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This time around our Name in Lights goes to one of this issue's authors.
We at Allegory love being a writer's first sale. It's not something we always know; it really depends on the individual author to tell us, and authors are often reticent on such matters.
Not in the case of Zakiya Jamal, the author of this issue's wonderful "Thusia." As she reveals in her bio, we are her first published work, a fact that we're all too eager to shout from the rooftops!
Zakiya. You're a wonderful writer and its a privilege to be your introduction
to the published world. We have no doubt that you'll make us all proud!
Why Do You Write?
by Ty Drago
Some people seem to find writers "fascinating."
Maybe it's because we sweat and bleed to produce stories, a passion and calling that many folks aspire to, but few ever achieve. Or maybe its that wierd feeling people get when they see an author's name on a book they like, only to then later meet that person and think, "But ... he's so ... human!" Or maybe it's the simple fact that writers are crazy.
My money's on that one.
Anyhow, it stuck me recently that there are a class of questions that writers field all the time, and wouldn't it be fun to pose one of these to a number of published authors with whom I'm aquainted, and whose work I particularly admire.
So, with all that preamble safely behind us, Allegory has presented a gaggle of writers with this simple (yet not so simple) query:
Why do you write?
Here is a list of the authors who responded. Click the links below to see each author's response. Some are short. Some are long.
But all are fascinating! :)
“What is it?” I asked, staring at photographs of police officers standing behind coffins.
“Probably an old funeral detail,” said Sergeant Trask, studying a photograph. He thrust it at me. “Here, see if your young eyes can locate a date or recognize these guys.”
“Four coffins,” I counted. I studied the photograph for a moment, puzzled by the image. “This is weird. This floral arrangement says ‘In Memory of Officer James Kirkpatrick.’ I saw Jimmy at roll call this morning.”
“Could be a family member,” said Sergeant Trask, “but I don’t remember his old man being on the force.”
I examined the photograph further and my stomach turned. “This has to be a sick joke. This wreath says ‘Officer Lugo-Munoz!’ That’s me! Who put you up to this?”
“Mother, wait,” I said. Her back was to me but I saw her tense up for a second before she turned and looked at me. Her lips were pressed tightly together in a straight line and there was a brief look of irritation on her face before she sighed deeply.
“Thusia, we must go,” she said. She spoke like I was a little girl that didn’t want to go to school today. There was a mixture of annoyance and frustration in her voice that made me worry about what I was going to say next.
“I know mother,” I said. I stood from the table, keeping one hand on the edge. I needed something to hold onto otherwise I felt I would faint out of fear.
“Then let’s go,” she said harshly. I shrank back at her words and her face softened.“I mean,” she said gently. “We should head outside. We don’t want to be late.”
“Right, of course, mother,” I said. “But – ,” I paused, “But, do I have to do this?”
Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc"
As it turns out, he bequeathed me his house.
I hire cleaners used to dealing with hoarders. Next, I hire a decorator. Lastly, removalists transfer my belongings into Grandpa’s house. No, into my house; it is my house now. And everything in it belongs to me.
The scratching wakes me at night. Pitter-patter, pitter-patter. I stare at the ceiling, dimly lit by the digital clock. Something lives in the crawlspace. Exterminators can’t find evidence of infestation. ‘The spoor is old and desiccated,’ one of the many exterminators says. ‘Whatever’s creeping around up there doesn’t take a dump.’
Yet a creature is getting in and out, somehow.
"Mr. Buchanan?" He winced a little at his own words. "Mr. Buchanan, I'm Rowan Thomas. I'm the journalist who's come to dig up all of those skeletons you must have in your closet." He chuckled for affect, but Tony showed no sign of response and the silence thickened. Tony continued to stare, examining Rowan as he did so. After a moment more of this he relaxed somewhat.
"Yes, Mr. Thomas?"
"I thought... could we start the interview, sir? I'm sorry, I..." Rowan strove for the right words, "please, excuse me for asking, but is this a bad time sir?" The billionaire looked intently outside a nearby window as he answered.
"Do you ever feel, Mr. Thomas, that you're being
crept up upon?" Rowan swallowed.
The Library appeared empty, which was good. That’s helpful when you’re a thief.
It felt strange, breaking in here. Libraries, even the Library, should be open to all, right? Plus, it was the law. After the war, the treaty required that everyone in the galaxy have equal access to the Library. Turns out the Vertinax had a different definition of "everyone" than the rest of us. One that didn’t include humans.
So I didn’t feel all that bad about this particular job. Even less bad than usual. And I’d always liked libraries.
It must be thinking about birthdays that brings us down First Street and then to the corner of First and Park Drive. I look at the big barn-like building, at the way the "R" has fallen off "Arena", and remember . . .
On my ninth birthday, Dad took me to see the Renegades play. He bought me a Renegades jersey and everything. I close my eyes for a moment and can still taste the popcorn, hear the roar of the crowd when Podovski scored the first goal --
My daydream is interrupted by an intense whisper from Yan.
"Trouble," he says, his brow furrowed beneath
the fringe of jet-black hair.
He raised his gaze. The sky, or whatever was above him, was an odd shade of green. But there, almost directly over him, a coloured spot hung in midair. He stared at it for several seconds, trying to see through it, until he realised it was the inside of his closet. His eyes widened.
He rolled off the bush onto the ground and looked up at his closet hanging above his head. When he had stepped into it, he had fallen through a hole into this weird place. Obviously this wasn’t the third story under his fourth-floor apartment.
Jack tried to estimate the height of the hole. It seemed to be about fifteen feet up. Just fifteen feet away was his escape out of this place and back to his world, but how would he ever get up there?
In the end, Dave’s own exorcism did not go very well.
For the first couple of months, being haunted had not been so bad. Dave, the ghost, didn’t inflict many of the classic horrors one associates with being haunted.
He didn’t float around screaming.
He didn’t rattle any chains.
He didn’t walk through walls or vanish suddenly.
He did the opposite of vanish, actually; he mostly stayed.
A long line of people trailed through the valley and over the grassy hills. Adele had been standing in it as long as she could remember. Not always here, of course. The queue once moved at a steady pace. They had marched through forests, swamps and mountains. They passed by, and sometimes through rivers, lakes, and oceans. But the line hadn’t moved much lately. A few shuffling steps now and then. Every once and awhile just a little something more: one afternoon, two or three weeks earlier, there had been a burst of fifty yards in just a few minutes. Everyone became bright-eyed and eager, shifting their packs, starting to swing their arms, getting into a rhythm, excited murmurs swept back and forth: “Here we go!”; “Here we go again!”; “At last!”
Then it stalled. Tempers flared; children cried; there were a couple of fights; rumors of a stabbing a few miles behind. As the sun set a sleety rain swept in from the north. It left behind a starry sky washed clean of warmth and hope. And of course the wolves had begun to howl. The line had moved a step or two more since then, but nothing out of the ordinary. Now the sun had set again. Low clouds were rushing by. It was going to be another miserable night. Adele sighed, and regretted it immediately.
Tree Grows in Hell"
The Gardener has spent long years gathering dead dirt worn from the clawed mountains and badlands by stinging, sandpaper winds, and carrying it across rivers of lava or ice or excrement or worse to this spot, carefully selected to provide shelter from the winds and a hiding place from marauding bands of tormented souls. Using a fetid compost of feces--his own and what he could dredge out from the turgid flows that criss-crossed Hell--patiently piled and turned, then folded and worked into the lifeless grit, he has made a fertile, crumbly black cradle for his tree's pale roots. A clever wind trap gathers moisture from the constant wind, funneling the tiny, stained drops into reservoirs sewn from sections of his own intestines. Small tubes of the same material drips the tepid water directly into the tree's roots.
A small, distant part of me admires his work, but for the most part I feel irritation at his relentless, even obsessive passion for this tiny bit of life he has so carefully midwifed into existence, in quiet, hidden defiance of this place of eternal torture.
"Impossible!" Dad was hot in the face, his big chest heaving up and down. "Christian, this was your chance. Our family's chance!"
I slid around the coffee table for a better view. Christian was a shadow of himself: sunken cheeks, dark eyes, hunched shoulders. Staring at the ground. I'd never seen him like that. It turned my skin cold.
He mumbled something incoherent. The fingers of his left hand worked at the worn edges of Mom's necklace--the one she lent him as a good-luck charm the day he left.
"This was a gift." Dad was waving his arms, as if that would rewind the past. "A chance to establish ourselves in the community. We'd jump straight to the front of the rations line every week. Get first selection on supplies. Maybe even move into a bigger house. Dammit, Christian--we'd be heroes. You've squandered it!"
The worst thing about that stupid reindeer song isn’t the unbearable kitschiness; it’s the fact that my name is last. So what if it goes in rein order? It’s not like we at the back take the light load. But it’s not really a big deal; I guess I’ve been with the Boss long enough for him to know I can take the grunt work.
The sun went down a few hours ago but I haven’t been able to sleep. The temperature isn’t right without the other seven in here. The wood of the stalls is slick with salty ice and the heavy smell of hay and Reindeer sweat is diminishing in the frigid air. There is just enough light for me to see the smoky breath that puffs from my nostrils. The straw underneath me muffles the sound of creaking wood and the shuffling of something—probably an owl—in the barn rafters. Sometimes the light from the moon will come in through the window and glint off the bucket above me.
And of course Dasher had to go and get that stupid song stuck in my head.
this issue we're doing things a little differently. Instead of short
Allegory deals with submissions in the way that, as far as I know, remains fairly unique in the publishing world. Each story is individually reviewed and, if considered publishable, is placed in our "Maybe" pile. At the end of each submission period, these "Maybes" are reviewed, and the best eight chosen to appear in the next issue. This final cut is made on the basis of issue balance, and does NOT reflect the overall quality of these stories.
That said, here - in no particular order - are the "Maybes" who just missed publication in Allegory. Each one is a fine tale that we would have been proud to publish. Remember these names, friends and fellows. You'll be hearing from them in the future. I guarantee it!
The Long Walk by Mike Driver
Editor for Hire!!!
Allegory's own Kelly Ferjutz, who has lent her editorial talents to this ezine since its inception in 1998, is now offering her expertise to writers out there looking for professional editing services.
Kelly is a veteran editor, a published author in her own right, as well as a "blogsman".
Click HERE to discover more about Kelly's offered services.
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