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Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

Changeling first saw Rake making a slow, ponderous path through the glades of the Summerlands, blowing a jaunty tune on an odd, twisted recorder as he plodded along at the head of an overloaded donkey-cart. The sight was terribly odd to Changeling, who had never seen anyone collect such a huge mass of goods in one place. In Changeling’s experience, when you needed something, you reached for it, and it was there—and when you didn’t need it any more, you put it down and forgot it. Such was the nature of the Summerlands, and if Changeling had ever known a world any different than this, he certainly couldn’t remember it.

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For this month, have a sneak preview of the Kickstarter-exclusive Skin Horse bonus story, “Night Milking,” detailing a rather odd day on the job for Unity during the period she was employed by the government cheese folks.

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Unity was not sure whether or not she believed in God, but the Upper Midwest at night was evidence enough that if He did exist, He certainly enjoyed scaring the crap out of Himself.

For the one thing, it was very quiet. Unnervingly so. Unity had become used to the low-grade diplomatic bustle of McLean, Virginia (the only city Unity could come up with that was named after a kind of disgusting hamburger sammych from the 1990s), so being out in the middle of screw-all silent nowhere was profoundly unsettling to her. There were lots of comforting city-noises whose absence Unity was feeling very keenly at this point. She missed the screams, for one thing. She missed the sounds of tearing metal. She missed the wail of distant emergency sirens that confirmed the authorities were looking in completely the wrong place for whatever it was she had just done to cause the screams and the sounds of tearing metal.

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As happens so frequently in life, things began to break down during the screening of 1973’s blaxploitation-themed imprisoned-women film Black Mama, White Mama.  It is very nearly a truism of the modern condition that things will begin to break down when this point of human interaction is reached.

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Unity eventually returned from the Maragda Building’s luxurious underground parking garage and found me in the lobby, right where she left me, screaming at the open air like a total moron.

“FIND!” I shouted. “PICTURE! HOME SCREEN!” And then, after a quick squint at the screen: “AAARGH!”

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“Santa Plow”

And so we sit upon our snow-covered porch, drinking mulled cider, wrapped in blankets, shawls, coats and mufflers. Our breath issues forth in cheerful white clouds. The little ones scuffle in the snow nearby, but their playfulness is of an excited, distracted sort, and they are ready to drop it at a moment’s notice. Rebecca, the quiet one, refrains from the roughhousing and stands quietly at my side, a vision of perfect pink in earmuffs.

“Is it true?” asks Rebecca, for this is her first year, and she cannot quite believe it. She will see. “Is it true that he’s coming?”

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Let us kick off the holiday season in a very “Dungeons and Dragons” sort of way, shall we?

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It started with two words:

“Conditioner, dear.”

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