Entertainingly Evil

Cover and TOC of Naughty Or Nice: A Holiday Anthology

Naughty Or Nice: A Holiday Anthology
Foreword by Jennifer Brozek
“Cold Dead Turkey” by Kevin J. Anderson
“Mistletoe” by Jody Lynn Nye
“Coming up the Chimney Tonight” by Josh Vogt
“The Kwanzaa Kid” by Maurice Broaddus
“Letters To Santa (From the Arctic Academy for Gifted Creatures)” by S.G. Browne
“The Longest Night of the Year” by Shannon Page
“Passing the Torch” by M. Todd Gallowglas
“Forged” by Peter Clines
“Sweet Peppermint Blow” by C. Thomas Hand
“Monster Mingle and Kris Kringle” by Jon Del Arroz
“The Wench Who Stole Christmas” by E.S. Magill
“He Knows When You’re Awake” by Cat Rambo
“Spam, the Spooks, and the UPS Bandit” by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
“Santa’s Bloody Reign” by Timothy W. Long and Jonathan Moon
“The Toymaker’s Joy” by Lucy A. Snyder
“By the Light of the Silvery Moon” by Rachel Caine

Cover art by Stan Shaw
Release date: November 18, 2015


The Rarest Cut by Aeryn Rudel

Vincent cut into the meat, grimacing at the effort it took to saw through the stringy, pink flesh. He sliced off a portion, speared the chunk with his fork, and skated it through the fatty au jus pooling on his plate. He lifted the morsel to his nose and sniffed. The coppery tang told him the meat was quite rare, as he’d ordered it, but beneath that pleasant smell was a gamey odor that reminded him, of all things, dirty laundry. He shrugged and popped the piece into his mouth and chewed.

The meat was firm, juicy, and the coppery smell was reflected in the taste. It reminded him of wild boar, an animal whose flesh he’d enjoyed in the past. He swallowed and frowned. The gaminess was stronger on his tongue than it had been beneath his nose, and it lingered on his palate like an unwelcome guest.

The waiter, who had been standing behind him, stepped to the side of his table. “Is everything to your liking, sir?” he asked. He was tall, gaunt, and his skin had a yellowish tone that reminded Vincent of the antiseptic stuff surgeons swabbed on a patient just before the incision. The waiter’s high cheekbones suggested Native American heritage, but the odd color of his skin and the slight tilt to his eyes clashed with that assessment. His nationality was impossible to place.

Vincent cleared his throat, set his knife and fork on the table, and dabbed his lips with his napkin. “Well, I’m not a picky eater,” he said. “And I consider my palette more refined than most, but this has an odd taste.”

The waiter stared down at Vincent and nodded. His eyes were yellow like his skin. “Of course, sir,” he said, his voice low, acquiescent. “If I may make a suggestion, I believe one should always sample new flesh twice before deciding if it is to one’s liking. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Vincent considered this. He’d been around the world a dozen times, sampling the rarest and the strangest meats he could find. It was his hobby, his passion. Some people collected coins or stamps; he collected unusual flavors and hard-to-obtain culinary experiences. He’d eaten komodo dragon on the small island of Gili Montang, dined on black rhino in Cameroon, and he’d even travelled to Papua New Guinea only to find, to his immense disappointment, that the islanders’ most infamous dish was more myth than reality.

Vincent glanced around the small windowless restaurant, in which he was the only diner. The color red dominated the tiny space. Four tables with red tablecloths, soft crimson rugs, and magenta walls all made it feel as if he was eating some prized beast from the inside out. He’d first heard mention of the place from a Canadian couple as they dined on omelets from bald eagle eggs. Later, another connoisseur whom he’d crossed paths with from time to time mentioned the restaurant when he was in France eating elephant tongue. There had been others, too, gastronomic pioneers that shared his passion for truly unique eating experiences. They had all assured him that here he would find everything he was looking for. When he’d finally found the nameless eatery in a part of town he’d never visited, he’d been unimpressed, but after viewing their menu and speaking with the waiter and cooks, he’d never been so excited.

“I think that’s sound advice,” he said to the waiter. “I mean, what are the chances I’ll have the opportunity to eat something like this again?”

The waiter patted his arm with one long, bony hand. His nails were very long, ragged at the ends. “Exactly right, sir,” he said, then stepped back behind Vincent’s chair once more.

Vincent picked up his knife and fork and regarded the slab of rare meat on his plate. There were definitely more bones than he liked; he could see their whitish outline just beneath the slightly translucent flesh. He cut off a small piece, forked it, and popped it into his mouth. It was a better this time. The blood had congealed some, and the texture was firmer, which he liked. He chewed and swallowed and then waited for the aftertaste. It wasn’t overwhelming, but it was there, a dirty, musty flavor that cancelled out any of the meat’s better qualities.

“Nope,” Vincent said and set his knife and fork on the table again. “I just don’t like this.”

The waiter appeared at his side. “I understand,” he said. “I’m very sorry our cooks could not prepare this dish to your satisfaction.

“No, no. That’s not it.” Vincent held up his hands. “It’s cooked to perfection. I just don’t like this meat.”

The waiter nodded and rubbed his slightly pointed chin with thumb and forefinger. “Perhaps you’d like to try another cut, then? In my experience meat from different parts of the same beast can have wildly different flavors.”

“That is a fine idea,” Vincent said. He pushed his chair back, pulled the chair next to him out from under the table, and propped up his left leg up on it. Vincent reached down and rolled his pant leg up and over the expertly sutured stump at the end of his ankle, exposing plump white flesh. He picked up his fork and poked at the heavy calf muscle. “Right about here should be good, I think,” he said, smiling up at the waiter.

The waiter smiled back, exposing pointed teeth, cracked and yellowed, like old ivory. “One of my personal favorites,” he said. “I’ll inform the butchers at once.”

Aeryn Rudel is a freelance writer and editor. He is also a notorious dinosaur nerd, a rare polearms expert, a baseball connoisseur, and he has mastered the art of fighting with sword-shaped objects (but not actual swords). Follow his blog on writing and rejection at www.rejectomancy.com.


Birthing Fire by Dantzel Cherry

DR27-6 wobbles one last time, and a crack laces across the marble shell, etched by a small egg tooth. White and red fluids spill out. The tooth saws back and forth a few times, then stops.

I dim the lights and wait.

Another few moments and an azure head pops out – a male, then. His slanted copper eyes shift around the room.

He’s calm, which means he hasn’t recognized me as a threat yet. I know the cameras and monitors are at work, so I wait patiently. One step onto the heated rocks, then four more in quick succession for the rest of his body to be free.

Something threatens him—the basking bulb, presumably—and he releases FPI44. Moving at such high pressure from the oral glands, the FPI44 compound bursts into flames and I measure seven inches. I suppose that makes DR27-6 the fiercest, strongest specimen in this round of the project, but this is not enough to get my hopes up. He will likely end up like the rest. His fierce eyes, though… they burn with life.

The blue on his head spreads downward and shares space freely with marigold until intermixing with crimson on the sailfin. His wings are beautiful, and functional—at least in theory. They’re useless in the first few hours of life. Once we engineered functional wings in stage 2, we added the gene expression inhibitor to turn off the God-given poison production in the oral glands, and added the FPI44 gland specific inducer in stage 3, which doesn’t agree with the neurons required for flight. I convinced Tom to speak with Monsieur Benefactor about being content with flying, non-fire-breathing dragons, but Monsieur was quite insistent.

Officially we name them with sterile, passionless identifications such as DR27-6, so that’s what I record for Tom and the herpetologists. But alone in the basement like this, wild eyes glaring at me… he is more. DR27-6 is Fafnir.

I should stop reading so much.

Eventually Fafnir looks for his first meal, stalking over to the plates under the warm lights and investigating his choices: superworms, fruit, pellets, fresh fish. He hovers over the wriggling superworms, smelling, considering. He snatches one from the plate, then another, and another.

He eats until he is full, then prowls about his enclosure. He stops by the same basking bulb that startled him earlier and stares at it in apparent contentment this time. I wait, hoping he will act differently than the others at this point. The scientist in me knows I should be fully invested in this experiment’s success, but it’s a heavy toll to watch the fire burning out of a creature that’s lived for so long in our imaginations, yet only takes a few hours to die.

After a seven year PhD and two post docs, I work for Monsieur Benefactor, who has no intention of letting Tom or I publish our work these last nine years. Sometimes I argue with the pragmatic Tom about our agreement, outraged that when—if—this is completed to Monsieur’s satisfaction I’ll have a great deal of money from his private accounts, but I won’t be able to account for all these wasted years on my resumé. I rage about Monsieur keeping these sorry creatures secret for himself and his select friends. Other times I look at the specimens I am tinkering with and am relieved no one knows what I’ve done.

I forget about Monsieur when Fafnir’s wings, warm and dry at last, stretch open, preparing for flight. A breakthrough!

This time, I think, the FPI44 gland inducer and the neurons threading from his brain to his wings finally agree; they can coexist in the same body. Fafnir is only moments away from fulfilling his destiny—my destiny. I swell with pride. Perhaps Monsieur and I are more similar than I’d like to admit.

The wings pull downward, a flapping motion from a baby. He lifts off the ground for one glorious moment.

And then Fafnir jerks his head side to side, no longer the strange but normal bobs of a healthy lizard, but that of a dragon in seizure. He convulses, and shoots out more FPI44. The flames scorch the superworms and they writhe about, just like Fafnir.

Again and again Fafnir vomits fire, simply because his neurons will it so. His feet pull him around the enclosure, frantic, and he slips into his water pan. Flames still shoot out, sometimes stunted by the water when the angle is right, and sometimes not. I struggle to record this part, but cameras and monitors don’t catch everything the human eye intuits, so I continue. I wish Tom hadn’t missed today’s hatchings—he detaches himself from this so much better than I.

The FPI44 built up in Fafnir’s body is nearly depleted, and so is his energy. His head droops into the water pan. I fear he will drown himself. I can’t be a scientist now—maybe I could for DR27-6, but not for Fafnir. My hand shoots out and pulls him away from the water, though I consider whether drowning wouldn’t be quicker and kinder than the tortured breakdown of brain and body.

Even as I expect that awful stillness to enter his body any moment, Fafnir, trembling, lifts his head and sniffs the air. He stiffens at whatever he smells, and bites down on my thumb. I flinch but fight the instinct to fling the creature away.

Though those small teeth draw only a few drops of blood, Fafnir laps the deep red liquid until my thumb is clean. Again he bites and licks my wound. I dread a third time, but he seems satisfied. No longer shaking, my dragon stretches his marigold wings luxuriously and flaps them against the air, flying in a clumsy circle before landing back in the safety of my outstretched palms.

Two incubators away, Fafnir’s brother DR27-8 wobbles into life.

By day, Dantzel Cherry teaches Pilates and raises her daughter, and by night/naptime she writes. She is prone to dance as the need arises, and it often does. Her work has appeared in Fireside and Galaxy’s Edge. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter (@dantzelcherry) or her website at www.dantzelcherry.com. This story previously placed 2nd in Story Star Publishing short story contest.


Performing Arts by Alison McBain

There was crying. There always was, on the first day. “Should I stay?” asked Helen, a thin woman who vibrated with nervous energy. She looked helplessly down at her wailing child.

Diana shook her head. “She’ll be fine once the lesson starts.”

“Okay.” Helen bent over her daughter, whose face was shiny with tears. “Darling, I have to go.”

“No, Mummy!”

The teacher shooed the other mothers out the door, softly touching the girls on the head. At her touch, the girls instantly sat down on the mat, staring at the mirror on the wall without fidgeting, holding perfectly still.

Diana came back and touched Sammy on the head, too. “Twelve,” the teacher said. “And I make thirteen. The perfect number.” Then, to Helen, “You may leave now.”

Sammy’s hands dropped away from her mother. Surprised, Helen backed up towards the door, waiting for a reaction. Her daughter sat down on the mat next to the other girls, ignoring her mother as if she weren’t even there.

“We’ll be fine,” said the teacher, pushing Helen out of the room and shutting the door in her face.


Sammy’s mom lingered outside the door. She had never seen her daughter so quickly listen to a stranger. Every single time at swimming class, Helen had to kneel on the edge of the concrete to convince Sammy to go into the water. Still, Sammy cried constantly.

Helen had hoped that ballet would be different, but had seen her daughter’s face crumple as soon as they entered the room. For Sammy to stop crying so suddenly like that—it was strange.

Her husband always said she worried too much. After all, she thought, what could be wrong with her daughter listening to the teacher?

Nothing, of course. Absolutely nothing.


When the door opened a little bit later, Sammy came running up to her mother, laughing.

“Did you have fun, darling?”

“Yes! I love Miss Diana,” Sammy said.

On the car ride home, Helen heard her daughter humming something. The sound was almost tuneless, but for some reason, it made the back of Helen’s neck itch.

“How about music lessons?” she suggested.

“No, Mummy. I like ballet.”


Between school, ballet and other lessons, the day of the final dance recital arrived lightning-quick. The morning of the performance, Sammy was humming throughout breakfast and during the car ride to the auditorium.  The sound still bothered Helen, but what could she say?  She turned up the radio, but her neck still itched uncomfortably.

The place was packed. Helen’s mother came up the stairs, trailing a cloud of Chanel, and kissed her on the cheek. “I’m so excited to see our little ballerina!”

The overhead lights flickered, and they found their seats. Diana walked out on the stage dressed in a black leotard and tights.

“The girls have worked very hard this season, and I think you will be surprised to see what they have put together.” She bowed and the families clapped.

Out walked a line of girls. Despite the differences in height and age, there was a similarity about the girls that extended beyond the pink gauze dresses. They marched in step, forming a perfect circle without a word being said.

The audience hushed. At the head of the circle stood the teacher, like a black blot in a sea of pink. The lights went out and everyone gasped at the suddenness of the dark.

Helen strained her ears. Yes—somehow, she had expected it. A chorus of humming, gradually rising in volume. As the sound increased, the stage began to glow with light. No, that was incorrect—the dancers glowed, each with an individual spotlight. Helen glanced upwards, wondering how they were doing the lighting, but couldn’t tell—the ceiling looked dark. Maybe it was coming from below.

The teacher began to speak, but not in English. The language sounded guttural, all hard stops in the back of the throat. The little girls bowed to the center of the circle with a graceful arc of their bodies. Diana raised her arms, but she did not bow. Instead, she leapt up into the air—and stayed there, hovering three feet above the ground. Helen looked for the cables holding her, but couldn’t see any in the dim light. The audience applauded as each of the girls leapt after their teacher and stayed suspended.

Suddenly, the teacher broke into understandable words. “And we call you, Lord, we bid you receive this bounty we set before you.”

The floor below the dancers’ feet fell in with a crash. Helen found herself on her feet, shouting in panic. Before she could rush down to the stage, something came out of the hole under the dancers’ feet. Something large and unimaginable, something that flowed up and over the audience in a wave.


The lights came up. The dancers bowed, the stage solid beneath their pink slippers, a row of little girls flushed with the success of their first show. As if rising from a deep sleep, the members of the audience began to clap slowly. Eventually the applause grew, and the families came to their feet, cheering.

Helen shook her head. There was something she should remember. Her chest hurt, as if there was a great hollowness inside of her, something that was now gone forever. She clapped and glanced at the other parents. No one else seemed to be affected by it—the father next to her put his fingers in his mouth and whistled shrilly. Shrugging, she joined the stream of audience members heading towards the stage.

Sammy ran up to her. “Did you see? Miss Diana was right!”

“Right about what, darling?”

“We could do magic!” Sammy said.

Helen smiled tolerantly. “You certainly could, darling. Your performance was magical. I just worried at the… at the…” She rubbed at her chest, but couldn’t remember what she had been about to say.

Her daughter rolled her eyes. “Oh, Mummy, sometimes you worry too much.”

Alison McBain lives in Connecticut with her husband and two daughters. She has work published/forthcoming in Flash Fiction Online, FLAPPERHOUSE, and the anthologies Abbreviated Epics and Our World of Horror, among others. You can read her blog at alisonmcbain.com or follow her on Twitter @AlisonMcBain.



Night fell and when he hit the ground, he groaned. Day turned, smiling at him in a way that pissed Night off more than it made him glad to see her. He smiled back, a look probably just as aggravating as hers.

He shouldn’t be wasting time on smiles. All they had was a bit of twilight now and a little more time come morning when the darkness gave way to something brighter.

“Took you long enough.” Day sounded like she didn’t care that she was about to be yanked away from him again.

They’d spent their lives chasing after each other. Day into night. Night into day. He was getting damned tired of it. “I had things to do.”

“Other than me?” Her legs were open, her eyes were closed, and she looked a little bored with the whole thing.

“Well. Yeah.” It was a big fat lie. Not that there weren’t plenty of nighttime creatures that would be happy to entertain him, but he wasn’t drawn to them the way he was to her.

“Tick, tock.” She closed her legs and opened her eyes. When he didn’t move, she frowned. “You forgetting something?”

He folded his arms over his chest. “Nope.”

“I think you are.”

“Nope. Not a damn thing I’m forgetting to do.”

She pushed herself to her feet, strode over to him, and pressed her lithe body against his.

“Not tonight.” He pushed her away, and the scent of sweet tea brewed in the sun and lemons and a hint of rose followed her.


“Let’s just sit and watch the sun go down.”

“The sun’s down. It’s been down.” Her hands were roaming all over his body, a sweet touch if impatient. “And other things aren’t down, so let’s get to it.”

He’d never realized how shrill Day could sound when she didn’t get her way.

“I’m not in the mood.” He planted himself, sitting cross-legged on the ground, watching the spot where the sun would have been going down if it hadn’t already set.

“Not in the… what?” She sort of collapsed next to him, long, tanned legs spidering her into something resembling a lotus position. She started to laugh. “You’re just playing with me.”

“There isn’t enough time to play with you, Day. Maybe that’s the point.”

“We aren’t about time, Night. We never have been.”

“Well… I’m feeling a little used. I think I need to be treated with more respect.” He inched away from her. “All this ‘dark of night’ bullshit—what’s wrong with night? Perfectly nice time, if you ask me. Sky comes alive. Can’t ever see a shooting star during the day.”

“Can’t see a damned bat, either. I’d say it’s a wash.”

“Bats are good. They eat insects and bring us good things to drink.” He thought about the humble bat-pollinated agave plant, and a bottle of fine tequila materialized in his hand. He took a deep, loving swig before holding the bottle out to her. “Care for a belt?”

“Very funny. You know I prefer chardonnay.” She sighed. “Is it me? Have you grown tired of me?”

“Yeah. I’m sick to death of you, Day.” He felt sort of bad for her, looking so forlorn in the dying light—and so pretty. Even his irritation couldn’t prevent him from seeing that. She was warm and bright, her long hair gleaming a white-blonde counterpoint to her tanned skin.

She leaned up against him, steam rising where her warm body met his cool one. “It’s not my fault we come from different sides of the tracks. I didn’t ask to fall in love with you.”

He frowned. “You’re in love with me?”

She nodded and by the look on her face, she was being honest.

“Since when?”

“Since… forever.”

“Name the time you fell in love with me.”

“Well.” She waved her hand at him, as if he was a bee buzzing around her in the sunshine. “It was back when we met. You know. A while ago.”

“You’re not in love with me. You’re just afraid I’m all you’ve got.” Which he thought was stupid: there were all manner of daytime creatures who’d be happy to be with her. “You’re afraid that if you let go of me, you’ll have nothing.”

“My world is very full. Lots of people. Lots of birds flying and the bluest sky up above.”

“I’ll stick with a nice black sky, lit up with stars like little fireflies.” He took another pull from the bottle.

“Fireflies don’t do much. Just buzz on and off like they’re sending out Morse code.”

“Sound travels better at night.”

“Oh, bull. It’s just quieter at night. Easier to hear.” She leaned against him a little harder.

“Well, I like it quiet. And less crowded. Just me and the animals who mean business–people included.”

“Who mean bad business. Cruel business.”

“Nasty things happen during the day, too. I don’t have a monopoly on that.”

She reached for the bottle. “Now I’m depressed. I’ll be this way till dawn.”

“Well, join the club. I’ve been depressed for weeks.”

“It’s just…” She sighed as she pressed the bottle back into his hands. “It’s just that I miss you. We barely get started and we’re apart again. I wish…” She didn’t sound shrill, anymore. She sounded sweet and sad and like she meant it.

“I know. I wish, too.”

The last of the light was giving out. He pulled her close, held her, and hummed a song he’d learned from the coyotes.

“That’s pretty,” she said, her hand tight on his thigh.

“Not as pretty as you are.” It was true. All this velvety dark loveliness at his beck and call, and he dreamt of gold and white.

“I do love you,” she said. “I wasn’t lying.”

“I know.” He kissed her cheek where it met up with her hair and her neck. She smelled so good right there. Like everything he couldn’t have and would always want—no matter how useful the bats were or how sweet the coyotes sounded. “But you are stuck with me.”

“Works both ways, Night. Who knows what you’d choose if you didn’t have to follow me.”

“Yeah. Who knows?” But he knew he’d choose her. Because he did have to follow her. And because— “I love you, too.”

“Since when?” But her voice was soft and gentle, not scornful like he’d been earlier.

“Since forever.” Forever: that time stretching between now and when he’d see her again.

“I’ve gotta go,” she said; he could barely feel her hand on his leg.

“I know.” He’d been kissing her for eons. It seemed wrong not to kiss her properly this time, on her lips, with their mouths opening, warm and cool air mingling as they breathed each other in.

“I’ll see you in the morning.” Her lips touched down on his cheek, where it met his hair and his neck. She seemed to be breathing him in.

He wondered what he smelled like to her.

Gerri Leen lives in Northern Virginia and originally hails from Seattle. She has stories and poems published by: Daily Science Fiction, Escape Pod, Grimdark, She Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror and others. She is editing an anthology, A Quiet Shelter There, which will benefit homeless animals and is due out in 2015 from Hadley Rille Books. See more at http://www.gerrileen.com.


The Travelling Carousel by Jamie Lackey

Judy wandered through the park, past joggers and couples walking their dogs. Her back ached from sitting in her office chair all day, and she just wanted to go home. But Ken had his friends there, helping home move. Taking his half-packed boxes and all of their furniture and leaving the apartment something alien. She remembered how it had echoed when she first moved in.

She wandered into the trees. She tried to let the whisper of their leaves sooth her, but she’d never been one for the soothing power of nature. She glanced at her phone. No messages, and Ken would be another hour, at least. He’d promised to call when he was done, but he’d promised so many things. She kept walking.

Cheerful music floated on the breeze, and she followed it, weaving through tree trunks and hopping over a small stream. As she grew closer, she expected to find a crowd, but the woods remained deserted. She came into a clearing, and in the center stood a carousel. Bare green light bulbs twinkled from its blue canopy, and chiming music chorused from its barrel organ. Fresh paint gleamed on the leaping horses and silver bars, and the body of the carousel was lined with bright mirrors.

It was perfect.

A tiny old woman smiled and waved her over. “Hello there, child. Would you like to ride the carousel?”

Her dark face was creased with smile lines, and she smelled like funnel cake and powdered sugar. Her eyes were the same green as the carousel lights.

Judy nodded—she loved carousels. “How much is it?”

“For you, just a smile.”

“Oh,” Judy said. “I’m not sure if I can manage that. It’s been a bad day.”

“That happens to the best of us. You can pay after, dear. Hop on.”

There were no other riders and no reason for the carousel to be there, but Judy stepped up onto the platform anyway. If things could fall apart for no reason, then maybe she could just have this. Maybe there was a tiny bit of balance in the world.

The wood creaked beneath her feet. She wandered among the wooden mounts, trailing her fingers along slick paint. She chose a gray horse with purple flowers twined into its darker mane and tale. She swung herself onto its back and rested her cheek against the cool metal pole.

She closed her eyes and the carousel moved. Her horse leaped forward, up and down, and around in the never-ending loop. The music surrounded her, twinkling note upon twinkling note.

She glanced into the mirror, and saw her reflection distorted by the curve of the carousel’s body. The boots that she bought because Ken liked them, the jeans she wore because they’d been a gift from his mother. The purse that his sister had made.

She used to wear sandals and skirts and only carry what fit in her pockets.

She ran her fingers over her horse’s painted neck and realized that she wouldn’t have any trouble filling the space that Ken would leave behind.

Her horse slowed, then stopped. She dismounted. “Can I go again?” she asked.

“Of course.”

She chose another horse, this one deep black with a red saddle and ribbons in his mane. She examined the blue sky painted on the canopy’s underside. She reached out to touch the fluffy painted clouds, but never got quite close enough.

She rode until the green lights lit and fireflies flickered in the trees. She stepped off of the platform smiling.

“There now, that’s better,” the old woman said.

“Who are you?” Judy asked.

“Just a travelling carousel, dear.”

“Will I be able to find you again?”

“If you need to. Just follow the music.”

“I will. Thank you.”

When Judy looked back, the carousel was gone. But if she listened, she could still hear twinkling notes on the breeze.

Judy went to her apartment, and set to making it a home.

Jamie Lackey lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and cat. Her fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and the Stoker Award-winning After Death… She’s a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Her short story collection, One Revolution, is available on Amazon.com. Find her online at www.jamielackey.com.


ALIEN GIRL: FROM THE 11TH by Lorraine Schein

You can tell she’s one. She comes from another planet. Where eyes are clairvoyances, mouths are vortexes of voices. Where it is always night. Where one whirls, not walks; implodes, not talks.

She got here by illegally crossing the borders between hypnogogic sleep and subliminal waking REM. She sews tiny mirrors in the hems of her skirts that she peers at, to make sure her face and legs are still there. What are breasts for? What is the cavity between her legs for? Her hair is an uncontrolled substance.

Your thoughts are a contaminant to her. Stop thinking! Earth is decade-infested. All Earthens must be onzydecimated!

Thunder is the voice of the Eleventh Planet. She hears messages from home in lightning storms. She sees by remote-viewing. She is a spiritual emergency. The kundalini energies run through her brain and neurological system and sometimes burst out, catching onto Earthlings’ spinal columns, an orgone-flame licking their third eyes ablaze.

She’s told them about the discovery of her planet, in the ninth dimension, somewhere between sleep and autism. She tells them that reality is not only the exact opposite of what they say is true, it is what they have omitted. Like the Occult Masturbation of Comic Strips. Comic Strips being the medium for the secret revelatory parables of the Eleventh Planet, “The only way you Earthens will ever learn!” she yells as they put the jacket on, too tight. The Deeper Reality, occurring in the spaces between the panels, and the panels left out, the colors the papers don’t even print in. The third-dimensional instead of the two.

But at night, black holes open up in the word balloons, blooming in their empty spaces, uttering symbols in an inverted black language. Then you’ll all get closer, closer to the Eleventh. You’re just comics within comics, until you see the light, like Little Nemo and Dale Arden, peering around the edges of the frames that have always been their lives, seeing that there’s more, there’s other, that they’ve been lied to. Then the real story spills out, the real universe, from under the colored ink dots. But no one wants to believe; they climb back into their panels, ignore the sound and smell of the Eleventh—jasmine thrown into the heart of the sun, acrid jasmine-plasma.

She spends a lot of time in the white wards, the padded rooms. They take away all metallic objects from her: her pocket saucer, ion transporter in the shape of a silver lipstick and interstellar dream communicator. They can’t take away her subliminal objects, because they can’t see them. She tries to communicate to the base by autogenic sleep jerks. She tries to pick up messages by remote viewing of precognitions.

As a child, she always felt so different from everyone; she thought that would change when she got older. But she still feels that way. She’s trying to escape, to create an alternate-reality tunnel through pinhole universes with bits of skin. An electric bulb filament, a match and her dermal surfaces, burrowing a hole into the web of extra ninth-dimensionality that’s visible when the screaming starts.

The suicidal are really attempting to go home, to adjust to a foreign environment. Depressed females are just remembering where they’ve come from. The schizophrenically lonely are really stranded aliens.

But there is no way to contact the Mothership. The Mothership can’t save her; it’s left through a time-warp too subtle to follow, towards a new universe unimaginably far away.

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 My Favorite Apocalypse.  Her poetry book, The Futurist’s Mistress, is available from mayapplepress.com. She used to work at Marvel Comics and is now working on a graphic novel.

This story was originally published in Space & Time magazine



“It might be meaningful,” says the bright-faced girl with the chai tea latte. “But it’s not art.”

Her sweater is striped in green and white. Her jeans are artfully ripped. (Pale knees sticking out from fraying holes as she sits with legs curled under her in an easy chair in the museum café.)

“It’s more like a thought experiment—”

Outside, the sleet quietly whispers against the windows, cold splotches of grey and white that dribble down the panes.

“But does that matter?” asks the boy with the iced green tea.

His hair is too long, shocked and fuzzy. His eyes are dark and serious. (An old orange sweatshirt stretched with familiarity, the sleeves pulled over his hands, curled into private fists.)

“Why can’t art sometimes just be an idea—?”

Unnoticed, I sit at their elbows. A disheveled bundle in a shapeless cloak, an old book with dusty pages raised mask-like before my face. But not reading— Listening, with both ears cocked to the students—

Ah, what is art! What is it? Like every one of their kind before them, they sit across from each other, questing for the ineffable— Just as two others sat once on either side of a fire, gesticulating and hooting at scratchings on a cave wall—

I was there too, in those shadows—

And I could tell everything, if I chose. Everything I know. Everything said on the subject, from then until now.

But there are rules that govern how I divulge the information I possess. Not laws of Heaven— Not laws imposed upon me from above—

“You’ve got the wrong end of the question,” says the middle-aged man with the tan sports coat and no tie.

He leans close over the easy chair, pushing the girl half across her seat. He looks down severely at the boy, a knowing smirk on his face. (Knowing? Yes, knowing—of the insides of books, of the insides of museums, of the insides of foreign countries—all surveyed from the same two eyes, each datum slotted reliably into the same one mind.)

“I’ve been coming here the past twenty years, and perhaps I can correct some of your errors—”

I still the hiss on my lips, the rattle in my throat. Almost unwillingly, I uncoil from my chair. The spell is broken now, and quotations and names begin to buzz in the air.

Yet, I was there too.

I was there when the words were new—when Aquinas and Abhinavagupta first tested their theories in the crucibles of talk! When Diderot and Duchamp molded their thoughts! When Kant and Schiller burned pages and pages of false starts!

Yet, still I would rather hear them from new lips, fumbling and half-formed, uncertain and unstudied— Not these arid quotations, memorized from books, century after century, as if engraved in stone.

Speak! Reason! Commit the errors again and again, each one anew!

But the man drones on, satisfied with the scope of his learning, smug in the accumulation of his facts. He doesn’t see me stand and move to his elbow, my cloak sweeping around me, swirled around the imperfect facsimiles of my bones, my skin, my eyes—

In thousands of years, I have never cut a perfect human figure.

But I am aware of it.

Aware, too, how icy my hand must feel as it closes around his shoulder. How frigid and fetid my breath must be against his cheek and ear, as I bend down to whisper in his ear—

He flinches! (Who can blame him?) He pulls away, but I pull him back— An equal and opposite force—

But not equal—not really. I am eternal. All-knowing. Yet still I would sit at the feet of a mayfly (alive for one day only!) if ever one appeared to have something to say—

Yes, eternal! All-knowing!

But still I wish to know more!

The students see me as nothing more than a smudge—nothing more than a passing stranger, who blinks across their awareness. They don’t see me grasp the man by his arm. Don’t see me bend down and put my lips to his ear.

What could I have to tell this man?

What could one such as I have to say to him?

There are rules that govern how I divulge the information I possess. (Information about every man, every woman, every sparrow, every spider! Every grain of sand, every mote of dust!)

They are not the laws of Heaven— Not laws that have been imposed upon me, from above—

But laws that I have written myself—

For the care and safe handling of inquisitive dust motes— Curious sparrows— Questing students— The authors of the echoes and reflections of my own Creation—

What I put into his ear is merely a puff. Merely the lightest dandelion seed of Revelation. But he falls away, stunned and pale, waves of my whisper reverberating in his ears. Deafened at last—

He falls away— He falls away—

There are rules that govern how I divulge the information I possess.

I do not break them often—


From the Editor’s Lair by Jennifer Brozek

With just a month left to go, I expect to see an uptick in submissions for EGM.Shorts. This means a slightly longer response time as open story slots dwindle into nothing. But fear not, this is not the end of fiction on the EGM website. A new call for submission is coming. Something bigger and better as we evolve. I should post about it by the end of the year. In the meantime, we have months of EGM.Shorts to entertain you with.
Thoughts about the slush pile:
1. Reminder: EGM.Shorts closes to submissions on Oct 31, 2015.
For October, we have some wonderful alternate world stories for you to enjoy.
     “The Information I Possess” by Matthew Bernardo
     “Alien Girl: From the 11TH” by Lorraine Schein
     “The Travelling Carousel” by Jamie Lackey
     “Opposites and All That” by Gerri Leen
     “Performing Arts” by Alison McBain
     “Birthing Fire” by Dantzel Cherry
     “The Rarest Cut” by Aeryn Rundel
You can read all of our previous flash fiction at the EGM.Shorts Archive page.

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