A wild end-of-year post appears

This is the first year I’ve published enough to really bother with one of these. I’m not calling it an eligibility post, because honestly, even if I was successful enough to be nominated for things, who has the time to go through checking eligibility criteria and what-have-you? But I like making lists. They make me feel like I’ve achieved things! So, here you go.

Welcome to the 27 Club (February, Electric Spec)

CW: Self-harm, suicidal thoughts

I used to go looking for others. Study faces for the look of dislocation in the eyes, listen for the slip-up that would betray the discomfort of wearing another’s skin. I even dropped hints. There had to be someone, I thought; someone in the same boat, as alone and lost as I was. I never found them, and as the years slipped by, I stopped looking.

Catching My Death (April, Writers of the Future vol. 36)

Jacob caught his death yesterday.

I watched him carry it back to town from the top of the hospital steps. It looked like a good one: quiet, nestled like a kitten in the crook of his arm.

There weren’t a lot of spectators. Tuesday morning, and a few idling shoppers trickled out onto the street to rubberneck, but no crowd. I’d been sitting on the steps toying with a cigarette and waiting for Mum, but when I saw the bright red flag of Jacob’s jacket I jumped up. He’d been out in the forest since last Friday night, and we’d begun to wonder if he’d be one of the ones who didn’t come home.

Shards (July, Curiosities vol. 7)

Else jumped down from the mantel, dusted off her skirt, and regarded him with big, frank brown eyes. “Who are you?” she demanded, and then, as though remembering to do so was a bit of an inconvenience, added, “I’m Else.”

“Red.” He stuck out his hand, because that that was what you did when you were trying to be polite. Nobody in the House really bothered, of course, but something about Else made him feel he should make the effort. Her clothes were blindingly clean, for one thing, and he couldn’t see a single patch or darned-up tear. Perhaps that meant she was important.

Reprint: We Speak in Tongues of Flame (September, Gwyllion)

She makes a game of it, sometimes, trying to break their concentration. She has chalks in all the bright colours of the insect kingdom, and when she starts early, she can cover a quarter of the square in flowers and monsters and women with flowing tresses before they arrive. A young recruit forgot himself and stared, once, and the blush that coloured his face when she caught him looking warmed her from within for days.

It wasn’t a warmth born of lust, or even, really, of pride. It was pure, clean spite.

Beach Dirt on Bare Feet (October, Her Magical Pet)

“I told him I didn’t need anyone.” Her accent’s almost local, but not quite, a strangeness in the careful way she articulates the words. Not exactly foreign, but not exactly familiar.

I take a step into the darkness, feeling gingerly along the bottom of the pool with my bare feet. My eyes take a moment to adjust, but when they do, I make out the shadowy outline of a woman—and the rock that’s trapping her right leg.

“Right,” I say. “I’ll head off then, shall I? Because you look like you’re managing fine.”

White Shapes in Snow (December, New Welsh Reader)

CW: Rape mention, drugs

Hunched into the wind for the long tramp up Trebanog Hill, he keeps catching glimpses from the corners of his eyes. Pale loping forms as big as a man: ape or wolf or something not-human anyway, with limbs that move in ways limbs shouldn’t. They aren’t there when he turns to look at them, but as soon as he faces front again, they’re back. It’s snowing hard now, a thick staticky curtain all around him, and the pockets of his hoodie do nothing to protect his hands from the cold. The sole of his right boot is coming off at the front, freezing slush creeping in and soaking his sock, and it catches on a flagstone and sends him down thump onto one knee on the icy pavement, numb claws scrabbling for a handhold to lever himself upright again.

Grey Mary (December, Sinister Horror Company advent calendar)

There, up ahead: the Mari, hollow eyes leering at me out of the snowy dark. Then I blink, and the skull is gone. It’s just Mary. There’s something about how the snow seems to fall past her, not settling on her bob or the shoulders of her cardigan. Something that makes her seem not quite here. My stomach knots, and I think for a moment about going home to a fire, a drink, and a bit of crap TV.

I don’t. I keep following, drawn in Mary’s wake through the snow.

…And that’s all she wrote. Or at least, all she managed to get published. Happy New Year, and here’s hoping the next one’s an improvement!

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