First Story: “The Wheel of Fortune” by Steph Swainston
Tuesday morning in May, bright sunshine. I came out of the shop, carrying a pole to pull the awning down. I was whistling. The shop door banged behind me and the cat fled off the step. The whole street was vibrant with the spring sun. There, sitting on the pavement and huddled against the terrace wall, was Serin. She was a pitiful sight, gin-dimmed eyes and head to foot in gutter dirt. I had last seen her Saturday, on stage at the Campion Vaudeville, and she was wearing the same dress now, a voluminous costume made of gold foil. Her reddish wings stuck out the back and bunched up against the bricks. The feathers rustled when she moved.
I knelt next to her. ‘Serin? …Are you all right?’
She shook her head and looked away. She was on the spiral downwards, that much was obvious.
(Author’s Note: This story tells of Jant’s early life when a mortal, in Hacilith city, in the year 1818.)
Steph Swainston has written tales set in the Fourlands since she was five years old. Her novels published to date are collected in The Castle Omnibus. The next book, Fair Rebel, will be published by Gollancz in 2016, and is available on Amazon. She’s halfway through the next book in the sequence, and she’s expanding this story into a novel. There are more to come…
Second Story: “Crab Apple” by Patrick Samphire
I saw her first the day I found Dad on the kitchen floor. The new girl. The wild girl.
At first I thought Dad had been drinking again. There were beer cans scattered across the floor. But the cans were still full, and I couldn’t smell alcohol.
There was something strange about the way Dad was lying. He was too still. His stick-thin arms and legs were sprawled loosely across the tiles. I thought for a moment he was dead.
He was still breathing, though, a wheezy, tight sound, as though a plastic whistle was stuck in his throat. He didn’t wake when I shook him.
I’d begun taking first aid classes at school when Dad started losing weight and coughing. There was no one else at home to help. But they had never shown us how to deal with this. I put him in the recovery position and called an ambulance.
The girl was there when I went outside to wait for the ambulance. She was squatted on our garden wall like a wild-haired monkey. She had on a dirty white T-shirt and shorts that showed scratched legs. I guessed she was about fourteen, the same age as me. Her eyes were as brown as oak and her cheeks were freckled and sunburnt. There were leaves in her tangled hair.
“What’s your name?” she said. “You, what’s your name?”
“Josh,” I said.
“Joshua,” she laughed. “Stupid name.”
She winked down at me. Her grin was as wide as her face.
Then she leapt from the wall and dashed away up the hill, her wild hair streaming behind her like a comet’s tail. I watched her disappear.
In the distance I heard the ambulance siren approaching.
Patrick Samphire drinks green tea, designs cool websites and book covers, and writes thrilling books and magical stories. His first novel, Secrets of the Dragon Tomb, will be published by Henry Holt/Macmillan in January 2016. He lives with his wife (fellow writer Stephanie Burgis), their two sons, and their border collie in Wales. To find out more, visit his website: patricksamphire.com.
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.
Alex Weinle writes short fiction for magazines and podcasts and author of the anthology of shock-comedic-tragic stories, The Decapaphiliac, and the science fiction novel Border. A long-time Sofanaut, he has finally got up the courage to narrate. He lives in Fulbourn, England, in a cottage that consumes bulbs of unusual wattage. He can be found on Twitter as @alexweinle.