I’m always thrilled when I get to participate in different projects with other authors. I’m also always humbled when people approach me. A while ago, the good people at The Realm Beyond sent me a gorgeous image they’d wanted to use for a cover and asked if I’d write a story to go with it. “Uh, yeah,” was my immediate response. While I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it, it definitely spoke to me. There was something alien yet fragile about the creature in the picture, and I found myself wondering what kind of a being she was.
Somehow, my love of history, interest in Lovecraft, and love of fairy tales all had a questionable night together and produced the story Marina, which is featured in this issue. It’s part The Little Mermaid, part eldergod lore, and part 1800s economic collapse in American industry. I don’t know about you, but that says good time to me!
Seriously, I’m really proud of this story of a girl with amnesia who hears strange voices in her head, prompting her that she only has so many days to resolve a problem she’s not sure about. When a wealthy but troubled family of industry take her in, she finds herself at the center of something much bigger than she initially realizes. Can kindness and love help overcome enormous problems and odds, or will both the family in question and Marina be left to drown in their troubles? You’ll have to get the issue to find out, and I urge you to because there are some fantastic authors in this one, including my pal L. Andrew Cooper!
And in case you’re curious, here’s a little bit of an excerpt of Marina to whet your appetite…
The voices rushed into her ears, ebbing and flowing like a tide.
There’s no place left for you.
Will you live? Will you die? Only time can tell and fate knows for sure.
All will be decided in three days.
Her eyes snapped open.
Sunlight filtered between heavy squares of hanging cloth. Even that sliver of light was blinding and she lifted a heavy hand to shield her eyes. Her head was supported by soft…pillows? The word was strange and unfamiliar, but felt right. She was in a bed. Her body ached. When she moved her body felt awkward and foreign.
Before she could add to the thought, an entrance appeared at the far end of the room. Two figures approached, tiny sparks in their hands. Her fingers clenched and she braced to…to what? Cold fear swept over her, smothering knowledge that was just out of her grasp.
“She’s awake,” a soft voice said.
“It was bound to happen soon,” another voiced answered. It was older than the first and full of knowing humor. A silhouette came closer and the dancing spark – a tiny flame on a lamp – crept closer to her face. It wasn’t as bad as the sun, but still she winced. “Close the curtains, Ida. It could well take time for our guest to adjust to bright light.”
“Yes, Mother.” The blinding sliver was covered. The little flames leapt and spread throughout the room, springing up again on new lamps until she had a better view of her…what? Captors? Rescuers?
“That’s better, isn’t it?” the older voice asked and a round face leaned close. It was marred by the wrinkles and spots, and framed by yellow-white hair pulled back in a severe bun that contrasted the woman’s gentle demeanor. “Poor thing. Feeling better at all?” She smoothed her large skirt as she settled into a chair. Her words were thickened with an accent that was much lighter on the younger woman’s words.
“Yes.” The girl in the bed struggled to say the word. She knew it, yet she didn’t quite know it. “I think so.”
The younger woman was also dressed in finery and wore her hair up, but her skin was still smooth. Her grey eyes and dark hair danced with a fire that was still childlike though she was obviously a lady. “You gave us quite a scare, especially Adam.”
The newcomer’s confusion must have been palpable, for the old lady took pity on her. “My son, the head of the family now that my Emile is gone. He found you in the river by his sawmill. Poor boy thought you were already drowned.”
“The doctor said you just needed rest. Nothing appeared broken or harmed, but are you all right, otherwise? Are you in trouble with someone? Only the workers go to the mill, and they can be a rough group. Did something happen to you?” the younger woman pressed.
The girl shrunk back against the pillows, feeling small and vulnerable, a combination that disgusted her for a reason she couldn’t fathom. “I…” She searched her memory, but the past events kept slipping out of reach, drifting deeper and deeper away.
Every gift has a price to pay, the voices chortled.
“Now, now. It isn’t good to press her too fast.. Poor thing was found nearly drowned, washed up at the river’s edge. Is it any wonder she doesn’t know her past from her future?” the older woman soothed and placed one trembling, ancient hand on the girl’s smaller one. A soft jolt like the sting of a jellyfish startled the girl. More confusing was that she could feel the life pulsing in the old woman’s veins, robust for the moment yet frail in the long-term. There was a subtle power that flowed in her blood, though, the power of what? Determination? Belief? Disturbed, the girl slid her hand out from under the gnarled one, shivering.
The old woman smiled. “Don’t worry, dear girl. Everything will be sorted out. You may call me Elise and this is my daughter, Ida. Now we must have something to call you.”
Panic swelled up with the confusion. “But I don’t know—”
Elise waved it away as though it was a minor ripple. “For now, you can be Marina. A good name for one found in the water.”
Despite the confusion, the name pleased her; a soft flush rose to her cheeks as she studied the wizened face at her side.
They’ll forget about you like everyone else.
Curious? Be sure to check out issue 5 to see how things are resolved, as well as check out more intriguing stories by some talented authors!