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What is Science Fiction?
"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.


Fairy Tales

You won't see traditional fairy tales here, at least unaltered. But fairy tales do provide a great common language upon which to build a story or twist the old out of recognition.

by Amy Aderman
The bean nighe is never wrong. She sits by a stream, washing the clothes of those soon to die. The water runs red with blood but the stains never fade. If you are bold, she will answer three questions but she will ask three in return; only true words must fall from your lips. I went walking the night before my wedding and saw her green-clad figure crouched by the stream. "Will I have a happy wedding?" I called out, approaching.
Published on Apr 16, 2015
by Kevin J. Anderson
The foul-smelling mist exhaled from the cave opening, a swirl of brimstone and smoke. A soft reptilian growl echoed, low and steady. The dragon was still sleeping, but when he awakened, he would be hungry. The young woman, the virgin sacrifice, struggled against the ropes that bound her to the stake. Her wrists were already raw, but she couldn't get away. She waited for the monster to emerge, to devour her.
Published on Jul 18, 2018
by Abigail Ashing
The wolf is smoking a cigarette and wearing leather. He's a joke, she thinks, an afterschool special. He carries groceries for old ladies. Seriously, he does. What a cliche. She shrugs off her red hoodie.
Published on Apr 6, 2017
by Abigail Ashing
He would've kissed me to waken me, a tradition of dubious morality, but there was no need. I have my own little bit of witchcraft and better things to do than sleeping. I make a point of turning a page. He stares at me. I'm sure he wasn't expecting me to be sitting up in bed, hair disheveled, decidedly awake.
Published on Jan 21, 2016
by Dani Atkinson
Once upon a time in a far off land, in a tiny room, in a tall tower, at the centre of a vast and impenetrable maze, the princess Adrienna cocked her head and frowned. "Who said that?" said the princess.
Published on Sep 14, 2012
by Dani Atkinson
Once upon a time there was a Giant Killer who was in town when a ball was announced inviting all eligible maidens to the palace, but she did not go, because she was only passing through on her way to another story. Which is just as well. She almost certainly could have won the prince had she a mind to, as she was VERY good at getting what she wanted. But her way usually involved trickery and many, many unfortunate innocent bystanders.
Published on Mar 10, 2014
by Peter M. Ball
When last I saw you, my sweet, my love, you were shrunk to the size of Grandma's thimble and plucked from the porch by the bees of the forest. We heard your cries, your wild shrieks of delight, as they carried you to the place beyond the southern brambles. Listened, after, to the silence that followed, to the empty fields and the dark shadows beneath the trees where no bee remained to hum its evening song. You've been gone now a five-month, and grandma does not remember you, nor does Jordy or Cousin Ferdinand or our dear, sweet Claudette. Whatever magic was used to shrink you, to make your final exit possible, has stolen your memories from those you once deemed close as family.
Published on Nov 6, 2015
by Devan Barlow
Portia's home didn't want her, unless she reshaped herself. As she preferred her sharp edges, she left, and sought a town she'd heard of. It was one of the few places where the stone magic lingered, powered by the fire lurking within the nearby mountains. As she'd expected, it wasn't long before someone in the town found fault with her. Her lack of a smile was turned against her, reserve twisted into snobbishness. Snobbishness warranted harsh action, after all.
Published on May 15, 2020
by Claire Eliza Bartlett
They wait for you, in the velvet castles of the night. It's not like they have anything better to do. Everyone knows the story stops for the hero, and who would the hero be but you? That is why every mirror in every inn in this town is enchanted, showing chiseled jaws, sculpted arms. Nine out of ten heroes have a verified need for encouragement along the way.
Published on May 29, 2018
by Annie Bellet
The gibbous moon hung over the crowns of the baobab trees as Afua slipped from her cot and headed up the cliff road to the house of the witch. Red clay wet with the night rains slapped beneath her heavy feet, her hurried strides belying the fear curling in her belly. It was a dangerous thing to steal from a witch. But after tonight, she would no longer be called Sahona, the frog. Afua had always brushed off the insults, thinking that she'd grow like her friend Talata had grown, tall and graceful. Afua stayed squat, however, with a pointed face like a chameleon's, blotchy skin, and bowed legs more suited to a lemur than a young woman.
Published on Mar 16, 2012
by M. Bennardo
As she crossed the café for the thousandth time that shift, Juliet suddenly caught sight of the man at the corner table, and the plate of beignets in her hand almost dropped to the floor. Avalanches of precious war-rationed powdered sugar tumbled down the mounds of the fried dough as her heart beat heavily in her chest and a dizzy sick feeling passed through her temples. As she set the plate down on the table, Juliet was only faintly aware of the half dozen boisterous Supply Corps stevedores sitting there--their dungarees already powdered by the last order of beignets, sweat beading in the V-necks of their open shirts, white caps floating above close-cropped hair. Usually she'd joke and laugh as loud as any of them, but now she could only squeak "More coffee, boys?" through a mouth that felt like it was filling up with cottonballs.
Published on Mar 28, 2014
by Carl R Bettis
Artful flailing of limbs and cries of pain and panic disguised the control behind Jill's much-practiced tumble down the hillside. She saw no witnesses, but one can't be too careful. She fetched up next to the twitching boy. "Jack! Jack," she cried, "are you hurt bad?" The crack she'd heard was not, as she'd hoped, his neck snapping. Blood and hair clung to the jagged rock behind him. The crown of his head was misshapen. He would live, after a fashion. She'd seen such injuries before, among the sheep. He would never be a man again.
Published on Apr 7, 2016
by Marie Brennan
The harp is a gruesome thing. Long bones for the pillar; breastbone for the board; the curve of a spine for the instrument's neck and knee. At the head sits a skull, grinning eyelessly at all who flinch away. I saw it when they paraded it through the streets after the revolt, carried on high like a triumphant hero. Even without flesh, I knew that grin.
Published on Mar 10, 2020
by Stephanie Burgis
Needless to say, I didn't want to try on the slipper in the first place. "Why should I?" I asked Mama when she came to drag me away from my books that morning. "We both know I'm not the girl they're looking for. I was standing by your side last night, remember, when she first arrived. We both commented on how taken the prince was by her. You made a rude comment about the size of her collarbone, if you recall."
Published on Nov 1, 2013
by Maya Chhabra
When they told her she was coming back to life, she believed them. She could already feel her shadowed senses sharpening, the grey path coming into focus. Only she did not recognize the man who led her. I am Eurydice, she thought, but who is he?
Published on Apr 21, 2020
by Michael W Cho
The girl sweeps in on a cloud of pumpkin-colored satin and brocade as fine as cobwebs. Her entrance stirs the room like a diamond dropped in a crystal decanter, and the ballroom, adorned with elegantly garbed schemers, turns to gaze upon her as one. Surely, this is the enchanted Cinderella, whom I must court to save my life. She is announced: "Princess--" and I cut through the crowd. This I do without looking directly at her. My goal requires presence of mind that would be destroyed by the faerie glamour, nor do I wish to tip my hand overmuch to the assassins.
Published on Jul 26, 2019
by Marlaina Cockcroft
I knew the apple was poisoned. Foolish girl, the people whisper as I walk through the market, head high, refusing to hide inside my castle. So innocent, so trusting, so silly to take that apple and bite down.
Published on Oct 7, 2020
by Tina Connolly
All us fellas loved Miss Violet May, right from the start. She came from the land of Twelve Thousand Lakes, came click-clacking on the train from North to South till she met worthless Sorry Joe Weevily, and he sweet-talked her into getting off and marrying him. We'd never seen a girl from that far north before. Course, them northern girls ...sometimes you don't see them at all, ain't that what they say? Leastways that's what I always heard. That them Twelve Thousand Lakes was fulla nothing but ghosts, spirits drifting around from one fingerling lake to the next.
Published on Feb 25, 2014
by Holley Cornetto
Shadows flickered in the nursery's dim light. Fiona kissed her daughter on the forehead. "Once upon a time, my father lied."
Published on Sep 9, 2020
by Matthew Cote
As far back as anyone in the sleepy mountain town could remember, Old Hagatha One-Eye had lived alone on a dusty track in the woods. If you followed the paved road into what passed for Main Street in this valley, kept the dam on your left when you crossed the river, and continued on through the woods, you would find her. How not, with all the signs guarding her property? No Trespassing; No Soliciting; Private Property; Keep Out!
Published on Sep 30, 2013
by Sheila Crosby
It was pretty scary watching the witch sing "Happy Birthday". Instead of being pursed in disapproval as usual, her mouth stretched into a smile so wide that it made me think of strychnine. Meanwhile her eyes stayed as cold and unblinking as a hawk, with a nose to match. She wore the inevitable silky blouse, twenty years out of date and buttoned right up to her wrinkled neck, but today it was little-girl pink. Even her trousers were pink. The outfit clashed hideously with her strident plum hair, and I couldn't help thinking they were going to get stained when she shinnied down the tower.
Published on Nov 22, 2010
by Maggie Damken
Sometime around midnight, the collies started barking like war-dogs in the pasture. Daddy'd left me alone for the night and the rule was always the same: if I so much as thought I needed the gun, I'd get the gun. Pulling on my red coat and readying the shotgun, I barged into the moon-bright yard and saw the wolf with its bloody teeth around the throat of one of our dogs. I set my sight and shot.
Published on Aug 13, 2020
by Mark Darby
"One Fish," came the whisper "Two Fish," I replied
Published on Oct 11, 2017
by Amanda C. Davis
There is nothing here, in the bright bronze center of the desert--nothing but the great walled city with gates shut tight, and at the base of them, clutching them for comfort, me. I have come so far that I forget where I started. The city begs for stories, in words I can only hear through my fingertips. My head is full of them, but I do not know whether they are mine.
Published on Dec 2, 2014
by Amanda C. Davis
Once there was a princess born on the coldest day of the year, so that as she drew her first breath, the midwife exclaimed, "Truly, this girl will never feel the cold." And as she grew they saw this was true. The winter princess was known to go riding in weather that made the huntsmen shiver (though she always took care for the horses), to make bouquets of dried weeds poking from the snow, and to leave open the window of her tower no matter how icy the wind.
Published on Apr 25, 2016
by Adam Dean
He had hunted her, she saw that now. Like a hind sighted briefly before startling, she was a prize to be claimed, a promise held out and then snatched away. And he was not the sort of man to return from the hunt empty-handed. So he had scoured the kingdom and found her, whisked her away to a fairytale wedding. At the time, she had been caught up in the romance of it all, glad at last to be free from a life of drudgery. She had even been happy, for a while. Until his eye began to wander once more, and she saw the truth of the life that she must now live: her room in the high castle turret no less a prison than the cellar from which she had so recently escaped.
Published on Oct 6, 2017
by Ellen Denham
***Editor's Note: An adult story with mature, adult themes*** When I see you for the first time, a shark-sized shadow slinking around the mad-hued corals below, I gasp through my snorkel. But curiosity gets the better of me, and I linger, floating above. Your arm emerges first. A man swimming so deep without a tank? The instinct of rescue thrusts me into a dive. Then I see your segmented tail, mottled gray. And only then, your beautiful face, upturned, startled--almost human except for the flexible antennae extending from your jaw. I push back to the surface, a creature of land and air--unlike you--needing a breath to make sense of what you are. You rotate to face me, your torso well-muscled and pale as marble, like a Greek statue. Watching me, you coil and uncoil the jointed carapace that forms your body from the waist down, allowing me glimpses of the tender flesh beneath. A gesture of trust, or of submission? Your gaze is calm, eyes wide with wonder as mine must be beneath my mask.
Published on Nov 22, 2012
by Caroline Diorio
They called her the cinder girl, or perhaps it was something else. It's been a few centuries since then, and anyway, human names are so bland, so short, so quick to dissolve in an immortal memory. Where was I? Ah yes, the girl in the fireplace. Well, you know the story. There was a pitiful orphan girl with two spoiled stepsisters and a wicked stepmother. There was a prince, comely as the dawn with all the wit and brains of a turnip. There was a ball, a dress, and a very impractical pair of shoes.
Published on Apr 29, 2020
by Sarina Dorie
I was on my third rep of overhead presses when Mitch shouted over the nineties punk rock blaring from the gym's speakers, "Bro, check out the guns on the big guy in the red suit." Mitch dropped his dumbbell with a thunk and commenced to gawk. I glanced over my shoulder and did a double take at the man across from us in the gym. A jolly old man in a red muscle shirt was bench-pressing three hundred and ninety pounds in the corner. His hair was long and white and matched his wiry beard. For the briefest of moments I felt a spark of elation. My head filled with visions of sugarplums and twenty-pound jars of protein powder. I blinked the merry sensation away.
Published on Dec 24, 2015
by Sarina Dorie
***Adult Fairytale below*** 1.) I will fulfill my end of the fairy godmother contract. I will play matchmaker for the handsomest prince in all the land and find him the most beautiful princess in all the land so they can populate the world with rich, pretty children from the Charming family lineage.
Published on Feb 11, 2016
by Megan R. Engelhardt
I knew the girl would never give up her child. I knew before I asked. That is the sort of deal you only make if you're young and naive and facing execution and the idea of a child is so very far away that it is an easy thing to give up.
Published on Jan 31, 2012
by Shannon Fay
The Queen had been in control all her life. She had conquered any enemy nation that had posed a threat, had crushed dissent within her kingdom with the thoroughness of a wildfire. The only thing she feared was death itself; surely her land would fall into ruin without her. So when a Witch appeared and offered her a way to outsmart death, the Queen had accepted, swallowing the small seed that would guarantee her eternal life. But instead of invulnerability the seed brought pain. A thorny, scratchy pain that grew within her. The Queen had the Witch brought to the throne room.
Published on Sep 24, 2019
by Eugie Foster
The dim shadows were kinder to the theater's dilapidation. A single candle to aid the dirty sheen of the moon through the rent beams of the ancient roof, easier to overlook the worn and warped floorboards, the tattered curtains, the mildew-ridden walls. Easier as well to overlook the dingy skirt with its hem all ragged, once purest white and fine, and her shoes, almost fallen to pieces, the toes cracked and painstakingly re-wrapped with hoarded strips of linen. Once, not long ago, Aisa wouldn't have given this place a first glance, would never have deigned to be seen here in this most ruinous of venues. But times changed. Everything changed. Aisa pirouetted on one long leg, arms circling her body like gently folded wings. Her muscles gathered and uncoiled in a graceful leap, suspending her in the air with limbs outflung, until gravity summoned her back down. The stained, wooden boards creaked beneath her, but she didn't hear them. She heard only the music in her head, the familiar stanzas from countless rehearsals and performances of Snowbird's Lament. She could hum the complex orchestral score by rote, just as she knew every step by heart.
Published on Sep 26, 2014
by Katina L. French
AszI brushes the endless knots out of my daughter's hair. She giggles and says, "It's like Rapunzel's, right?" I snort and kiss the top of her head. I do not say what first springs to mind, which is that Rapunzel's real name was Persinette, and calling a girl "Rapunzel" is basically like calling a modern girl "spinach salad."
Published on Oct 29, 2015
by Laura Anne Gilman
Published on Jun 20, 2017
by Sarah Goslee
I never really loved her. I never loved her, but from the first moment I saw her I coveted her, desired her in the way the ivy desires the castle wall, or the oyster the pearl.
Published on Dec 12, 2012
by Theodora Goss
She waited until autumn. She wanted to wait until the children were home and back in school. Bobby had been at soccer camp--Robert, he wanted to be called now, which was confusing because his father was Robert too, so when she called either of them, they both answered. He started tenth grade and slipped right back into his usual routine of school, soccer, and hanging out with friends, like a fish sliding through a pond without making a ripple. It was Eleanor she was worried about. At the end of seventh grade she'd quarreled with her best friend, or her best friend had quarreled with her, and Eleanor had said they were never speaking again, then had run up to her room and cried with the sort of passionate intensity best left to itself. That summer she had gone to riding camp, and then visited her grandparents, Robert's parents, who lived in a large house surrounded by pastures and forest, where her grandmother had made all her favorite foods. Somehow, over Facebook or Snapchat or whatever teenagers were using at the moment, a reconciliation had been effected, and Eleanor and Emily were once again inseparable. But Eleanor was the sensitive one, the one who secretly wrote poetry, so it was Eleanor she was worried about.
Published on Nov 13, 2015
by Theodora Goss
She looks at herself in the full-length mirror of the bridal salon. She resembles a winter landscape, hills and hollows covered with snow, white and sparkling. She is the essence of purity, as though all that has ever blown through her is a chill wind. The veil falls and falls to her feet. She shivers. "Are you cold, Rosie?" her mother asks.
Published on Nov 17, 2017
by Lydia S. Gray
***Editor's Note: Here be mature and potentially disturbing themes. Read on upon your own recognizance*** The old watchmaker went to the builder of dreams. "Make me a wife," he said.
Published on Aug 15, 2012
by Sarah Grey
She is no longer a girl, dreaming while sweeping the ashes away. She is a queen, and a queen, says her beloved king, is ever the paragon of perfection and grace. Her feet have grown wide with age. Still, she stuffs them into glass slippers, narrow as reeds, that rub her ankles raw. Every step is agony--the stabbing clink of a towering crystal heel against marble, the shattering pain through the bones in her legs.
Published on Jul 8, 2013
by Rosanna Griffin
Find yourself a sword. Or, if you are a farmer, you are probably a farmer, find a stick. Whack things. Like trees, not your siblings. You can whack your siblings if you want, just make sure they have sticks too--you want to be a hero. Start this young, like ten or eleven. The hero has a short shelf life. If your adventure hasn't started by time you are sixteen, you are probably not the hero, but you can still be his companion. Yes, him, the hero is always a guy. Oh, you want to bend genre stereotypes and be a female hero? Awesome, you'll be his love interest, the one that is smarter and more competent, and probably rescues him all the time. Why are you with him? He's the hero of course. Be overly friendly with strangers. You never know which mysterious stranger in the dark cloak will start your adventure. You also don't know which ones might kill you. Some tips: look for old men or women, one of these will be your mentor. They are probably mages, or witches, or the greatest swordsperson in the land. You will surpass them in the skill they have practiced their entire lives in the matter of a couple of months, or just one long training montage. Don't approach: orcs, goblins, or other "bad" creatures. They always work for the bad guy. Always. Sometimes there will be a "good" half-orc or goblin, but they are always the sidekick and will probably die. Also, stay away from other young adventurers who already have mentors. You run the risk of falling into their quest and becoming a beloved sidekick, or perhaps the comic relief.
Published on Sep 25, 2020
by Alexandra Grunberg
"I think you dropped this." Connor held out the pencil that had rolled under his desk. The girl sitting behind him took it, staring at him with wide brown eyes. For a moment their hands brushed each other, then the moment was over. Connor turned around to finish his math test, but the girl was unable to finish hers.
Published on Oct 3, 2013
by Dino Hajiyorgi
Senior Giuseppe's pain is grand. His neighbors see him exiting his little house every day, draped inside his dark coat, they watch him as he takes tombstone hill on heavy tread. His little boy crossed the road chasing the ball. Didn't look left or right. Didn't hear the stampeding horse. A heavy carriage and a cruel wheel crushed the child in two.
Published on Jun 28, 2018
by Eliza Hirsch
***Editor's Note: Adult story, and some adult language*** The sky is clear because I'm calm. Or maybe I'm calm because it's clear. Hard to tell, sometimes.
Published on Apr 22, 2014
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
The man I learned to call Papa came home from a five-year journey the winter I turned three years old. He was large, and his pale face was hidden behind a thick, dark beard. All of the rest of him was wrapped in snowy clothes and furs, and he carried a pack on his back. When he saw me, red flickered in his eyes.
Published on Jan 26, 2018
by Joanna Michal Hoyt
My sister Amy came back smiling from the village well, saying she'd drawn water for a beggar-woman. She gasped when the first rose fell from her mouth, followed by a rain of diamonds. She'd thought it reward enough to see her kind lovely face mirrored in the woman's eyes. But it didn't take her long to decide that she deserved the gift, and that her sharp-tongued older sister deserved less. I was fool enough to resent that, so when I went to fill a kettle and a lady asked for a drink and asked after my sweet pretty sister, without asking how I was, I bade her draw water for her sweet pretty self. I faltered when the snake fell from my lips.
Published on Jul 25, 2011
by M.K. Hutchins
Why the fairy wanted my patchwork slippers, or how she could even tell I'd been sewing them by the light of the ashes at night, I might never know. When she offered to trade me a magnificent gown in a nutshell, a fairy gown that would only last four hours, I told her no. My stepmother had sold me as an indentured servant to the royal cobbler for ten years. These shoes, made from scraps of brocade and thrown away scraps of thread and ribbon were the only thing I owned. They were likely to be the only thing I owned for a long time. "I'm offering you more than a gown," she said. "It's a chance to be your own self again for a night."
Published on Oct 25, 2018
by Kristin Janz
The workshop's bright interior felt like a sauna after the numbing midwinter cold outdoors. The old man immediately took off his fur-lined hat and gloves and started unfastening the buttons of his greatcoat. His workers glanced up from benches and forge upon his entrance, but they took too much pride in their work to set it aside and rush to greet him. Their work was remarkable in its craftsmanship. Hand-turned wooden pull toys, sanded to a silky sheen and polished with real beeswax; stuffed animals with button and thread faces so real that he caught himself looking twice; wooden and iron puzzle games that he knew would have him scratching his own white head for hours if he attempted them. Genuine steel swords scaled down to fit an adolescent hand, some with jeweled hilts.
Published on Dec 22, 2015
by K.G. Jewell
Gry didn't mean to eat the knight. Things like that just happen, though, when someone wakes you up with a pokey stick. She reflexively thrashed her tail, sweeping the irritant into her yawning maw. By the time she was fully awake, the human was already halfway down her gullet, plate mail scratching her throat, a shield stuck awkwardly in her back teeth. She burped, a fiery gas ball that smelled vaguely of leather and beard. A decade of dust swirled into the long-still air, tickling her nose.
Published on Dec 7, 2015
by Cris Kenney
Gretel is eleven now, and her brother is the only one who still calls her by that nickname. To her haunted, hollow father she is Margaret, always kept at arm's length. This is fine by her. She knows he still can't look at her without remembering what he did, which seems fair, since she still can't look at him without remembering what he did, either. She still can't look at herself, in a mirror or a window or the village pond, without remembering what she did, too. She still has nightmares about slamming the oven door shut. She tells herself they are nightmares. When she smiles at the screams, and the heat of the oven laps at her face like a great dragon that loves and obeys her and her alone, she tells herself those are the worst nightmares of all.
Published on Oct 18, 2016
by Anastasia Kharlamova
"Where are you going, little girl?" the strange-looking creature asked, almost gently, but with some threatening undertone in his voice Reddy couldn't quite place. "I am going to visit my grandmother," squeaked Reddy. "I... I... she is sick, and I'm bringing her a bite to eat."
Published on Jul 23, 2020
by Michelle Ann King
The coachman knows his place, so he stays outside, even though the music swirls in his head and tries to draw him into the ballroom, with all its vibrant colors and beautiful dancers--glamorous, graceful people whirling around the floor in complicated patterns, not needing to look where they're going because they fit so perfectly into the shape of this grand, wonderful design; people who belong, who follow their steps and play their roles and smile so gloriously because they know, they all know, that they are precisely where they are meant to be. And he knows it too, the coachman, even as he presses his face against the window and tries not to breathe so that it won't cloud his view; he knows his place is outside, with the horses, stroking necks and smoothing manes and whispering soft nonsense to soothe the restless shivers of these strong, magnificent beasts that gleam like snow in starlight and draw the coach along the winding, uneven path to the palace with unerring, sure-footed speed. They know their place, their role and function, just as he does. Just as they all do. Carriage, driver, horses, footmen: a perfect, integrated team. All this he knows to be true.
Published on Oct 26, 2015
by Kyle Kirrin
***Editor's Warning: These Fairyless Tales are not for children*** "Far as I can tell," the Inspector said, "this little girl was complimenting the wolf's teeth right before it ripped her throat out.
Published on Feb 20, 2018
by Jamie Lackey
At dawn, the ministers drag the Ice Queen out into the courtyard where I stand in line with all of the other accused criminals. They are rough, and her manacles dig into her scarred wrists, but her face is as blank as a snowdrift in the early morning shade. The new sunlight can't yet reach us within the high walls, but I imagine glints from the ice that clings to her dark hair and pale cheeks, that spreads along the creases of her elbows and pools in the hollows of her collarbones. I begin to worry that my plan is sheer folly, that everyone who assured me of its failure had the right of it. I stand about midway down the line of the accused, and I'm not sure if I would rather be closer to the beginning or the end.
Published on Jun 17, 2019
by Rich Larson
"You did this, you know," the ogress said. She hefted the boy's head so Petrosinella could see the ragged scarlet hole in his throat. The boy, who had climbed so quickly and so cleverly, light as a cat, whose beautiful brown hands had caressed every part of her. He'd said he was a prince; she'd never believed it.
Published on Jun 2, 2020
by Mai L Lee
The clock tower rises above the city, its bricks stained black. The hour hand rests against the curve of the eight, and the minute hand points due east, toward the wall where the forest creeps along the perimeter. The hands do not change. The cogs have long since melded with rust and rot, and the tower bells are silent.
Published on Nov 19, 2010
by Mary Soon Lee
Knight I was barely fourteen, the eighth of the eleven princes my father had amassed between his five wives. When Sir L invited me to view his butterfly collection, I naively believed I'd spend the evening admiring swallowtails and fritillaries. Instead I was taken aback (and in several other notable orientations). Suffice it to say, he used his lance a lot.
Published on Apr 3, 2018
by Mary Soon Lee
********Editor's Note: Mature Themes, Disturbing Story********** The cruelest thing Cinderella's stepmother ever did was offer to take her to the ball.
Published on Nov 8, 2019
by Nathaniel Lee
They said they'd driven her out of the village and into the woods, and that wasn't a lie. But she found that she preferred the woods. Things were easier out there. A curse means less when you're alone. And her toads could roam where they liked. Not that they often did. Toads don't ask for much, and they know how to appreciate a good place to sit. At first, she still spoke several toads a day, in shock or boredom or just to hear the sound of her voice. But speaking turned out to be a kind of habit, and as time wore on and she had no one but other toads to talk to, she spoke them less and less. Which was just as well, since the forest was hardly limitless and could not have tolerated an unending deluge of invasive toad-words.
Published on Oct 31, 2014
by Yoon Ha Lee
The princess was born beneath owl-stars and sickle-moon, to the cries of the palace ravens. When she was five, she collected the feathers of birds to weave into her hair. When she was ten, she practiced identifying birds so that she could paint them from memory. The queen would come from time to time to view the paintings, and lay her hand upon her daughter's head, and smile. When the princess was fifteen, her mother died. The death was not entirely unexpected: it had been a long winter, and the queen had never been in the best of health. If the princess cried, she did so beneath her mourning veil, where no one could see the tears.
Published on Jan 30, 2015
by Christopher D. Leonard
I awoke that morning in bed, hungry for soup, with a dull ache spread across my back. So close, within grasp, the dirtied straw ceiling spread in all directions for but a brief span. Grayed walls rose to meet that flaxen firmament, mosaics of court life laid therein: knights in silver mail, princesses gowned by white virginal silks; encrusted with crystal, goblets held high; a round table. I rose, stretched. My hands caressed soft and brittle straw. The twenty mattresses beneath me creaked. A gasp. I looked over my beddings, down. The farmer boy gaped back. He wore the same loose scarlet shirt, baggy sage trousers as last night. A beechwood tray sat in his blue and bruised hands; blackened iron kettle of tea on top, steam at its cracked spout.
Published on Jul 2, 2019
by Stacey Danielle Lepper
They played the same old song and there were the same old last minute brawls. Of drunken slurring and fists and beer. And I went home with her and she was the best damn thing that ever happened to me. I didn't want to kill her.
Published on Apr 10, 2018
by Em Liu
After her father died, Beauty raged against the Beast. His fortress, which she had loved so much for its chests of magic and its cabinets of knowledge, had suddenly morphed, become a prison of the mind from which there was no egress to be found, as she had tried to find, on more than one occasion--had walked out and followed her feet, only to find herself back where she started.
Published on Apr 22, 2019
by Christine Lucas
“And did you find God, stranger?” Aisa asks, scrubbing the shirt she’s washing harder. There’s a persistent tint of guilt around the collar that the river waters won’t clean. “No, I didn’t.” His voice is weary, hoarse, the dust of countless roads lining his throat and lungs. He settles down on a fallen trunk close to her, rubbing his leg. “I haven’t seen anyone wash clothes this way in ages, and I have wandered far, and for a long time. Why?”
Published on Dec 2, 2010
by Jason Erik Lundberg
I tell you this tale as it was told to me so very long ago. She appeared one day in the town. Nobody knew where she had come from, or who her family might be, or what she was called, or why her skin glowed ever-so-slightly with a sparkling luminescence. Nobody saw her enter the town from the main road, or alight from a carriage, or dismount from the back of a horse. One moment she was not there, and the next she was. Although she had a laugh that filled the air with musicality, she did not speak; after some time, most came to the conclusion that she simply did not wish to. She kept her thoughts to herself, and so the townspeople collectively named her the Stargirl.
Published on Jul 21, 2017
by Mark Patrick Lynch
In the white of the snow, dusk-stained and bordering invisible, the footprints were increasingly harder to follow. The curled moon was little use to see by. It turned the land grey. Clouds would soon make everything dark. We'd have to use our electric torches then, and that could ruin it all. "We're too slow. We're not going to make it." Prentice halted, bringing me to a stop also. He paused to reclaim his breath. "Once we're in the woods it'll be like midnight. We'll never find her."
Published on Dec 19, 2012
by Brynn MacNab
You arrive already tugging at the collar of your polo shirt. You've grown comfortable in plate armor, in doublet and hose, and your old belted trousers now feel awkward and ugly. Your mother welcomes you at the door, offers drinks. She takes in Cordelia's gold and pink gown in a single glance and keeps her face polite.
Published on Feb 21, 2018
by C.J. Maloney
After locking her in, her stepmother blocked the attic door with an old armchair. The mice and sparrows had been useless, so she heaved and sobbed for over an hour. In desperation she sent the sparrows and mice to slow his exit, but they had driven him out instead. When she finally broke free, scampering down the stairs clutching her single crystal shoe, only her stepmother waited for her in silence. The old woman saw the shoe, took it by force, and raced away. Ten doors down the prince hadn't come yet. So the mothers broke a girl's foot, kneading it so that when he came it slipped into the tiny shoes with ease. Producing the other shoe was all the confirmation the prince needed. What did he really know of some beautiful girl he'd seen for a few nights?
Published on Jul 13, 2017
by Meagan K McKinley
"Stiletto heels are named after stiletto daggers for a reason," she says, though she knows she'll get no response as she flushes the last of the bloody toilet paper. Even the private bathrooms have fancy hand towels, so she uses one to dry her shoe before she tosses it in the laundry basket. She'd laugh at her reflection if she weren't so well trained; glass slippers don't go so well with spandex shorts and a lace-topped corset. She'd had to let the prince take off her dress. After he'd seen the skinsuit though, well, she'd done what was needed. The stained suit is burning in his fireplace now, along with the bloody gloves. The blue ball gown is a lonesome girl's best friend. She steps into the poufy skirts, slides her arms into the cap sleeves, and reaches behind herself to do up the clasps on the bodice. A quick check in the mirror assures her each one is aligned; it's no harder than doing up a bra day after day. Elbow length white gloves cover the scrubbed raw skin of her hands and wrists. This pair was tucked in pockets she'd sewn inside the skirts. They won't find fingerprints. Her father taught her better than that before he was betrayed and executed by the very prince she'd charmed tonight with shy praise and coy eyes.
Published on Aug 14, 2018
by Melissa Mead
The hardest part was spreading that silly rumor in the first place. I didn't use magic. A dairymaid's pay doesn't cover hiring sorcerers. No, I spent months discretely complimenting the ladies who came to the dairy on the delicacy of their complexions, working my way up to the nonsense about, "A true princess can feel a dried pea through a dozen mattresses." Soon the dressmakers doubled their orders for fine silk and satin, because any lady with pretensions to quality claimed that ordinary calico chafed her delicate skin. People are foolish and vain, and our former Royal Family doubly so. Word spread to the Palace. The Prince broke off his engagement, claiming that his planned bride was "too coarse," and commandeered enough geese to make a dozen feather mattresses.
Published on Jun 21, 2012
by Melissa Mead
"It's time to take the children into the forest," said Stepmother. Father winced. "Must we?" he said. I winced too. All the feasting in the world couldn't erase my memory of Stepmother angry, back when she was teaching me and Gretel to call her "Stepmother," and the man "Father."
Published on Aug 13, 2014
by Melissa Mead
"On her sixteenth birthday, the princess shall prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die." The other fairies stopped their one-upmanship to gape at their rival.
Published on May 6, 2016
by Melissa Mead
It was a nightmare come to life. Seriously. One I'd had ever since a misguided kindergarten teacher insisted on reading "The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow" to a roomful of impressionable tots. An illustrated version. Our young minds just weren't ready for The Headless Horseman.
Published on Jan 16, 2017
by Melissa Mead
Sister knew about wicked stepmothers. No one warned her about wicked stepfathers. Stepfather only noticed Sister at night, in the dark. When she saw Brother's bruises, Sister declared "Mother's too scared to help us. Let's go into the forest. We'll be safer there."
Published on Jun 6, 2011
by Melissa Mead
The young woman left the tiny cottage on foot, her eyes on the hills ahead, her face set. Behind her, the old couple who had raised her cried and begged her not to go. She didn't look back.
Published on Jun 19, 2017
by Melissa Mead
The ocean is a dark place, and cold enough to chill the soul. But mermaids have no souls. We forget that, with our tales of mermaids singing beneath the sea. It's dark there, and the pressure builds until only the strongest souls can bear it.
Published on Sep 11, 2017
by Melissa Mead
"No sign of the Duke's men," said the young man. "I think we lost them back at the stream. And this valley is so secluded I don't think they'll find it. Even if they come back with dogs, I can turn them away. I got to know the pack pretty well while working in the stables." "And it looks like the farmhouse is abandoned." His fair young companion surveyed the valley. "We could settle down here. The first year or two would be rough, but I'm not the swooning maiden my father the Duke would believe."
Published on Jun 8, 2018
by Melissa Mead
The frog basked in the sun. Settled in the soft muck of his pond, he didn't notice the princess until she scooped him up and pressed her hot mouth to his skin. He kicked out with his strong back legs, and tumbled into the water again. Safe!
Published on Mar 23, 2012
by Lynette Mejia
When Crow Girl was released from the spell, she was quite surprised. She'd fully expected to die when the men had caught her in their nets, and it wasn't until they'd placed her in a cage inside the witch's hut that she realized she wasn't to be roasted or baked into a pie. She'd never been a stupid girl, however, and therefore almost immediately understood that they'd somehow recognized her, and were attempting to reverse the spell which had turned her into a crow in the first place. It seemed much more complicated this time around. Apparently, undoing a spell took significantly more effort than casting one, for the men stood around for hours while the witch cooked up potions and mumbled incoherently over her tattered grimoire. Sometime into the ritual, she opened the cage and took Crow Girl out, and the little bird would have flown away had she not been wracked with excruciating pain. The old woman set her down gently on an ancient, battered table, but she fell over, unable even to stand properly. She looked down, and saw that her thin, corvid feet were slowly beginning to twist and morph into long, ungainly human ones.
Published on Mar 14, 2017
by Matt Mikalatos
Warning Signs. One in every 250 children experiences inter-dimensional travel before the age of eighteen. Siblings and cousins are 40% more likely to enter another dimension than single children. If you discover your child hiding medieval items (crowns, trumpets, tapestries, chastity belts, swords, etc.), take action immediately. Likewise, if potential magical artifacts are found (uncommon rings, buttons, feathers, etc.), confiscate the item(s) and talk to your child. Watch for imaginary friends, talking animals, or strange behaviors (avoiding sidewalk cracks, fear of open closets, obsessively locking bedroom windows, etc.).
Published on Jul 4, 2013
by Jeremy Minton
A skull stares from the floor beside the bed. Grasses sprout from the hollows of its eyes. Ralph hardly notices. He scans the grass for hidden thorns, for anything that slashes, stings or bites. Finding nothing dangerous, he puts it out of mind. It's just another skull. He's seen so many bones by now, they've ceased to signify. They're like the flies, the flowers, the green-tinged light. They're like the cracked and peeling walls, the rot, the dust, the creepers on the floor, the sleepers dozing in their cloaks of mold. Tom had said--
Published on Dec 5, 2013
by Lauren K. Moody
Long ago, an indifferent father and a sweet mother bore a child. Her father called her "son" when he called her anything at all, but her mother recognized the girl truly as she was. Whatever name they gave her at birth fell away from disuse. Her mother died when she was still young. In her tenth year her father remarried a cold woman who had two daughters of her own. When her husband's child refused to dress in breeches, cut short his hair, or answer to the proper masculine pronoun, she declared he could be a gentleman among them, or a scullery-maid and serve them.
Published on May 30, 2012
by Lisa Nohealani Morton
The first thing she's aware of is weight. After too long asleep, her limbs are tingling and twitching, aching for movement, and something is impeding them. She only has a moment to register the feeling, to translate it into a word, pinned. Then the pain comes, and transfixes her in place. She hears breathing, fast and harsh, and she squeezes her eyes shut tighter and thinks of her spinning, until the needle melts and she can escape this false awakening.
Published on Dec 31, 2013
by Michelle Muenzler
"The bread is good," our latest guest says, nearly choking on the words as she tries to force the lump down her throat. I don't know her name--names are considered impolite at the giant's table. Our host gestures at an iron bowl. "And the soup? What do you think of the soup?"
Published on Jun 9, 2016
by Michelle Muenzler
She should not have jested about the tenderness of the Captain's ribs last week. Even guards have breaking points, peanut brittle thin.
Published on Sep 14, 2010
by Michelle Muenzler
In the forest, there sits a tower, and in the bottom of that tower, a prince full of beasts. They are not small beasts, by any means, but a prince's heart is the kingdom, and as such there is always room for more. The prince spends much of his day singing over the beasts' cacophony and whittling bits of wood into tiny birds. The shelves are full of birds. Sparrows, larks, and wrens aplenty. Also a pair of rarer catch-me-nots and a single cracked withering-want. On the shelves, there is also a crown.
Published on Jun 6, 2018
by Michelle Muenzler
When the princess falls asleep, it's not like in the stories. She doesn't yawn ever so slightly, then stretch into her slumber with the slow deliberateness of a cat. Nor, as the curse slips through the prick of her thumb, does magic spark the air around, or the world spring into song. No, when she falls asleep, it is with the solid thunk of her skull cracking against the cold stone floor, followed by silence.
Published on Aug 19, 2019
by Mari Ness
He still believes I will turn into my mother.
Published on May 10, 2013
by Mari Ness
Published on Sep 24, 2013
by Mari Ness
Published on Sep 25, 2013
by Mari Ness
"Stop speaking," he tells his wife. "I'm sorry," she says, flinching. Another glittering diamond and a gleaming pearl drop from her mouth; she grabs a fine napkin, pressing it against her bleeding mouth.
Published on Feb 20, 2014
by Mari Ness
The village is not in any guidebook or on any map. Even satellite photos somehow miss it, always by some unexplained chance looking at the area only when it is covered with clouds or fog, or during some blip in the satellite's programming. You will also not find it named on any website, or on any news site, despite the excellence of its single restaurant and the comfort of the small hotel next door. When asked, the residents only shrug, and point out that it is not a very interesting village, after all, however lovely the surrounding mountains, and the world has many excellent restaurants, does it not? And with that, the conservation always shifts to food, or music, or wine, or sports, or tales of long ago. Nothing about the village, which is, after all, not very interesting. Despite this, one or two strangers make their way to the village every year. Some have come, they say, for the restaurant, or for the hiking trail, or to truly and literally get off the map at a relatively reasonable price. They talk to the villagers, sample the food, wander in the mountains.
Published on May 15, 2014
by Mari Ness
Later she changes the tale, calling her husband a giant who liked to crunch on human bones, the intruder a fool willing to trade a cow for beans. She builds up everything: their manor becomes a castle, the hill a cloud, the earthen walls thick bulwarks of marble and granite, the copper coins bags of gold, the battered instrument with its broken strings an enchanted harp that can sing. The beanstalks in their garden reach the sky. She adds in jokes, references to proverbs, nursery rhymes, other legends. Her hands creep out from their pinched position at her side, gesturing, flaring, as she laughs. She does not mention just how heavy the earth had been beneath her shovel.
Published on Jul 17, 2014
by Mari Ness
He carried the squirming animal to his--no, their, he had to remember that now, their--bedroom, struggling to avoid her sharp teeth. The oversized ring he had given her glimmered on her left front leg; she had spent most of the evening biting and licking at it, when she had not been growling. He had ordered the musicians to play louder, to cover up the noise, but the growls still lingered in his ears. When he reached the room, he secured her chain to one end of the bed, and sat gingerly at the other end. The waxing moonlight flooded the bed, giving a silver sheen to her red and snowy fur.
Published on Mar 20, 2015
by Mari Ness
The dollmaker needs a year at least for each doll. Sometimes two. They are all handcrafted, of course, and the time needed to make the skin feel exactly like human flesh and settle on the bones, you understand-- The stranger is not interested in understanding. "Two months."
Published on Jun 5, 2015
by Mari Ness
Other people, it must be said, did not see a child, but rather rose petals delicately stitched together with what looked and felt like spider silk, soft and fragile to the touch. Yellow petals, for the most part, though where the child's face should have been the petals were white and pale pink, and where hands and feet might have been, the petals were dark red. But no one said a word. They knew her tale: twelve children, all born dead, year after year, until her husband, broken with her sorrow, had also left, leaving the woman alone in a silent house limned with bright flowers.
Published on Jul 16, 2015
by Mari Ness
The blacksmith has several objections. For one, he does not make shoes. Oh, horseshoes, definitely, but that is an entirely different matter, and something that he does with a local farrier, quite an expert, if the prince is in any need. Human shoes, however, are an entirely different matter. He is not even certain where to begin; surely a cobbler would be of more assistance? Those shoes, too, could be heated, if really necessary. For two, as surely the prince knows, it is one thing to get a shoe on the foot of a calm horse while others hold the horse; the horse, after all, has hooves. And as a purely practical matter, his forge is nowhere near the prince's hall. He will not be able to keep the shoes red hot, as requested. He does not think the fires in that hall--he bows, with the utmost respect--will hold the same heat as his forge. He swallows as the cold iron brushes against his throat.
Published on Sep 24, 2015
by Mari Ness
The human poet says that we of the sea have no souls. That all we are is air and salt, water and wind, cold and dark. That souls belong only to those who sing and dance on land. That when we die we turn into sea foam, to drift upon the waves, and perhaps one day land on human shores, to dry up beneath the sun. He says that only human love can give us immortal souls.
Published on Oct 24, 2016
by Mari Ness
The ghosts of dead princes hover around her bed. Sometimes they argue about this. Some of them suggest that they might be disturbing her rest. Others think, under the circumstances, that disturbing her rest is just fine, thanks; indeed, her rest could use a little more disturbance. Others, less concerned about her, merely think that they should head elsewhere, do other things, see a bit of the world and what's happening to it. After all, they might be ghosts, but they aren't quite dead. It is an old, old argument, but one that never seems quite silenced.
Published on Dec 19, 2016
by Mari Ness
The lion never speaks about his past. This has led, naturally, to considerable gossip. The lion, many insist, is not really a lion--after all, real lions can't talk. No, he must be a transformed prince, in love with a princess. Or--given the way the lion watches the prince, a transformed princess, in love with the prince. No, a transformed prince in love with the prince. Or a transformed prince who once fell in love with a lion. Or a princess seeking revenge on the prince, or a prince seeking revenge on the king. These things are said to happen, after all, if only in implausible fairy tales told to children. Then again, they have all seen the implausible: a talking lion.
Published on Mar 6, 2017
by Mari Ness
The robber girl tries to make a game of it. How many girls will struggle through the snow this year, searching for loved ones taken by bears or snow? How many will turn back? How many will swear, on their lifeblood, that they had not married bears, but men? That the boys they had played with in the snow were innocent, good, even after their words had turned into weapons of ice? That the bones they have broken--the scars on their skin--came from their journeys, or their families, and not the men they hunt for? That they have spoken to flowers, to crows, to the sun? That they will die before they shelter with robbers? That they are grateful for kindness, wherever found, even in a cold den of thieves.
Published on Nov 23, 2017
by Mari Ness
I could have stayed. Instead, I left with the knight.
Published on May 7, 2018
by Mari Ness
Five years later, and the remaining six were almost--almost--accustomed to it. To the point where the third girl had almost--almost--convinced herself that it was not all that bad. Yes, the ceaseless parades for ambassadors, or great feasts, or simply when the king felt the queen needed to smile, never got any less humiliating. No, she could not stop flinching whenever the goose called out, which was often. Yes, the parson's ongoing reminders that this was entirely her fault--well, the fault of her and her sisters--never got any less aggravating. And yes, she could not stop dreaming of having a day--an hour--a minute--entirely to herself, away from everyone, and especially away from the other five, who never left. But she had a roof. Fine food. And no need to work, as long as this goose remained alive. The parson and sexton had taught her to read and write with her one free hand, and one of the queen's ladies was teaching her fine needlework.
Published on Mar 25, 2019
by Mari Ness
"So," the prince said. "To break your enchantment, you need a kiss from your true love." "Yes," said the princess, unable to keep the note of irritation from her voice. "And naturally, I get you."
Published on Jul 11, 2019
by Mari Ness
She would not smile, of course, for an ordinary wolf. But this is a wolf who leans upright against a tree, examining his paws, a wolf who runs a long tongue against his teeth as he glances up at her. For this wolf, she smiles.
Published on Aug 5, 2019
by Mari Ness
Published on Nov 28, 2019
by Mari Ness
"Choose," she says, her beauty breathtaking in the starlight. "Say that I shall be beautiful in the day, and all shall envy you for the loveliness of your wife, and a monster in the night. A monster--" her voice trembles--"that you may not even be able to touch. Or hear yourself mocked for wedding a monster in the daylight, and know your good fortune when the sun vanishes, and you see me in your bed, lit by candles and fire." He has known many women. He gives her his deepest, most courteous bow. "I would let the lady choose."
Published on Sep 14, 2020
by Wendy Nikel
The queen hoarded the barrels of seed, keeping them locked within her coffers among the diamonds and gold and strings of perfect pearls, remnants of the former days of prosperity and excess. The seeds would receive neither sun nor water nor nutrients from the soil until unlocked by the shining key strung around her neck. Day after day, she sat upon her throne, and the villagers lined up before her, pleading. It was only her loyal guards, with their sharp swords glimmering in her peripheral, who kept the villagers from severing her neck to get at that key. "Have mercy!" They cried as though their tears might change her mind.
Published on Sep 4, 2015
by K.S. O'Neill
"Don't do it," he said, squinting at me across the tiny, smoky fire, enjoying lecturing his new squire. "Rule number one. Don't wake 'em up. Bloody nutters they are, every sleeping princess in the world. Poisoning wells, torturing kittens, calling up demons, they're all mad. Family has 'em asleep for a reason, don't they? Make a show for the crowd, but don't do it."
Published on Jul 24, 2017
by Ciaran Parkes
They're saying now it was aggravated rape and--news just in--they're throwing in first-degree murder as well. It seems one of the palace guards, still groggy from his hundred-year sleep, tripped over the battlements on his way to rescue the screaming princess.
Published on Aug 10, 2016
by Frances Pauli
"This is a box full of feelings." Her desiccated fingers stroke the scrolling corner plates, outline the hinges as she speaks. "It's meant to keep them in." "Tell me about them." I lean back and watch her dull eyes sputter. Once, they must have sparked at the idea of the box. They must have flared with mischief.
Published on May 10, 2017
by Laura Pearlman
Wednesday, September 14 I saw a unicorn in a bakery window, just for an instant. It was beautiful and luminous and just like the one in my dreams. I blinked, and it was a cake with a picture of a unicorn in frosting. It was super-realistic, though.
Published on Oct 30, 2015
by Torrey Podmajersky
He looked at my year's work, listed out on paper. He drew breath through his long nose. He stretched his neck. It looked like his collar was trying to bite his head off. "Let's talk about your gifting, shall we?" He didn't wait for me to answer. He stabbed the middle of one page with a pudgy finger. "Seventeen candy canes. Let's start there."
Published on Sep 3, 2012
by Steven Popkes
The sails are not black but they should have been. The three of us don't know it. I stand aft. Sometimes talking with the Rafe, the tillerman. Sometimes not. Mostly we watch her wait in the bony bow, drawing the light out of the air to shine around her. Looking towards France. Looking towards Tristan, of course. I was, too, for I could not have loved him any more than if he were my own son.
Published on Dec 24, 2010
by Jonathan Vos Post
Once upon a time there was a princess, beautiful as moonlight, but sighing as she meandered along the forest path one warm early summer in an intentionally unspecified year. "Oh me, oh my, how lonely and sad and pitiful it is to be a princess who does not want to marry the vapid prince that would benefit my father, the King's, geopolitical agenda. How I wish that there were some quick fix to this unsolvable problem." A voice rose from a small pond, rimmed by bulrushes.
Published on Oct 7, 2013
by Rebekah Postupak
I knew, because she used to talk to me sometimes, how hard her life was. She wasn't making it up: I saw how thin she got after her dad remarried then died, and there was no hiding the bruises. It's totally true, like in the stories people told later, how she spent long winter nights curled up at the gaping mouth of a crumbling hearth. It's the kind of thing we all did to survive, even if our soot-covered bruises didn't make the headlines like hers did. When the first crowd of reporters showed up, they pressed us for details. Did we know she was special right off? Did we guess anything of her coming rise to greatness?
Published on Nov 4, 2019
by Stephen S. Power
The mirror's seen a lot of bullshit in its time, but this beats all. The princess Mewlin and some nameless bard stumble into her room, kick the door closed and fall on her bed. In minutes they're naked. He starts to roll on top of her, but she stops him with her hand.
Published on Oct 9, 2014
by Cat Rambo
The mouse sang to the moon. He sang, "Great Wheel of Cheese in the sky, eaten by the Mysterious and restored each month to hover again, grant me a favor. Grant me a bride."
Published on Sep 22, 2014
by Jenny Rae Rappaport
You know the story. Everybody knows the story. The spinning wheel, the hundred years of sleep, and the eventual awakening by true love's kiss. Except he definitely wasn't my true love, and it wasn't actually a kiss--I still wake screaming at night when I dream about his body on mine. Most people don't remember the children. Aurore has my golden curls, while Jour shares his father's raven-colored hair. Their skin is the palest green, like the undersides of new spring leaves; it is only to be expected, given the fact that their father is half-ogre himself. Their teeth, thank God, are normal.
Published on Nov 19, 2019
by Melanie Rees
Hunched on the waiting-room floor, a gargoyle clasped a chair leg with razor sharp talons. Its ridged spine protruded through its leathery skin. I glanced at Ms. Shipley at the reception desk.
Published on Jul 11, 2012
by Jeff Reynolds
I sit with my back to a rusted car, trying to contain my shakes. Rabbit pulls a cigar from his faded overcoat and lights it. It stinks like burning socks, but stinks are Rabbit's pleasure. He likes things that smell of mold, or long forgotten sex, or dirty feet, or diapers. "They are bountiful in fragrance," Rabbit says when Eddy complains. "They are a remembrance of things that are gone." He blows smoke and laughs, his buck teeth showing below his wrinkled black nose. He watches the smoke drift, his pink eyes catching the light of the fire.
Published on Nov 1, 2019
by Sean R Robinson
Robert did not expect the sea-witch to live in a house, not one with a blue door and small hedges that lined the walkway. He thought that the seagulls overhead probably worked for her, watched for her. He knocked on the door, though the arthritis made his hands hurt every day. Three knocks and the door opened.
Published on Jul 21, 2014
by Rachel Rodman
It was a chaste courtship. Her lust was constrained by her conservative upbringing; his, by his lack of a central nervous system. Often, they simply talked. She chatted extensively about her life in the old world, before the tornado. She had loved, she said, her school and her church, and the little farm, with the painted weathervane, and the baby chicks, haloed in adorable fluff.
Published on May 30, 2016
by Lynda E Rucker
The man is tapping out a tune with one foot, a tune that is a mystery to everyone but him. The tune goes something like this: tap tap tap pause tap tap tap pause tap tap tap tap pause tap tap tap tap pause. It's worse than having a pop song stuck on repeat inside your head because instead of trying to shed it you keep trying to capture it, and the only man who knows the secret is still tap-tap-tapping but he isn't going to reveal a thing. He's not; and you know it by looking at him. You know it first by looking at his shoes, which are brown leather, scuffed and laced up wrong with floppy worn tongues. Above the shoes, a flash of thin ankles: he's lost his socks. You feel sure "lost" is the right word, not "forgotten" or "not worn." He had socks at one time and now, for whatever reason, they are gone. Above the thin ankles, frayed denim hems. The jeans (Granny still calls them dungarees; you do not know why this piece of information rises unbidden in your thoughts) don't fit the bare ankles and the battered shoes. You think: normal. That's it; the jeans are the attire of a normal person. The shoes are things a crazy person would wear, shuffling through the city on their broken-down backs, talking to people who aren't there.
Published on Oct 31, 2012
by J. C. Runolfson
The wolf meets a woman in the wood. The woman is red, from her hair to her lips to her dress to her long, sharp nails. Only her skin is pale and her eyes are dark, dark, dark. She lounges on the edge of a blanket, and spread out before her is a feast of the sort one doesn't bring to Grandmother: hunks of raw, bloody meat, long bones hacked up so that the marrow glistens inside, sweet, steaming organs and viscera. Slavering, the wolf somehow manages to say, "Hello, Red."
Published on Feb 25, 2016
by A. Merc Rustad
Life/Death #7 The woman I'm given to is finished with her boyfriend, so she throws me and the other roses into the garbage disposal.
Published on May 27, 2016
by Melody Marie Sage
I remember we celebrated with the dark chocolate torte at L’oiseau D’or. Its glossy black ganache was splashed with a comet trail of 24 carat gold stars. The gilt leaf dissolved tasteless on my tongue. The idea of it was titillation enough. Ian talked about the project, and I pretended to listen to him, enjoying the sound of his voice, the exuberant parabolas he made with his hands. I was an artist. Chemistry, nanotechnology, bionics, and their various intersects, did not interest me. Colors did: the yellow candle flame flickering on his irises, the flush at the base of his throat, the creamy ivory tablecloth beneath my fingers. I smiled into my champagne. No, that is not entirely true. I loved learning about science in school, but Ian was on another level. He virtually spoke his own language. Only a select few of his colleagues could parse the intricacies of his logic. Now, I wish I had listened more closely.
Published on Jul 17, 2015
by Jayson Sanders
You arrive at dusk as you always do, during that fragile moment when a thin, orange ribbon struggles to restrain the onrushing blackness. For one sweet, pregnant moment you pause, and we are like a child, in a world all his own, watched by a loving mother he does not see.
Published on Jul 10, 2013
by Memory Scarlett
Estelle refused to let Richard linger in her presence as his father lay dying. "You should be with him," she said. "He needs his family close by." Richard scraped a hand across day-old stubble. "Let us pray he disowns me with his last breath."
Published on Jul 10, 2014
by Ziggy Schutz
Alina was always told she would really be something when she grew up. A looker, say the adults, tugging at her hair like they can help it grow. Alina sits and stares at the mirror in the hallway, the full length one that reaches up into the sky, stares and stares because if she is going to be a looker she better have the eyes to match. Every day she stares, until her eyes start to bulge from their sockets, and she notices she can see things in the dark corners of rooms no one else can.
Published on Mar 12, 2018
by Rene Sears
You watch the mermaids swim. Sometimes you think of joining them. They're like parrotfish, bright and pretty. If you joined them, they would scatter like a school of fish when a predator comes along. So you do nothing but watch from the shadows. From there sometimes you see ships, and shipwrecks, and sailors. They, you are less tempted to join. They only come to you when they want something. Mermaids looking for feet, sailors looking for a knotted rope to capture wind, it's all the same. They fear what you are as much as long for what you can do. If they see you outside of your lair, when they haven't come to you, they flee, or stuff their ears with wax. You are not meant to approach, only be approached.
Published on Jun 17, 2014
by Will Shadbolt
Demons slaughtered the first chosen one. The monsters appeared one autumn day, when the leaves turned red. Soon forests, fields, hamlets, nations fell under the might of their horde.
Published on Jul 1, 2020
by Leife Shallcross
Hair? Imbeciles. It is not hair. No more than there was ever a girl child taken in exchange for some life-giving herb that revived the gravid mother from the point of death. That tale is the hook. It reaches the ear of some youth who fancies himself a hero, and he is caught.
Published on Mar 9, 2017
by Chelsea Shewan
"Apple?" the old woman asked. She stood alone in the market, near a darkened alley. No stall. Just her and a basket of apples. She held out the basket as Lisa walked by.
Published on Jun 10, 2020
by Amy Smift
The Beast doesn't ask for one of his daughters, merely tells him he will never leave. The merchant is numb as he is shown his bedchamber, the dining room, the library. Finally the Beast stops at a carved wooden chest, dark near to black, and withdraws two mirrors. He hands one to the merchant. It is silver, finely made, but not extraordinary. The merchant is surprised to see that he does not already look older, more haggard.
Published on Apr 14, 2016
by Addison Smith
As soon as Bane walked through the door, he knew he was home. The shop was dim, lit only by a chink of light through the dusty shopfront window. Tiny motes disturbed the air, filling his sinuses and falling from the ceiling under the skitter of mice. The atmosphere was one of age and regret, cheerful pastels worn with time and abandonment. Bane smiled, and limped his way to the counter. On his way he passed wonders of another age. Golden staffs and glittering wands, thin wheels of regal carriages, and blown-glass bottles of potions in every color. They brought him back to a simpler time. The woman behind the counter, however, was less than magical.
Published on Jun 5, 2017
by Jessica Snell
No one knew about them, the counterfeit princes. In this day and age, no one would suspect. Who could have hoped to get away with it when every tabloid had them on the cover at least once a month? Their fans had memorized their faces, their gaits, the way they held their shoulders, the way the younger prince's mouth quirked up to the left side whenever he flirted with a commoner's cute baby. But there they were. Raised alongside the true heirs, raised with every benefit of education, every nuance of culture, every privilege of class.
Published on Jan 25, 2016
by Robert E. Stutts
***Editor's Note: Adult fairytale. Adult themes.*** Even in high summer, paths through these woods are difficult to find, let alone follow, overrun as they are with brambles and briars and bracken. But in summer there is the sun above you to warm your head, and the green of trees to cheer your heart.
Published on Feb 4, 2013
by Henry Szabranski
Published on Jan 22, 2013
by Henry Szabranski
Published on Jan 24, 2013
by Henry Szabranski
Published on Jan 23, 2013
by Charity Tahmaseb
Everyone warned her, of course. Never go near the wolves. They would trick you, seduce you--this last always spoken in a hush. As if seduction were a bad thing. Red knew otherwise.
Published on Mar 30, 2020
by Elizabeth Twist
Helene takes two vows on her wedding day, equally rotten. The first is private. Midnight crossroads. Chanted words. The scent of brimstone. Cherry red skin and horns in a gentleman's suit. Negotiation. A cold kiss to seal agreement.
Published on Mar 23, 2017
by James Valvis
I never wanted a new heart. I could get along fine without one. But then Scarecrow wanted brains so much, and everyone felt so sad I didn't have a cardiac muscle, I went along with the song. When Lion wanted courage that sealed the whole thing in a bow. Everyone in this group had to want something that had been lost, brains, courage, home. How could I tell them I felt fine, never better, now that all my limbs were oiled again? That had been the real problem: rust caused not by tears but unlucky rain. I can't tell you how relieved I felt when Oz's fake Wizard handed me that fake heart, complete with stopwatch. Even still, I thought, what a big phony! I was all set to lay down that tinker toy and smash it to pieces with my ax, when I saw Dorothy and the others, how thrilled they were for me and how excited for themselves: Dorothy, so young and naïve, Scarecrow as stupid as ever, and Lion too afraid to speak up. I could have told them it was a scam and ruined everyone's party, but I just didn't have the heart.
Published on Oct 6, 2016
by Eliza Victoria
***Be Advised. Mature Language in the story that follows*** There was a girl in a white dress crying inside the MRT station. She was sitting all by herself on a bench on the platform, farthest from the entrance but closest to the doors of the first car of the train. She was all alone because the train had just left, taking the rest of the commuters with it. Dante, on his way to work, had missed the train. He would have missed seeing the girl's wings, too, if he weren't standing at the right angle.
Published on Jun 8, 2012
by S W Whitehouse
The dragon had arrived unexpectedly. None had suspected until two rather dilapidated abandoned cottages went up in flames. Even then no one would have immediately thought "Dragon" if the neatly written note had not arrived at the small brick built town hall later that afternoon. The Aldermen were called and much was made of the script and the delicateness of the writing. How fine it was; and certainly well written. Much was also made of the contents. The dragon asked for one young virgin and a leather bag filled to overflowing with gold coin. He--the Aldermen naturally assumed the dragon was male--asked for the girl and the gold to be left outside the large village in four nights time. In regretful tones it announced that it would reign fire down upon the cottages of the fine folk if its request was not met. The Aldermen debated and considered. They talked and wondered. They discussed and pondered; and in the end decided to do nothing. In the days that followed the Aldermen kept to themselves not even seeing Pietro who had come to complain about the loss of his prize pig.
Published on Jun 24, 2020
by A.C. Wise
There is a boy outside her daughter's window. She wakes with this certainty, and hurries through the darkened house to her daughter's room. In the doorway, her pulse skips--recognition and panic in one missed beat.
Published on Jun 9, 2017
by Daniel Wright
We were perfect, once. Do you know what happens to gold when it tarnishes? You polish it.
Published on Jan 9, 2020
by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley
Gunthar sat in stoic silence, a woolen blanket folded over his lap, facing the fireplace. Ada set her basket of fabric and lace onto the frayed rug and eased herself into the chair next to his, pulling it closer to the fire. He kept his eyes on the flickering flames. "So, it's over?"
Published on Nov 7, 2012
by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley
My name is not Elisabeth. My eyes are not full of tears. My life has not just changed forever. My best friend is not dead.
Published on Sep 2, 2013
by Lynden Xu
It is quiet. It is a sort of quiet that chokes your ears, the quiet that drowns out the whispering of the wind as it makes the leaves dance along the streets.
Published on Feb 22, 2019
by JY Yang
Anja returns with the groceries to find her dead husband sitting by the white fence he'd built, pale hands uprooting grass blades and dispersing the shards into the wind through bony fingers. She doesn't know what he was wearing when he died, but the long thin figure by the gate is clad in the matching grey windbreaker and track pants she'd given away weeks ago. When he embraces her, winding spindly arms around her like a vise, his hands are cold and his hair smells of salt. "The boat came in early," he says. "Are you surprised?"
Published on Jan 23, 2015
by Christie Yant
He is telling the wrong story. He wants to explain it in terms of magic and wishes and fairy tales, but the right language for this situation is the language of gravity and magnetism, of galaxies and gas giants. It is a mechanical, technical problem--a problem of mathematics and science. The problem is that I want him to go back where he came from, and he won't.
Published on Apr 3, 2012
by Karlo Yeager Rodriguez
I couldn't help glancing at the hourglass when Mr. and Mrs. Bumpkin shuffled into my office. A few moments more and I would have closed up and been at the tavern down the street. The wisp that had led them in flared and winked out with the sound of tinkling bells. I took a deep breath. Best to get right down to it, then. The girls might mock me for being late to our after-work get-togethers, but as a fairy godmother at Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather Adoption Services, my work was serious business.
Published on Oct 4, 2016
by Anna Yeatts
I didn't miss the little house in the woods until it was gone--its stools carved to fit my stunted legs and its eaves lowered for my unnatural arms to fetch the dried apples down on a winter's night. Our king has lost his queen. He has ordered his forests cleared. His grief has become my own.
Published on Apr 8, 2015
by Kathryn Yelinek
Three teenage girls crowded round the terrarium on the desk in Annabel's room. It sat amid an avalanche of fingernail polish bottles and schoolbooks. In one back corner of the terrarium, a frog cowered. "Kiss it!" Lacey said to Annabel, fanning her freshly pink nails.
Published on Dec 15, 2011
by Caroline M. Yoachim
The pond where I grew up was swampy and buzzing with insects. I slept in a bed of stargrass, and Mother whispered lullabies in the gentle current. Mother grew up in the ocean, and she hated our pond. Too many memories of Father lingered beneath the surface, long after drought had stolen him away. "Why don't we go back to the ocean?" I asked.
Published on May 25, 2015
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