First Story: “The Bed of the Crimson King” by Filip Wiltgren
(Originally published in Grimdark #9.)
The king lies in his big bed under the crimson covers, and dreams of freedom. The bed is not his, not the way the grasses of the savanna were, but he must sleep in it. It is the king’s bed, and he is the Crimson King, and he has no choice.
He had no choice when he went into the military at thirteen. He had no choice when he shot his commander and formed his own band at nineteen, and he had no choice when he led his men against the soldiers of the Witch King at twenty-six. Now he’s an old man lying in a dead man’s bed, dreaming of life as a young boy sleeping on the sandy ground.
Filip Wiltgren is a writer and tabletop game designer based in Sweden. He’s held jobs ranging from coal loader to martial arts teacher — which are a lot more impressive on paper than in reality — and his publications range from Nature to Daily Science Fiction. When he isn’t writing he spends time with his wife and kids. For more writing and free stories visit wiltgren.com.
Second Story: “Bridge of Teeth” by Mark Finn
(Originally published in Adventure Vol. 1.)
Casa Blanca, Nuevo Leon, Mexico
October 24th, 1994
The bartender turned around, a dented and worn Louisville Slugger in his fist, and swung it with all of his strength at the spot where on the bar where my hand had been an instant before. I backed up, throwing as much broken Spanish between us as possible. “Senor, senor, por favor, no violencia…”
He wasn’t having any. He hurled himself bodily against the bar, trying to come over it, as he swung at me again. “Brujah!” he shrieked. “trabajador del diablo!”
I started to say more, but my duffel bag tripped me up and I hit the wood planks in a cloud of sawdust, the wind knocked out of me. I regained my breath and my sight just in time to get a spectacular view of the Louisville Slugger as it rushed up to kiss my face. For an instant, I saw the duplicated etch of Ted Williams’ scrawl, and then my vision went white and red and I had the weirdest ringing in my ears. I couldn’t feel my nose, but I could feel blood on my lip and taste it in my mouth. The bat was coming down again. I barely rolled out from under it.
Mark Finn is an author, actor, essayist, pop culture critic, and movie critic. He is a nationally recognized authority on iconic Texas author Robert E. Howard, and has written extensively about him. His biography, Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard, was nominated for a World Fantasy award in 2007 and is currently available in an updated and expanded second edition. His articles, essays, reviews, short stories and comics have been published by Playboy.com, RevolutionSF.com, Dark Horse Comics, DC/Vertigo Comics, Monkeybrain Books, The University of Texas press, Greenwood Press, Scarecrow Press, F.A.C.T. Publications, Tachyon Press, and others. For the past three years, Finn was named one of the top movie critics in Texas by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors awards. He lives in North Texas over an old movie theater that he owns and operates along with his long-suffering wife, far too many books, and an affable pit bull named Sonya. He tweets at @finnswake, blogs at marktheaginghipster.blogspot.com, and podcasts at thegentlemennerds.com.
About the Narrators:
Nikolle Doolin a voice actor and a writer of fiction, scripts, and poetry. She has performed narrations for a number of popular and award-winning podcasts, such as The NoSleep Podcast, Tales to Terrify, and StarShip Sofa. She also narrates classic literature in her own podcast Audio Literature Odyssey. To learn more about Nikolle, visit her website at nikolledoolin.com.
By day, Roberto Suarez works as a community college student advocate and recruiter. By night he geeks out on all things fantasy and science fiction, comic books and board games He is the co-host and producer of A Pod of Casts: The Game of Thrones Podcast and the new Radio Westworld, a podcast dedicated to HBO’s recent science fiction series. You can find Roberto on the web at robertosuarez.me, or on Twitter as @PuertoGeekan.