Issues from 2020
Issue #312
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Deep in the Drift, Spinning

A pause only Winnifletch herself notices, a twinge in her guts as she unsacks the gull that Gert Mews has lugged to her sea-spindle shack. Dazed but not dead, the bird crawks down onto her workbench. Think of shearwater honey, Winni tells herself, with predictions truer than gold. She grabs its fat fluttersome breast. Jams it wings-and-all between her vise’s steel jaws. Holds firm. Don’t think of shattered sailors.

A pause only Winnifletch herself notices, a twinge in her guts as she unsacks the gull that Gert Mews has lugged to her sea-spindle shack.
The Patron

Outside, the cries of the blood locusts swelled, as they would until month's end. These creatures writhed below ground for seven years before breaching the surface to feast on fruits and flesh alike. It was during the prior plague that she'd set foot in this shanty for the first time, foolish and desperate, in search of her own bloody accord. By the daemons' whispers, it would be during another such plague—this one, with any luck—that she'd regain her freedom. But if the daemons lied, or if her replacement failed to arrive—

The Patron grimaced. As if a plate of millet would heal these wounds any more than a pint of water would slake the desert's thirst.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Deep in the Drift, Spinning

Podcast: Download (Duration: 45:19 — 31.12MB)
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A pause only Winnifletch herself notices, a twinge in her guts as she unsacks the gull that Gert Mews has lugged to her sea-spindle shack.
From the Archives:
Through the Doorways, Whiskey Chile
He sloshed to the side of the tunnel, toward thick strips of skin raised up like steps on a station platform, a foot or two above the river of hooch.
Issue #311
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Featuring two giveaways for a copy of BCS author R.B. Lemberg’s new book The Four Profound Weaves.

The Past, Like a River In Flood

It was a very strange feeling to be past forty and creeping about my old college quad under cover of darkness with my old college advisor who was bald, had a bad knee, and usually went to bed at half eight. Were it not for the flooded Potions Vault and its hauntings, I think Jermiah would have retired five years since, but he had to see it through, and now the only way he could see to do that was to bring me in. My stomach twisted, that I was his last hope.

They'd built a new Vault of Potions after the flood—of course they'd had to, with the thaumatically cursed mess that had become of the old one.
Doorway, Smile, Kiss, Fox

Somewhere within me must be memories I could call my own. But how am I to extricate them from the cacophony of other voices, other visions? Layered over the person I once was are a hundred thousand half-remembered dreams, stories, glories, losses. All the pieces that will be passed on again when I am dead; the secret history of my life stowed away in my blood's enormous cargo.

I have wondered these past two years which of us would meet our end first—myself or the city.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Doorway, Smile, Kiss, Fox

Podcast: Download (Duration: 38:53 — 26.7MB)
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I have wondered these past two years which of us would meet our end first—myself or the city.
From the Archives:
Wooden Boxes Lined with the Tongues of Doves
We dry the tongues on butcher's paper beside the stove. Once desiccated, they barely have a scent.
Issue #310
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Featuring new cover art: “Valley of the Fallen” by Alexey Shugurov.

Fire and Falling

Mir slept lightly that night, her back to the bulkhead and a knife in her hand. In that strange region between sleep and waking, a curious doubling overtook her thoughts; an awareness of things her reasoning mind would never have accepted. She woke in a sweat, gasping. Dogwood was still asleep. Even so, Mir felt the pressure of eyes, or the focused awareness of something that lacked them. The feeling was—what? Reassuring? Comforting?

“If you ever bet,” Mir said, “I bet you cheat.”
The Transubstantiation

The story was always the same. Trapped in a world that could never match their expectations, they were doomed to break everything they found in the hopes of making it perfect. At my nod, a crossbow bolt slammed into Bao's chest. Normally, his hero's skin would've been proof against such a tawdry missile, but the steel for Sthis' quarrels had been quenched in saints' blood, the bolt propelled by the bones and sinew of martyrs. And if that wasn't enough, it had been coated in enough coldwillow sap to drop a team of oxen.

Trapped in a world that could never match their expectations, they were doomed to break everything in the hopes of making it perfect.
From the Archives:
Laws of Night and Silk
They pass through everything that will be lost if they fail.
Issue #309
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Featuring two giveaways for copies of Marie Brennan’s new book Driftwood, set in the same world as her Driftwood stories in BCS.

The Many Lives of an Abiku

Sometimes the walls developed faces. One moment they were the uninspired blandness of old wood, coated with soot from the coal pot, and the next there was a face staring at me, bulging out of the wood. Sometimes the faces stared unblinking. Sometimes they tittered. Once or twice the faces morphed, twenty or so of them, fusing into one hideous gargantuan aberration of a face. Strangely, strangely I did not scream.

“You are an abiku, a spirt child,” he said. “You have come to your mother three times before and have died before your seventh year."
Satin and Velvet

Toward the end, Samara wasn't eating. Thin, with dark rings around her eyes, bony wrists, bruises and cuts everywhere, she would limp down from the tower to see me. "He won't teach me as long as it's around," she said, her voice weak. I looked up at the velvet gast. Its hollow form had taken to holding a platter draped in dark cloth with bright pieces of fruit on it. They made me hungry, and I wasn't even starving.

I know from Samara that it's useless wishing a gast away. You have to change yourself.
From the Archives:
Nneamaka’s Ghost
Of all the strong men that populate our village, why did Nneamaka's ghost choose me?
Issue #308
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It Is Not From Heaven

“Son of man," the fish said, "set thy face against Gog of the land of Magog, the chief priest of Meshech and Tubal.” The names were unfamiliar to Shemaiah, and the story was hard to understand; after a moment, he realized that the very language the fish was speaking wasn’t quite the one he knew. The words were Ivri, but they were the old Ivri, the one the ancestors had spoken before the books and scholars were burned.

“The fish knows the lost stories,” Shemaiah said. “The stories from before the burning.”
The Black-Eyed Goddess of Apple Trees and Farmers’ Wives

Really, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Shamans drag away poor farm girls from the outlying provinces all the time (particularly in seasons of great calamity, as everyone insists we are in now). Even then their lives stray little from their previously charted course. They trade mud thatch and straw for cedar wood and oil, reborn as sworn sisters, plodding away the rest of their days with too many early rises.

My favorite story as a child was the one about the farmer who slits open his wife’s belly and plants an apple tree amongst her insides.
From the Archives:
The Gods Come to Sredna
Like the log stockades of Sredna, it would hold a ceratopsid until she decided to leave.
Issue #307
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Featuring new cover art: Grassy Ocean by Alexander Ostrowski.

Buttercream and Broken Wings

The old woman had no human mourners, so Willowbright stayed; if not to mourn, then to mark her passing at least. By the time the widow's grave had been covered over and the gravediggers sat atop the new wound in the earth to pass a cup between them, the moon had pressed its thumbprint deep into the sky. Willowbright wrapped her arms around her hollow stomach.

The old woman had no human mourners, so Willowbright stayed; if not to mourn, then to mark her passing at least.
Seven Dreams of a Valley

I urged the men to pack their belongings and abandon the village. But the boy who had become a man laughed and said that he had never met anyone who, when a fire began to burn, advised to walk towards it instead of running away. So, as we lay in the quiet of the lake, I sang them a song of endurance, taught to me by the warriors of the desert, to whom I would unfailingly go every year carrying letters from their families, smudged in tears.

On the fourth night... ...I was at a wedding.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Seven Dreams of a Valley

Podcast: Download (Duration: 24:06 — 16.56MB)
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On the fourth night... ...I was at a wedding.
From the Archives:
The Night Bazaar for Women Becoming Reptiles
One, two, three eggs into her mouth, one sharp bite, and the clear, viscous glair ran down her throat.
Issue #306
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Kill the Witchman

I can recall something about this boy—a memory that dances at the outer edge of my thoughts. This is a sign that it is time to redose. Above all else, I must not allow myself to remember. I pat myself down until I find a hard leather canteen in the inside pocket of my jacket. I pull the canteen out and sniff it. Yes, this is the broth. I take a small sip and wash it down with water.

I do not know when or why I began chasing this boy, but I trust in the self that came before and the self that will come after.
The Augur and the Girl Left at His Door

The augur taught the girl to read letters and numbers but not the signs of the flesh. One day, when she was as tall as a fencepost, he came back from the tea fields to see her with his augury book. The anatomical sketches spread out upon the splintered table, the pages yellow and thin as butterfly’s wings. The augur lashed out with such haste it was as though his body had forgotten its age. “This is not for you,” he said, snatching the heavy book. “There is no happiness in some knowledges.”

The augur could read on her skin that she would be cared for by an old man who was not her kin.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Augur and the Girl Left at His Door

Podcast: Download (Duration: 27:14 — 18.7MB)
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The augur could read on her skin that she would be cared for by an old man who was not her kin.
From the Archives:
Seasons Set in Skin
Horimachi's own tattoos were from before the war, when black ink was made of soot instead of faery blood.
Issue #305
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The Widow

I hear you are yourself of low birth, Monsieur de la Martinière, and so may understand what it’s like to experience, for the first time, not even luxury but safety. You might understand how just the taste of it fills you up as if for the first time and you can never again be content with the same old hungry fear. So mayhap, Monsieur, you have been right all along, though not quite in the way you suppose.

I hear you are yourself of low birth, Monsieur de la Martinière, and so may understand what it’s like to experience, for the first time, not even luxury but safety.
Breath Of The Sahara

I began to carefully watch my path when going to visit Esohe in the well. I visited only once per day, with little food that would last her. I would nestle her to myself to shield her of the scarce yet poisonous air and tell her of the latest happenings in the village, not sure if she could hear. I read to her, scoured for all the books I could find, and would read aloud. But in my alone time, I read records on the lives of Zephyrs, searched for what could make them last longer. There was no other way; only the sanctum.

The lemon oil I had sprinkled in the well could scarcely dwarf the underlying stench. But Esohe said she could barely smell a whiff; she was gradually losing that too.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Widow

Podcast: Download (Duration: 39:08 — 26.87MB)
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I hear you are yourself of low birth, Monsieur de la Martinière, and so may understand what it’s like to experience, for the first time, not even luxury but safety.
From the Archives:
Playing for Amarante
The man with my face opens his eyes.
Issue #304
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Featuring new cover art: “Sea Shore” by Anton Ninov.

Clever Jack, Heavy with Stories

He walked around the chapel, once, twice, three times widdershins. He caught himself and found he had crossed over. The castle walls and towers were all gone, and the stone chapel was a lonely boulder with a great cleft leading into darkness. The forest all around was twisted, tall and thick as the curled hair of a sleeping giant, full of shadows deeper than should have been under the summer sun. The grass was bright as emeralds, richer hued than fine Holland cloth. It was trampled by the hooves of many horses, and their trail led away into the west.

“He’s gone now,” Jack told her, “taken by the king of the elves or some other dark thing, because you shamed him into foolishness.”
The Honey of the World and the Queen of Crows

The ghost of the Archbishop I had murdered began following me halfway through the trip. You see, he couldn’t cross the nunnery’s walls, but now he had caught me outside, alone. His head was broken in a strange angle, and his hands were cold as ice as they tugged at my skirts. Thankfully he was scared of the holy symbols even in death, and my habit was enough to keep him at bay.

The clock is huge, its heavy frame carved with crow feathers and bees, and I dare not look at it too long for fear the hands will start moving again.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Honey of the World and the Queen of Crows

Podcast: Download (Duration: 25:43 — 17.66MB)
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The clock is huge, its heavy frame carved with crow feathers and bees, and I dare not look at it too long for fear the hands will start moving again.
From the Archives:
Boat in Shadows, Crossing
"Child of fish and ghost," said Bue. "What could be quicker?"
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