Webchat Subject: The Injections You Gave My Henchpeople Last Thursday

~ CLICK HERE TO START A WEBCHAT WITH ONE OF OUR TEAM ~

DRCSHADE: Hello, this is Dr Calamity Shade, I’d like to talk to you about the injections your medico gave my henchpeople last Thursday.

JENI: Hi! My name is Jeni. Thank you for contacting MediHench. How may I help you today?

DRCSHADE: I’ve just said — I’d like to talk to you about the injections your medico gave to my henchpeople last Thursday.

JENI: Let me check if I understand: you’d like to talk about the service you received from one of our operatives last Thursday?

DRCSHADE: ffs. Yes!

JENI: Thank you! Do you have an account number?

DRCSHADE: DR-EVL-OVLD-663CS

JENI: Great! Am I speaking to Dr Calamity Shade?

DRCSHADE: Can you hear my head hitting the table, Jeni? Can you?

JENI: I’m very sorry, but I can’t — we don’t have audio. Am I speaking to Dr Calamity Shade?

DRCSHADE: YES.

JENI: How may I help you today?

DRCSHADE: #@!*$@!

JENI: I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Could you provide some details?

DRCSHADE: Jeni, if you make me say this again, I’m going to aim my zettawatt laser at your offices. After which there won’t be offices. There will be a crater, some ashes, and some blobs of molten metal. I hope we understand each other.

JENI: I appreciate you may be frustrated, Dr Shade, but I really can’t help you unless you give me some more details.

DRCSHADE: Okay, fine! Last Wednesday I called MediHench and asked you to send someone because I had wounded henchpeople. Ms Flamingo got into my compound earlier in the week and summoned her wretched flamingo horde. You wouldn’t think

JENI: Are you still there, Dr Shade?

DRCSHADE: Yes! Dammed flamingoes!

JENI: My apologies, please continue.

DRCSHADE: YOU WOULDN’T THINK they could do that much damage with those spindly legs, but they’ve got surprisingly large beaks. Several of my people had nasty injuries, and who knows what diseases those birds carry. Jason’s left eye looked very red.

Anyway, I know some of my colleagues treat their henchpeople as disposable, but not me. I value my people. That’s why I have a MediHench account. I called, and you sent someone out on Thursday. She had a MediHench badge saying Melissa Maingolf. She patched up all the scratches, put a steristrip on Millie’s head wound and gave Jason some antibiotic ointment.

Then she said something about bird flu and recommended vaccinations. She injected everyone. I think it’s caused some side-effects.

JENI: What sort of side-effects?

DRCSHADE: Jason’s hair has turned bright pink. Today he turned up in white flared trousers, singing Dancing Queen very loudly. I’m an open-minded arch-criminal, I am, but it’s hardly an unobtrusive dark suit, is it? He’s not the only one. Millie was wearing something today with colours that made my eyes water. Each to her own, but Kenjutsu in twelve-inch silver platform soles is asking for a broken ankle. And when I give orders they answer, “we’re just flamingling, baby!”

JENI: Could you bear with me a moment while I speak to my supervisor?

DRCSHADE: I suppose so.

Are you still there?

This is ridiculous.

I’m going to

JENI: Thank you for waiting, Dr Shade! I’ve checked with my supervisor and we don’t have a Melissa Maingolf on staff.

DRCSHADE: What?!

JENI: We’ve been experiencing a high volume of calls. We weren’t able to send anyone until Friday. The operative we sent reported that he was “turned away by a group of people singing and holding placards saying, ‘Party Like A Flock Star!'”

DRCSHADE: So who was Melissa Maingolf?

JENI: My supervisor suggests you consider the name ‘maingolf’?

DRCSHADE: What?

Oh.

Shit.

JENI: Is there anything else I can help you with today?

DRCSHADE: That’s it? My team are completely incapacitated because someone was impersonating YOUR operative!

JENI: That’s not our fault, Dr Shade.

DRCSHADE: I’m going to the laser room.

JENI: It does say in our terms and condit

DRCSHADE: Can you hear buzzing? It’s warming up RIGHT NOW.

JENI: Let me just speak to my supervisor.

DRCSHADE: Good idea.

JENI: Thank you for waiting. My supervisor says that as a gesture of goodwill, she will extend your MediHench membership for an extra month for free.

DRCSHADE: Do you know how much a zettawatt is, Jeni? It’s a LOT.

JENI: And send another medico out to treat your henchpeople, of course.

DRCSHADE: My finger’s over the button, Jeni. And my button works, believe me.

JENI: Er, we can offer you a $20 Yangtze gift certificate?

DRCSHADE: …

… and the extra month and the free treatment?

JENI: Of course.

DRCSHADE: all right then.

JENI: I’ll arrange it immediately. You have a flamingood day, now!

DRCSHADE: Hey, wait a mi

~ WEBCHAT SESSION ENDED ~


Author’s notes
Have you ever had one of those webchat coversations where you started to lose the will to live two minutes in? Yeah, me too.

Also, flamingoes seem to be very fashionable right now but just look at those eyes. They’re planning something, I’m telling you.


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© Kat Day 2019

A Tower of Cards

I’m building a tower of cards.

Layer after layer, resting on those below.

Supporting those above.

Surfaces shimmering with lambent light.

At the base is Temperance, wings outstretched as she stands,

one foot in water and one on land.

In the middle is the Magician, creating at his altar.

And at the top is the World: naked, and watched.

Why build so high? they ask.

Because, I say, I want to reach the Star.

What if one of these cards is creased? What if it’s frail?

Yes, Towers sometimes fall, I say.

But I think,

I’ve built this,

to prevail.


Author’s notes
This is a drabble that accidentally poemed. But it is still exactly 100 words long. And it RHYMES. Well, in places. Please don’t give me a lecture on tarot meanings 😉


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© Kat Day 2019

Spears and Marbles

Eria wriggled her fingers and let them drift across the wooden countertop. It was warm in the shop. She looked longingly at the door.

Obligingly, it opened, letting in a draft of ice-tinged air.

A man ducked under the lintel and stomped in, snow falling from his boots. His body was huge, almost too big for his tattooed head. He wore armour made of dark leather padded with sheepskin. A battle-axe hung from his belt.

‘Hello,’ said Eria, ‘how may I help you today?’

He looked at her. ‘Where’s the old man?’ he grunted.

‘I’m minding the shop for Master Winga.’

‘You’re a child.’

Eria ran her hands down the front of her dress as though brushing away dust and nodded thoughtfully. ‘I’m older than I look,’ she said.

There was a sound from the back room. The man narrowed his eyes.

‘Master Winga will be several hours, at least,’ said Eria. ‘You can wait, of course, but I am more than able to help you.’

‘Give me that spear up there,’ said the man eventually, tipping his chin upwards. She turned to follow his gaze. The spear had been hung horizontally and ran almost the full length of the back wall. Its head was diamond-shaped, forged from reddish metal, and behind it sat wicked barbs which would make it impossible to remove from a wound without catastrophic damage.

‘Big fight?’ she asked.

‘Dragon.’

‘Have you got any identification?’

‘Huh?’

‘That spear is a dangerous weapon. I can’t sell it to just anyone.’

The man pulled out a leather pouch turned it over so that its contents spilled across the countertop. The gold glinted in the light. ‘Here’s my identification.’

‘I’m sorry,’ said Eria. ‘I need to see some paperwork. Have you got a dragon-hunting licence?’

‘A what?’

‘A dragon-hunting licence.’

‘No! What is this nonsense? I am the Warrior Philip Elfweard and–‘

Eria made a tiny snorting noise. He glared at her.

‘Give me the spear, impudent child, or I shall take it for myself!’ he thundered, drawing his axe.

‘Why waste time asking for things in the first place if you can just take what you want?’ she asked calmly, catching his eyes with hers.

‘It is– It is not–‘ His voice faded. She saw smoke and flames and tasted metal and salt. Underneath it all, though, was the scent of lavender, a song, and a child’s laughter.

Eria had a knack for seeing things in people’s eyes.

She reached into the pocket of her dress. ‘I think your daughter will like these,’ she said, holding up her hand.

Eyes still locked on hers, Philip reached out and took one of the objects she held. It was a perfect, green sphere with a graceful swirl of gold in its centre.

She blinked and his eyes snapped to the marble he was holding. It sparkled as he turned it. ‘How did you know I have a daughter?’ he asked, after a moment.

‘Lucky guess,’ said Eria, lightly. ‘I made these myself,’ she added. ‘I’m good with glass.’

He nodded.

‘I won’t sell you the spear,’ said Eria. ‘The dragon doesn’t deserve to have her eye pierced. And you,’ she continued quickly as she saw him start to speak, ‘don’t want to be so badly burned by her flame that your daughter screams every time she looks at you.’

‘The reward…’ he started, but tailed off as he stared at the marble he was still holding.

‘There are greater rewards than money.’

#

Eria waited for a several minutes after he had left before she turned and walked into the back room. She untied Master Winga from his chair and removed the gag. He spluttered and cursed, but she laid her hand on his arm and caught his eyes, and he calmed soon enough.

She left the old man’s shop and stood outside the door. She shivered and stretched, breathing in the chill air and bathing in the red-gold rays of the sunset.

After a moment, her skin began to shift from human softness to something harder and glossier. Wings burst from her back, the joints in her arms and legs clicked and snapped into new positions, her neck lengthened.

A gout of flame shot from her jaws and hit, with extreme precision, a nearby rock. It melted into a glassy puddle.

The dragon dropped from the mountain edge and caught a thermal, hovering in the clear air. She watched the tiny figure walk down the mountainside for a few moments. Then, finally, she headed home.


Author’s notes
I really want a set of dragon marbles.


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© Kat Day 2019

The Last of the Eggs

broken eggI used the last of the eggs today. I scrambled them. They were delicious.

Afterwards I put more duct tape around the front door. I couldn’t help looking through the little square of frosted glass, it’s like scratching a mosquito bite. The blurry shape was in the same place. So his body is still there. I think.

I found an old copy of War of the Worlds on the shelf in the spare bedroom. Actually, I didn’t so much find it as stop avoiding it. I’ve read everything else. Monsters used to be big things, in the old stories. Big, and easy to hide from.

The house is stuffy. Not surprising, since I’ve sealed every window and door. Air still gets in. I don’t know exactly how, but I can breathe. I don’t think they can get in, though. It’s been days, there’s no sign of silver trails.

I want to breathe cold air.

I know there are some other people left. Trouble is, even if they flew right overhead, they wouldn’t know I’m here.

I had to push him out there. It was too late. He had streaks of silver where veins should be, and eyes like mirrors. They’d only have got to me. I scrubbed everything, afterwards. With the bleach spray we had under the sink for vomiting bugs. God, I hated those. Every October, regular as clockwork, someone would start throwing up and then, bam, the whole house would come down with it.

I’d give anything to be cleaning up puke again.

I wonder if I can get up to the roof? And how long I could stay outside?

I got a bed sheet and painted it with the leftover gloss paint we had from the front door. The smell gave me a headache. Use in a well-ventilated area, the tin says. Hah.

I went out of the window in the attic room backwards, my arse dangling over the sill. I reasoned that if I fell at least it’d be quick. I managed to throw the weighted sheet so it caught. They should be able to see it.

I heard helicopters. They didn’t stop. But maybe they’re planning something.

There’s a bruise on my belly. It looks like a fresh blackberry. I probably did it crawling out of the window.

I woke up in the night with a craving so intense it felt like my brain was on fire. To be high, on a mountain, where the air is thin but clean. Untainted. To shout my name and hear it come back to me.

My belly aches. The bruise is low, under where my skin sags. I can only really see it in the mirror. The beautiful, silvery mirror.

My skin seems brighter today. It almost glints in the light.

I heard the helicopters again. I’m sure they’ve seen my sign. They’re only working out what to do.

Next time I hear them, I’m going out of the window.

At least it will be quick.


Author’s notes
This is quite an old story that I wrote for a Pseudopod flash fiction competition. It did quite well, but it’s one of those pieces where people say ‘I want to know more about….’ and the thing is, I like it like this. Sometimes the most horrific thing is not knowing.


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© Kat Day 2019

Now on Cast of Wonders: A Little Something for Christmas

Hello everyone, good news! You can now listen to one of my all-time favourite stories – A Little Something for Christmas – on the fabulous Cast of Wonders podcast, narrated by the supremely talented Alasdair Stuart and Chloe Yates. Their voices are absolutely perfect, and I’m so excited to be on the podcast (which is available online, on your podcast platform of choice, and Spotify – should that be your thing).

This episode also includes a lovely story by author and poet Gerri Leen, so it’s doubly-worth the download!

Merry Christmas!

By the Edge of the River

Athanasia sat heavily in her chair, her joints creaking along with the cords of the seat. She took a few deep breaths, and the room settled back to silence.

The labour had been a long one, and there had been rather more blood than she would have liked, but the child was strong and its mother would, if Athanasia was any judge, recover well. She had assisted in many births over the years. Even the ones that went smoothly – and they often didn’t – were a little frightening. Standing at the boundary to life itself, doing everything she could to make sure that the child would be welcomed to the world whole. And that the mother would stay on the right side.

Athanasia tucked some loose strands of grey hair back into her braids. She was relieved, if tired. Her arms and back ached, but that was surely to be expected after a long night with little sleep. She felt a little short of breath, too, but she probably only needed rest. She closed her eyes.

***

When she opened them again, she was dead.

She knew it, because she found herself on the bank of a great river. The water was green yet remarkably clear, putting her in mind of the pale green bowl filled with peaches and pomegranates in her quarters. A bowl that, she realised, she would neither see, nor touch, again.

The air was still, and filled with a faintly sweet smell. Silver things flashed below the surface of the river, moving too fast to see. She stood on smooth, pale stone and looked across the water. The river stretched as far as she could see in either direction. In the distance, Athanasia thought she could see a small boat, although there was little against which to judge its size. It might, she supposed, become a larger boat as it drew nearer.

She put her hand into the pocket of her tunic and found a single coin. The metal was cool on her fingers. She let it fall back into the folds of the material and sat down to wait.

Athanasia had no family left of her own, and her thoughts drifted to the new mother and child she had left behind. Had the child been feeding well? Had the mother regained her strength? And there had been another woman with a baby due, she had thought, around the next new moon. She sighed. There was nothing to be done about that, now.

A sound made her turn. She had been entirely alone a moment ago, but now there was a young girl, bare-footed, dark hair falling in messy twists around her face. She looked up at Athanasia with bright, wide eyes. Tears streaked her cheeks.

‘Oh,’ said Athanasia, instinctively crouching down and reaching out. The child put her arms out, in that way that children do, and Athanasia lifted her and held her against her chest, noting that she felt too light. The child rested her head on Athanasia’s shoulder and continued to cry.

‘Shh,’ said Athanasia, rubbing the child’s back.

The girl pulled back. ‘I want to go home. I don’t like it here.’

Athanasia tried to make her voice soothing. ‘I’m not sure you can,’ she said.

The child wriggled then, pushing her legs and arms against Athanasia so that she was forced to put her down. ‘I want to go home!’ she repeated.

‘I know, but, I think you have to go on the boat,’ said Athanasia, pointing across the river. The boat was nearer now, and it did indeed seem larger.

The child stared at her defiantly. ‘I like boats,’ she said, eventually.

‘I’m sure it’ll be fun!’ said Athanasia, pulling her face into a smile and hoping that it would be.

The child nodded, and ran to the edge of the river to watch. Athanasia bit back the urge to tell her to be careful because, after all, what was there to be careful of, now?

She rubbed her cheek, and then realised that others had arrived. A young woman, her belly distended but empty, a man with a dark hole under his left shoulder and a stump where his right leg should have been, a woman with elaborately-styled white hair, her body and face unmarked.

Athanasia had spent her life helping others, and she found she could not stop now. She greeted the arrivals, offered words of comfort, and helped them to the edge of the river. Some were confused, and some were angry. A few wept. She did what she could, and took small joy in being useful.

In time, the boat arrived. It was the long, narrow kind, designed to be propelled by a boatman wielding a pole, and indeed there was such a man. He was tall and broad-shouldered, and he wore robes the colour of glowing embers. They matched his eyes.

He stepped lightly ashore. The child Athanasia had first met looked curiously up at him, and then scampered into the boat, darting back and forth until she had decided where she wanted to sit. Athanasia smiled, and helped the one-legged man to also step aboard.

The ferryman’s face was dark beneath his hood. His voice, when he spoke, reminded Athanasia of thunder and freshly-turned earth. ‘Thank you,’ he said, looking at the orderly chain of people. ‘It is usually more… difficult.’

Athanasia nodded. The last of the other passengers climbed aboard and sat, waiting.

The ferryman looked at her, and then at the boat. She didn’t move.

‘What is on the other side of the river?’ she asked, quietly.

The ferryman shrugged. ‘It is not for me to say.’

‘Will those that I’ve lost be there?’ she asked, looking across the expanse of green water. She could see only shadows on the other side.

‘Perhaps.’

‘Perhaps?’

‘Death is a big place. I only take souls from this edge to that. I cannot say what is beyond the point where I leave them.’

Athanasia paused. ‘Why do you do this?’

His eyes glowed in the depth of his hood. ‘Someone must.’

‘What would happen… if you didn’t?’

He shrugged again. There was a moment of silence between them. Then he said, ‘will you come aboard?’

Athanasia crossed her arms. ‘I don’t think I will.’

‘Then you must stay here, by the river. There is no way back.’

‘I understand. But you cannot tell me what is on the other side. And perhaps if I stay here, I will see some of the people I’ve left, in time.’

‘I cannot say that is so,’ he warned. ‘Not all souls pass this way.’

‘Nevertheless,’ said Anthanasia, ‘I think I can be useful here, and I would like that. It is always best to make the most of what you have.’

The ferryman’s eyes glowed again. ‘Very well,’ he said, after a moment.

Athanasia watched the boat as he pushed it away from the bank and she waved at the little girl, who was holding the hand of the young woman with the empty belly. Athanasia smiled and turned around. Already there were others to greet.

***

And there she remains, on this side of the river, comforting those whose time has come, and helping them to be in the right place at the right time.

It is said that there are some who arrive at the wrong time, their presence too faint as they hover between this world and the next. Some even find their way back, and have told a story of a woman who waits by the river to greet those who must cross, and when the ferryman asks if she will cross, as he always does, she always refuses, her arms folded across her chest.


Author’s notes
I wrote – and read! – this story for an event called ‘Mythmaking: A night of new stories for old objects’, organised by Science Communicator Brian Mackenwells. The idea of the night was to take objects about which we know very little, and which currently have no mythology, and give them new stories. There were seven of us, and we were each allocated one of three objects. Mine was a ‘Cycladic female figurine‘. These are very old – over 5000 years old – and were often buried with the dead, although some have also been found showing signs of repair, suggesting they were also used in every-day life. In this story I tried to tie those ideas together by creating a character that might go on to be represented by these figures. I hope I succeeded!

The other acts were:
Robert Holtom
Calum Mitchell
Holly Bathie
Jack Brougham
Charvy Narain
Laura Theis

And they were all amazing! I really hope there are more events like this in the future.

I also want to say a quick thank you to the talented Matt Dovey, who helped me out when I had a beginning and a end but was struggling with the middle!


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If you like my work, you can support my writing by buying me a coffee at ko-fi.com.
© Kat Day 2018

Magma on the Inside

Content warning: violence, abuse

***

Don’t cry. If you cry, your lamina won’t form.

Adamite the troll forced the sting from his eyes as he stared at his damaged knee. He had fallen on the scree, and the sharp stones had bitten hard. There were specks of dirt and ragged pieces of torn skin in the centre of the wound, but its edges were already beginning to darken. Streaks of red, like veins of ruby running through rock, glinted in the sunshine. His leg burned like a stone left in the noonday sun.

He was young, and his skin was still soft. For now.

In time, a scab would form, and then it would fall off leaving a new surface of smooth rock, and the warm softness would become hard and cool to the touch. It was called a lamina, and it was how trolls became stone. It was how they became truly trolls.

Don’t cry.

The air in the mountains was crisp, almost crystalline. It chilled his skin and, just for a moment, he felt sadness that he might lose that sensation, soon.

Adamite took a deep breath and stood up.

#

It was not long after that day that his grandfather was broken. Men had come to the mountain with their red tubes which hissed and made smoke that smelled of overripe fruit. The men looked harmless – too fragile to harm a creature such as a troll – but humans could be remarkably, surprisingly destructive.

His grandfather had been too old to move much, preferring to sit and let the thin sunshine warm his rhyolite skin. The men’s sticks called the thunder and focused the lightning, and the old troll’s head had shattered into a hundred thousand pieces.

The men had taken his calcite eyes. Amazingly clear, they said.

Adamite and his father studied what was left of the broken remains.

“We must be the trolls he can no longer be,” said his father, quietly.

Then he scraped the flint-sharp side of his foot down the back of Adamite’s still-soft legs. The pain was excruciating, but he didn’t cry.

“You must be strong,” said his father. “This will make you strong.”

#

Shattering stone. Breaking skin. Adamite cried out as Psilomelane’s fist slammed into his cheek. His mouth was full of wet copper. His father had left his face untouched, but other trolls had no such hesitancy.

The rock beneath his back was too hard, and that was wrong. A real troll marks the ground, not the other way around.

“Stupid baby,” hissed Psilomelane, through amethyst teeth. “You’ll thank me for this.”

Psilomelane was mostly stone. There were, Adamite noticed with a strange sort of detachment, only a few patches that were still unchanged. One was around his neck. The matt skin there contrasted sharply with the dark grey that covered his face.

Adamite wondered how it would feel to lock his fingers around that soft neck.

It wasn’t only the outside of trolls that changed, of course. They had to become stone all the way through.

#

It was a summer day when Adamite first broke his own son’s skin. Harebell flowers were scattered over the landscape, and the air was full of grass and sunshine. Adamite’s lamina was long complete. He glittered in the sunshine, smooth stone which almost seemed polished, dotted with flecks of silver and green crystals. His eyes were perfect ovals of green chrysoprase. His teeth were shards of yellow corundum.

His son was still soft and warm to the touch. When Adamite looked at him, he felt a twinge of disgust.

He had to do it. His son had to be strong, as he himself had become strong.

And so he picked up handfuls of sharp gravel, circled his son’s arm with his own hands, and forced the small stones into the child’s skin. In, and down.

Dark fluid welled in the wounds. The young troll didn’t cry out, and that was good. His eyes, though, were too bright.

“Don’t cry,” said Adamite sharply, “it will stop your lamina from forming. Trolls must never cry.”

The child nodded. “I know,” he said.

His voice was full of the determination of youth. Somewhere inside, Adamite felt the heat of molten rock. The energy could not escape; it was locked in by his cool, rocky surface. The fires inside roared, and swelled.

He looked away from his son, and his chest burned.


Author’s notes
I wrote this story 9 months ago and it has nagged at me ever since. It was difficult to write and it is still, even though of course I know what it says, difficult to read. And I’m agonising over the submit button even now. But it’s here because I feel it’s imporant. I’m a woman and I fully support women’s rights, but I also understand that it can be hard to be a man in modern society, particularly if you are not a man who fits traditional male stereotypes. When you force someone, anyone, into a box that doesn’t fit them, they have two options: to defy and break the box, or to become misshapen. Both of those options involve pain.

Perhaps, as a society, we could decide to stop forcing people into boxes in the first place.

If you need support, please know that there organisations who can help. One is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, or CALM. Follow the link for more details.


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If you like my work, you can support my writing by buying me a coffee at ko-fi.com.
© Kat Day 2018