Pink ratty noses twitched, tiny paws flexed like clutching, four-fingered hands. And the smell!

“Hmm?” Lena looked up from pulling on his compression stockings, right then left.

Wruts.” He jabbed at the air with his palsied left hand, now his good hand. The right curled numb and useless at his side. Damn the stroke for taking his dignity and his voice, for leaving him an invalid in a diaper.

“Oh.” Lena sat on the edge of the bed and took his left hand between hers. “No, Dad, there are no rats. Remember what Doctor Romada said, it’s your brain trying to make sense of things.”

What did the doctor know? Only what he saw in the chart, not with his eyes. The doctor hadn’t chased rats out of the henhouse with a willow switch, or away from a deadborn pig in the pen. Hadn’t seen rats chew on his baby sister’s ears in the cradle when she grew cold and pale after the ague. Henry hated rats, fat wormy tails, dirty whiskers, nails on chalkboard squeaks. Like blood clots, waiting for the right moment. “Writs.”
Lena sighed. “Please, Dad…”

Wrots!” He tried to sit up. 74 years of hard living and two packs a day betrayed him. His head barely came off the pillow.

Lena touched his hair, his left cheek. “You’re home now. Everything’s going to be all right. Tess and I are right down the hall, remember?”

Not home. It was his house, but not his home, not since he tossed that handful of dirt on Betsy Mae’s casket eight long and lonesome months ago. They’d managed fine together for 53 years, but now Betsy Mae was gone and the rats, oh, the rats. “Get me a poker, a knife. Where’s my gun?” “Geh m poo, aye. Mugah?

Lena leaned in too close. She always leaned in too close. “Would you like your Atavan? The doctor said you could have it just before bed.”

Henry blew a raspberry, and once again did his best to point.

Lena sighed and looked away, frustration and worry etching years into the corners of her mouth. “It’s tough, I know, but we’ll get through this.” She fussed wrinkles into the quilt, smoothed them out again. “I’ll get your shot to help you sleep. We’ve got a big day tomorrow. Tom is coming over for your home therapy visit, remember? Do you remember Tom from Forest Glen?”

Of course he remembered Tom, young and too enthusiastic in a queer sort of way but an okay fellow. Except for the earring. This didn’t have anything to do with Tom. He had to make her understand, before, before. . . “Writs.”

“Sure, Dad. Rats.”

Lena went to the door. As she reached behind her to pull it shut, she looked from the dresser to Henry and back again and furrowed her brow almost as if, as if she’d seen something. Yes? She had to see the rats. They were right there! He jerked his left arm up, too high, too far, but up. “See, Lena, see? Now do you believe me?” “Ee, naha, eez? Naowl bu me?

“I love you, Dad.”

The door closed. And the rats, oh, the rats.

Sandra lives with her husband and two sons in Washington state.  She is an avid reader, compulsive writer, and rabid chocoholic.  Her work has appeared in such venues as Jim Baen’s UNIVERSE, Daily Science Fiction, and Crossed Genres.  She is a Clarion West 2010 graduate.


Inside by Lorraine Schein

When I came to, I lay curled on a slick, coiled surface. Still alive! I remembered that face looming closer, jaws widening, teeth gleaming white and sharp as the moon in the forest, then a terrible grinding sound, and—only darkness. I remember thinking I would die, but instead it seemed I had gone to the sunless depths of hell.

Inside the wolf, it was darker than the Black Forest, but after a while my eyes grew used to the gloom. I could make out the rounded walls of glistening pink flesh, pulsing with layered veins of blood that looked like my mother’s cross-stitched embroidery.

The only light was from a constellation of tiny sparks fluttering around me—I looked more closely, and saw they were a cluster of fireflies the wolf had swallowed. They gave just enough light to see by.

Large stones were scattered about, and I was not the only one here. A piglet sat on a flat boulder squealing sadly, clutching a sheaf of straw. Behind him, a sea of eyes blinked in the darkness. Two of them belonged to a croaking frog who wore a tiny, battered golden crown. A duck waddled and quacked loudly next to him.

I saw a brighter glowing and thought it a concentration of fireflies, but when I bent down to look more closely, I saw a tiny lady with sheer, violet wings, dancing in her own shimmering light.

A jumble of ripped cloth from a red patchwork skirt and some fortune-telling cards lay scattered nearby. Next to the cards was a mangled hand, chewed off at the wrist, still wearing a tangle of shiny bangle bracelets. Poor Romany woman. It had swallowed a gypsy! I had often seen their caravan in the forest and once had my fortune told.

Then I saw my grandmother in her nightgown, huddled in a bend, wrapped in a shredded blanket. “Grandmamma, are you alright?” I asked. She only gave me a faint smile in response, and looked too weak to talk.

How could I save her? The gypsy hand held a card, but I couldn’t make it out, except for the image of the moon. My grandmother knew the cards though and gasped when she saw it.

Beside her was a frayed wooden basket spilling half-eaten oat cakes, the bedraggled bouquet of wildflowers that had distracted me on my journey, and a gleaming, broken bottle of wine from my basket. The jagged wine bottle was half empty, as if the wolf had tried to drink from it first, then swallowed it all in haste.

Would anyone know we were here, alive, and save us? I called out for my mother, but no one came. I heard the sound of crying in the distance, and crawled slowly towards the sound on the slick surface of the tunnel ahead, but did not get far. It was lighter here—I saw a flame from a candle someone had placed in a notch of flesh, as if on a mantelpiece.

A shadowy figure loomed up before me. I could make out a boy about my age, limping on his bitten, bleeding foot.  “It’s no use,” he said wearily. “We’ve already tried that.” He bent down to look at me. “Who are you?” he said, glaring.

I started to answer, but he interrupted. “You look familiar,” he said putting his face too close to mine. “I tried to warn them, but they wouldn’t listen. Were you the one who turned them against me?” he said with a growl.

He picked up the broken bottle, a mad look twisting his face. I tried to back away, but slipped on the oozing surface. He bent over me, brandishing a sharp point of glass, slicing near my throat.

Suddenly, my feet felt wet. I heard a rushing noise, followed by an awful stench. An undulating wave of brown liquid stung my ankles, and started to fill the tunnel. Screams, yelps, squeals and quacks echoed around me. So my death would come by drowning.

A nick of light appeared overhead, widened, became a slit. The metal edge of hacking shears glinted above. Blood spattered upon us like rain.

Then the huntsman’s strong arms pulled me out, and closed about me. I stepped back into the belly of the world to tell my tale.

Lorraine Schein is a New York writer. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Strange Horizons, Mad Scientist Journal, Gigantic Worlds, Aphrodite Terra, and the anthologies Drawn to Marvel, Phantom Drift, and Alice Redux.  Her poetry book, The Futurist’s Mistress, is available from mayapplepress.com. She is now working on a graphic novel.

This story was previously published in Enchanted Conversation.


Magic Life by J.R. Johnson

To my boyfriend I am magic. He watches me dance or sing and he says “Oh. O! Amelia, you are magic made life!”

Sometimes, I almost believe him.

My boyfriend isn’t bad either. Joshua is smart and funny and kind. He warms up the car on winter mornings. He tries to cook.

I like that he is as dead to magic as it is possible to be. No chilly reminders of childhood.

I do not introduce him to my family. I pretend that I have never heard of real magic, nor would want to given the choice.

I wish I had that choice.

The one thing he will not do is clean bathrooms. Some block from childhood perhaps? His mother spoiled him, but that part I do not say out loud.

That leaves me. I dust and scrub and mop the old Victorian we bought for a song. I also clean the bathrooms (three! we are very lucky) and when Joshua comes home he says, “Oh, you are magic!”

As if there were no effort involved. As if I shouldn’t be better than scalded skin and sore hands, shouldn’t be able to whisk the dirt away with the flick of a finger. There’s only so much of that a girl can take.

And so one day, after a morning of scrubbing and mopping and dusting, I call the town newspaper. It is a venerable old publication with extended ties to the community. Traditional, rooted in the old ways.

Like my relatives going back seven generations, all of whom claimed more magic in their little toes than I. I remember the stories.

I talk to an elderly receptionist named Roselyn who giggles when I tell her what I need but helps me take out a classified. For the low low price of two dollars and fifty cents per line, my ad reads:

“WANTED: Brownie. Large home in need of care. Traditional pay, no gratitude. 72 Dumas Circle.”

I do not include a phone number.

The paper comes out in the morning. Nothing.

I go about my business.

The next day, the same nothing. My boyfriend notices a dust bunny, laughing because he thinks it is cute. He names it Fluffy. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, all the same. Detritus accumulates, clothing and other accouterments drifting, dune-like, into the corners of high-ceilinged rooms. I avert my eyes when I open the compost bin. The weekend barbecue scraps wax ripe and rancid.

I ask Joshua to purchase a pint of the best local cream, rich in grass-fed milk fat. “In case of cats,” I say.

Monday, I wake to the comforting drip of fresh coffee in the pot. The bathrooms sparkle and the laundry smells like my favorite cardamom bread.

I do not look around. I do not give thanks. I do fill a small ceramic plate with cream and place it on the counter.

Joshua staggers from the bedroom (he is not a morning person) and takes his first gulp of coffee. A deep, satisfied exhalation and he says it. “Oh. O! Amelia, you are magic.”

I smile.

I agree.

And he believes me.

J.R. Johnson finds speculative fiction appealing because she likes the idea that there is more to the world than meets the eye, and that the human race has a future. She now lives and writes in Ottawa, Ontario. For more on her latest projects visit jrjohnson.me.


Heart of Steel By Jeremy Szal

I looked at myself in the mirror, wishing my eyes were lying to me—that this was all just some screwed up nightmare. But it wasn’t. My eyes told the truth. My bony, pinkish arms were replaced with limbs that were gunmetal grey in colour, rimmed in by bolts and steel. Oxygen pumps and filtrations permitted me to continue breathing. Even when I touched my metal-clad torso I felt nothing. Nothing but the cold, dead metal that burned with loss and sorrow. Electrodes and cords replaced my blood and veins—the very things that sustained my body and kept me alive.

Am I dead?

Or was that just the human part of me that had disappeared into nothing, only to be replaced with a machine.

I clenched my fingers together to form an iron fist, feeling the tortured screech of scraping metal clashing against my palm. It sounded like I was in some sort of prison, hidden from the world outside. Is this what I was going to be like? My soul locked in a prison of tangled wires, coded programs, and a network of platinum and steel.  What did I have left that was truly human?

Suddenly the anger bubbled inside me like hot oil. I smashed the mirror in front of me, shattering the nanocrystal glass. “You’re the next step of our evolution as a species,” they told me in hushed whispers. “The first of your kind. You represent the future of humanity.”

It was a little hard to be part of humanity when I wasn’t even human. I was on my own. An experiment. A scientific ‘miracle’.

I picked up the datapad that detailed all the ‘upgrades’ by body had been given, careful not to shatter the pad. The words were clear, crisp and curt—like they had been stamped out by a printer with a mind of its own. It detailed how my bones had been re-enforced with density and fiber; how I had a neural device installed in my head, and the modification of my body tissue. Even my brain was now partially a machine. Could I really be called a human, when everything I had stored in my head, emotions, memories, feelings, thoughts – everything that defined who I was—had been replaced, muddled with, and transformed into something artificial?

How could I even be sure my memories were mine?

“That mirror was expensive,” Lumen, my AI and long-suffering friend, said. She made an exasperated sound as the bathroom camera zoomed in. “Why did you break it?”

“You damn well know why,” I said. Lumen could see the rate of my artificial heart beating, the spiking radio signals of my neural-enhanced brain, and the oxygen I breathed in through my artificial lungs. She knew I was angry and why.

“The accident changed nothing,” she said. “You’re still human. You are who you make yourself to be. You aren’t defined by society or body organs.”

The sick irony of an artificial intelligence telling a cyborg about what defined a human being was almost funny. Lumen was a good friend and she wanted nothing but the best for me. Most AIs had their intellect levels capped on purchase and were treated as servants, referred to by a cluster of meaningless digits. I refused to see Lumen that way.

But at the same time I knew that I wasn’t anything more than she was.

An artificial program.

A machine.

The accident had made sure of that. I couldn’t even remember falling. All I could recall was the pain and how it burned and burned… eating away at me like acid. It took hours for them to find me, but they were looking for a human being, not a lump of meat missing two arms, a leg and half a face with an eye dangling out of its socket. I begged and begged to die—anything for the pain to stop. But I had lived through it all. It was a miracle that I had made it past the operation.

I exited the bathroom and strode over to the balcony. The half of my body was that still skin felt the chill of the icy rain as it spat down. The alien buildings of Cyillium stood around me, their glowing lights pulsing vividly as aircrafts sped across the night sky in a straight line. Looking down below I saw myriads of people, scurrying across the wet pavement. Cranking my internal audio enhancers, I could hear everything; the shouting of an angry chef as he roasted something nosily in a pot. The horn of a car, the laughing of friends, the barking of a hungry dog. I heard it all, overpowering my other senses. It was all so… so… alive.

I heard the small hum of a camera rotation as Lumen detached herself to a portable device. She floated next to me, almost uncertain of what to say.

“Tell me,” I said, “just how am I more human than you?”

“The rain,” she said softly as the device’s hull got covered in soft droplets. “I know that it’s water because it has elements of hydrogen and oxygen. I know it’s wet because it’s in its liquid state that’s neither steam nor snow. I know that it’s been condensed from atmospheric water vapor and then precipitated.”

She paused, as if to take a breath with lungs that didn’t exist. “But I’ll never know what it really feels like. I’ll never know the feeling of moisture on my skin; the cold kiss of water as it cools you down. I’ll never experience it for myself.”

I felt the camera lens shift focus towards me as I stretched out my hand, catching droplets on my fingers. They slid down the thin line on my hand that separated metal from flesh. “You can. But I never will.”

Jeremy Szal has had over thirty publications in venues such as Strange Horizons, Grimdark Magazine, and Bards and Sages, as well as earning an Honourable Mention from Writers of the Future contest. He is also the assistant editor for Hugo award winning podcast StarShipSofa and lives in Sydney, Australia. Find him at: http://jeremyszal.wordpress.com/

This story was previously published in Every Day Fiction.


The Crimson Sands of Huo Xing by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt

O’er Tai Shan Station crimson dust clouds loom.
     A black force stills the tree of life within.
Hu Ling must face her long-forgotten past;
     A world will die in ice unless she wins.

Wind from the rising sandstorm howled and swirled around Hu Ling. A Guardian of the red desert such as Ling usually welcomed such storms. They scoured down all the uncertainties of life to two simple options: survive, or die. But the transmission from Tai Shan Station said the atmospheric plant was under attack. The Guardians were sworn to defend all those on the world of Huo Xing that called for assistance. How much more the technician-monks who by their secret art kept the fourth planet from the sun alive.

Ling’s words of power opened the station to her. The hall grew dark as the door slid shut behind her, lit only by a few spheres of bioluminescent algae. The silence was almost as deafening as the wind. The cavern should have been thrumming with the sounds of the devices that kept Huo Xing’s atmosphere breathable. Tai Shan Station was the heartbeat of Huo Xing. This silence was the silence of death.

Ling set off down the cavern for the mountain’s core. Her footsteps echoed oddly off the walls, making it sound like someone followed her. The bioluminescent globes cast faint shadows. Ling could not shake the feeling that there were shadows where no shadows should be.

The way twisted, following lava flows millennia gone. The cavern finally opened out to a chamber that would have housed the novices, the bacterial engineers and the tenders of atomic fires. Here Ling found the first bodies, none of them whole. The wounds unsettled Ling, but it took her a moment to realize why.

The wounds were explosions. The victims’ bodies had burst from the inside.

Ling unsheathed her sword, a metallic hiss ringing through the cavern. The sword blade swirled with characters in red and black, characters that changed as Ling watched them. This was Yaomo Chi, a cursed blade and closer to Ling than any lover.

Another locked door guarded the sanctum of Tai Shan Station. Ling entered the access code and the door slid open. Death welcomed her.

The room reeked of blood and vomit and shit. Ling swallowed down bile as she walked forward. Around her lay pieces of bodies and saffron scraps of robe. Something black and thick dripped from the multi-branched device in the center of the chamber, a stain on the silent world tree.

Ling closed her eyes to pray for the deceased. She heard a laugh. A deep, metallic laugh, like knives on slate. Her eyes snapped open. Something stared back at her from the pipe-branches of the world tree, its eyes a glowing pus green.

“You are late, Guardian. Or did you plan to catch me taking my after-dinner nap?”

The black substance flowed from the silent machinery, coalescing into a being perhaps twice a man’s height. It had no features other than its eyes and a vague semblance of a head.

“What are you?” Ling grimaced at the creature’s charnel smell.

Green eyes blinked out, reappeared at another part of the thing’s body. It laughed again, its entire mass shaking with mirth.

“You really do not recognize me. Die in your ignorance.”

Five tendrils of black ooze shot out at Ling. Ling pivoted to the left and swung her sword. Tentacles thick as Ling’s wrist wrapped around her left leg and arm. The smell of burning cloth filled the air. Her sword sliced through the other three tendrils, leaving the ends wriggling on the floor like giant worms. A keening scream rent the air.

“You dirty choubi!”

The tentacles around her pulled her to the floor. The ooze burned against her wrist. With a cry, Ling hacked off the tentacles. Sensing movement, she rolled just as another massive protuberance crashed into the spot she had been a moment before. Ling sprang to her feet.

The creature reared up, its mass turning on itself like a storm cloud. A score of tentacles shot out at Ling, jerking back as Yaomo Chi sliced through them. Ling was a blur as her blade fended off every attack. The lopped-off members leaked a grey fluid that ate into the stone under them.

A blow smashed into Ling’s chest, knocking her to the floor, sending her sword spinning away. The creature paused. Catching its breath or making sure Ling really was unarmed, Ling did not know. It seemed to have lost a third of its mass. A pool of grey ichor collected around its base.

Time froze for a moment. Then Ling crawled for her sword as the creature roiled and expanded. It launched itself at her in a great arch just as her fingertips touched Yaomo Chi. Then it enveloped her completely.

It burned. A foetid, gelatinous acid burning wherever it touched. A semi-liquid fire wrapped around her whole body. Ling felt it seeping into her nostrils, trying to burn its way into her eyes and mouth. The creature laughed its evil laugh. Ling’s whole body quivered with the sound.

“And so you die, never knowing your curse. And I—”

The voice cut off as Ling pulled Yaomo Chi into the creature’s body. The sword flared red, a red Ling could see even through closed eyes. The creature’s scream shook Ling’s teeth in her jaw. And then she fell to the floor.

She opened her eyes. Her robes were in tatters, eaten away. Her exposed skin felt rubbed raw. She touched her scalp. Her hair was gone. And so was the creature.

She looked down at the sword in her hand. The glow had faded, but the reds on the blade were deeper now, the blacks darker. If she closed her eyes, Ling seemed to hear a faint scream coming from the blade.

She shook off such fancies. She had an atmospheric plant to restart and a planet to save.

Donald Jacob Uitvlugt lives on neither coast of the United States, but mostly in a haunted memory palace of his own design. His short fiction has appeared in venues such as Another Dimension and the anthology Techno-Goth Cthulhu. Find him online at http://haikufiction.blogspot.com or via Twitter @haikufictiondju.


The Marking by Edd Vick

Lud stands next to the pharmacy’s wall for a long moment, one hand held to the sun-warmed brick. He senses the layers of paint on it, the war between art and whitewash. Symon has been here, and Vibo, and the silent artist whose tag is all black and orange arrows. Their symbols are all trapped beneath expanses of paint.

He glances up the street, then down. It’s a quiet Sunday morning in Dallas, already sweltering. Lud shrugs off his pack, and pulls from it his tools. Templates and brushes, thick markers in seven colors, three spray cans. All of the cans have heavy-duty magnets on their bottoms to keep the ball-bearing ‘peas’ from rattling while he walks. It’s best not to advertise what he carries.

Donning the gloves and removing the magnets from the cans, he shakes one of them, enjoying the feel of the weight shifting back and forth. He lays down a light blue diamond on the wall. He gives it a black drop-shadow. Once he starts, he’s impatient to be done. He cuts into his first form with dark purple, then sprays through templates to build up one sigil, then another and a third. The last glyph is the most difficult, the most dangerous.

He’s halfway through it when the wall bulges toward him, as if made of rubber. It touches one of his gloves, starts to pull his hand into the wall. Utter cold flares through his bones, and he slips his hand out of the glove, sees it sucked away.

There are ice crystals on his hand. More bulges appear on the wall, seeking him. Avoiding them, he picks up a marker in his good hand and removes the cap with his teeth. Positioning his thumb over the dent he’s made on its barrel, he presses to make the ink flow and shakily completes the sigil. When the last line is drawn the wall is once more smooth and motionless.

Lud flexes the fingers of both hands, one thawing and the other cramped from squeezing the marker. He steps away from the wall and admires his work.

Tires crunch on gravel, and he whirls. A police car is moving slowly through a parking lot across the street. If they haven’t seen him already, they soon will. He pulls his hoodie up over his pointed ears and crouches to scoop his supplies into his backpack. He scuttles around a corner and is gone in search of the next wall or billboard or train car.

Behind him, the wall stands doubly reinforced, useless to the legions of Faerie seeking their lost children.

Edd Vick is a graduate of the Clarion SF Writing Workshop. His stories have appeared in magazines including Asimovs, Analog, and many anthologies. By day a bookseller, he lives in Seattle with SF novelist Amy Thomson and their adopted daughter Katie (also five chickens, a cat, and a dog).

“The Marking” first appeared on The Daily Cabal.


BAD TOASTER by Pam L. Wallace

“Does the toaster have to go to jail, Momma?”

“Wha-what?” I tried to blink away my tears.

“You said the toaster was bad. Does it have to go to jail?”

Four-year-old Sophie looked as upset as the day of her goldfish’s funeral. I knelt and took her in my arms. “Don’t cry, sweetie. It’s only a toaster!”

She pulled back to look in my face with the intent look that only a four-year-old could muster. “But you were crying.”

A week ago, a broken toaster would have been no more an irritation. Today, it’d been the straw that broke me. I swiped the tears from my face and attempted a smile. “Mommy was just being silly.”

“But—but, if the toaster’s broken, how can you make me cinnamon toast?”

I’d just bought the toaster the day before, and I didn’t have time today to exchange it. Damn Jason to hell for taking our old toaster—he knew Sophie refused to eat anything but cinnamon toast for breakfast. So typical, thinking of no one but himself.

I wanted to burst into tears and crawl back to bed. But I had Sophie, and she didn’t need to worry about bad toasters or mommies crying or daddies leaving. I hugged her again. “Mommy will make it the old-fashioned way. In the oven!”

Sophie frowned. Different was never better to a four-year-old. “Why don’t you go finish coloring your picture?” I said. “And I’ll make you an extra-special cinnamon toast!”

She looked doubtful until I opened the fridge and pulled out the whipped cream. Appealing to her sweet tooth always worked. She brightened and said, “K, Momma,” and skipped into the dining room where her crayons and markers waited.

I wished I could let go of things as easily as Sophie. Tears forgotten, defective toaster replaced, broken marriage mended. “Jason. Why?” I kicked the cupboard closed and gave in to my tears.

“Oh dear, don’t cry!”

I startled and turned around. Standing in my kitchen was a white-haired woman, as short as she was round, in a voluminous white robe with a hood.  I backed away, scanning the countertop for a sharp knife and trying to remember where I’d left the phone. “How’d you get in here?”

“Oh, you know, bibbidi-bobbidy-boo and all that.” She waved a drumstick—not of the chicken variety, but an honest-to-goodness, playing-the-drums stick, above her head in a circle. “Now, what’s your wish, my dear? Fix your broken marriage?”

Bibbidi-bobbidy? Like a fairy godmother? She did sort of look like she’d just stepped out of Sophie’s favorite princess movie. “Fix my….” How could a random crazy lady know that? Wait—someone was pulling my leg. “Who put you up to this? It was Joanna, wasn’t it?” My best buddy, trying to cheer me up. “Are you her grandmother? Aunt?” She shook her head, frowning. “Neighbor?”

“No, no. I’m your Fairy Godmother, dear. I’m here to fix your marriage, just like you wished last night.”

I guess I had said that very thing to Joanna last night during my sob session.

Well, I could play along. I’d probably get a much-needed laugh out of this later. “Well, you do look rather like a fairy godmother—except there’s no such thing.”

“You don’t think I’m real?”

The lady might not be a fairy godmother, but she was a veritable wizard of quick-changing emotions. In one second flat, she went from practically dancing with excitement to doom and gloom. “Well, you are carrying a drum stick instead of a wand,” I pointed out.

“What?” She peered at the drum stick. “Oh!”  She flipped it in the air, and in its place, a fizzing-bright sparkler appeared. “There it is!” She smiled a four-thousand megawatt grin. “Silly me!”

My mouth dropped open. Sleight-of-hand? Had to be, because there was no magic in this world.

“Now, are you ready?”

“For what?” My mind was fixated on that sparkler, trying to figure out how she’d made it appear. Up her sleeve, of course! That sleeve was big enough to hide a horse.

She sighed, clearly disappointed in me. “For me to fix your marriage.”

“Hmph. As in, wave your magic ‘wand’ there and all’s good?”

Her smile brightened another thousand megawatts, if that was possible. “Yes!”

I snorted. “I don’t think your wand is big enough.”

“You don’t believe, do you, dear?”

“In you being a fairy godmother, or in my marriage being fixable?”

“Either,” she said, all pouty-lips and puppy-dog eyes.

She’d get no sympathy from me. My armor was securely in place. “No, I don’t.”

“Let me prove it.” She waved her sparkler in a tight spiral and pointed it at the toaster. “Done!”

“Great. Thanks so much.” I smiled and nodded towards the door. “Now you can go. Tell Joanna thanks, and all’s well that toasts well.”

“Aren’t you going to try it?”

“What? The toaster?” She nodded. “Um, maybe later.” Through the doorway, I could see Sophie happily coloring away, oblivious to us. If she happened to see the old lady dressed as a fairy godmother, she’d want to keep her forever.

“Let me show you,” she said, waving her sparkler again. I swear, her feet floated several inches off the floor. The toaster popped up a perfectly-browned piece of toast.

My mouth fell open. Fairy Godmothers weren’t real. Wishes didn’t get granted. She couldn’t make Jason come back. Couldn’t put my life back together.

Could she?

“So, you’re saying you really are a fairy godmother, and you can make Jason come back?”

“Yes, dear!” Crazy-lady who might not be so crazy after all smiled brightly again.

Was it possible? A simple wave of the wand?

Wait. I’d wished for a husband who considered my feelings. An equal partner. Jason had always been selfish, always had that wandering eye. A magic wand–if there was such a thing—would have to change him into someone else. What good would that do? It wouldn’t be real—it’d be a dream.

“You know, twenty minutes ago, you’d have been a wish come true,” I said. “But, maybe I don’t need wishes after all.”

She blinked, her dazzling smile short-circuiting. “You’re saying no?”

I nodded. “I am. I should have said it a long time ago.”

“But—but, I can make it all better.”

I looked into the dining room at my little angel happily coloring away. Life wasn’t a fairy tale. Sophie and I would have our ups and downs, but we’d be okay. She needed a strong mommy, not one who took less than she deserved.

I steered the fairy godmother to the door. “Thanks for the offer, but Sophie and I will get along by ourselves just fine.”

I opened the door and shoved her through. “But hey, thanks for fixing the toaster.”

Pam Wallace lives and writes in Central California. Her stories have appeared in Shock Totem, Abyss & Apex, Journal of Unlikely Entomology, and Daily Science Fiction, among others.


From the Editor’s Corner by Jennifer Brozek

Now that I’ve been reading the EGM Shorts slushpile for a couple of months, I’ve noticed a couple of interesting trends.

First, I haven’t received any zombie fiction. I’d like to see some interesting zombie stories. Ditto with general post apocalyptic stories. Ditto again with Mythos themed stories.

Second, there is a disturbing trend of stories where women are brutalized, then they turn into a variety of monsters, then they kill their abuser. About 10% of the stories I receive are along this theme. I do not like it. I do not want to read about violence towards women as a plot device to show that the woman is actually a monster and the EVIL MAN ™ gets his comeuppance. Do not send me these stories.

Third, I’m pleased with the gender balance of authors submitting stories. Keep it up. Thank you.

Here’s what we have coming for May.

MAY 2015
“Bad Toaster” by Pam Wallace
“The Marking” by Edd Vick
“The Crimson Sands” of Huo Xing by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt
“Heart of Steel” by Jeremy Szal
“Magic Life” by J.R. Johnson
“Inside” by Lorraine Schein
“Rats” by Sandra M Odell

See you next time around.

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