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Hishi’s claws ticked on the polished floor as she ran. The sound was barely audible, yet the teeming corridors emptied ahead of her. News had spread through the great city, out and down from the bloody throne room, that a new blend – an Excisor – had been dispatched to seek vengeance. Ten million people wondered who this Excisor was going to kill today. A very few knew, and prepared as best they could.
“Sure as The Scour hunts us all,” the old ones whispered as she passed, pointing superstitiously up through the ceiling towards the roiling leaden cloud that blanketed the world. “The bonehawks will feast today.”
The bonehawks feasted every day, Hishi’s glanded memory stacks told her: Portmanteau’s dead were rendered to remove every priceless, treacherous trace of metal, and the remains dropped through one of the mile-long vents in the bottom of the track as the gargantuan city rolled along its ancient course. Vast flocks of the vicious four-winged scavengers roosted on Portmanteau’s underbelly, swooping down on Funereal days to try and catch the cascade of meat before it reached the steppe far below, there to be fought over by far more deadly competitors.
Hishi cut off the information flood with a thought. She had an Instruction from the Eternal him/herself, and would carry it out in perfectly and literally, as demanded. For the briefest of moments, the little Excisor wondered how things might be were she not to do so, and felt the gland at the top of her neck pulse. The surge of shame and contrition was so great that her step faltered and she came to a halt in an arching bloodwood cathedral, saw a flutter of red robes as a group of Spirituals scuttled to get out of her sight-line, never pausing in their endless repetition of the Histories.
Hishi – David A. Gray
Hold This Star for Me – Mark David Adam
Cheminagium – David Gallay
Love in Its Heart – David Z. Morris
Q: Are titles easy or hard for you? Do you start with the title or the story?
A: I hate writing titles, primarily because I am just terrible at it. It’s always the very last part of the process for me. I can’t even imagine the idea of starting with a title and writing a story, although I realize others do just this.
Rhoads has written stories across the entire spectrum of speculative fiction, from light fantasy to the most decrepit tales of horror to quirky sci-fi. He currently lives in Colorado with his wife and son.
Q: What hero (of any gender) would you name your child after, if we lived in a society with names like that?
A: Princess Eilonwy! As a boy, I would sit in the corner of my hometown’s public library in the summer and read and reread the Prydain Chronicles, always wishing I could be as brave and creative and self-knowing as Princess Eilonwy of Llyr.
Mari Ness spent much of her life wandering the world and reading. This, naturally, left her only able to eat chocolate, snark about popular culture, and occasionally write. She lives in central Florida, with a scraggly rose garden, large trees harboring demented squirrels, and two adorable cats.