The God of Small Animals

“I’m sorry,” the veterinarian says. “She’s passed on.”
And so I weep.

I drive home with the knowledge that she will be gone forever. Tears in my eyes, scars on my heart, I try my hardest not to think about all the times we had, but find that they come regardless.
Me, driving to the shelter—
Me, picking her up—
Bringing her home, tucking her in, making her feel like she’d fit in—
The thoughts are cancerous in their portrayal, and ever persistent in their attempts to eat away at my sanity. I’ve already cried so many tears, and have faced so many battles, and it’s been less than ten minutes since I’ve left the animal hospital.
To think that she is gone, after all this time, is improbable. 
But the stars don’t lie, nor do the bite marks on my wrist.
She is gone.
And there is nothing I can do about it.

After the Flood

The net is filled with fish on this hot and unforgiving morning. Thrashing about, they are full of life and vigor—and soon, will be in me and my family’s stomachs.
If I can pull them up.
Normally, this would not be an issue; because as a girl of seventeen, I should be strong and full of resolve. Unfortunately for me, fate has dealt me a heavy hand, and left my body with terrible suffering.
You have to do it is the thought that keeps repeating itself in my head. You have to.
I am not the only mouth I have to feed on this hot and unforgiving day. My sister, Dahlia, has been asking for food since last night, and my father—
I sigh.
My father’s condition has worsened. No longer can he bear heavy burdens upon his back or shoulders, whether real or imagined. For that reason, the task of fishing has fallen to me.
And I cannot dawdle.
I can already see them moving in the distance, circling the boat they know will eventually provide them food. Their wicked fins are traitorous to my conscience, and even more threatening to my body.
It will not be long before the sharks are drawn.

The Black Wedding

They once called me a Beautiful One.
Now I hang my head in shame.
It isn’t hard for me to do so, considering all that has happened. With rotten fruit on my feet and vegetable stains on my dress, it’s impossible for me to face a crowd who once adored me, let alone the man who is now my husband.
Let me explain:
My name is Emily, and I was chosen by a Gentlewoman of the State, from the many girls of  the small settlement of Gladberry, to become a Beautiful One: a girl whose place within the Glittering City is judged not by the people, but the country. Our great Countess, Aa’eesha Dane, created this Process in order to sustain the gene pool of the Great South, and create her vision of a beautiful, perfect race. 

The Stairway to Heaven

The sun shines warmly on the working men’s backs as they make the final adjustments to the greatest feat of engineering known to mankind. Even from so far below they can be seen. Like titans they maneuver the arduous passes, braving the inspiring heights, carrying tools and materials and everything else they could possibly need. For some, it would have been deemed an impossible task. But for our people, it is our only hope.

After one-hundred years of suffering, of anguish, of nearly-unstoppable construction during the Blight that has ruined our world, the Stairway to Heaven is finally drawing to completion.

And I am alive to see it happen.

Smoke and Bone

The day begins like any other: with a trip to temple. Dressed in a simple tunic and a pair of trousers, and wearing nice black shoes, I prepare for a morning of services on a day during which the sun is shining brightly, and the clouds are just beginning to draw forward.
“Bryce,” my grandmother says. “Are you almost ready?”
“Yes, Grandma,” I say, lifting my eyes to face her.
Grandma Nona smiles as she looks at me, then says, “Good. We should get going now. They’ll start without us if we don’t hurry.”
“But what about Mom and Dad?” I ask as she takes hold of her walking stick and leads me to the door. “Aren’t they coming?”
“They’re on wall duty today, dear. They’re watching the skies.”

The Town that Hides at Dusk

I live in the town that hides at dusk.
This is a ritual repeated daily, and has been for as long as I can remember.  Ever since I was a little girl, young and small and full of fear, my family has locked our door, shuttered our windows, brandished our weapons, and lit our candles, all before the day has expired.
Tonight is no different.
As the sun begins to fall, and the people retreat into their homes, I consider, for just one moment, what might happen if I stepped outside after dark.
Then I remember the code.
Never look.
Never interfere.
And above all: never go outside at night.

The Devil is a Man in Red

The Devil is a man in red. With eyes like amber and lips like honey, he seeks his prey as if he is a man desperate and hungry—and longing, it would seem, for his salvation.
On this night, so horribly cold out of the summer blue, he searches for his next victim on the streets of Austin, Texas. Tongue laced with fire, heart made of ice, he walks the road called 6 with abandon that comes naturally for a creature with his affliction. His eyes dance between the landscapes of buildings tall and broad, bright and dim. His gaze falls upon buildings modern and old, brick and mortar, lit and unlit, until eventually he comes upon the clubs where young men dance until they go home with one another.