24
Jun

The Author is Dead

Sebastian knew from the moment he threw his lance that it would find its target. He felt it radiating through his bones down from the tips of his fingers as it left his grasp. Even without the blessing that the old crone had placed upon it, he knew its path was true; her spell upon it just made it shimmer as it soared through the air, humming truth before striking hard in its new home: the heart of the Bandit King.

He fell to his knees first, his arms spread wide as though he was shocked, as though he was preparing to throw his arms down in surrender. When his sword and pistol fell from his hands, though, it was because his hands had gone still. The Bandit King would only surrender in death, Sebastian knew, and that was why it had to end like this. When he slumped backward he was held from falling fully prone by the end of the lance where it had passed fully through him. He died that way, pierced to the earth with palms bare and eyes open upwards to whatever gods would take him above.

The bandits that had come with him to battle were already dispersing, cowards now that their King had fallen. Sebastian raised a hand to hold his own retinue back and walked across the space between them, along the line his lance had sailed through the air. He stopped in front of the Bandit King’s body and laid a hand on the hilt of the lance. He tightened his grip upon the lance for a moment and then released it and turned back to his men.

“Let no one take him from this spot,” he called out, voice echoing loud enough that even the retreating bandits had to hear him. “Let him be covered with vine and leaf, let the elements take him until there is nothing left, and let this lance stay buried in the earth as a reminder to those who would attempt villainy against the barony, to those who would aim to sully the pure and noble,” he closed his eyes and put a hand over his heart, thinking of the princess and how her safety now was assured, “to those who would steal and rob and sow discord and fear among an innocent populace. Let those who would do ill here see what becomes of such: righteousness will finish you, and you will be swallowed up by the land that bore you.”

Silence hung in the air after he spoke, not even the birds willing to sing against him. Sebastian looked at the Bandit King, at how pale his face was now. He took the medal from his chest, the one he bore from when he still served in the Baron’s army, before he’d shown himself a traitor. Sebastian looked at it in his hand, saw it to be old and tarnished. “It could have been different for you,” he said, and shook his head sadly. “It could have been so different.” He held the medal tight in his palm, feeling its proud symbols press into his flesh, and turned on his heel to begin the journey home.

The Bandit King remained, blue eyes staring upward, unblinking forever more.

Robin let out a slow breath and stared at his laptop screen. “Well, that’s that,” he said to his empty apartment.

“…Shit,” he said, some five minutes of staring later, and made himself hit ‘save.’

29
Apr

Complicated Creation

Omar had sighed the moment he unzipped the body bag and saw the young man’s pale, placid face. You became very inured to the realities of death and mortality very quickly in this job (or you did not keep this job for very long), but it always gave him a little twinge to lay a body on the slab that had been younger than him. Although, what was the line you heard from men in nasty mid-life crises? You got older, but the corpses stayed the same age. Something like that.

He thought things like that, but what he said into the recorder as he began the examination was, “Colin Stafford, white male, age twenty-seven, height sixty-nine inches, weight one hundred ninety-two pounds.” The name and the age had been retrieved from the driver licence that had been in the wallet that was now in a plastic bag in a locker waiting for whenever they found this poor kid’s next of kin. The driver’s license had also said he was 5’10, but Omar had proper measuring instruments. Sometimes bodies shifted a little in size immediately post-mortem, but Omar had seen enough to know that 5’9 was exactly the height where men put on a slightly taller pair of shoes and lied at the DMV. The shoes he’d taken off of the former Mr. Stafford’s feet and put into a locker had just enough of a heel to them.

“Police report indicates time of death at around 11:30 AM. Current time is 3:17 PM. Subject was found collapsed in a grocery store and was unable to be revived by paramedics. Concern that COD is infectious disease.” Everyone liked to get The Stand ideas in their heads every time a seemingly healthy young person keeled over, all thoughts that swine bird cat flu was coming to fell us all in the produce aisle. Omar had protective gear covering his face, as he always did, but he didn’t think he was dealing with patient zero, here. People died. Unexpectedly. Even young handsome ones.

25
Mar

Poor Unfortunate Soul

When the water closed over Delphine’s head, she felt not fear, but anger. The sea was dark and swirling around her, and she was dazed from the impact of her body on the waves and could not right herself to find the surface again, no matter how hard she kicked her legs. She kept the air in her lungs despite wanting nothing more to let it out in a torrent of curses. Damn the storm, damn her crew, and damn herself the most for being tossed out over the prow.

25
Feb

Alive or Dead

You couldn’t tell the latest generation of automata from human beings. That was common knowledge, so common in fact it was on the books as law in some countries. No disclosure required, and in any case, terribly rude to ask. You still found many of them working in the arts, hitting perfect-pitched notes and playing instruments with virtuosity, but the telltale markers of thirty or forty years ago were long gone. Your girlfriend with the perfect body and the strange light eyes was just as likely to have paid to have those features added to her flesh and blood body as she was to have had them built into her by equally mechanical hands. What was the point of trying to tell, anyway? It didn’t matter anymore.

Saif didn’t need to ask, though; he always knew. Even after all this time. He rested his forearms on the edge of the opera box and leaned forward, closing his eyes and tilting his head down over all the space between him and the orchestra below. The lead soprano, with her spirals of burnt honey hair and simply spectacular breasts, she was entirely human; the baritone singing opposite her, however, belting out profound notes from deep within his mighty beard, he was wires and circuits beneath his skin. Saif could keep himself occupied with this game for the entirety of the performance; he honestly found it a more interesting diversion than opera itself. But rituals were rituals and promises were promises. Even though his date was late, and more than just in his usual fashionable manner.

17
Dec

Everything living tries to get back to the soil

MARCH 7, 2012

Abraham wiped a bit of horseradish out of his beard with a paper napkin he’d swiped from some fast food joint or another. He had established quite a hoard of ill-begotten paper goods over the years, along with sugar packets, condiments, and other easily pocketed items, before he’d discovered the power of buying in bulk. Eating a roast beef sandwich didn’t merit breaking into the stash of the good stuff, though, so his crumbs were caught with stolen goods.

He took another bite and clicked on another random YouTube video. He’d started somewhere an hour or so ago with something he’d actually specifically intended to watch, but the internet being what it was and all, he’d lost time and all memory of where he’d started, and was now watching a man in a car giving a review of food he’d gotten at Arby’s. Good napkins, Arby’s.

29
Oct

Triune

The scrabbled grass and damp earth had not yet seen battle today, but it had felt the tear of war-boots upon it many times since spring’s dawning, felt the scars of swords’ dropping to it, bore the bruises of mens falling on their knees upon it. Sir William kept a hand on the hilt of his own blade as he looked out over it. He knew in his heart that the earth would taste blood once more before the sun settled, but as yet he drew in breath, tasted the air that was warming as the height of the year came upon the world, he savored these few moments of peace. He had not yet had to draw his sword against another warrior in any of the constant skirmishes as of yet, but he knew that his time would come. He would be ready. He could fight with honor and serve his king with pride. He would lay his life on the line, he–

“You look hot.”

27
Aug

Consequences of the New York City Smoke-Free Air Act of 2002

He had a thing about rooftops. For a couple of years in there, he had gotten anxiety just looking at a ladder, but now as a grown adult man with a couple of years of therapy under his belt, he found himself hauling up to hang with the HVAC systems surprisingly often. Admittedly, the main impetus for getting over his hangup was the perpetual rooftop parties thrown by a dude he’d desperately wanted to hook up with a few years ago, but you had to take the motivation where you could get it. Making out with that dude as the sun set over Manhattan had worked like magic, really.

That dude was just history now, and as Dante staggered up through his mid-twenties and into his late-twenties and terrifyingly closer to thirty, his opportunities to go to rooftop parties with sexy hipsters were ever dwindling. He’d climb up to his apartment building’s rooftop from time to time to write, but most of his upper-storey time was spent on top of the school he taught at, lurking behind the ventilation so he could smoke without anyone getting on his case and without being a bad influence to the children.

He could hear the children, out at recess in the small amount of field the school managed to claim in Brooklyn. For the amount of tuition their parents paid, damn right they were going to a least get a swingset. His own class was down there knocking each other into the dirt, but it was happily not his day to supervise the insanity, so rooftop it was. He wouldn’t say he hated his job, but he also wouldn’t say that getting a nicotine infusion into his brain didn’t help get him through the afternoon.

25
Jun

On Earth My Nina

Jonathan Crowe @birdsinmybeard
Yesterday was not the first time I told someone I was an ornithologist and they thought I meant orthodontist, but I can pray it is the last.

Pen Hamilton @pen_ham
@birdsinmybeard It’s ’cause you got such beautiful chompers!

Pen Hamilton @pen_ham
I’m thinking: braces for birds — “Your smile will be im-pecker-ble!”

Jonathan Crowe @birdsinmybeard
@pen_ham I’m confiscating your phone.

Pen Hamilton @pen_ham
@birdsinmybeard Come and get it, chickadee.

23
Apr

Five Times Roland Mars Didn’t Hook Up With His Partner (and One Time He Did)

Honestly, I was only half-interested in the dead body. I could see the basic shape of the crime from twenty paces away — looked like a robbery gone sour, definitely something more complicated than that — but I was much more interested in the detective standing near the body. It’d been a long time since I’d seen anyone like him, too damnably long. He had a shine to him, a glow that came from the center of him, white and pure, crackling on the edges. I’d seen a lot of people in my time, but not enough like him — and definitely not enough cops.

I got close enough to the scene of the crime to see him more than just his light, focusing my eyes past the layers of the world I was so bloody blessed to see to get a look at his regular face, and my, oh my, he was a special one. Having an innate core of goodness, oh, that was lovely, of course, but that face? I’d have to ask Chief Martinez if there’d been a change in hiring quotas, some city-wide push to get more incredibly handsome fucks on the force. A good plan, definitely — I was already feeling a heightened enthusiasm for murder-solving.

19
Mar

Big Name Fan

From: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Subject: interested in an interview?

Hello, there. My name is Bailey Callendar, and I’m a writer currently working for Magpie — we sort of fall under the “ladyblog” category, but we’re a bit more diverse than that. I’m working on a story right now about slash fiction, and I’m interested in interviewing a few of the more prominent and prolific authors. I promise this isn’t going to be a “oh, aren’t those girls so weird and cute with their little fan stories” sort of hit piece I’ve seen around; I want to get a good survey of the culture and open it up to our readers. Your name’s come up a lot with some of the people I’ve already been talking to, and I’d love to get your input. I’d just like to ask you a few things about your history with slash, your involvement in fandom, that sort of thing. Please let me know if you’re interested, and if not: happy writing!

20
Feb

Sliced

“Chef Kassa, you have been sliced.”

19
Dec

The Black River Rises

The first thing Fran saw when he rode into the keep was not the river, or the bridge, but the dogs. There were dozens of them, thick-coated white and grey beasts that could almost be wolves if not for the way so many of them stayed matched with the men in the yard, staying in pace just behind their heels. They roamed free, too; Fran passed a cluster of them tussling on the summer snow and biting at each other’s ruffs like pups. One approached him when he dismounted his horse, coming close to sniff and pace beside him. Fran’s father kept hounds for hunting, so he was familiar enough with what they wanted. He extended a hand for the dog to smell.

“Already looking to lose a hand so soon?” came a voice from beside him, just as the dog began to bare its teeth. Fran pulled his hand away and took a step back. A man approached him then, tall, with a thick red beard, wearing a heavy white furred cloak. “Kljova likes to greet our guests.” He made a quick, sharp noise and gestured at the dog, and it dipped its head and turned to lope away. “But you aren’t a guest. You’re the GaraĊĦanin boy.”

“I am,” Fran said. “My name is Franjo.” He offered up a small smile. “Fran.” The man did not smile back.

24
Oct

El Presidio Rides North

I was absolutely certain I was going to die, and it was because I’d wanted to wash my hands. The last thought that was going to go through my head was going to be that I could have lived a long and happy life if I’d just been satisfied with that bottle of hand sanitizer. And the worst part of it was that I’d die getting my hands dirtier, what with how the zombie I was trying to wrestle off of me was covered in dirt and that undefinable zombie sludge that they seemed to create. I’d hoped it wouldn’t end like this, in a Wendy’s bathroom, while I still needed to pee.

22
Aug

Taylor the Demon Hunter

Really, it was the unicorn’s fault.

19
Jun

East

Twenty minutes in to American History class, Bethany Morrison poked him in the elbow and passed him over a folded up piece of notebook paper. He unfolded it and found, written in Liev’s familiar angular but neat scrawl, the words: “‘My name is Chris and I am a bitch.’ Check a box below to indicate true or false.” Beneath that were two boxes, both helpfully labeled ‘true.’ Chris looked over his shoulder to Liev, the next row over and two seats behind. Liev gave him a little ‘what’s up’ nod and smirked.

Chris gave him the finger from underneath his armpit, and took his pen to mark both boxes with big black X’s.