by Anne E. Johnson

N- ALGOMA WI.

James Stutzman via Creative Commons

Not a soul heard my mournful keening. As I swept across the foggy moors, the banshee’s cries swirled in my mouth. Her pitchless shrieks overpowered my own voice. I was merely silent wind, carrying another’s sound.

Moon after moon I labored, bearing the harbinger of death to huddled mortals. “Ayyyeee!” the banshee howled.

At last I could withstand this shame no more. “You are not my better,” I warned the noisy spirit. “My moans are as frightening as yours.”

“No,” she argued. “Wind is my servant. My shrieks foretell death. You carry me, nothing more.”

“Behold,” I said. I blew a roaring gale and cracked homes in half. Swinging off to sea, I pushed the swollen waves ashore, drowning a village. When my anger subsided, people wept and buried their unexpected dead.

“Where was your warning cry?” I asked the banshee. “All these deaths, and no sound from you.”

The banshee lowered her hell-black eyes. “You are right, wind,” she said. “I depend on you to be heard.”

Now we cry together, the banshee and I. When you walk the moors, you’ll hear our wails, high and low, twisting around each other. And you’ll know death is near.


Anne E. JohnsonAnne E. Johnson lives in Brooklyn. Her short speculative fiction has appeared in Alternate Hilarities, Urban Fantasy Magazine, FrostFire Worlds, Shelter of Daylight, The Future Fire, Liquid Imagination, and elsewhere. Her series of humorous science fiction novels, The Webrid Chronicles, has been described as a cross between Douglas Adams and Raymond Chandler. Her most recent books are the YA adventure novel, Space Surfers, and a collection of children’s stories, Things from Other Worlds. Learn more on her website, http://anneejohnson.com. Follow her on Twitter @AnneEJohnson.

by Alison McBain

II-ii

Jaan Altosaar via Creative Commons

I saw her hair first, the same color as the wind-blown clouds. She was wearing only a thin shift, and her skin glittered with a thousand liquid stars, as if she had just bathed in the lake behind her.

She smiled over her shoulder at me, but before I could accept her invitation, I noticed something that sent a sudden chill up my back. Her fingers dipped below the surface of the water, but they caused no ripples in the lake.

I’d never seen a kelpie before, but the villagers had piqued my curiosity with a warning about unexplained drownings—I’d not believed them until now.

Glancing one last time at the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, I forced myself to turn away, my heart singing in agony. Her banshee shriek followed me all the way home and echoed through the many seasons that followed.

Decades later, I still dream of her at night, even though I have never returned to the lake. I dream of her with regret, although it is not my only one.

Twice, she broke my heart.

I was born knowing the ways of the world, with a heart that could resist her malicious magic—an old man’s heart.

I had a son, once. But… his heart was young.


Alison McBainAlison McBain lives in Connecticut with her husband and three daughters. She has over thirty publications, including stories and poems in Flash Fiction Online, Abyss & Apex, and the anthology Frozen Fairy Tales. You can read her blog at alisonmcbain.com or chat with her on Twitter @AlisonMcBain.