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Short stories from Zen: Stupid Pet Tricks

Short stories from Zen: Stupid Pet Tricks

A couple short stories about our wildlife kids.

Stupid Pet Tricks

One of the minor, but daily tasks this time of year is for me to bring in firewood. We do have wood in the Mud Room, but, that is for bad weather days..which we haven’t gotten yet this winter, so off to the wood shed.

The day was in the low forties, fog rolling in and out as I walked out to the woodshed for the day’s load. I…


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Would you guys be interested in random short stories? Like, 200-1000 word pieces with random, non-recurring characters?  I have several prompt books that get me started on little pieces, and some of them come out really nicely.  

I’m thinking about putting them on my professional blog @llcupp-author (follow me there for all things Battle of Troy and news of the upcoming novel, once it’s finished).  But I might post them here as well if there’s interest.  

So let me know.

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17. If Only…

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Had I known what the job entailed, I wouldn’t have been so eager to take it on.

Had I known what dark secrets were hidden within the seemingly perfect marriage, I wouldn’t have taken the job almost on sight. Nor would I have boasted about the perks to anyone who’d listen.

‘It’s too good to be true’. That’s what they’d all said.

God, why didn’t I listen? I wouldn’t be in this predicament if I’d just listened.

I shut my eyes as my head falls back against the brick wall, hoping I could go back to that fateful day and change my mind. Say no and never accept the job. Never see their smiling faces and impeccable flat and wonder what they’d need a cleaner for. Never suspect anything and live in blissful ignorance.

I wonder how many other cleaners they’ve had…

I shudder. Although, that could be the brutal wind that swept in about an hour ago and doesn’t look ready to leave anytime soon. I can barely see from my crouched spot in the dark, wishing the streetlamp worked. How long can I hide behind the community bins before I risk leaving? I can see my exit, right across the empty parking lot, but how do I know they aren’t waiting for me to do precisely that?

They have the upper hand, and they know it.

I’m hoping Maria will come soon. Rescue me from my predicament.

A buzz from my pocket. My heart thumps. Do I dare look? I peek around the bins. Nobody’s there. I settle back against the brick wall, carefully taking it from my coat pocket.

From: Maria

5 mins away

Are you safe?

I shake my head, but she can’t see me. God, I wish she could.

From: Eliza

No

Hurry!

My feet are going numb, as are my legs. I can’t last much longer. I slip my phone back in my coat pocket, hoping I can distract myself for long enough. But every rustle from the trees, or scurrying of a fox nearby, sends my body into a frenzy.

I hear it before I see it.

A car, driving into the empty parking lot. I jump up from my hiding spot, waving it down. To my relief, the car comes over. The lights blind me, so I can’t see if it’s her. But at this stage, I’ll take anyone over them.

The car stops. I run from my hiding spot and tug at the door handle. Sliding into the comfortable seat, I slam the door shut behind me with some satisfaction, then turn to face my saviour.

Except it’s not Maria.

My eyes widen, but too late. They’ve locked the car doors.

“You didn’t think it’d be that easy to escape, did you?” His voice will haunt my nightmares, if I survive.

“Nobody escapes,” she says from the backseat, leaning forwards to look at me. If his voice haunts my nightmares, hers will wait for me every minute of every day.

Both smile at me. God, those smiles. As fake as if I’d drawn them on. No warmth in their eyes. Had there ever been? Or had I been blind to who they really were?

“Looks like we’ll just have to dispose of you.”

My eyes widen, my heart replicating a death march. “No. No no no. You can’t! Please!”

But no begging in the world could save me now.

The car purred to life, rumbling as he drove us away.

Shit.

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On the 17th of January, every doorbell in the world rang once, at the exact same time. The ringing could be heard from Lagos to Chengdu to Yokohama to Rio de Janeiro. It was a confused moment for billions of people. They didn’t know why the doorbells had all rang out at that moment.

Ferdinand waited by the door. He’d done as the others had asked: he had pressed on the plastic button to ring the doorbell. He’d heard the bell from the other side of the closed door. Behind him, a ghost he did not recognise waited at another door. The organisation of the event had been perfect. Every ghost had had its doorbell.

“Who’s there?”

The voice was old, and frail. An old woman, maybe, and a suspicious one at that.

The rules of the event did not say what a ghost might do once it was inside the designated house. Most of the ghosts had settled on spooking the residents out.

Ferdinand still hadn’t made up his mind, though. With no parents or family to guide him, and with no other ghosts that he could call his friends, Ferdinand had spent his time listening to other conversations. He agreed with all of them, even the ones who wanted to frighten children, and even the ones who wanted to stay invisible.

The knob turned, and if Ferdinand had a heart, it would be beating like a jackhammer. The ghost behind him was already missing, and that door was already closing, closing, closed. What was that ghost’s name? Ferdinand realised that he should have asked for it.

“Just… hold on,” the woman said from behind the door. The knob turned clockwise and anti-clockwise, and Ferdinand heard pressure against the door, and some very tired grunting.

Ferdinand wanted to help, but the rules of the event were clear: you will not open the door yourself. Someone must open it from the inside. Only then will you be granted entry.

“Are you still there? Hello?” the woman called out, and pulled against the door several times. “Wait, I almost got this.”

In a few more painful moments, the door opened up and swung wide. The woman was indeed old, and she was about as short as an 11-year-old. She wore glasses that she adjusted as she looked at the corridor in front of her.

With some effort, she stepped out of the door and looked up and down the stairs. She leaned to look at the lift, whose doors were closed. Then, whispering curses in a language that Ferdinand did not speak, the woman turned around and re-entered her apartment, and began drawing the door closed.

Ferdinand quickly angled himself to the side of the door and snuck in just as the door clicked shut. He had a brush with the old woman, but the woman had not noticed.

“Sorry, but I had to,” Ferdinand said to himself, in the way only ghosts can speak.

The woman grumbled and shook her head as she made for an armchair in the living room. “Just had to do it,” she grumbled.

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Because the dead come up naked, they are always cold. Because they come up empty, they are always hungry. Because they come up lost, they are always angry. Because they come up blind, eyes shut tight against the light that hurts them so, they are difficult to see, unless sought by those who—for one reason, or another—already have a fairly good idea of where to start looking.

To do so is a mistake, though, always—no matter how “good” our reasons, or intentions. It never leads to anything worth having. The dead are not meant to be seen or found, spoken with, or for. The dead are meant to be buried and forgotten, and everybody knows it—or should, if they think about it for more than a minute. If they’re not some sort of Holy Fool marked from birth for sacrifice for the greater good of all around them, fore-doomed to grease entropy’s wheels with their happy, clueless hearts’ blood.

— from ‘each thing i show you is a piece of my death’ (2010) by Stephen J. Barringer & Gemma Files

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Write Yourself Awake: Wyrd Creative Writing Prompts

Write Yourself Awake: Wyrd Creative Writing Prompts

How’s your writing year going so far? Extremely fucking well I hope! My plan for what writing I’d like to get done this year has been shifted around and re-drafted in the past few days, as I found myself experiencing a stronger pull to the projects I wanted to work on in the second half of the year than the ones I’d planned for this first half.

Not so long ago, I would have been rigid in my…


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Mission: Accomplice

Here we go again with the hololive fanfic writing.

Mission: Accomplice
a hololive fanfiction by The Overlord Bear
Summary: A wood carving knife and a handkerchief during our high school days formed a dangerous relationship between me and Suisei Hoshimachi.

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Our family doctor - a short, short story

Our family doctor – a short, short story

I had a sore throat and a fever. At eight, that meant, no school!I was happy, but my mother insisted father take me to a doctor.We went to see a doctor who was my father’s friend.He had a ‘clinic’ near our house, which was always empty. The room had a desk and three chairs. On the desk were some bottles full of candy-balls in different colours.“What stocks are doing well?” father said.“Invest in…


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Warning: As I have stated on the other parts three parts of this story by William Faulkner; this story is messed up so if you are sensitive to topics such as necrophilia, death, poisoning and shit like that this isn’t the story for you

So THE NEXT day we all said, “She will kill herself” ; and we said it would be the best thing. When she had first begun to be seen with Homer Barron, we had said, “She will marry him.” Then we said, “She will persuade him yet,” because Homer Barron himself had remarked—he liked men, and it was known that he drank with the younger men in the Elk`s Club—that he was not marrying a man. Later we said, “Poor Emily behind the jealousies as they passed on Sunday afternoon in the glittering buggy, Miss Emily with her head high and Homer Barron with his hat cocked and a cigar in his teeth, reins and whip in a yellow glove.

Then some of the ladies began to say that it was a disgrace that the town and a bad example to the young people. The men did not want to interfiere, but at last the ladies forced the Baptist minister—Miss Emily`s people were Episcopal-to call upon her. He would never divulge what happened during the interview, but he refused to go back again. The next Sunday they again drove about the streets, and the following day the minister`s wife wrote to Miss Emily`s relations in Alabama.

So she had blood-kin under her roof again and we sat to watch developments. At first nothing happened. Then we were sure that they were to be married. We learned that Miss Emily had been to the jewler`s and ordered a man`s toilet set in silver, with the letters H.B on each piece. Two days later we learned that she had bought a complete outfit of men`s clothing, including a nightshirt, and we said, “They are married.” We were really glad. We were glad because the two female cousins were even more Grireson than Miss Emily had ever been.

So we were not surprised when Homer Barron—the streets had been finished some time since— was gone. We were a little disappointed that there was not a public blowing-off, but we believed that he had gone on to prepare for Miss Emily`s coming, or to give her a chance to get rid of the cousins. (By the time it was a cabal, and we were all Miss Emily`s allies to help circumvent the cousin.) Sure enough, after another week they departed. And, as we had expected all along, within three days Homer Barron was back in town. A neighbor saw the servant admit him at the kitchen door at dusk one evening.

And that was the last time we saw of Homer Barron. And of Miss Emily for some time. The servant went in and out with the market basket, but the front door remained closed. Now and then we would see her at a window for a moment, as the men did that night when they sprinkled the lime, but for almost six months she did not appear on the streets. Then we knew that this was to be expected too; as if that quality of her father which had thwarted her woman`s life so many times had been too virulent and too furious to die.

When we next saw Miss Emily, she had grown fat and her hair was turning gray. During the next few years it grew grayer and grayer until it attained an even pepper-and-salt iron-gray, when it ceased turning. Up to the day of her death at seventy-four it was still that vigorous iron-gray, like the hair of an active man.

From that time on her front door remained closed, save for a period of six or seven years, when she was about forty, during which she gave lessons in china-painting. She fitted up a studio in one of her downstairs rooms, where the daughters and granddaughters of Colonel Sartoris` contemporaries were sent to her with the same regularity and in the same spirit that they were sent to church on Sundays with a twenty-five-cent piece for the collection plate.

Meanwhile her taxes have been remitted.

The newer generation of children became the backbone and the spirit of the town, and the painting pupils grew up and fell away and did not send their children to her with boxes of color and tedious brushes and pictures cut from ladies` magazines. The front door closed upon the last one remained closed for good. When the town got free of postal delivery, Miss Emily alone refused to let them fasten the metal numbers above her door and attach a mailbox to it.

She would not listen to them.

Daily, monthly, yearly we watched the servant grow grayer and more stooped, going in and out with the market basket. Each December we sent her a tax notice, which would be returned to the post office a week later, unclaimed. Now and then we would see her in one for the down stairs windows—she had evidently shut up the top floor of the house—like the carven torso of an idol in a niche, looking or not looking at us, we could never tell which. Thus she passed from generation to generation—dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse.

And so she died. Fell ill in the house filled with dust and shadows, with only a doddering servant to wait on her.

We didn`t even know she was sick; we had long given up trying to get any information from the servant. He talked to no one probably not even to her, for his voice had grown harsh and rusty, as if from disuse.

She died on one of the downstairs rooms, in a heavy walnut bed with curtain, her gray head propped on a pillow yellow and moly with age and lack of sunlight.

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I never really announced it here, but The Horrorscope can be read on Wattpad. And I can’t believe it. In 3 episodes it broke the Top 500 Sci-fi Fantasy genre and top 100 in the Fantasy Creatures genre as well! And if you want to read it, you can do it here.https://www.wattpad.com/1003657369-the-horrorscope-episode-1-when-fate-comes-knocking

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I visioned our home with a wooden fence and rustic roofing over white stones. We lived in a sunny small town where we had our own vegetable garden. We had a large backyard for the kids. Although, I only saw one— I hoped for more. And then, I dreamt of the vows we would lavish each other with. The twinkling lights floating behind us as we are smiling through our endless kisses. Our family and friends celebrating along with us.

And to the times I felt so happy with you like the endless whispers and soft kisses of humming “I love you” through the chilly nights. Oh how I miss you…

but I must learn how to let you go.

Why can’t I let you go.

- np

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In quarantine I somehow got back into fanfiction, I haven’t been into it since high school. My favourite? Anything whump-y. What I find hilarious is the injuries characters suffer as though they aren’t fatal?

“they found him chained, hanging from the ceiling. His face was black and blue, swollen with a sever beating. His exposed chest was covered in blood from several stab wounds, his black and blue ribs probably broken. The gun shot wound in his side oozing down, darkening his clothes. He had already been in the -40 freezer for days, close to death.”

Dude your character died like 7 stab wounds ago. The overkill kills me 🤣🤣 AND THEN it’s like 3 days later everything is all good and they’re moving around? Think about how much it hurts when you stub your toe or get a paper cut? Less is more 🤣

This is mostly for the superhero (especially Batman/Batfam) works.

Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.

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I scowled at my phone, the alcohol burning the back of my throat as it trickled down. Twenty minutes, I’d waited, and he didn’t even have the decency to give me some lame excuse. Just stood me up.

As I stood up to put on my coat, the lights dimmed. He’d at least had taste: an art deco style pub with a small stage at the front. Although, a warning about the musicians would’ve been nice. As the young man sets up, my coat now on, I sense this is my opportunity to leave. But some part of me can’t seem to leave, too intrigued by him.

“Hey,” he said as he sat on the stool, guitar balanced across his lap. “Hope you’re all having a lovely evening.” His eyes fall on mine, and he raised an eyebrow. “Are you off?” Am I? I shook my head, my body lowering down onto my chair. “Excellent!”

He chatted a bit more as he began strumming his guitar, introducing himself. The guitar hypnotised me, my attention trained on him. I felt myself shed off my coat, but I wasn’t consciously aware I was doing so.

If the guitar had convinced me to stay, his voice was intoxicating. More so than the wine I’d already consumed. I leaned my head against my wrist on the table, feeling my cynical heart soften. The night felt alive once more, filled with a cheery nostalgia, as if he could bring me back to a joyful time.

Before long, he was thanking us for being a marvellous audience and walked offstage. My heart jumped, my whole body in a state of shock. My serenity vanished. Just as I was contemplating whether to stay or go, I caught him wink at me as he packed away. Or was it me? There were plenty of others in the room. Still, I stayed, figuring I might as well see. Y'know, just out of curiosity.

“Hey,” he said as he walked over and slumped into the chair beside me, putting down his guitar case with care.

“Hey,” I said in return, smiling at him. Maybe tonight wouldn’t be so bad after all…

“Did you like it?”

“Was I that obvious?”

He smiled. “A musician can always spot a fellow musician.”

“There must be other musicians here.”

“Presumably, but none as gorgeous as you.” I blushed. “How come you’re alone?”

I rolled my eyes, trying to stifle the annoyance. “Stood up.”

“Ouch! No wonder you looked ready to bolt.”

“Mm. I’m glad I didn’t.”

“So, I’m gonna guess you play piano?”

“How did you know?”

He laughed, almost as enticing as his voice. “Your fingers were tapping out the rhythm the entire time. Do you sing too?”

“Not in public.”

“Why not?”

“It’s… personal.”

He nodded. “That’s understandable.”

Our attention was diverted to the stage as the next musician began. He wasn’t as good, missing that spark. That special something. My attention returned back to the man next to me, soaking up what he looked like, studying him, wanting to print him onto my memory.

“A picture lasts longer,” he said after a few minutes, not tearing his attention away from the musician, but smirking all the same.

“Maybe, but it’s not as beautiful as the real deal.” He blushed, then turned his attention to me, his eyes slipping to my lips. Mine fell to his lips too, licking them.

He leaned forward, his on mine. Soft, tentative, tender.

Whatever this was, it was magnetic, and I wasn’t about to let him go anytime soon.

Thank god I was stood up.

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GUESS WHO GOT READ ON THE STREAM AGAIN?!?!

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Mine’s at 2:04.55!!!!!

I don’t think I really have much to say?? I was there for the stream so my questions were answered ☺️ I’m just super honored I was read again, especially so soon after the last one!!

P.S. Also, shoutout to “The Reluctant Muse” by MasaCur!!! (At 1:35.56) All the stories were great of course, but that story really stuck with me, I especially liked it. Reminded me a lot of “The Man Who Invented Christmas” which I then proceeded to rewatch XD

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Sunaeth, in makeshift fairy robes.

Tale 0: Death at the Wolf Gate (chapter 3. Sunaeth, Eaowaeth, & Behxfineth ¾) part 2. Stories of Fey

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Sunaeth was the eldest remaining daughter of the wolf kingdom. She loved to hunt in the shadow veil, and bring carrion to the griminthrope raven princes, in the death tree; just to tease her younger siblings by showing how close she could get. When Sunaeth ran through the veils, she was unmistakable; for her coat was as white and bright as her mothers. Unlike Eobreth, she did not admire the day veil and humanity. She preferred to be one with magic, and a strong Aliki Wolf protecting and teaching her siblings. The vibrance of the day veil was dandy and all, but it was scary; so many Aliki Wolves had been forced into war or hunted for fur. Sunaeth had even witnessed one of her sisters die protecting her as a wandering pup. To be a wolf running freely, in the magic ether of Ealden Cynedom, was all she wanted. She wanted to be free of judgment, hate, expectations, and rules. Sunaeth liked running on fours, hearing, seeing and smelling everything in detail, and possessing the strength of a powerful warrior. She could not imagine being anything other then a great white wolf. Staying in the shadow veil with her family, made her a good caretaker and big sister to all the fey, and kept her safe. By the time she was fully grown, she was only middle child Flowen had left. If Eobreth had inherited Flowen’s love of humanity and the day veil, Sunaeth had inherited her free spirit and caring.

Sunaeth mainly cared for the youngest Aliki Wolves; the twelve-year-old twins. Flowen had more then one puppy on a few occasions. Most Aliki Wolves lived longer than most men, and in fact did not die until killed. but Flowen accepted she would always outlive her children, as a beast queen. It made them even more precious to her. It also made Flowen happy to see Sunaeth each day, caring for her family with youthful energy. Sunaeth, also had the qualaties Flowen loved most in her husband. The Wolf King had that same childlike way about him, and a stupid amount of loyalty, courage, and an undying love for his family. Suna, alongside her father, taught her younger royal siblings to hunt, play, act around humans, and transform into human form. While Suna was a wolf whiter than sunlight, the twins Eaowaeth and Behxfineth, were grey and chestnut respectively. In human form, their hair and wolf kingdom robes were the colour of their pelts; adorned with gilded steel armor about their heads, collars, back and breast. Engraved with the symbol ‘Ing’ for the rune of the wolf kingdom. Their human faces were like that of their mother’s people, in the Far North. Out of all the wolf children, Sunaeth was the Aliki wolf who spent the most time in human form. She did it to see and appreciate her human half, which her mother gave her.  Even though she spent time in a human form, Suna still loved being a wolf most of all. Thus, when she arrived to the scene of her father’s death, unable to turn into a wolf, she was destroyed. As if her father’s death wasn’t bad enough.

Suna had lost her father and identity at the same time. Even her lovely royal robes and armor had gone; leaving her cold, bare, and completely human. She appeared no more then a normal young lady of the Far North. All that remained of her former self was her hair; which was still white like her fur. It scared her to be vulnerable in the day veil. Sunaeth did not want to accept she was a murderous human, and her father was dead. Sunaeth would not let go of the fact she once was a princess of the wolf kingdom. She did not want to admit she was no longer strong, keen and skilled.  ‘I am not a human mage like mother says, I am not going to be restrained to the day veil, I will not give in. I am not weak.’ Sunaeth thought to herself, sobbing and grasping her remaining two siblings. Only the twins accepted their humanness while grieving their father; they coped by helping their mother Flowen restore the gate and live in the village. It had been two long sad days, before the Fairy King came with wolf kingdom fairy robes to protect the new mages. They needed new armor, now that they were no longer powerful fey. The Fairy King said nothing, while delivering the gifts. though she likely also grieved her brother, and did not know what else to do. Faries, and fey, are not the best at offering emotional support to humans. Sunaeth  graciously accepted, but she didn’t want fairy robes: she wanted her fur coat.

Flowen had little free time left after opening and restoring the Wolf Gate. The silver was now completely chipped off, leaving behind the polished soap stone it was originally made of. The rest of the time, Flowen was caring for Eaowa and Behxfin, because they were her youngest remaining children. Caring for them, and the magic forest, gave her life meaning. Eaowaeth was easy to care for; they wanted to be a warlock, and had a calm and curious nature. Behxfineth was also only a slight hassle; he was picky about everything, and wanted to be a witch by apprenticing his mother. There was no local magic school, so the village and forest helped teach the two former wolf children. Flown considered sending them to the same school as King Mage Morgan, near Tiberius Gate; but she wanted Eaowa and Behxfin to adjust to being human first, and prove they could cope with the loss of their father. They were still quite young. For now, North Moon would have to do.

Like many magic forests, those who chose to live here, were happy to have magic in their lives every day. Especially now that Flowen solved their qualms with the fey. Then there was Sanueth; Flowen’s personal nightmare. She was not serene like the common folk, nor becoming adjusted like Eaowa and Behxfin. Sunaeth would have been a good paladin, or seer, if she took the time to accept her new reality. Every time Flowen asked Suna to do something for their cottage, Sunaeth did it the wolf way. Flowen would ask for Suna to fetch something for dinner; Sunaeth would return in an hour, naked, covered in blood, carrying four rabbits she caught; with three in her bare hands, and one in her mouth. Then Sunaeth would rant about how the forest was doing, while uncouth in the cold. She had no focus, and was determined to remain an Aliki Wolf. In the past, Flowen would have been endeared, but this time horror overcame her existence.

“Suna. You’re going to get sick eating that raw! You’re not a wolf! And you’ll catch a cold without clothing! You can’t keep acting inappropriately like this. There is no problem with you wanting to pursue magery; aside from modern discrimination towards old magic in most places… But you can’t live a normal life in the day veil, by acting like a literal animal. I know it’s hard, but you can talk to me; I am only interested in what is best for you and your happiness. I don’t know what to do anymore. I heard the other day you bit men who were trying to help you cut firewood!” Flowen exclaimed in distress.

“But mother, I got us dinner! And I will not be wearing uncomfortable clothes, thank you. Neither am I using complicated tools when I don’t need them. Humans are soft little pigs, who are violent and touchy; I refuse to be like one. I am still a princess of the wolf kingdom; even if father is dead, and I am no longer fey.” Sunaeth growled.

“I understand this is a big change for you. You were never one for rules, or liked the day veil. But fey or not, you were always part human; and thus, a part of me and the day veil. It brings me shame when you do thing’s like this. Now go take a hot bath while I cook dinner. I trust you’ve learned enough magic here to alchemize water and heat?” Flowen scolded. Sunaeth looked away from her mother while entering the cabin. Eaowa and Behxfin sat at the table, reading magic text books and mage journals. They shrunk into their seats from the tone of their mother’s voice. But decided to tattle nonetheless.

“Na, mother. Sunaeth does housework all day; she hasn’t attended a single demonstration, or read one of these books.” Eaowaeth said. Suna grumbled as she grabbed a level one alchemy book from Behxifn, and headed to the bathroom. Fifteen minutes later, Flowen heard Sunaeth call for Eaowa to help her start the bath. Flowen gave a big sigh as she stood over the boiling pot of rabbit stew. Hopeful, Flowen looked out the window and into the brush for another wolf child. Anything to know Eobreth was ok. Or at least, doing better then her and Suna. Flowen wanted to focus on anything that wasn’t her feral eldest daughter. Then Flowen had a thought: ‘sunaeth isn’t legally fully grown yet, she would be considered seventeen by human standards. She is still young enough for magic school… Maybe this village is too lenient for her.’

After dinner, Flowen took Sunaeth aside to clean the dishes. Sunaeth loathed this chore; she hated wet hands. Flowen looked out the window in a daze while she dried. There was a thin coating of old snow on everything, giving it a soft glow.

“A few weeks ago, I saw a grim in those trees. If there are new wolf children, that means there is a Wolf King. Are you happy for your older brother Eobreth? In your uncouth hunting games about North Moon, have you seen other wolf children?” Flowen asked

“Yes mother.” Sunaeth said despondently. She had gotten along well with Eobreth when she visited him in the day veil years ago, but they were never close. A centuries long age gap will do that to siblings.

“Do you remember Morgan? The King Mage who I would heal and snuggle? Morgan would hunt and rough house with the three of you; and Eobreth had a great liking for him,” Flowen smiled, rinsing a dish. “He was a young boy, and said he wanted to go to magic school; and he had his dream come true. A special school by Tiberius Gate, for troubled youth, and international students. It pained me to see Morgan hurt himself, or come to me with injuries from his family when I first met him. Yet, when he went to that school, and opened the gate, he found friends and seemed to be more adjusted.” Flowen said. She was now feeling a little uplifted recalling those fond memories. However, Flowen had an agenda.

“Yes mother, I remember him. He was a blast! Didn’t realize he was just a kid; probably because I was a fey, and age means nothing to us. Morgan felt more like an uncle then a human child. And now I’m sad, because that makes me think of the shadow veil and father,” Sunaeth whined. “and Eobreth, he must have a special lady. Wonder if her family misses her… like I miss my old life. She must miss her old life too.”

“Well, you’re in luck Suna! How would you, in proper dress, like to go through the shadow veil to Tiberius Gate, and attend school with Morgan? Tell that family were their daughter went, learn to alchemize water, and socialize with humans your age! Make friends, and find new good in your future. You’re human now; which means you will age, and need those connections for your wellbeing. You get to go to the shadow veil on your free time, and I will rest easy knowing you’re getting reformed into a civilized capable lady.” Flowen said. She had already made the arrangements for a dorm room and classes; Though it did take a while for Eaowa to show her how to use a computer. It was worth the pain of experiencing dial up internet. Flowen had even packed Sunaeth’s things to leave the next day. Sunaeth, finished the last dish, pulled the drain plug, and stormed into bathroom to get away. It was the only door in the cabin with a lock. Sunaeth could not say no to her family. Particularly not her mother. Flowen was not asking however, she was informing Suna of her plans, and Suna had no choice in the matter. Suna proceeded to take off her uncomfortable clothes, grabed a towel, and then scream into it for a thirty-minute breakdown. She was freezing; the bathroom was right next to the cold room.

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“For our honeymoon, we go on a trip I have long desired: a tour of Europe. We are not rich but we make it work. We go from bustling, ancient metropolises to sleepy villages to alpine retreats and back again, sipping spirits and pulling roasted meat from bones with our teeth, eating spaetzle and olives and ravioli and a creamy grain I do not recognize but come to crave each morning.”

— from ‘The Husband Stitch’ (2014) by Carmen Maria Machado

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Every now and then, the music changes when he enters the bar. The bartender does it, but she also has a big board on top saying there will be no complaints about the music, and believe me, Mary is tough. When she says no complaints, you don’t complain.

For the longest time, while I lay collapsed in my corner seat, I tried to figure out why the music changes. There had to be a pattern, I surmised. The bartender made the switch very hurriedly, as if she was risking getting caught selling something illegal. I even considered if it was a code of some sort.

Then it struck me.

The music always changed if it was in English.

I grinned. A drunk, alone, in a bar in Stockholm.

The next time it happened, I got off my chair and made my way to the bar stools. He was already sat there, nursing a glass of some clear drink. He swirled it with a stirrer, and the bartender hummed along to the tune of some German song I’d heard only once or twice before.

“I know your secret,” I said, loud enough that the two could hear it. “When you enter the bar,” I pointed at Mary. “You change the music, but if, and only if it’s an English song.”

The bartender leaned on the bar on her palms, and the man didn’t so much as turn to me. But they both had their eyes on me, I could see that much.

“No complaints about the music,” Mary said.

“I’m not complaining, no ma'am.” I grinned. “I just thought I should tell you that I cracked the code. I know what the deal is, now.”

“You don’t know shit.” The man took a sip of his drink and clinked the glass back down on the bar. He rested the weight of his elbow down on the bar.

I turned to Mary. “So I’m wrong, then?”

She shook her head. Slightly at first, but then more decisively. “You’re right. He can’t stand English music, so I change it when he enters.”

“Tch, tch, tch.” I grinned and looked up at the board that spelled out the bar’s policy. “No complaints about the music, right?”

Mary approached me and glared at me. “He’s been here since before that board went up, understood? He’s a valued customer and if he wants me to play fucking nursery rhymes, I will.”

I was taken aback by Mary, but not intimidated. I gently lifted my palms. “Alright, alright, I’ll lay off. It’s clearly a touchy issue for the both of you, huh? I get it.”

“You don’t,” the man growled. He emptied his glass, grimaced for a bit, and then turned to look at me dead in the eye. “You don’t know what it’s like to have a language that will cut you up and rip you to shreds just with the words. Beauty is the sharpest paper, and it will slice you bit by bit. That is why I can’t listen to English music.”

I turned to Mary, who nodded at me, as if to vouch for him.

“You listen to music you don’t understand the meaning of,” I said.

“I listen to music that doesn’t hurt me,” he replied.

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