Brian Burt - Speculative Fiction
[This is a "teaser" — the opening to a dark fairy tale that will soon appear in the anthology Otherworld Hearts from Epic Saga Publishing.]
The road to Killorglin was not as she remembered it, but her mind clung to another age. Her memory was long. Merciless. She saw it clearly: that grassy boreen, barely a rutted cart path, circling the shore of Lough Leane beyond Killarney Town, winding west along the mossy banks of the River Laune. Macgillycuddy's Reeks towered in the distance, impossibly green, growing out of the bedrock like prize hedges in a giant's garden. The wind purred against her cheek. She breathed the faint ferment of peat and cow dung, and it was perfume. She could taste the magic in it!
Her eyes blinked back a sudden mist, and that road, her road, vanished.
In its place stretched a skin of asphalt blacker than a taxman's soul. Great shiny buses hurtled past, belching noxious fumes, blaring at any who slowed their wild career around the Ring of Kerry. Raucous, dirty, but not unexpected. Men built their future on the bones of the past. Precious things were sacrificed. She missed the merry mischief of her cousins: spectral lights dancing through the ruins, revelries upon the moonlit moor. She had journeyed far to reach her lost boreen. She had searched every wood and field and fen along the way. So rife with magic, once. Now...
She was a solitary creature. That was her nature. But this kind of solitude terrified her.
The clouds opened when she reached Killorglin, washing the streets with a steady drizzle, what the Irish called a "heavy dew." At least the weather was familiar. She could not find her summoner, but she understood why she had been summoned. Intuition guided her past the brightly painted tourist pubs. The Ring attracted many foreign literati, but a visitor, no matter how gifted, could not serve her need.
No. It must be a Celt.
She came across the place in an alley far from the souvenir shops, paint peeling from the sign above the door. Donovan's Pub. A hand-scrawled note in the window warned that "Credit Cards / Traveler's Cheques NOT Accepted." He sat alone in a corner, nursing a pint of Guinness: melancholy eyes swimming in a pallid face as he stole glances at the other patrons, mining their chatter for a gold he could not find. Not much to look at... but his mind churned with dark musings.
He was perfect.
She appeared in the guise of his most secret fantasies: raven curls spilling across slender shoulders, wide green eyes staring at him with a mixture of pain and longing. Sweater sufficiently dampened by the rain to cling in all the proper places. It sapped her energy, but he saw. He nearly spilled his pint. She caught his eye and smiled, lips trembling with a trace of sadness, of suffering borne silently for years. He smiled back, wondering if another tortured soul might heal the wound he saw in her. She had him. He could not possibly resist; she was his masterpiece.
This tale will soon appear in its entirety in Otherworld Hearts. Check back for details about the anthology's publication date and availability!