Henderson, Samantha: “The Mermaids’ Tea Party”

The Mermaids’ Tea Party

by Samantha Henderson

Cassandra’s frozen hands slipped on the on the slick rocks and she kicked her legs weakly. Salt water filled her mouth, chilly and bitter. Unable to lift her head, she gagged.

One of the mermaids — the blue-eyed one with the sharp nose and the straw hat with sodden paper roses — noticed her and grabbed her by the back of the neck, pulling her up over the wet, rough rocks. She felt skin scrape off her knees, but was too cold to register the pain.

The mermaid dropped her on the sharp wet rocks of the little islet, which surely must be submerged at the high tide. With a graceful flick of her blue-green tail she turned back to her companions. One, with dark red hair to her waist that matched the rippling highlights of her tail, was perched on a nearby outcrop. She wore an officer’s cap on her locks and a jet-beaded pelisse about her shoulders, her red-tipped breasts peeking out. The sight of the pelisse gave Cassandra a pang. It was her mother’s. And Mama was dead.

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Henderson, Samantha: “Monsters of Abiding Grace”

Monsters of Abiding Grace

by Samantha Henderson

Three days after the foothills started to burn the power failed, and this time they knew it wasn’t a temporary outage, or even the typical hiatus until the light flickered on and the wires hummed with the faint crackle no one had ever noticed until it was gone.

This time it was finished.

They stopped gathering and began packing, and there was the anticipation of things new and uncharted, although all had been mapped and measured and asphalt-paved years and years before. That was from another lifetime.

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Henderson, Samantha: “Starry Night”

Starry Night

by Samantha Henderson

At the crest of the last foothill I stopped and rubbed at my left shoulder, where the pack’s strap bit. Shadows lay like dregs of wine in the valley below.

I shifted the walking stick back to my right hand and limped towards the village. This was a job for a younger man.

Montverdu was a hamlet of 300 souls, at least last census-time. Whitewashed cottages and their moss-green roofs sat at odd angles to each other. A few had smoke curling from their chimneys. In the center squatted the great white church, like a mother cat between her kits.

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Ian, Janis: “Mahmoud’s Wives”

Mahmoud’s Wives

by Janis Ian

When the rains came, Mahmoud packed his wives into a large canister and loaded them onto the truck.

The eldest wife, of course, complained loudly. It was dark. It was dank. It was crowded. She could not breathe.

Mahmoud bore her invective in silence. Truth be told, the exceptionally good soya harvest of last year had allowed him to afford a third wife, and in all likelihood it was getting crowded in there. Still, if Fatimah would only exercise more as he’d suggested, instead of just dragging around all day like a landsnail, she would probably lose some of that extra weight and fit in there quite comfortably. There were plenty of air holes.

He sighed and closed the hatch over her protests. Glancing sheepishly at the neighbor’s empty window, he mused to himself, “What does woman want? Is it not written that to serve and obey is the greatest of all blessings? Why can she not be content?”

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Jemisin, N. K.: “The Brides of Heaven”

The Brides of Heaven

by N. K. Jemisin

No one realized the extent of Dihya’s madness until she was caught sabotaging the water supply. Even then the madness was difficult to see as she sat in Ayan’s office with her hands tied and her headscarf still askew from the struggle. She did not wrap her arms around herself and rock back and forth. She did not talk or weep incessantly, or fidget. Indeed, Ayan observed, to judge by her calm demeanor and the odd little smile on her face, Dihya might have been saner than any woman in the colony. This irritated Ayan to no end.

“You never attend the evening storytellings,” Dihya said. She had kept her silence up to that point. “Why not? Don’t you like tales?”

“Only true ones,” Ayan replied. “For example, the tale of why you broke into the purification facility.”

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