Seeing Eye • Patricia Briggs
The doorbell rang.
That was the problem with her business. Too many people thought that they could approach her at any time. Even oh dark thirty even though her hours were posted clearly on her door and on her website.
Of course answering the door would be something to do other than sit in her study shivering in the dark. Not that her world was ever anything but dark. It was one of the reasons she hated bad dreams—she had no way of turning on the light. Bad dreams that held warnings of things to come were the worst. The doorbell rang again.
She slept—or tried to—the same hours as most people. Kept steady business hours too. Something that she had no trouble making clear to those morons who woke her up in the middle of the night. They came to see Glenda the Good Witch, but after midnight they found the Wicked Witch of the West and left quaking in fear of flying monkeys.
Stone Man • Nancy Kress
Jared Stoffel never even saw the car that hit him. He ollied off the concrete steps of the Randolph Street Rec Center down onto the street and was coming down on his skateboard when wham! his butt was smacked hard enough to rattle his teeth and Jared went down. A second before the pain registered, he threw up his arms to shield his face. The Bird-house went flying—he saw it in the air, wheels spinning, a moment before his body hit the street. All at once he was smothered under a ton of stones he couldn’t breathe he was going to die and someone was screaming but it was mostly the rocks —God the boulders flying to land on top of him, under him, everywhere . . . Everything went black.
In the Stacks • Scott Lynch
Laszlo Jazera, aspirant wizard of the High University of Hazar, spent a long hour on the morning of his fifth-year exam worming his way into an uncomfortable suit of leather armor. A late growth spurt had ambushed Laszlo that spring, and the cuirass, once form-fitted, was now tight across the shoulders despite every adjustment of the buckles and straps. As for the groinguard, well, the less said the better. Damn, but he’d been an idiot, putting off a test-fit of his old personal gear until it was much too late for a trip to the armory.
“Still trying to suck it in?” Casimir Vrana, his chambers-mate, strolled in already fully armored, not merely with physical gear but with his usual air of total ease. In truth he’d spent even less time in fighting leathers than Laszlo had in their half-decade at school together. He simply had the curious power of total, improbable deportment. Every inch the patrician, commanding and comely, he could have feigned relaxation even while standing in fire up to his privates. “You’re embarrassing me, Laszlo. And you with all your dueling society ribbons.”
A Voice Like a Hole • Catherynne M. Valente
The trouble is, I ran away when I was fifteen. Everyone knows you run away when you are sixteen. That’s the proper age. At sixteen, a long golden road opens up before you, and at the end of it is this amazing life. A sixteen-year-old runaway walks with an invisible crown—boys want to rescue her and they don’t even know why. Girls want her to rescue them. She smells like peaches or strawberries or something. She’s got that skittish, panicky beauty that makes circuses spontaneously sprout in the tomato field outside of town, just to carry her off, just to be the thing she runs away to. Everyone knows: you run away at sixteen, and it all works itself out. But I couldn’t even get that right, which is more or less why I’m sitting here telling you all this, and more thanks to you for the ear.
The Arcane Art of Misdirection • Carrie Vaughn
The cards had rules, but they could be made to lie.
The rules said that a player with a pile of chips that big was probably cheating. Not definitely—luck, unlike cards, didn’t follow any rules. The guy could just be lucky. But the prickling of the hairs on the back of Julie’s neck made her think otherwise.
He was middle-aged, aggressively nondescript. When he sat down at her table, Julie pegged him as a middle-management type from flyover country—cheap gray suit, unimaginative tie, chubby face, greasy hair clumsily combed over a bald spot. Now that she thought about it, his look was so cliché it might have been a disguise designed to make sure people dismissed him out of hand. Underestimated him.
The Thief of Precious Things • A. C. Wise
Their shadows are crows.
They are two men, standing at the mouth of an alleyway, watching the night with dark, guarded eyes. Their long, black coats flap in the wind, and their shadows have wings. They have feathers and beaks and claws.
When the moon reaches the apex of the sky, they crush their cigarettes against the bricks. Their shadows break into a dozen birds each and take flight.
They have been waiting for her.
She is a fox-girl, running swift over the close rooftops. Up here, the world smells of dust and feathers. Fresh-washed laundry hangs from obsolete radio relays, satellite dishes, and cell phone towers, which sprout like mushrooms atop every building. Sheets and shirts flap in the wind, flags to mark her passing.
Her paws—black as burnt wood—fly over shingle, tile, brick, and tar. The birds follow, floating on silent, star-lined wings. She stole something from them, something precious. They want it back.
Magic City: Recent Spells.