Writing

Kitty Dreadful

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I had a cat who was bitten by a werewolf. There had been attacks on animals in the area, and by attacks I mean that neighborhood pets had been eaten, and we’d find the chewed remains in the days following the full moon. I don’t know why my cat wasn’t eaten, but it came limping home, favoring its front right paw, half its face bloodied and swollen. It wouldn’t let me come near, arching its back and hissing and growling at my approach. I put down some food and water, with extra treats, and let it be, sure I’d have to corral it for a trip to the vet soon. It climbed into a sunny spot in the window and cleaned itself, and, rapidly, over the next few days, healed completely. I thought at first it had been involved in a scrap with a tomcat or stray mut. We had a little cat door in the kitchen so it could come and go as it pleased, and it often spent its time roaming the surrounds, so it wasn’t unusual for the cat to be out on particularly moonlit nights.

Contrary to common belief, werewolves can’t see in the dark any more than we can, and that is, in part, why the full moon is so important. They can’t hunt without the light.

The attacks on house pets became more prevalent, and the authorities recommended keeping them in, having some concerns about the cultish activity of the early 80s regaining in retro-chic popularity. I couldn’t find my cat. The next morning it came trotting back home and launched into its accustomed spot in the sun and began a vigorous bath.

The next month the animal shelter put out traps to contain any strays who might be at risk. Four terrified dogs were taken, two cats, a raccoon, and one trap was left broken to pieces. I locked the cat door and kept my cat in after that.

I remember driving home from a book club meeting, enjoying the way the moonlight cast the rolling fields in silver. Before I even pulled into the drive, I knew something was wrong. The house looked wrong, though I couldn’t say why. Everything was in perfect order at the front. I pulled my car into the garage, and stepped through the garage door into the kitchen.

The back door, the one with the cat door, was torn off and lay in the yard. Dishes, left neatly stacked in the sink, were now in fragments across the floor. The sink itself dripped from a bent faucet. The wallpaper beside the door was shredded and the wall beneath scarred. The police didn’t know what to make of it. It was ruled a burglary, though nothing was taken. Eventually insurance paid for the door.

There were no more animal attacks for a few weeks and we left a window open a crack so the cat could come in and out again. The poor thing had been in such a state of anxiety following the incident with the door, I determined not to lock it inside again. Another bright evening descended on us. I was making dinner, listening to the news playing from the next room, when I had a call. A neighbor had let her dog out into the yard. She heard a terrible yelping and when she ran outside, the dog was gone, and she only found it’s torn collar. I closed the window, and called from room to room, “Kitty! Here kitty! Where are you?”

When no answering meow came, even with the shaking of a treat bag and the running of the electric can opener, I resolved to go out after it. The night was cool and damp and I hugged myself as I went into the yard, calling for my cat. There was movement in the hedge, and I crouched down to peer into the greenery. Yellow eyes peered back at me. I reached in after my cat. It hissed and backed up. I followed and my hand nearly closed on it’s scruff, but the hiss turned to a growl, and then the growling became deeper and more guttural.

In the strange broken light filtering through the bushes, my cat’s snout appeared longer, and it’s teeth larger. I drew back, then looked again. This was a bigger animal than my cat, but I had been certain only a moment ago that it was my pet. I crouched low to the dirt and tried to get a better look. The silky striped gray coat was familiar, and knowing that there was a wild animal out here attacking pets, I reached into the hedge again and grabbed hold of fur. Teeth like daggers sank into my arm. I cried out and jerked back, and lay staring up at the night sky, clutching my arm for a moment. I heard a ruckus in the foliage and when I looked again, the animal was gone. The bite went deep, but there was less blood than the horror movies suggest. I went inside and washed myself up and bandaged my arm. I made a visit to my GP that week, though the bite had healed quickly.

My cat came back the next morning. It meowed and bumped its head against my leg, then took up it’s accustomed spot in the window. When I reached out to stroke its head, it groomed my injured arm. I took it as an apology.

My arm is almost completely healed now, just a few red marks remain. This evening I can feel a tickle in the back of my throat, like the start of a cold, but I have more energy than I think I’ve ever had. The air seems full, more alive with smells, and I’ve left all the window’s open. I couldn’t bear to have them closed up somehow. My cat jumps to the window sill, stares back at me, as if questioning, for a long moment, and then jumps out into the awaiting night. My skin feels tight, like shrunken clothing, and the bright moonlight is calling to me. After a moment, I follow my cat.

 

This story was originally shared on Medium on October 8, 2016

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Blog · book club · Reading

Happy Women’s Day!

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Photo: Daria Głodowska

March is Women’s History Month, and today is International Women’s Day. This month we will #readmorewomen!

Right now, I’m alternating between Julie Dao’s darkly sparkling fairy tale Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, and Martha Hall Kelly’s The Lilac Girls, inspired by true stories of the horrors of Ravensbruck. Both are tales of strong women learning and navigating that strength, and finding their way in a world that seeks to overpower them.

If you’re looking for a shorter read, these are some of my favorite short stories that I’ve discovered in the last few months, all by women!
You can find more great reads at Enchanted Conversation!
Happy reading!
Kiyomi
I have a newsletter now! If you enjoy my stories, if you want to support my writing, please sign up. If you subscribe to my Tiny Letter, you’ll stay with me, wherever I end up writing in the future, and I’ll send you previews of what’s coming up here.
Blog

Being Good

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Photo: adriano7492 via Pixabay

I play a lot of D&D, and one of the drivers of the game is each character’s alignment. Whether your character is good or evil, lawful or chaotic, will guide the way you play and can influence the direction of the game. One of the things I love about it is the co-creative world building around a table with my friends, the actions any of us takes makes an impact, and the ways we interact with each other is almost as important as everything else that’s happening in the game.

There are many guidelines about how to define good and evil, lawful and chaotic, in the game world, and they will roughly agree with one another. Some will have suggestions on how to play a character of one alignment or another, but a lot of that is determined by circumstances within a game, and the experiences of a team.

Inevitably when you get a group of players together, the conversation will turn to where real people fall on the alignment scale, which will begin the debate of what makes an act chaotic instead of neutral, and how many actions does it take to define a person, and what really, after all, is evil?

And that’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about in the last year.

I used to say I didn’t aspire to be good, only decent. Good felt like such a thing to strive for, and so subjective. I was good if people were happy with me, but if I made a choice others didn’t like, they were very quick to remove the designation. When I wanted to be a good person, this could hurt me, so I decided I just wanted to be decent. I was more just trying to do the right thing and get my feet under me than to impress anyone with my relative goodness anyway. And it did seem so relative, too – good as compared to whom? Gandhi, Mother Theresa, the Dalai Llama? Or the guy holding up the convenience store down the street?- and could you really even say such a person was not good, knowing the research on systemic injustice and cycles of poverty? I don’t know. Sure, an act could certainly be bad, but how many bad acts make a bad person? And how many good acts does it take to redeem an evil one?

In the last year, I’ve pondered that, especially as we watched self-identified fascists and Nazis invade a small southern community, as we’ve seen a steady increase in gun violence – 18 only two months into ’18 – and an overall increase in threats and attacks on minority communities. All the while increasingly deranged and disjointed messages come flooding from our leadership. And people in our community will say those aren’t evil people who should be stopped; they may not agree, they’ll say, but people have the rights to… first amendment… second amendment…

What else?

Life? Liberty? Happiness? The self-evident truth of equality to every other person? I think these things are sometimes lost in the shuffle.

In film, we often see an evil character redeemed by a single valiant act, some symbolic and self-sacrificial choice that wipes away all past sins, because we see now that “really” they were just misunderstood, misguided, a poor broken soul who needed more love. The thing is, aren’t we all?

I’m troubled by a lot of what I see these days. I’m troubled by people no longer hiding their racism and other bigotry; by protections put in place to secure the position of the weak being daily eroded; by people literally arguing for the “nice Nazi.” Remember when it went without saying that Nazis were bad guys? I do. That used to be how we would define evil. And yes, it was a word used too freely, so that it’s lost some of it’s sting and some of its weight. Yet when persons in positions of relative power and authority use that privilege to do harm to those in lesser positions, that is evil; and I don’t think any one gracious act can wipe that away. Because like in the game, the actions any of us takes makes an impact, and the ways we interact with each other is almost as important as everything else.

 

 

You can take a quiz to find out your own alignment here.

 

In case you’re wondering, I used to be good. Now it tells me I’m neutral.

I have a newsletter now! If you enjoy my stories, if you want to support my writing, please sign up. If you subscribe to my Tiny Letter, you’ll stay with me, wherever I end up writing in the future, and I’ll send you previews of what’s coming up here.

 

Writing

Save Me

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Albert Lynch [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
She felt like she had been here before. The room was like a grand audience chamber, white stone walls and floors. It was burning now. The heat pressed in like a physical force on all sides and she almost staggered in the doorway. But she had to continue forward. Whatever else might happen, the mission came first. The demon came toward her, clawed hand raised for a strike. She raised her bow, aimed, drew back on the bow string. Released. Missed. The creature closed the distance between them and struck, and she fell.

 

She felt like she had been here before. The room was grand, like an audience chamber, white stone. It was burning. The heat pressed in like a force on all sides. She almost stopped at the door, but she had to continue. The mission came first. The demon came toward her. She fired an arrow. Another. Another. The creature took each hit, slowed but still advancing. It raised a clawed hand and struck. She fell.

 

She knew she had been here before, the heat pressing in. The room was white and hot, burning. But she had to continue. The mission was everything. The demon came toward her. She shot it, once, twice, three times. It took the hits and kept advancing. She dropped her bow and drew her blade. It raised a clawed hand and struck. She raised her sword to meet the blow. The demon recoiled and struck again, its claws grazing her shoulder. She could feel the venom weaken her instantly. It struck again, and she fell.

 

She had been here before. It was hot. The demon came toward her. She raised her bow and shot, dropped it, drew her sword. She lunged, meeting the advancing creature with her blade, struck again, landed a hit; again, and she missed. The claws grazed her shoulder, and she felt the venom course through her body. She remembered the flask of antivenom attached at her hip. The creature struck again, and she raised her blade to meet the attack. With a free hand, she grabbed the flask, pulled the cork with her teeth, and drank it down. The potion did its work, and she knew she was restored. The demon swiped a clawed hand at her, and she dodged the attack, struck back. A miss, a hit, a hit, miss, miss, hit, hit, hit. The demon groaned and staggered, clutching its middle, and fell. She felt relieved, victorious, but more than that. This moment was significant.

 

She had been here before. It was hot. The body of a demon lay at her feet. She wanted to sit, to rest, to catch her breath, but felt compelled to race around the room, looking for… she wasn’t sure. There was nothing. She returned to the demon. The body was unimpressive, strange, not quite real, though her heart still raced from the battle that she could not quite remember. The creature had a sword. It was huge, but seemed to shrink as she lifted it so it was the size of her own weapon. Intuitively she understood that this sword had magic, that it was stronger than her own. She dropped her own blade into her backpack, where it disappeared neatly, and she swung the demon sword in arcs, testing its weight. Then she ran across the room to another closed door. The mission continued. Another battle awaited on the other side.

 

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Epiphany of a Swan Wife · Writing

New Serial – Epiphany of a Swan Wife

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Photo: Rene Bernal

You might notice a new heading across the top of the page!

 

For the next few weeks, I’ll be serializing Epiphany of a Swan Wife. I’ll published the next segment of the story every Wednesday and Saturday between now and Twelfth Night (Epiphany, January 6th) so check back!

Part I: The Owl, is live now!

Thanks for reading!
KAG

 

I have a newsletter now! If you enjoy my stories, if you want to support my writing, please sign up. If you subscribe to my Tiny Letter, you’ll stay with me, wherever I end up writing in the future, and I’ll send you previews of what’s coming up here.

Writing

Moon Rising

 

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Hallwyl Museum / Helena Bonnevier, via Wikimedia Commons

The room she found herself in was dark and cool. Moon had been in her bedroom a moment before, preparing to receive her new husband. They had been married that day, an arrangement made between their fathers. Her robes were folded away into the chest and she had put on her new silk pajamas and slid beneath the blankets, closed her eyes to wait, and then opened them again to find herself here. As her eyes adjusted, she found she was on a sort of bed, a raised dais or platform with blankets piled on it. The floor and walls and ceiling were all carved of stone and unadorned. There was a lake all around the platform, and a narrow walkway that led to another chamber. There were candles, which cast a weak light, but allowed her to see. A shadow moved in the doorway and then filled it.

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Writing

How He Found a Wife

Two days, rather than two weeks.  I’m happy to present my newest work below!

HowHeFound-GAINES-Amanda Bergloff

Art by Amanda Bergloff

There was heat and pain. There was nothing else. There had never been anything else.
The cool rag over her eyes, the drops of water spooned into her mouth were of Paradise. When it withdrew, she tried to call back that gift of mercy, but no sound came through the fires that baked her mortal coil.
Her vision was blurred, but she saw there, at the end of her bed, an old man, gaunt, gray-skinned, his eyes sunken so deep she could not see them, in a Benedictine robe. Last rites, she thought. She must be dying. She felt relief and sank into it.

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Writing

The Complications of Rule

Below, find my newest short story, written especially for The Grimm Reaper on Medium.  It’s been called “a wonderfully subversive tale.” I hope you enjoy it!

Burn this when you’re finished reading it…

My dearest,

Inequity. I was thinking about inequities when I submitted my piece to the prince’s contest of arts. I know you said I should let it be, that I should work at my craft and keep my head down, but I had a hope, I suppose, of shaming him.

Anyway, I want you to know that to be the Royal Clockmaker doesn’t go without certain benefits.

I put all my savings into the clockwork box I submitted to the competition. The tiny chorus sang beautifully once the gears were set in motion, and I think that is what won it for me.

Now I’ve been summoned to the palace, and I will not forget why I began this venture.

Burn this letter, and any others I may send to you, as soon as you have read it.

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Blog · Reading

Keep Enchanted Conversation Going

As you know, I love Enchanted Conversation!

This publication is full of wonderful stories and poems – twists on all your old familiar favorites that surprise and delight! EC also provides a place for new, and not so new, writers to share their work and be paid for it, which many publications are not able to do.

My first published piece appeared on its pages back in March, and when the second one appeared in August, it gave me the encouragement I needed to launch my blog and pursue my writing with greater focus! Now they are trying to expand the number of such opportunities they can offer with each issue, and increase the amount their writers are paid.

If you have enjoyed my stories, or the others published there, and if you can, I hope you’ll consider supporting them, and continue putting magic into the world, which desperately needs it right now!

KAG

 

Hi All:The campaign to raise funds to keep EC going has officially started! Amanda Bergloff (contributing editor and art director) and I have worked hard to make this campaign as easy and rewarding as we possibly can, so we hope you’ll donate. The fundraiser is open until October 24.The donations are one-time, and they start…

via EC Fundrazr Campaign Kicks Off! Please Donate! — Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine

Blog

What We Mean When We Talk About Fairy Tales

I thought I would talk about some of my favorite stories, but in considering fairy tales and other fantastical things, it’s useful to have some definitions.

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Photo: Jonny Lindner

 

Fairy Tales

Broadly when we talk about fairy tales, we mean stories that come out of a common folklore tradition associated with a general geographic region. The region does not matter in the stories, but the stories themselves will tend to be told within a relatively defined space – we can speak broadly about European, Central American, or East Asian folkloric traditions, for example, which will have relatively discreet fairy tales within them. Within fairy tale stories specifically, though, the specifics don’t matter! Though fairy tales within a given tradition tend to be associated with defined geographic region (there are some that seem to transcend geography, but that’s another blog post), fairy tales never happen in a specific place. They are never in a town that appears on any map; most often our heroes and villains simply live in “the village,” or “the castle,” and have their adventures in “the kingdom” or “the forest.”

Similarly, fairy tales tend to be set, more or less, “once upon a time,” or “long ago,” and not, “five years ago,” or “in the 1700s,” or “around the time of William the Conqueror.” One of the defining characteristics of fairy tales is that they are told as happening out of time.

Lastly, fairy tale heroes are unnamed. Think of your favorite fairy tale – Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, The Princess and the Pea – the characters are called by what they do, or what they are; or occasionally, they will have very common “everyman” names, such as Jack and the Bean Stalk, or Hansel and Gretel. But, importantly, fairy tales don’t happen to a person anyone knows, or that anyone has ever heard of. Rather, they are stories about anyone – a princess, a merchant, a farmboy – and so, they are stories about everyone within the community where they are told.

 

Legends

What about King Arthur, or Robin Hood?

These stories fall into the realm of legend. The characters all reside in a more or less specific, named place – Camelot, Sherwood Forest. The happenings of these stories are also time-bound – the Dark Ages, or Norman England. And finally, the reason we’re told these stories is, ostensibly, that they are true – or at least, could be! These things happened to arguably real people in arguably real place at a more or less specific time in history – we’re told! The defining quality of a legend is, instead, the extraordinary actions of the heroes, and that it all could have happened just like the story says it did.

 

Myths

Mythology has to do with the doings of gods. While fairy tales may tell us that anyone can be a hero, and legends will regale us with the stories of those who were heroes, mythology gives us our back story. It answers questions about how did the world come to be, who were the first people, why are we farmers instead of herdsman (or vice versa), where do animals come from, why do disasters happen, and what happens when we die. Mythology also tends to be geographically contained, and while the heroes are named, everything happens outside of time.

 

Folklore

Folklore is the big category that all of these, and other things like music and dance and weaving – and all the other ways that humans have come up with to tell stories – fall into. Our folklore is the way we think about our world, our place in it, and what it all means.

So what do fairies have to do with any of it?

Fairy tales can include fairies, or magic, but it isn’t required. The word “fairy” comes to us from the same root as the word “fate.” In mythology, the Fates guide or determine the course of each individual’s life; so fairy tales are those stories about how the paths of our lives are determined.

Or (and maybe, also), in Middle English, faerie refers not to a creature but to a place – a country out of common time and space where strange creatures and happenings exist – and so a fairy tale is a story that, by having no defined place or time, is tied to that other mysterious land.

I identified Cory Doctorow’s Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town as a fairy tale because, although a good portion of the book does take place in Toronto, a significant portion – including much of the driving action of the story – takes place in unspecific other spaces; and although the characters are called by different names, I argue that, in that lack of specificity, they essentially remain unnamed. Also, although the portion of the story set on Toronto takes place sometime in the early-2000s, in much of the story, time in also unspecified – things take place sort of in our modern era, but we don’t really know when, and placement in time is not at all important to the story.

 

So that’s what I mean when I throw these words around! If you have other definitions, I’d love to hear them!

 

I have a newsletter now! If you enjoy my stories, if you want to support my writing, please sign up. If you subscribe to my Tiny Letter, you’ll stay with me, wherever I end up writing in the future, and I’ll send you previews of what’s coming up here.