Hi, kids! I’m slowly emerging from my hiatus. Heh. In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from my story “Red,” which appears in the Bold Strokes Books anthology Myth and Magic: Queer Fairy Tales, ed. by Radclyffe and Stacia Seaman.
It was JUST published in December 2014, and in case you couldn’t tell from the title, it’s a bunch of stories that re-tell fairy tales queerly. That is, LGBTQ-ly! WOOO! The list of authors: Andrew J. Peters, Clifford Henderson, Allison Wonderland, J. Leigh Bailey, Andi Marquette, Rob Rosen, Veronica Wilde, Juliann Rich, Sasha Payne, Stacia Seaman, E.J. Gahagan, Alex Stitt, Barbara Davies, Rhidian Brenig-Jones, Victoria Oldham, and Jane Fletcher and Joey Bass.
Anyhoo, below, find the intro to my story from this collection.
“Red” excerpt, by Andi Marquette (2014)
Flesh and fur were slow to burn, and Rebeca knew the odor too well. From her vantage point on the steps of the church she could see the pyre in the town square and hear the pop and hiss of wood and wolf. She descended the steps two at a time and pushed through the crowd until the stench of death and heat stung her face.
“How many?” she asked a boy who stood to her right. She dreaded his answer.
She stared hard at the forms in the flames, but the blackened remains told her nothing of their past. She smelled no enchantment in the air, and she knew these were mere wolves, targed because they might be something else, something much stronger, something tied to earth, blood, and magic. She’d once hunted them, too, roamed the forests in her scarlet cape, arrows tipped with silver, seeking to stop the beasts from spreading the bite and ravaging the landscape with fear.
She was an excellent shot and had brought several of the beasts in without killing a single true wolf. But, she thought as greasy black smoke rose from the pyre, she’d let old stories blind her, as they did so many. She realized it when she met Isadora.
“They’ll be going out again,” the boy said. “Another hunting party.”
Rebeca looked down at him.
“Will you go with them?” he asked. He motioned at her cloak, recognizing it and taking her for the huntress she used to be.
“Not today. Sick friend.”
“Perhaps,” she lied.
“Lost the taste for it?” said a man who had appeared next to her. A large man whose dull brown hair hung to his shoulders and whose cheeks always appeared as if he’d been out in the wind too long. He stared down his long nose at her and grinned.
“Perhaps I’m just busy.”
“Aye. With a sick friend.” He gave “friend” a sarcastic emphasis, then looked at the bonfire. “Shot one of those myself. One bolt.” He looked back at her, as if expecting her to challenge him.
She did. “I hope your friends were there to put the poor beast out of its misery after you’d missed all the vital organs with your one shot.”
The boy cleared his throat, like he was trying to cover a laugh, and the man glared at him, then back at her.
“Stay out of the forests, miss. Do what women should, and find a man.”
“And are you making yourself available, Robert?”
He scowled and spat on the stones underfoot. “Watch yourself.” He turned and strode away.
She stared after him, wondering whether his last statement was a warning or a threat. The boy scampered after another group of boys and Rebeca gathered her cloak around her and slipped out of the crowd. The smell followed her, and she tasted bile in her throat as she hurried down a series of alleys until she arrived at a particular door. She hesitated to knock, afraid that this time, there would be no response from within.
She stood long enough outside the door that a woman across the way lingered in her own doorway, watching. So Rebeca knocked, dreading what she might hear. Or worse, what she wouldn’t.
The door opened a crack and an eye, blue like a gemstone, appeared. Rebeca exhaled in relief. A whispered greeting sounded within and the door opened enough to let her in.
“Isadora,” Rebeca said as she pulled the woman to her. She kicked the door shut with her foot. “They’re burning two more wolves in the square.”
“Pity.” Isadora clung to her.
“You can’t stay here.”
“Shh.” She stroked Rebeca’s cheek with her fingertips.
“I mean it. It’s too dangerous.”
“And too dangerous to be in the forests while they hunt.” Isadora smiled, but her expression was haunted and pained. “I am too weak, love. I wouldn’t last a night.”
Rebeca reluctantly released her and glanced around the cramped, darkened room. It smelled of fatigue and weakness, a heavy, cloying odor. Underneath it she caught an acrid scent of scorched metal, not Isadora’s usual. Dark enchantment. A bottle stood on the nearby table. She picked it up and held it near a weak slash of light that snuck in past the shutter. “How much have you had?” She jerked her gaze back to her, worry rippling through her chest.
Isadora looked away.
She held the bottle up again. Over halfway gone. “It’s too much. She set it down. “It’ll kill you.” She tried to keep the fear out of her voice, but from Isadora’s expression she had failed. “Does it no longer work at the smaller dosage?”
“No.” Isadora wrapped her arms around herself, and Rebeca saw, in the dim light, how frail she was, how the elixir had done what the old woman had said, but how it had indeed exacted a price.
“You must stop taking it.” She returned to Isadora’s side and gathered her into her arms. How thin she seemed.
“If I do, I’ll die anyway. You know that.”
“Then we’ll leave. We’ll go somewhere safe, where you won’t have to hide from the moon. Or take poisons to ward it off.”
Isadora laughed, but it lacked humor. “The hunts are not merely confined to this village. Or to these forests. Where, dear one, will we go?”
“There is a place –” She stopped at Isadora’s expression.
“You’d be safe.” We both would. Morgayne would ensure that.”
“There’s always a price for magic.”
“You’re paying a price now.” Rebeca gripped her arms and stared into her eyes, fierce. “Every moon, you have to take larger amounts of that — that poison.” She jerked her head toward the table. “I don’t want to lose you to that.”
Isadora lowered her head.
“Please. It’s the one part of the forest the huntsmen won’t go.”
She sighed in resignation. “Or course they won’t. She’s a witch.”
Rebeca stroked her face. “She’s also my grandmother. And she owes me.”
And there you have it!
Happy reading and happy Saturday.