A wolf howling over a prairie at sunset, with a full moon, and the words WELCOME TO SALTBUSH in clumsy font

Welcome to Saltbush

Author’s note: we’re stretching our creative muscles this year. We have a planned quartet, with each of us writing two stories. Together they spin an on-going tale of magic gone awry in a small Texas town. Look for a new story on each equinox and solstice. CHAPTER ONE This time, the strange child’s insistent screech was so loud that Regi had to physically steady himself. He took off his glasses and rubbed his temples, grateful for the handful of locals shushing the child and shooting him concerned looks. A headache this bad hadn’t come on since he’d moved to Saltbush...

A foggy white double crystal in the approximate shape of a heart

Story 6: The Ghost and the Espresso Machine

I had to go back to the Lovegood Café. I didn’t want to, but I had to retrieve the Soulmate Stone before I could rage quit—preferably on a busy Friday or Saturday night—and they could all kiss my ass. The only question was, could I act normally now, knowing what I knew? The video I’d taken had surprised me. Without any proof, I’d always kind of assumed it was either Chef or his sous-chef. They had the easiest access to all the food, and Chef legit went ballistic if anyone went near his precious romance risotto. My surprise came from...

Fair of Wonders

Fair of Wonders

The Fair of Wonders waited in the gloam,a shining, trembling sparkle of the night.Shay found herself drawn to it from her home,the miles’ journey feeling like a flight.Right at the gate, three women greeted her—Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos three.Their vague predictions held a strange allure,combining farce and subtle flattery.Her head alive with words, Shay walked the rows,her eyes alert, on lookout for a prize.From in between the dark ‘twixt tents arosea face that she had learned to so despise.“It’s you,” Shay hissed, voice tinged with bitterness,“Have you come back to take him from me now?”The other woman, wreathed in youthfulness,drew...

Story 5: Silver Lining

Story 5: Silver Lining

**CONTENT WARNING for implications of sexual assault and brief descriptions of blood** I crept through the door to the kitchen. Only a couple prep chefs were here and I had my excuse ready, not that I would dignify them questioning my presence in my place of employment, but I wasn’t exactly known for being on time. Let alone showing up on my night off. Not like the rest of my … family … had done much to support this quest. No money. No house. I was on my own. Working three jobs to stay afloat and fulfill their mission. Guess...

A slice of watermelon on a wooden table with the word "Summertime" seemingly carved into it

Summertime

Grandmother promised thick slices of watermelon, if only the three girls could shuck the corn before dinner time. They worked as fast as their tiny hands allowed, gripping great soft handfuls of silk and squealing at the wet-boot sound of the leaves tearing away. When they ran back to Grandmother, raising the large bowl of squeaky-clean ears for her to see, they were rewarded with the melon they had earned: a slice each, as large as half their head. Carrie, Etta, and Fern clutched their bounty and fled to the creek to consume it. “Come back in time for dinner!”...

Story 4: Love on the Rocks

Story 4: Love on the Rocks

The things a girl puts up with, and not just for money to pay for essentials like rent and food. While that was a big motivator for my continued employment at the Lovegood Café, it wasn’t the only reason I stuck around. Biding my time. Waiting until I fulfilled my role in this charade, and then I’d be free from this romance hellhole. I leaned forward, cleaning the sticky mess and clearing last night’s dirty dishes and flatware from the bar, the length of the counter was marred with now-dried condensation and food-crusted plates. I jabbed my ribs on the...

Law of the Unknown

Law of the Unknown

“Welcome,” said the reedy voice, a thin stream of nasal syllables flowing down Main Street, “to Judehiah Dooldy’s Travelling Spectacle of the Sinister and the Sublime!” Unbeknownst to the crier, an enterprising boy skulked beneath his feet, under the temporary wooden stage set up by the travelling show-folk. Rex Summerfield reached the far end of the hastily-nailed board contraption and raised his head like a prize bloodhound, turning his keen senses outward. Usually he used his ability to catch the sound of a lizard’s swishing tail to catch the aforementioned lizards. Now he was trying to pinpoint any telltale sign...

Story 3: A Rosie By Any Other Name

Story 3: A Rosie By Any Other Name

I wiped down the counter for at least the tenth time. The circular motions were swift, curt, practically sanding the surface with each swipe of the soft cloth. Fucking assholes better not leave all the cleaning to me again, I muttered as the sticky mess finally disappeared under soap suds. Damn new hires not doing the bare minimum… “Hey Liv, missed ya last night,” Chef said over the clatter and clang of dishes, pots, and pans being put away. Cooks scurried behind him readying sauces and that goddamned romance risotto. The earthy, complex aroma wafted through the still-empty restaurant. “What’d...

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