April 29, 2018

FAIRY TALE FLASH - The Firefly Above the Mill by Richard Bower

My older sister claims she remembers Grandad before he turned into a firefly and went north into the woods. She says she’s smarter, braids her hair. On most days, the braids are all she can show, honey-colored, long and easily pulled. Still, I defend her when schoolboys try. Talia will only tolerate me teasing her anyhow. If a boy got hold of her braids for real, she’d wallop him so hard he’d fly high over the mill’s fences bordering southside. He’d land in the heat treat furnaces--where steel ingots are cast--and be scorched to cinders.

We doubt Grandmother is blood related. Our mother died when we were too young to remember more than her shadow. Grandmother hounds us with numbers and science, so we can study metallurgy and work steel at the mill. It is our legacy and misfortune. Many nights if we can’t finish the calculations she assigns, we go to bed with growling bellies. Morning chores cleaning and caring for animals, our arms move by will alone. Some days Talia and I are so hungry we crack open eggs and suck out raw yolks, hiding the shells under the henhouse. Grandmother rarely leaves the manor.

The old dwelling has lived better days before her father founded the mill. When she snaps her walking stick to the floor, we come running or suffer a caned backside. Or worse, she whips the pads of our feet, so afterwards, a stone underfoot jabs like glass.

We are not allowed to play near the woods, which makes it all the more astonishing when Talia suggests we seek Grandfather. The woods are wet, fresh and foul on the back of our throats. Talia knows the lore and leaves pebbles to trail our way back. Grandfather is somewhere unseen. Upon sunset, it’s too dark to recognize one pebble from another, and the wolves will arrive soon. We have no means to build a fire. We climb a slope for a vantage and discover the view all the way to the mill smelting white metal and blue alloys.  Grandmother’s manor is between us and the industry light.

The place is shrouded by hazy clouds. These approaching insects buzz low when we hold our breath to hear. These fireflies reveal their glow in synchronous patterns up and down the hill. The pale reds highlight a path down. The yellow and greens swirl upward toward us--lightning bolts without heat--moving farther into the woods. We know grandfather is beyond these puffs of light.

He calls us away to the forest, to transform. Talia squeezes her eyes tight. She listens. Fireflies hum around us. I wonder which of us will walk the blood path to town and tend the mill, and who will accept grandfather’s invitation? Wolf howls nearby give us little time. Just a twinkling second for one last hug between siblings.


Richard Bower writes and teaches in Central New York. He is grateful to have never had an evil stepmother (or grandmother) growing up and has publications forthcoming from Storyland Literary Review and Boned: A Collection of Skeletal Writings. https://about.me/richard_bower

Cover: Amanda Bergloff

April 26, 2018

WHO WAS MOTHER GOOSE by William Gilmer

What comes to mind when you hear the name Mother Goose?
Maybe you envision a group of children sitting in a circle while a teacher reads aloud, or perhaps a parent tucking the little ones in with a bedtime story. We all know Mother Goose, but where did this figure of children’s literature come from? Was there a real Mother Goose, and if so, who was she?

The story of Mother Goose is a complicated one, much more so than I expected when I began researching the topic. The name, or title, itself stretches far back into history. The earliest verifiable reference to Mother Goose is in Jean Loret’s La muze historique, a collection of verse describing the news and popular happenings of the day. In 1650, Loret mentions that something is “like a Mother Goose story," showing that the phrase was popular enough at the time for Loret to expect that the average reader understood what it meant.

Jean Loret’s reference is not the only thing we have to go on. Another French author and fairytale founding father, Charles Perrault, published Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals subtitled, "Tales of Mother Goose." This collection was introduced in 1697 and contained classics like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Little Red Riding Hood. Perrault pulled inspiration from preexisting folk tales and from the French salons, home to the préciosité literary style, where women would engage in literary conversations, some of which involved the spontaneous reciting of fairytales.

Despite there being multiple mentions of Mother Goose before their births, a Bostonian family managed to convince people that they were the originators of the character. For many years (in North America) it was thought that the real Mother Goose was a woman named Elizabeth Goose (1665 – 1758). Elizabeth and her husband Isaac had six children. One of those children, also named Elizabeth, married Thomas Fleet, a well-to-do printer. The story goes that after Thomas and Elizabeth had their first child, Elizabeth recited rhymes and stories she had learned from her mother so much so that Thomas got the idea to put them all into a book and credit the elder Elizabeth with their creation. No copy of this manuscript has ever been discovered, which alone brings the story into question, but even if the book itself is proven to be real, its earliest publication date would have been well after the already mentioned references to Mother Goose.

It’s not hard to show that Mother Goose was used throughout early 1600’s France, but to take the investigation any further requires some speculation. William Walsh, in his 1915 masterpiece “Heroes and Heroines of Fiction, Classical, Medieval, Legendary” makes the argument that Mother Goose is the cultural combination of the German Alpine goddess Bechta and a famous French queen. Bechta was the goddess of spinning, weaving, and domestic affairs and was often depicted as having the foot of a goose.

Bertrada of Laon, who also went by “Bertha Broadfoot” or “The Queen with a Goose-foot”. Bertrada was born in the early 700s and is most remembered for being the mother of the famous Roman Emperor Charlemagne. Much like Bechta, she was also described as having the foot of a goose. While this could have been a clubfoot, chances are she had two very average feet. With her son being an Emperor, we know more about Bertrada of Laon than most people from her time period. There are numerous accounts of her throughout early history, and the fact that she had an unusual foot isn’t mentioned until a 13th century poem by the minstrel Adenes Le Roi, causing people to assume that this detail was added to her mythology after her death. The connection with fables and fairytales is thought to far come from her method of teaching young Charlemagne. Many sources claim that she taught him how to behave as a leader through playful rhymes and imaginative stories. While the stories that have filtered down to us are probably not the same as those told to Charlemagne by his mother, it’s a fun idea to think about.



The story behind Mother Goose is a winding road with no fixed destination. While we do have some facts, and an idea of when the title showed up in French literature, we are left without definite answers. Was Mother Goose a combination of the cultural memories of an Alpine goddess and a famous emperor’s mother? With only the speculations of modern folklorists to go on, it’s hard to say with any confidence. We can take a little solace knowing that Mother Goose is here to stay. The phrase has been used in the same way for at least four hundred years, which given the propensity for language to change, shows the staying power of the character.
The tradition of Mother Goose is still going strong. Fairy tales are enjoying renewed popularity and the “Mother Goose stories” continue to be reprinted for children around the world. You can join in on the fun by sending us your stories inspired by the world’s most well-known avian parental unit. We’d love to see what you can come up with for our Fairy Tale Flash series.
William Gilmer is a writer and poet living in Michigan where Fall never lasts long enough. Over two dozen of his pieces have been published both online and in print. Keep an eye out for his monthly articles in Enchanted Conversation Magazine, and if there isn’t enough going on in your feed, follow him on Twitter @willwritethings
Cover: Amanda Bergloff

April 22, 2018

FAIRY TALE FLASH - The Royal Pea by Olivia Arieti


The knocks were too loud, almost insolent. When the young prince opened the door, before him stood a stout girl with disheveled hair and sloppily dressed.

“I’ve lost my way and it’s pouring, so I wondered if you could put me up for the night.”

“With great pleasure,” he replied charmed by her spontaneous vivacity.

Although perplexed by the girl’s aspect, the queen put a pea under the twenty mattresses of her bed; the fear that her son might never marry was too strong.

“I’ve slept terribly,” the maiden complained the following morning, “there must have been stones under those mattresses.”

“It worked, it worked!” cried the queen and told her guest about the pea’s magic power.

No sooner she had finished talking than the prince knelt down and proposed, “I was sure you were a real princess! Will you marry me, my dearest?”

The girl gazed at him stupefied and then burst into laughter, “Me, a princess?  I’m no princess, simply a humble shepherdess who lives with her father in a hut beyond the hills.”

“But… you just said that you had a bad night,” he remarked dismayed.

“Certainly due to tiredness or indigestion, I had eaten lots of roasted apples at my grandma’s before getting lost.”

Disappointed, the prince looked at his mother.

“Well, this girl here may be no princess, but her honesty and liveliness are enough to entitle her with such an honor.”

The shepherdess shook her head, “I’m no fool to believe that a stupid pea can determine who I am. Better save your peas for your soup, Milady, and as for me, I’ll leave such silliness to royalty and go back to my sheep that apparently, are much wiser.”

She bid all good-bye and rushed home where a quite worried father was waiting for his daughter.


Olivia Arieti is a published playwright and author whose work has appeared in several anthologies.

Follow her on Twitter @3squirrels

Cover: Amanda Bergloff

April 15, 2018

FAIRY TALE FLASH - Ashes of Roses by Renee Carter Hall

Wherever I tried to live, they would blossom. Outside my father's house. In my sisters' fine gardens. Black petals with a heady, musky perfume--roses not of this world, but the next. Always they were edged in dew, no matter how the sun burned. Once I touched the droplets, put my fingers to my lips, and tasted salt. And I could not forget.

At last, then, I returned, to this dead castle where the long table is always set for dinner. The servants are gone; I do everything myself. I plant and cook, wash and mend, and try not to feel the cold that seeps through velvet and wool and fur, no matter how many layers I wear. I am cold to my bones now, always, because I was too late. I stayed away too long, and when at last I hurried back, he was dead. I told him then how I loved him, but it was not enough. Not quite enough.

Each night, I polish the silver candlesticks, light the beeswax tapers. The table is set with china, with crystal, everything glittering in the dim and dancing light. By the table's head, a great silver platter waits like a frozen lake, like an open mouth.

The moon rides high. From outside comes a scuffling scrape of claw on stone. I have laid no kindling, but the fireplace blazes, feeding off nothing, and I shiver in the sudden heat. When he takes his place at the table, the smell of wet earth and dead leaves chokes my throat, but oh, I have missed him. His suit of crimson velvet is torn and streaked with mud, the lace at the sleeves rotted and dangling. One eye is gone, but the other looks kindly on me.

White bone flashes beneath his hide, and he drops the night's meat onto the platter. Blood pools sluggishly around it. I have no idea what it is; it seems to have no shape I can recognize, no place where legs or head might once have been. He carves it with delicate grace, laying a slice on my plate. It tastes, as always, of blood and earth, and I find I am beginning to savor it. As my fork clinks softly against the thin china, I can almost hear faint echoes of music, the quartet that would have played as we dined.

I buried him that day, but not well enough. Not quite well enough. And in my splintered dreams that night, I was shown everything that might have been. The claws that might have been hands. The bone and hide that might have been warm flesh. If I had not been too late.

When the platter at last is empty, he speaks, in a voice like moth-wings, like dry leaves, like a scattering of black petals.

"Will you marry me, Beauty?"

And again and again, but never enough, lips wet with salt and blood, I kiss him, and tell him yes.


Renee Carter Hall's short fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including Strange Horizons, Podcastle, and Daily Science Fiction.  She lives in West Virginia with her husband. Readers can find out more about her and her work at www.reneecarterhall.com, and she's also on Twitter as @RCarterHall, retweeting probably too much political stuff and definitely too many cat pics.


Cover: Amanda Bergloff

April 13, 2018

APRIL ARTIST SPOTLIGHT - Meet Brian Malachy Quinn




This month's Artist Spotlight shines on artist/illustrator, Brian Malachy Quinn.

Brian's art has been featured on the covers of Electric Spec Magazine, Space and Time Magazine, Helios Quarterly, and NewMyths, among others.

He uses a variety of mediums such as watercolor, pen and ink, block prints and etchings to bring forth his unique and beautiful art.

Find out more about Brian in his interview below, and share your thoughts about his art in the Comments section. 
Hi Brian. What inspired you to become an artist?
Reading has always been important in my family so there have always been many books in my house and the artwork in illustrated ones enraptured me before I was even able to read them. Illustrations by N.C. Wyeth, Arthur Rackham and Beatrix Potter were amongst my favorites as a young child and I would spend my days trying to reproduce them. As I gained knowledge of composition, color palette and perspective and improved my skills with the various media, I achieved better and better results with time and effort and started doing original pieces.

Do you have a favorite genre to illustrate for and why?
I originally went into illustrating to do art for children’s literature, so it is always enjoyable doing watercolors of bears or rabbits with human characteristics but I have come to love doing work for speculative fiction (sci-fi, fantasy and horror) publications.  Sometimes the more bizarre the image I create the more satisfying it is to me.

Who has influenced you as an artist and why?
Definitely, the three illustrators mentioned above but also my mother who is very creative. We were always doing arts and crafts and seemed to have a never-ending supply of art materials. I also gained my passion for trying new media and techniques from this period, which she encouraged. All my illustrations that I have sold in the last year for speculative fiction magazines and anthologies use a mixed media technique where I start with a watercolor/pen and ink for each figure, foreground and background then scan into computer and combine and process digitally in Photoshop. A couple years ago, I also started doing etchings and block prints and dream of one day having my own press.

What else would you like to add for our readers:
I have a Master’s Degree in Physics and MBA in Finance and I have sold four short stories to date, author of a supplemental book for college astronomy courses and ghostwriter of a book on wealth management. I am currently finishing an illustrated book on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity for middle grade students (looking for an agent!) and have started writing a novel, a psychological thriller about a small college in a once sleepy Midwest town (I have been a college lecturer for eight years and spent far too many years in grad school!).

Check out some of Brian's enchanting art below:
MOUSE KING - Quinn

MOTHER GOOSE - Quinn

SEA GOD - Quinn

BEAR - Quinn

MERMAID - Quinn

EX NIHILO - Quinn

RAVEN BLACK - Quinn

THE ILLUSION OF BEAUTY - Quinn

THE SPIRIT OF DURGA - Quinn

See more of Brian's work at his website HERE

April 8, 2018

DOUBLE FAIRY TALE FLASH - Goblin Tree AND Regarding the Complaints

This week, Enchanted Conversation Magazine 
presents two Fairy Tale Flash stories:
Goblin Tree by A.A. Azariah-Kribbs
and 
Regarding the Complaints by Monica Wang
We hope you enjoy them and share your thoughts
with the authors of these tales in the comments section below.
Once, a goblin stole whatever he could from a human village, jewels, apples, and buttons. He was lean-limbed with fierce gold eyes, but his hands, though slender, were like talons.

His one weakness was a human woman. When their love became known, the village threatened her if he did not surrender himself. He surrendered. I can’t tell you how many different ways they tried to kill him, but nothing harmed him. So they buried him alive. Some say these gnarly roots evoke the goblin’s reaching hands, clawing for escape.

“Ugh. Mommy.”

I ruffled the little girl’s hair fondly. “It’s true.”

She turned. “Is it true, Daddy?”

He held up his hands playfully, crooking them. “Oh aye, don’t you see the resemblance? It’s a good thing I cut my nails.”

“You’re not a goblin! Silly! You’re not scary at all.”

“Well now. That’s not a nice thing to say.”

She glared at him with his own clear, golden eyes.
A.A. Azariah-Kribbs lives in Maryland with her Brussels Griffon, Fuffle. Her work has been published in several venues, including The Sonder Review, Huizache, and Mythic Circle. Her blog, "Wallies Wentletrap" (https://wallieswentletrap.com/) features her original artwork and fiction.
The skeletons in the bedroom window weren't a good idea. I just thought they looked impressive up there.

I crossed out the last line—didn't want to give the wrong impression in my statement. To be clear, it wasn't a confession. The police said there were no official charges yet, though I had to admit all the circumstantial stuff looked bad.

The cage in the living room, for instance. It was for the parrots I had. Exceedingly large parrots. The crushed skull on the bottom of the cage was a calcium supplement, so my parrots wouldn't get mushybeak. Where were the parrots? They succumbed to mushybeak after all.

The oven looked a mess because I hadn't cleaned it in a month. I last used it for a roast that didn't turn out quite right. A whole suckling pig—that was the burnt hair the neighbors smelled. The entire thing just came apart (I must've set the heat too high), and I hadn't the heart to scrape it all off. It was a lot of wasted meat, so much meat. But the neighbors were right to complain. I certainly didn't harbor ill will toward that young couple or their children. When those kids disappeared, I was upset, too.

They did do a lot of damage to my house, those kids, especially around the main entry. Perhaps it was my fault for using gingerbread walls. I baked them myself; it was cheaper than what the contractors quoted, and I liked home improvement. Sugar glass and so on were easy with video tutorials.

And the skeletons I bought at a yard sale. The police said the bones were “child-sized”, but the small ones were cheaper, that was all.

I trust this statement cleared everything up.

Warmest Regards.
Monica Wang was born in Taichung, Taiwan, and raised in Vancouver, Canada. Her stories have appeared in Green Hills Literary Lantern, Electric Literature's Okey-Panky, Kansas City Voices, and The Temz Review. She currently lives in Germany.

Covers: Amanda Bergloff

April 1, 2018

TALES AND TAILS - April 2018 ISSUE - Table of Contents

Enchanted Conversation Magazine
presents our
Spring April 2018 Issue:
Tales and Tails
What happens to a fox spirit who loses herself in the guise of a human? How can a lowly tortoise discover the name of a Hippo-King? Can magic meant to trap a girl in a deer's form actually free her? Will a faithful owl calm the anger of a goddess? And what kind of contract does a unicorn sign with Godmother's Human Relations Firm?...and more stories that feature animals by authors from around the world.

The EC Team would also like to thank everyone who stops by and reads Enchanted Conversation Magazine. We hope you enjoy this issue and share your thoughts in the comments sections of the various stories. We’d love to hear from you!
- Amanda, Kiyomi, William, Angelika, and Craig
Beauty walks through the tall grass.
Alexandra Faye Carcich

Not one of you knows my name.
C.L. Clickard

She had never known freedom like this.
Clodagh O Connor

Those pickles must be of some importance.
Steve Carr

I feel no remorse for Arachne's fall.
Sandra Ulbrich Almazan

Red stone, blood stone,
Round and smooth and cold stone
A.M. Offenwanger

Damaged in mind and wing,
they come to me.
Mary Cook

Memories of broad white wings,
unfolded and spread.
Jane Dougherty

Myth is the strange bedfellow of Belief.
William Gilmer

Here, take my scarlet cloak.
Sheena Power
ALL COPYRIGHT to the written works in this issue belong to the individual authors.
ENCHANTED CONVERSATION MAGAZINE 
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Amanda Bergloff   CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Kiyomi Appleton Gaines - William Gilmer - A.M. Offenwanger  VISUAL ARTS EDITOR Craig Gassen  COVER LAYOUTS Amanda Bergloff

The Tale of the Fox and the Lady - Alexandra Faye Carcich

Beauty walks through the tall grass...

A long long time ago, somewhere in Japan, there was a certain den where two fox spirits were born. Out of a litter of six, only the female kits inherited their ancestors’ power. The elder girl was born with flaming red fur, and their mother said, “This one will have many passions that will rage like the summer brush fires.” Her sister was white and delicately boned. Their mother cooed over her coloring and favored her above the other kits.

The sisters first manifested their powers struggling for the larger share of dinner. A dead mouse was presented to the growing kits. The red kit snapped her teeth and the mouse’s teeth rattled, biting the dirt. The white sister swiped a paw at her elder, and the mouse's tail whipped through the air, striking the red sister in the side. They moved from warnings to a tumbling fight, while their brothers devoured the mouse. Prevailing, the red sister stood as victor over the battered white until their mother interceded, bringing her favorite to suckle while the red fox went hungry. With her belly growling and empty, the elder sister thought herself the most hated of the litter. Someday she would prevail in affection over the white fox.


As she grew, the scarlet sister enjoyed bathing in the early morning dew while crickets sang. She played at chasing butterflies, leaping and snapping her teeth while they fluttered away from her incisors. During the moonlit hours she hunted, looking for small prey or lover’s hearts to satiate her appetite. When bored of the trysts in the Emperor’s gardens, she prowled the streets. One night she wandered into the garden of a mansion on Nijo Avenue to sleep under the plum trees. With the morning came a boy. She hid under a bush and watched him from between its leaves. His hair was as dark as a moonless night and hung undone down his back. Soft, smooth cheeks announced that he was too young to be a man. He disregarded the servants waiting to dress him in many layers of silk, preferring to walk unhampered in the morning sun. All of his movements displayed grace and refinement. Mortal women demurred behind their fans, overcome by his beauty, they would blush from afar, but never speak to him.


The fox was not mortal.


Under the bush she slid from fox into the form of a human. Brazenly, she went across the garden to greet the boy, so that he may be as dazzled by her. In the sun her black hair had a fiery hue. He saw her and smiled sun beams.

He spoke a poem:
With the sun's first kiss
Beauty is born of the dew
A lily opens
The delicate white petals
Have a heart of crimson

She answered:

Lily alone knows

When the sun rises each day

And how dark the night
Beauty walks through the tall grass
The dawn kisses newborn cheek.
They stood, side by side, in that picturesque manner, as the sun climbed. When he answered a servant's call, she slipped away through the grass.
Both sisters attended in the garden one morning.
The white fox looked across the grounds and sniffed. “The pool is overgrown with weeds. Maybe once they were rich, but now the occupants are poor as peasants.”
“Then you will cede this place and its people to me?” asked the red fox.
“Of course, I've never enjoyed the wilds.”
The boy appeared on the veranda with pen and paper. Carefully he held back his sleeve while drawing letters with the brush. The blooming wisteria was his subject. The red fox transformed to a maiden and walked under the wisteria branches to smell its perfume. When she was sure the boy watched her, she faded away. In awe, the boy penned a poem about a girl's haunting beauty, instead of the transience of spring as he originally planned. When the red fox returned, the waiting sister was silent and expression impassive.
“You will remember our agreement,” said the red fox. She was suspicious of her sister, who liked to have all the fine things for herself. With a silent assent, the sisters parted ways.
The younger sister enjoyed slipping into her human disguise to run among the village children. She played small tricks on them, making their ball disappear, or suddenly finding a ripe fruit, which was out of season. Her greatest achievement was convincing the regional governor and his wife that she was their own, human daughter. As the childless couple lifted their chopsticks to eat the morning meal, she knelt at their table and bewitched them. From then on they shared their rice and fish with her and believed that she was their own daughter. The trick was reversed back onto the white fox, for when she pretended to be a human she forgot she was born a fox. She became spoiled by their easily gained affection and the rich life among humans and never shifted back to her true form.
She grew into a beautiful and graceful woman. Suitors vied for her attention, while she demurred behind a screen. When one proposed to steal her from her parent’s house, she chose to join him, thinking that he would establish her in a mansion of her own with many servants. He was only the first of her lovers.
She began to have dreams of a distressing nature and always woke with an uneasy sensation of invisible spirits passing through the room. She dreamed of a fox snapping its teeth. “You pathetic creature,” it said, “you have forgotten what you are. Now you walk the earth nameless with no past or ancestors. Only a future of heartache waits for you.” Then she woke and could not sleep again, fearing the fox would eat her fingers and toes, turn her hair white, or steal her soul.
On Nijo Avenue, the boy came to the garden infrequently, but on those days the red fox was there to admire him. As he grew under her gaze, his visits became increasingly rare. He pursued romance in the houses of noble ladies, attended galas where he was much admired, and studied all the martial skills a man of high birth should posses.
As the red fox grew she followed in the mischievous ways of her forefathers, always doing as she pleased. She tricked the worshipers of a wolf god to give her the summer grain offering. She ate well, and the angry wolf god cursed the villager's fields. For a time she haunted a dell where a solitary house stood. The child who lived there offered nightly sacrifices to his ancestors to keep the evil spirits away, while she lurked behind walls hissing the consequences for his daily indiscretions. His fears amused her and she grew strong with his tremors. Once she married a wealthy merchant. Just as the wedding cakes were being offered, on the third night, he emerged from their rooms and took vows to become a monk.
In the outskirts of the capitol, the red fox saw her sister. It was a woman in an ox drawn carriage. Her many layers of sleeves trailed out the window, advertising her tasteful fashion sense. The curtain of the window flapped in a fitful breeze. There was the white fox, the white faced, indulgent beauty, laying on her cushions, pretending to the world that she had always been human. Resentment passed through the older sister seeing that the younger had chosen an easy life. The red fox reasoned, at least they were no longer fighting over mouse bones. Maybe it was better that each went her own way.
Occasionally, the red fox remembered the beautiful boy at Nijo and returned there, hoping to see him again. In the empty garden, she was lonely and wished for the boy. She spent afternoons sleeping under the verandah, daydreaming of him coming down the steps and crossing the garden under the golden sun.
On one such night, he returned to the remote mansion. The day was gone and the evening mist rose from the ground like an apparition. The carriage stopped in the enclosed courtyard and he escorted a lady wearing a veil across the grounds and into the house. The red fox spirit saw them as two bright eyes among the ferns. She did not like the lady, who took her place by the man’s side. Her heart was a burning envy. She licked her lips, those hearts rich in joy were the most delicious morsels. A single servant led the party down the hall by torchlight. The fox followed as a shadow. The bed chamber was divided by a partition; on the far side was the soft murmur of the lovers' talk. It bored the fox to hear them make poems for each other and the usual dreamers' promises of fidelity and eternity, promises that would be broken in a month or less. She slid between the shadows and out the door into the garden. There she caught a field mouse who was hiding under the dwarf maple. With a snap of teeth she crunched the mouse's bones, and its children became orphans.
Late the following morning, the shutters were opened and the man appeared looking across the gardens he had known as a child. The red fox watched him. What had been a boyish roundness to his features had become the firm lines of a man. His robes were arranged carelessly since he thought no one but his lover was able to see him. Then the woman rose and stood beside him. The red fox recognized her sister.
As a woman, the white fox had gone from lover to lover, and loved deeply but briefly. Her skills with brush and harp were not greater than other women, but as a fox, even one who had forgotten her nature, she was able to charm her visitors into love. The younger sister was so haunted by her dreams that she kept a host of lovers so that she would never be alone. The man of Nijo wooed her from a house maintained by a romantic rival.
As a trickster the red fox had desired to gobble up the joy out of the woman's heart, but as a sister her heart was broken and filled with hatred. She decided the white fox would never leave the house on Nijo Avenue.
That night the lovers slept in the curtained bed.  The red fox entered the room and again stood over her sister.  The woman was fashionable, with high painted eyebrows and blackened teeth.  Her white skin appeared uncommonly delicate. High cheekbones were the only sign of her past life as a fox.  The red fox heard the sleeper's happy sigh, no fond memories softened her resolve. Possession by a spirit was most feared by mortals. She entered her sister's mind through the crack between finger and nail.
That night, in the lady’s dream, she was crowned Empress, for her new lover had secretly been the prince.  On the steps of the palace, a royal herald presented her to a crowd of faceless subjects, but when they should have prostrated themselves they remained standing, their blank faces turned toward her.
Beside her, her lover said,  “They are no longer deceived.”
She cried, “In my love I trusted you.”
He disregarded her tears. “Flee, vile spirit.”
A fish-head struck her as the crowd began to jeer and shout. She fled into the palace. Inside the palace doors there were no finely painted screens or ornate furniture. She was in a dirt hole with great tree roots jutting out from the walls. The crowd of humans shouted and struck the doors. The dark hole was less frightening than the mob, so, tripping and groping, she followed the tunnel away into the earth.
As the roof lowered, she was forced to crawl on hands and knees.  Her silk layers were cumbersome, she let them fall off, one by one, until all she wore were her scarlet trousers and white kosode.  Behind her there was a quick padding of feet growing closer; she heard breathing.  She looked back and saw foxes nipping at her feet and legs.
“Stop stop, can't you see I am one of you!” she said, but did not understand the meaning of her words.
Then there was one red vixen snarling and licking her lips, hungrily, the woman thought.  She opened her mouth to speak again but an animal whimper came out; she was no longer a woman but a white fox.  She dashed down the tunnel but the red fox was in front of her. With despair she watched the vixen leap toward her.
The woman died in the night.
The man of Nijo went into mourning and made arrangements for her earthbound shell to be buried. He had known his lover for so short a time, she began to resemble a vapor, intangible, dissipating when it was grasped. He remembered to a friend the night when she passed away. “It was strange, before I knew the unfortunate had died, I dreamed of my childhood, of the little maid who played in my garden. She was my first inspiration. Her soft hand was on my cheek. She was like the fleeting spring days. Yes, youth and love, too quickly falling like the cherry blossoms.”
Alexandra Carcich is a long time hobby writer with a passion for myth retellings and a history with NaNoWriMo. Her folders of unfinished manuscripts are reminiscent of her refusal to write a singular sentence in the second grade. Her work is featured in Timeless Tales Magazine and This Zine Will Change Your Life and forthcoming in Ariel Chart. You can read her poetry on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alexandracarcich/ 

Cover: Amanda Bergloff

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