“Masks of the Mud God”

from Beneath Ceaseless Skies #213

bcs213Miriam fashioned the inner lining of her mask from a single piece of cured and softened pigskin. Pressing the soaked leather over a plaster gauze mold of her face, she cut it to shape with a pair of shears, and with a naked razor carved holes for the mouth, nose, and eyes.

She baked it only long enough to fix its shape without sacrificing flexibility, then conditioned the inside with neatsfoot oil, so it would remain kind to her skin, and supple. She mixed her own plaster with clay, sand, and water, which she smeared over the mask’s exterior. She sculpted cheekbones, nose, and chin not from memory but from imagination and desire. With a sliver of wood and meticulous care, she pressed detailed texture into the lips and drew the finest lines around the mouth to suggest kind and frequent smiles. When the plaster dried, she brushed it with the softest hues of pink and red paint. It was a pure face, a face with only a few innocent secrets, if any at all. It was the face of a woman with freedom, contentment, and children who brought her joy—all the things Miriam lacked.

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“Freshwater Sharks”

From Gray’s Sporting Journal; Vol. 38, Issue 6

“Before a man goes fishing, he needs to know some things about the fish he plans to catch, and some things about himself.  If he doesn’t know about the fish, he doesn’t deserve to catch it–and probably won’t. If he doesn’t know why he wants the fish, he doesn’t even deserve to be fishing.”

“Dark Gardens”

From Interzone #248

Sam bought the foreclosure on Enfield at auction, sight unseen. He assumed its history would be questionable, but as the plan was to gut, remodel and resell, history was irrelevant. Not until the day he took possession did Sam learn the previous owner had been a semi-professional magician, stage name of Kurricke. The magician had vanished after living in the two-bedroom ranch for seventeen years, leaving spoiled milk in the refrigerator, dishes in the sink, and all the tools of his trade in unlocked trunks.


“The Study of Monstrosities”

From Beneath Ceaseless Skies #127

“On the morning of his interview with Dr. Alabaster, Ethan rose at dawn to claim exclusive use of the shared lavatory at the end of the hall. He wiped down the interior of the tub before adding three inches of hot water from the spigot. He bathed with a washrag, then lathered his face sparingly with soap. Other men used thick cream to shave, a practice he found not only lavish and uneconomical but a sore compromise for maintaining a keen razor. When finished, he carefully rinsed and dried his ebony-handled razor before folding it away. Again, he wiped down the inside of the tub, the spigot, sink, mirror, and every tile upon which he had stepped.”

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“Vacant Spaces”

From Clarkesworld #77

“Eighty kilometers above Earth’s moon, Caine and Shepard abandoned the cockpit for the tug’s passenger cabin. All but two facing rows of seats had been removed to make room for the biology of the engines. Like the roots of a tree, piping and conduits ran from floor to ceiling and all along the bulkheads. From inside, it seemed the engines had not so much been bolted to the tug, as grown into it. When stoked, they would sweat something like a mucus-blood mixture, which stank like burning fat, and sizzled on the floor.”

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