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Podcast – DDoA – Everyday Drabbles 03: Wendigo

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Welcome to day three of the Dog Days of Advent!

Today’s story is Wendigo.

Read Everyday Drabbles on Wattpad!

Everyday Drabbles: Winter in ebook from Amazon.com

The Ephemera Reading Series

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Fiction: The Head That Wears the Crown

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I found the crown during one of my spelunking raids under the city. Here, everything is built on ruins. The basements lead to the metro, and if you take the right tunnel, go through the right door, you’ll find yourself a thousand years in the past, among ancient ruins and medieval catacombs.
The government is quite serious about protecting the sites. There are all sorts of rules about who can go in, and when, and what they can carry in. You absolutely can’t take anything out. But they can’t police all the tunnels, and the black market is always hungry for artifacts.
The crown was without a doubt the most well preserved piece I’d ever seen. It looked ancient, all black iron points and long chains that ended in ornately carved weights. There wasn’t a spot of rust anywhere on it. I found it wrapped in layer after layer of rotting shroud, on top of a skeleton in a side tunnel I don’t think had seen any visitors in half a millennium. Even the chains were intact, coiled underneath the crown as I lifted it away from the corpse. There was some resistance, as they caught on the wrappings, but one good tug and they came loose. The skeleton was less hardy than the artifact, and it crumbled under my touch. As I stowed the piece, I reminded myself to be more careful. Any damage would make the sale price plummet.
An hour later, I was back in my apartment, carefully scrubbing away the grime of centuries. The crown was gorgeous. Polished, it seemed even more well-preserved. It felt remarkably solid. It would take some time to find a buyer for it, but I was sure that I could sell it for a good price. I was no archeologist, but I guessed it was at least from the thirteenth century. But I’d never seen something that old so well preserved in the field before.s
I locked the crown in my hidden safe, carefully tucking the weighted chains underneath it. I double-checked the lock and replaced the trapdoor and rug. ‘Safe as houses,’ I thought, and went to clean myself up after a night in the underground.
I really was beautiful, I thought while shampooing the gunk out of my hair. I’d have to do a lot of legwork on this one, but it would be worth it. Most of the stuff I recovered had some material value: Gold, silver, semi-precious stones, that sort of thing. I always tried the antiquities markets first, but if I had to dump it for materials, I could. The black iron crown was different. It was a real artifact, still intact, with all its chains and moldings unblemished by rust. There was somebody in my little black book that would kill for a piece like that. I might even need to have an auction for it.
On the other hand, I could always keep the crown for myself. It was a brilliant show piece. A little bit of a resume, if you will. With something like this, I could break into contract work. I’d have to sell it a bit, do some research, come up with a better story than tripping over it while exploring, but it would be worth it. Being on a payroll meant having someone to bail me out, or bribe the cops to look the other way.
I’d definitely keep it, I thought. I went back to the safe and pulled it out again. It was surprisingly heavy, especially with all the little weights and chains. I wondered who wore it. Not a king, obviously. It didn’t have the right sort of ornamentation about it. And not a bishop. It lacked a certain holiness. A warlord, I thought. Or a duke. I could picture him riding into battle, armored, with the crown atop his head. The chains must’ve hooked into armor, or a helmet, maybe. It was the crown of a leader, a strong man. A man like me.
I almost looked around sheepishly before I tried it on. But I still tried it on.
***
I blink. and take a breath, and for a moment, I’m disoriented. I remembered fire, and a crowd… I blink again, and look down at my hands. They’re larger than I recall, and hairy on the backs. They’re a man’s, not mine. I stifle a shriek, and the muffled squeak I do make is lower than I expect. I shake my head, and I feel the see the chains rattle around me, feel the familiar pendulum weights shifting at their ends. The Ebon Crown. Someone put it on. The spell worked!
I’ve cheated them all! Death, Plague, and most especially that sanctimonious prig of an Inquisitor. The body isn’t really mine, but I wear it like a gown. I ride it like a horse, and with both legs, not some feminine sidesaddle foolishness. I feel the rumbling horror and complaints of the original occupant. I ignore him, let him fade to the edges this mind like the sound of the sea.
I stride to a mirror, my gait unsteady. It’s huge, and takes up most of one wall.It isn’t silvered, but something else, something clear and bright. His features are nothing remarkable. The little room, though. Such a room! In one corner stands something like a garderobe, but with flowing water, and a roman bath in the other. And lamps! Lamps hang in the ceiling. Their light is so steady and bright that they hurt my eyes to look upon. The man who has placed me on his head must likewise be some sort of sorcerer, I think, although none of his magic is known to me.
I explore his strange chambers, and in one room, I find a parchment. I can barely read it, but It gives the date as A.D. 2018. It has been over eight hundred years. I take some time to consider the gulf of time.
The rooms are filled with books, with light, with strange devices whose functions I slowly wrest from the scruffy little smuggler whose body I now wear. I spend days watching, reading, listening and learning. This world, this clockwork future, is beautiful and strange, but not so different as my own time. There are no witches here. The Inquisitors, having hunted us all, turned their eyes to merely the stranger, the outsider, the heretic. They burned themselves out in foolish hate. And now, they no longer believe in magic. The world thinks we never were, I am the last witch, and there is no one to protect them from me.
Oh, what delights I shall find here.

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Hugh Likes Fiction: Gideon the Ninth

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Gideon the Ninth
Written by Tamsyn Muir
Audiobook read by Moira Quirk
Published by Recorded Books

The Skinny: Shirley Jackson’s Lesbian Space Necromancers.

Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth is an extraordinary novel that is a bit difficult to describe, pithy sentence above not withstanding. In a crumbling space empire built on necromancy, eight Necromancers, along with their Cavalier bodyguards, return to a long-abandoned planet to search for a secret power that could save their civilization. It’s a dense concept, and my attempts don’t do it justice, but Tamsyn sells it with from the first incredible opening line.

“In the myriadic year of our Lord—the ten thousandth year of the King Undying, the kindly Prince of Death!— Gideon Nav packed her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and she escaped from the House of the Ninth.”

A postmodern space fantasy/ghost story, Muir fills her novel with deeply rich characters like the eponymous sassy swordswoman Gideon and her Necromancer charge, Harrowhawk. Harrow is the teenaged leader of the Ninth House, and Gideon’s only childhood companion, so of course they hate each other, and are only working together to keep the other houses from finding out that a tragedy befell their planet, and they are literally the only suitable candidates. Her characters are outstandingly drawn and painfully real. And her setting, from the nearly-lifeless frozen tomb planet the Ninth House calls home to the abandoned, crumbling palace of Canaan House is a character in its own right; melancholy, ferocious, and disarmingly witty.
Muir’s handling of equal parts tension and farce are deft, constantly surprising, and utterly delightful.
Just as delightful as the writing is Moira Quirk’s narration on the audiobook version. Quirk does an excellent job brining Muir’s already vivid characters to life. She does a stunning job performing a large cast of strange and complicated characters.
Gideon the Ninth draws from the work of masters like Agatha Christie, Shirley Jackson, and Ursula K. Le Guin, while also building something modern and wholly unique. It is unlike anything I’ve read in a very long time, and not to be missed. You can listen to the remarkable audiobook version via Audible, or purchase a physical or ebook copy from your retailer of choice.

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Fiction: Healing Spring

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The pilgrim brought her daughter, limp and coughing, in the last paroxysms of disease, to the underground pool.
The priests said the pool had healing powers, which came at a terrible price. Looking into the inky black water, she believed.
She placed her daughter in the water. The girl barely moved, and the water sucked her down, down down. A cry caught in the woman’s throat. But she believed. She waited.
Moments later, an eternity later, her daughter rose from the water, whole, and well. Her little girl smiled with row on row of sharp, sharp teeth in the darkness.

This story originally appeared in Everyday Drabbles, a daily free fiction project on Wattpad. Visit the link for more free stories. And if you enjoy my writing, support my work by buying me a coffee!
Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

The first collection of Everyday Drabbles stories, Winter, is now available as an eBook from Amazon! Enjoy over 90 short stories for less than two dollars!

Podcast: CCR57 – Bloody Pit of Horror

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Tonight your hosts, Hugh, Rich the Time Traveler, Opopanax, and Jurd, wrestle with the denizens of a goofy Italian castle.

Click HERE to listen to the podcast!

And HERE to watch the flick in question!

Chrononaut Cinema Reviews is presented by http://skinner.fm and http://hughjodonnell.com, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

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Fiction: Bird Feeder

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On a long brass pole, a dish was piled high with gold and black seeds that glistened in dappled sunlight. A cardinal circled the feeder, a flash of red wings flitting from branch to branch.

The cardinal didn’t remember this feeder, and they heard no crashing human footsteps. It paid to be cautious, but…

It hopped closer. The feeder was empty. It called, a question on the morning air that went unanswered. Throwing caution aside, it landed on the lip of the feeder and pecked at the pile of seeds.

The mimic snapped its jaws shut and swallowed the bird.

This story originally appeared in Everyday Drabbles, a daily free fiction project on Wattpad. Visit the link for more free stories. And if you enjoy my writing, support my work by buying me a coffee!
Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

The first collection of Everyday Drabbles stories, Winter, is now available as an eBook from Amazon! Enjoy over 90 short stories for less than two dollars!

Fiction: The Highwayman’s Trial

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“What’s the catch?” The highwayman asked, suspiciously eyeing the fine horse presented to him.
“The trail is simple,” The judge replied. “Just ride through these woods, and you are free to go.”
“What’s in there, then?” He looked out at the dark forrest. It must’ve been a trap, but all the villagers were here, he thought.
“Only the ghosts you take with you, sir.”
The highwayman mounted up, thinking only of how much gold he could get for such a horse and thanking God for superstitious backwaters.
The next day, the horse was found wandering the other side. Riderless, naturally.

This story first appeared as a part of my project Everyday Drabbles! Visit the link for a new free hundred-word short story every day!

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