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Hold The Anchovies

Harris Tobias
Peaceful Intent--Stories of human/Alien Interaction

Harris Tobias
The Tooth Fairy War and Other Tales

Jeromy Henry
Louisville's Silent Guardians

Michele Dutcher

Reply to Spender


Michael Bishop

The moment that I read the letter I know I am in great peril. If the right spell has been cast and bonded to an envelope then opening it is acceptance of the contents. One had been cast and bonded and I have done so. My only defence for my error was that no enchantment had been emanating from it. Defence or not, that is now of no account. That the Chitucana know where I am is. 

In order to win every last piece of information about my predicament, I diligently scrutinise the document. As I do so I gain much wisdom. The carefully crafted promise is elegant in its wording and will not be easily thwarted. The lettering in which it has been inscribed could not have been penned by less than the most artful scrivener; each character is identical to its brethren. Though I hate to admit it, it is truly a masterpiece.

As I run my hand over it, I sense that it is not unique; others have also incurred the wrath of the Chitucana and have received virtually the same letter as myself. Obviously, a clean sweep of us is planned. If I can contact any of them, perhaps we can band together and combine our powers to frustrate our common foe. All pie in the sky, though.  I have no idea who any of them are or where they dwell.

One thing though is on my side. Time. Water that flows down a mountainside takes days to cross the plain to the sea. It is the same with the Chitucana. In due course, the promise in the letter will be delivered upon. But not immediately. Until then I have a breathing space, short though it may be.

It was with sadness in my heart that I know what I must do. It hurts to give up this abode, meagre though it was. When I think what I was done all to make it one with myself I nearly weep out loud. However, I have no choice; I still lack the power to confront my adversary.

Nevertheless I will not tamely run. I will strike a blow against those who would dare curse me. It will be weak but it will be a message to them that I should not be taken lightly.

I go to a shelf and take from it a grimoire, the title of which I will not utter and begin to flick through the pages. If I am to achieve my aim, I must find a spell in counter alignment to what incantations that have been worked. After awhile I find one that meets my need.

For this ritual, air will be my patronal element.  Why? Because the letter has been wrought from earth and water, the former being the paper on which it had been written, the latter its ink. As for fire, well, a process that I can not divine has tapped this element in order to inscribe the words on the paper. But air? Nowhere the Chitucana have used it or an art that depends on it to scribe the letter. It was thus perfect for my needs.

Occasionally, I glance at the grimoire but for most of the ritual, I trust my mind to flow with the magic. It is not a particularly powerful incantation; there will be no crushing like insects or despatching persons to the outer darkness. If anything it is like a light punch on the nose. Still, it will warn the Chitucana that any who aim curses at me will not themselves be untouched!

I complete the ritual and gather together what my possessions I am to take with me. As I do so, I have a premonition that I have not wrought quite what I intended.

Then I flee to go I know not where.


Dave looked about the “offices” of Benson Publishing. A rack of shelves loaded down with paper dominated one wall. In the corner a printer chattered away disgorging sheet after sheet. On a table next to it, another one flashed a light to signal its demand for its insatiable hunger to be gratified.

“How’s business?” he asked the proprietor.

Robin grinned. “Good,” he replied, “Very good and not just because I am my own boss. Every tradesman and his brother want leaflets to hand out or post and they come to yours truly for them. I am backed up with work for the next four weeks.” He shook his head in disbelief. “And they say the big money is in web sites.”

Seeming to reconsider his words, he added, “Well, may be it is. On the other hand, I don’t have trouble with hackers or the Net going down.”

Spying an unusual sheet amongst a pile of others, Dave picked it up to take a closer look.

He studied it with interest. It didn’t look like Robin’s normal work or for that matter any of the leaflets that come through his own letterbox. For one thing, it was not in English, but some script that he had never seen before. For another, the paper on which it was printed was unusual in that it was not smooth and shiny. Instead, it was matt with a rough feel to its texture.

Robin noticed his attention.

“That’s an interesting job,” he commented. “It’s a job for some foreign bloke who came a few weeks ago. Was very particular about it too. Sent the first couple of drafts back because they weren’t right, or so he said. Couldn’t tell myself, but he was the one paying for it. A bit of a pain too: only a small run and I had to mail them for him too.

“Now the paper is interesting in that ….”

Why it was, Dave never learned because at that point, Robin’s soul was torn apart as though by a strong wind.

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2011-03-20 14:39:07
what a story?!! at first i thought the title had a 'typo'.... didn't catch on till the last line bravo -claps- :)

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Books by Quantum Muse contributors and friends.

Harris Tobias
CHRONON--Time Travel

Harris Tobias
The Dreaming Fire

Jeromy Henry