First Story: “When the Harlequin Dances” by C.L. Holland
(Originally published in Bards and Sages Quarterly, January 2010.)
The bells rang out over the city. They sounded mournful, at odds with the carnival brightness in the streets below me.
I was perched on the ledge halfway up the Azielto Tower, watching as the city folk thronged through the streets to find the best spot to see the Harlequin Parade. A better view could be had from higher up the tower, but to go any closer while the bells rang was to risk deafness. And madness, so the stories said.
C.L. Holland is a British writer of fantasy and science fiction, and winner of Writers of the Future. Sometimes she writes poetry under an assumed name. She has a BA in English with Creative Writing, and MA in English, and likes to learn things for fun. She lives with her long-suffering partner and two cats who don’t understand why they can’t share her lap with the laptop. Her recent collection, A World in Clockwork and Other Stories, is available through Amazon.
Main Story: “The Rude Mechanicals and the Highwayman” by John R. Fultz
(Originally published in Fungi #22.)
It wasn’t the seasonal gravity maelstroms or the swarms of psychic predators that kept us away from the Great Thoroughfare. It was the widespread tales of the highwayman known as the Surgeon.
Rumors of his perfidy rippled like ultrasonic waves from the Greater Urbille to the outer Affinities. In those distant territories where the living and the undead mingled, where villages of despair rotted at the feet of carven mountains, we heard tales from wounded travellers and weeping merchants. He stood tall and lithe as any Beatific, they said, and wielded an ancient blade faster than death. A dark cloak wrapped him like a shroud, and he wore a cruel face of sculpted bronze.
To look into his burning opticals was to see your own demise, or so claimed the survivors of his attacks. One constant ran like a silver thread among the scattered tales of his infamy: Each robbery ended with a single execution. These victims, they said, were chosen specifically by the highwayman. Others claimed they were chosen entirely at random. This point was often debated with dreadful passion.
John R. Fultz lives in the North Bay Area of California, but he grew up in Kentucky. His fourth novel is The Testament of Tall Eagle (2015, Ragnarok Publications). John’s Books of the Shaper trilogy includes Seven Princes, Seven Kings, and Seven Sorcerers (2012/2013 Orbit Books). John’s work has also appeared in Year’s Best Weird Fiction Vol. 1, Weird Tales, Black Gate, Weirdbook, That is Not Dead, Shattered Shields, Lightspeed: Year One, Way of the Wizard, Cthulhu’s Reign, The Book of Cthulhu II, and other fine publications.
About the Narrators:
Anthony Babington is a voice in the internet’s head. He looks almost, but not quite, exactly how you expect him to. He currently resides in Houston, Texas, but hastens to add that it was not his idea. He can be found on Google Plus.
Seth Williams is the avatar for a three-kilometer sentient starship that is parked (probably uncomfortably) close to the third planet. Surprisingly, he has not yet been discovered. He is very happy that the inhabitants have discovered enough technology to that he can communicate in this limited fashion. Any communications can be directed to theboojum.org.
Guess what! Nominations are open for the 2016 Parsec Awards through May 31st. If you’ve been particularly impressed by one of stories we’ve presented over the past year, feel free to nominate it in the Best Speculative Fiction Story – Small Cast (Short Form) category. Visit the Parsec Awards website for details. Thanks for the support!