«Issue 1 A foreword from the editor: Reader, Thank you for picking up our first issue! This is a journey that I hope will last quite awhile, but for ...»
A Glimpse of
A foreword from the editor:
Thank you for picking up our
first issue! This is a journey that I
hope will last quite awhile, but for
that, we need the help of more people
Table of Contents:
Story - “Catching the Page 1
Review - Abandoned Page 9
Review - Huntress Page 12 · Story - “Sheets and Page 14 · Covers” Review - Tales from the Page 18 · Guild: Music to your Ears Review - Losing My Page 21 · Religion Story - “Rhinoirceros” Page 24 · Review - The Dog Who · Page 28 Spoke With Gods Story - “If All Your Page 31 · Friends” II Catching the Thief Amy Fontaine Gail and Bessie were keeping vigil near the barn, as they usually did at night. Well, Gail tried to keep vigil, while Bessie distracted Gail with her songs.
“The lovely moooon,” lowed Bessie, her cowbell jingling as she pranced around. “So high in Juuuune! I’ll sing a tuuuu—” “Hush, Bessie,” snapped Gail, who took her job as guard dog very seriously. “I’m trying to listen!” Bessie looked at Gail curiously with her big, brown eyes.
“Say, you’re a collie, aren’t you? Shouldn’t you be in a sheep pasture with, you know, sheep?” Gail growled. “There aren’t any sheep here, silly cow!
Don’t you remember? It’s you idiots, the horses, the pigs, the chickens…” As Gail said this, she heard a strange noise near the chicken coop. A soft pitter-pattering, like a cat wearing slippers, followed by a rapid scuttle towards— “Oh no,” said Gail. Barking, she dashed towards the coop.
Gail smelled His Mustiness before she saw him—a dash of red, slipping through a hole under the coop. She snarled, lunging, but he squeezed through the hole just in time. Gail was too big to fit through the hole, though she tried, again and again, barking and snarling her head off.
Due to a tractor incident in his youth, Farmer Stan was nearly deaf. That’s why he didn’t hear Gail barking, or the clucks and screams and desperate wingbeats coming from the chicken coop, which had turned into a slaughterhouse.
Gail shuddered with rage. She desperately started widening the hole.
Chewing her cud, Bessie ambled over to the coop. “Oh look,” she said, “the door’s ajar.” She calmly wandered in.
Growling low in her throat, Gail dug her way into the coop.
“A-HA!” cried Gail, panting, dirty, and victorious, near the inner entrance to the hole. The sweet smell of blood mingled with the musty stench of him, Bessie’s fresh leather scent, chicken poo, and hay.
The red fox, handsome devil, stood on a ledge with a limp hen in his mouth. Another lay dead beside him. The other chickens flew about frantically, squawking horribly and tossing feathers everywhere.
“Drop the chicken, dirt-dweller!” snarled Gail. Bessie stood before the open door, staring at the fox. The fox dropped the chicken, grinning a bloody grin.
“I have a name, you know. It’s Fred.” “Hi Fred!” said Bessie with a smile and a swish of her tail.
Gail glared at her, then turned to the fox.
“You have stolen my master’s rightful property. The punishment for this crime is death.” Gail stepped closer to Fred, hackles raised, teeth bared. “Any last words, you red-furred little monster?” Fred smiled.
“Yes. Bye.” And with that, Fred darted right between Bessie’s legs and out the door, carrying one of his chickens into the night.
“Damnit!” Gail snarled. “I hate foxes!” She made to give chase, but her limbs froze up. “And I hate getting old!” Gail stretched her legs to try to unstiffen her joints, standing in front of the coop. Bessie bounded over to her brightly.
“Whatcha doing, little Lassie?” Gail snapped the air in front of Bessie, making her jump.
“It’s Gail, you silly thing! I’ve told you a thousand times!” Gail barked at Bessie, making her jump again. “You let him get away, you imbecile! Some help you are!” Bessie hung her head. Gail sighed. “Cows are so stupid.” Turning away from Bessie, she sniffed the air to catch the fox’s scent. Then she looked at the sky, where the first hint of dawn was peeking over the horizon. Once more she turned to Bessie.
“I’m going after him. I won’t rest till I kill him and bring him back to Master. You stay here. Tell Master not to worry. I will be home soon.” Gail started towards a hole under the fence around Stan’s property. She was about to go through it when she heard the rattle of a cowbell behind her. Whirling around, Gail glared at Bessie.
“You foolish herbivore! Follow, follow, follow. It’s all your kind does! Well then, follow my orders and stay here!” Bessie whimpered. Sitting on her haunches, she started to cry. Gail sighed.
“Later,” Gail said, slipping through the hole under the fence. On the other side she found a tiny tuft of red fur caught on a log, two drops of blood, and some fox tracks leading north through the mud. Gail smiled with vindictive pleasure. This would be easy.
Bessie, who was very resilient, had recovered from her disappointment enough to sing a new song.
“Buttercup to eat,” she bellowed, “my favorite yellow treat…”
“I thought I told you to stay home!” said Gail.
“You did!” smiled Bessie. “And then I saw a butterfly. It was bright yellow, just like my favorite buttercups.” Gail stared at her, especially at the cowbell still banging back and forth against her neck.
“It’s hard enough for me to be stealthy tracking this fox on my own. If you came, it would be impossible!” Bessie sniffled at the sternness in Gail’s voice, about to start wailing at being left behind. Gail’s resolve wavered; she remembered there were bigger things than foxes in the forest, things that could eat a stupid cow. Gail sighed.
“Alright. Follow me. But first…” Picking up a branch in her mouth, Gail dug it under Bessie’s collar. Bessie yelped, and was about to jump backwards when Gail snapped the cowbell off her neck by using the branch like a lever. The cowbell fell loudly to the forest floor and then fell silent. Gail grunted in satisfaction.
“Better. Let’s move. Quietly.” Gail darted across the river. Bessie stood staring at the cowbell for a while, feeling naked. Then she clopped through the water after Gail, as quietly as a cow could, which was not very quiet at all.
* After realizing that Fred’s scent seemed to follow the river downstream, Gail decided it would be wise to wade in the water to cover their scents. Bessie had a grand old time with this.
She gleefully splashed with her hooves, laughing.
“Woohoo! This is fun, fun, fun! Way better than standing around a pasture all day eating grass!” Suddenly remembering she was hungry, Bessie leaned her neck down and to the side and plucked some grass from the riverbank. She chomped it loudly and swallowed.
“And the grass here tastes better too. Fresher, more nutritious.” Realizing Gail had left her behind, intent on the scent, Bessie hurried to catch up. “And it’s pretty and shady, here under the trees! Nice and cool. And there’s more colors of flowers here than I’ve ever dreamed of!” “Some of them are poisonous,” grumbled Gail, not stopping to look back.
Bessie’s face fell. “Oh.” She pranced up behind Gail. “Hey, what do you say we live here, after we catch Fred? This place is so nice, so exciting, and living on a farm is so—” Gail whirled around and snapped the air inches from Bessie’s throat. Bessie stumbled backwards through the water and almost fell.
“How dare you even talk of leaving Master!” snarled Gail.
“Where’s your loyalty to the man who feeds us, watches over us?
Have you none?” Bessie got quiet. She never got quiet. “It’s different for you, Gail,” Bessie said softly. “You do an important job for him.
He loves you. You’re special. I… I’m just another cow.” Gail’s eyes widened.
“That… that’s not true,” Gail said. “Master loves all of us for who we are.” Tears filled Bessie’s eyes as she shook her head, grateful that the stupid cowbell wasn’t on her neck to make her look like a jangling fool.
“Why do you think I started following you on guard duty every night? I wanted to do something special too. I wanted to be useful. But I’m such an idiot, I only make your job harder.” Bessie started to sob. Her tears poured into the river.
Gail felt embarrassed.
“But… you’re useful,” said Gail, awkwardly. “You give… milk and stuff.” “Yeah,” sniveled Bessie. “So does any other cow!” She wept inconsolably, as Gail stood by, helpless.
A bush rustled a few feet from the bank. Vulpine laughter rang through the forest as a dashing, red-coated creature peered out of the leaves.
It was Fred!
“Oh, this is just too good!” purred the fox. “Old dog, your nose is not as sharp as it used to be! I was leading you in circles, and then following you along the riverbank when your senses failed to help you notice me! So close, so close! Always near!” The fox cackled and screamed with joy. Gail snarled, lunging out of the water, but then she shivered, her old bones made stiff by the cold, and moaned softly as a wave of arthritis crippled her with pain.
Fred slithered past the immobilized dog. Becoming a shadow under another bush, his emerald eyes glinted out at Bessie.
“Poor girl,” said Fred sadly. “This bitch has been stringing you along, hasn’t she? Calling you names, putting you down. She never wanted you around. But I—” Here, Fred leaped out of the bush, stretched himself luxuriously, beamed at Gail—who was still paralyzed—and then looked invitingly at Bessie.
“I like you. I like your pretty little songs and dances, and the calming way you plod along, and the way your tail swishes from side to side. Foxes are supposed to be solitary by nature, but I’ve always longed for, well, another kind of life. For a friend.
And we… we could be friends.” Bessie stared. Foxes, she knew, were said to be creatures of guile, but Fred looked completely sincere. He was even wagging his tail. Bessie blushed, looking down at the water.
“You really think my songs are pretty?” “Yes, my dear. I do.” “Don’t listen to him, Bess!” cried Gail, but when she tried to move, pain shot through her again. “Damnit!” cursed Gail, fighting back tears.
Fred scampered playfully through the water, nudging Bessie’s leg with his nose. Bessie looked down at him. His eyes were wide; he looked like a little begging puppy. Bessie smiled.
“Yes, we could be friends!” Fred continued eagerly. “We could roam the forest together, play tag in the meadows! You could step on mice and rats and squirrels for me, and I could show you which flowers and mushrooms are safe to eat and which glades contain the juiciest, sun-kissed grass, and we will both be useful to each other and we will both love each other because that’s what friends—” A gunshot ripped the forest in two.
The dreamy look still in his eyes, the dreamy smile still on his face, Fred dropped into the water. As Bessie watched, the river ran red. Farmer Stan waded through the water to the body.
It was a clean shot; it would make a decent pelt. Stan lifted the carcass from the river. “Don’t mess with my chickens,” he told it, spitting into the water in contempt. Then he walked over to Gail on the other side of the river. Seeing her pain, he stroked her encouragingly, massaging her locked muscles. “Come on, girl.
Let’s go.” Under her master’s gentle touch, Gail quivered her limbs until finally she could move again. She licked Stan’s face, and he smiled. They waded back across the water, side by side. On the other bank, as if in afterthought, Stan turned to Gail.
“Gail, go get Bessie!” Gail froze. Slowly, she turned back towards the cow, who still stood in the water, trembling. The look Gail gave Bessie was filled with an emotion Stan would never understand.
Lifting her head, Bessie lowed, singing the saddest song a cow would ever sing.
Abandoned Places An anthology edited by Tarl Hoch Reviewed by MikasiWolf
This is not a book of happy endings. You've been warned.
What is our definition of an abandoned place? Is it a brick-and-mortar structure that had once seen the hustle and bustle of people, or can it be something else entirely? The recesses of a mind in which rational emotion has since left?
There are as many reasons as there are places, some of these compiled together in the anthology of Abandoned Places.
Interestingly, none of the places featured in Abandoned Places are that of actual places, not unless you count a stretch of the Mississippi River and the sidewalk of an unnamed city.
This means the clichés associated with established places like the Chernobyl reactor do not occur; every story is a fresh read.
Although the title of the anthology suggests a focus on the places, along with the reason for their abandonment, a few stories feature not the setting as their focus, but the human, or rather, anthro condition: "Emphathy", along with one's psychological state of disrepair: "Who's to Say, Prospero". A few others, such as "Scratch" and "Darwin's Future", touch on the setting briefly, but the setting so lacks a personality or name that it did not seem be of much importance. So if you're looking for setting-oriented stories, just know that’s not all you're getting.
I particularly liked "Emphathy", Belief", and "World's Biggest Dragons". In a horror-themed book, "World's Biggest Dragons" was a refreshing read. Light-hearted even in the face of the characters’ adversity, it put the protagonists under a sizable challenge such that despite their wisecracking, one fears for them. "Emphathy" addresses an issue all too common in modern society: what happens when people stop caring for each other? Is such an abandonment a fate worse than death itself?
"Belief" was thought-provoking, as it suggests a reason why ghosts haunt the places they once walked. Are they simply carrying out the motions of when they were living, or are they living out their own hell over and over?