Finding Friends Through Fiends 

A Wordle solution grid, made up of green, yellow and black squaresMonday’s demon…

The answer to Monday’s Wordle was DEMON, and I decided to take it as a sign.

After work I picked up a bucket of petroleum jelly, extra salt, and candles. I mixed the salt with the petroleum jelly because, you see, that way it sticks to the floor and makes the line much harder to break. Basic sigil health and safely.

The demon that arrived was terribly attractive. Long, glossy hair, perfect cheekbones and musculature to make Schwarzenegger weep for his lost youth.

He spent the whole time staring into the lenses of his mirrored sunglasses and talking about how hard it was to find stylish clothes that would accommodate a tail.

I managed less than half an hour.

Tuesday’s demon…

I tried again on Tuesday. For a moment, I thought it hadn’t worked, but then the demon popped into existence three feet above the ground and did a graceful somersault before executing a perfect superhero landing. She was more interesting than Monday, in fact, she was rather charming. Too charming, I thought, after she’d gushed for a full five minutes about how clever my summoning circle was and how much she liked my old Queen t-shirt. I remembered a podcast I’d listened to featuring a psychologist – she said she advocated throwing the baby out with the bathwater when it came to charming people.

I reckoned that probably went double for demons.

Wednesday’s demon…

All right, look, I’m a supportive person. I am. But also I am not Therapy for Demons™. Good grief. He had to go.

Thursday’s demon…

Thursday arrived in a reddish swirl and then sat cross-legged in the summoning circle, wearing jeans and wire-rimmed glasses. They seemed quite normal, actually. We chatted about the news for a while, and it was all rather pleasant. Well, as pleasant as chatting about the news can be, these days. We even shared a sandwich. Apparently, it’s next to impossible to get good cheese in Hell.

But then I realised they’d almost certainly had a hand in the current political situation, and just… no. I might be summoning demons in my basement, but I do have some standards.

Friday’s demon…

It had been a long week at work, and Friday was especially trying. No, Susan, I cannot do a three-hour job by ‘close of play’ if you send it to me at four-thirty. Especially when I know perfectly well you were only late handing it off because you were enjoying a long ‘lunch’ with Mark from Procurement.

Anyway. I almost abandoned the summoning session in favour of pizza and a few hours of Netflix, but I thought I’d better not break my streak. So when Friday’s demon arrived with a good bottle of Scotch, I have to admit, I was nearly won over on the spot. He was attractive, too, in a demonic sort of way. The horns peeking through the choppy haircut were rather cute. He had nice eyes, told silly jokes that made me laugh, and listened patiently to my complaints about Susan.

But I drank a bit too much Scotch and, after the long work day, well, I dozed off. And when I woke up, Friday was gone.

Saturday’s demon…

After the night before I was hopeful, really, but then Saturday turned up with a scorched smell and a laptop, from which they barely moved their gaze. I can get that in Starbucks, thanks.

Sunday’s demon… 

I think something went wrong. I did the usual routine, and by this point I was pretty practised, so I really don’t understand it. Perhaps the candles had burnt a bit too low? Maybe I fumbled over the middle bit of the chant? Who knows. Anyway, what arrived wasn’t a demon. I don’t think.

Although some do say they’re all from the same stock.

All those eyes. Sheesh.

Anyway, I’m allergic to feathers.

After the spots had cleared from my vision, I looked at the mess and considered clearing up, but… after all that I couldn’t face the rubbing alcohol fumes, so I left the petroleum jelly-salt sigil, trudged upstairs and went to bed.

I meant to turn the light out and sleep, I really did, but you know how it is. Twitter argument, update the online supermarket order, catch up with some podcasts, play a few games…

Before I knew it, it was twelve-o-one.

Time for a new Wordle.

And what do you know, the answer was FIFTH. I almost missed it, because come on, two Fs?

And, I realised, I’d almost missed something else, too. But never mind, my streak isn’t quite broken yet.

It’ll be Friday again in five days.


Author’s notes
I wrote this a few months ago, when the Wordle craze was at its height, and I thought I’d better put it up somewhere before everyone’s forgotten what Wordle even is… 

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© Kat Day 2022

8 Things I Learned From the Discworld

April 28th is Terry Pratchett Day – in honour of the late author’s birthday – and on the day itself I wrote a little thread on Twitter.

Now, of course, it’s May, and the lilacs are blooming. Remember the smell of lilac? You thought about those who died.

So, here’s that thread, reproduced for posterity…

~~~
For #TerryPratchettDay, here are some writer things, and life things, that I learned from Discworld books. There are 8. It was my favourite number before I ever found Discworld. 7? Yuck. It’s all… prime and sticky. 8 is all factorable and curvy. Octarine? I love it.

Let’s go…

~~~
Learn the bloody rules. AND THEN break them, if you must. Break rules deliberately, knowingly, because you want to. Not, if you can possibly avoid it, by accident. This applies to spelling, grammar, story structure and, most importantly, life in general.
1
~~~
There are few things more delightful to read than a sharp left turn. Why not write a beautiful, literary description of, oh, say, dragons, and then segue to sardines? And finish with a gently implied threat? It’s jolting, and it’s wonderful.
2
~~~
People are never one thing. No one is all bad or all good. Everyone is a complicated, messy mixture. Everyone is capable of causing pain, and of doing amazing good, and they might not always choose the course of action you’d like. But that’s people for you.

Dripping in Lies

Beads, lilac jewelry, green backgroundShe is dripping in lies.

There are so many that sometimes I wonder at the weight of them all. Lilac and turquoise beads decorate her wrists, amber at her throat, tiny diamonds pricking the corners of her eyes. Those last she has worn so long that I wonder if she, herself, even recognises them for what they truly are. Could she remove them? Have they become so deeply embedded in her skin that to do so would leave an angry scar?

They have different purposes. The bracelets whisper of competence and surety. Trust these hands, they say, they’ll hold you safe. There’s an emerald on one finger which murmurs, yes, yes, she can be trusted. Sometimes, when she raises her hand to her face, the green is reflected in her eyes.

Her footwear, she changes. There are some shoes that speak of elegance, and boots that shout of strength. Jewelled slippers that sigh with contentment, and simple, plain shoes that say, this story that I’m about to tell you? You’re going to love it.

Me? I have just one lie. My mother gave it to me before I left. We had not always seen eye to eye, but nevertheless, she wanted to protect her daughter. At least, I choose to believe that was her reason.

So this lie, she gave to me. Her eyes were too bright as it passed from her hand to mine. They might have been tears of relief.

It’s a flat, black disc which fits in the palm of my hand, long worn smooth from the touch of skin. I could have had it set into a necklace but… I prefer to hold it, and when I can’t hold it, I keep it in a pocket next to my body. I want to know where it is. I never want to forget it.

And I went to her, the one dripping in lies, and we’ve lived and worked and loved. Her lies are what she is and, in truth, I like what she is. She doesn’t know about my lie and… I decided long ago that it was for the best.

So I hold it, and I feel its rounded lines, and I hear its words.

I believe you.    


Author’s notes
Just an idea I’ve been playing with. By the way, did you catch my story at PseudoPod, Never Enough Pockets? I’ve also been narrating: why not listen to Food Man, by Lisa Tuttle?

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© Kat Day 2022

Thank you for your enquiry re: Management of the Adoption of Gifted and Ingenious Cats

Hello!

Thank you very much for your enquiry! We do have a number of cats available for adoption, and it is extremely important that we find good homes for them as soon as we possibly can.

Owning a cat can be very good for you. Some studies have even suggested that just watching cat videos is enough to boost your energy, but physically interacting with a cat is even better. MAGI furry friends tend to be particularly irresistible (but really, there’s no danger there – their magnetic personalities are for your own good, honestly).

With that in mind, I thought you might find this list – which we compiled a little while ago with the help of our customers and partners – useful as you consider your options.

1) There’s evidence that playing with a cat can lower blood pressure. In addition, cats, especially ours, are pretty low maintenance. Provide them with fresh food and water and they’ll largely take care of themselves. Don’t worry if you lose sight of them for a while – they have things to see and places to do. They’ll be back.

2) Playing with a cat releases soothing chemicals in the brain: they lower stress levels, and can actually reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease! And of course, there are other risks to the heart beyond disease. They can help there, too.

3) They help to build healthy habits. You have to get up to feed the cat, and, and the same time, you’ll be prompted to feed yourself. Just don’t be tempted to eat anything you find in the house that you don’t remember buying.

4) Cats improve sleep quality. A cat that sleeps in the bed with you provides a sense of comfort. Also, if they spot a hag creature sitting on your chest in the night, they will attack it and chase it off. Unless you have bad allergies: you’ll actually breathe more easily with a cat in your room.

5) Speaking of allergies, exposure to potential allergens when young has actually been shown to have a preventative effect. So don’t believe those stories about cats jumping into cots and suffocating babies. We suspect those were started by the fae – cats are excellent hunters and will chase and catch fairies (which, admittedly, doesn’t tend to end well for the fae). You many want to bear this in mind when it’s time for the tooth fairy to visit. Or not. We’ve never trusted that little hammer.

6) Generally, cats are fantastic predators and keep vermin, such as mice, rats and boggarts, under control.

7) Research has shown that cat owners tend to be trustworthy, modest and kind-hearted. This is because cats actively consume negative attributes. They lap up guilt, grandeur and selfishness. This can result in a bit of excess weight gain for the cat, which may cause your vet some consternation. But the good thing is, you won’t feel bad – you’ll trust that your vet knows what they’re doing, that they’re a lovely person and you’ll pay for the special feeding regime and feel perfectly happy about it.

8) Owning a cat can actually help with your relationship skills! It’s been demonstrated that people with pets find socialising less stressful. Plus, cats are really good at identifying vampires and other undesirables that look, well, human. Remember to take your cat to the door with you before issuing any invitations. Although, actually, if someone, or indeed something, like that comes to the door, you’ll usually find your cat is already there.

9) Cats save lives! Literally – in much the same way as humans save money. This is where the “nine lives” thing comes from, and explains why different myths state different numbers – some are more fastidious investors than others. Look after your cat, and they’ll look after you: cats have been known to negotiate with the Grim Reaper for an owner they’re particularly fond of.

I hope you’ve found this useful! As I said, it’s extremely important we find good homes as we possibly can. They start to reach critical mass if we have too many in once place for too long – we almost had a Portal Incident the other day. We have to do something; we cannot just allow creatures from the screaming, endless void to just wander in. So if you could take one, or even two, it would really help! If you’d like to arrange a visit, please give me a call!


Author’s notes
Some of this is true. Really.

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© Kat Day 2022

When the Dragon Visited the Knight

It had been a long and tiring week, so I ordered a Chinese takeaway.

The dragon brought it to my door. He didn’t look like a dragon, not today. But then, I found myself thinking, he often doesn’t. Not these days.

He wore jeans and a hoody, dark hair streaked silver at the temples, more creases in his skin than before. The amber eyes behind his round, wire-rimmed glasses were still clear, though. They’ve never changed.

He held up a white plastic bag that smelled deliciously of oil, salt and sweet tartness. ‘Hello, Sir William. May I come in?’ he asked, pointedly not looking at the suit of armour in the hallway.

‘Don’t you have other deliveries to make?’ I replied, archly.

‘I don’t. This isn’t a career change. Funny thing. I was passing and I found a delivery woman looking rather lost. She asked if I knew this place, because she simply couldn’t find it. And I said, why yes, let me take that for you. And here I am.’

‘I see. She just agreed to that, did she?’

The dragon grinned. ‘Well, you know, I’ve always been very persuasive.’

That grin has never changed either. Damn him. ‘Oh very well,’ I said eventually, stepping aside.

In the kitchen, I got out two plates. There was more than enough food for two.

The dragon speared a satay mushroom. ‘I helped a farmer burn a couple of fields the other day. It made me think of you.’

‘I’m so glad flame and smoke and destruction puts me in your thoughts,’ I said, picking up a dumpling.

He chewed thoughtfully. ‘It had to be done. Clearing away old, broken stubble and weeds to make space for new growth. You know.’

My eyes drifted to the door. From where we sat at the table, I could just see the slightly dusty suit of armour. And the sword. ‘Did everyone get out alive?’

‘I made sure it was safe.’

I looked at him then, to make sure myself. There was nothing in his face but gentleness. ‘I’m pleased to hear it.’

I scooped chicken fried rice onto my plate, and added sticky, red sweet and sour sauce. As inauthentic as it was possible to be, and as delicious. Sometimes you have to enjoy things for what they are.

The dragon ate a few bites himself and pretended not to watch me over the edge of his glasses. The smile at the corner of his mouth gave him away.

‘I appreciate…’ I started, and stumbled. Gave up. Started again. ‘I realise you knew I’d probably see the smoke. That…” I sighed. ‘Do you really care what I think?’

‘I do. Very much.’

‘Well, thank you.’ It was my turn for the corner of my mouth to twitch. And it did.

He looked away then. ‘I never, ever meant to hurt you,’ he said, quietly.

I swallowed, and in that moment, more than just food. I reached across and touched his hand, which was large, but very, very human.

His thumb stroked the back of my hand, pressing skin which was looser than it had been, once, but which still had all the same nerve endings.

Those eyes will be the death of me.

If I’m lucky.

‘I know.’ I said after a little while. ‘I know you didn’t. I mistook youthful over-enthusiasm and foolishness for malice. Because… I wanted to see enemies everywhere. It seemed easier that way, then. I’m sorry.’

‘I was foolish. I did do a lot of damage. You had every right to be angry.’

For a moment, the house felt very quiet, and the world seemed a great deal simpler.

‘Would you like to stay?’ I asked.

‘Really?’

‘I think I have some old treasure knocking about. You could probably scrape together a hoard to sleep on.’

The smile was back. ‘You know… as I get older, I’m starting to appreciate something a little softer.’

‘I might be able to manage that, if you’d prefer.’

‘If you’re sure, I think I would,’ he said, pushing the shiny fortune cookie packet towards me. There was only one. I pulled it apart.

We ended up leaving the takeaway things on the table because, after all, they could wait until tomorrow. In amongst the mess was a tiny slip of white paper, printed with purplish-blue words.

Someone you’ve been missing will knock at your door.


Author’s notes
Happy Valentine’s Day x

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© Kat Day 2022

The Wilde Jagd

Don’t look up.

Yes, the sky twists with cerise and silver. Yes, it is pretty, but eyes forward, child.

Can you not simply observe a warning?

Very well! Because, on winter evenings such as these, when the air is cold and the moon is new, that is when the Wilde Jagd rides. Perhaps, if you listen, you will hear the ice-shod hooves, the flutter of blood-black wings, the demonic howls. They come from where the sky is bright, drip their hellish colours across the clouds, and they follow her.

And if you look up, they may decide to follow you.


Author’s notes
A drabble for the end of January. There’s more about the Wilde Jagd here. I promise something longer next month, and, in the meantime, Happy Lunar New Year!

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© Kat Day 2022

The Terribly Pretty Glass Shoes

‘Come with me, come with me!’ said the prince after one of his footmen had helped Cinderella out of the carriage. The footman was tall and gangly, but he had kind eyes and a reassuring smile. She would have liked to talk to him, but there was no time as the prince strode into the castle, apparently expecting her to follow.

She suddenly found herself grateful for her old leather slippers. The glass shoes she’d worn during her last visit had been terribly pretty – with emphasis on the terrible. She was unused to any sort of heel and dancing in them for hours had pushed all her weight onto her toes, which had been crushed against the slippery, unforgiving surface.

And as if that weren’t enough, she’d ended the night running over rough ground with just the one shoe.

Her feet were complaining a little still, even in more comfortable footwear, but she managed to keep up. Which was all for the good, because the prince was clearly not in the mood to match pace with a sedate female companion.

Eventually they arrived at the ballroom. It seemed somehow smaller with its chandeliers unlit and without the noise and vibrations of hundreds of people talking and dancing. Cinderella looked up at the high windows and noticed, in the crisp daylight, that they were immaculately clean. She was just wondering how someone, or possibly several someones, got up there to carry out what must surely be a weekly task, at the very least, when the prince interrupted her train of thought.

‘Just look at this floor!’

Her gaze snapped down. The floor was made up of pieces of different coloured wood – pale hexagons tessellated in a regular pattern with darker, six-pointed stars. Each piece perfectly cut, the gaps between so slight that you couldn’t fit a hair between them. It was absolutely beautiful. Except…

‘Oh,’ she said, crouching and running her fingers over what should have been an smooth surface, but which was speckled with small, round dents.

Dents about the size of the heel of a lady’s shoe.

‘I told everyone,’ said the prince, ‘I was absolutely explicit. Flat slippers only. No heels. They ruin the floors! It’s really not that much to ask, is it?’

‘I didn’t know…’ said Cinderella, softly, straightening up.

‘One cannot easily tell,’ said the prince, apparently not listening, ‘under those ludicrous long ballgowns. If I’d noticed before you lost your damn shoe on the stairs I’d have had you change!’

‘I’m so very sorry, your highness, I—’

‘Who is going to pay for the repairs, that’s what I want to know? When I started looking I assumed this would be the work of someone from one of the most wealthy families. None of them would willingly admit to anything – they lie about what they eat for breakfast – but they’re so vain and gossipy I knew they’d love the idea of the prince seeking a mysterious lost dance partner. I thought once I had the right woman I’d seek reparations. Oh, honestly, who wears glass slippers, of all things? Ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous.’

‘I’m afraid I have no money, sire. Really, it was a misunderstanding. If there is anything I can—’

‘Yes, yes, I know, I know. I knew your father. He was a good man. And your stepmother is thoroughly obnoxious. Goodness knows what he was thinking there. If this had turned out to be her work I might’ve taken the opportunity to throw her, and her vile daughters, in the dungeon. But it wasn’t, was it? I have no idea how you managed to rustle up a gown and shoes, never mind a hairdresser, but given she had you locked in the attic, it wasn’t with her help. Was it?’

‘Ah, no, sire.’

‘You’re not going to tell me, are you?’

‘I… don’t think I can.’

‘Oh, very well!’ The prince pushed his hand through his fair hair. ‘As I say, I liked your father, and you seem decent. I don’t have the heart to punish you for what seems to be an innocent mistake. I suppose there’s nothing more to be done.’ He paused, giving Cinderella an appraising look. ‘Although… she had you cleaning for her, did she?’

‘My stepmother? Yes, sire.’

‘Hm. It will annoy her no end if she has to actually pay someone to wash her laundry and sweep out her fireplaces. Her spoiled daughters certainly aren’t going to do it…’ He looked thoughtful. ‘Would you like to work here instead? You’ll find I feed my staff well, and you get half a day off a week. What do you say?’

It wasn’t exactly the proposal Cinderella had been expecting, but, she’d think some years later, it actually turned out to be rather better.

Especially since she did, in the end, find time to talk to the kind-eyed footman.


Author’s notes
This story is especially for my friend Krystyna, who has had more reason than most to want to throw 2021 into the bin. Let’s hope 2022 is a little brighter!

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© Kat Day 2021

The Substance of Trust

‘That loud human keeps looking over here,’ commented Misha, carefully picking up his beer glass. Caela watched the way the yellowish light of the pub shone faintly through his fingers.

‘Yeah,’ she said, not looking around. ‘I know him. His name’s Telor. We used to work together.’

‘Another monster hunter?’

She winced slightly at the word. Technically, Misha was a monster. But it hardly seemed a fair choice of word these days, and she wasn’t sure she entirely wanted the job title any more, either.

‘Yes,’ she acknowledged, sipping her own drink. Behind her there was another burst of raucous laughter.

Misha studied her with unblinking, amber eyes. He looked broadly human at the moment. Close enough, anyway, that he wouldn’t raise eyebrows so long he stayed sitting at the table and didn’t go wandering around. He said he liked the occasional beer. Something about electrolytes.

‘Should I be concerned?’ he murmured.

‘I doubt it. He’s obviously drunk. And he’s showing off. And flirting. He does that. A lot,’ Caela added darkly.

‘Oh? Did he… with you…?’

Caela inhaled, noticing the yeasty scent of beer mingled with the faint citrus of whatever the staff must use to clean the tables. She had to hand it to them, this place was near spotless. She let out a long breath. ‘Not exactly. Well, not at first. He made a big thing about being friends, you know. How I should trust him. We could work together, he said. Colleagues. And then he did start flirting, and it was hard to draw lines, because… because…’ she tailed off.

Misha chuckled and pressed down on the rim of his glass. The hard edge slid through his finger, glass clearly visible through his – for want of a better word – flesh. He pulled it back before the fingertip was severed, and the pieces rejoined seamlessly. ‘Oh, believe me, I understand the dangers of not maintaining one’s boundaries.’

‘It’s a bit different, Misha.’

‘Is it, though? There’s still a risk of losing a part of oneself, no?’

Caela scowled. There was more laughter from behind her, and then someone started singing. ‘Damn him. Perhaps we should go. If he gets drunk enough, he might decide to come over here. I don’t want to put you at risk.’ She reached out and touched Misha’s finger. The outer surface was cool and slightly damp.

Her companion looked over her shoulder. ‘He looks occupied,’ he observed.

Caela risked turning around. Telor was kissing a woman, his fingers tangled in her long hair, his dark, wiry beard making a sharp contrast against her pale skin.

She shuddered. ‘Ugh. But you’re right, we’re probably okay for the moment. Look, I did draw firm lines, eventually, and he never did anything that awful. I don’t want to imply he did. But he started not turning up, or turning up too late to be any use. Lying about where he was and what he was doing. And it wasn’t so much that he was lying that bothered me, more that I knew he was doing it because lying was just quicker. All his talk of trust and friendship, and in the end, I wasn’t even worth the energy of an explanation.’

She sighed. ‘Actually, remember the night we met?’

Misha nodded. Scarlet, pink and gold rippled briefly along the top surface of his shoulders and up his neck. Then the colours were gone again, and his flesh settled into something that vaguely resembled the neckline of a T-shirt.

‘Yeah, well, Telor was meant to be working with me that night. But he hadn’t turned up, which was to be expected, at that point. You appeared from under that bridge—’

‘The little one in West Mestham! Yes. I like that bridge. It’s quiet, and there are some very tasty crayfish in the stream there.’

‘Hah, yes! Well, I was going to attack. I had plenty of salt. And then I saw you were only watching the water, minding your own business, really, and I thought, why? Why am I attacking you, just because you’re made of slime?’

‘And you decided to talk, instead. A wise move, really. Slime is very hard to destroy, even with salt, and my hugs can be positively deadly,’ Misha’s mouth curved into a smile.

Slime creatures did, in fact, feed by enfolding and absorbing other lifeforms. Still, Caela mirrored his grin. ‘You know what’s funny? You’ve never asked me to trust you. But I do.’

‘Mm. Not that I’m an expert in humans, you understand, but it seems to me that if someone has to tell you to trust them, you probably ought to think twice about it.’ He looked over Caela’s shoulder again. ‘He’s managed to decouple his mouthparts from the other human, and he just looked this way again.’

‘We should go,’ said Caela decisively, pushing her glass away. ‘There’s a door behind you. It’ll save us having to get too close.’

Moments later, they stepped into crisp night air. Misha looked across the road to the river. ‘I’ll head that way, in case he decides to follow. I know you’ll be all right, but, you will be all right?’

‘Yes, yes, don’t worry. You go.’

He nodded, and in a few strides had crossed the road, leaving faint, silvery footprints behind him. He dropped, silently, into the black water.

Caela stood under the streetlamp for a moment, before glancing back to the lit windows of the pub. ‘Imagine a human so slimy,’ she muttered to herself, ‘that an actual slime creature turned out to be a better friend.’

With that, she giggled, shook her head, and turned for home.


Author’s notes
A little something that seemed to suit the cold November air.

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© Kat Day 2021

A Moment of Brightness in the Dark

Figure sitting in front of bright swirling smokeHave you ever wondered what ghosts are, really? It’s easy to say things like ‘unquiet souls’ and ‘memories of the past’, but then, why do we so often portray them as bright, glowing things?

A floating white sheet. A headless man limned with green fire, a black-haired girl in a brilliant white nightdress…

Lights in darkness, leaping up to say boo. Why? Is it just because the brightness stands out? Something sudden and different? A shock?

I’ve heard it said that stories tell us how we expect the world to work, that they follow familiar patterns. Maybe it’s half true. But what would be the joy in a tale that went: I got up, I ate some yoghurt, and I sat in front of a computer, and drank some coffee and ate some other things through the day, and eventually I went to bed?

None.

No, we want stories that take the everyday and give it a good shake. That jam a stick into the spokes of our wheels. Or someone’s wheels, anyway. The girl who’s walked the same path a hundred times one day meets a wolf. The screen a man has watched in safety for so many hours becomes a portal to something dark and dangerous. The person you thought was a trusted friend… turns out to be neither.

And we learn that the world is not always quite what we thought it was. It’s a darker place. A more complicated place. Different shades of shadow. Sometimes, in fact, there’s precious little light.

And in all this, here we are seeing ghosts as bright, glowing things. Moments of brightness in a dark world.

All of which begs the question…

Should I trust the ghost, do you think?


Author’s notes
A tiny ghostly thing for Halloween.
By the way, this year, PseudoPod has created a special, one-off original drama for Halloween called The Witching Hour. Do listen. We promise you, it’s true.

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© Kat Day 2021

A Different Spoon

I put my hand on the worktop, letting it take my weight as I studied the mixture in the steel pot. It was not a magically-stereotypical shade of chartreuse or mauve, but rather an attractive glossy brown, suggestive of treacle.

It also wasn’t bubbling, but that was fine. It would when I put the lid on and pressurised the container. A bit of a cheat, yes, but it’s the twenty-first century after all – why leave things stewing in cauldrons for hours when electric pressure cookers exist? Particularly when there’s so much to do. So many people that need help.

I reached for my long-handled silver spoon, and found a gap where it should be, in between the spoon made out of intricately twisted copper and the one carved out of black walnut. I closed my eyes, trying to feel. It was somewhere. It just… wasn’t here.

I suddenly felt very tired. My shoulders burned almost permanently these days with an unpleasant sort of buzzing sensation. The large muscles in my thighs often ached, and when I tipped my head to stretch my neck, it crackled as though full of tiny pieces of broken glass.

The potion wasn’t finished – I couldn’t just sit down. Not yet. It needed to be stirred with the silver spoon, and then it needed some blood of Hestia, a declaration of love and a pinch of heartfelt gratitude. Three finger clicks, two bars of hummed music and then stir once clockwise with the black walnut spoon – which I had – and thirteen minutes under pressure. This last part I knew from experiment since, funnily enough, ancient grimoires don’t mention Instant Pots.

So, I needed the silver spoon. But it wasn’t there.

I moved to the drawer on the other side of the room, wincing as pain from an old injury stabbed the heel of my right foot. I didn’t really think the silver spoon would be there, and it wasn’t. This was the drawer for standard cutlery – stainless steel knives and forks, and ordinary curved spoons that would work for both dessert and soup, saving the average household the need to acquire two different types.

My grandmother would not have approved. Round spoons for soup, oval ones for dessert. Don’t use the wrong tool just because it’s in the right place, she’d have said.

Why did I waste time looking? I limped back to the pot. I knew I could find the dammed spoon, but not quickly. I couldn’t leave the ingredients too long or the mixture would spoil. It had to be right.

I felt my throat tighten, and my first thought was to grab a tiny glass phial and a cork, because one shouldn’t waste perfectly good tears. My second thought was that was ridiculous, and my third thought was that crying was a waste of important time, and my fourth…

‘Stop,’ I said to the empty kitchen. ‘And before you think that, Felicity, talking to yourself is fine. Everyone does it.’

I made a conscious effort to breathe out, counting to five as I did so, and let the in-breath come naturally. Then I did it again. It’s taken time to learn these skills, but then, it takes time to learn everything.

Feeling a little calmer, my scattered thoughts beginning to settle, I inhaled again, focusing this time on smell. Nutmeg, honey, a hint of old leaves and a trace of sweet woodsmoke – but not the thick, bitter scent of sugars turning too dark. I still had a few minutes.

I considered the pot. Steel and plastic. LED lights. A long way from copper and cast iron hung over flames. I thought of Gran again, and remembered the time I’d seen her struggling with one of those old-fashioned ice cream scoops with a little lever. It had been too flimsy to cope with hard ice cream straight from the freezer, so I’d bought her one of those new, chunky ones with a thick, rubber handle.

She’d loved it.

She hadn’t lived to see this sort of digital pressure cooker, and I wondered what she’d have thought of it. Would she have frowned, or would she have been excited?

More to the point, did it matter?

‘You’re not her, Felicity,’ I told myself, tipping my head from side to side so that my neck cracked and popped again. ‘But for all that you’re not, you’re still a damn good witch. Because you’ve spent a lot of time learning how to be.’

I looked again at the mixture. Did the precise nature of the atoms in the spoon really matter? Hasn’t it always been more about the hand holding it? Besides, sometimes there aren’t enough spoons, and good enough has be… good enough.

I lifted my chin and picked up my nylon cooking spoon. I gave the potion two turns counter-clockwise before reaching for the blood of Hestia, which was in a pretty yellow tin labelled ‘pure chamomile flowers,’ because that’s another thing – no one calls it blood of Hestia these days.

I added a pinch of the sweet-smelling leaves. ‘You’re good at this,’ I whispered to myself, and ‘thanks, Gran. You taught me a lot. I’ve just… added to it.’

I clicked my fingers three times, and began to hum.


Author’s notes
In an earlier draft of this piece, her partner arrived and sorted out the silver shortage. That wasn’t right, though. Felicity needed to learn that what she had was enough.

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© Kat Day 2021