Fantasy, General Fiction, Humour, Short Fiction

The Riddle of the billigits by Leila Allison

Meet the Hammy Dodgers

The crystal ball on my desk flashed red. This happens whenever the Witch HeXopatha (nee “Hezopatha”) wants to pee in my lager.

HeXopatha is an immortal Wiccan. She has been around for thousands of years and will continue to be around for however long it takes for her to get bored with the world and retire permanently to Hell–but I don’t count on that happening soon. Once upon a time the “peasants” might have been able to do something about HeXopatha, but her skill level has risen beyond river tossing and the pyre. In fact it is a bad idea to mention such previous activities in HeXopatha’s presence; nor is it advised to claim to be of “Puritan stock,” unless you enjoy long hours in pillory stocks.

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All Stories, Fantasy, General Fiction, Historical, Horror, Humour, Short Fiction

Franky And Jesus by Hugh Cron (Warning – Very strong adult content with what some would find blasphemous references. Do not read if you are likely to be offended.)

For my sister Tracy – Happy birthday and I know that your mind will be elsewhere. Hope this cheers you up a wee tad.

Continue reading “Franky And Jesus by Hugh Cron (Warning – Very strong adult content with what some would find blasphemous references. Do not read if you are likely to be offended.)”
All Stories, Fantasy, General Fiction

The Locust Seller by Andrew Yim

Don’t believe a word I say.  I am just the bastard daughter of a Persian courtesan, a lower city locust seller who says little but hears everything.  Like these ancient walls of Jerusalem that surround me like a skin, I don’t believe in Gods or prophets.  I’m just a cast-off, half breed who spends her days cooking locusts for your pleasure.  I am nothing. 

***

He appeared in the market just before the Spring equinox.   My mother called it Nowruz, the Persian New Year.  But besides the honey cake with candied quince we ate for breakfast, the day was like any other in the brothel that was my home.  The Hebrews called it Passover and the Romans, like most every day, called it an opportunity to drink and whore.

From my perch, between the Egyptian weaver’s tapestries and rows of Galilean fish mongers, I observed the market preachers, with their grand  prophecies and revelations.  But they were only a distraction from my sore hands and back, the toil of locusts and boiling water.

The first day he spoke, the market was abuzz with stories of his miracles; water into wine,  the dead brought back to life.  Bastet, the Egyptian weaver who sat next to me, laughed as he took a locust from my pile.

“Nothing new in this world, Qimiya, My gods are seldom forgiving or loving.”  Few knew me by my given, Persian name. Qimiya, the alchemist.

In the quirky Aramaic of the Nazareans, he promised victory of good over evil, life over death.  The same as the Zoroastrian prayers my mother whispered after a day whoring for the high priests and senators.  Empty promises to trick the meek and gullible. 

The next morning I saw him wandering alone through the market. As he approached, I noticed sleepless shadows around his eyes and a tremor in his right hand. I offered him a locust. He refused.  He was fasting, he said in apology.

“You wear the amulet of the Faravahar, the Zoroastrian god of fire. Tell me of your god.”

“It is only a memory of my mother.  I know no gods or faith.” I noticed fresh scars on his forearms, as if lashed by palm, then asked him about his miracles. He looked up from examination of my locusts.

“My friends fear the people will not understand. Won’t feel the spirit in my words. So they tell these tales.”

When he preached that day the crowd was large and unsettled. His tremor stopped as he spoke of justice, peace, and mercy. I saw Quintus, the Roman agent who visited the brothel where I still slept. In search of sedition or rebellion, Quintus cast his restless, baleful eyes round the crowd. The courtesans despised Quintus and his repulsive arrogance.

“The crowd will turn, the Romans will destroy him,” Bastet commented. His cynicism annoyed me. I thought to comment on his illicit trade. Denied by commandment the death masks of the Romans, the high priests came to him in grief after death of wife or mistress. With gold in hand, they beseeched him to make taboo images of the dead with his flax linen. It was an ancient Egyptian art his grandfather had taught Bastet, before his exile to Judea.

The Nazarean came to talk each morning, our words like ripples in calm but rising sea.  Each hesitation seemed a sorrow, each pause a yearning.

Yearning and sorrow became desire, desire like desert flower in morning dew, fearful of midday sun.

When he left to preach, I heard my mother warn, as she cried herself to sleep. “Trust no one, Qimiya. We are alone.”

The fifth night of that week I dreamt of my mother, leading me across Babylonian plains to her village in eastern Persia, near the base of the great Pamirs. I woke to the groans and cries of the brothel and heard Quintus talking with his harlot.

“The crowds are too large.  Pilate is in bad temper at mention his name. He must be silenced. We’ll arrest him tomorrow.”

I ran to the parlor where the courtesans gathered to rest and gossip. I asked where the Nazarean might be.
“Gesthemane,” one replied. “They say he goes to the garden to pray at night.”

I walked past three disciples, sleeping at the gate, and found him pacing as he prayed. He turned to me as I approached.

“I know Qimiya, I know it all.  I am terrified.”

“You know nothing,” I cried.

I had a vision of a simple life we might lead, far away from this corrupt city.  As I described the vision a tear ran down his cheek. We sat in silence on a wooden bench beneath an olive tree and watched Jerusalem turn its dusky walls to dawn.

Don’t believe their tales. When they nailed him to the cross, his disciples fled from Golgotha in fear of Quintus and his agents. His mother could not bear the sight of his agony. Only I stood at the cross, assuring him he was not alone as his blood soaked the cypress wood. His cries reached Herod’s castle. Then suddenly there was only the sound of rain on mud and stone.

After they took him from the cross I knelt by his body, as if to nurse him back to life, then followed the gentle merchant and his servants as they took him to the tomb. I could not bear the thought that someday memory of him would fade and disappear. I ran to the market and begged Bastet to preserve his image. Just before they rolled the boulder back to close the tomb, Bastet threw the linen across his body.

On the eve of each spring equinox, I take the shroud from my mother’s silver box.  I look into his eyes as I caress his linen cheeks. I allow myself to cry and gasp in grief as I place it back and lock the box. My heart again is stone, crumbling slowly into dust.

Andrew Yim

Image – Wikicommons – public domain. Shroud of Turin

All Stories, Fantasy, Short Fiction

Small God Syndrome by Leila Allison

Part One

Gwen Cooper, the volunteer Weekend Caretaker at New Town Cemetery, was raking leaves one fine autumnal Saturday morn’, singing a groovy song first heard on The Brady Bunch called Sunshine Day:

“I just can’t stay inside all day

I gotta get out, get me some of those rays

Everybody’s smilin’ (sunshine day!)

Everybody’s laughin’ (sunshine day!)”

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All Stories, Crime/Mystery/Thriller

Manhattan and Gibson by Rachel Sievers

My fingers glide over the white and black of the piano keys. The tune, a melody that wrote itself on my heart years ago, when my hair was not white and my joints did not ache, is familiar like the embrace of a longtime lover. My fingers are too stiff and my knuckles too engorged to play with the elegance they once possessed but the tune calms me. 

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All Stories, Fantasy, Humour, Romance, Short Fiction

The Caretaker’s Cottage by Leila Allison

-Prologue-

Ineffable Is As Ineffable Does

With a peaked roof topped by a small brass eagle, the “Caretaker’s Cottage” in New Town Cemetery is a seven-by-nine rectangle that stands long side up. A few years back the City of Charleston had money left over in the Parks Department budget; two thousand dollars was allotted for the creation of ten incomprehensibly cheap signs to mark various “historical sites” throughout town. It was one of those mystifying expenditures that governments make to discourage the expectation of competence. One of the signs stands in front of the rectangle. It says: “Former Caretaker’s Cottage.”

Outside being the ancestral home to untold generations of Grey Squirrels, the building is a tool shed added decades after the cemetery was founded in 1902. New Town did have a live-in caretaker once, but he dwelled in a long since razed house that stood at the foot of the hill in which the cemetery is seated. But the extremely typical Charleston city employee tasked with the sign job had to put something on the one set aside for the cemetery–so she pulled a fiction from where the sun never rises and literally engaged a sign maker (her fiance–who reaped a thousand percent profit). In fact, nine of the ten signs placed throughout Charleston are similarly procured fictions–with the other being only true about Hartsville, Tennessee–the boyfriend sign maker’s hometown.

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All Stories, Editor Picks, General Fiction, Short Fiction

Week 396: Stumbling Leaves; Another Week That Is; Autumnal Vexations

I like fall, but I avoid saying “I like autumn.” I went to school with a girl with that name and hated her. I wouldn’t want the little god whose job it is to check up on the likes and dislikes of people like me to get confused. So, to be clear, I like autumn, but not the Autumn I knew in seventh grade.

But there are things about fall I can do without; for instance, grownups who wear “onesies,” and those who get as excited as a three-year-old seeing Santa for the first time when the subject is “pumpkin spice.” Usually these people are one and the same. I will hear no defense for normal adults who wear onesies with little fire trucks and/or race cars, Bunnies, Unicorns, Cows, Green Aliens and Sea “Horseys” on them and must tell me about it. What you do at home is your own business, but unless you want me to wonder if you wear a “dype-dype” and rubber panties to bed, don’t bring it up, especially if I am eating.

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All Stories, General Fiction, Short Fiction

Whatever It Is, I’m Against It by Leila Allison

I entered my building’s courtyard at dawn on a clear, cold November morning. I brought a bowl of tuna and a cat trap. I placed the bowl at a specific spot under one of the two box hedges that lined the walk and laid the trap nearby. Every morning I brought food to the same place; it was the trap’s only appearance.

I’d come for the benefit of a feline warlord in winter named Lemmy. I’d been feeding Lemmy on the sly ever since I first met him in the courtyard at least three years ago. Obviously feral, I appreciated the defiance in his attitude that wouldn’t allow him to beg. Oh, he certainly gobbled down what I gave him and shamelessly came back for more–but not once had he ever sought pity.

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All Stories, Fantasy

Fashioned at Last Into an Arrowy Shape by Travis and Lucas Flatt

I watch the Mayor dash about the rooftop, clutching his toupee against the wind. “My building!” he says,  “Grey–what have you done to my building?”

I get it. They gave him the city in decent shape; he doesn’t want it broken.

Over on the balcony, rock-megastar Alex Grey is not empathetic, mumbling: “Just hang on, brother,” his voice a rumble beneath the shrieking wind. Grey tweaks his low-E peg, plucks his tortoiseshell plectrum across the string, holds the guitar up to his ear, and nods, satisfied that he’s in tune. We’re standing on the world’s biggest amp. During the morning bustle to blockade the New York Harbor, Grey sent a battalion of roadies to lash, strap, and solder hundreds of amp cabinets to the Empire State Building.

 

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