January 13, 2017

More Poetry, Please

 

There is a paucity of poetry in submissions to EC these days. In fact, it has been a problem for awhile. 

Finding great short stories for each issue is usually a no-brainer. But poetry is a problem, because simply put, I get very few useable submissions. 

The biggest problem is poetry that is NOT about the theme. (The same thing happens with stories, but not nearly so often.) I do not expect slavish devotion to a theme, but I promise you, if you submit a work that does not have a sense of the theme, you've wasted your time.

And here's a general reminder for all: I often get passive-aggressive little comments with submissions about following all of my rules. (Yeah, that'll help your chances.) This is my party, and understand, that even with the poetry problem, there are always more than enough submissions for every issue from talented, polite, creative people. Sooner or later, every one of these people will end up published in EC. Probably multiple times. Because they are, creative, talented, meticulous, and well mannered. This world is filled with amazing people.

Back to poetry. If you are a poet, 2017 is your year. You have to follow the rules, just like everyone else (no multiple poems submitted, please), but I'm looking for poems that bring old fairy tales into new ideas. Poetry inspired by classic fairy tales can go into delightfully unexpected places. Don't fool around with weird spacing or indents or characters. But do explore old and new methods of bringing fairy tales alive through poetry.

Poets, show me what you've got. 

Here are some "Steadfast Tin Soldier" images to inspire you. (Remember, that's the current theme.) The top image is by Marcia Brown. The first image below is by Elizabeth MacKinstry. Next is by Kay Nielsen. Last is by HJ Ford.

 

 

 
read more " More Poetry, Please "

January 7, 2017

Maginel Wright (Enright) Barney, Artist

 
It's time again to feature a classic fairy tale/fairy artist. Today it's Maginel Wright (Enright) Barney. 

Maginel was born in 1881, and christened as Maggie Nell, but her name was contracted Maginel. She was the younger sister of nine other than Frank Lloyd Wright. Married twice, you can find her work under Maginel Wright Engel or Maginel Wright Barney. She was also the mother to Newberry Award winner and writer and illustrator Elizabeth Wright Enright. 

But enough about the rest of her family. Maginel was a highly successful and well regarded children's illustrator in her own time. She illustrated books by L. Frank Baum, not Oz books, though. But Baum wrote the delightfully titled Policeman Bluejay, which Maginel did illustrate. 

She also illustrated Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, as well as Heidi. She illustrated countless times for magazines and during her entire career, illustrated 63 books. She died in 1966.

Her use of color is exquisite, and the lines of her figures and scenery are clearly delineated without being harsh. She seems to have had a strong understanding of what kids wanted to see in their books. No wonder her illustrations are popular on Pinterest.

Below are Mermaid's Gift, Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, "The Fairy Artist," and Farm and Fireside. The illustration at top is from Myself and I

 

 

 

 
read more " Maginel Wright (Enright) Barney, Artist "

January 4, 2017

The OA, Haiti and NDE's

Have you watched the sometimes trippy, sometimes baffling, but intriguing Netflix show  The OA?

 


I did. My husband gave it one episode and gave it a pass. I completely unfairly accused him of not liking entertainment with a woman protagonist. So I watched the rest of the episodes myself. It was decidedly strange, often silly (those dance moves), but occasionally unsettling in a good way. 

Warning: Spoilers below.

The fact that the protagonist was a delicate looking blonde woman was a bit eye roll inducing. I'm not against blonds. My son-in-law is blond. I have a lot of (fake) blond in my hair. But if you know of any brunette, delicate, ethereal angelic types in popular media, please tell me.

Also, while there are some essential nonwhite cast members (which is great!) there are NO African-American people on the show until we see a black high school kid speak at almost the very last minute of the the whole series. This I found irritating. The story took place in the US. There are over 70 million people who are at least partly African American here in this country. Apparently I was not the only person who noticed. There's an excellent essay on the whole unbearable whiteness of being in The OA on io9. But the essay, by Evan Narcisse is about far more than The OA. It also explores a spiritual experience he witnessed many years ago. Just read it. Here it is:

Narcisse's story takes place in Haiti, although he is a New Yorker. In it, he mentions a book he devoured in college: When Night Falls: Kric Krac--Haitian Folktales. It seems like it is expensive and hard to find,  but Narcisse is a good writer, so if he liked it, it's worth looking for. Here are the Amazon details: http://tinyurl.com/z3kykzn

Back to The OA. What really grabbed me about the show was that Near Death Experiences, or NDE's, are a very important element in the story. So I started reading about them. The scientific evidence is sketchy, but the fact is, since resuscitation and other forms of bringing people "back from the (near) dead" are very common nowadays, they have also been around since well before the advent of modern medicine.

I'll admit it: I'm now fascinated by NDE's. I'll be 55 in a few weeks. You start wondering about this kind of thing at my age.

So I wondered, are there Near Death Experiences in fairy tales? I can think of at least one: Snow White essentially dies three times and is revived. I wonder what she saw when she was dead. Apple trees? Angels? White light? Her deadbeat, out-of-the picture father?

And what about "The Juniper Tree"? If you don't know it, I won't spoil it, but you can find it HERE: http://tinyurl.com/d9pnfvb

Can you think of any others? Have you seen The OA? Do you know anyone who has had an NDE? Are they worth discussing? What did you think of Narcisse's story?

I want to read what you think! 

Image is of Brit Marling who co-created The OA and stars in it, as Prairie.
read more " The OA, Haiti and NDE's "

December 31, 2016

New Year's Issue Table of Contents


The end of 2016 is now upon us, and I, for one, am very grateful. Let's hope 2017 is better. This issue of EC has six wonderful works to help us ring in the new. Classic fairy tales are thoroughly and charmingly explored, and some new enchanting ideas are featured as well.  I hope you'll find the variety as entertaining and intriguing as I have. There's magic in this issue.

Happy New Year!

Dance Me to the End, Alicia Cole

The Three Princesses, Penny Jo McAllister

Diamrem's New Year Dilemma, Christine Tapper

The Turn of the Year, Gerri Leen

Bite, Shannon Whalen

New Leaf, Subhra Bhattacharya





read more " New Year's Issue Table of Contents "

Dance Me to the End, By Alicia Cole


What does it feel like to simply let go?
Leonard Cohen, like so many,
had had enough. So, what does
it feel like to simply let go?
It feels like the changing of years,
the year's body once strong and robust
with spring-sapped arms and torsos,
the year's body remembering
the sap as it withers and turns.
And what about the sound?
The year and life sing a song like this:
once upon a time, there was a prince
who lived in a lofty tower, a tower,
a tower of song. And that prince loved
his tower and lived there in a stalwart
way until the princess of his dreams
beckoned him down to the ground
to get into the rain. He left the tower,
as all lovelorn princes do, and hit
the ground running towards her.
And love is why he died. Yes, Love.
Love of all princesses and queens
and ladies of the night. Love of all
mornings and mists. The princess,
as many princesses do, left the prince
for another, left him standing outside
his tower, left him in the morning
with the flowers blooming just past
his straining grasp. Love is why
he lived. And Love is on the other side
of the changing body, the changing year.
See the chandeliers on New Years,
the way they catch the light of every soul.
See the candles flare and Leonard Cohen
laughing. He'll be in the new year
also, really, as all matter of things
skip over that way in time, in due time,
especially singers and song tellers
and men who understand the tower
of time and rhyme even when they leave
for expected riffs.



Bio: Alicia Cole lives and writes in Huntsville, AL.  She's the editor of Priestess & Hierophant Press, and a visual artist.  You can find her at www.priestessandhierophant.com and www.facebook.com/AliciaColewriter.
read more " Dance Me to the End, By Alicia Cole "

The Three Princesses, By Penny Jo McAllister


“Remember Cinderella, we need it spotless for the new year so we’ll come home to a lucky house,” said Genevieve tossing her curls and showing off  her new dress to her cousin. The green and silver silk was lovely, and the emerald tiara matched her eyes perfectly.

“A clean house for a new year makes everyone lucky,” said Josephine. She was as vain as her sister but much kinder. She paused to give her cousin a quick hug, pressed her hands and kissed her on the cheek. “I do wish you’d come with us Cindy. It would be so much fun.”

“I hope you both have a wonderful time,” she said and kissed her cousin back.

“Come on Josephine! We don’t want to miss the first dance.”

Josephine hurried out the door after her sister. “Happy New Year!” she called as she was stepping into the carriage.

Cinderella smiled and blew her cousins a kiss.

Cinderella loved her two cousins. They’d grown up almost like sisters after her parents, Thom and Estelle,  died in a carriage accident. After this tragedy, Cindy went to live with her Uncle William and Aunt Camilla and her two cousins. Though they all had their flaws, it was as loving a family as she could wish for--at least in childhood.

Genevieve and Josephine grew into the two most beautiful young maidens in the kingdom, while Cinderella remained plain. They took on different interests as well. While her cousins were obsessed with the latest fashions and luxuries, Cinderella was tidying up and either reading in the library, gazing at the stars, or working on mathematical equations. She had a regular correspondence with Sir Hubbleton about astronomy. Her cousins thought her rather odd. Genevieve felt embarrassed by her and told people that she was their servant rather than their cousin.

Genevieve, her eldest cousin, was so beautiful that the king’s gardener named a rose after her and every artist in the kingdom wanted to paint her portrait. With her flaming auburn hair, flawless skin and emerald eyes, she had her choice of suitors from kingdoms near and far. Though her beauty outshined the stars and her manners were perfect, she was haughty when her parents were away (as they were now). She took every opportunity to remind Cinderella that without the goodness of her parents, she would be a beggar and would convince her that it was their will that she do not only her own chores, but hers and Josephine’s as well to earn her keep.

Josephine was almost as beautiful as her sister with golden hair and grey eyes, but was sweet and kind even when no one was looking. Though she was not as close to Cindy as in childhood, she loved her cousin dearly. Even though she couldn’t cross Genevieve, who could belittle her as well and make up lies to get her in trouble with their parents, she would often help Cindy with the chores when her sister wasn’t looking and would always bring her books from the library when she went out.

The truth was Cinderella liked being alone in the house and didn’t always like balls--the crowds, the endless chatter, always worried someone else would look prettier. Sometimes she didn’t mind cleaning as it gave her time to think, and she’d write out mathematical proofs in the dust. Sometimes, though, she wished Genevieve would clean up after her parties herself.

She’d have the house clean before they came back; they planned to be well after midnight. Then she could walk in the garden--a truly magical place at night.

But as she surveyed the room, her heart sank. It was a mess. She didn’t know where to start, so she opened a window to let the breeze in. A shooting star whizzed by. She  picked up a cloth, and began to polish a mirror.

Not knowing why, she let out a sob. Then another. “Maybe I should have gone tonight.” Then she began to list the reasons why she stayed behind. “I won’t dress right. I always say the wrong things. My mother never came back from the ball.”

She sat down on the floor, hugged her knees to her chest, and wept. She choked on her tears. She couldn’t wipe them fast enough.

Then she heard someone softly say, “My princess.” She stopped crying and looked around, but no one was there. She looked at the mirror. It was twinkling like opalescent diamonds. She went over to it. A familiar face appeared, but it was impossible. Her mother was dead.

“Mother?” she whispered.

“My little princess,” Estelle said and stepped through the looking glass and embraced her daughter. “Let’s get you ready for that ball.”

“But--”

“But, nonsense my dear. You’re going to the ball.” She looked around her, and her gaze fell on a portrait. “Yes, I think that’s the dress--with a few alterations of course. But the color’s perfect for you.”

She took out a wand and waved it around Cinderella’s head. An almost identical fabric now draped over her.

“Let’s see, I’ll take it in here and here. And I’ll bring the hem up just slightly. Lovely! Come look at yourself in the mirror.”

Cinderella gasped. A beautiful princess gazed back at her. She smiled; the princess smiled back. She laughed and twirled around, a whirl of blue gold.

“Is that really me?” she whispered, giggling.

“Of course it’s you. Now let’s get a carriage.” Her mother said.

She studied the Christmas tree, which would be up for a few more days,  for a few moments before picking off a perfect silver globe.

Estelle gave a wistful smile and said, “Come with me outside. But first let’s get you a wrapper.” She waved her wand and wrapped a gold shawl around Cindy’s shoulders. (Cindy thought that was silly as it December was quite warm in this part of the kingdom, but her mother was not one to argue with.)

The December night was cool but clear , and the stars shone like sapphires, the moon was like newly-polished silver.

Her mother laid the ornament gently on the ground. And singing softly over it, she waved her wand. It grew into a beautiful coach, blue and gold to match her dress.

Two brave mice came out of the shadows, and Estelle waved her wand over them, turning them into two magnificent white stallions.

“Now to find you a driver,” said Estelle. She pointed her wand at a small frog, and in a shower of silver dust he became a royal coachman.

Cinderella mused to herself, “Could I really be going to the ball?”

Estelle took the dazed Cinderella by the hand, to the coach. Just then a shooting star went by.

“I don’t want to go,” said Cinderella.

“What?” asked her mother.

“I’m sorry Mother, but the night is so beautiful. Have you ever seen the stars so bright, and the meteor showers are tonight.”

“But--”

“There’s another one!” Cinderella squealed as another star went by. “I don’t understand why anyone would want to spend an evening like this in a crowded ballroom. Have you ever seen such beauty?”

“Hundreds of times. It’s time to find you a prince.”

“Oh, why do I always have to do what people expect me to do? I wish I could stay out here all night, but all that work-- and now I’m expected to go to a ball.”

Her mother sighed. “I see. I was hoping you’d meet your prince tonight so I could have some grandchildren, but you’ve plenty of time for that,' and she pointed her wand at the house, and it began to glow. She pointed it at the stallions, and they turned back into mice. The driver once again became a frog.

Her mother looked sadly at Cinderella and said, “Well I suppose we should give you back your comfortable clothes.”  A wave of her wand had her back in her housedress.

She looked at the carriage and waved her wand over it, and in its place was an enormous telescope, blue and gold like the carriage had been.

Cinderella gasped. “I never imagined such a thing. It’s beautiful!”

She walked around it, studied it from every angle and peered into the eyepiece. She gasped. “There are people on the moon. Who knew?”

Estelle loved seeing her daughter so happy, even if it wasn’t what she had in mind. “If you turn this crank, you can point it anywhere in the sky. And this one makes it zoom in and out.”

“Oh! I love it!” Cinderella hugged her mother. “I just wish Josephine and Genevieve were here like when we were children.”

“But don’t you find Genevieve kind of mean?”

“She wasn’t always mean. When we were children, the three of us would look up at the sky for hours. That constellation over there is the 'Three Princesses.' Genevieve named it after us…”

Estelle spread a blanket on the ground, and the two of them gazed up at the sky watching stars fly by. Just before midnight Estelle said “I have to go now.”

You may be wondering how Genevieve and Josephine are doing at the ball. Genevieve danced almost every dance with the dashing Prince Darien and was picturing the wedding that was sure to be when a mysterious young woman entered the room. She wasn’t exceptionally beautiful, but the prince, ever polite, danced with her as he did all of the guests at some point. As the young stranger spent more time with the prince, Genevieve could see her future slipping away and excused herself to find Josephine.

When Josephine saw the look on her sister’s face, she inquired whether she were ill and escorted her back to the carriage. It wasn’t quite midnight. Genevieve cried all the way home.

Upon entering their own home and seeing how it sparkled, Josephine said to her sister cheerfully, “Look Genny, it’s sure to be a lucky year for all of us. I’ll go make us some tea.”

Just as she passed the window, a shooting star flew by. “Genevieve, come look!”

The sisters stared out the window at their cousin and the enormous telescope.

They went out and joined her on the blanket. After some time Genevieve pointed to the sky, and said “Look, The Three Princesses.”


Bio: Penny Jo McAllister is a US-based writer. She enjoys stargazing, but someone else can do the cleaning.

Vintage Image by Edith Ballinger Price.
read more " The Three Princesses, By Penny Jo McAllister "

Diamrem's New Year Dilemma, By Christine Tapper


The volcano rumbled in the dusk light, steam spouted and hissed from cracks in the earth’s crust.  A sage in long silver robes appeared by the royal pond and spoke to Prince Diamrem. “Destruction is imminent. Why haven’t you left? I warned you hours ago.”
“It’s my home, I like it here.”
The sage’s face creased making him look more wizened. “At midnight when the New Year begins the volcano will send clouds of red dust billowing into the sky. Rivers of molten lava will cascade down the mountain slopes creating barren fields and craters. You must find a princess, start a new life."
 “A princess? Where?” Since the recent death of his parents, Diamrem had lived alone on the island.
“One awaits you. You must walk the land now.  Find your way to the whispering ocean.”
"In the darkness...all by myself?" gulped the prince as a mantle of grey cloud concealed the moon.
“Go if you want to meet her and see the New Year. Your choice.” The sage vanished.
Back pack in place, the prince crossed the drawbridge and trudged away from the castle, chill wind at his back. Time and again, he stumbled and fell; picked himself up, pushed on.  Before long, his leather boots crunched on a gravel surface and something nudged his elbow. Heart pounding, he turned expecting a beast to confront him. But he realised he had connected with a signpost. He wiped sweat from his palms and headed toward the scent of coastal pines.
After a hundred easier steps, he encountered a barrier of thorns and shouted in despair at the dark sky. He groped through prickles and vines and emerged scratched and bleeding not far from a hollow tree where he sat taking refuge.  Night creatures skittered through the undergrowth. Diamrem trembled and breathed deeply trying to settle his nerves. He soon sensed a shift in the cloud coverings. Taking advantage of the moonlight he set off through the trees and when he reached a clearing, he stopped and listened to the crash of waves upon rocks. Salt-laced air filled his nostrils He looked around and frowned. The only access point was by way of a steep path.
Carefully he made his made his way but just as one foot reached the sand the other slid on a moss-covered rock and wedged in a crevice. He tried to free himself. The other leg buckled. Pain speared through him. Diamrem fainted on the rock.
 #
He awakened to a hazy image of strawberry blond tresses cascading over a lady’s torso. Her blinked and saw she was combing her hair with a piece of coral. Her body, below the waist was buried in seaweed ribbons and sand. "Your legs are damaged. Fear not, I will help,” she whispered through crimson lips. Her slender, cool fingers caressed his forehead. He realised she had released his feet and removed his boots.  As he reached out to touch her shimmering hair, she unfurled her long, elaborate tail.
Diamrem spluttered.  "Where are your legs?"
"Don’t need any; my flipper propels me through the water."
The prince asked her name. "I have no special name until my husband gives me his letters. Write your name in the sand."
He picked up a white shell and wrote in large capital letters. DIAMREM.  She flipped into the breakers. “Believe in yourself Diamrem." Her sweet voice echoed. "Swim to me."
 “I cannot swim."
The volcano reverberated.
 “Hurry Diamrem. You walked in the dark of night. You can do anything. Come to me."
Her melodic voice mesmerised him. He dragged himself to the seashore where waves lapped around him. She pointed to a passing starfish. “Let the water carry you. Like that.”
He floated and grinned in surprise. The princess removed his shirt and ran her fingers down his spine.  His whole body felt suddenly lighter. When he saw his legs had been replaced by a magnificent tail, he emitted a throaty sound.  His first attempt at using the new tail made her laugh and she buried her face in a sea of bubbles. He managed to wriggle, at first like a tadpole, then found he could weave through the water more easily.
 “Now try this.” The princess soared like a porpoise in and out of the curling waves. Sunlight danced on her silver scales. They dived and swam together until loud rumblings and a red explosion erupted from the centre of the volcano.
 “The New Year has begun.” Diamrem pointed to the palace silhouetted against the crimson sky.
Later, when the rumblings ceased and fringes of lava cooled all around the island, they lay on the beach and he stroked her hair. “Will you be my bride? Will you take my letters?’
“Yes DIAMREM. And you should know this. It is my privilege to reverse your letters if I want to. So I shall call myself MERMAID."  
“Mermaid? I like it. It suits you.”
She smiled. “I like it too.”   


Bio: Christine Tapper, in Australia, writes fairy tales, fact and fiction. ABC radio broadcasted some of her stories; she’s been published by Oxford University Press, online and in anthologies.
read more " Diamrem's New Year Dilemma, By Christine Tapper "

The Turn of the Year, By Gerri Leen


Snow trickles into the barn, blown by winds grown suddenly gentle after gusting all night. You can hear the sound of festivities from the castle: the humans are preparing to welcome in another year with dances and great spreads of food and drink and embraces when the clock strikes twelve. There's no clock in the barn, but you'll know exactly when the year slips over: the sense of potential will build as the minutes tick down and then be gone again until next year.

You turn away from the cold, feeling it despite the lushness of your fur. Your joints ache as you move and you want nothing more than to go up to the castle and lie in front of the kitchen stove, but you're expected down here. Kittens and half-grown cats circle around you, their tails up in the universal cat-sign of friendliness, their hopeful faces beaming silent messages of: "Choose me. Choose me."

It's New Year's Eve, the night you can choose to change, and there are more candidates than last year even with the storm.

They look so appealing--they feel even more so with their spirits strong and their energy high. You can barely remember your first incarnation, when you jumped at the least sound, your back arched, your tail like the sword you're known for carrying.

You don't carry it anymore--and you think that disappoints the clowder. They know your body is worn and scarred and that it's time.

Truth to tell, it's long past.

Lilac meets your eyes and her look is knowing as she glances at one young cat in particular--a lithe buff tabby with stunning turquoise eyes. Tulip is her son. She has prepared him despite the cost to her and her bloodline.

To be the vessel of "the Puss" is an honor, after all.

Your boots hang with your sword, just above the shelf you like to sleep on, the one that gets sun no matter the season. It's been so long since you last wore them, when you fooled an ogre and a king and made your person rich and loved. A favor he never forgot nor did his heirs--the care of the estate cats is written into every will. You'll always have a home here even if the latest marquis doesn't know it's really the famous "Puss" in this old gray body.

You were a brown tabby when you wore the boots. You've been so many other colors before and since: a longhaired white, a black and white shorthair, solid black, silver striped, even once the seal brown and tan of a cat from the exotic east. In the early days you preferred to be striped, to mimic the wildcat and take advantage of its natural camouflage when you went into battle. It's been some time since you battled anything more dangerous than a rat. But you could fight again, if you choose the change. Your body wears out, but your soul--your gift of language and cunning--does not. All your experiences comes with you when you jump to a new vessel.

You have no idea how it works. It just does. Probably a fairy somewhere was behind it. Everything seems to happen because of them.

The kittens dance and mock-fight with each other, and they raise dust that makes you sneeze.

"Bless you, great one." Tulip walks over, his stance assured. He knows he's the most likely choice to be your new vessel. He will consider it an honor to die for you.

"Walk with me," you say, and he stays close, his head bumping against yours in a way few who know you ever dare.

You love this cat. Have loved him since he threw himself between you and a garden snake, his kitten body puffed, his half-saber tail up in perfect battle-cat form. Neither you nor Lilac had the heart to tell him the snake wasn't venomous. Let him think he saved you.

This is his last year to be eligible. You only take the youngest, those under two. Before life has begun to mean too much, before they get attached to other cats and people and even dogs and horses and other mean creatures. It's a rule you've made for yourself: if you must steal bodies to fulfill whatever strange destiny demands you remain on this Earth, you will do so with as little damage as possible.


The cats whose bodies you take move on and get another chance, or so you assume. You cannot bear the thought that you've robbed them completely of life. None have ever come back to tell you it is or is not so, but perhaps they incarnate somewhere else, far from their old bodies.

"I stand ready," Tulip says, and his voice doesn't shake as some of the other candidates' have over the years.

You cannot in all fairness deny him. If you choose, you must choose him. If you refuse him, he will challenge whomever you do choose, and you don't think any can stand against him.

But you don't have to choose. You should have changed last New Years, mere months after he "saved" you from the snake. But you couldn't bear to. Even if everything in you said it was time, that your current body was nearly useless to you. Even then Tulip was the best candidate, young and green though he was.

You walk without talking, and he keeps up easily, not hanging back the customary head length. You always seek him out when you visit the barn, and all the other cats know he's your friend, and with that title comes great honor.

You know he considers you a friend, too. You have not, over the lifetime, had many of those. Loss is a hard thing if you can never escape the cycle of the seasons, so you've learned to keep to yourself.

Lilac managed to creep past your defenses; it's little wonder her son has too.

"I can last another year," you murmur. Normally there is no discussion. You choose or you do not.

"You can't last." Tulip's voice is strong, his faith resolute. He thinks he wants this.

You imagine the kittens he will father, Fine, strong, and brave. Beautiful like he is. Cunning like his mother. You, in his body, could never replicate that.

You're a terrible father. You've learned this over the lifetimes. But is it heartless to not want to get too close to a kitten you may eventually kill? Even if it's for destiny's sake? You've stopped fathering litters on the estate and go far afield for that sort of pleasure. Or did--your wandering days are over for now.

"I'm not dead yet," you mutter and Tulip sniffs, derision clear.

He's never been afraid to speak plainly.

"What is there to fight anymore--to be strong for?" you ask. "There's peace in the land and our human is respected and treats us well. I can afford to wait another year."

"So that you don't have to take me?" He slaps at you, and you would push him under your paw and hold his head to the straw as the Puss should any cat who dares offer such disrespect, but you lack the strength.

You do stop walking. You turn and glare, fixing him with the stony expression that's made more than one tom roll and show his belly.

Tulip only looks angrier. "What happens to you if your body wears out? You can only make the change on this night."

You've considered this. "Then I will die. As maybe I'm meant to."

"You're not meant to. You're the Puss." Tulip sits and stares at the ground. "I am the right choice."

"I know. That doesn't mean I will choose you." You turn and leave him, walking to the door and staring out at the snow that's drifted up against the side of the barn. In a young body, you would bound through the white fluff up to the banquet hall to steal food from the great table. In this body, you will feel the cold like fire on your paws if you try to make the walk tonight.

You feel a presence at your side and can smell Lilac, her sweet scent filling your nose. "Are you going to lecture me, too?" you ask her, sounding as surly as any ancient tom.

"No. It's possible I knew you would do this." She digs daintily at the snow. "The time draws close."

You can hear the candidates muttering. You should have announced your choice--even if it was no choice--by now.

You nuzzle her gently, then turn to them.  In your best voice you say, "I will keep this body another year."

You see relief on the faces of some of the cats who will cycle out of eligibility. You see confusion and disappointment and maybe gratitude for more time on the faces of the others.

On Tulip's face, you see only anger. He stalks to you, hissing at the others until they scatter to the far reaches of the barn and only Lilac remains. "You will die. And everything you are, everything you mean, will be lost."

You dip your head down and rest it under his chin. It's a sign of appeasement, the only one you can give him.

Because he's right. Everything you are might be lost. But it occurs to you that undergoing change after change may have robbed you of what all these others live with daily.

The beautiful uncertainty of life.

Tulip presses his chin down and you can feel his purr--but it isn't a sound of happiness; it's one of self soothing. He's upset. With you, with a future he did not expect to have, possibly with himself for not being more convincing.

"Stay with me," you whisper. "Learn from me. If I die before the next change, you will be my replacement and will pass on what I know to others. If I last till next year, then after the change you'll still be my friend, and we can chase each other through the snow." It's the one thing you wish you could do tonight.

Play. Be young. Be strong.

You're giving that up and you feel the sense of destiny hammering at you, but you ignore it.

Not this time. Not this one.

The kittens hover at the edges of the barn, as if you might change your mind. Tulip stays close, too, but you see resignation in his eyes.

Lilac however, lies down in the deep straw and folds her paws underneath her. She gives you a long, deep eye-blink of love--and gratitude, you think--as the New Year dawns around you.

Bio: Gerri Leen lives in Northern Virginia and originally hails from Seattle.  She has work published by: Nature, Flame Tree Press’s Murder Mayhem and Dystopia Utopia anthologies, Daily Science FictionEscape Pod, Grimdark, and others.  She recently caught the editing bug and has just finished ing her third anthology for an independent press.  See more at http://www.gerrileen.com.
read more " The Turn of the Year, By Gerri Leen "

Bite, By Shannon Whalen


If there are 7.5 billion people in the world, how many do you expect to be human?

All of them, right?

Well, that's what I thought, too. But I was wrong. And so was everyone else who guessed in the same way.

Because some of those people, they are werewolves. And my life changed completely because of them.

The final days of the 17th year of my life brought a change to everything that I had ever known. The new year brings so much more than parties and resolutions.

My name is Red, and this is my story.

#

They say that eyes are the window to the soul. I personally believe that means that the color of your eyes identifies you as a person. 

Blue eyes can mean you're a bright, happy person. Green eyes can mean you're a nature loving person. Brown eyes can  mean you're a warm, nurturing person. But what about black eyes? If my eyes are black, does that mean my soul is the same?

I don't think so....

I groaned and rolled my head from side to side, listening to the muscles in my neck crack as I did. This science project was taking a lot out of me. 

"Ms. Pinegrove, are you still working?" My science teacher, Mrs. Kale, walked up to my desk and asked. "I know it's the last day of school before your winter break and the new year, but that doesn't mean you can be slacking off!"

I opened my mouth to respond, but the sound of our school bell ringing interrupted me. I stood up and lifted my backpack off the back of the chair, pulling it up so the strap rested on my right shoulder.

After I closed my project and shut down the computer, I walked out of the lab with the rest of the students, keeping my hand on the bag strap as I did. I stopped and glanced from left to right before I turned and walked towards my locker. 

"Hey, Little Red! Last three classes before freedom," a perky voice said behind me. I opened my locker and turned in place to face Allie, one of my best friends. The other is her twin brother, Aster. The two look so similar with their blond hair and blue eyes, you would think that they're the same person. Aside from genders, of course. 

"Al, I told you to stop calling me that..." I mumbled and turned back to face my locker, before I started to pull and put away books, shoving the ones I took into my bag. I slammed my locker door closed and turned to face Allie as we started to walk.

"Ah, well ... you do look like Little Red Riding Hood," Al grinned and I groaned. 

"I know I do. I've been told that a hundred times!" I ran a hand through my fiery red hair and exhaled loudly. Pairing my hair with my all black outfit and trademarked red jacket, I could definitely be a modern day Riding Hood. Right down to my name.

Who names their child Red?

Allie laughed at my frustration and I pulled my bag back up to my shoulder, as the two of us continued to walk down our high school's hallway to the cafeteria. 

And that was when it changed. 

The last thing I heard was Allie screaming my name before I was catapulted into the lockers. I landed on the floor, facing the hallway. My side was pressed against the floor and my hands were flat against the ground. I spit blood out of my mouth from when I bit down on my tongue and wiped blood away from a cut on my forehead.

I shoved myself up and looked toward where I was standing, only to see a large, black wolf standing there, the window behind him completely destroyed. My breathing halted as my eyes grew wide. I had begun moving myself backwards without even realizing it, until my back hit the cool metal of the lockers.

The snarling monster approached me, and with each step it took, I tried to push myself back farther, until he was right in front of my face. I tried to slow my breathing as I pressed my head against the lockers as far as I could. My eyes were wide as I stared into the blue eyes of the wolf. I swallowed and lifted my chin, which I'm sure was trembling.

"Red!" I heard Allie scream. The wolf's head swiveled around towards her, and I took that moment to slide away, stand up, and move a safe distance away from the beast. He must have sensed that I was moving, because as soon as I stood up, he jumped around to look at me. I stopped breathing as our eyes met again.

Those strangely familiar, blue eyes.

"Stay away from her!" Allie screamed. The wolf snarled towards me, before he glanced at Allie. He leapt through the window effortlessly, and I finally let my breath out. Allie ran over to me and wrapped her arm around my shoulder protectively.

"Oh my gosh, Red! Are you okay?" Allie asked, fear shining in her eyes. I swallowed and nodded, before I went to grab my bag. 

"Yeah, I'm fine...," I said, my eyes trained on the window. I could see the wolf retreating into the trees, just off the property of our school. Allie said something, but I couldn't hear her over my loud thoughts.

Other people were in that hallway, why did the wolf only go for me? Why did he listen to Allie? Why, above all, did he not hurt me when he had the chance to, aside from knocking me into the lockers?

"RED!" Allie shouted and I flinched as I turned to look at her

"What? what?" I said, pressing a finger to my ear. "I like my ears, Allie, don't blow them out, please."

"Sorry, but you weren't listening."

"To what?"

"Me, you genius."

"Oh...then what did you say?"

"I said, we should probably get that cut looked at," she replied.

Oh yeah, I forgot I had a cut on my forehead. I raised a hand towards it and winced as the tip of my finger grazed over the tender skin. I lowered the finger and stared at the tip, which was covered with blood. I frowned as I looked at it, before I wiped the blood on my jacket.

"Uh huh...maybe later," I mumbled, looking back out the destroyed window.

"Red, you aren't going out there... you nearly just died! Now you're following what would have killed you?" Allie yelled as I walked over to the edge of the broken glass. I kicked aside some shards and placed a hand on the wall beside me. The cold, late December wind rushed over me as I turned to look back at Allie.

"Yeah, pretty much." I smiled and looked back down towards the grassy terrain.

"Red, listen for once!"

"Come on, Allie... you know I don't listen," I said before I leapt out of the window, landing on my feet with a thump. After recovering from the jump, I swallowed and began running to the woods, where I'd seen the wolf disappear.

That was the worst decision of my life.

I held my backpack on my shoulders as I ran through the forest, whipping my head from left to right, in search of the wolf.

My mind seemed to be gone. All I knew was that I had to find this creature. The sensible me would've been smart enough to stay at the school and out of the forest. I had no clue why I was doing this...it was like I was in a trance.

A loud growl snapped me out of my thoughts. I stopped running and turned to the left, where the wolf was crouched, snarling on the opposite end of a clearing. I stepped out of the shadows of the trees and into the small open circle in the center of the forest.

"What big eyes you have..." I whispered and took two steps forward. The wolf's blue eyes widened as he took a step back.

"What big ears you have..." The wolf's ears perked up at my words. Two more steps.

"What big teeth you have..." The wolf bared his teeth as I took the final two steps, reaching my hand out. My fingertips barely grazed the snout of the wolf, before I was pushed over and pinned against the ground.

Those blue eyes were right in front of mine, distracting me from the razor sharp teeth, inches from my throat. The next word that passed my lips still shocks me to this day.

"Aster..."

The wolf's mouth snapped closed and his eyes widened, before he stepped off of me. He nudged my arm with his snout and helped me sit up. 

"Aster..." I whispered again as the wolf sat in front of me.

The wolf was Aster. My best friend, the boy I grew up with. That's why he listened to Allie. They were twins after all, but does that mean Allie is a...werewolf...also?

Man, this is so much to process.

Aster's head tilted as he stared at me, before he stood up and trotted behind a tree. A strong wind began to blow, whipping my hair in all directions as Aster began to howl. Eventually, the wind ceased, the same time Aster stopped howling, before he emerged from behind the tree in human form.

"Red?" he whispered. I nodded and stood up.

"Hi."

Aster walked towards me and stared at the dried blood that lingered on the corner of my mouth from when I spit some out earlier. He reached up a shaking hand and pressed his palm against my cheek, his thumb grazing over the cut on my forehead. I winced and his hand retreated back sharply.

"Oh god, Red...I did this to you...I'm so sorry..."

I nodded and bit my lip, fighting back the tears and pain from when Aster touched my cut.

"Aster, why...why didn't you recognize me?"

"I...I thought I did, but when your wolf controls you, and your wolf is hungry, you don't stop until you feed." Aster sighed and shoved his hands in his jean pockets.

"Sounds more like a vampire than a werewolf, but why did you go only for me?"

I frowned slightly when I saw Aster shift when I said 'werewolf.'

"Ah, well...I kinda...geez this is gonna sound weird...I kinda felt drawn to you. I can't explain it, I just...did,"

"Oh Aster, why did you wince when I said werewolf?"

"Uh, oay. Actually, I'm not a werewolf, per se. I'm what my kind call the Adolphus. We are like werewolves, but we don't change only during the full moon. We can access our wolves and shift whenever we want or need to. We shift into full wolves and not hybrids between wolf and human. Also, importantly, each Adolphus has a side to them that is a wolf. When in human form, the wolf can speak in the mind of the human."

"Huh." I blinked. What the heck just happened?

"Is Allie an 'Adolphus' also?"

"Well, no," Aster grinned awkwardly and scratched the back of his head. "Adolphus are only men. Allie's kind is called the "AdoQhina".

"Ado-what-a?"

"AdoQhina. They are basically the same thing as the Adolphus, but the Adolphus are male and the AdoQhina are female."

"Uh-huh...interesting. Yep, okay, one last question. WHY THE HECK DID YOU GUYS KEEP THIS FROM ME!"

Aster winced when I shouted at him, but I didn't care. My best friends kept from me that they were hybrid wolf species with confusing names.

"Umm..." Aster bit his lip. You could see that he was struggling to decide to tell me something. I don't know how long I was standing there waiting, but he eventually continued.

"Red, have you ever seen anyone with hair the same color as yours? The same fire that you have?"

I shook my head.

"Ok...how about your eyes? Have you ever seen anyone with pure black eyes, so dark that you can't tell the pupil and iris apart?"

I shook my head again.

"Exactly. Red, there are two wolf species, not going by gender. One is the bad, the Herwyns, and the other is the good, the Evgenii. The good has been assigned to protect the daughter of light and dark."

I stared at Aster as he paused from his tale to look at me.

"That child is you, Red. That's why you were raised by your grandmother. The goddess of light and the god of dark, the parents of the Adolphus and the AdoQhina, were supposed to be mortal enemies, but they fell in love and you were the result. Dark's mother cared for you because no one could know that enemies had a child. But, eventually, people found out. The good cared that Light and Dark loved each other and you, and they wanted to protect you from the dark. The wolf people who didn't agree with supposed enemies lying and secretly having a child--they want you...dead. Allie and I, we were assigned to be your protectors, but that eventually developed into a friendship. We had a chance to leave, but we chose to stay. Allie and I would die for you, because, Red...you are the goddess of combined magic."

"Aster....you are...are you...are you saying that I'm a goddess?"

"Yes."

"And you and Allie are my protectors?"

"Yes."

"And my grandmother raised me to distance me from the wolf people who were trying to kill me?"

"Well--yeah,"

I laughed quietly to myself before I sat down on a nearby stone, resting my hands on my knees and my face in my hands. I heard Aster come over, but I didn't look up for a while until I was ready to face him.

He told me my backstory in a matter of point two seconds...how could he expect me to process that so fast?

I breathed in and out and leaned up, finger-combing my hair out of my face. I crossed my arms and rested them on my knees before I looked down at the ground between them.

“If you had a chance to change your destiny…” I whispered before I looked up at Aster. “Would you?”

Aster opened and closed his mouth, struggling to find the right response.

“It depends,” he finally said and sat down next to me on the stone.

“On what?”

“On what I would change it to… I mean, my life is fine as it is. I have everything I want or need--”

“I didn't ask if you could change your life,” I said, cutting off Aster before I stood up angrily and ran both hands through my hair. I stood with my back to Aster, until I eventually turned to look at him. 

“The parents I never knew are apparently gods and I'm a goddess. Herwyns are after me, waiting for a chance to kill me. Imagine what my destiny could bring…”

Aster sighed and stood up, walking over to me.

“Red, would you change your destiny?”

I stared at Aster for a minute before I opened my mouth to respond. The sound of leaves rustling stopped me.

Wait...there was no wind to blow the leaves around….

Something was out there.

Evidently, Aster heard it too. He turned away from me and examined the line of trees where we heard the leaves.

*Rustle*

I spun around to the opposite side of the clearing. I followed Aster's lead and stared at the line of trees. I saw nothing out of the ordinary, except for...

Three...

Distinct...

Words...

"We are here" read the scrawled message in the dirt. I swallowed and lifted my chin before I grabbed Aster's left hand with my right. He turned around and glanced at the message. His gaze turned to me before it snapped back to the words.

"Oh no..." Aster whispered and pulled me to his side. I gripped his hand as I stared at the words. I only thought one thing:

I could die.

The two of us faced the message, waiting. I could practically feel my ears perk up when I heard a rustle to the left. I glanced over, and my breath halted.

Eyes. Another set of eyes...though they weren't the comforting blue like Aster's and Allie's. These eyes...they were a piercing gold.

"Aster..." I whispered and shook his hand that I was holding. He turned to look at me and saw the eyes.

"Oh, crap! Red, get out of here!" Aster shouted and push me towards the trees where I entered the clearing. I sprinted towards them and screamed as a wolf jumped out in front of me.

"You've been here the whole time," I heard a voice snarl. I tried to slow my breathing as I backed up. The wolf's paw steps on the grass seemed to thunder in my ears and I could feel my heart hammering against my chest.

"But now that we've found you..." I froze, before I whirled around to where Aster was standing. He was now in wolf form and on the ground, while a gray wolf stood above him, a paw pressed to his throat.

"No!" I screamed, before the attack happened.

I gasped loudly as I felt sharp teeth dig into my lower neck, where the throat and shoulder joined. Clouds seemed to hover in eyes as I met Aster's. His blue eyes went wide as he fought against the wolf, freeing himself before he charged at the wolf that was biting me.

The teeth were ripped from my neck as I fell to the ground. Cold air rushed into my wound, and I could feel the blood trickling out. I could barely see Aster fighting the wolf. He snapped at the wolf's leg, and bit down hard.

Then the golden-eyed wolf fell motionless to the ground.

Aster's back rose and fell visibly as he stared at the body of the wolf, before his eyes found me. He sprinted over to me, and as he did so, he shifted back to his human form.

"Red!" He screamed as he picked up my head and rested it on his lap. I stared at him through my clouded eyes, dazed, as he pressed his cold hand over the bite.

"Aster...," I whispered. "I'm fine...I'll be fine."

With that, my whole life went black. 

#

I didn't die that day, I merely transformed. I was welcomed into the world of my family as I morphed into an AdoQhina. The bite of the wolf caused it, and I never thought that I would say I'm thankful to him. I guess I'm a werewolf goddess.

Huh. Didn't know they existed.

As the year my life changed comes to an end...a new one begins. But as one life changes, so can another, and maybe the story all together.

Who would have thought that Little Red Riding Hood would end up being the wolf?


Bio: Shannon was raised with four brothers, and loves to dance and play softball, which gives her experiences for main characters and great stories. She is also a talented artist and loves to draw, sketch, and create book covers for future books.

read more " Bite, By Shannon Whalen "