Episode #52: Three Short Reprints

March 9, 2018

Do-Overs

by Jennifer Lee Rossman

 

 

I have ridden dinosaurs. Big, bitey ones. I've traveled on the Hindenburg, fought alongside Joan of Arc, punched Jack the Ripper right in the face.

The point I'm trying to make is being a time traveler puts you in some scary situations, but this is easily the most terrifying.

Asking out a pretty girl.

(Insert shriek of terror here.)

I've been putting it off, shoving it to that dusty place in the back of my mind where I keep things I'm afraid of—like the fact that house centipedes exist—but it has to be now, before she goes back home.

I take a deep breath, my heart beating like a drum roll, and step into the lab.

And there's Ada, Countess of Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron, world's first computer programmer, and unquestionably 1840's sexiest woman alive.

 

[Full transcript after the cut.]

 

Hello! Welcome to GlitterShip for March 9, 2018. This is your host Keffy, and I'm super excited to be sharing these stories with you. First things first: if you're listening to this episode when it comes out, you have until March 12, 2018 to get a great deal on the ebook of GlitterShip Year One. This anthology collects every GlitterShip story that came out between our launch and the end of 2016 and is on sale for just $2.99. You can pick it up direct from the GlitterShip website at glittership.com/buy, on Kindle, Nook, or Kobo.

Today I have three short reprints for you.

The first is Corvus the Mighty by Simon Kewin

Simon Kewin was born and raised on the misty Isle of Man in the middle of the Irish Sea, but he now lives in the English countryside with his wife and their daughters. He is the author of over a hundred published short stories and his works have appeared in Analog, Nature, Daily Science Fiction, Abyss & Apex and many more. His cyberpunk novel The Genehunter and his Cloven Land fantasy trilogy were recently published and his clockpunky novel Engn is to be published by Curiosity Quills Press in 2018. Find him at simonkewin.co.uk.


 

Corvus the Mighty

by Simon Kewin

 

 

Gedric found the ramshackle hut half way up the hillside. He tethered his horse, the best they’d been able to spare, to one of the low stone walls marking the garden out from the sweep of sloping land. He stood and waited to be spoken to. The man he’d come to find, stripped to the waist, powerful but grey-haired now, dug a trench in the heavy soil with rhythmic swings of his shoulders. The man didn’t speak, didn’t appear to have even noticed his visitor.

Gedric had grown up with tales of him. They all had: the exploits of Corvus, Corvus and his trusty Shieldsman Way, were the stuff of children’s bedtime stories and mead-hall roister. Corvus, who had saved the seven clans again and again, defeated marauding nightmares then drunk for a week to celebrate. And now here he was, tilling the reluctant peat of this desolate hillside, this man who could have lived out his days in golden palaces had he chosen to.

While he waited, Gedric turned away to look out over the land. Now that he saw Corvus in the flesh, his doubts returned. Could one old man really save them? He regretted this fool’s errand more and more. He should be down there, fighting the invaders. At least he’d be doing something. Dimly, in the far distance, he could make out a line of smoke cutting into the sky. Some homestead or town burning. Impossible to say where from up there. But it might be Ravn. Ravn, with its walls of spiked pine trunks and its stone tower. Ravn where he’d left Eliane two days earlier, vowing he’d return with help. The invaders had been sighted even as he’d galloped away. Was she still alive? She and their child she carried within her? Were any of the people he’d grown up with still alive? He imagined her calling out his name in desperation as she died, surrounded by shrieking bone-men.

Corvus speared his shovel into the earth as if it were a beast he had slain. He regarded Gedric, an irritated look on his lined face. His chest heaved from his exertions.

“I come in search of Corvus the War Chief, Lord of the Seven Clans,” said Gedric.

“Have you now? Well, you’ve come a long way for nothing, boy.”

Gedric had been warned Corvus had turned his back on everything he’d been. Wanted only peace and solitude now. This reaction was only what he’d expected.

“My lord, the clans are in great need,” said Gedric, giving him the speech he’d practiced in his head as he rode up the hill. “The bone-men have come out of the west, hundreds of their white ships making landfall on the coast to pillage and destroy. We fight them, but they keep coming, more and more every day.”

“Sorry to hear it. At least they shouldn’t bother me all the way up here.”

“But the clans, my lord. They fall, village by village, town by town. Soon there will be none of us left.”

The man shook his head.

“And I told you. I’m not the man you’re looking for.”

“But you could be him once more, my lord. You are still Corvus. You could unite the clans, lead us against the foe.”

The old man laughed. He looked up at the sky in the manner of farmers and homesteaders everywhere, assessing the chances of rain.

“Young fool, I mean I’m really not him. Corvus died six winters ago.”

Gedric smiled. He’d been told to expect this, too.

“You mean, he died and this humble crofter I see before me was born at the same moment. I understand your desire for solitude, Corvus, but times are desperate.”

“I mean he died, boy. Corvus the Mighty, Lord of the Seven Clans and so on and so on. He gave up his ghost. In his sleep. He was just a ragbag of wounds by the end, anyway. Couldn’t feed or clean himself. Don’t mention that in the sagas, do they?”

“I don’t believe you.”

“I’ll show you his mighty bones if you like, buried on the hilltop.” The man nodded up the slope. Gedric saw the line of a well-worn path leading up there.

“But I don’t understand. Everyone I spoke to said Corvus lived here. And here you are. Yet you claim you’re not him.”

“I am not Corvus.”

“Then who are you?”

“Are you really the brightest one they could find? My name is Way, boy. Obviously.”

“No, but, I’m sorry, Way was a small man. Clever and agile as a cat. It’s in all the sagas.”

“Let me tell you something about storytellers,” said the old man. He looked around in an exaggerated way, as if there were anyone within thirty leagues who could overhear. “The thing is this. They make things up. That’s what they do, what they’re for. I can assure you I am Way. I should know. I’ve been me all my life. And for the record, I was a hand taller than Corvus. Better swordsman too, truth be told.”

Gedric had never even wondered what had happened to Way. He was just the constant companion in the tales: the one who broke into the dungeons to rescue Corvus the night before he was to be executed, or who cut his ropes when the Pirate Kings thought they had him bound and trapped belowdecks.

“But I don’t understand, Corvus came here for peace and solitude. Everyone knows that. And yet here you are. What, you came up here to rescue him from these ferocious sheep?”

The old man shook his head.

“I see the storytellers got that wrong, too. We came here for peace and solitude. They have me as, what, Corvus’s faithful companion? His servant?”

“His Shieldsman.”

The man laughed. “Do you really think we could have stood each other all that time if we’d been just comrades? Or master and servant? The world was ours to roam together. I was his lover, not some Shieldsman. Ah, he was a beautiful man in his youth, let me tell you. People would do anything for that smile of his. I know I did.”

A weight of dread filled Gedric at these words. Corvus had been their last hope. A remote hope, to be sure. He thought of Eliane and the bright, fearless look on her face. The swell of her belly. Her gentle touch.

“Then I am sorry,” said Gedric. “You have lost a lot more than just a hero.”

Way shrugged. “We had our time together, down there in the world and up here in the quiet afterwards. It barely matters now. He’s gone. Isn’t a day goes by I don’t miss him, but pining won’t bring him back, will it? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get these stonefruits planted before the rains come. Make yourself useful and I’ll let you rest here the night. You can leave in the morning.”

Unable to think of anything else to say to the old man, Gedric climbed over the wall to help.

 

That night, Gedric lay on a mattress of springy heather beneath the furs Way had provided. The old man was outside somewhere, tending to his tatty, distrustful sheep. Gedric sighed. He had failed in his quest to find Corvus, failed to bring him triumphantly back to the clans. They would all die now, sooner or later.

He leafed through the sheaf of dispatches he’d brought with him: descriptions of the skirmishes fought against the bone-men, plans for future battles. He sought good news, some flaw they’d missed, some new strategy they could adopt. He found nothing. The bone-men came in their hundreds and left behind a trail of the dead and dying. Gedric read for an hour or more by the flickering light of Way’s fire until his eyes began to prickle. Exhausted by his journey, by his labor in the field, he lay back and fell asleep.

 

He woke to rain drumming on the wooden roof of the hovel. He thought, still half-asleep, the bone-men had come for him, had set fire to their house. Imagined Eliane there beside him, reaching for her axe to fight off the invaders. But when he opened his eyes, he was alone. It was early morning, the inky darkness outside just beginning to shade to purple. Embers of the fire glowed orange in the old man’s hearth.

It took Gedric a moment to realise the despatches were gone, plucked from his hand as he slept.

How could he have been so foolish? The details they contained would be invaluable to their foe. He had vowed never to let them out of his sight, had been allowed to travel with them only in the hope they might goad Corvus into action. Now Way had them. If he really was Way. Perhaps he was someone in league with the bone-men, set up there as a trap. Alarm hammered through Gedric at what he had done.

He rose, quickly, thinking to chase after the man, catch up with him. He would be hours away by now. Gedric stood there in the early morning chill, naked, trying to decide what he should do.

“You’re in a sudden hurry, boy.”

The man sat unseen in a shadowy corner of the room. Gedric heard the rustling of paper.

“Return the despatches to me,” said Gedric.

The old man ignored him. “Tell me, who commands the warbands now?”

“Each clan chief leads their own.”

“Well, they’re all fools. See here, they turn and face the bone-men with the river to their backs. And here, again, in the High Passes, where scree-falls can easily be set off to crush a pursuing enemy, nothing is done. The warbands flap around like gaggles of geese.”

“We do what we can. There are too many of the enemy.”

The man stood and stepped out of the shadows into the orange glow from the fire. He wore full armor. Gedric recognized it immediately.

“So … you are Corvus after all.”

The man looked at him for a moment, not speaking. He shook his head.

“No. I am Way. Didn’t I tell you? But I kept his armor, boy. That’s all I have left of him. I get it all out and buckle it on sometimes. Had to loosen the straps a little. Ridiculous, I know, but it makes me feel he’s still here, makes me feel close to him again.”

“You miss him.”

Way shrugged. “Also I look rather good in it. Don’t you think?”

“You look like Corvus.”

“That’s what you see?”

“I … I thought you were him, stepping out from the sagas. That armor with those crows emblazoning it.”

“Good.”

“What do you mean?”

“If you saw that, others will see it too,” said Way. “They’ll see what they need to see. All those stories about us. A lot of it was just people believing in us, believing in him: the black-haired hero who always won, despite the ridiculous odds.”

“You’ve decided to help us now?”

 “I read your despatches,” said Way. “The bone-men. I thought you were just some lad who’d seen one battle and run for the hills. But you’re right. The clans need Corvus once more.”

“You mean, you’re going to pretend to be him?”

“Riding out of the old tales, just when the clans need him most. Don’t you see, boy? The story is irresistible. The bone-men won’t have a chance. And … I would see Corvus at the head of the warbands once more. In a manner of speaking.”

“Can this work?”

“I won’t tell anyone if you don’t. They’ll want to believe I’m Corvus. Now get dressed, boy.” Way glanced down and back up, an amused grin flashing across his face. “I can see from here how cold you are.”

Gedric began to struggle into his clothes. Way pulled Corvus’s helmet over his head and the illusion was complete.

“Come,” said Way, his voice muffled by the helmet. Changed. “Let us ride. We can’t just sit around on this hillside when the clans need us.”

Together they stepped out into the morning light. The rain had passed over now and shafts of sunlight lit the world. The whole land lay stretched out before them, like a map waiting to be drawn on. Way opened the little wooden gate that kept his sheep penned up, giving the creatures their freedom.

“Will we have a chance?” Gedric asked. “Is there really any hope?” The fate of all the clans depended on this old man, but he could think only of Eliane. Eliane and their child.

Way laughed. “The situation is hopeless, the odds ridiculous. How can we fail? We will ride to Ravn and rally their defences. And then we will ride to every other town. The story of the return of Corvus will spread like a fire across the land and we will be unstoppable.”

Then Way—Corvus—nodded, climbed onto his horse and set off down the hill to do battle.

END


Next we have "Pastel Witch" by Jacob Budenz.

Jacob Budenz is a writer and multi-disciplinary performer whose work has been published by Assaracus, Hinchas de Poesia, Polychrome Ink, The Avenue, and more. Currently, Jacob resides in New Orleans in pursuit of an MFA in Creative Writing.


 

Pastel Witch

by Jacob Budenz

 

 

Where wealth is measured by the pinkness of the sky there is a man standing at the window wearing a yellow sundress as dusk descends. His lips are lavender. His toenails match. His fingernails match. He does not wear shoes.

Where teeth hang from the doorway by silver thread and tinkle in the breeze the man crushes daisies with a mortar and pestle. The teeth are his own and he has grown them back and torn them out, grown them back and torn them out, grown them back, year after year after year after year. From his kitchen he can see the lake ripple, the mountains lean in. He is pregnant with his third child. The father is the wind.

Where the moss is a pillow and the tree is a lamp, the man will give birth to his daughter and hand the baby to the queen of the crickets. The child will return once she has learned to fly and to sing. She will be thirteen years old, then. In the mean time the man will weep once a week for the first two years, once a month for the next four, twice a year for the next three, only once the next year, never again until she returns. When his daughter returns he will tell her he never wanted any sons. Both his sons died before learning to fly, he will tell her. This is a lie. He had one daughter and one son before her. They are still alive, and have turned into a narwhal and a beetle, respectively.

Where the water is warm he will never swim. He does not know how to swim. Yet here he lives in a house by the lake, here he lives in a house by the lake. The sun has gone down, and the banshees are smiling, and he swears he will never drink a drop of liquor again, after tomorrow morning.

END

 


Finally, we have "Do-Overs" by Jennifer Lee Rossman

Jennifer Lee Rossman is a science fiction geek from Oneonta, New York, who enjoys cross stitching, watching Doctor Who, and threatening to run over people with her wheelchair. Her debut novel, Jack Jetstark's Intergalactic Freakshow, will be published by World Weaver Press in 2019. She blogs at jenniferleerossman.blogspot.com and tweets @JenLRossman.


Do-Overs

by Jennifer Lee Rossman

 

 

I have ridden dinosaurs. Big, bitey ones. I've traveled on the Hindenburg, fought alongside Joan of Arc, punched Jack the Ripper right in the face.

The point I'm trying to make is being a time traveler puts you in some scary situations, but this is easily the most terrifying.

Asking out a pretty girl.

(Insert shriek of terror here.)

I've been putting it off, shoving it to that dusty place in the back of my mind where I keep things I'm afraid of—like the fact that house centipedes exist—but it has to be now, before she goes back home.

I take a deep breath, my heart beating like a drum roll, and step into the lab.

And there's Ada, Countess of Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron, world's first computer programmer, and unquestionably 1840's sexiest woman alive.

She's bent over a laptop, her dark hair falling over her little serious face, dressed in jeans and a V-neck that are a far cry from the silks and gowns a countess would wear in her era. She makes my skin feel warm just looking at her.

"So," she says as I approach. "I've run a final check on the new operating system and it all looks good. I've worked out the kinks that caused that paradox, but there are a few new guidelines I want to run by you—"

I love the way she says paradox in her accent, with a long O sound that makes her lips get all round and pouty. Like when she says my name.

"Roz?"

I blink and look up from her lips.

"Roz, did you hear a word I said?"

My nod is a vigorous, enthusiastic lie.

"Then if you want to test your machine—"

"You're gorgeous."

Her entire face stops like someone paused her video in mid-word and I just want to melt into a puddle of embarrassment.

"I'm... gorgeous," she repeats, her voice devoid of any inflection that would help me know how to fix this. Should I take it back? That seems offensive. Maybe I should tell her I don't mean it in a gay way?

But I do. I mean it in the gayest way possible. I mean it as the start of a relationship that will lead to us getting married in matching princess dresses and having babies and operating our own time travel business and—

Time travel. Duh.

"You know what?" I say, holding my hands up. "Let me try this again."

I leave her to her bewilderment and step outside. I set my wristwatch time machine back two minutes, and a blue glow envelops me. When it subsides, I go back in to find her bent over the laptop again.

She looks up when she sees me. "So..."

"Do you like girls?" I interrupt, because I am just the smoothest. When she doesn't answer right away, I add, "I do. And boys. And, in one very confusing instance, a cartoon fox. But the girl part is the most relevant now because I like you."

Facepalm.

Out the door I go without another word, and back in time with a blue glow. We never used to have a blue glow; must be one of her improvements to the system.

This time, I go in with a plan, and that plan is poetry. What girl can resist wordplay!

And I have the perfect poem in mind. Before she can say anything, I launch into a passionate recitation. "Maid of Athens, 'ere we part. Give, oh, give me back my heart!"

Her initial amusement slips from her face, leaving her looking confused and... is that a teensy bit of disgust?

"Or since that has left my breast," I continue, "take it now and leave the rest. Hear my vow—"

Oh, no.

I just remembered who wrote the poem.

Ada's perfect eyebrows knit together. "Roz, are you trying to woo me with a poem written by my father?"

"Yes. Luckily, I'm about to change history so you won't remember any of this when I get back," I say, and dash out the door. I do the Time Warp again.

Okay. Focus.

I breathe slow, deep breaths and think of exactly what I want to say. I got Napoleon and Josephine together when a time rift erased the day they met. If I can do that, I can totally do this.

...is what I tell myself so I don't throw up.

"Hello, Miss Lovelace," I say this time, trying to stay calm despite a raging blush that has to be visible from space. "Do you have a moment to talk about something important?"

Ada is leaning over a closed laptop, a knowing smile on her strawberry cream lips (she borrowed my flavored lip gloss, so I know her kiss will be delicious). A jolt runs through me – does she want to talk about what I want to talk about? But she says, "Yes, I think we should go over some of the new features of your operating system before I leave," and I deflate just a tiny bit.

Did I imagine all the glances she stole when she thought I wasn’t looking? The flirtastic banter during all the late nights we stayed up coding? All the times her hands drifted from the keys and found my hand for no reason except that we're so obviously the leads in a romantic comedy?

I bite my lip and join her at the table. My confidence fizzles out like candles on a forgotten birthday cake, but I have to try.

"Ada—"

"One of the changes I've made," she interrupts, resting her chin in her hands, "will hopefully prevent paradoxes." Pouty lips on paradoxes.

I mirror her posture and pay attention this time.

She speaks slowly, like she's teasing me with information. "I've implemented a safeguard to keep time travelers from interfering with their own timelines."

Wait.

"If you try to go back and change your own history, the machine won't work. I've set it to flash a blue glow instead of an alarm."

But that would mean...

"So, for example, if you wanted to undo your embarrassing attempts at confessing your feelings, the girl would see you walk out the door, only to return a few seconds later to try again."

Oh.

Oh no.

Frost replaces my heated blush as my blood cools to the temperature of a cherry slushie.

Can you die from awkwardness?

My mouth hangs open in horror, which somehow makes it all the more awkward when she leans forward to kiss me. All at once, my warmth returns, and I wish she hadn't made it impossible to go back in my own timeline.

Because I want to relive this moment over and over again.

END


 

“Corvus the Mighty" was originally published in Vitality Magazine and is copyright Simon Kewin 2015.

"Pastel Witch" was originally published in The Light Ekphrastic and is copyright Jacob Budenz 2015.

"Do-Overs" was originally published in Spectrum Lit and is copyright Jennifer Lee Rossman 2017.

This recording is a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license which means you can share it with anyone you’d like, but please don’t change or sell it. Our theme is “Aurora Borealis” by Bird Creek, available through the Google Audio Library.

You can support GlitterShip by checking out our Patreon at patreon.com/keffy, subscribing to our feed, or by leaving reviews on iTunes.

Thanks for listening, and we’ll be back soon with a couple of  GlitterShip originals.

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