Te Kōrero Ahi Kā – An Extract from the Diary of Peter MackenzieBy Daniel Stride An Extract from the Diary of Peter Mackenzie (which originally had “with the permission of the Hocken Library” in the title!) was born out of a desire to write a monster story. Not just any monster story: I wanted something with a decidedly New Zealand flavour, which immediately suggested the involvement of a taniwha. The big issue then was deciding where (and when) to set the piece. I did a fair amount of research on the traditions of the Whanganui River for that purpose, until I stumbled upon a completely useless little bit of trivia: there were plans over a century ago to expand the (now-closed) Kurow Branch of the New Zealand Railways inland. Those plans came to nothing, and the Branch terminus remained at Hakataramea… which inspired my idea of using a Waitaki taniwha to “explain” this mysterious failure. Having a background in academic History (and old-school horror) did the rest, so you end up with editorial commentary, “permission” from the Hocken Library (I’m a Dunedinite), and the allusion to Seacliff Lunatic Asylum – itself a creepy little bit of Otago history that I might do something with at some point. There is also an historical in-joke in the form of the horse being named Sir John (it is up to the reader to decide if the reference to the legendary Minister of Lands is affectionate or mocking). I went with a diary format because I felt a comparatively archaic mode was a good fit for the late nineteenth century, a time period not quite alien in its psychology, yet not quite modern. And it’s a horror story, damn it: a diary – the literary equivalent of a found-footage film – is a perfect way of covering a doomed protagonist. After that, the story rather wrote itself.
By Grant Stone
When you spend a good number of years mowing an Auckland lawn you learn a thing or two. Like how quickly things grow. Grass, sure, but the weeds too. Skip a week or two and you have a jungle on your hands. Wait a month and you might want to skip the lawnmower and drive straight down to Hiretown for a chainsaw.
But you can’t complain. Drive an hour or so out of town and get out of your car. Walk for just a few minutes and you can really feel nature pressing in on you. You might think about friends and loved ones. The scar tissue of old arguments you lost, or worse, won for the wrong reasons.
Story Origin: Mother’s Milk.
By Dan Rabarts
Long ago, in an old house on a hill, I remember a tree. It was vast, and full of shadows, and when the wind blew it moaned and creaked and spoke. When I tried to sleep, it was there outside the window, and when I dreamed, it knew. One Guy Fawkes night, there was a bonfire on the front drive, and the flames threw snarling lights among the branches and convinced me the tree really was alive. It loomed over the house, it whispered its hungers.
Below this tree, there was a hole, a former mine shaft, so deep the bottom was lost in shadow, even during the day. Here was a memory of a thing, a place, that scarred the sky and earth alike. A memory which three decades of living in other places and leading other lives had never erased.
by Mike Reeves McMillan
Gatekeeper, What Toll? is my attempt to write a six-volume epic fantasy in a thousandth of the wordcount, by only writing the scenes that are from the point of view of a key minor character, and implying the remaining 99.9%. After all, we know how these stories go, don’t we? It’s also a tribute to one of my favourite authors, Roger Zelazny, in that it’s set in a sprawling and varied multiverse and centres on characters who can travel between the worlds. Much as New Zealanders learn to travel between cultures, perhaps?
The SUBMERGED, ALL HAIL OUR ROBOT CONQUERORS!, and THE DEATH OF ALL THINGS anthologies from Zombies Need Brains LLC are now open up submissions for a few remaining slots in each anthology. If you have a story idea that fits one of the anthology themes, write it up, revise it, polish it, and send it in for consideration.
Stories for this anthology must be original (no reprints or previously published material), no more than 7,500 words in length, and must satisfy the theme of the anthology. Pay rate will be an advance of a minimum of 6 cents per word for the short stories.
The Dog with No Name, by Grace Bridges: One eventful night in Belfast, a soulful dog makes a split-second decision that will change his life forever. FREE on Kindle 15-18 May! (Short story)
Perhaps the dog had had a name, once, long ago, when children christened the puppy they’d begged for. Perhaps it had been Christmas, with shiny baubles hung on a fragrant tree, or somebody’s birthday, and he had burst out of a barely-wrapped box with the same brown ears and grey patches that he still wore, to be greeted with delight by the little ones and a certain disapproval on the part of a busybody aunt.
“It is sharp, and beautiful, and awful to watch them burn, but burn they must, wrapped up in dust and flame, writhing and curling and dying, thin hard men who wear cold steel at their belts while trading silk for silver, spices and myrrh. Sometimes, as they cry in anguish before the dust chokes their voices forever, I savour the sound, relishing that it is not I who cries in anguish for that which I have lost – not this time. Over rock, across dunes, between the sleeping canvasses of their caravans and the snorting of dromedaries, I blot out the sky before them, judge them, and deliver my sentence, or my mercy, as I see fit. I come upon them in the brutality of screaming wind and shredding sand, descend on them in a howling rage, summoning the nightmares of their sweating half-sleeps to their eyes, their throats. I swirl and thrash about them, knowing their bright Arabian steel, Damascan gold and Grecian silver will not shine so bright when I am done, when I have blasted the skin from their flesh and the flesh from their bones.”
“The two agents broke into a run, following the tunnel down, deeper, noting a second, a third, and even more clusters of dynamite along the cavern walls, all spooling them down, ever down, into the shadows.
As they ran, they smelt the smoke. It filled the shaft like a thin haze, and stank of grease. The shaft curved away and then, around the bend, the rails came to an end. Beyond the bumper, where a lone cart clunked softly against the timber with the rhythm of the chaindrive, a vast blackness stretched out. A dozen candles melted into pools of wax along the edges of the shaft, and the string of gaslights came to an end, their light barely penetrating past the cavernous throat.
Elias, Smith and Jones by Mark English in Escape Pod, January 31, 2013
He chuckled to himself as he looked up at the wall of people in front of him. Political leaders, military leaders, space systems engineers; all desperate to hear the words of an aged ship’s monkey from the Frontier. All because he and his co-conspirators had blackmailed the solar system.
Waking the Taniwha by Dan Rabarts in Wily Writers, March 10, 2013
“Those wounds were neither musket fire nor swords,” Kent said. “That was claws, or teeth.” “Too clean for teeth. A word of advice, Kent: If you go looking for monsters in every shadow, it might pay to carry a lantern.” “Sir!” Faulkner and Kent looked to Sullivan, and past him to the devastation which had befallen the Manawatu Gorge. Massive claw-shaped gouges had shredded the bushclad hillsides around the Ngai Toaki pa, the soil torn as deep as the rock beneath. Kent’s gaze followed the trail of destruction up the hillsides. Something monstrous had walked this earth.
“Back in the black old days, we called it the Bone Plate. Wasn’t worth your life to touch the Bone Plate. It made men kings, back in the black old days. Mine was a trashcan lid, piled high with gnawed, soot-stained remains, the bones of rats and cats and stray dogs and pigeons. Only the bones of that which you had killed and stripped clean with your own biting, smiling teeth were allowed on your Plate, and whoever had the biggest Plate ruled the windswept world of trash and frost that sprawled beneath the overpasses. I remember jamming more and more bones on top of each other, wrapping them up with wire and twine and whatever else I could find amongst the trash, until mine towered taller than anyone else’s under the ‘pass. It had made me king, and Hania my queen.
Young Love on the Run from the Federal Alien Administration New Mexico Division (1984) by Grant Stone in Strange Horizons, May 9, 2011
Roland twirls the phone cord around his finger and listens to the ring. He looks around the room. It’s pretty shitty. Besides the bed there’s a TV fixed to the ceiling, a fridge he can hear humming even from over here and a chair the same chocolate brown as the carpet. The phone he is calling is beige and sits on a small table next to the stairs in a house in a tree-lined street in Burbank. He imagines his mother putting down the duster and hurrying downstairs like he’s seen her do a million times before.
Mary Had a Unicorn by Ripley Patton in Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear
The last thing on earth Mary Maloney wanted was a unicorn. She wasn’t an addict, no matter what they said at the clinic. Sure, she used sometimes just to have some fun, or when she was down. But who didn’t? It wasn’t any different than the booze her dad tanked. Or the pot he smoked. But you didn’t see anyone assigning him a freakin’ genetically engineered, one-horned parole officer.
Never Look Back by Grace Bridges in Space Battles: Full-Throttle Space Tales #6, from Flying Pen Press
Mars. Ten years ago. I didn’t kill him, I swear. It was an accident. And now his brother wants to kill me. I ran from him, into the farthest reaches of travelled space. But now my sister wants to die. I have to fight for her life before we can fight for both of us. Somewhere out there is my enemy…and he’s coming for me.