Wrestling With Gods: Tesseracts Eighteen
I’m very pleased to announce that the T18 cover has been revealed!
What do you think??
My short “The Moral of the Story” is included in this fantastic collection of all-Canadian SF/F.
A mechanical Jesus for your shrine, the myths of cuttlefish, a vampire in residential schools, a Muslim woman who wants to get closer, surgically, to her god, the demons of outer space, the downside of Nirvana. The 24 science fiction and fantasy stories and poems included in Wrestling with Gods (Tesseracts Eighteen) take their faith and religion into the future, into the weird and comic and thought-provoking spaces where science fiction and fantasy has really always gone, struggling with higher powers, gods, the limits of technology, the limits of spiritual experience. . At times profound, these speculative offerings give readers a chance to see faith from the believer and the skeptic in worlds where what you believe is a matter of life, death, and afterlife. . Featuring works by: Derwin Mak, Robert J. Sawyer, Tony Pi, S. L. Nickerson, Janet K. Nicolson, John Park, Mary-Jean Harris, David Clink, Mary Pletsch, Jennifer Rahn, Alyxandra Harvey, Halli Lilburn, John Bell, David Jón Fuller, Carla Richards, Matthew Hughes, J. M. Frey, Steve Stanton, Erling Friis-Baastad, James Bambury, Savithri Machiraju, Jen Laface and Andrew Czarnietzki, David Fraser, Suzanne M. McNabb, and Megan Fennell.
Preview of my story, The Moral Of The Story
Her fingers brush the soft skin, the small smooth of bone under thin flesh behind my left ear, brushing back through wiry hair to where I’ve got it pulled back in preparation for hard work. Lake water, brackish here where it mingles with the St. Lawrence, slides down the side of my neck, summoning goose pimples in its wake. The slick, cool brush of membrane kisses the lobe of my ear and I feel my eyes slide closed, involuntary, as natural as the slight gasp that parts my lips, inflates my lungs, brushes the taste of water and breeze and sunlight across my tongue.
“You came,” the woman in the water says. Her voice is sibilant and filled with nearly inaudible clicks and hard-palate burrs, an accent never before heard in the lower plains of Quebec.
Never heard before the Melt caused all the water levels to rise. Never heard before the Great Dark came and killed all the technology. Never before the Daniel-Johnson dam stopped working, the regulating of the Manicouagan became too much and the river broke through its cement prison. Never before Baie-Comeau was overborne and drowned.
Possibly, perhaps – and maybe I flatter myself a little – never before in the whole of human history. But then, how could we have stories of things like her, if I’m the first to converse with one?
Arrogance is a sin. It’s one of the sins brought the Great Dark.
“I came,” I say, opening my eyes. Sunlight on water dazzles like diamonds. I squint. It’s a comfortable gesture. The lines beside my eyes folding into place is familiar, nearly soothing. “How could I stay away?”
“But did you come for me?” she teases, dipping her chin into the water in a gesture I’ve learned is meant to be coy, flirtatious. Dark hair slips and pools along the surface, shifting and curling like squid ink.
I sit back in the boat, take up my nets, and fling them over the side that she doesn’t occupy. She whistles and clicks, face in the water, summoning fish. This is our deal. She fills my nets, I fill her mind, and we neither of us attempts to harm the other. Actively.
I had more hungry mouths to feed than fear of rumours, and that is what initially drove me out onto the unnatural lake. The stories said that there was something in the water that feeds on manflesh. But I am no man, and we needed the fish.
For the first few weeks, it was subtle. An elongated shadow too far down to see clearly, too solid to be a school, but too large to be any breed of fish I had ever caught before. Sometimes, it was a splash on the surface of the otherwise calm lake. Once, my little rowboat lurched under my feet, against current, violent, wrong.
I was being hunted, I realized. Even as I harvested fish, something else sought to harvest me. The rumours were not just stories.
I stayed away for three days. On the fourth my youngest brother patted his stomach morosely and cried, unable to understand why he hungered so. Defeated by his tiny misery, I fetched my father’s harpoon from the hunting shed, and made the short walk back to the rocky shoreline.
My little boat was tied up where I had left it, undisturbed. But, no, see — there were four long scratches in the wood of the stern, naked against the dark stain of tar sealant, brackish water, and age. I bent down, breath caught in the hollow of my throat, and splayed my palm against the slashes. They were finger-width apart from each other, come from a humanish hand.
There was a Creature in the lake. And it was mad at me.
Mad because I dared to fish? Or mad because I did not come back?
I nearly turned away then, abandoned the boat, and the lake, and went to find another way to contribute to the supper table. I am old enough to go to the steam-driven factories, now, but then who would care for the littles?
I could spare a few hours each day to go onto the lake, but I cannot leave them for eight or more hours each day to work, and then shop. My parents would be furious. And I cannot hunt, I have no skill with a bow and arrow, we have no gun and ammunition is too expensive, and the Mayor Creature has not given us express permission. That is courting disaster.
No choice. I had to go back onto the lake.
I hesitated, but I could still hear the little ones’ frustrated wails ringing in my ears. So I gathered up and solidified my courage. Die of hunger, or die on the water.
Those were my only choices.