First Story: “Requiem for a Druid” by Alex Shvartsman
My job that morning was to banish a demon, but I was determined to finish my cup of coffee first.
I sipped my java in front of Demetrios’ warehouse in Sunset Park, enjoying the panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline and the New York harbor. Next to me, Demetrios was shaking like a leaf.
“What in the world are you thinking, Conrad?” Demetrios spoke in his typical rapidfire fashion. “You’re just going to go in there, alone, to face this infernal thing? Without any help or backup from others at the Watch? Without even a priest? This is all kinds of crazy.”
“I can handle it.” I said, trying to project casual confidence. “You did ask for this to be resolved quickly, and it’s not like I haven’t dealt with an occasional demon before.”
Alex Shvartsman is a writer and game designer from Brooklyn, NY. More than 60 of his short stories have appeared in Nature, InterGalactic Medicine Show, Galaxy’s Edge, Daily Science Fiction, and many other venues. He’s the winner of the 2014 WSFA Small Press Award for Short Fiction. He edits Unidentified Funny Objects, an annual anthology of humorous SF/F. His short story collection, Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma, was released on February 1st and is available at amazon.com. It appears on FFF courtesy of Alex, editors Kate Bernheimer and Carmen Giménez Smith, and publisher Penguin Books.
You can find him online at alexshvartsman.com.
Second Story: “Snow White, Rose Red” by Lydia Millet
I met the girls and instantly liked the girls. Of course I liked the girls. A girl is better than a feast.
This was before the arrest, before the indictment and the media stories.
The girls were sisters, as you may know, and lived, during the summer, in one of those upstate mansions built by the robber barons who made their fortunes off railroads and steel and unfair business practices. It was in the Lower Peaks of the Adirondacks—the southern part with glassy lakes and green slopes and white-spotted fawns. The girls, who were innocent in the glut of their wealth because they’d never known anything else, called their summer house “the cottage” to distinguish it from “the apartment,” which was a ten-thousand-square-foot penthouse on Fifth Avenue near Washington Square Park.
Their father was in real estate, but no one ever saw him. Correction: from time to time we caught sight of him briefly, the girls and I, getting in or out of a long gleaming car. Once, from the woods, I spotted him walking down to the dock in a pale-gray suit, his phone held to his ear.
He looked like a groom doll on a wedding cake. I wanted to tear his legs off.
Lydia Millet is the author of 13 works of fiction, most recently Mermaids in Paradise (2014), a satire about a couple honeymooning in the Caribbean who discover strange creatures in a coral reef. Her previous books include the novel Magnificence (2012), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle and Los Angeles Times book awards; My Happy Life (2002), which won the PEN-USA fiction award; and a story collection called Love in Infant Monkeys that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She lives in the Arizona desert and works at the Center for Biological Diversity.
You can find her online at www.lydiamillet.net.
About the Narrators:
Mark “the Encaffeinated One” Kilfoil loves fiction, so much so that he’s written some (such as the Parsec-nominated Tainted Roses), read quite a lot (a library of over a thousand half-read books and growing), and now narrates it (sometimes actually recorded for others). He’s found that volunteering for a dozen years in radio was a decent way to get a full-time job as a Program Director at a community radio station in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, but not such a great way to finish his thesis, so he stopped at a Masters in Computer Science. He can be heard frequently on CHSRfm.ca, and two of his shows regularly appear as podcasts, and can be found at encaffeinated.ca and theweirdshow.com. He likes cats enough to pet them but not enough to own one, and computers enough to own several but pet none of them. He will someday write a million words, but at this rate, that will require life extension, so he eagerly awaits the ability to upload into a computer, if that hasn’t already happened and this is all only a simulation.
James Silverstein s a budding author and role-playing game designer, with credits from the 7th Sea and Stargate RPG lines. He’s working on the upcoming ‘Cairn’ RPG, as well as a series of stories about a 1940s private eye in a city of the undead. James feels that there are always more amazing stories that need to be told, and he writes, narrates, and runs games to share them with the world. He loves speculative fiction, noir detective tales, and pulp fantasy, and is honored to be a returning reader in the District of Wonders.