GlitterShip

An LGBTQ Science Fiction & Fantasy podcast

Episode #28 — “Sarah’s Child” by Susan Jane Bigelow


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Sarah’s Child

Susan Jane Bigelow

Once, I dreamed that I had a son named Sheldon, and my grief tore a hole in the fabric of the world.

In my dream I walked through the halls of an elementary school, and I went into the office. Everything was gray and blocky, but somehow not oppressive. I was certain, then, that it was the elementary school in my old hometown, and that I was both myself and also not myself.

 

Full transcript after the cut

 

Hello! Welcome to GlitterShip episode 28 for May 24, 2016. This is your host, Keffy, and I’m super excited to be sharing this story with you.

Our story this week is “Sarah’s Child” by Susan Jane Bigelow, read by Amanda Ching.

Susan Jane Bigelow is a fiction writer, political columnist, and librarian. She mainly writes science fiction and fantasy novels, most notably the Extrahuman Union series from Book Smugglers Publishing. Her short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine, Lightspeed Magazine’s “Queers Destroy Science Fiction” issue, and the Lamba Award-winning “The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard,” among others. She lives with her wife in northern Connecticut, and can be found at the bottom of a pile of cats.

Amanda Ching is a freelance editor and writer. Her work has appeared in Storm Moon Press, Candlemark & Gleam’s Alice: (re)Visions, and every bathroom stall on I-80 from Pittsburgh to Indianapolis. She tweets @cerebralcutlass and blogs at http://amandaching.wordpress.com.

 

 

Sarah’s Child

Susan Jane Bigelow

 

 

 

Once, I dreamed that I had a son named Sheldon, and my grief tore a hole in the fabric of the world.

In my dream I walked through the halls of an elementary school, and I went into the office. Everything was gray and blocky, but somehow not oppressive. I was certain, then, that it was the elementary school in my old hometown, and that I was both myself and also not myself.

I asked for Sheldon.

“Ms. Harp is here,” someone said, and then there he was. He was blond, maybe five or six, with a round face like my sister’s. He smiled toothily up at me.

I took his hand. “Come on, honey,” I said. “Let’s go.”

And then I woke up. Janet snored softly next to me.

I touched the space on my body where my womb would have been, if I’d been born with one, and ached.

 

It was a mistake to tell Janet.

“So you had a dream,” she said, crunching her toast. She ate it plain, no butter. “So what?”

She was wearing that muscle shirt that made me melt, and her short hair was a mess from sleep. Janet was athletic, butch and pint-sized, and she wore her queerness like a pair of brass knuckles. I was lucky to have her.

“I don’t know,” I said. “It just seemed so real.”

“I dreamed I was a hockey player,” Janet said, popping the last piece of toast into her mouth. “But I ain’t one.”

“I know.” I stabbed at my breakfast, not feeling all that hungry. “Never mind.”

She came over and kissed the top of my head. “Sorry, babe. I know it bugs you sometimes.” She put her dishes in the sink. “You aren’t gonna start asking about sperm donors or anything, right? Did you freeze yours?”

“No,” I said. “And no. I didn’t.” There’d really been no point. When I had my surgery I’d been in the middle of the divorce with Liz. Kids were out of the question.

“Cool. You gonna be okay?”

I nodded.

“All right. I gotta hit the shower. See you at the game tonight!” She headed off to the shower, humming happily to herself. She usually took half an hour in there, so I’d be long gone by the time she came out. I poked at my scrambled eggs again, then tossed them out.

 

I couldn’t shake the dream, though, so I went through my day in a fog. People at work asked me if I was all right, and I just shook my head mutely. Sure. Fine, just a little haunted.

I didn’t go directly home that night. Instead, I drove the half hour north to Elm Hill, and parked outside the elementary school. School was long over, though a few kids played on the ball fields and ran around the swings.

I shut the car off and got out. There was a hint of fall in the air, though the leaves hadn’t turned yet. I walked through the playground, passing by my own ghosts on the steps, by the wall, on the baseball field, and up to the fence. There was a little rock there, smaller than I remembered. I sat on it, and thought about Sheldon.

This was silly. It was just a dream. I’d had dreams about motherhood before. Pregnancy, babies, those dreams came with the hormones. Everybody had them, or said they did.

So why wouldn’t this one let me go?

I sighed. Somewhere across the playground, a father with two daughters was watching me. I waved at him, and he turned quickly around again. Dads don’t like me.

Impulsively, I rummaged in my purse and found the little reporter’s notebook I kept handy. I’m not a reporter, I work in layout and design for the magazine, but somewhere along the line I’d picked up a few of their habits.

I pulled a pen out of my purse and started to write.

 

Hi Sheldon

 

My hand shook. What was I doing? This was stupid. There was no Sheldon.

But my traitor hand kept writing.

 

I hope you’re doing okay. I hope you had a nice day. I used to play on this rock when I was little, like you. I hope you have a lot of friends, and that you’re happy.

 

Your friend,

Sarah

 

I couldn’t bring myself to sign it ‘Mom.’

My phone chimed, and I pulled it out. There were two texts there. One was from Janet, wondering where I was. Guilty—I’d forgotten her game—I texted her back that I’d be there in about half an hour.

The other was from a number I’d never seen before. It was a weird combination of letters and numbers, and there was no name.

 

From: AC67843V-D

Hey I can take Sheldon Friday txt me back –D

 

Angry, I texted back—

 

Not funny, Janet

 

—and put the phone away. I folded the paper up and thought about chucking it away. Then I folded it again and stuck it in a little crack in the rock.

Maybe somehow it would find its way to him, wherever he was, and he’d leave me alone.

 

 

Janet was a little peeved that I’d missed the start of the game. She took softball seriously, and the fall league was special in some way that I’d tried my best not to understand. But I got there in time for the fourth inning, which meant I got to see her steal third base, so it wasn’t a total loss.

“Where were you?” she asked as we were downing beer and pizza with the team after.

“Just got held up,” I said. “At work. You know how it is.”

“They exploit you,” she said, pointing at me with the business end of a slice of pizza. “You shouldn’t let them do that. It’s cause you’re trans—” I winced. Tell the whole pizza joint, why don’t you? “—that they think they can take advantage, cause you’re desperate for work. You shouldn’t take it.”

“No,” I said. “It’s fine.”

“Damn it, Sarah,” said Janet. “You gotta stick up for yourself! You never do. You just let Liz roll away with your house and car and money, and you let your boss get all kinds of unpaid labor out of you. You need to grow a spine.”

And I let you boss me around, too, I thought, eating a slice of pizza. So what?

“You didn’t have to send me that text,” I said.

“What, I just wanted to know where you were!” she said.

“No, the other one. The Sheldon one? That was mean.”

She blinked. “I never sent you anything about Sheldon. Who’s Sheldon?”

 

That night I dreamed about driving around the streets of my hometown. The town was different in that way familiar things change in dreams, but I still knew it was Elm Hill.

I took a turn and pulled into the parking lot of a condo complex. “Home, home,” sang a little voice in the seat next to me. I looked over and there was Sheldon, smiling up at me. I got out of the car and walked around to his side, my heels clicking on the pavement. I opened the door and helped him out.

I glanced in the window, and saw reflected back a face that was and wasn’t mine.

I woke up, the feel of Sheldon’s cold little hand in mine burned into my memory.

 

My mother was no help at all.

“Your sister’s pregnant,” she announced when I called her over lunch.

“Again?” I asked. Patty seemed to get pregnant with alarming regularity. This would be her fourth.

“So she says. I hope it’s a summer baby. They could name her June. Such a pretty name. I wanted to name you June, if you’d been a girl.”

I’m a girl now, I thought, but didn’t say. “The baby would be born earlier than that, right? It’s only September.”

“Well, you never know. And think what an interesting story that would be! ‘This is my daughter June, she was born in May!’ Wouldn’t that be an interesting story?”

“Sure. How’s Dad?” I asked, quickly changing the subject.

“Same as ever,” she grumped, launching into a long story about how he was out with his golf buddies all the time and never home. Not that she wanted him home, of course.

I almost told her about Sheldon. He was still haunting me. But what would I have said?

Instead, I listened as she told me about Dad, passed judgment on the sorry state of my career, and questioned whether Janet was right for me. I made the appropriate noises at the appropriate times, and excused myself to go back to work when the time came.

 

 

That evening I found myself pulled back to the parking lot of the elementary school in Elm Hill, looking out over the playground and thinking wistfully of what might have been. Maybe I should find a therapist, I thought. Maybe I should get help.

I got out of the car and strolled across the field, trying not to look guilty. I didn’t see the dad from yesterday. I sat myself back down on the rock, and sighed. The piece of paper was still wedged into that crack.

This is ridiculous, I thought. Why was I even here?

I was lucky. I knew I was. I had a home, a cute girlfriend, and a job. I didn’t get abuse on the streets. I wasn’t young anymore and I was never pretty, but so what?

So what.

Why did I want what I could never, ever have so badly?

Suddenly furious, I ripped the paper out of the wedge in the rock. I was about to tear it to shreds when I noticed that the paper was a soft blue color. My notebook only had white lined.

Curious, I opened it up. There, in a child’s blocky script, was written:

 

HELLO

 

I like beinG on the Rock. I make Believe its a SPACE SHIP.

My mommy is nice and a DIKe and is coming to pick me up soon. Do you like Dinosars?

 

SHELDON

 

My hands began to shake. This had to be some trick. I turned the paper over, looking for signs, but there was only the name of the paper company on the back. “Bloomfield Paper – Made in the R.N.E.” was stamped next to a little pine tree flag. There was no other mark, nothing to indicate where this had come from.

I got out my pen and paper again, and wrote another note.

 

Hi Sheldon

 

I like space ships, and I like dinosaurs. I’m very glad your mommy is nice. I hope you had a nice day today, too.

 

Sarah

 

I couldn’t think of anything else to say. Before I lost my nerve I wedged the note back into the rock, and left quickly.

 

I went back to the rock the next day, and sure enough, there was another blue paper stuck in the crack. This time it was a crude picture of a dinosaur, signed by Sheldon.

For Sara, it read, spelling my name wrong.

I smiled, touched, and tried not to think about what a creep I was being to somebody’s poor kid. I tucked the drawing into my purse.

Just then my phone rang, and I almost jumped out of my skin. I checked my phone; it was that same combination of letters and numbers as the text from yesterday had been. AC67843V-D.

Hesitantly, I answered it.

“H…hello?”

“Hey, June,” a man’s bored-sounding voice said. “I can’t take Sheldon on Friday after all. Sorry.”

Sheldon.

“I’m sorry,” I said, trying and failing to keep the quavering out of my voice. “I’m not June.”

“What?” The voice on the other end sounded very confused. “Oh. Huh. Wrong number, I guess. You sure you’re… you sound just like her. Weird.”

“I’m Sarah,” I said.

“And you’re on your own phone?”

“Yes.”

“Huh. Well, if you see June tell her David can’t pick up Sheldon Friday.”

The line went dead, leaving me shivering in the bright sunny afternoon.

 

That night I couldn’t sleep. I lay in bed, listening to Janet snore, turning it all over in my mind.

At last I got up and paced, restless and weary at the same time.

I fixed myself a cup of tea and sat in the living room, surrounded by books, stacks of DVDs, my old board games and framed prints of the brassy 40s pin-up girls Janet was obsessed with. The place felt like us, and calmed me down a little.

I took the picture and the note Sheldon had sent me out of my purse, unfolded them, and smoothed them out on the coffee table in front of me.

“Hey,” Janet said. I jumped, knocking my tea onto the floor.

“I’m sorry!” I said, leaping up.

“Didn’t mean to scare you,” she said, smiling sleepily. “I’ll get some paper towels.”

I sat back down, trembling. Janet returned and mopped up the tea on the floor. “I’m sorry,” was all I could think of to say.

“Eh, that floor’s tough. I’ve spilled way worse on it.” Janet sat next to me and noticed the drawing and the note. She picked them up and looked them over. “What’re these?”

“Nothing,” I said too quickly. “Just some old things I found.”

Janet looked like she wanted to say something, but swallowed it. “Come back to bed,” she said eventually, and padded off back toward the bedroom.

I put the picture and the note away, and followed.

 

I finally fell asleep about 3 AM.

This time I dreamed I was at a café, talking with my mother. Except she wasn’t exactly my mother: she had longer, grayer hair, and was thinner and better dressed than my mother usually was.

“And I found it in his backpack,” I was saying, in a voice that wasn’t quite mine. “I thought he had a girlfriend or something. But doesn’t this look like an adult’s writing?”

She pushed a piece of paper across the table at my mother. I was somehow not surprised to see the note I’d written to Sheldon sitting there.

My mother picked it up and frowned that distinctive thoughtfully disapproving frown. “There’s no teacher there named Sarah?”

“None,” I confirmed. “He says he just finds it in the rock.”

“You should ask the principal to look into it,” my mother said. “Or tell your deadbeat ex. Wasn’t he supposed to take Sheldon today?”

“He was,” I sighed. “Then he backed out without telling me. He swears now that he did tell me, but I don’t know.”

“Does this have to do with that Janet woman?”

Janet?

“Ma, I told you, I don’t know any Janets.”

“She seemed awfully friendly. Little Xs and Os in her text.” My mother narrowed her eyes in that way she had when she knew something was up. “June, you’re hiding something. Is it true, what David said? That you’re a… you know?”

My mommy is nice and a DIKe, Sheldon had written. What had this David person been telling him?

I drummed my fingers on the counter, stalling, but just then Sheldon came back from wherever he’d been, and we talked about nothing else besides him until I woke up.

 

“Didn’t sleep at all?” said Janet, taking in my bleary expression that morning.

“Some,” I said, cradling my cup of coffee with my trembling hands. Thank goodness it was Saturday. “I had more dreams.”

Janet sat, not looking at me. “Sarah? If you were in some kind of trouble, or if something was really wrong, you’d tell me, right?”

“I’m not in trouble,” I said quickly. “At least, I don’t think so.”

“But you can’t sleep,” she pressed, still not looking at me. “You’ve been home late. You had those notes from a kid last night. And… you look like you got hit by a truck this morning.” She visibly braced herself, then gave me one of her very serious looks. “What’s going on?”

I thought about coming up with some half-assed excuse. I thought about saying “nothing” again and pretending it was all fine. I thought about being reassuring and hiding my pain like I always did.

But I was so tired and heartsick that I told her everything.

 

When I was done, Janet just sat there for a few minutes. “Wow,” she said at last.

“I know.”

“What do you think this all means?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, feeling utterly helpless.

“I’d say it’s just bad dreams, but, what? You think the drawing and the note mean it’s real somehow? Sarah…”

“I know, I know,” I said, miserable. I felt more exposed sitting there at the table than I ever did when I took off my clothes. “I’m sure there’s explanations. But the phone calls, the way June had my letters to Sheldon in my dream…”

“June?” Suddenly Janet was alert. “Who’s June?”

“Sheldon’s mother.” I shook my head, reaching for an explanation that made sense. “I… I think she’s me, or who I could have been. June is what my mother would have named me, if I’d been born a girl.”

Janet pulled out her phone and paged through it, brow creased.

“I’m sorry,” I said, trying to hold back the tears. “I know this is weird! I just want to have a quiet morning. I shouldn’t have said anything.”

She handed me the phone. “I sent you a text the other day,” she said. “I got this back.”

 

From: AC88534J-J

I’m not Sarah, who is this? My name is June.

 

I just stared at it for a moment, shocked. Then I pulled out my own phone and showed her the text from “D,” who I now suspected was David.

“I’ve never seen phone numbers like that,” said Janet. “But they’re similar to one another.”

I started piecing it together in my mind. “Where were you when you got that text, Janet?”

“A contract up in Elm Hill,” said Janet slowly. “Why?”

“That’s where I was when I got the text, and the call,” I said excitedly. “That’s where the school is!”

“But look, it gets even better,” said Janet, taking back the phone and poking the screen. “I got another one a few minutes later.”

 

From: AC88534J-J

Please don’t tell, but I think I’m gay. I have to tell someone.

 

“Oh my God,” I said.

“I thought it was someone pranking me at that point,” said Janet as I digested the text, agog. “Like Lisa. She does shit like this, and she knows how to do stuff with phones.” She tapped the phone thoughtfully. “But now… Jesus. Sarah, is this real?”

“It is,” I said firmly. “It has to be.”

“What’s going on?” Janet asked. “Why do you have such a connection with this Sheldon? I mean, he’s not your kid, right?”

“No, not exactly. But June… She’s got my mother, the name I would have had.”

“She’s you,” said Janet. “Or who you would have been, if…”

“Yeah. If.” I said, and an entire world was contained in that world.

“So what do we do about it?” Janet asked.

It was a good question. Our parallel lives were crashing together, I was driving myself nuts from lack of sleep, and all I wanted was everything she had.

This couldn’t go on.

“I want to try to talk to them,” I said.

 

I spent the whole weekend a wreck, trying not to think about the plan . I had more disjointed dreams about Sheldon and June, enough to know that June was talking with a therapist but couldn’t bring herself to say what she needed to say, and Sheldon was going through a serious dinosaur phase. I stayed far away from Elm Hill until Monday, though, when I drove up in the early morning to deliver a final note.

I got the answer Monday afternoon. They’d be there.

That night I dreamed about June, who was sitting up alone, looking at the notes I’d sent Sheldon, drinking.

 

Tuesday afternoon came at last. Janet drove us up to Elm Hill; we didn’t say anything the whole way. When we got to the school, I had to sit for long moment, just staring out at the playground.

A light rain had begun to fall, and there were no other children that day. Probably for the best.

At last I steeled myself and got out of the car.

“You’re sure they’ll show?” Janet asked dubiously.

I nodded, clutching Sheldon’s note in my pocket. He’d said they would come. I believed him.

“This is a bad idea,” said Janet, staring dubiously out at the damp playground. “You want to go home? We should go home. I can make dinner. You like my dinners.”

“No,” I said firmly. “I’m going. You can stay here if you want.”

Janet was speechless for a moment. I never stood up to her. But then she got out of the car. “Right behind you,” she said, giving me a little smile.

Together, we marched across the damp grass to the rock.

“So what happens now?” Janet said, crossing her arms and shifting from side to side.

I was about to answer that I didn’t know when sunlight streamed in from somewhere just to my left. I jumped back, and shielded my eyes.

The first form I saw was Sheldon’s. He stood there, holding his grandmother’s hand. She looked shocked as she saw us. She was so like my mother that the lack of recognition in her eyes was awful.

And there… holding Sheldon’s other hand. She was shorter than me by a good six inches, and she had the narrow shoulders and face of my sisters. But she looked a little like me, too. We had the same eyes, the same mouth, the same hair.

“June,” I whispered.

“Are you Sarah?” June said. I nodded. I didn’t trust myself to speak.

“Sarah!” said Sheldon. He waved.

“Hi Sheldon,” I said, voice catching.

June hesitantly reached out a hand toward me, then drew it away again. “Are you… me?”

I nodded again.

“How? I don’t understand. You don’t look like me.”

“No. I was born a boy.”

“Oh?” Her eyes widened. “Oh!” Her eyes fell on Janet. “And you…?”

“Janet,” my girlfriend said. “Hey.”

“And you’re with… her?”

Janet took my hand. I squeezed it, grateful

“Awful,” said June’s mother.

“Hush,” said June shakily.

“Now what?” Janet asked softly.

“Now we resolve things,” I said firmly. I understood it now, the way that June looked at Janet. The text she’d sent: I have to tell someone. We both had something the other one wanted. June had Sheldon, and everything he represented.

And I… I had Janet.

I looked, really looked, at Sheldon, and I felt an ache so bad that I began to cry. Janet put an arm around me, and pulled me close.

I straightened. “June?”

June looked at me, fear plain on her face.

“She’ll be okay,” I said, nodding at her glowering mother. “You can tell her. I told her about me, a few years ago, and she wasn’t thrilled. But… we dealt with it and moved on. You have to, to be happy.”

June shook her head furiously. “You don’t understand.”

“I do,” I insisted, amazed at how calm I suddenly felt. “Better than anyone. You and me… everybody pushes us around. But we’re made of iron underneath. There’s a part of us that won’t bend.”

June looked at me and I saw how helpless she must have felt. I remembered feeling like that… just before I changed my life forever.

“I did it,” I said. Behind June and Sheldon was blue sky and bright sun. “You can, too.”

June turned to her mother. “I’m gay, Mom,” she said softly. “I am. I am.

June’s mother huffed miserably. “I figured that out, genius. So what? See if I care. You’re still my daughter.”

Chills ran down my spine. So what? my mother had said, all those years ago. See if I care. You’re still my child.

June gave her mother a long, hard hug, then turned to me. She seemed to be standing straighter.

“Iron,” I said.

“Nice job,” said Janet, trying to be charitable.

June laughed. She had this perfect voice; she was so beautiful in all the ways I wasn’t. And she had Sheldon. My heart cracked a little more.

“I don’t suppose there’s one of you in my world?” she said to Janet.

“Can’t hurt to check around,” said Janet. She pulled me close, possessive. “But I’m taken.”

The sunlight began to dim, and June, Sheldon and June’s mother started fading.

“Sarah,” said June. She looked more ghostly now. “If you want a baby… have one.”

“I can’t,” I said. “I don’t even know if that’s what I want.”

“It is,” said June, her voice the whisper of wind through the trees. “If you’re anything like me.”

And then they vanished completely, leaving us alone in the rain.

 

 

Janet rubbed my back as we drove home. “You okay?” she asked.

I nodded. “I think so.”

“Is it over?”

“Yes,” I said, and I was certain. “She got what she wanted.”

“You didn’t, though,” said Janet nervously.

“I… think I did, though,” I said. “Somewhere in there I stopped wanting to be her. She has Sheldon, she’s short and pretty, but she doesn’t have you. And I like having you.”

We drove on as the rain started coming down harder. I turned the wipers up to maximum.

“We can talk it over, if you want?” Janet said hesitantly. “The, uh, baby thing.”

I couldn’t say anything for a moment. “Really?”

“Really,” said Janet. “I mean, I don’t hate the idea. I just hated the idea of having to, you know? And being pregnant…” She made a face. “I guess I can do it.”

“You don’t have to,” I said quickly.

“Yeah, but we can’t exactly adopt,” she said. “We’re a weird couple on a number of fronts.”

“I know. But I’d rather have you than a baby.”

Janet laughed, eyes bright. “That kind of talk makes me wish you had banked sperm. I’d bear your children right now.”

“Maybe I can scrape out an old gym sock,” I said. She laughed again. I loved that sound. I loved how easy we were with one another.

Janet snuggled against my arm. I was shocked; she almost never did that, even when I wasn’t driving through a rainstorm.

“I’m glad you’re you, too, you know,” said Janet. “I didn’t like June. Too many lingering straight girl hang-ups, you know?”

“Thanks, I think,” I said.

“What I’m saying is… let’s just take it a little at a time. We’ve got time, right? We can have time.” She groaned in frustration. “I’m saying that wrong.”

I slipped an arm around her. “I know what you mean,” I said as we drove south through the rain and back to our lives. “I know just what you mean.”

One time I dreamed I had a son named Sheldon. I could never any sons of my own, or daughters. But I did have Janet, and better, I had myself. I wasn’t like June. I was like me.

It was enough, and then some.

END

 

 

“Sarah’s Child” was originally published in Strange Horizons in May 2014 and was reprinted in Heiresses of Russ 2015.

This recording is a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license, which means you can share it with anyone you’d like, but please don’t change or sell it. Our theme is “Aurora Borealis” by Bird Creek, available through the  Google Audio Library.
Thanks for listening, and I’ll be back on June 7th with a GlitterShip original.

You can support GlitterShip by checking out our Patreon at patreon.com/keffy,  making a donation at paypal.me/keffy, subscribing to our feed, or by leaving reviews on iTunes.

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Episode #27 — “Just a Little Spice Will Do” by Andrew Wilmot


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JUST A LITTLE SPICE WILL DO is a GLITTERSHIP ORIGINAL.




 Just a Little Spice Will Do

by Andrew Wilmot



When Alex arrived home Sunday night with an overflowing grocery bag tucked under each arm, she saw her girlfriend doubled over at the waist, retching violently into the kitchen sink.

“Lindy?” She dropped both bags and rushed over.Lindy gripped the edge of the counter and heaved again, spitting a viscous strand of amaranth red into the stainless steel sink; it came out of her in small globules strung together like Christmas lights. Alex put one hand on her back andthe other on her shoulder, but Lindy flinched, shuddering as if they were blocks of ice. It was then Alex noticed the rectangular Tupperware container on the countertop to Lindy’s right. Next to it, a thin sausage wedge of Alex’s heart beat gently on one of her mother’s China plates. She looked inside the plastic container and noticed a new gash in the organ, a little south of the left atrium.

Full transcript after the cut.

 

[Theme music plays.]

Hello! Welcome to GlitterShip episode 27 for May 10th, 2016. The end of the semester hit a little harder than expected, so I ended up shifting the May episodes back a week.

For today, however, I have GlitterShip’s second Original story, “Just A Little Spice Will Do” by Andrew Wilmot, with a return by guest reader S. Qiouyi Lu.

Listener warnings for relationship conflict, similarities to eating disorders, and loving cannibalism.

ANDREW WILMOT is a writer, editor, and artist living in Toronto, Ontario. He is a graduate of the SFU Master in Publishing program and spends his days writing as much as possible and painting stupidly large pieces. His fiction has been published by Found Press, Drive In Tales, The Singularity, and 69 Flavors of Paranoia, and the story “When I’m Old, When I’m Grey” was the winner of the 2015 Friends of Merril Short Fiction Competition. He works as a freelance reviewer, academic editor, and substantive editor. For more on his work and creative pursuits: http://andrewwilmot.ca/about/cv/

S. Qiouyi Lu 陸秋逸 is a writer, artist, narrator, and translator whose work has appeared in Clarkesworldinkscrawl, and The Cascadia Subduction Zone. In their spare time, they enjoy destroying speculative fiction as a dread member of the queer Asian SFFH illuminati. S. currently lives in Columbus, Ohio with a tiny black cat named Thin Mint. You can visit their site at s.qiouyi.lu or follow them on Twitter as @sqiouyilu.”

 

 Just a Little Spice Will Do

by Andrew Wilmot

 

 

 

When Alex arrived home Sunday night with an overflowing grocery bag tucked under each arm, she saw her girlfriend doubled over at the waist, retching violently into the kitchen sink.

“Lindy?” She dropped both bags and rushed over.Lindy gripped the edge of the counter and heaved again, spitting a viscous strand of amaranth red into the stainless steel sink; it came out of her in small globules strung together like Christmas lights. Alex put one hand on her back and the other on her shoulder, but Lindy flinched, shuddering as if they were blocks of ice. It was then Alex noticed the rectangular Tupperware container on the countertop to Lindy’s right. Next to it, a thin sausage wedge of Alex’s heart beat gently on one of her mother’s China plates. She looked inside the plastic container and noticed a new gash in the organ, a little south of the left atrium.

She frowned. “I told you I’d be right back with stuff for dinner.”

Lindy turned, glared at Alex. “Figures you wouldn’t want me to taste this!”

“Taste what? Lindy, love, I don’t understand.”

“It’s rotten!” She pointed accusatorily at Alex’s heart.

“That’s not possible.” Alex surveyed her heart.Several small wedges had been cut away—battle scars pocking the bruise-coloured surface. The organ beat calmly, like clockwork, like there was absolutely nothing wrong. “Looks just fine to me.”

Lindy thrust a blood- and fatty tissue-coated fork at Alex. “Try it yourself. Go ahead, make a liar out of me.”

“Lindy —”

“Taste it! Then try and tell me everything’s fine.”

Alex relented, accepting the fork. She suspected her heart would taste a little off no matter what, in that way that anything chilled tasted at room temperature. She could feel Lindy staring at the back of her head, wearing her mother’s scowl—the same Alex had seen when, after six months together,they went on a week’s vacation to Johannesburg to meet her parents. Lindy’s mother had taken one look at the pale, freckled Irish girl with the decidedly un-Irish name and told her daughter that she would starve to death on someone with such a sour, unfeeling heart. Lindy was quick to protest, but her mother silenced her as if she were still in primary school. She sniffed the air between them, wafting in then imperceptible scent of their nascent vintage. “There’s poison in you,” she said, at last, to Alex. “You’ll ruin my good girl. You’ll be the death of her.”

Neither spoke afterwards of the incident. Indeed, Alex had very nearly forgotten about it, and likely would have were it not for Lindy standing behind her at that moment, waiting expectantly for her to sample her own disposition.

Alex carved a small triangle from the space above the left ventricle. She put it to her nose, sniffed. She heard Lindy tsk dismissively, as if Alex were admitting complicit behaviour in whatever it was she was being accused of. Not wanting to give her further ammunition, Alex forked the tiny fragment of muscle into her mouth and started to chew. It was tougher than she remembered—a little like biting into a half-inch slab of pickled ginger—but it tasted the same as it ever had, like unsalted ham with a slight metallic aroma.

“It tastes fine,” she said after swallowing. “Like normal.”

Lindyappeared wounded. “I never thought you’d do this to me. I didn’t think you could do this. To me.”

“Love, I don’t—”

“You’re lying!” Lindy shouted. “It tastes rotten, like, like bad eggs, or beef left on a sidewalk in the rain.”

“How would you know what either of those taste like?” Alex said jokingly.

“Don’t—” Lindy pointed to the heart again. “It’s gone bad. It isn’t . . .You’ve let someone else taste it, haven’t you?”

“What? No, of course not!”

“Don’t lie to me!”

“I’m not!” They were interrupted just then by a sharp thumping against the wall—their neighbours to the west.Alex exhaled, lowered her voice. “I’m telling you the truth.”

Lindy looked away, wiped tears from her eyes with the back of her hand. “There’s still so much of it left. I don’t understand how.”

“It’s yours and yours alone. I swear it.”

Lindy shook her head. “I . . . I just don’t know if I . . .”

Alex took her hand. Lindy resisted at first, then let her squeeze, pull her closer. Alex stared at her lovingly. “Everything I am belongs to you.”

 

In the staff room the next morning, a half hour before the start of first period, Alex went up to Claire, said her hellos, and poured a mug of coffee. Claire was a mid-forty-ish two-time divorcee who taught sixth grade.She took one look at Alex’s heavy-lidded eyes and pulled her to the window for a sidebar.

“You look like shit,” she said once they were out of range of the other teachers.

“Hi, Claire, it is a lovely day, isn’t it?”

Claire scoffed. “Crumpet, don’t even. What’s wrong?”

“It’s nothing.”

“It’s not nothing.”

Alex sighed. “It’s Lindy . . . and it’s me, and . . . I don’t know. Something’s not right between us.”

Claire smiled slyly, wiggled her fingers in a lewd gesture. Alex shook her head. “No, that’s not it.”

“Out with it then,” said Claire. Sensing Alex’s reluctance, she added, “I’ve heard it all. There’s nothing you can say that’ll shock me.”

“It’s just . . . my heart. She said it tasted—”

“Bad?”

“Rotten. Like meat left under a radiator for a month.”

“How would she know—?”

“Right?” Alex shook her head. “Anyway, I tried a piece and I didn’t notice anything off about it.”

“Well of course you wouldn’t. You never mind the flavour of your own recipe, dear. Dennis, my first husband, he used to say that every time he passed wind—one man’s sulphur was another’s potpourri.”

Alex knitted her eyebrows together. “Seems a bit reductive.”

“But true nonetheless.”

“I suppose . . .” Alex sipped her coffee and thought back to the quite subtle aftertaste of her heart, like pocket change resting on the back of her tongue.

 

She remembered what it was like seeing Lindy’s heart for the first time. She presented it early on; it was only their fifth date. Alex recalled it perfectly, how Lindy had run excitedly into the kitchen after they made love for the first time and returned with a ceramic rim bowl hand-painted with concentric rings. She cradled it in both hands as if she feared it would slip from her grip at the slightest breath.

“I’ve not done this before,” Lindy said. “Ever, actually.” She climbed back into bed and raised the bowl between them. The organ smelled dense with images and sounds; a host of thoughts and memories trespassed in Alex’s mind, as if she were viewing a series of home movies from Lindy’s childhood. She shut her eyes and inhaled acutely, allowed the odour of Lindy’s heart to glide down her oesophagus with the ease of crema. She opened her eyes again and saw Lindy holding a knife and fork between her knuckles like a peace sign. Alex took the utensils and Lindy watched — nervously, excitedly —as she cut a small but perfect equilateral triangle from the very centre of the muscular organ. Lindy’s heart beat faster as Alex cut, as she pulled out the piece from the whole, as she placed it slithering, squirming on her tongue and started to chew.She felt her devotion grow with every bite, and when she swallowed, Lindy released a heavenly sigh;when she wiped clean her lips, returning to the moment, Alex saw something new and fearful in Lindy’s eyes: trust.

“You don’t have to give me yours right away,” Lindy was quick to say. “But I’m ready, whenever you are. It’s important you know—you can trust me.”

But Alex hadn’t waited long. It was only their next date when she told Lindy she had a surprise for her. She’d asked her to close her eyes and open her mouth. Lindy did so, stifling whatever anxious thoughts she felt as she waited with her mouth agape like a child at the dentist’s.

Earlier that day, Alex had gone to her parents’ home and taken her heart out of the chest freezer in the garage. It had been buried beneath containers of frozen leftovers; her father hadn’t bothered to clean out the freezer in years—that had been her mother’s job. About the only thing he touched out there were the boxed bottles of their vintage stacked one on top of another.

Alex was careful not to disturb him when retrieving her heart; since her mother’s death, her father drank another pint of their mixed A-O every night, becoming evermore intoxicated by their shared history. When Alex tried to encourage him to go out and meet someone new, he responded by drunkenly throwing a bottle of their third year’s marriage at her, painting the wall behind her with glass-flecked blood.

Back in her apartment, Alex set her heart on the counter to thaw and went to run errands. When she returned home that afternoon, the organ was valve-deep in a pool of watery blood that tasted as flavourless as a movie theatre soda. With only an hour before her date, she quickly carved out a small section of her heart, which she then proceeded to dry and cut into even smaller triangles, each identical to the last in shape and size. Then, upon tasting one of the small pieces and finding it lacking, she whipped up a quick balsamic and extra virgin olive oil glaze, threw the pieces into a salad bowl, and drizzled them lavishly.

That night she sat on the bed with her legs crossed facing Lindy, the lightly dressed pieces of heart marinating in the bowl between them. Lindy sniffed the air suspiciously, crinkled her nose at—Oh, shit, I used too much vinegar, Alex realized. She started to panic, the pieces of heart beginning to hop and bounce in the bowl. She took out a piece—one of the more abundantly coated triangles—and, before she could chicken out, tossed it into Lindy’s waiting mouth.Lindy clamped down to keep the piece of heart from leaping out of her mouth and onto the bedspread. Alex watched, a perfect mix of eagerness and terror, as Lindy chewed, slowly at first, then faster, nodding her head as she worked her way through the leathery, tougher than anticipated meat.

“I-is it all right?” Alex asked.

Lindy opened her eyes. At first Alex was unable to read her expression—she looked a little like an infant relieved to have finished their plate of Brussels sprouts. Then she smiled warmly and hugged Alex, careful not to tip over the bowl between them.

“It was more than all right,” she said at last, kissing the words into Alex’s ear.

 

“You know,” Claire said, “that bastard cheated on me with the neighbour’s wife no less than three times. Know how I could tell? Each time he tried to surprise me by beating me home from work and firing up the grill. Thought he could slather his leftover gristle in barbeque sauce and seasoning and it wouldn’t still taste like warmed over piss, but let me tell you, that kind of betrayal doesn’t go away, even if you dress it up all pretty. You put a suit and tie on a pig and he’s still going to taste like mud.”

Alex’s face slumped as if it were being pulled down at the seams. “That’s what Lindy thinks. That I’ve cheated on her.”

“Have you?”

“No!” Heads turned at the unexpected outburst. “No,” she repeated, softer. “Certainly not.”

“And you’re not, you know, having any other problems?”

Alex shrugged shyly. “I don’t really get along with her mother. I’ve tried, it’s just— I’m not what she envisioned, I guess.” She shook her head. “I’m not sure if that’s it.”

“Then maybe you just need to, I don’t know, zing things up a bit.”

“Zing?”

“Add a little pizazz to your life.”

“But then she’ll think I’m hiding something.”

“Which she already does . . .”

“But I’m not.”

“Then leave it be. Either she likes your white rice or she doesn’t.”

“But I don’t want her to—”

“For fuck’s sake, ’Lex, just do something.”

Alex thought for a moment. “I saw this delicious looking tamarind chutney the other day at Whole Foods. I bet she’d like that.”

Claire shook her head. “You fucking hipster.”

 

For two days Lindy ate only salads, occasional handfuls of mixed nuts. When Alex presented her with a small soup bowl filled with several pieces of her heart floating in a sunset curry, she took one sniff and recoiled.

“What’s this?”

“I . . . I made a curry. It’s got bamboo shoots and green and red peppers and—”

Lindy pushed the bowl away. “I’m not hungry.”

“Love, please, you have to eat.”

“It smells like, like fish left on the sidewalk in the middle of July.”

Alex took the bowl away, covered it in Saran Wrap and tucked it back inside the fridge right next to the remains of her heart, its missing pieces amounting to no more than 5 or 10 percent of the whole. Next to this, housed in an identical Tupperware container, the remains of Lindy’s heart beat agitatedly— the organ looked like a veined,palatinate chicken breast with its centre ice cream-scooped away. In the middle of the night, when Alex, feeling peckish, attempted to stick a fork in Lindy’s heart, it squirmed and flattened itself against the far end of the plastic as if prodded with a hot poker. She shut the refrigerator door.

They would both go hungry that night.

 

Alex woke the next morning to clanging glass and metal. She walked down the hall from their bedroom, stopping at the kitchen. The contents of their fridge and freezer, as well as most of their cupboards, had been emptied and piled indiscriminately into the middle of the tile floor. The cupboard beneath the kitchen sink had also been opened, but the lone bottle of their first year’s vintage—still fermenting, bottled only the previous month—remained untouched.

“What the hell are you doing?”

“Where is it?”

“Where is what?”

“That whore’s heart!”

“Love, I don’t know what you’re talking about, I—”

“Don’t you swear to me. I know it’s here somewhere. Have you canned it? Is it in a mason jar somewhere with your grandmother’s blueberry jam?”

“There’s no one else,” Alex said, feeling defeated. “No preserves. No frozen dinners. No one’s hearts but ours.”

“And who’d you give yours to?”

“What?”

Lindy held up the Tupperware container with Alex’s heart inside. To Alex it looked as it ever did. “I don’t understand,” she said, exasperated.

“It’s all there! Nothing’s missing—not even the sliver I tried to eat with apiece of toast for breakfast. This heart is whole. It isn’t yours—it can’t be. It . . . it’s a fake.”

As Lindy spoke, Alex noticed her lover’s svelte, partially digested heart leaping wildly, moving its container across the counter as if charged with an electrical current. The blood surrounding it was starting to boil, the stench of solder and copper filling the air.

Alex opened her mouth again to defend herself, but Lindy jumped up and stormed past her before anything could be said. She slammed the bathroom door and Alex heard the shower turn on. She stood there for several seconds staring at the sea of consumables at her feet before she got down to her hands and knees and started putting things back where they belonged.

Nearly finished, she glanced up at Lindy’s heart, which had calmed down considerably. A soft musk rose from it now like morning fog over a farmer’s field.

Quietly, Alex walked down the hall and pushed open the bathroom door. Through the thin, almost transparent shower curtain, Alex could see glimpses of Lindy’s sparkling, melted sugar skin — and her ribs, like long witch fingers travelling beneath her parchment paper flesh, jutted out from beneath her arm, more visible than she remembered them.

 

Lindy didn’t go to work the next day. When Alex got home,she was as she’d been that morning: prone on the couch as if stricken with a bout of stomach flu. Alex brought her several small samples of heart, each dressed differently than the last:coated with a white wine reduction; tossed with vine-ripened tomatoes and fresh basil plucked from their windowsill garden; placed delicately atop a saltine and sandwiched by a thick slice of aged white cheddar.To Lindy,each attempt was more repugnant than the last. She tried to push Alex away but could not muster the strength. The more she resisted, the harder Alex implored, until at last Lindy raised herself upright.

“Why aren’t you suffering?” she asked plainly.

“What do you mean?”

Lindy pointed to Alex’s full face, to her rounded shoulders and non-xylophoned chest. “This isn’t hard for you.”

“That’s . . . of course this is hard for me. It’s killing me to see you like this.” Lindy tried once more to push her away but Alex held her bone-thin arm in place. With her free hand she snatched a piece of heart drowning in a mixture of soy and wasabi from one of a dozen small dessert bowls littering the coffee table. She tried to force it past Lindy’s lips. Lindy kept her mouth shut and Alex smeared the salted piece of heart across her pale, flaked lips and chin until it fell to pieces between her fingers, nothing but a wounded streak of brownish blush across her lover’s face.

Lindy fought but could not break free from Alex’s healthy, nourished grip. Alex grabbed a second piece of heart and inserted it into a small space in Lindy’s mouth, inside her cheek, pressing it against her clenched teeth. Lindy spat it back out again, the slab of muscle slapping Alex in the eye. Lindy got up from the couch, stumbled weakly, and then hurried toward the bedroom. She slammed the door, locking Alex out.

 

Lindy exited the bedroom two hours later to find Alex sleeping in a ball on the sofa. She nudged her awake and sat down next to her. She apologized, said she needed some time to herself, that something wasn’t right and she had to figure out what.

“When I look at your heart,” she said,“when I remember our times together I think . . . there should not be so much of it left.”

“I’m telling you the truth.”

“And I know what I’ve tasted, Alex. Dear. Love. I know what you taste like. I think I’ve always known, on some level, but somehow now it’s stronger than it was before.”

“I know, I taste like warm sidewalk fish and dead babies and—”

“Lies, Alex. Like lies.”

“This is about your mother. She never liked me.”

“But I did, and that’s what matters.”

“. . . Did?”

Lindy looked away. “You haven’t eaten in just as long. You say you haven’t, anyway, but you’re still so strong.”

“I haven’t, Lindy—Silindile. I haven’t eaten anyone. I promise.”

Lindy stared into her eyes in a way she hadn’t before. Alex found herself wondering if she had noticed the off-colour essence of her heart from the earliest days of their relationship and had simply remained silent. She recalled how Lindy had appeared when first tasting Alex, nodding as if to convince herself this freckled Irish girl with the distinctly non-Irish name could be anything more than another late-night snack or an experimental fusion dish more interesting than it was good. She reached out and touched Alex’s forehead with her index finger.

“I need to be certain, if we’re going to move on. I’d like a taste, please . . . of your brain.”

Alex was taken aback. “My . . . you want what?”

“Your brain,” Lindy reiterated. “Just a slice, a bit off the prefrontal is all I need. I’ll know then, definitively.”

“Know what?”

“That you are who you say you are.”

Alex stood up, looked down at Lindy. “But that’s not . . . I can’t do that.”

“Why not?” Lindy’s hurt rebounded.

“What do you mean why not? Because then there won’t be anything left for me!”

“I can’t believe how selfish you’re being!” Lindy shouted as she too rose to her feet. “We’re talking about saving our relationship here.”

“No, you’re talking about saving our relationship. I’m talking about you taking what isn’t yours.”

“How could I ever have eaten someone so self-obsessed?” Lindy spat on the ground as if there were residue of Alex still on her tongue.

“I’ve already given you my heart—what more do you want?”

“I want the truth!”

Alex circled around Lindy and went into the kitchen. She retrieved a long butcher’s blade from the wooden block next to the stove and put it to her wrist. “You want more of me?” She raised the knife high and in one smooth, unhesitating motion, lumberjacked her hand off at the wrist. The appendage dead fished to the ground in a filmic spray of crimson. Alex’s face immediately paled as agony and sudden blood loss siphoned her adrenaline. The knife clattered to the ground and she picked up her dismembered hand, waving it in the air like a dead puppet. “How about a finger? I could chop them off one at a time, sauté them knuckle by knuckle like sausage links.”

Lindy scrunched her face, revoltedby the decidedly pedestrian offering. “You’ll give me what you give your friends when I deserve so much more?”

“You already have so much more.”

“But not the best of you.”

 

No further words were exchanged that night. Lindy took the severed hand and helped wash and bandage the wound.She placed the newly freed appendage in a separate round container and tossed it in the vegetable crisper. She then gave Alex a handful of brightly coloured pills from the bottles she kept behind the vanity mirror in the washroom. They went to bed without so much as a grunt of acknowledgement for all that had happened, backs turned, their hips and feet inches apart as if their bed had been slashed in two. The medicine quickly took effect; Alex’s eyes grew heavy, and soon she felt no pain.

She’d been unconscious for only an hour when she was awoken by a soft pain in her scalp—the sensation of one hair after another being pulled back as if someone had slapped a bandage over top her head and was removing it a millimetre at a time. The annoying tug soon became a fiery tear and Alex opened her eyes—immediately blinded by the blood that had snaked into her eyes from an incision at her hairline. She let out a high-pitched shriek and started furiously wiping away the blood with the palm of her hand. When she was finally able to see again she saw Lindy standing next to her side of the bed brandishing a paring knife in one hand and a small hammer and chisel in the other.

Alex could not find the words for the violation she felt in that moment. Lindy backed away from her, tightening her grip on the utensils in her hands. Forthwith her vacant stomach broke the silence cementing between them, presenting her case — her need — in a way no words ever could. She turned and ran from the bedroom. Alex again opened her mouth — to scream, to call out, to say something — but the pain from her multiple wounds was too much and she passed out.

 

The following morning, Alex knew immediately something was amiss. She rolled over in bed and saw an empty space beside her. Slowly the fog cleared and she remembered what had transpired. She gingerly touched her forehead; the tips of her fingers discovered small rivers of dried blood leading back to a very fine, one-inch horizontal slice above her left eye. When she looked to her pillow she saw a deep cardinal pond that dried the farther it extended over the surface of the once-white sheathe. An iron weight of panic formed in the pit of her stomach and she glanced out the open bedroom door to the paring knife, hammer, and chisel on the carpet halfway between the bedroom and kitchen.

“Lindy?”

No answer. Alex slowly, dizzily got out of bed. She felt her legs wobble as she entered the kitchen. A roll of gauze and a bottle of rubbing alcohol by the sink were the only indicators of her self-inflicted wound from the night before. Her stomach rumbled fiercely and she opened the fridge, stepping back in shock. Next to the container holding what was left of Lindy’s softly pumping heart, her own looked suddenly weathered and emaciated, like sheets of paper soaked in brine then left in the sun to curl and crack.

Her confusion was quickly usurped by the hunger devouring her insides. She retrieved a fork and knife from the cutlery drawer and, before it could scamper away, stabbed and shaved a thin slab from Lindy’s heart, dashed it with just a bit of salt and pepper before placing the wiggling, soft muscle on her tongue.

Except it wasn’t soft but suddenly hard, firm like the fat encircling a porterhouse.

Except it wasn’t wiggling but beating.

Faster.

Faster still.

Alex spit the piece of Lindy’s heart to the sink, watched as it bass drummed its way into the drain, leaving a thinning slug’s trail of blood as it climaxed, as it heaved, as it breathed a sigh of release.

And it tasted foul, like . . . like French toast made with sour milk and six-month-old eggs.

Or like lies.

 

Lindy arrived home an hour later. She looked fuller than she had in days, had a glow about her one could only describe as radiant. She put her jacket, which smelled sick with booze and sweat, on the kitchen counter and went into the living room. Alex was waiting for her on the couch. Right away Lindy looked to the bloodied stump where Alex’s right hand had been, and then to the still leaking cut on her forehead.

“It’s no better,” she said.

“No,” Alex agreed. “It’s not.”

Lindy’s chest swelled into a shield. “Well I don’t know what you expect me to do about it.”

Alex was perplexed; she seemed to be almost gloating. “You could at least act upset. A little — a smidge, maybe.”

Lindy crossed her arms. “You look hungry.”

“You don’t.”

She looked away. “Look, what’s done is done. Now you know how it feels.”

“Yeah, I know how it feels.”

Lindy tightened her stance, pulling her insides into an hourglass. The longer she stared, Alex noticed, the greater her uncertainty scratched its presence onto her face.

Alex reached down, lifted the hand-painted ceramic bowl Lindy had presented to her one year earlier from the floor beneath the coffee table. In the bowl were two slices of heart: hers and Lindy’s. Unseasoned. Uncooked. Raw.

“Taste them—both of them,” Alex said.

“Why?”

“I want you to taste the difference.”

“The different between what?”

“Between you and me. I want you to know the difference between a lie and the truth.”Lindy sneered at the polemic. “So sure of yourself? Then do it. Taste them both and call me a cheat again.”

Lindy glanced away from the offering. Alex stood up, moved as she moved. She held onto the bowl, keeping it in front of Lindy no matter which way she turned. Lindy watched, though she did not want to, as the pieces of her heart beat faster and more frantically until finally she could not take it any longer and she slapped the bowl from Alex’s hand. It struck the wall and shattered,depositing both pieces of heart to the ground with little more than limp insinuation.

Lindy ran into the kitchen and grabbed her coat off the counter. Alex chased after her, but Lindy, as if trapped in a whirlwind, reached beneath the sink and retrieved the Bordeaux of their one year. She raised it in the air. Alex barely had time to duck as Lindy hurled the vintage above her head. It smashed against the drywall, showering Alex’s back and hair with the memories and claret they’d shared. Lindy had already exited the apartment by the time Alex was upright again.

 

Thirty minutes passed. Alex, accepting that Lindy was not coming back, moved beneath the archway connecting the living room and the kitchen.She stood between the gory Rorschach of their memories dripping from wall to floor and the flopping goldfish fragments of a future that might have been. Feelingincreasingly weak, shecrouched down and startedpicking up the pieces of broken ceramic. Then she noticed her heart, just a piece of the whole amidst the debris, and it seemed suddenly larger than what she’d prepared. Next to it, however, was an aged, calcified piece of something that at one time resembled a delicacy—an intimacy—and she wondered to herself just how wretched it must now taste.

END

 

 

“Just a Little Spice Will Do” is copyright Andrew Wilmot, 2016.

This recording is a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license which means you can share it with anyone you’d like, but please don’t change or sell it. Our theme is “Aurora Borealis” by Bird Creek, available through the Google Audio Library.

You can support GlitterShip by checking out our Patreon at patreon.com/keffy, subscribing to our feed, or by leaving reviews on iTunes.

Thanks for listening, and I’ll be back on May 24th with “Sarah’s Child” by Susan Jane Bigelow.

[Music plays out]

Episode #26 — Three Flash stories by Nino Cipri, Kat Howard, and Bogi Takács


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The Face of Heaven So Fine

Kat Howard

There is an entire history in the stars. Light takes time to travel, to get from wherever the star is to wherever we can see it, here, on Earth. So when you think about it, when we see the stars, we are looking back in time. Everything those stars actually shone on has already happened. But just because a story already happened, that doesn’t mean it’s finished.

 

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Episode #25 — “Straw and Gold” by Kate O’Connor

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“STRAW AND GOLD” is a GLITTERSHIP ORIGINAL

 

Straw and Gold

By Kate O’Connor

Orin did not know the feel of gold. There was none to be found in his father’s mill. There were coins of tangy, sharp copper and rough iron fittings on the door, slick steel for the horses’ tack and clattering tin plates for the table. His sister had a silver ring that had belonged to their mother. It was smooth and cool as a night breeze on Jessa’s delicate finger when she held his hand, warm against his skin where it now sat. But none of those things were gold.

The padded stool underneath him was by far the most comfortable piece of furniture he had ever sat upon. The king was a clever man. Fear and wealth could drive a person to incredible feats. He clearly thought to give a bit of both to the woman who might live up to her father’s boasting, even if he thought her father a liar. Magic was rare – and it meant power. Orin tugged at the veil that covered his short hair then ran his fingertips over the wood of the spinning wheel. The finely-sanded surface was slick with polish.

 

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Episode #24 — “Lamia Victoriana” by Tansy Rayner Roberts


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Lamia Victoriana

by Tansy Rayner Roberts

The poet’s sister has teeth as white as new lace. When she speaks, which is rarely, I feel a shiver down my skin.

I am not here for this. I am here to persuade my own sister, Mary, that she has made a terrible mistake, that eloping as she has with this poet who cannot marry her, will not only be her own ruin, but that of our family.

My tongue stumbles on the words, and every indignant speech I practiced on my way here has melted to nothing. The poet looks at me with his calm, beautiful eyes, and Mary sits scandalously close to him, determined to continue in her path of debauchery and wickedness. I cannot take my eyes from the poet’s sister.

 

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Episode #23 — “Je me souviens” by Su J. Sokol


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Je me souviens

by Su J. Sokol

There are nine police cars. I count them again just to be sure and because counting usually calms me.

Arielle watches to see if I’m freaking out, asks if I want to leave. I tell her I’m OK but she’s not reassured so I give her a sexy smile. If she would kiss me now, I’d have somewhere pleasant to channel my beating heart. She leans towards me and I see that she’s used her superpowers to read my mind again, but then another police car arrives, drawing her attention away.

Now ten police cars face two hundred and thirty-six demonstrators. We are peaceful, banging pots and chanting slogans. Our numbers include children, old people, commuters on bikes, dogs wearing red bandanas. A cop is speaking through a bullhorn but no one can hear him because of the clanging and chanting. Will they arrest us now? My heart beats like the wings of a falcon, trying to escape the prison of my chest.

 

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Episode #22 — “Into the Nth Dimension” by David D. Levine


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Into the Nth Dimension

by David D. Levine

The fence around Dr. Diabolus’s lair is twenty feet tall, electrified and topped with razor wire.  I’d expected no less.  From one of the many pouches at my belt I pull a pair of acorns and toss them at the base of the fence. 

I exert my special power.  Each acorn immediately sprouts, roots digging through asphalt as the leafy stem reaches skyward.  Wood fibers KRACKLE as the stems extend, lengthen, thicken, green skin changing to grayish bark in a moment.  Leaves SSHHH into existence; branches reach out to the neighbor tree, twining themselves into rungs. 

Before the twin oaks have reached their full height I spring into action, clambering up the living ladder as it grows, creeping along a limb even as it extends over the razor wire.  It’s a dramatic, foolhardy move, but I can’t delay — Sprout is in peril!  The branch sags under my weight, lowering me to within ten feet of the ground, and I leap down with practiced ease. 

 
 
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Episode #21 — “Her Last Breath Before Waking” by A. C. Wise


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Her Last Breath Before Waking
by A.C. Wise

She is a city haunted by a ghost.

When the architect dreams, her sinews are suspension bridges, her ribs vaulting arches, her bones steel I-beams, and her blood concrete. In her dreams, the city is pristine and perfect. She is perfect.

The architect has a lover who is afraid to sleep. At night, the lover lays her head against the architect’s chest. Instead of breath and pulse, she hears the rumble of high-speed trains.

 

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Episode #20 — “Skeletons” by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam


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Skeletons

by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam

 

   “Who’s gonna watch the skeletons?” I ask.

            We’re about to go camping. Cathryn’s undressing before the closet in her garage apartment. I’m trying not to watch, though she wants me to. Instead I peer into her glass terrarium where the skeletons live, three of them: a dwarf T-Rex and two dwarf stegosauruses. The T-Rex stands atop a lonely pile of rocks.

            “I was going to leave them extra food. You think that’s okay?” Cathryn rummages through the clothes pile on the floor, such beautiful chaos. I stare at her reflection in the glass. Her bra, lacey and black, makes me want to glimpse what’s underneath, even though I have before, five times.

 

 

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Episode #19 — “And the Blood of Dead Gods Will Mark the Score” by Gary Kloster

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And the Blood of Dead Gods Will Mark the Score

By Gary Kloster

I had a frat-boy stretched out on the table, a pink slab of drunken meat just itching for ink, when Huck blew back into my life and brought the blood trade with him.

“Dead gods, Woody, this is the shit-hole you crawled into?”  The shop was damn small, Huck was damn big, and the perfectly tailored black ass of his suit pants leaned against my desk before I’d even raised the humming needle from frat-boy’s hide.

“I’m busy, Huck.  Back off.”

 

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