What – it’s been a week already since my last post? Well, I’m all out of fresh ideas for a new one. Instead, here’s something I prepared earlier – an excerpt from my story “With Paper Armour and Wooden Sword”, which was published in Bleed anthology in 2013. What I really want you to do, once you’ve read the excerpt, is to buy the whole anthology to read the rest. Don’t like second person viewpoints? That’s OK – there are 46 other pieces in the anthology, and the proceeds from the sale of this book go to the American National Children’s Cancer Society.
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Early next morning, the wailing begins. In households scattered across the city, mothers and fathers arise from their beds to find their doors still firmly bolted, their windows still shut fast, the embers in their hearth fires still glowing, and their beloved children cold and still. A baker’s daughter, not yet ten years old, her skin mysteriously covered in a mass of pustules where none existed the day before. A wealthy merchant’s son, who had celebrated his fifth birthday the week before, his limbs twisted into impossible and agonising shapes. A farmer’s daughter on the cusp of adulthood, come to visit her city cousin, her corpse oddly deflated, as if she had been drained of her blood. A pauper’s son, still in swaddling, seemingly asleep in his mother’s arms, until the swaddling is unwrapped to reveal his belly sliced open and his innards rearranged. Your own child is unscathed, and for this you feel both profoundly grateful and obscurely guilty.
Some of the bereaved parents take to the streets, weeping and wailing in their sackcloth and ashes. You view these mourners out of the corner of your eye with a kind of superstitious dread, as if confronting them fully with your gaze were to invite the same fate upon you.
When the Foe returns to the gate, none dare cast another stone.
“Send me your children,” he repeats. “The war has begun, and will be waged whether you choose to or not.”
“We will not, sir,” pronounces the mayor. Her voice shakes, yet she stands resolute, her hands clenched in fists at her side. Her own child, a pretty little thing with coppery skin and hair like midnight, clings to her skirts and gazes up at the Foe with wide, innocent eyes. “If you want war, then you shall have it, but it will be with us,”—she gestures at the adults gathered behind her—“not with our children.”
The Foe laughs. It is a sound redolent of agony and death, of festering battleground wounds and vicious back-alley diseases.
“Perhaps I will have you, one day,” he says with a nod, “after I have consumed your children.”
The crowd stirs and parts to reveal a small child in its midst. He steps forward fearlessly and looks up at the Foe, his little brow creased with confusion. “Why must we fight you?”
The Foe crouches down to bring himself eye to eye with the child. He traces a forefinger down the boy’s cheek in a parody of affection, leaving a livid scar in its wake.
“Just because, little one,” he says, “just because.”
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Purchase link for Bleed: http://www.amazon.com/Bleed-Lori-Michelle/dp/0988748886/