I’ve got a stack of stories either cooling their heels in the slush or pacing the halls of my laptop waiting for delivery of a few more words.  Here’s a glimpse of a few:

Spinning the Thread: a love story disguised as historical horror.

“He was quiet,” she said.  “Didn’t wake me until you got out of bed.  All I saw was your back until you were in the middle of the room, and then I saw him in front of you.  Him and the gun, and him whispering ‘keep walking.'”

You come see what you done, he’d hissed in his broken English, you keep walking, you bastard, and I show you what you done.  Those words echoed in that dark gap.

“I sat up,” she continued.  “The door was open, and I sat up and Janicki, he jumped like he’d been electrocuted.  I guess he hadn’t seen me there in the bed.”

He’d been staring, wild white-edged eyes to mine.  All he’d been seeing was what he’d wanted me to see, wherever he was taking me.

“He jumped, and the gun went off,” Bridie said.

I tried to lift my hand to my head, but her grip stopped me, those small fingers strong from the spinning.

“Could have blown my brains out,” I said.

“Oh, Billy,” she said in a voice not much louder than my own.  “He did blow your brains out.”

I closed my eyes again, shutting in the swirling stink of powder and blood and black anger.  The only words I could find in that dark were, “What, then?”

Bridie brushed my cheek with her fingertips, that could spin a lost child to finding or a grown man to fear.  “Then I caught them,” she said.

Tell the Bees: the mystery of Mel’s childhood is caught between the conflicting meanings of change and superstition.

There was silence then, or so Mel thought at first, and Pearse, never one for standing still, began to turn away.  But under the distant chittering of the birds and the wayward breeze, there was low rumble like a growling, and the hive quivered.  Mel thought of Cook in the moments before her hand struck out at some failing, and flinched.  Pearse stopped and turned a dry impatient eye to the hive.

A bee flew from the dark mouth of the hive as if spat; a straight line toward the garden.  A second one shot north toward the barley field, and then dozens, hundreds were fleeing the hive, spreading in all directions.

“They swarm,” Pearse cried.  “You’ve said it wrongly!”

“They’re na’ swarming,” Ralph said, come up quietly to lean on the broom a few yards back.  “Hive’s got two, three hundred hundred.  And it’s no swarm without the queen.  Try the words again, Mel.”

Mel looked to Pearse, who gave a sharp nod, and a frown for Ralph.  The gardener replied with his usual look of eroded amusement; the grounds and above all the bees were his keeping, and he had little fear of the butler.

“Mistress sweet, Mistress—”

Mel was stopped by a buzzing, not from the hive but all around, thick and rising in pitch; it was as if they had stumbled into a fog of sound.  Bees whizzed past ears and eyes, ruffled hair and sleeves, far more than had fled, all heading back to the hive.  Some entered, but most landed on the straw or the surrounding stone in a swirling carpet.

“They fetched the workers from the fields, is what,” Ralph said.  “Third time’s charmed, Mel.”

Pearse prodded Mel beck into place with sharp fingertips, a step or two closer than caution would advise.  The bees slowed their writhing dance as if waiting, antennae aloft and quivering.  The buzzing died down, the rumble once again audible.  ‘Attentive’ was the word for it, Mel thought.

“The words,” Pearse said, though quietly, as if he too felt the attention of the hive.

“Mistress sweet, Mistress sharp, the lord is dead—”

The bees exploded.

Lost Wax: Leena says, “Ah, but art improves on nature.”

Ma’am Roenard’s Cuttlefish Cabaret was back at the Court Theatre.  Nadin got tickets from one of his students—“have them, dear boy; we’re all a bit, what was your word… sated with the cephalopods”—and fluttered them in front of Leena’s face as she leaned over the tiny ball joint for what looked like a toe.  Her scowled annoyance melted to delight as she blinked the tickets into focus, and ten minutes later they were on the street grabbing finger pies and shave ice on their way to the theatre.

The show was not much changed from the last tour, but neither of them minded; they breathed in the briny air and sighed it back out as the swimmers spiraled in shifting colors.  “‘Sated with cephalopods,’” Leena muttered as the pas de duex began.  Nadin nudged her silent; she captured his elbow and gripped it tight as the great Sepiida traced the lines of his partner’s long arms and legs with tentacles of fleeting green and gold.

The Modesty of Bone: An accidental, absurdist revolution in a twilight city.

Though I imagine you have heard otherwise, it was not my idea to carry the table out the front door of the Bistro Indènt and across the square to place it under Pensencour’s cage.  Some accounts have me climbing on the table and making a frothy declaration of rebellion before the inspired patrons of the bistro lifted the table to their shoulders and paraded across the square, myself astride like an icon of the Blessed on a feast day.  But really, look at me.  I am an editor and a printer and at times of desperate need for copy, a writer; my shape is no more suited to climbing tables than my nature is to declaiming manifestos.  No, it was Leanore’s suggestion to bring the table to Pensencour, since he could not bring himself to the table.  Yes, that Leanore; she was the barmaid at the Bistro Indènt, by the way, and not the owner as that hack DeLinsk would have it.

It was, however, my idea to bring the fiddler along with us.

That evening was the third that Pensencour had passed in his cage.  Mind you, he had been known to go without food for days at a time when deep in his writing, and it was raining a little in the evenings, as is common in early spring;  the guttering oil lamps around the Plana at dusk revealed the caged prisoners with their heads back and mouths open, a hanging garden of ruddy night-blooming flowers.

More to come…

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