Entertainingly Evil
27
Aug

Frozen Tears by Chaitali Gawade

Kanya stared mesmerised at the string of beads in her hand.
     Moonlight shimmered through them. They were translucent and felt cool in her hands. They looked like tears she thought. Hypnotised, she stared at them.
     Something touched her heart. She didn’t know what it was. Instinctively she knew it had to do something with the necklace she was holding in her hands. She brought her hand up and rubbed the beads against her cheek, and felt grief. Instinctively, she held it back. For a moment, she stared at them as if it was a living breathing thing in her hand. Tentatively, she rubbed it against her cheek again and was staggered by the emotions that coursed through her. She felt utter and absolute grief. Yet she knew, they were not her emotions.
     The pain she felt was that of someone else.
     It was by pure chance that she had found the necklace. Some invisible force had drawn her to the lake. As she dipped her feet in the freezing water, she felt something wrap around her ankle.
     It had been the necklace – it had felt cooler than the water itself. It was destined to be found by her.
     She had never come to this part of her island before. Narayani-ma had forbidden it, saying that it was not time yet. Kanya was used to Narayani-ma’s eccentric ways and knew she had held some powers. They had been passed down from generation to generation in her family. She was still discovering her secret dimensions herself. Narayani-ma had died a month before earlier and Kanya had no living relative left. She had been devastated, as she had felt Narayani-ma had still had a few years to live left in her. Since her death Kanya had been feeling a sense of urgency and when she found the necklace, she knew she was meant to find it.
     The lake had been abandoned by the islanders long ago. It was rumoured to be haunted. Some people swore of hearing anguished cries in the night, on a full moon, whenever they passed by the lake. Strange sightings led them to believe that the lake was where the ghost woman resided for the better part of the day.
     Kanya had seen the shimmering water of the lake as she approached it. She had felt a strange pull. Something other than her instinct had drawn her towards the lake.
     As she stood at the edge of the lake, she panicked. The beads in her hands felt hot and were losing their shimmer. Something had to be done. She didn’t know what, but she was certain, she had to do something. Just as she was about to drop the necklace on the sand, she felt a warm hand rubbing her cheek. Instead of fear she felt warmth. The touch felt caressing, even loving. It was a touch she had known before.
     In another lifetime, it seemed now.
     The pull felt stronger, urging her on. Almost in a trance she waded through the freezing water of the lake. Just as the ground beneath her feet began to escape, she saw a hazy shape of a woman at the centre of the lake. She swam towards it. It was a statue carved in ice. Her hair fell in waves behind her back. On her head was a tiara of flowers. She was holding a single wildflower in her hands. It was larger than the flowers in her tiara. The expression on her face was melancholy. Kanya, couldn’t yet fathom the emotion she saw in her eyes. She stepped on the circle of stone on which the statue was placed.
     Purely driven by instinct Kanya fastened the necklace around her throat. The beads of the necklace turned to tears, then dropped, as an offering to the freezing lake. The ice maiden came to life. Her hair was the colour of amber and it flowed freely. The wildflowers of her tiara bloomed. Her eyes, deep amber flecked with gold, sang a song – the song of joy.
     ‘The curse has been lifted, if only for a while,’ said the ice maiden in a lilting voice.
     “I’m Angha,” she said and held out the wildflower to Kanya. This flower had not come to life. It was made of glass. Moonlight seemed to glint off its petals in a shower of a thousand tiny sparks.
     Kanya took the flower rubbed her fingers on the flower caressingly and felt the flow of life within.
     “This is my legacy to you. It will guide you and protect you as it did me,” said Angha.
     Angha moved closer to Kanya and rubbed a finger gently on her cheek. It reminded her of the hand she had felt at the edge of the lake.
     “It’s time to say goodbye now, my angel daughter.” And with that she turned back into ice.
     Kanya’s mind whirled with questions. She held the flower against her cheek. Images flashed before her eyes. Images of her mother crying with a baby girl held in her arms fighting with her father. Her father cursing her for dishonouring him. She was never to know the joy of holding her daughter again. Kanya now knew that the emotion she had seen in her mother’s eyes had been grief. She turned to her mother and hugged her fiercely, but felt nothing. She was only a beautiful statue of ice now.
     Kanya tucked the wildflower firmly in her braid and went back in the direction from which she had come. Her heart was heavy with a strange emotion – an emotion for her mother, of whose existence she had not known.
     Until now.

Chaitali Gawade lives in Pune and is a freelance writer. Her writerly musings are fueled by tea and coffee. Her work has been published  by Twenty20 Journal,  Daily Love, Postcard Shots, and Vagabondage Press, among others. This story was previously published on d.ust.bin.



25
Aug

Uniformity by David Boop

“Hey, toots. How ‘bout you get me a cup of coffee.”
     Darlene Dixon nearly choked on her breakfast burrito. Tom Harris, Lieutenant Liberty to the world, had a well-earned reputation for being a man with values straight out of the Forties, but he’d never called her that before.  Sure, she’d only been a member of the Liberty Legion for a year, but she believed she’d earned better than “toots.”
      “I’m sorry, but what did you just call me?”
     “And while you’re at it, doll face,” The Titanium Titan, a.k.a Alexander  Fabian, echoed, “grab us some donuts from the break room. I’m famished.”
    Fabian, feet up on the Oval Table of Justice™, was a notorious playboy and the worst misogynist of the bunch.  The mask of his full-body power-suit was up and he grinned around a thick, black stogie. (Darlene hated their smell–both Fabian and the cigar–but as owner of the Legion’s headquarters, he had all the smoke detectors disabled when Australian superhero The Burning Bushman visited.)
     When taunted similarly by villains, Darlene regularly smashed their outlines through brick walls. Why would her comrades risk angering her? They knew that when transformed she was nigh-invulnerable and highly unstable, earning her the moniker of The Rage Queen.
     Liberty Legion membership was a privilege. Darlene accomplished more with the team in a year than she’d ever done alone. Still, being the only female had drawbacks. Occasionally she’d catch whispers of “H.I.L.F.,” and “Super-hottie” from other members, plus she needed to fight twice as hard for half the media’s respect.
      Putting down her burrito, she cast Fabian a warning glare. “Whoa, whoa. Has Dr. Moon’s hypno-device taken over your mouth instead of your brain this time? Heroes don’t talk to me like that.”
     She could feel her arm muscles tense under the sheer unitard she’d been assigned when joining the team. The multi-dimensional material of the costume expanded when she bulked out to triple her size. While convenient, its form-fitting nature left her uncomfortable. Twice she’d requested a comparable multi-D leather jacket and pants, but R&D had yet to come through.
    “Art thou about to cry? Maybe you should away to yon little girl’s room?”
    That was the weirdest. Darlene had spent most of her down time teaching Mars, Roman god of war, how to blend in with modern society. The time-traveling being hadn’t called her wench or salaria (prostitute) in months. He even commended her on her battle with Mount Fuji, the giant Sumo, just the other day. The mad wrestler attacked downtown where Darlene worked as a stockbroker and she’d been unprepared for the fight. While the fight started rough, she did prevail, and without the rest of the Legion’s help. Could their insults be about bruised egos?
    Standing, Darlene pounded her knuckles down on the Oval Table of Justice™.
    “Enough! I don’t know why you’re doing this, but I don’t deserve this treatment.”
    Normally, if anyone stepped on her feelings, they’d immediately take a step back and apologize, lest they risk her anger-management issues releasing the beast inside. That day, though, they acted like they were expecting that to happen, giving her pause. She studied their faces, each hero trying not to drool in anticipation.
    “Wait. You’re trying to get me mad, aren’t you?”
    “No. No. No.” They said in unison, too rehearsed to be a coincidence.
    Then she put the pieces together. “Oh, my God!”
    “Sí?”
    “Not you, Mars.” Darlene crossed her arms, “Did you ‘men’ get replaced with thirteen-year-old boys?”
Lieutenant Liberty feigned ignorance. “I haven’t the foggiest idea what you’re going on about.”
Darleen paced around the table. “You want me to rage out thinking I’ll end up half naked again?”
“You had a uniform malfunction? Dang, I missed it. I mean, how unfortunate.” But the Titanium Titan couldn’t swallow his smirk.
    “I was at work! I didn’t have time to change into my costume.”
    “That art known to all. It ‘trends’ on your interwebs.” Mars rotated the monitor around to show the iTube stream.
    Darlene blushed, even though the channel blurred the most of her bits. The caption below read, “Should super-heroine be renamed the Naked Rage?”
    When she looked up, all three heroes huddled around Fabien’s monitor, giggling like elementary schoolboys who’d caught a glimpse of their neighbor changing through a window.
    Darlene tried to shrug them off, “So, what then? You thought you could piss me off and I’d rip out of my clothes again? Multi-D costume, remember?”
    “Art thou sure?”
    Curious, Darlene pulled on the fabric around her shoulder hard and it peeled away like tissue paper.
The three heroes laughed at their tomfoolery until Darlene really did get mad–madder than she’d ever been! Every cell in her body came alive and filled with delta-energy. Rage Queen never felt so powerful in her life. Instinctually, she realized she’d crossed a new threshold with her abilities and, despite the sudden breeze she felt around her body, she didn’t worry about her current state of undress.
    She sent each super-asshole through the Legion’s roof before they could catch a single glimpse.
#
     The Liberty League’s alarmed summoned the team to their headquarters.
     “It must be the Vile Five!” Fabian guessed. “Only they have the balls to attack our base.”
Two days and Fabian had yet to remove his armor, per doctor’s orders. The fist-shaped dent in the Titanium Man’s suit had broken so many ribs, his lungs would collapse if he stepped out of the suit.    “Nay,” Mars challenged. “It must be Hades, Dark Lord of the Underworld. Just like the cur to assault us while we are not at full strength.” Reflexively, the Roman god put a hand up to his bruised eye-socket.
     “It could be any of our former nemesi,” Lieutenant Liberty said. “It wouldn’t take much to drop through the hole in the roof.” Tom blew on the quick-drying glue that held his Shield of Righteousness™ together. Rage Queen had snapped the “unbreakable” indestuctomantium shield in half as if it were a cookie.
     “It’s just me, boys.”
     The heroes slid to halt when they saw Darlene Dixon sitting in Tom’s command chair, sipping on a mocha latte.
     Fabian took a step back, covering his damaged chest plate with crossed forearms. “I thought you quit.”
     “I changed my mind. Quitting is not what heroes do.”
     The Lieutenant swung his shield behind him, lest she snap it in four. “Who’s to say we want you back?”
     Darlene purred. “Oh, Tom. After the dozen or so email, text and vine apologies you sent, I think you do.”
     Tom’s teammates stared incredulously at their leader. “What? Our counsel recommended it.” They clearly didn’t believe him.
     Pushing the chair back, Darlene stood and strolled around the Oval Table of Justice™. “No, I think you gentleman need to understand that you’re in the Twenty-first century now and those immature antics of yours won’t cut it anymore. So, in lieu of the sexual harassment lawsuit my counsel suggested, I going to give you a chance to make things good with a series of trials.“ She glared knowingly at Mars, “You Gods are all about trials, aren’t you?”
     Mars swallowed hard.
#
     Darlene didn’t know if it was just a slow news day, or having three superheroes protesting on the steps of the City Hall normally brought out hundreds of gawkers.
     Fabian looked resplendent with his Titanium armor painted pink. He actually seemed to enjoy waving his “Save the Tatas” sign. She guessed if there was any cause he could get behind…
     Mars, however, looked slightly uncomfortable, having traded his Roman tunic for a ballet tutu.
     “Her body, her choice!” He said as he handed bystanders “right-to-choose” literature.
     She was most impressed by Lieutenant Liberty as he waved a “Hailey in ‘16” banner and proclaimed, without a touch of sarcasm in his voice, “It’s time we had a woman in the White House!”
      Darlene smiled. Today they were really heroes.

David Boop is a Denver-based author. His first novel, She Murdered Me with Science, returns to print in 2015 from WordFire Press. David has had over fifty short stories published across several genres including media tie-ins for The Green Hornet and Veronica Mars. You can find out more on his fanpage, www.facebook.com/dboop.updates or Twitter @david_boop.



23
Aug

Jennifer Brozek Accepts Position as Managing Editor of EGM

When EGM began three years ago, Katie Cord had no idea of the projects that would come her way. The initial goal was to publish three anthologies, the Three Little Words Anthology series, and a young adult fantasy, sci-fi novel, The Heart-Shaped Emblor by Alaina Ewing. Back then, it was very easy for her to be in charge of everything: directing creative content, coordinating social media, managing the behind the scenes business, working with the authors, artists, graphic designers, and editors. As time has moved on, it has become too much for one person to handle. Katie has a vision of transitioning from a small indie publisher to a larger sustainable business that creates high quality, entertaining, and engaging books for readers. To do that, she needs competent, talented people.

So, it is with great enthusiasm that EGM announces Jennifer Brozek as the Managing Editor of Evil Girlfriend Media. Jennifer currently is the creative mind behind Apocalypse Ink Production, a Hugo nominated editor, ENIE and Scribe winner. Jennifer understands the vision of Evil Girlfriend Media and has brought great flash fiction to our website with EGM Shorts.

JenniferKatieEGM20150725

Katie Cord will be crunching numbers and attending graduate school.




20
Aug

Sibyl By Deborah Walker

The ghost of my future smells of ash.
“I thought that you were going to stop smoking,” I say.
     “It’s been a tough year.”  She rummages inside her bag and produces a packet of Marlboro Lights. “Life doesn’t always go according to plan, does it, Sibyl?” She lights a cigarette and blows the smoke towards me, ghost smoke, a multiplication of the insubstantial.
     “I think I’ll join you,” I take a cigarette from my own packet while taking a critical look at my future self. She looks much older than she looked a year ago. She’s not doing herself any favours by not wearing make-up. Her hair looks dry and brittle and the roots need doing. “I see that you haven’t lost any weight.”
     She shrugs. “Dieting’s a waste of time. I’m nearly forty. I am what I am.”
     She’s in one of those moods. “So, what’s new?” I ask.
     “Not much.”
     I sigh. “That’s not very helpful. This rite is not without sacrifice, you know.” I point to the iron knife balancing on top of the dish of blood water.
      “Don’t I know it?” She rolls up her sleeve and shows me her right arm. She is seven years older than me, seven more scars. This is how it works, once a year I can see seven years into the future.
     “Shall we do the diary?” I ask.
     “Ah, yes, the diary.” She takes the leather diary out of her bag. I’d bought it in Venice, on my honeymoon. I’m supposed to write in it every day: the diary of my life.
     The ghost flicks through the pages. “The trouble with this diary is that it gets a little sketchy in places. You’re drinking a lot at the moment, aren’t you?”
     I shrug. I like a glass of wine or two in the evening. It takes the edge off. But who is she to judge me? “Shall we get on with the markets?”
     “Sure.” My future self recites share prices while I take notes. I play the market. Although playing implies that I’ve a possibility of losing. That’s not the case, not with the information I’m receiving. I’m the ultimate insider dealer.
     When she’s finished, she says “All right then, I’ll be off.”
      “Don’t go yet.”
     “What is it?” she asks, impatiently.
     “You don’t look great.”
     “Thanks a lot.”
     “I mean, what’s happened to you in the last year?” I feel sorry for her, but more importantly I feel anxious. I need to know.
     “It’s best not to talk about personal stuff, Sibyl, you know that.”
     “How’s Alex?”
     “Are you sure you want to know?”
     “It is Alex, isn’t it? What’s happened? He’s not . . . dead, is he?”
     She lights another cigarette. I do the same. “Alex left me.”
     “But last year you seemed so happy.”
     “Ignorance is bliss. He’s been having an affair for the last three years. Alice gave him an ultimatum, and I lost out.”
     “Alice? My best friend Alice?”
     “That’s right. He’s taking me through the courts now, trying to get his ‘fair share’ as he puts it.”
     “I don’t believe it.”
     “Would I lie to you? Would I lie to myself?” She looks at me, “What are you going to do, now that you know?”
     I walk to the fridge and pour myself a glass of cold, crisp chardonnay. I drain the glass. She watches me with a half-smile. I refill the glass. “You shouldn’t have told me.”
     “At least I gave you a warning. That’s more than I got.”
     “She didn’t tell you?” Timelines are divergent. Each future me is slightly different.
     “No. She didn’t. But I thought you’d want to know. That’s our trouble, we always want to know.” She blows a plume of ghost smoke towards me. “You could divorce him.”
     “You had nine good years of marriage.”
     “No, I didn’t. For three of those years Alex was having an affair.”
     She lets her cigarette fall to the ground. “What are you going to do, Sibyl?”  She has a hungry look on her face. She wants me to say that I’m going to divorce Alex, before he’s had a chance to betray me. When did I get so bitter?
     “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
     “It’s your decision,” she says. “It won’t change anything for me. I’ll just carry on in this time line where he betrayed me. You can’t change the past, only the future.”
     “And you?” I say. “Are you going to look ahead, this year?”
     “I always do, don’t I?” She rubs her arm. “Find out how I can improve my perfect life.”
     “You don’t need to. You must have plenty of money stashed away.”
     “No. I don’t need to look into the future. But then again, neither do you.”
     “It’s a hard habit to break.”
     She nods. I see the shadow in her eyes. I know her fear. The same fear that shrouds  me every time I start the ritual. There will come a day when I reach into the future and my future self will be dead. What will I see on that night? Will I see nothingness, or something worse, something unbearably worse?
     “I’m young,” she says. “I’m only thirty-eight. It will be okay to look.”
     “Yes. It’ll be okay. Thanks for your help.”
     “It’s nothing. Be well, Sibyl. Be happy.”
     With a word I end the ritual, and my future self dissipates.
     I tidy up, throwing the blood water down the sink and washing the bowl. Alex would be home soon.  Could I change, make our marriage stronger? Did I want to?
     A key rattles in the lock. Alex is home.
     What could I say to him?
     Divination is a drug.
     I reach for the packet of cigarettes. Tomorrow, I’ll quit.

Deborah Walker grew up in the most English town in the country, but she soon high-tailed it down to London, where she now lives with her partner, Chris, and her two young children. Find Deborah in the British Museum trawling the past for future inspiration or on her blog: Deborah Walker’s Bibliography. This story was first published in Nature Futures.



18
Aug

Smelly Dogs by Chris Barili

Good dogs don’t stink. They’re smart, cute, loyal, and good-smelling. Good-smelling people want good-smelling dogs, so the laboratories make us that way. They try to, anyway. I’m cute, faithful, and super-smart, but I smell like a dog—a plain ol’ ordinary dog. I’m a mistake, so they throw me out into the cold.
     I hesitate, staring into the frigid, shrieking wind. As my tiny body starts to shiver, I turn back toward the door.
     “Bad dog! Get out!” They kick me and I roll on the hard ground. When I look up, they’re gone and the slam of the door echoes through the night. I’m alone for the first time ever. Unwanted.
     That first night on the street the wind bites through my fur, making my body ache and my nose run. The spot where they shaved my leg and printed the bar code is coldest, stinging like it did when they burned a slash through it. The day I became worthless.
     I wander, tail tucked, searching for someplace—anyplace—warm. In a shadowed alley that reeks of blood and hunger, I find other smelly dogs, dogs I hope will help me. Maybe they’ll take me in, be my family. Maybe they’ll let me sleep with them or give me some of their food. Maybe they’ll want me. But I must smell like a bad dog to them too, for they snarl and chase me off. I sleep in a rotting old box, shivering without my brothers and sisters to warm me. They didn’t smell. People want them.
     As I roam alone, I see good dogs walking with their people, snapping up treats and pretending they don’t see me. They smell happy and safe. But when I get too close, the good dogs growl and snap. Their people shy away.
     “Bad dog!” they yell.
     Some kick me or throw things at me. I’m too weak to dodge or even cower, and besides—I deserve it. I’m a bad, smelly dog.
     I shiver and my stomach rumbles as I wobble down the sidewalk, feet dragging and pads numb. I can’t make it much longer, and I’m not sure I want to anyway. I wasn’t made to be alone, unloved. They made me loyal and loving and cute, a family dog, but it doesn’t matter now. I want to just lie down. Sleep.
     Then I see her. A little girl the good-dog-people ignore, hiding in the shadow of a trash pile. She sits on the hard, icy ground, eating from the trash as other people walk by like she doesn’t exist. I edge closer, head down. People usually hurt me, so I keep my distance, watching. Her hair is matted like mine, and her nose runs. She smells sick, hungry, and scared as she studies me.
     “I’m a bad girl,” she whispers. I can see where they burned through her bar code, too. “They threw me out.”
     She tosses me some food from the trash, so I edge closer. The bread stinks of mold and dirt, but it fills my belly for the first time in days. As I swallow, the smelly girl grabs me, squeezing me against her until I can’t breathe. I wiggle and thrash, but she holds tight and for the first time I’m warm.
     Her heat seeps into my body, a fire of belonging that spreads from my chest out to my now-thawing toes. As I drift to sleep in her arms, my throw-away human buries her face in my throw-away fur, smells me, and says something amazing: “Good dog.”

Chris Barili’s fiction has appeared on The Western Online (as T.C. Barlow), on Quantum Fairy Tales, and in two anthologies by Sky Warrior Books.  It will appear in a third Sky Warrior anthology, “The Dragon’s Hoard,” and “Temporally Out of Order” by Zombies Need Brains LLC this summer.



13
Aug

Not the Pizza Girl By Michelle Ann King

Lisa floored the van’s accelerator, thrashing the speed limit, weaving in and out of traffic on the A12 and even slipstreaming an ambulance from Gallows Corner to Gidea Park. It earned her more than a few angry horn blasts, a lot of obscenities yelled out of car windows and undoubtedly a shedload of bad karma, but it also shaved a good ten minutes off the journey. And when you guaranteed delivery in half an hour, no exceptions, that counted for a lot.
     The customer lived in a good-looking place round the back of the station, with a massive driveway that was already filled up with cars. Loud, rhythmic music came from inside, punctuated by the occasional shriek.
     Sounded like quite a party. Lisa parked her van on the road and killed the engine with her trip timer reading 02:16. She’d cut it fine, but she’d made it. With any luck, she’d get a decent tip off this one.
     She grabbed the bag from the passenger seat, sprinted for the front door and rang the bell. On 01:35 it was opened by a dark- haired bloke in grey jeans and a check shirt. He reeked of wine, sulphur and incense, and his eyes were glowing red. That didn’t bode well, for either of them. The possessed were never big tippers.
     Lisa gave him a big smile anyway, and held out the bag. ‘Delivery, mate.’
     He peered at her. ‘Huh?’
     She made an effort to keep the smile going. ‘It’s all paid for on the card, so I just need you to sign on the little screen here and we’re all done.’
     He stared blankly for a few more seconds before his face cleared. ‘Oh, right. The pizzas.’
     Lisa let go of the smile and her hope of a tip.
     ‘No, mate, I’m not the pizza girl. I’m the emergency magical supplies girl.’
     ‘Huh?’
     ‘I’m from Eddie’s,’ she said. ‘Eddie’s Ethereal Emporium? I’ve got an order of–‘ she paused, checked her manifest and continued, ‘pine smudge sticks, black beeswax tapers, granular frankincense, powdered dragon’s blood, juniper oil and virgin’s tears, for this address.’
     Check Shirt just blinked those opaque eyes at her and swayed. Lisa’s timer read 01:13.
     Another shriek came from inside the house, followed by a deep, rumbling snarl. Lisa shook her head. Bloody amateur magicians, always getting themselves into shit they couldn’t get out of. She blamed Harry Potter.
     ‘Look, mate, these are ingredients for a banishing ritual, yeah? So someone here must have had enough of their right mind left to realise you’ve got an unwanted guest at the party.’
     ‘Huh?’
     Lisa rubbed her eyes and counted to five. Ten was always better, but she was on a deadline. ‘Listen, I know what it’s like when summonings get out of hand–you’ve had a few drinks, you get a bit sloppy with the Latin, the sigils end up the wrong way round. You might just be trying to raise an imp to clean the toilet, but you end up with the legions of Beelzebub pouring out of the u-bend. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen.’
     Check Shirt scratched his cheek with a nail that blackened and lengthened into a claw.
     ‘Huh?’ he said.
     A huge snake-like creature slithered out of the door and over his feet. Lisa stepped back and it disappeared under the hedge at the side of the house.
     She snapped her fingers in front of Check Shirt’s face. He was drooling slightly. ‘You’ve got demons, mate,’ she said, speaking very loudly and slowly. ‘Inside and out, by the look of it. So I strongly recommend you sign here, then go and sort it out. Okay?’
     Behind her, a motorbike picked its way through the cars on the drive. ‘Three large pepperonis and a garlic bread, for Steve,’ the rider called out. ‘Twenty-five quid.’
     Check Shirt’s eyes snapped back into focus. He reached into his back pocket and came out with a wallet.
Typical. In the battle of man’s stomach versus his immortal soul, the stomach won every time.
     ‘Oh, no you don’t,’ Lisa said. The display on her timer was at 00:35, the digits flashing red. She pointed a warning finger at the bike rider, who was carrying a stack of red and white boxes. The savoury aroma mixed uneasily with the smell of brimstone wafting out of the house. ‘I was here first, mate, you wait your turn.’
     She threw her bag into the hallway, grabbed Steve’s hand and used a talon to scribble on the screen. The status changed to Delivered,  and the countdown halted on 00:17.
     ‘Thank you for using Eddie’s Ethereal Emporium, we hope you enjoy your magical purchases,’ she said. ‘Preferably as soon as possible, yeah?’
     Steve ignored her, his attention fully focused on the stack of pizza boxes. She shrugged and headed back to the van.
     She’d just driven off when a huge gout of black smoke boiled out from the house. The pizza bike, burning merrily, flew over the top of the van and landed in a skip about twenty yards down. There was a great clap of thunder and an ear-shattering roar that could never have been produced by a human throat. It sounded very much like ‘I hate pepperoni.’
     A smaller fireball, which might have once been a pizza box, shot out of the swirling black vortex and joined the bike in the skip.
     Lisa picked up her radio. ’15 to base,’ she said. ‘Clear from Gidea Park, heading back to the warehouse now.’
     She kept up a leisurely 10 miles an hour above the speed limit. In her rearview mirror, the cloud of smoke split apart and formed into a writhing mass of horned, fanged shapes. A few of them disappeared down the chimneys of the neighbouring houses.
     Lisa got back on the radio. ’15 again, base. Eddie, you might want to stock up on those banishing kits. I think we could be getting some new orders.’

Michelle Ann King writes science fiction, fantasy and horror from her kitchen table in Essex, England. Her short stories, which have appeared at Strange Horizons, Daily Science Fiction, and Drabblecast, are being collected in the Transient Tales series, and she is working on a paranormal crime novel. Find more details at www.transientcactus.co.uk
     This story was first published at Every Day Fiction.



11
Aug

Red Shoes of Oz by David Steffen

Despite her misgivings, Dorothy carefully slipped the sparkling red shoes from the shriveled corpse.
     “Go on,” the Good Witch encouraged in a voice like chiming bells.  “Your old shoes will never last the journey in their condition.”
     Still Dorothy hesitated.
     “I was once a young lady myself, you know,” the Good Witch said.  “And I was in circumstances much like your own.”  She pulled up the hem of her pink dress, showing the tip of a sparkling red shoe.  “And look at me now,” she said with a giggle.
     Dorothy slipped on the shoes.  She jumped to her feet and skipped a little circle with a laugh.  Without really meaning to, she started skipping to the west down the yellow brick road at a racer’s pace, a barking Toto following at her heels.  “Goodbye!” she called back over her shoulder.
     “Goodbye, sister!” the Good Witch called after her.
     Dorothy skipped along at an extraordinary speed, so fast that Toto soon could not keep pace.  She tried to slow down.  She tried to turn.  Her feet just had a mind of their own.  “Don’t bite anyone, Toto!  I’ll come back for you when I can!”  She worried a bit, but the rush of her exertion kept her mood light.
     On and on she skipped and skipped.
     She passed a Scarecrow in fields of corn who shouted greeting to her.  She passed an odd statue of a Woodsman who groaned.  Her legs were growing very tired, and her lungs burned.  She would like to rest, but she just couldn’t seem to make it happen.
     As she ran through a dark wood, she forgot the pain in her legs and her lungs, in favor of the pain in her bladder which was full near to bursting.  But still she could not.  A great roar sounded from the trees, and a huge beast leaped out and knocked her off her feet.  In her shock, her bladder let loose and soaked her dress with warm liquid.
     A Lion pinned her on her back, and breathed carrion breath in her face.  She was not afraid, only relieved to be off her feet and with an empty bladder, though she could still feel her legs moving.
     “Thank you,” she said.
     “I—” the Lion began, looking confused, but just at that moment, Dorothy’s feet found purchase on the Lion’s belly and launched him across the path and against a tree.
     “I’m so sorry!” she shouted as her feet carried her westward again.
     On and on she skipped, for days and days and days.  Blisters formed and burst, and her blisters formed blisters of their own.  She skipped and skipped and she cried and cried and cried until she could make no more tears, and then she was hungry and more than a little bit bored.  She didn’t allow her bladder to bother her for long–her dress was already soiled so there was little point in worrying about a little more.  She grabbed berries and fruits when they came within reach, and filled her hands with water to drink when it rained.  Most of all, she had a lot of time to think, to lament her situation.  At first she wished to be home with Uncle Henry and Aunt Em.  With time her wishes turned simpler: a soft chair, a slice of bread, a single moment of rest.
     Finally, ahead she saw a city of sparkling green, and her heart raced with anticipation of what must be the end of her journey.  But her feet skirted around the city and on to the west, out of the lush country and into a wasteland.
     Wolves and crows and winged monkeys watched her as she passed.  She wished that they would eat her and end this torture, but they only watched impassively.  Her eyes slipped shut from time to time from sheer exhaustion but the impact of her steps jarred her awake.
     After days more of this, with no rain or berries to sustain her, she passed out from exhaustion and hunger.  She was vaguely aware of pain, but it was a distant thing.
     “Hello, little sister,” a scratchy and dry voice said, waking Dorothy from her stupor.
     It was only then when Dorothy realized that she had stopped skipping.  She was lying on a stone floor.  Her feet screamed with pain, and she ached all over, and her stomach growled.  But most of all she felt sweet relief at just being allowed to lie down.
     A withered old hag stood over her.  “I would never have suspected someone to be so brazen to steal the shoes from my sister’s dead body.”
     “Can I have some food?” Dorothy asked, with cracked lips.  “And water?”
     The hag snapped her fingers, and a bowl of water and a loaf of bread appeared before Dorothy, who raised herself up on elbows to see to eating it.
     “The Good Witch gave me the shoes,” Dorothy said, between bites.  “She said I’d need them for the journey.  I’m sorry I took them.  I thought it would be okay.”
     “You misunderstand me, little sister.  I’m not angry about the shoes.  You have saved me a great deal of trouble.”
     “What do you want from me?” Dorothy said, her fear starting to creep back again.
     “You need do nothing.  You are wearing one of three pairs of very special shoes.  For now I control your feet, but soon I will exert more influence.  They say there are four witches, but really I am the only one.  The land is so vast that I need proxies to keep the Plutocrat penned into his glittering cage.  You can sleep here for the night, and then you can begin your journey back to Munchkinland.”
     Dorothy felt fresh tears run down her cheeks.  They weren’t tears of sorrow at the future ahead of her, nor tears of pain, but tears of relief.  A night of sleep, proper sleep.  She had never heard sweeter words.  She was fast asleep in moments.

David Steffen writes fiction and code.  He is the co-founder of the Submission Grinder, and the editor of Diabolical Plots which will begin publishing fiction for the first time on March 1st.  His fiction has been published in many great venues including Escape Pod, Daily Science Fiction, and AE.



6
Aug

LIGHTNING FLASHED By Adam Gaylord

Lightning flashed through the ion charged atmosphere, arcs of energy dancing across the metal hull of the ship.

“How’s she holding?” Captain Roberts asked.

I could hear the pain in her voice. Dozens of indicator lights glowed from the control panel, most of them flashing yellow or red, many of them flashing. Sparks flew from the copilot’s console singeing the ensign’s uniform, his dead body still strapped in his chair.

“Ok I guess. Ma’am,” I added, not used to the formalities of the bridge.

“Any word from Lieutenant Cho?”

I pinged the Lieutenant’s communicator again. No response. “No ma’am.”

“We’ll give him a five more minutes.”

“Yes ma’am.” She’d said the same thing twenty minutes ago.

I chanced a glance back at Captain Roberts. Slumped in her chair, her right arm hung limp over the armrest, blood dripping from her fingers. The dull orange glow of the bridge’s instruments cast an unearthly pallor over her burned face, her hair singed and matted to the side of her head. The bandage covering her eyes was saturated with blood.

The blare of a new alarm jerked my attention back to the control panel.

“What is it?” the Captain asked.

My eyes flew over the unfamiliar control panel. “Uh…” A whole bank of lights had gone from yellow to red. “Something’s wrong with the port thrusters.”

The ship pitched suddenly to the left, the bank of red lights now flashing in unison. “I think we’ve lost the port engine!”

“Boost aft stabilizers to 120 percent,” Roberts ordered.

I searched the control panel, finally finding a row of dials labeled “Stabilizers”. I turned a dial. The last of the remaining green lights on the panel turned yellow.

The alarm stopped.

“We’ll have to take her in.” Roberts sounded alarmingly calm.

“Ma’am, I’m sorry, I can’t do this. Can’t we wait for Cho?” I pinged the Lieutenant’s communicator again.

“We’re out of time. The starboard engine’s already at half power. If it goes we’re done. A distress beacon’s been deployed. We’ll take her down to the surface and wait for help.”

“But ma’am, I’m a cook!”

“Your father was a pilot during the Trastis campaign. You dusted crops in your family’s T-24 until you left for the academy. You were top of your class until your crash. A family friend got you into culinary school. You specialize in soufflés.”

She coughed.

I didn’t know what to say. “How did you-”

“I handpicked every member of this crew, you included. Not everyone can handle space flight. You’re here because I trust you can. And because I love a good soufflé.”

I turned to face her, unable to read her expression behind the burns and bandages. She coughed again, the sound raspy in her throat.

I took a deep breath and turned back to the panel. “Ok, talk me through it.”

“Disengage the auto pilot. It’s above your head to the right. Flip the switches from right to left.”

I flipped the switches as ordered and the ship dropped suddenly away, my harness the only thing keeping me in my seat.

“Engage atmospheric propulsion. Pull the large red knob by your left knee.”

I pulled the knob and slammed back into my seat. The ship shook violently.

“What’s our altitude?”

I scanned the dials. “Fourty-five thousand feet and holding!” I shouted. Lightning crackled across sky again, the swirling gas that surrounded the planet glowing an angry red.

“Take the controls-” she coughed violently. “Take the controls and ease her down.”

I grasped the joysticks at my sides, the ship’s vibration blurring my vision. Slowly I eased the controls forward, the ship sluggish to respond. Almost immediately another alarm sounded.

“Coolant pressures at critical!” I reported.

“Doesn’t matter. Take her into a fifteen-degree down angle. Keep your speed up over one-sixty.”

I pressed the controls forward, watching the dials in front of me. “Fifteen-degree down angle. Speed at one-seven-three,” I repeated.

“Hold this course until we break through the cloud cover, then we’ll figure out where to-”

The metal hull of the ship shrieked as half of the starboard wing tore away.

“She’s coming apart!” I screamed.

“Engage all flaps!” Somehow she was beside me, leaning heavily against my chair.

I searched the controls but saw nothing labeled flaps. Roberts must have known. “The covered switches on the far left!”

I threw the switches and the ship lurched backward throwing Roberts on top of me. Large pieces of seared skin sloughed off in my hands as I helped her off.

“What’s your altitude?” she wheezed.

“Twenty-thousand feet. Are you ok?”
Before she could answer the ship quaked with a series of deafening cracks as first one, then another, and another of the ship’s flaps tore from the hull.

“We’re dropping fast!” I was floating in my chair again, bile rising in my throat.

Roberts’ voice gurgled in my ear. “When you hit fifteen-thousand feet pull the handle by your left foot.”

I didn’t have to wait long. I leaned down and pulled the handle.

Nothing happened.

“You leaned the wrong way. You’re other left. The red handle”

Shit.

I pulled the red handle and three huge parachutes launched from the roof of the ship. I slammed down into my seat as they caught air, momentarily halting the descent of the ship. Almost immediately one of the chutes tore away.

“Altitude?” Roberts’ voice was barely a whisper in my ear.

“Nine-thousand feet and dropping!” We were below cloud cover and I could see the desolate landscape of the alien planet. Giant red pillars loomed in the distance and red sand whipped across the scoured rock surface.

The ship shuddered again as another of the parachutes tore away.

“Five thousand feet!”

I willed the last parachute to hold. “Come on girl. Hold together. Hold together.”

The ship shuddered violently as the last parachute tore away.

“One-thousand feet!”

I felt the Captain’s firm hand on my shoulder. Red columns zoomed by on either side as the ground rushed up to meet us.

“Hold on!”

The impact threw me into the control panel, tearing my seat from its base. Alarms sounded and sparks flew from every direction. There was no way to tell which way was up. The ship tumbled forever.

And then it was still.

I lay, dazed and bleeding, the occasional shower of sparks raining from the control panel above me. The ship was upside-down.

“Captain?”

No response.

“Captain Roberts?” I managed to right myself enough to crawl around the ceiling of the poorly lit bridge, feeling more than seeing my way. It wasn’t long before I found her, face down against a support beam, her arms pinned awkwardly behind her. I touched her back but she remained perfectly still.

The alarms had stopped, like the ship was too injured to call out. Wind howled outside the broken hull of the ship, pelting it with sand. Besides that the world was quiet.

I lay down next to Roberts, my captain, and thought about the lonely distress beacon floating somewhere above us.

And I waited.


Adam Gaylord lives with his wife and daughter in Loveland, CO where he’s rarely more than ten feet from either cake or craft beer. His gladiatorial fantasy novel, Sol of the Coliseum, comes out fall 2015. Check out all his stuff at http://adamsapple2day.blogspot.com/.

This story was first published in Dark Futures Annual 1.




4
Aug

A Call to Arms: Help Us Fund WOMEN IN PRACTICAL ARMOR

callroarms

Aurora Blackgale pulled the heavy sword from her sheath and prepared to take on the ogre. Her long muscular legs, sun-kissed and trained from countless hours of swordplay, gleamed with sweat. The foul creature huffed a curse, burning her thighs with acid from his foul mouth. Trying to ignore the pain, she swung the blade to ready only to find that her bikini brief had slid up her crack. Again.

Aurora held up a hand. “Hold, beast. I cannot effectively kill you with this itty bitty bottom crawling up my nethers.”

The ogre shrugged his shoulders and straightened. His voice came out as a booming, sinister growl. “Take your time, lass. It wouldn’t be a fair victory if I won it because your attire was askew.”

Aurora shifted the metal briefs over her hourglass hips, made sure her ample bosom was aligned well in the matching bustier, and flipped her raven black hair from her shoulders. “There. You have my thanks. Now then…shall we dance the blade?”

Wait, what?!

Over the last decade, the gaming and fantasy fiction communities have engaged in a heated debate over the appropriate attire for women warriors. Some groups even suggest that women should shut up and be grateful that female warrior characters are even a part of games and fantasy books at all, regardless of how they are portrayed. But, women warriors are here to stay, and not just the finding-their-power ingenues or the bikini-clad vixens. The seasoned female warrior’s time has come, and Evil Girlfriend Media is excited to be part of the shift towards this new mythology.

Evil Girlfriend Media is pleased to announce the release of our Kickstarter, WOMEN IN PRACTICAL ARMOR. We’ve decided to call this A Call To Arms: Help Us Fund WOMEN IN PRACTICAL ARMOR because as a backer, you are raising your sword to fight for change in the fantasy genre while giving EGM the opportunity to produce a high quality book that we can send out to the masses.

Check out our Kickstarter and help us bring eighteen dynamic stories of seasoned women warriors to print.
tableofcontents

***Written by Katie Cord for this announcement with assistance from Timothy W. Long.




4
Aug

From the Editor’s Lair by Jennifer Brozek

I have read everything EGM.Shorts has received up to July 1st. If you have a story out that you sent in before July 1st and have not heard back, please query.

Thoughts about the slush pile:
1. Reprints are still king. Just an FYI. I have almost none in my queue and half of what I buy is reprints. This means you have an excellent shot at making the sale. In particular, I’d like to see reprints from 2014 or before. I won’t accept reprints from 2015.

2. Narrative poetry is a very hard sell. Very hard. But I adore “Instructions” by Neil Gaiman, “Stolen Child” by William Butler Yeats, and “Child Roland to the Dark Tower Came” by Edmund Stedman.

Here’s what we have for August. Weirdly, August has the unintended theme of acceptance in most of its stories.

“Lightning Flashed” by Adam Gaylord
“Red Shoes of Oz” by David Steffen
“Not the Pizza Girl” by Michelle Ann King
“Smelly Dogs” by Chris Barili
“Sibyl” by Deborah Walker
“Uniformity” by David Boop
“Frozen Tears” by Chaitali Gawade

You can read all of our previous flash fiction at the EGM.Shorts Archive page.





- Back to Blog Home -