Our latest story
“Fennel,” Mama called up from the kitchen. “Breakfast’s near ready.”
“Coming, Mama,” I yelled back as I pulled a simple, blue dress over my head. I tied my hair back tight, laced up my shoes and then ran down the stairs to the kitchen.
Mama was heavily pregnant again. She was stirring a large pot that bubbled away on the stove, filling the air with the aroma of milk and oats. Sage, Lentil, and Chilli were crawling around Mama’s ankles, squealing. Strawberry, Colander, Rosemary, and Tommy sat at the table, spoons in hands, waiting for their porridge.
Mama had the birthing disease. “When you have the birthing disease,” Mama would say, “you don’t have time to dilly dally picking out the perfect name for your little uns. I like to look at what’s nearby when the baby comes and pick a name that way.” Mama had been cooking just before I was born on the kitchen floor. Mama had been cooking before most of our births.
Pa sat at the head of the table, stiff backed. His raw, cracked hands rested in bowls of ice and his stone-grey eyes watched the children. I gave his hard shoulder a squeeze as I walked past him and made my way to the opposite end of the table.
Pa had laid-to-waste disease. He worked in demolition, destroying buildings with his rock-hard hands. When he was young, those hands had been harder than diamonds. But not anymore. As he grew older, it was like the hardness in his hands had begun to leak from where he needed it and, instead, it was spreading slowly but surely up his arms and across his chest and face. The money was too good to stop working, so Pa persisted, despite the toll on his body, despite the stiffness in his joints and the limited movement. I guess it made me sad, though Mama said it shouldn’t. We all have to bear our diseases, the good and the bad.Read more
This Side of the Wall – Michael Gardner
Jewel/Gem Offering – Talisen Fray
The Seer at Sunset Hills Shopping Plaza – Katherine Perdue
Emeralds or Amethysts – Alexandra Grunberg
Q: Do you write things other than speculative fiction?
A: No, not really. Whenever I start developing a story thinking it might not be speculative, at some point my imagination runs away with me and the finished product ends up including something supernatural, or strange, or weird.
It’s what I enjoy reading, and it’s what I enjoy writing. I love great characters, and reading about interesting people. But I think characters react in even more fascinating ways when you throw them into a speculative world, or you have them face some fantastic or horrifying scenario.
Yaroslav Barsukov is a software engineer from Moscow, currently living in Vienna, Austria. After leaving his ball and chain at the workplace, he goes on to write stories that deal with things he himself, thankfully, doesn’t have to deal with.
Q: Why fantasy?
A: Ignoring the fact that Jewel/Gem is a sci-fi story (my first, possibly my last), I choose to write fantasy not just because it’s cool—like fezzes are cool—but because life, through the lens of fantasy, is a little richer. Through fantasy I can take a stab at the ‘why’ behind the ‘how’, and often neglect the ‘how’ entirely. In fantasy we can tackle tough topics with just enough distance to stay safe until the fatal moment that truth stabs us in the heart and we find that, like all good literature, this story has changed us somehow. We’re bigger. Deeper. Angrier.
Fantasy helps us live.