Kitty Sarkozy – Another Knight

Another Knight

by

Kitty Sarkozy

The dragon roared in challenge. A knight approached.

There was a time Princess Arianna would have rushed to the window to watch the knight defeat the beast, sure they would succeed. That was a dozen knights ago. Watching someone roasted attempting to rescue her was horrible. She knew what she’d see if she threw open the heavy velvet curtains: a shining knight upon valiant steed amongst a field of charred horses and dead heroes, facing the beast.

No reason for excitement. Hoping for rescue now would lead to depression in a few minutes. Best to focus on needlework. However, her heart, beating faster, never agreed with her mind.

The battle continued. This knight was a mighty soldier. ‘Twas a shame the realm would lose him. She’d write a ballad if she had a name and someone to listen to her sing it.

It’s hard to tell with dragons, but was that a roar of pain?

Unable to restrain herself, Arianna went to the window. With the curtains open, the acrid odour of dragon fire and stench of rotting meat intensified. There was a time when she would have gagged.

The knight was weaving among the rocks and bodies. She saw no horse, hoping it had fled to safety. This knight didn’t gleam. The armor was dull and mismatched — the breastplate black, the bracers rusted steel, and the helmet green with no plumes. Arianna couldn’t be sure from this distance, but the sword seemed red with blood. Was the dragon limping?

This was the longest fight yet. All the other knights faced the dragon head on, sword high.

This little knight hid from the dragon, throwing rocks to distract it, stinging when it turned.

Soon the dragon was chasing its tail like a puppy. Arianna laughed.

Could this knight defeat the dragon?

She gasped when the knight tripped, cheered when the dragon was pierced, felt faint with excitement as the battle raged on forever. Suddenly the dragon fell, its many-times wounded leg no longer able to support it. The knight was there, pushing the sword into its eye; blood gushed.

Dragon dead, the knight limped towards her tower.

Arianna was about to run to her saviour when she thought about what being saved meant. She belonged to the knight. None would question a knight’s right to marry a rescued princess. The knight would become King when her father died. Was the knight cruel? What if she became a prisoner in the palace as much as she’d been here?

Footsteps clanged on the stairs, then outside her door. The door opened, revealing the knight, motley armor dripping dragon’s blood. The knight removed the battered helmet, long damp black hair tumbling around her shoulders.

“Emma?” said Princess Arianna.

“Yes, my love,” whispered the knight.

Arianna ran across the room, throwing her arms around Emma, blood be damned.

“You? How? I can’t believe it! You came, you saved me!”

“Always, my love,” said Emma, baker’s daughter, kitchen maid, dragon-slayer.

 

Kitty Sarkozy is a speculative fiction writer, homesteader and tech support phone monkey living in Atlanta, GA. She has a rather unspecific set of not very useful skills, a plethora of hobbies, and too many pets. When not writing or answering calls, she stays entertained as a background actor and rogue. You can follow her adventures at kittysarkozy.com.
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Katy Lohman – Forbidden Means Nothing

Forbidden Means Nothing

By

Katy Lohman

Hallowe’en’s my favourite holiday. Months before October, I get my Hallowe’en Feeling, a chill, a readiness. Probably because the dead leave the Afterlife to visit, or haunt. I hadn’t seen any, yet. Boo. I loved to draw spooky things: graveyards, haunted manors and stormy landscapes. My favourite crayon was midnight blue, perfect for twilight skies.

My brother also loved all things Hallowe’en, especially monster masks. He asked for one starting at age five. Dad refused until Frankie was ten and was found reading H.P. Lovecraft. Defeated, he took us to Hawthorne’s Horror Haberdashery. Reading was always rewarded. It was perfect: a haunted house with goodies we could study or buy. Frankie got a green spiky fish monster with pop-eyes. I, more subtle, got a blue-faced phantom wearing a cowl.

Something felt different this year. My Hallowe’en Feeling was tingling my nerves overtime, and I had dreams of little men with red hats, leathery small humanoid beings with stubs of wings on their backs, and a vast kingdom of tiny doll people with swords. Frankie and I hid in the wine cellar to trade dreams and premonitions, and found we’d both dreamed of the smallfolk.

“This is the year, Rook,” I said, using his secret club name.

“The Neighbourhood?” he asked, voice aquiver.

“Oh yeah. We’re even stronger, now. We can easily evade.”

We did a high five, and broke for lunch.

Evening. The full orange moon loomed close in the night sky. Frankie and I let out howls of delight. Mom was giving out candy this year, so we nagged Dad to stop reading and take us trick-or-treating. He was embarrassing; instead of a costume, he wore a sweatshirt saying Hallowe’en Costume, saggy blue jeans, sneakers. We got our baskets, looked at each other, and sprinted.

“Hey!” Dad called out. “You’re too young…”.

We were too far away to hear the rest.

Downhill to the forbidden neighbourhood, a densely forested area that scared almost everyone. As an owl hooted, we snuck through the open gates.

It was Hallowe’en perfection. Every house, painted in rich dark colours, was surrounded by iron fences, had gargoyles and stained glass windows. One chimney breathed purple smoke. Another was exactly like the Addams Family house. Even the inside, we noted as we passed some windows. A stone house with three fireplaces was partly underhill, the yard a tangle of pretty weeds.

We went trick-or-treating down the whole road, screaming, “Trick or treat! Candy or mischief!” Laughing, adults in cool costumes gave us chocolate, pixy stix, candy fangs, gummy worms and more. Children raced around us, all fully hidden in their costumes. One snorted as s/he passed by, and Rook leaned against me to whisper, “He had tusks, Crow!”

I believed him. This neighbourhood felt different, dangerous with a thousand secrets and people who were not…human. The idea didn’t scare me; in fact, I felt a little high on this new energy. It made me feel wild, like I could do anything I wanted.

Last house was the one partly underhill. Rook looked creeped out, and my spine shivered. Slowly we walked down the driveway, towards a little man sitting halfway down the drive, beer resting on his pot-belly and an actual coffin full of candy by his side. He had a rough face with a long pointed-up nose, wore a dirty undershirt, suspenders, baggy green slacks, muddy sneakers, and a rusty-looking knit cap that seemed to be leaking. Weird.

He gestured for us to come closer.

“No fear,” Rook and I agreed. Holding hands, we went to stand before this…man?

As we came closer, he stood and put down the beer that smelled too coppery to be beer. “And who are you two supposed to be?” he asked.

“I am the Phantom of the Blue Isles!” I said in a hoarse voice.

“I am a Deep One,” Frankie gurgled, crooking his head so his neck looked broken.

“Well, now! Aren’t you two far from home?” We giggled. “Do you know what I am?”

“An English bloke who watches too much telly?” Rook guessed. The man roared laughter.

“Someone respected in this whole neighbourhood,” I guessed.

He studied me, brows lowered, before he said, “I’m a Redcap! Do you know what a Redcap is?” He bared three rows of jagged teeth, and laughed so loud, the owls and whippoorwills silenced.

“Fir Bolg,” I said, grinning. “The shock troops who scare all the Fey. You wield long scythes and dip your caps in the blood of your enemies.”

“Most every human knows to avoid this area. How dare you invade our privacy? You are now game to be hunted.”

A small troupe of children came slinking up, casting aside their costumes to reveal themselves as utterly smooth beings who looked like cherubs. They were drooling. And not kids. The leader had crow’s feet and fine silver hair. I knew we were supposed to run, get caught.

Instead, Rook bowed deeply. “Kind sir, forgive our intrusion. We’ll leave…”. In a crazed voice, he finished, “If you give us all your caaaandy!” He made the mask’s eyes bug out even more.

Well, when in Rome. I made my nails turn to claws, growling with mask fangs turned real. Let’s see if Redcaps could handle being hunted.

The Redcap jammed his big beaky nose in my armpit and sniffed. Then he sniffed Frankie. “Interesting,” he said. “I never thought magi would break taboo.” He yelled, “Pax, everyone.” To us, “You’re welcome back. Your neighbours ain’t.” He raised a finger. “Now, shoo.”

We ran, but we both vowed to go back on another night. We had to Know.

 

Katy Lohman is a quirky, rather queer fantasy/horror writer and artist whose favorite questions are “What if?” and “Why?” She writes about the fae, dangerous angels, gods, demons and Things That Must Not Be Named. When not writing or drawing, she can be found researching various topics, reading, taking online classes, rolling dice, building decks and exploring Chicagoland. She has short stories published in Ugly Babies 3 and 47-16: Short Fiction and Poetry Inspired by David Bowie, Volume II. Her favorite angel is Raphael, her favorite god is Enki and her favorite DC character is Wonder Woman.

JP Behrens – Sciophobia

Sciophobia

by

JP Behrens

“Don’t turn off the lights!”
The floor and ceiling illuminate the room to the point of blindness.
“Dorian, we’ve spoken about this. Shadows are not dangerous.”
“Mine are. Please, just leave me alone.”
“Now you know I can’t do that. Nothing is lurking in your shadow.”
The doctor stands up and moves to the door.
“I’ll prove it.”
He knocks twice.
The lights on the floor wink out. “See–”
Two glowing red eyes peer out of the shadow from behind the doctor. Blood splashes across the dimmed walls. Dorian sobs, wishing for the light to return before someone else comes in.

A storyteller most of his life, JP Behrens weaves intricate webs of bold-faced lies, some of them in the form of stories. Everything in one’s life is a learning experience, and he’s tried to learn from both wondrous successes and miserable failures. Though JP has managed to fib less often, he still tells the occasional exaggerated tale here and there. Some can be found in anthologies like Fairly Wicked Tales, O Little Town of Deathlehem, and Return to Deathlehem. He is currently working on two or three books.

Timothy Manley – My Baby is Home

My Baby is Home

by

Timothy Manley

Step, swing; the pick impacted the rock, sending shivers up the handle to their numb arms. The stench of tallow and black grimy sweat filled the air. Their heavy breaths came in gasps as the men worked with indifferent exhaustion. Forceful blows from hefty sledges drove spikes into solid stone, shattering fragments from their bed. Other miners scooped the broken shards up into carts while even more men dragged the carts out, pulled by thick, substantial ropes.

His name was Lethias and he was the largest man in the group, as strong as a horse, many said. He swung a pick too heavy for most to heft much less use, and could sheer stone with a single blow. He was the one to find it first. One of his blows broke through the rock too easily, and carved a hole through something, into an open darkness.

The men moved close, held their candles into the hole to see what was found. Flickering light danced across the broken shapes, summoning shadows of eerie form and figment. The light caught metal and the shine began to grow. The men’s eyes grew wide as they saw the room that began to be illumined before them. The walls were ceramic, covered with designs, and the glistening was given off by figures and statues made from solid gold and silver. Chests were everywhere. Glee began to fill the men, joy at the find, the possibility. Eager hands and tools dug with maniacal quickness and the men broke in.

Lethias was the first to rush and with a swift blow, crashed open the first chest. He stood dumb at what glittered inside: treasure the likes he had only heard about in fables. Frenzy engulfed the men. They fell upon the chests, tearing at them and ripping them open to find treasure, more amazing than the last; each laden with wealth beyond their dreams.

Then they came to the largest chest of them all: a massive box bound with iron chains across all sides. The men surrounded it, grinning at each other. Their lives had been made and they knew it. They were all rich.

“Equal shares,” Lethias said and held his hand out.

Each man nodded and clasped hands in the center above the giant chest. Then, with a nod, they fell to it, ripping at the chains with their tools. Certainly, the greatest treasure of all was inside. Grinning and giggling they lifted the lid.

#

Fog clung to everything. The road up to the mine vanished into a wall of fog, thicker than anyone could imagine. One man was chosen. He was in the lock-box for drunkenness but chosen for his gift of riding. It was known that he could ride like a man possessed and could get speed from a horse it didn’t even know it had.

The scraggly man was led to a fine horse, the best in town. He looked nervous. All the town’s leaders were there, except for Markil the Blacksmith. He had gone to the mine with his war-axe when the screams first were heard and the fog starting spewing from the gaping mine entrance. He never came back.

“You must travel as quickly as you can,” the mayor told the young man. He handed a scroll to him, placed it into his hands as if it were the most important thing in the entire village. “You must ride to the Seat of Tartaris and find help.” He looked away as his voice caught in his throat. “Please, before more be taken.”

The man nodded and climbed onto the horse. An elder woman handed him a wrapped parcel, kissed the fingers of her hand, then touched his stirrup.

The scraggly man’s face grew stern and filled with pride. “I will not fail you,” he said. He spun the horse, kicked its belly and galloped off.

“No time,” a grizzled old man said, watching the rider vanish into the forest as he sped out of town.

“We have time,” the mayor said sternly. “Tartarin watches over us, protecting us from evil.”

The old man turned and laughed, a low gravelly laugh filled with phlegm and knowing resignation, as he headed into the long-house.

The others followed; the old woman stayed alone whispering a prayer to Tartarin to speed the rider’s will and the horse’s hooves.

When she opened her eyes, she saw a figure in the fog. It had been standing there she knew not how long. Fear filled her only to be quickly replaced by joy. She recognized the figure. It was her son, Lethias, her baby boy. He hadn’t been lost in the mine afterall.

“My baby,” she said, and raised her arms to embrace him, her eyes filling with tears of joy and relief. The figure grinned, wicked jagged teeth glistening in the dim light, and rushed to her, its arms outstretched.

 

 

Timothy Manley is a writer of fiction, with four books and some short stories currently in print. Tim is what some call an ‘OG’, that’s ‘Old Geek’. He goes back in geekdom before the internet existed, which is what fed his early fascination in science fiction, fantasy, horror and the macabre. Tim currently lives at home with his wife and the youngest two (sometimes three) of his five kids as well as their dog and cat. If you want to see what Tim has in print feel free to check out his Amazon Author page (https://www.amazon.com/Timothy-Manley/e/B00MP5KEPY). If you’d like to keep tabs on Tim and find out when his next book is due to come out, feel free to like his Facebook Author’s page (https://www.facebook.com/SciFiWriterMan/). Here’s a hint, he often recruits BETA readers amongst those following him on his Facebook Author’s page.

Steve Pease – A Growing Imagination

A Growing Imagination
by

Steve Pease

Simms is a closer; been around the block. I’m the rookie, and the home crowd has lost hope. But … hey … this is the home of the Blue Jays; the place my Dad brought me up.
I smash Simms’s fast ball out of the park.

Dylan steps away from the microphone and smiles. I launch into a blistering solo. In the audience, Beck and Satriani shake their heads in awe and disbelief.

“Enough,” sighs a still-glowing Helen. “You are, without any doubt, one in a thousand.”
As I watch the sun set over the Aegean, I admit that I’m a little proud of myself.

Outside room 306 of The Lorraine, it’s 6.01 pm, April 4.
“Look out!” I shout.
And, as a startled Martin straightens, the bullet thuds harmlessly into the balcony wall.
That night, I have a dream.

Back in England, it’s State against worker. The battle-lines of Orgreave will dictate the next forty years. As the networks capture the conviction and passion of my rhetoric, I outline my vision for a very different future. They relay it to millions.
I believe in the power of television.

The press conference is the biggest the world has ever seen. And the three of us are bone-weary from the days and weeks of negotiation. But, as Palestinian and Israeli lean together to sign the two-state accord, we are also elated. This time, we think, this time.

This morning she seems a little tired, maybe a little sharp. But I don’t consider any response beyond coffee and a kiss. I’ve never uttered a thoughtless or hurtful word. Never doubted us. Never looked at another woman. I’m never irascible, never tired, never drunk.
I love, unconditionally and selflessly. My wife doesn’t pay it any mind; it is all that she has ever known.

You look me in the eye, and say, “You are mad with grief, and more than a little crazy.”
“No, no,” I reply, returning your gaze. “I’ve been researching quantum mechanics, the universal wave function. All possible alternate histories and futures are real. It makes perfect sense.”

My daughter survives beyond two weeks. I never shed those tears. Not one.

 

 

Steve Pease once had a ‘proper job’, drafting press-releases and briefings for British politicians. He argues, rather convincingly, that this was an ideal apprenticeship in writing fantasy. These days, he and his wife enjoy an idyllic lifestyle – walking their dogs by the River Derwent in Northern England.

Steve’s story “White Lies, Black Lies” featured on Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction in October 2017. His work has also appeared on Canada’s Digital Fiction Publishing; in the U.K. sci-fi/fantasy magazine “The Singularity”; in Volumes 1 & 2 of Canadian anthology “47-16: Short Fiction & Poetry Inspired by David Bowie”, and – in the USA – in Fantasia Divinity’s “Distressing Damsels” anthology.

Susan Bianculli – Visiting Hours

Visiting Hours

by

Susan Bianculli

Mary sat on her green living room couch with a wrapped present on its wooden coffee table, waiting. It was a surprise for her son, Saul, who was due to visit after school. The minutes always seemed to go by so slowly when she waited for him. During the rest of the day the hours flew while she kept herself busy, but when 3:30 pm rolled around she stopped whatever she was doing to get ready. The one occasion she’d lost track of the time, Saul had come before she’d had the chance to get her place cleaned up. That had ended up being a rather traumatic visit. Mary never wanted a repeat of that, so she always paid close attention to the clock now.

Slam! Her front door opening and closing loudly made her wince and rub her temples.

“Mom! Mommy? Where are you?”

She jumped up and ran to meet him in the tiled foyer to envelope him in a hug and kiss. “How’s my boy today?”

He kissed her cheek. “Fine, Mom. Fine. How’re you?”

“Happy to see you. Also, I have something for you!”

“What is it?” he asked eagerly.

Mary led her son into the living room, and he whooped with pleasure when he saw the package. He tore into it with little boy gusto.

“Mom! This is the latest Connectorix building set – the space station one! How did you know?” he asked gleefully.

“I saw your father last night and he told me about it. So I decided to have it here when you came to see me today,” she replied with a smile.

“You’re the best Mommy ever! Although I wish your house looked more like ours.” Saul looked with faint disapproval around her vintage parlor.

Mary said quietly, “I feel more comfortable here, that’s all. This is the house that I grew up in.”

A cloud must have passed overhead outside, because the sunlight streaming in the windows dimmed for a moment.

“I’m sorry, Mommy!” said Saul, jumping up to hug her. “I didn’t mean it. Let’s build, okay?”

She smiled as the cloud moved on. The two of them spent the afternoon building the set, but they weren’t finished by the time the doorbell rang.

“No. I don’t want to go!” said Saul stubbornly. “We’re not done!”

Mary kissed him. “It’s okay, honey. I promise that this will remain exactly as it is until you come back tomorrow.”

“Promise?”

She held out a pinky to him. “Promise.”

He grinned and hooked his pinky finger with hers. The bell sounded again.

Saul got up. “Okay, Mommy. See you tomorrow!”

He went to the front door, yanked it open, and Mary winced as he slammed it behind him again.

*

Saul took the computer jack out of his skull and held it out to the man standing beside him. “Hi, Daddy!”

Steven smiled as he took it and coiled the jack with its lead on top of the VR machine. It, in turn, was connected to the special hospital bed that held his wife’s unconscious body in their modern bedroom. Mary had been in a coma in the waking world for the last three years, but the VR machine was able to keep her connected to their family.

“Hi, son. How was your visit with Mom?” He ruffled Saul’s fair hair.

“Great! She said that you told her about the space station building set!”

“I did. Shall I tell her how much you liked it when I visit her tonight?”

“Can’t I come then, too?” Saul wheedled.

“Saul, you know the doctors said that she can only have one person at a time in her mind – that’s why you see her after school, and I see her after you’re in bed,” Steve admonished lightly. “Now come on, it’s time for us to have supper.”

Saul ran out of the room while Steven followed more slowly, the smile drooping away as he glanced back over his shoulder at his comatose wife.

“I only wish it would be time for you to come and have supper with us, too,” he whispered to her before gently closing their bedroom door.

 

Susan Bianculli, a happily married mother of two, has loved to read all her life. Fairy tales from collections like The Yellow Fairy took her to magical places when she was young; and Fantasy and Sci-fi stories took her to places such as Middle Earth and Dune in her teens. A graduate of Emerson College with a Minor in Writing, she is the author of the 4 book Young Adult e-series The Mist Gate Crossings: Prisoners of the KeepBascom’s RevengeDescent Underearth, and The Long, Dark Road. She has also written 3 prequel novellas to it, and has appeared in other anthologies. To see what else she’s written, check out her website: www.susanbianculli.wix.com/home

Scott Hughes – A Goblin’s Lament

A Goblin’s Lament

By

Scott Hughes

Every day I watch for the red-haired girl who visits the brook near my cave to wash her family’s linens. I never let her see me.

One day she does. She doesn’t scream. Her eyes brim with pity at my wretched countenance. She smiles to tell me to come over, so she can touch my grotesque face, perhaps. To show me she’s not afraid, not repulsed—that even a vile creature can be loved.

But I snarl my fiercest goblin snarl, and off she flees. It’s easier for us both to live in a world disgusted by its own monsters.

 

Scott Hughes’s fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in Crazyhorse, One Sentence Poems, Entropy, Deep Magic, Carbon Culture Review, Redivider, PopMatters, Strange Horizons, and Compaso: Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology. For more information, visit writescott.com.

Gregg Chamberlain – Bargain Offer

Bargain Offer

by

Gregg Chamberlain

FOR SALE: Doomsday device. Mint condition. Never used. Independent virtual simulation test results report available. Best offer takes it. No cheques. Cash or equivalent in bullion or secure government-certified bonds. Serious inquiries only. truevil@Evil.com.

 

Gregg Chamberlain lives in rural Eastern Ontario with his missus, Anne, and a clowder of cats who allow their humans the run of the house. His story, “Courtesy”, appeared on Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction in 2017.

Susan Murrie Macdonald – The Kissing Bridge

The Kissing Bridge

By

Susan Murrie Macdonald

Megan Buckman glanced around, delighted by the sights, sounds, and smells that surrounded her. She had never been to a Renaissance Faire before. She’d wanted to go for years, but her ex-husband had always insisted that RenFaires were too expensive.

“Mama, look!” Seven-year-old Jessica ran off to the harper.

“Wait up, Jessie.” Megan followed her daughter. They listened to the harper for a few minutes. There was so much to see and do here; it almost overwhelmed the senses. All the beautiful costumes, the smell of turkey legs and sandalwood fans and flowers. And the music! Harpers, fiddlers, singers. An hour ago, she hadn’t known what a hurdy-gurdy was. Now she had a hurdy-gurdy CD tucked into her purse. “If I can’t get a story out of this,” she started to tell Jessie, but the girl ran off before Megan could finish her sentence.

“Look, Mama, the plumber!”

Megan looked where Jessie was pointing. Standing in front of a booth was a Little Person in Faire garb. Normally, she was bad with names and faces, but she recognized him because of his height. He was their plumber.

He doffed his feathered hat with a bow. “Good morrow, my ladies.”

Megan glanced at the booth, and found it was full of artwork. “Oh, this is lovely.”

“Gramercy, my lady.”

“You did these?”

He nodded.

She looked at the paintings. “Talent like this, and you spend your time fixing stopped up pipes and clogged toilets?”

“Alas, my lady, I earn greater recompense from the mending of other people’s privies than from my art.” His blue eyes twinkled. “Starving in a garret is highly overrated.”

“But this is gorgeous.”

“Everyone admires, few buy.”

“Mama, these ones are just like the beginning of Beauty and the Beast.” Jessie showed her a series of paintings, all painted to look like stained glass windows. They were scenes from various fairy tales.

“That’s where I swiped the idea from,” he confessed.

“This would be perfect for St. Margaret.” At his upraised eyebrow, she explained, “I write children’s books. I’m working on a biography of Margaret of Scotland. This would be perfect for it. And frankly,” she sighed, “I wasn’t happy with the illustrator the publisher assigned to my last book. Is there any chance you’d be interested in collaborating?”

“What was your last book?” he asked.

Unicorn Beach.”

He nodded. “I bought a copy for my niece. The unicorns looked like draft horses.” He thought a moment. “Have you eaten yet?”

“No, not yet.”

“Shall we discuss this over lunch?” When she nodded, he called to the man at the neighboring tent, “Hey, Tom, watch the booth for a bit. I’m going to lunch.”

“Aye, Darryl.”

“Darryl Phillips, at your service.”

“Megan Buckman.” A line from Tolkien popped into her head, and she added, “’At yours and your family’s.’”

He smiled up at her, recognizing the allusion. He led the way to the food stands. “I hope you’ll let me buy. I get a discount.”

They had to cross a wooden bridge to get there. Flowers adorned the bridge, and several teenagers in Faire garb sat on the railings.

“Kissing bridge, kissing bridge,” they called.

“What’s a kissing bridge?” asked Jessie.

“‘Tis a toll bridge, fair maid. One pays to cross the bridge like so.” Darryl took Megan’s hand and gently kissed it.

“That’s not a kiss,” called out a young man dressed like an Elizabethan lord. He grabbed the wench next to him. She joined him in a passionate lip-lock. In a bad Australian accent, he said, “That’s a kiss.”

#

Two years later, Megan and Darryl had produced four books together, and were working on a fifth. He had introduced her to musicians she had never heard of: Glenn Morgan and Livy Delafield, Golden Bough and Wild Oats. She introduced him to ‘30s and ‘40s black and white Hollywood movies. He introduced her to Chinese food. She’d never had it before, because her ex-husband didn’t like it. She rescued him from meals that went from the freezer to the microwave to the table (all without ever leaving the box). At first, he came to dinner once a month, then once every few weeks, and now he came over for dinner two or three times a week. He’d become the closest friend she’d ever had. And on summer weekends when her ex had Jessie, she helped him at his RenFaire booth.

“Look, a dwarf!” A girl about three or four ran into the booth, and her parents ran after her.

While her parents admired the artwork, she turned to Megan and asked, “Are you Mrs. Dwarf?”

“Alas, sweet damsel, I am not.” Megan sighed melodramatically. “He waits for his own true princess, and will not so much as glance at a sundial to give me the time of day.”

Puzzled, the girl stared up at her while her parents laughed. Darryl merely looked at her.

After they had bought a painting and left, Darryl said. “Time for a break.”

“I’ll watch the booth.”

“You need a break, too.” He led her toward the food vendors, but stopped at the kissing bridge. He pulled himself up onto the railing, so their heads were level. “Was that just Faire flirtation back there? Or were you telling the truth with that alas?”

Megan hesitated. “I didn’t want to risk ruining a good partnership – and more importantly, a good friendship – by getting what Jessie would call ‘all mushy’ on you.”

He reached over and kissed her. “Who says you’d be ruining anything?”

 

Susan Murrie Macdonald is a freelance proofreader and copy editor.  She has also written a children’s book, R is for Renaissance Faire, and several short stories which have appeared in Alternative Truths, Heroic Fantasy Short Stories, Bumples, and Sword and Sorceress.  She has written over 100 articles for Krypton Radio. You can check out her blog, Assorted Scribblings of a Minor Author, follow her on Twitter @WriterMacdonald, or visit her website, Susan Murrie Macdonald: Wordsmith for Hire.  

Norm Roberts – Hard Times

 Hard Times 

By Norm Roberts

I knew the economy was bad, but I never thought it was as terrible as it is turning out to be.  Everyone has heard of someone who has been laid off or has had to take a cut in the hours they work or the pay they get. Yes, the hard times are here for a lot of people. It seems that even Santa Clause has been affected by the economic downturn.  Really, when you think about it, Santa has had to change with the times like everybody else.  First it was outsourcing gift-giving: Parents, then e-bay, and on to Amazon. Santa and the reindeer are doing a lot less of the deliveries these days also, what with the UPS and FedEx and the other couriers helping out.

Surely, all that outsourcing must cost extra for the jolly old elf.  Just last week I went to do some Christmas shopping and what should I see:  Kris Kringle employed at a store.  But not to sit and listen to the little ones’ wishlists. Nope, he was pushing the floor cleaning machine.  Up and down the aisles he went, stopping every time he spotted a child, to wish them a Merry Christmas and hand them a candy cane.  Oh, how times have changed when Santa has to get a part-time job to make ends meet.

Hard times, indeed.