Flash Fiction: “River Boys” by Stephen S. Power
(Originally published in Faed.)
The river gives our village food and blood, breath and beat, and, one evening, it gave us a boy.
A girl named Minu found him in a coracle caught on a mossy bank upstream. She didn’t recognize the weave of his boat or the cloth knotted at his hips. He was terribly thin. He couldn’t speak or open his eyes. He only pointed at his mouth. She helped him onto shore and laid his head across her lap. As the river shares with us, we must share with others, so Minu fed the boy a pinch of the fishballs she’d brought in a blue and white cloth. He took her wrist with a slippery hand and sucked her fingertips clean. He seemed to fill out as she watched. Then he pointed at his mouth again.
She looked toward the village and, seeing no one coming, she fed the boy another fishball. And another. In a few moments he’d eaten them all. When he let go of her wrist and pointed at his mouth, Minu held up the empty cloth and shook it. His eyes sprang wide. They were mud brown and raging like the river under a storm. Minu gasped, fell into them and drowned.
As the river gives all to us, we give ourselves to the river.
Stephen Power’s novel The Dragon Round, will be published by Simon & Schuster on July 19, 2016, and is available for pre-order. His work has recently appeared at AE, Daily Science Fiction, and Flash Fiction Online, and he has stories forthcoming in Amazing Stories, Deep Magic, and Lightspeed. He lives in Maplewood, NJ, tweets as @stephenspower, and can be found online at stephenspower.com.
Main Story: “Skin Like Carapace” by Steven Toase
(Originally published in Cabinet des Fees’s Scheherezade’s Bequest Vol 1.)
I sleep shallow and my memories whisper in my ear, their hand on my shoulder so I cannot evade them. They speak to me of the first time I came to the market of fragrance, 16 years old and face bare apart from one age branch carved above the broken brow of my nose. I pay them no heed, but it’s hard, hard to ignore the first taste of the air surrounding the market. Then and still the greatest wonder of the Land of No Light.
Here you can buy powders to stain your skin with the scent of fly agaric and birch bark, or smoke to disguise you as a freshwater pool to hide from violent and determined creditors.
Everyday, between the fourth and the fifth bell, dancers gather on the cobbled square. Each one is bathed since birth in a different essence. They weave their scents into epic stories of the origins of the four Royal houses, and the spectres whose tattered odour is carried on the wind. Those who brush against the dancers never clean that patch of skin and carry the story on them throughout their lives.
Steven Toase lives in North Yorkshire, England and occasionally Munich, Germany. His stories tend towards the unsettling and unreal, and his work has appeared in Cabinet de Fees’ Scheherezade’s Bequest, Innsmouth Magazine, Not One of Us, and Cafe Irreal among others. His story “Call Out” was published in The Best Horror of The Year Anthology 6 in 2014. He is currently working with Becky Cherriman and Imove on a commissioned project called Haunt. To read more of Steve’s work please visit stevetoase.wordpress.com.
About the Narrators:
Kaushik Narasimhan is a management consultant by day and a writer by night, with a keen interest in psychedelics and role playing video games. You can find him online at kazarelth.net.