Copyright 2015 Shelley B Chappell
Tommy was waiting for me in the usual place when I arrived at school that Friday morning. Mercy Whitlow was with me. As my father drove away, I wandered over to where my best friend lay on the dew-wet grass under the oak tree. He smiled and sat up when he saw me, brushing his hair out of his eyes.
“I had a dream,” he told me. “So now I know what we should do tonight, for All Hallows.”
A dream of All Hallows? Mercy’s voice was sharp. Beware, Katherine.
“Well, what do we need to do?” I asked lightly, sitting back on my heels.
“We need to get closer to the sky.”
My mind ticked over. “So you mean, like, we should get up onto the roof of the city’s tallest building?”
But Tommy was shaking his head. He stood, dusting off his jeans. “I mean we need to get up there.”
I followed his gaze to the mountains, held my breath, then let it out in an abrupt rush, nodding. “Okay,” I said easily, mentally wandering down monetary routes and parental bypasses. All Hallows — Halloween, most people called it — wasn’t a holiday I particularly enjoyed, as Tommy well knew, but if he’d figured out a pleasant alternative, I was all for it. It would sure beat the usual family gathering.
Tommy caught my hand as we walked through the school gates and I noted a few of the usual sideways looks. Public opinion had been previously divided on whether Tommy was gay, but now most people were under the misapprehension that I was his girlfriend. We let that ride, Tommy because he found it amusing and me because it annoyed my parents.
They didn’t approve of Tommy because he didn’t fit into one of the categories they had devised to classify people; each time they thought they had him pinned, he wiggled out from beneath their fingers like a lizard shedding its tail or a butterfly escaping yet another chrysalis. Like, last night, for instance, when Tommy was at our house for dinner, Mom prepared tofu because the last time Tommy was over he hadn’t eaten the meatballs she’d cooked because he was reading Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation and it was blowing his mind. She was pretty surprised to hear he’d come to the conclusion that he liked his steak and bacon too much to go without meat completely; he said he just wanted the animals treated more humanely before they were killed. Then he ate Mom’s tofu stir-fry with evidence of great enjoyment, even cleaning up Mom and Dad’s leftovers. Mom’s expression was priceless.
A chill prickled through me as Mercy’s fingers grazed my arm. I studied her for a split-second, drifting along beside me, but her severe features were harsh on the eyes so I turned back to Tommy, whose shaggily-framed bone structure was anything but.
“Who have you got today?” he asked, looking at me out of the corner of his eyes. “Is it one of the Romans again?”
I had been accompanied by a surprising succession of men and women in transforming toga styles over the past week, as though I was being made privy to an ancient fashion parade.
“No. They seem to have passed on. Today it’s one of my Puritans.”
“Wish I could see ‘em,” Tommy said.
“Wish I couldn’t.”
“I had Grandpa yesterday afternoon,” I added morosely. “That was weird. It’s easier when I’ve never met them before — I mean, before they died.”
“What did he have to say?” Tommy asked, interested as always.
“Not much. He stared a bit at what my parents have done with the garden then told me I was doing a good job with my homework and to keep up the hard work. He didn’t stay long.”
“You didn’t ask him … what it was like, being dead?”
“And he didn’t … volunteer any insights into why he’s keeping you company?”
I sighed. “No. I’m just cursed, Tommy. You know that.”
Tommy shook our joined hands. “No pessimism today, please. I’ve got to build up the good vibes for tonight.”
We reached the picnic tables in the courtyard at the side of the music building where Topher, Annie and Slade were sitting. Tommy slid into a seat and I followed, carefully tucking my dress under my legs and tossing my backpack to the ground behind me. Topher smiled hello at Tommy, flicking a glance at me, but he was in the middle of listening to an apparently complicated spiel from Slade, with interjections by Annie, so we kept quiet.
After a moment, I whispered to Tommy, “Shall we tell them now, then?”
He whispered back, with genuine horror, “We can’t just tell them. We have to sell it to them.”
“I’ll let you do that, then,” I grinned. While Tommy drifted into thought about his sales pitch, I let my eyes wander over Slade and Annie. And Topher.
Slade and Annie were fifteen, a year older than Tommy and me, but they were friends of Topher’s, even though Topher was in our year. They were in a band together. Slade was the drummer, Annie the singer, and Topher played the guitar — and sang sometimes. I liked his voice. I knew that his full name was Christopher Sebastian Cunningham and that he tolerated getting called Christopher but if you tried for Chris he was liable to slaughter you with a look. Most people knew to call him Topher, but only one of the teachers here would do that: Mrs Tinwald, the music teacher. She was pretty cool. Annie was your typical Goth-grunge girl, with her long black skirts and black nails and heavy make-up. We got on all right, but she spent most of her time with Slade, since they were an item. Slade tended to act like I wasn’t there half the time; he talked around me, not to me. It’s surprising how functional a group relationship can be in such circumstances.
Especially since Topher never had much to say to me, either. I figured that was probably because I stole Tommy away from him. Tommy and Topher used to be as tight as — I want to say a nut and a bolt, but given Tommy’s proclivities that might give you the wrong idea. Tommy says Topher’s straight and although they were best mates, after I arrived at their school late last year Tommy and I just gravitated together like two drops of water in a rainstorm. Tommy says it’s easier to be friends with someone who plays for the same side as you. I got that, but I kind of wished that Topher would hang less with his bandmates and more with the two of us. Because I was a little curious about Topher. Well, a lot curious.
“I can’t,” Annie said when Tommy presented his idea. “I’ve got to take my brother trick-or-treating. You’ll come with me, won’t you, Slade?”
Slade screwed up his face expressively but nodded. So that left Topher. Tommy and I turned our eyes to him and he shrugged one shoulder.
“I’ve not got anything else planned. Why up the gondola though?”
“I’ll explain when we get there,” Tommy said.
Who is this boy who dreams of All Hallows’ Eve? Mercy was making a nuisance of herself, pacing back and forth behind Tommy. Can his dreams be trusted?
I ignored her — with effort — and was relieved when she faded out on the walk to class and one of my quiet Germanic ancestors who did not speak English came and sat in the corner of my Maths room and watched with apparent interest as the teacher wrote problems for us on the whiteboard.
Tommy said he’d meet us at the top of the gondola at five o’clock. Dad picked me up as usual that afternoon and I went home, got changed, then told Mom I was going out with Tommy and would be home by midnight. She said no. She knew what happened to me on All Hallows’ Eve.
“I’ll be all right, Mom,” I stressed. “I’ve got it under control now.”
Tell her that lovely young man will be watching out for you, my French great-grandmother, Marie, interjected in her heavily accented English.
I disregarded that advice but said, “You know Tommy knows. It’s not like I’m going to give the game away.”
“Not like last Halloween?” Mom asked stiffly.
It was true that my pleas to let me be an ‘ordinary kid’ by attending a Halloween party last October had not gone particularly well. Parties are crowded places. Costume parties are freaky. Costume parties with thousands of ghosts in attendance are particularly crowded and freaky. The problem was, as the evening went on it had become harder for me to tell who was a living person in costume and who was one of my ghosts. I got caught a couple of times talking to people who weren’t actually there, and by the time I got to school the next day everyone was saying I was crazy. I covered it up by pretending I’d been drinking, but that didn’t exactly help, and Mom insisted that I change schools before anybody dug up the information that I’d been treated for psychosis as a pre-schooler.
“This All Hallows will be different,” I told Mom. “We won’t be around anyone else. Please, Mom? This is my life. And I’m gonna have to live with my curse forever. I’ve learned from last year’s mistake. Can’t you trust me?”
I felt guilty as I boarded the bus, because I knew I’d given my mom the impression that I would be spending the evening at Tommy’s house, watching DVDs or something. I stared out the window, troubled by my conscience, watching several shadowy figures trail in the air alongside me, as though the bus sported streamers. It was only late afternoon, but already it was starting. I walked past Topher as I went to get off and realised that we’d inadvertently boarded the same bus, without me realising at least.
“Hi,” I said awkwardly.
“Hey,” Topher said, standing up. “Didn’t see you get on,” he said gratifyingly.
“You either,” I mumbled.
There was hardly anybody around so we ended up sitting together in an empty gondola. I found myself tongue-tied at being alone with Topher for the first time, and he was his usual laconic self. We sat and stared out the windows.
“What’s Tommy up to?” Topher demanded finally, eyes narrowing on me. His arms were crossed and his knees pointed aggressively outwards.
Now, when I said ‘alone’ I meant it relatively, of course. In fact, when I factored in my relatives, the gondola was kind of packed. Alrek Refrson sat on the seat beside Topher. His legs were spread much the same way, but he was twice as large and happened to also be clutching his great-axe. Which would have been fine — if he hadn’t been staring at Topher suspiciously and wringing his beard in his thick fingers as though he imagined it was the younger man’s neck.
“I wouldn’t have a clue,” I said truthfully, trying to keep my mind on the conversation.
“I don’t buy it,” Topher said. “You two are usually joined at the hip, like Siamese twins or something.”
“Conjoined twins,” I corrected absently, staring determinedly away from my Viking forefather.
“Oh… Conjoined twins,” I clarified reluctantly. “That’s the preferred medical name for it. It’s just that a really famous pair of conjoined twins, Chang and Eng, were born in Siam. You know — that’s the old name for Thailand.”
The gondola was quiet. I snuck another look at Topher, who was staring at me now with a glimmer of disbelief — and … was that perhaps humour? I dropped my eyes to my feet then said to him abruptly, “We do think alike. That’s why it’s so odd that you don’t like me.” My face heated as I spoke. “Since you like Tommy, I mean.”
“What makes you think I don’t like you?”
I gaped at him.
“What? I never told you to shove off, did I?”
“Well … but I was with Tommy.”
“So? If I didn’t like you hanging around I’d still have told you to get lost.”
A silence fell in the gondola again as Topher went back to staring out the window.
I was stumped. “Even if it meant Tommy…?”
“Got lost too?” He shrugged. “Yeah.”
I sat for a moment gazing at his indifferent profile, wondering what it cost him to appear so tough. Wondering why he was like that. I wondered if Alrek Refrson would know. The two didn’t look so different, sitting there, scowling.
I couldn’t think of anything to say.
Tell him you’re looking forward to seeing the stars with him, Marie urged. She sat beside me and no doubt would have elbowed me if she could.
Instead, I commented, inanely, “It looks like it’ll be too cloudy to have much of a view when we get to the top.”
Topher laughed. It made his whole face change, like when the sun slants across a shadowed wall. “So we’re talking about the weather, now? Katie, you’re pretty priceless.”
I blushed. Topher didn’t seem to care; he just grinned at me and eventually, hesitantly, I smiled back. Marie chuckled; Alrek glowered. The other ghosts in the gondola with us were oblivious, preoccupied with peering out the windows.
Tommy was waiting for us when we got off.
“So why are we here?” Topher demanded as we all went through the gift shop, then out onto the public walkways.
Tommy glanced hesitantly at me. “We’re here to cure Katie of her curse.”
My head snapped towards Tommy while Topher’s jerked towards me. Tommy settled for looking anxiously back and forth between us.
“Tommy.” I stared, disbelieving. He knew how precious my secret was. He knew.
Tommy squeezed my shoulder. “It’s okay, Katie. You can trust Topher. He’s kept all my secrets forever. I’ve been thinking we should have let him in on this ages ago.”
Mmm, a man who makes the decisions for you, Marie remarked. This is a hazard, yes?
“You could have discussed it with me.”
Tommy winced at the tightness of my voice. “Katie, I—”
Topher let out a hiss. “Look, you can kiss and make up later. Just tell me what the hell is going on! What are we talking about? What secret? What curse?”
I folded my arms across my chest and swallowed hard. If only he could see through my eyes, he’d be in no doubt: the shadows were gathering around us, taking on form and definition: men with shaggy beards, covered in furs replete with claws and muzzles; long-haired women in chitons and tunics; old, middle-aged, young; the fresh and the worn. I’d done my research over the years so I recognised Etruscans, Franks, Medes — and the unclassifiable prehistorics.
Tommy touched my arm. “Can I tell him, Katie?”
He was leaving me an opening. I could still step back from this, frighten Topher off from any more questions by claiming Tommy was speaking of the ‘woman’s curse’ —menstruation. In my experience, that made men back off like they were stung by a bee. But I glanced under my lashes at Topher and shrugged.
Relieved, Tommy explained, “Ever since she was born, Katie has been able to see her dead ancestors.”
Topher’s brown eyes settled intently on me. “You mean like ghosts?”
I nodded. When I saw the flicker of doubt in his eyes, I snapped, “I’m not mad. My parents thought I was when I was little and sent me to a shrink. They put me on medication and everything. It didn’t help. I just felt sick all the time. But as part of my therapy I had to write down everything that I ‘thought’ I saw and heard from my supposed ‘hallucinations’. Mum and Dad read it before my shrink sessions each week. Eventually, something I wrote sparked a memory and Dad checked all the details: he worked out that the people I was talking about — talking to — were real. Once. And they were ours. So then my problem became — well, let’s just say our family skeletons were more mobile than most. Mom and Dad coached me in what to say so that the shrinks would leave me alone — would think I just had an overactive imagination, like a kid with imaginary friends.”
And they’d tried not to treat me like a freak since then, but they hadn’t been easy to live with for the past ten years. They’d been scared that if I ever told anyone or somebody somehow guessed, I’d be put in an institution. I’d been encouraged not to develop any friendships. And then there were all the interrogation sessions: ‘Ask them what they want,’ Mom would say. ‘Why are they here? Why are they visiting you? Do they need help crossing over? Have they left something undone? Do they need resolution before they can go?’ She was like a walking advertisement for reruns of the Ghost Whisperer. But she also wondered, ‘Did any of them experience this, too? Is this a family curse? Ask them, Katie. We have to know.’
She didn’t understand at first that they don’t talk to me like that. For starters, there's only a small percentage of my total ancestor ratio who can speak to me in English. About 95% of my ghostly relatives speak some other language — if they use language at all. And those that do speak English aren't present in the way you and I are. I mean, when I talk with you it’s like I can start with Topic A and finish it, then move on to Topic B, but when I talk to them, often it’s like holding a conversation from another room. Like shouting across a river. Or, to be frank, like talking with a crazy person. For them to answer a simple, direct question, like: ‘Do you know you’re dead?’ and ‘Why are you haunting me’? Puh-lease.
Topher twitched at my tirade but he nodded at what I’d said, holding my eyes. “Well, Tommy obviously believes you.”
“Yeah, of course.” Tommy’s easy faith and earnest voice were enough — almost — for me to forgive him. Until he reminded me of the other part of his bombshell — the proposed ‘curing’. “I thought about it a lot. Then I had an idea a few months ago. Katie, you told me that the ghosts come and go one at a time, right, except for All Hallows’ Eve, when all of them gather at once, then it gets pretty crowded?”
That was one way of putting it. Over the years I’d learned that if I closed my eyes, I could get through All Hallows’ evening pretty well. It just felt like sitting in an assembly hall at a crowded family reunion. If I put on my headphones, I could even distract myself from the rumble of voices. That said, in retrospect, last year’s decision to go to that Halloween party was pretty stupid. But I’d been grateful for the unexpected invitation. And I’d thought coming to the gondola tonight would be different. Because Tommy knew. And we would be out in the open. I’d figured I could extemporise if things got rough, but I hadn’t planned on confronting the whole issue in front of Topher.
“What have you been thinking, Tommy?” I asked tiredly. “Whatever it is, I’ve probably tried it before.”
When Mom and Dad pulled me out of the psych treatments, they experimented with everything else to fix me instead — prayers, shrines, incense, shouting at the ghosts they couldn’t see. They even brought in priests and exorcists. My ghosts had just looked at them like they were the crazy ones.
“Well, I was thinking that you see all your ghosts at once at All Hallows because that’s the between time — when the walls dividing the world of the living and the world of the dead are supposed to dissolve, right? So I did some research on Samhain, which Halloween grew out of, and it said that the ancient Celts used to be wary of in between places as well, where those walls might be thinner. Then I dreamed of being up here and I thought, yeah, up here we’re in between the earth and the sky. And it’ll be twilight soon, too, which is another sort of in between. And with all of those things together, maybe…”
“Well, maybe you can at least talk to them more clearly than ever before and find out something that might help.”
“That’s it?” Topher said. “That’s your plan?”
I considered Tommy. Then I threw my arms around him. He made it sound almost plausible.
“I knew Slade and Annie wouldn’t come,” he apologised. “And that Topher would help.”
Topher cleared his throat, noisily. “So what do we do, then?”
Tommy led us to a part of the park well out of sight of the gondola’s gift shop. “Well, I brought all this stuff in case we might need it.” He looked sheepish as he dug into his backpack and removed matches, candles, a mirror and small buns and cakes. “People used to give their dead ancestors food at Samhain. And they’d build fires to show them the way to the light. If we lit a fire up here we’d probably get arrested, but I thought we might get away with the candles. At least they’ll help us to see, if nothing else.”
“Why you?” Topher asked bluntly as we crouched to contemplate Tommy’s items.
“Eh?” I looked away from the mirror, craning my head back to find him standing behind me.
“Why do you think you, of all the people on Earth, get to see your ancestors? As ghosts?”
“I have a theory,” Tommy volunteered. He grinned. “It kind of makes you sound like a superhero.”
I laughed. “What is it?”
“Well, at first I thought maybe you were attracting more ghosts than anyone else, like you were some kind of barrier-breaker, like a walking, talking All Hallows’—”
“But then I figured maybe you just have extra senses. I mean, what if all of us always have all our ancestors around us, but the rest of us just can’t see them? It’s only you that’s somehow got eyes that can see into the place between where they come and check on us?”
“And the rest of the time they’re what, in Heaven? Or visiting other ancestors?”
“I dunno. Maybe a bit of both. Like, they’re in the afterlife but they can still come back and look around. And the best route down — or sideways, or whatever — is through their umbilical cords — their blood ties — to Earth.”
I didn’t say anything as I hunted for a match to light the candles. I had thought along similar lines before — because sure, I have a ton of ancestors but they must have heaps more descendants than just me. In fact, some of the ancestors I’ve met go back so far they must almost be related to everyone alive on Earth — so why hang around me? Sometimes I’ve wondered if maybe there’re lots of people who wander through life with all of their ancestors trailing behind them, but just nobody ever says it out loud. If they did, we could start up an Ancestor Awareness Group for Help. A sort of AAGH! I add the exclamation mark because it’s not easy, you know, having them there all the time. Watching over you. Watching you. You get used to it, but occasionally you feel a bit like a bug under a microscope. Not that most of my ancestors would have any idea what a microscope is, but it’s guaranteed that every one of my ancestors was a parent. I don’t just get one set to deal with: I have thousands.
So many, I still follow the psychiatrist’s recommended practice of keeping a journal, but I use it just to keep track of them. Because some of them look quite alike, you know. And although most of them have been able to tell me their name, when they can’t communicate anything else there’s not a lot to hang identity markers on. Except they do always wear the same clothes. Tommy says it’s probably the clothes they died or were buried in, but I’m not sure. All I know is, whenever I see them, they’re in the same outfit, like a great-uncle who always comes to family weddings and funerals in the tweed suit he’s kept in his closet for special occasions for fifty-odd years.
That’s how Tommy found out, incidentally. You might have been thinking I gave it away: that one of my g-g-g-grandmothers commented on his pretty face and I laughed or one of my g-g-g-grandfathers spooked me … but no. He stumbled across my sketches and notes on who’s who and when he started asking about them, I couldn’t lie. I didn’t want to. Tommy was the only real friend I’d ever managed to make. I’d fought tooth and nail with my parents to see him. And it was a relief to tell someone other than them. Especially since he took it so well. He never showed anything but enthusiasm, looking about and wanting to know who was there, so he could ask questions. Not that he got any more answers than I ever did. Though he clearly went away and thought about it. And made plans.
Tommy asked, as I lit the candles, “How many ghosts are here right now, Katie?”
I’d been studiously ignoring a couple of naked hominids peering into the mirror I’d laid aside; now I turned to glance around me. “About two hundred, maybe,” I guessed. When Topher whistled, I confessed, “But there will be thousands.”
As the ghosts gathered, Tommy and Topher and I huddled around the fragile candle flames. I saw one of my Celtic great-fathers shaking his lime-dyed head. This was nothing like the bonfires of Samhains past.
“I reckon I can feel them,” Tommy said.
Topher sniffed and looked around. “It’s just your imagination.” But he visibly shivered.
I stared as my ancestors gathered. It was different up in the park, with space around me, different than any All Hallows before. I could see them all so much more clearly. Hear their voices. I cupped a candle in my palm and stood, looking for the familiar faces first — for some of my ancestors had visited much more often than others over the years and I knew them well. I went walking amongst them. Some of them hugged me, which felt like being swallowed by a shadow or enveloped by a cool breeze. There was Marie, kissing my cheeks: Je t’aime, ma cherie. A prehistoric sporting a bearskin gripped my free hand. If he hadn’t pulled faces and danced to make me laugh when I was a baby, I probably would have been terrified of him. God bless, Mercy Whitlow’s mother said. Take care of yourself, poppet, Gramps whispered to me. I trembled at the thought that this could mean goodbye.
My parents had been told that the best way to rid yourself of ghosts was to just tell them you don’t want them around. Confidently. Without any doubts. Maybe that was why my ghosts had never gone. Sure, I talked about them like they were a curse or whatever. But they were my family. I loved them. When I was little, they were my comforters. And after I told my parents about them, my parents weren’t. It was my ghosts who stayed with me through the wooziness of the meds, my ghosts who offered acceptance and kindness. Separation had threatened me then. Now it hurt. But I knew it was right.
Topher and Tommy followed me through the park as I interacted with people they couldn’t see. How far I wandered that night, I’ll never really know. They swore there was a time when I disappeared completely — as though I had walked into some place they could not follow. I heard them calling me when the sky was lightening. A Nubian woman with elaborately braided hair squeezed my fingers and a Hittite farmer kissed the top of my head. Then the two of them melted away. I scrambled up a grassy slope towards my friends.
“There she is!” I heard Topher exclaim. They leaped from the path.
“Katie! God, are you all right?!” Tommy folded me in his arms and Topher settled for an awkward shoulder pat.
“This is the freakiest Halloween I ever spent,” Topher said.
I laughed. I cried.
Tommy was quiet. “What happened?” he asked. “Katie … Did it help?”
I brushed a hand across my eyes. It was going to be a challenge, there was no doubt about that. I was going to be lonelier than ever before. “They’re gone.” But I wouldn’t be completely alone. “My mom must be freaking out,” I muttered.
“I rang her,” Tommy said bracingly.
“Yeah, I distracted her by coming out to her. And then I said you were trying to calm my parents down and I really needed your support so could you stay the night?”
Topher snickered. “He was real convincing. Like his parents hadn’t known since he was nine.”
“So anyway, it’s all right.” Tommy set me back from him. “But are you all right?”
I swallowed. “I think so.”
Topher yawned. “You guys both owe me an explanation about all this shit. I want the low-down on whatever else I’ve missed over breakfast. Who’s for McDicks?”
My stomach growled. As the three of us started down the path towards the gondolas, which were already rolling up and down the wires, preparing for morning passengers, Tommy planned for the future. “Next year, let’s all three of us dress up and go around town.”
“Tout la kit,” I agreed, blinking hard as I smiled. “Let’s do the whole kit and caboodle.” Marie would have told me to say that.
His hair is as black as night, as sleek as silk, and as beautiful as the myriad stars shining on dark water.
Many girls dream of sharing the marriage cup with him but Rudaab has always been certain that he will one day marry his beloved childhood playmate, Azar. He doesn’t know that his father sold him to a witch for the price of a night at her oasis before he was born.
When the witch’s daughter arrives to collect her prize, Rudaab is imprisoned in her tower in the desert. Bound by the enchanted lengths of his hair, Rudaab longs for his beloved, Azar, but wishes her safely distant. For even Azar’s training as a caravan guard and the magic of the Magi might not be enough to free him from the witch with no name and her army of enslaved jinn.
Where Arabian Nights meets Rapunzel. A romantic novelette of 13, 800 words.
Sunny loves her father. He plays the cittern, sings songs and tells tales with the voice of an angel. But, just as he cannot hold his liquor, he never seems to learn when it might be best to hold his tongue. He leaves a trail of offended patrons behind them as he and Sunny traipse across the length of Europe and further east.
When he affronts the local daimyo on the island where the sun rises, there is no easy escape. To punish him, his hosts choose to take quite literally his boast that his daughter can spin tales so well she could spin straw into gold. Now it is up to the minstrel’s daughter to save herself. As a virtuoso in her own right, what strange creature might she call forth to assist her in the night?
A romantic novelette of 13,000 words.
Gorran is the village blacksmith. Every day at his forge he looks forward to greeting his sweetheart on her return from the castle, where she works as a maid. But the princess was cursed by a resentful fairy, and when she pricks her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and falls into a magical sleep, she is not alone. The castle and its lands are sealed off behind a wall of enchanted briar, and the villagers who work there are sealed off with it.
Gorran would do anything, give anything, to get his beloved Caterina back. He labours at his forge for creative ways to breach the briar and walks the length of the kingdom to hunt fairies in the wild wood. But time is an enemy Gorran cannot fight, a problem he cannot solve. As each day passes, he grows older, while beyond the briar his sweetheart is eternally young.
A romantic novelette of 14,000 words.
Beauty loves Miguel and Miguel loves Beauty. But Beauty is the cobbler’s daughter, the figurative princess of their tiny rural village, and Miguel is nobody. He slaves to cook and clean and keep the house for his stepfather and his stepbrothers. When the Prince comes by on a great tour of his kingdom and claims Beauty as his bride, Miguel is too humble to protest.
Beauty is swept away to the city, but the royal wedding is delayed so that she can be shaped into a proper princess, who is to be presented to the kingdom at three royal balls. The clock is ticking. Beauty will marry the Prince who is not so charming unless Miguel declares his love. He must find a way to get to the ball before it is too late.
A romantic novelette of 9,750 words.
Stars on Dark Water:
A Retelling of Rapunzel
In a tower in the desert, a young man is imprisoned by the lengths of his enchanted hair
A Retelling of Rumpelstiltskin
A travelling storyteller gains a peculiar ally when she is compelled to spin straw into gold
The Sleeping Maid:
A Retelling of Sleeping Beauty
A village blacksmith will do anything to reach his sweetheart, trapped behind a wall of cursed briar
The Old Boot:
A Retelling of Cinderella
The boy who keeps house for his stepfamily must get to the ball to win the heart of the cobbler’s daughter
If her life were a fairy tale, Shelley Chappell wouldn’t be your run-of-the-mill princess. Although she was born and raised at the ends of the earth in Canterbury, New Zealand, there were no towers or dragons in sight. Her hair did once fall to below her knees, but her childhood was blissfully untroubled by talking animals or witches wanting to toast and roast her.
When she set out into the world, there were no mysterious strangers to guide her on her way, so she kept ending up at universities, where she indulged her lifetime habit of hunting down fascinating books to read. She suspects this may seem less exciting than your typical fairy tale’s romp through the woods but humbly suggests it offers a happier ending for any deer, foxes or rabbits.
Shelley was disappointed that her PhD about werewolves and other shape-shifters brought no supernatural beings knocking on her door to offer their respects. Although she has worked hard over the years in a variety of roles, including as a university sessional lecturer and tutor, a high school English teacher, a librarian and a medical P.A., she considers her lifestyle to have been significantly better than Cinderella’s. Despite extensive searching, she hasn’t yet found her pot of gold or a fairy to grant her three wishes and is open to suggestions as to their whereabouts.
To find out more about Shelley and her writing, visit her website at .
Katie has a secret and only her parents and her best friend, Tommy, know the truth: she can see dead people. Not just any dead people — the ghosts she sees are her ancestors. Everywhere she goes one of them trails alongside her, except one night of the year, on All Hallows' Eve, when all of her ancestors descend to visit her at once. This heart-warming short story of family and friendship is a young adult fantasy of 5000 words.