Our posting schedule is fluid these days, as we're both gearing up for our debuts! We will still post ... it will just be a surprise as to when ...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Victoria - The Taker

Tonight the harvest moon hangs red, and all know well to lock their doors.

All down the lane you can hear the sounds of people drawing deeper into houses, taking steps and whispers with them. It is like a body in the cold, drawing heat into its center. Lose the limbs and save the heart, or some such.

I hear my mother pacing the kitchen, the steady shuffle of her tread. I hear the front bolt slide. I hear the back door lock. I hear the shutters snap and the windows lower and they are all warnings that it is time.

This is the night when shadows come, down through the chimney, up through the floors.

The harvest moon means one thing and one alone. Out in the dark and through the fields, the Harvesters are coming. The Sower, the Reaper, and the Taker. Three cloaks and three masks the same rust red of the too-low moon, and three hands gripping three tools. The shovel, the scythe, and the basket.

My mother comes to kiss me goodnight. My father looks to the window, and seeing it shut, gives a nod and slips away.

This is the night when the world gives back. The payment for abundance.

Now the lane is hushed. Now the night is still and cold. I sit on the bed and wait and watch and listen, and soon I hear it, the faintest turning of a latch. The shutters on my bedroom window tremor, and unfold. From the dark I hear a tap, tap, tap as of a scythe against a pane of glass.

I swallow, and stand, and cross the room. Eyes tucked behind the rust-red masks gaze at me and I gaze back, before my fingers drift to the window lock. I slide up the glass, and lift my basket from the sill.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Myra McEntire - Sowing


Mama always says, “With every deed you are sowing a seed, though the harvest you may not see.”

I’ve been in the fields since I was old enough to lead a plough horse. Dirty work. Rich manure might fertilize crops, but the filth never quite leaves my nails, even in the winter. No amount of soaking in a tub or scrubbing with lye soap helps. On Sundays, I hide my hands in the pockets I beg my mother to sew into all my clothes.

“Vanity,” she says, shaking her head, but putting the pockets in anyway. “Pride goeth before a fall, Priscilla.”

Every day, sowing and reaping, season after season, year after year. Until the day he comes.  

Dark, everywhere. Skin, eyes, hair. Dark, with long legs that devour the ground. I swear it trembles under his feet.

I can feel it the second he meets my eyes across the wide stretch of seed rows. He knows me. Knows the things I think, things so much worse than vanity or pride. Destruction. Burning the fields. Ruining the crops. Ending the monotony. No longer bound to the land, but the master of it, and so much more.

He looks at me as if the foulness under my fingernails is the truest part of me.

And now that he’s here, I don’t have to hide it anymore.

Monday, November 1, 2010


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DEMONGLASS: Jen Lamoureux

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rachel Hawkins - Witches

The Ties That Bind 


Ruth Scott had killed lots of things- countless bugs, several chickens, and the autumn her father died, a pig. But she’d never killed a witch before, and Ruth had a feeling that was going to be more difficult than slaughtering a hog.

                  Ruth sits by the fire, but she is still shivering when Oma hands her the strange knife, its blade made from some kind of dark glass. “You aim for heart,” Oma says.  “Blade pierce witch’s heart, witch dies. Blade miss? You die. So you do not miss.”

                  “Why a knife?” Ruth asks, turning the weapon over in her hands, watching the firelight play in that strange, black glass.  “I’m a witch, too. I’ll fight her with my powers.”

                  Oma wrinkles her nose. “No, she is dark witch. You white witch. Magic not as strong, and then what happens? You end up like brother, big hole smashed in back of head.”  Ruth’s throat moves convulsively at that, but she does not cry, and she does not ask why Oma did not give this knife to David when she sent him to kill the witch. Oma wraps her fingers around Ruth’s, and they hold the hilt of the knife together between them. For a moment, Oma looks at Ruth with something like tenderness. “This weapon very special. Only women in my family can wield it, not men.”

                  “But we’re not family,” Ruth says, and Oma smiles.

      “Now that I give you knife, liebchen,” she whispers, “we are.”

                  The knife was strapped to Ruth’s thigh, accessible through the special pocket Oma had sewn into her dress. Ruth could feel it there, pulsing like a second heartbeat as she dipped a piece of biscuit into her greasy bowl of jackrabbit stew. She made herself chew, even though the food sat in her stomach like lead. And she made herself smile at the witch who had murdered her brother, even though magic and rage pounded inside her.

                  Kate Bender smiled back as she slid into the seat across from Ruth. If ever there had been a woman who looked like a dark witch, Ruth reflected, it was this one. Kate’s eyes were nearly as black and shiny as the blade Ruth planned on shoving through her heart. She wore her brown hair loose, and it flowed over her shoulders, brushing the rough wooden tabletop as she leaned forward and said, “How is it that you are traveling alone, Miss Scott?” There was the barest hint of an accent to her voice.  She was the only one of the Benders who spoke any English. The other three members of the family- an old, hulking man Kate called “Pa,”, a rotund woman, and a younger man with the same black eyes as Kate- had cleared out soon after Ruth arrived, but she’d heard them muttering to each other in German.

                  Ruth looked down and for the first time, noticed a dark, unpleasant stain under her chair. She pushed at a lump of stringy meet with her spoon, and said, “I was traveling with my brother to St. Paul. I got sick in Cherry Vale, and told him to go on without me. We were supposed to meet up near here.” Ruth had rehearsed this speech with Oma many times, right down to how she’d lower her eyes, how her voice would break on the words “without me.”

                  Kate made a tsk-ing sound, and covered one of Ruth’s hands with her own. Her skin was hot and soft, and it took everything Ruth had not to shudder at Kate’s touch. “Arme kleine,” she murmured.

                  Underneath the table, Ruth’s other hand strayed to her pocket, and she calculated how quickly she could lunge across the table. But it was too wide, the distance too far, the risk too great. Her fingers moved away from the knife. Hot, angry tears welled in her eyes, but Ruth made no effort to blink them back. Let the witch think they were from sorrow, not fury. “Thank you, Miss Bender,” she simpered, scrubbing at her cheeks with the back of her hand. “It’s just… he was the only family I had.”                 

That was the truth. The woman Ruth and David had called Oma was not their grandmother. She was no blood relation at all. Just a woman who had saved them after their mother died, a woman who had taught them what they were, had trained them how to use the powers Ruth and David had always seen as a curse.  A woman who had prepared both of them to fight the creature Ruth sat across from now.

Oma has been tracking the Benders for a very long time. Ruth never knows just how long, only that Oma followed them from the Old Country several years ago. They first hear reports of travelers missing in Kansas when Oma, Ruth, and David are living in St. Louis. In the beginning, Oma is not sure it’s the work of the things they’re searching. The prairie is a dangerous place, with killing heat in the summer, bitter cold in the winter. That people should vanish there is no surprise, she tells Ruth and David. But then she begins to hear tales of an inn, located at a rise in the Osage trail. Of an old man who speaks no English, but sits on the porch of this inn, watching the road. And of the girl, Kate Bender, who is dark and beautiful and can supposedly speak with the dead, heal wounds, cure sickness.

One night, Oma sits with Ruth and David at the kitchen table, a book with a cracked leather covering opened in front of them, and traces her fingers over horrible illustrations of beautiful woman with fire in her eyes, standing over the body of a man with his throat cut, his skull smashed. “She is old, this witch,” Oma tells them. “Far older than me, no matter how young and lovely she look. People with her not really family, but followers. Minions. She use blood magic. Powerful. Evil.” Oma looks at David. “When snow stops, you go to Kansas. You find this witch, and you kill her.”

                  Ruth hugs her brother for the last time on a cold morning in March. She will never forget the small patch of golden hair on his chin that he’d missed shaving, or the way he smells like hay and horses. He rides off toward death and Kate Bender with the sun glowing on his blond head.

                  “Family is important,” Kate said, her fingers still stroking Ruth’s hand. “I would do anything for mine.”

                  Ruth met Kate’s eyes, shifting so that the knife pressed closer to her leg. “So would I.”

                  Kate smiled and let Ruth’s hand drop to the table before standing up and going to the stove. “Is that why you’ve come, little witch?” Kate asked, her tone as light as though she were asking about the weather. “To avenge your brother’s murder?”

                  Surprise made Ruth hesitate for only a few seconds. But even that was too much time. She shoved her chair back from the table and shot to her feet, reaching for the knife. As soon as her fingers touched the hilt, it flared white hot, searing her skin.

                   “I could feel you coming,” she said. “All that magic. All that anger. And that blade, hidden under your dress.” She shook her head. “Pity your brother did not have it. Not that it would have saved him, of course, but it might’ve given him a fighting chance. As it was, he didn’t get off one spell before I slit his throat. Right there,” she said, nodding at the chair where Ruth had been sitting. Ruth’s gaze fell to the floor, and to the stain where her feet had been.  

                  “But then he could not have used it anyway,” Kate said with a little shrug. “That weapon, so full of dark magic, can only be used by one full of dark feelings, dark thoughts. That boy had no darkness in him.” Suddenly, Kate’s eyes- full of swirling flames, Ruth noticed- widened. “Oh, but of course!” she said, clasping her hands together. “That’s why she sent him first! To make you ready to use the blade.” Kate laughed, a beautiful but eerie sound, like a piano slightly out of tune.  “She is getting cleverer, I give her that.”

                  Ruth trembled as she inched closer to that horrible black mark by the table. She never took her eyes of Kate. “What do you mean?”

                  Kate almost looked sympathetic. “You are not a warrior in this battle, little witch. Merely another weapon.”

The day after their mother dies, Oma comes to Ruth and David’s house. They have never seen her before, but she tells them she has come to help them, that she has traveled very far to find them. That they are special and important, and she will teach them how to be even better.  Only once does Ruth lie in her bed and think how strange it is that their mother, who had been healthy and strong, should suddenly lay down and die with no warning, and what a coincidence that Oma had found them so soon afterwards.  A dark thought follows that one, but Ruth pushes it away.

The air in the room felt thick, and static electricity crackled through Ruth’s hair. Her powers settled over her, spreading from the top her head, through her fingers. Once again, she tried to reach for the knife, and once again, it singed her fingertips. Kate shook her head. “Even with your hatred, you are not strong enough to use it. It requires too much power.” The flames in her eyes swirled faster. “Now stop this. Come to me, and let me end all your pain.” Kate opened her arms wide, and for the first time, Ruth saw the long knife clutched in her hand. “Your blood will make me stronger, as your brother’s did, and I will kill the witch who took your family from you.”

Ruth fell to her hands and knees, and Kate made a pleased, crooning sound that was not remotely human. “Good girl,” she murmured, walking closer.

Spreading her fingers wide over the stain of David’s blood, Ruth closed her eyes and focused all her powers on that spot.

Blood magic was powerful, Oma had said. Evil.

But Ruth would take her chances.

Kate was right over her when Ruth shot to her feet, and grabbed the knife from her pocket. Her hands, tingling with power, didn’t burn this time. Kate only had a moment to look surprised before Ruth slammed the blade into her heart.

Ruth had expected her to go up in a puff of smoke, or maybe dissolve. Instead, Kate Bender’s body hit the wooden floor with a thump. Breathing hard, magic still coursing through her veins, darker and more powerful than anything she’d ever felt, Ruth stood over the witch. She could hear footsteps running toward the house, and she knew that the other members of the Bender “family” were coming for her.

She stood on the spot where her brother had died, holding the knife- the knife that Oma said marked her as family, the weapon Oma had primed with the David’s death- and waited.

The next morning, men will come looking for the Benders. They will find the house deserted, and furniture overturned, as though a great struggle has taken place. There will be strange scorch marks on the floor and walls. And then they will find the bodies of the missing travelers. Some in the cellar, some buried outside in the orchard. It is there they will find the most recent grave, and the body of a boy, his hair matted with blood. And sunk into the dirt over his final resting place, they will find a knife, made of black glass.

Rachel Hawkins is the author of HEX HALL and the upcoming DEMONGLASS. Read the background on this story (based on a TRUE story) at Rachel's blog: http://readingwritingrachel.blogspot.com/2010/10/i-made-something-with-my-brain.html

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Myra McEntire - Witches

Whatever happened to me was my brother's fault.

“I can’t do the job, Jake,” he’d said after way too many beers at Quincy’s Bar and Grille. They added the e on the end because they thought it was fancy. Like chicken wings and fried cheese could ever be fancy. “Stacey said she’d kick me clean to the Alabama state line if I didn’t take her to Homecoming, so you have to do it for me. The money’s good, real good. We both know you need it.”

It was the God’s honest truth. My piece of junk Taurus had crapped the bed halfway between Mount Juliet and Hohenwald. As far I as I knew it was still pushed off the side of the road into a bunch of briar bushes, the sexy primer paint job keeping it camouflaged. I couldn’t afford to pay for a new engine or the tow, or the ticket I’d get if I didn’t claim it before the highway patrol did.

“Okay.” I always gave into Joe. That’s the part of me being the younger brother that no one in my family ever talks about, my need to please him, like some kind of ugly ass mongrel puppy.

That was how I ended up at the Civic Auditorium, one hour before midnight, on All Hallow's Eve.

A girl sat on a stool by the backstage door. Her hair was as red as a ripe strawberry. On the bottom half. The top half was pitch black. I couldn’t stop staring at it, wondering how the line between the two colors stayed so straight and even. Maybe it was a wig. I took a step closer. She smelled like caramel apples.

“Can I help you, sugar?” She didn’t look up from the pile of tickets she was ripping from a big roll. Just kept dropping them into a bucket in her lap.

“I’m here for the job? My brother Joe was supposed to … but he had to … he had some stuff come up.”

Still ripping tickets, she raised her eyes, appraising my boots, jeans and flannel shirt, top to bottom. Or maybe she was appraising what was underneath. Her irises didn’t look human, more like that of a cat. I backed up a little. The caramel apple smell followed. “You twenty-one?”

I took another step back, putting a few feet between us. "Yes."

Lie. The whisper sounded inside my brain.

Her lips were the same color as her hair. The black part. “Are you sure?”


“I assume you have identification to prove that?” For her demented appearance she sure managed to sound businesslike.

“I didn’t bring my wallet … I didn’t drive. I got dropped off.” I’d talked my grandpa out of his Dodge Ram for the night, but I’d parked a block away because the engine made more noise than a woodchipper.

She stopped tearing the tickets and stood up from her stool, leaning over to put the bucket on the ground. I tried not to swallow my tongue. She was very … girl.

“Why are you lyin’ to me, Jake?”

I blinked. When I opened my eyes she was standing in front of me, all curves and red heat. “H - how did you get over here so fast?” I stuttered.

“Why are you lyin’ to save your sorry brother’s behind?”

I said the first thing that came to mind. “Low self-esteem?”

“That won’t be a problem after tonight, Jake.” The black lips, shiny instead of matte, parted in a smile. “Not after tonight.”

I tried to remember if I’d told her my name, but only for a second. Right there in the alley, she undid the first three buttons of my shirt and pressed her mouth against my bare skin, just above my heart.

Then she took me by the hand and led me through the backstage door.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Victoria Schwab - Witches

The wolf stood on the road that ran through the woods, and watched the slice of red between the trees.

The red thing was small and pretty as a flower before it’s plucked, petals all tucked close.

The wolf watched and wondered if he should eat it. A sound like a falling stone fell some ways behind him, and the wolf glanced back with yellow eyes narrowed, and teeth bared. But the path was empty. He turned back toward his dinner, and jumped. Eyes the color of dusk hovered inches from his snout, just above a very wide smile, and just below a very red hood.

“Hello,” she said. “Do you want to play a game?”

The wolf wrinkled his nose and his whiskered tickled her cheek. She laughed, and the sound was like sunshine and rain and something sweet. The sweetness made him dizzy. And before he could open his mouth to speak or to eat her, the red thing, which appeared to be a little girl, kissed the wolf on the muzzle.

“Run,” she whispered, and before the word was out, the wind lifted, rustling the canopies and making the forest light dance, and the girl was gone.

All that was left on the path was a small red flower. The wolf lifted it—the petals had the same sweet smell—and he smiled with a mouth full of very sharp teeth.

Silly girl, thought the wolf. He would run, of course, but not away. The wolf cast away the blossom and off he went, following the far-off laugh and the scent of sugar and rain and light.

The path ended at a house. Smoked drifted up from the chimney, and though the door was closed, the windows were all thrown open. The wolf climbed through, and knew that this house belonged to the little red thing. A small pot simmered on the stove, a basket sat on the table beside an ax. There in the corner was a small bed, and in the bed was a body, its back turned to the room. The blankets seemed to rise and fall with quiet breathing, the shape no bigger than a child. The wolf’s smile spread.

Silly, silly girl, he growled to himself even as he flexed, and lunged. The moment he hit the bed, the body sprang up, but he pinned it down and flashed his teeth into a wide smile. The smile twisted in confusion, and then panic. The body had no face. It was less a body than a tangle of sheets, and those sheets now snaked around the wolf. In the yard the wolf heard humming. By the time the little red thing came in, the sheets had pinned the wolf to the bed, good and tight. He muttered curses at the girl through a muzzle of linen and wool.

“Silly wolf,” she giggled. “I told you to run.” Then the girl slid back the hood, and the wolf’s eyes widened as he saw the crown of shadow that marked her for what she was.

“A witch,” he growled, writhing on the bed. The sheets only tightened, enchanted.

“All the better…” she said to herself. Her arm drifted up and the whole house seemed to heave the ax from the table into her hand.

“Let’s play again.”

Her dark eyes glistened and she flashed a smile, one that seemed to eat up her entire face.

And then she brought the axe down on the bed.

* * *

Did you know...

-That some of the original versions of the story now known as Little Red Riding Hood involved witchcraft? Specifically the grandmother as a witch. So in case you're thinking, "Gawwwd, Victoria, why would you twist this fairy tale to Witches week? How lazy are you?" I just want to say that it DOES have ties to witchcraft.
-That yes, I write books about witches, or A book about witches, and those witches are not at all like this witch, though both kinds of witches have fairy-tale-esque origins.
-That I LOVE fairy tales, and simply couldn't get through this series without playing with ONE.
-That I wrote this story between 12:13am and 12:41am. Just saying. Be gentle.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Carrie Harris - Zombies

ZOMBIE SOUP by Carrie Harris
On my seventeenth birthday, I prayed.

“God?” I looked up at an old tin ad for digestive biscuits. We were gathered in the old Cracker Barrel, since it was the only building inside the walls large enough for us all. Mostly we had farmland because we wanted to, you know, eat. “I know I’ve never too big on the whole prayer thing, but I get assigned to my job today, and I really want to be a hunter. If you could make that happen, I’d…be thankful, I guess. Amen.”

And that was it. I didn’t have much experience talking with God. Dad had stopped taking me to church after Mom died. Cancer. I was ten when it happened, and now I couldn’t quite remember what her voice sounded like. That was sad, but not the kind of sad that makes you cry all the time. More like an old wound that breaks open on occasion. Usually the most inconvenient ones.

I didn’t have a whole lot of time to sit around wailing, though. Ever since the virus hit three-and-a-half years ago, everyone’s had to work hard to survive and stay sane.

Dad took the podium. “Everyone take a seat,” he said, and they did. Our conclave was the most regimented, but we also hadn’t lost any residents to the infected so people didn’t complain. I sure didn’t. My dad was in charge, after all, and I knew how much he worried about the balance between free will and collective safety. He was an ulcer waiting to happen; too bad most of the pharmaceuticals were expired because he could have used a carton of Pepto.

“Welcome, everyone,” he said. “I know you’ve all worked hard today and are itching to go home and put your feet up, so I promise not to ramble on like I usually do.” Low chuckles from the crowd. 

“Today, we’re here to celebrate the seventeenth birthday of my daughter, Sadie. Happy birthday, honey.”

I couldn’t keep from smiling as everyone cheered and hooted, even though I was so nervous I might barf.

“As you know, seventeen is the age of graduation, and I’d like you all to join me in welcoming Sadie to her new profession. The Council has determined that we are in gravest need of assistance in the kitchens.”

My stomach fell. It wasn’t that I hated the kitchens. I just wanted a little…excitement, I guess. I was tired of being responsible Sadie, but I didn’t know how to be anything else.

Dad looked down at me, and his lips thinned with strain. He could tell I was disappointed, even though I didn’t even twitch. He just knew me too well. “Since Mrs. Windeman’s stroke last month, the kitchen staff has been highly overworked. I know they’ll welcome you with open arms, Sadie.”

A handful of cheers scattered around the room corroborated the point. I forced a smile as Liney Taylor, the kitchen supervisor, brought out a cake.


I got over the disappointment pretty quick, because there was no sense in dwelling on it. Besides, I told myself, the kitchen had its share of excitement. Protein was scarce; the virus had killed off most animals and didn’t preserve or animate them the way it did with people. I didn’t understand that. Neither did the scientists.

But one of them had determined that you could eat the infected as long as you cooked them long enough. And by “long enough,” I mean burnt them to a crisp. So the hunters captured the infected, and the kitchen staff butchered and cooked them. All meat preparation was centralized to avoid accidentally infecting somebody with a medium rare burger.

Actually, the more I learned about it, the more excited I got. Kitchen work was probably even more exciting than hunting. All the hunters got to do was taze and tag them. Once I finished my apprenticeship, I’d even get my own cleaver.

That was pretty exciting. I wasn’t sadistic; just that weapons were a huge commodity and being trusted with them was a big deal. Maybe someday I’d run a conclave just like my dad. That was one of my favorite dreams of all. And one day, I was in the kitchen daydreaming about my election day—my speech, what I’d wear, the look on Dad’s face—when Liney tapped me on the shoulder.

“Sadie, are you woolgathering again?” she asked.

I flushed. “I was just finishing up the soup.”

“The quality test done?”

We had to pull out three sections of meat and test them with a meat thermometer to make sure they were hot enough to kill off the virus. I looked down. I couldn’t remember doing it, but I had the thermometer in my hand, and it was dripping with broth.

“Of course,” I said.

I took the pot out to the line, where some of the younger teens waited to serve it up. Clay Bower looked at my cook’s whites and nearly fell over, he got so jealous. I didn’t much care for him because he tended to talk to my boobs instead of my face, but it still made me feel good.

Then I sat down next to my dad and waited for my food. It tasted pretty good once you got over what you were eating. And we’d run out of vitamins a while ago, so vegetarianism wasn’t an option if you wanted to stay healthy.

I tuned out the conversation. Dad was talking with some of the council members about infrastructure improvements. Not exactly stirring dinner conversation, but there weren’t any other teens my age in the conclave. When it was time for me to marry, they’d have to import somebody.

“Oh my god,” yelled Clay. “My soup just twitched!”

Immediate shrieks. If the meat wasn’t cooked enough, it reanimated. It was still infective. My father looked at me with wide, fearful eyes and spat a mouthful back into his bowl.

“It’s not my fault,” I gasped, but I wasn’t so sure. Something told me I wasn’t earning that cleaver after all.

I couldn’t think of anything else to do. I picked up my spoon and took the slurp of death.

Visit Carrie at her (super cool and amazing) website HERE.