First Story: “The Kite of Stars” by Dean Francis Alfar
The night when she thought she would finally be a star, Maria Isabella du’l Cielo struggled to calm the trembling of her hands, reached over to cut the tether that tied her to the ground, and thought of that morning many years before when she’d first caught a glimpse of Lorenzo du Vicenzio ei Salvadore: tall, thick-browed and handsome, his eyes closed, oblivious to the cacophony of the accident waiting to occur around him.
Maria Isabella had just turned sixteen then, and each set of her padrinos had given her (along with the sequined brida du caballo, the dresses of rare tulle, organza, and seda, and the diadema floral du’l dama – the requisite floral circlet of young womanhood) a purse filled with coins to spend on anything she wanted. And so she’d gone past the Calle du Leones (where sleek cats of various pedigrees sometimes allowed themselves to be purchased, though if so, only until they tired of their new owners), walked through the Avenida du’l Conquistadores (where the statues of the conquerors of Ciudad Meiora lined the entirety of the broad promenade) and made her way to the Encantu lu Caminata (that maze-like series of interconnected streets, each leading to some wonder or marvel for sale), where little musical conch shells from the islets near Palao’an could be found. Those she liked very much.
In the vicinity of the Plaza Emperyal, she saw a young man dressed in a coat embroidered with stars walk almost surely to his death. In that instant, Maria Isabella knew two things with the conviction reserved only for the very young: first, that she almost certainly loved this reckless man; and second, that if she simply stepped on a dog’s tail — the very dog watching the same scene unfold right next to her — she could avert the man’s seemingly senseless death.
Dean Francis Alfar is a fictionist and advocate of speculative fiction. His stories have been published and anthologized in the Philippines and abroad in Strange Horizons, The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, The Apex Book of World SF, The Time Traveler’s Almanac, and the Exotic Gothic series among many others.
His books include the novel Salamanca; short fiction collections The Kite of Stars and Other Stories, How to Traverse Terra Incognita, East of the Sun and Other Stories, and A Field Guide to the Roads of Manila and Other Stories; and the children’s book How Rosang Taba Won A Race. He has edited or co-edited volumes of the Philippine Speculative Fiction annuals, Horror: Filipino Fiction for Young Adults, The Farthest Shore: Fantasy from the Philippines, Outpouring: Typhoon Yolanda Relief Anthology, and Maximum Volume: Best New Philippine Fiction.
Dean lives in Manila with his wife and tango partner, award-winning fictionist Nikki Alfar, and their daughters Sage and Rowan.
Second Story: “The Wood of Ephraim” by Edward M. Erdelac
2 Samuel 18:8 — For the battle was there spread over the face of all the country; and the forest devoured more people that day than the sword.
The Judean soldiers had run all day previously from Mahanaim, plunging into the wooded hill country of Gilead, where they surprised the massing forces of the rebel prince Absalom.
The fighting was bitter and terrible. The outnumbered Judean loyalists of King David drove into the heart of the wayward Israelite tribes, beguiled by the king’s son into open revolt. All day they fought a confused, bloody skirmish. By nightfall Absalom’s forces broke and scattered across the countryside.
Just what had brought about their overwhelming victory was a matter of excited debate between the ten Gibborim, David’s elite warriors who had spearheaded the attack behind General Joab.
They talked around the fire as they broke their evening bread, stuffing their bellies with old Barzillai’s kine cheese, there being no game to be found.
“We’ve the craftiness of the king to thank for this victory,” Zalmon the Ahohite mumbled as he chewed. “Had he not secretly sent his man Hushai into Absalom’s council, the old wizard Ahithophel would surely have advised the prince to run us down as we fled Jerusalem.”
“Be careful when you mention Ahithophel, idiot,” hissed Elez the Paltite, who looked up just then from rubbing balm into a cut on his forearm. “You know the wizard’s son Eliam fought for us today. I hear Ahithophel went home and hung himself because he knew what David would do to him when Absalom failed.”
“What you don’t see with your eyes, don’t say with your mouth,” Zalmon admonished, waving Elez off. “Anyway, Eliam is loyal to David. He can’t help his father was a sorcerer or a traitor.”
Edward M. Erdelac is the author of eight novels, including the acclaimed Judeocentric/Lovecraftian weird western series Merkabah Rider and Andersonville from Random House. His fiction has appeared in dozens of anthologies and periodicals, including most recently the Stoker Award-winning After Death, Atomic Age Cthulhu, Edge Of Sundown, and Star Wars Insider Magazine. Born in Indiana, educated in Chicago, he lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife and a bona fide slew of kids.
News of his work and excerpts may be found at emerdelac.wordpress.com.
About the Narrators:
Deanna Sanchez is a voiceover talent and actress who has performed professionally for 14 years. She has voiced various commercials, industrials, and characters, and specializes in the “sexy voice” of powerful female roles. An avid fan of science fiction since her grandfather gave her a copy of Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky when she was 9, she feels greatly privileged to help bring this story to life. While pursuing a voice talent and acting career, Deanna also consults in Geographical Information Systems and develops custom mapping applications for real estate and other industries. Her background in I.T. management does not prevent her from owning multiple old computers, some with Windows 98 still running. Three-dimensional visualization of spatial data is a favorite pastime, and she has spent many hours translating real-Earth elevation data into unique 3D worlds. Deanna’s voice over demo can be heard at the Lambert Studios website, an outstanding full service recording studio.
Rish Outfield is a writer, actor, and podcaster that can be heard as co-host of The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine, which presents genre stories with a full cast. He also performs audiobooks for Audible, and occasionally becomes a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms, and the moon is full and bright.
The music featured in “The Wood of Ephraim” is “Past the Edge” by Kevin MacLeod of Incompetech.com, used under Creative Commons License 3.0.