“There are no monsters lurking in the dark”, the detective said quietly, taking a long drag on his cigarette. “And I intend to find out what scared them away”.
She cleared the dust from the old book’s cover, and gently pulled it aside to reveal the first page. The letters were worn, but still readable. “Magic”, it began, “is the art of imposing imagination upon reality through conviction”.
The last night of the harvest festival nears its end. Far from town, below the branches of an old tree, a couple shares the dim light of a candle.
Silent, they look up at the stars in the sky, never suspecting that the brightest were built by their ancestors in an age long past.
She kept the memories of their time together tucked away in an old box of chocolates, neatly arranged in rows, each one colorfully wrapped in a different kind of betrayal.
“Get out of my head, demon!”, he yelled. “Your head?”, he heard himself say indignantly. “I live here too!”
When the stars were settled in the night sky, shining with anticipation, he began to play. It was a sorrowful song, the notes filled with grief. As he struck the last chord, a lonely star fell, tracing a mournful path across the sky.
Our new companion was friendly, but strangely unsettling. Thinking it prejudice, I tried to dismiss the persistent uneasiness I felt.
It took me three days to notice his shadow didn’t move as he did. Always a second late, an inch off, as if trying to mimic him.
He knew he was mad, of course. He had long accepted his insanity, welcomed it. It was just another sense, no different from sight or smell. With his madness, he could perceive all that was strange in the world, things that others no longer noticed.
It was only after she passed away that I became the man she thought I was.
All over the world, families huddled together in their homes, where heaters struggled to keep the cold at bay, quietly watching the broadcast.
When the time came, the silence became absolute. Humanity witnessed in pain and regret as the last leaf fell away from the last tree.
Magic always comes to a mage in the same way. She finds herself in desperate need, wanting something as she’s never wanted anything before, and in her panic she reaches out to the only power that can grant her wish.
When the rustling sound came again, the two hunters reached for their weapons.
“There’s more than one”, the taller man whispered. “They’re testing us. Measuring us. Like a pack of wolves”.
“Don’t be stupid”, snapped his companion. “There’s nothing like wolves on this planet”.
Sitting on the edge of the rooftop, my feet were inches away from touching the water. This was a low building, and soon I would have to move out again, as I had every few weeks since the Raining began.
The witch didn’t answer, instead fixing him with a glare that could set fire to a boulder. He stammered an apology, tightened his grip on the broom and remained silent for the rest of the flight.
To my increasing surprise, the seasoned merchant had a coin ready for each guardsman along the road. When I finally decided to ask, I was rewarded with a wry smile.
“The queen pays her soldiers in glory or in death”, he explained, “but never in gold. That, she leaves to us.”
“One last warning”, added the ranger, turning back to face me with level eyes. “The shadows are dense deeper in the forest. Avoid stepping on them, they won’t take it kindly”.
A trained man can wake up with a sword already in his hand. A Dorlan mercenary can wake up with a sword already between your ribs.
Artificial muscles were stronger and more durable, but also much more prone to cramping. Her massage parlor was twice as busy since she started working on robots, and she rather enjoyed the simple talk.
The room was dark, barely lit by the lone candle she held in her hands. At the sound of my footsteps, her eyes slowly turned to look into mine.
“Another one”, she lamented, her voice heavy with a mixture of anger and grief. “Another dead friend who trusted me with his life”.
He bellowed, lashing out in blind fury. Every evil and every sin he accused him of. He struck time and again, tracing wild arcs with his blade.
Still, the tree would not budge.
With neural implants, exploring virtual worlds became a powerfully vivid experience. Heightened senses gave wondrous color and melody to the impossible beauties the architects had created, making reality seem lifeless and dull by comparison.
Soon, most people preferred to spend their time in dreams.
Hanging in the wall, framed in wood and behind glass, he kept a length of rope. Curious, I asked.
“A reminder”, he said smiling. “Of something I decided not to do”
Trust me: never wear a hat when attending a faery’s party.
“To my wife Helen, and my daugther Lira. May they”
Full text of Geroge Meren’s last poem, written in the day of his passing. Some think it is incomplete, others that the effect was intentional: a last remark on the brevity of life, a recurrent concept in his poetry.
The assassin wore a brilliant white coat, plainly visible in the night, and a chain anklet that clinked with every step. In Zenori culture, if you’re going to kill a man, you make sure he knows you’re coming.
“No, we did not deserve to be forced onto this path”, father agreed. “Maybe it was fate, maybe it was misfortune. But ask yourself: if we managed to escape this now, would we deserve our freedom?”
“Riding a dragon is much like riding a horse”, said the tallest of the brothers with a mischievous smile. “Only the dragon must really, really like you”.
“Well”, thought the great king, as the northener raised his sword. “This is not a bad death for an old soldier”.
“I love you”, she lied. “Me too”, I answered in all sincerity.