Welcome to Merry Sisters of Fate

This is Merry Sisters of Fate: Fiction that Runs with Scissors.

Tessa Gratton, Maggie Stiefvater, Brenna Yovanoff

You’ve found the right place for the dark, the weird, and the disturbingly beautiful. From flesh-eating faeries and demons in love, to unearthly magicians and alternate histories, the Merry Fates explore the creepy shadows where monsters and magic touch our world. Sometimes contemporary and humorous, at other times tormented, romantic, or drawing heavily from fairy tales, there’s something for everyone in the short stories.

Since May of 2008, we’ve posted stories every week, and although we’ve moved on to focus on other projects now, our entire backlog is here. Tessa tends toward the mythical and bloody, Maggie prefers her monsters with a heavy dose of angst and sarcasm, and Brenna lures readers in with delicate and dangerous sense of the macabre.

This summer, Carolrhoda Lab is publishing a Merry Fates project. It’s called THE CURIOSITIES: A Collection of Stories. In it, we explore with footnotes and silly cartoons some of the ways this website has helped us grow as writers.

Thanks for stopping by! Please feel free to comment to any story – we love to chat with our readers!

 

Beanstalk to the End of the World

Helix apologized for the end of the world first thing in the morning. Of course he knew something had to be done about it, and of course he felt badly about it, but also, he also wanted to watch the M*A*S*H* marathon on 227 without having to think about the imminent end of civilization as it was generally known. In the back of his head, he was aware that there was something pitiful about seven hours of M*A*S*H* on a Saturday night, a pitiful that was compounded by Helix’s tumbling black curls, his easy laugh, and his apocalyptic smile. There was no doubt that he could have been doing anything or anyone on any Saturday night, and instead: M*A*S*H*.

Mostly, he wanted to someone to ask him what he was doing, so that he could tell them. But no one called, and so he was left with M*A*S*H* and looming Armageddon until dawn.

Trillium didn’t accept his apology. (Trillium was not really her name. Actually, Helix was not really his name either. The names of gods are impossible for humans to spell, much less pronounce. Our lips and voice boxes aren’t made for it. Curiously enough, the lips and voice boxes of the Madagascar Aye-Aye, a specialized lemur that retrieves grubs from trees by means of an elongated middle finger, are made for it, but no one asks them). Trillium told Helix that she’d been thinking, and she had this theory that Helix had only triggered the end of the world to get attention.

“That’s ridiculous,” Helix replied. He was in his pajamas. Not pajamas like you or I wear, but the original paijama, from West Asia. He’d paired the trousers with a hideous bright blue calf-length sherwani that he liked because a mortal had once told him it brought out the blue in his eyes. His eyes were no longer blue, but the memory of the flattery remained.

Trillium, on the other end of the phone, said, “You’re like a puppy. Even negative attention will please you.” keep reading…

Anthropophagy

The man-eater crouches in the corner of his room and stares at me. All he can see are my eyes as I peer through the thin slat cut high into the iron door.

His hair hangs short and ragged about his face, his skin is as pale as blind earthworms. Father once explained that this sort of creature abhors the clothes of men, and to tie his own trousers and lace on boots was what he taught the man-eater first.

He still strips naked before meals, though.

Of all the things Father collected this is my favorite. It exasperated Father that rather than play the golden harp or admire rainbow diamonds and butterfly lace, rather than groom the razor swans and cuddle the exotic blue cats, I’d lean this stool against the iron door to climb up and watch the man-eater.

When I was younger I didn’t believe he was dangerous. He was only a skinny boy my age, putting together intricate puzzled on the stone floor of the tower room. He didn’t read, but surely it was only because no one ever taught him. One morning I watched him flip through an illuminated book so carefully and eagerly that I stole the key from Father’s study and arrived with an alphabet primer under my arm and candy in my nightgown pocket.

As I slipped in, he stood and backed up to the wall, those large dark eyes of his locked to my face. I smiled, offering him the primer. He reached out with one lanky arm and curled his fingers around it. Dried blood stained his cuticles, and I nearly dropped the book. But I straightened my shoulders and strode to his small desk as confidently as I was able with bare feet. I set three pieces of candy onto the table, red and gleaming like rubies, and said, “I thought I should teach you to read letters.”

The man-eater slunk beside me, his mouth firmly closed. This near to him – nearer than I’d ever been – I could see the gray sleepless hollows beneath his eyes and the gentle blue veins at his temples. He stared at me, just taller, but skinnier, and then slowly, slowly, put the primer onto the desk. He reached for one of the candies and brought it to his mouth. When he slipped it between those pink lips, I glanced away.

I opened the primer and smoothed the old parchment. “Here is A.”

Ay,” he whispered.

“Yes! Good!” I smiled proudly, and the man-eater smiled back.

His teeth hooked like fangs, every last one of them sharp. I felt my face drop and my fingers splayed flat against the primer. The man-eater closed his mouth and focused onto A. He traced it with his finger, giving me time to calm.
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THE CURIOSITIES ARC CONTEST WINNERS!

Thank you all for your enthusiasm! We got a ton of entires, and it was a thrill to see our awesome cover up all over the internet!

But I won’t make you hold your collective breath any longer. Our winners are:

Jazmin of Wonderful Bookshelf of Jaz

Anna Schmahl

Claudette the Future Librarian

Winners email me at tessa.gratton@gmail.com with your address and we’ll send out your prize! CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Giantkiller

We were standing on the corner of Grant and 23rd when this guy came sidling up to us. He had on a long skeezy coat and was talking out of the corner of his mouth in that mumble where you can’t tell if he wants to beg a ride or a dollar or sell you drugs or what. His had a lumpy scarf wrapped around most of his face and under it, he could have been twenty-eight or thirty-five or sixty.

My brother Jack said, “Is it sold out?” and after he said that, I could kind of backtrack the guy’s mumble and break it into words.

Tickets. The guy was holding a pair of show tickets. They glowed paper-white under the streetlights. You boys need tickets?

I shook my head, but Jack was already digging around in his pockets, searching for his wallet.

No!” I said, and I said it fast and loud, grabbing for his elbow like that might actually stop him from doing whatever the hell he wanted.

Jack only laughed and pulled his arm out of my hand. “Hey, what’s the problem? You love Giantkiller, right? And you’ve been yowling all day about your stupid guitar, so this makes us square.”

magic guitar

I just looked at him. Square would be my Fender back.

Square would be if I could have a new brother.

He looked right at me, smiling in the way that when we were little always meant he was about to hold me down in the swimming pool or take my candy bar or lock me in the basement. “Acting like a whiny little bitch isn’t going to get your guitar back.”

There was an empty Schlitz can lying in the middle of the sidewalk and I kicked it hard so it went bouncing along the gutter and down into the storm drain. “If you’d have just stuck to pawning your own shit, I wouldn’t need to get it back. And yeah, I liked Giantkiller in the eighth grade. ”

Jack shrugged and smiled like none of that even made a difference. He handed the guy a couple of twenties and punched me on the arm. “Stop moaning about the guitar. We’ll get you another one.”

He passed me a ticket. It was crumpled and worn soft from being held in the guy’s gloved hand all night.

Also, Jack is an asshole.

*****

Inside the club, the crowd was packed in all the way to the back bar. The whole place was dim and smelled like stale sweat and old beer and drying blood from the mosh pit.

Jack pushed straight through the swarms of people like they weren’t even there, and everyone just let him, even though two feet away, I saw a guy get punched in the face just for trying not to get crushed against the wall.

When Mason Tyler came onstage, the crowd screamed like they were being eaten alive. keep reading…

THE CURIOSITIES COVER REVEAL!

We, the Merry Fates, are super excited to share the cover of our upcoming not-quite-an-anthology, THE CURIOSTIES: a collection of stories.

We are so happy with the cover, and with the final product! 

A vampire locked in a cage in the basement, for good luck.

Bad guys, clever girls, and the various reasons why the guys have to stop breathing.

A world where fires never go out (with references to vanilla ice cream).

These are but a few of the curiosities collected in this volume of short stories by three acclaimed practitioners of paranormal fiction.

But The Curiosities is more than the stories. Since 2008, Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff have posted more than 250 works of short fiction to their website merryfates.com. Their goal was simple: create a space for experimentation and improvisation in their writing—all in public and without a backspace key. In that spirit, The Curiosities includes the stories and each author’s comments, critiques, and kudos in the margins. Think of it as a guided tour of the creative processes of three acclaimed authors.

So, are you curious now?

But it’s not just our stories, it’s full of our own brand of craziness and fun: 

And cartoons we’ve personally drawn!

 

Woo hoo! But wait, there’s more! Our publisher, Carolrhoda Lab, made a trailer in which we babble with slight coherency about Merry Fates and one of us has obscene amounts of eyeshadow. LINKY LINKY!

You can also watch the making of the book itself and our shenanigans here: WHEN THE FATES COLLIDE WITH MAGICAL PENS!

Beast

This is a story.

This is a story about two girls who lived alone with their mother on the end of a road at the edge of a forest. It was not a tame forest. The trees grew too close together for walking and by summer, the ground between the trunks was fast set with violent green thorns, rotted branches, and aborted saplings. It was not a pretty forest. There were too many trees in too small of space, all hedged in by foul-scented locust trees at the edges. The locusts were new. Tall and skinny, with leaves only at the top, like a broom, they grew ten and fifteen feet in a year and quickly hid anything the forest had to recommend it.

mouth suicide

But the two girls were lovely: Rose and Lark-Louise were their names. You wouldn’t have thought they were sisters to look at them. I thought they were merely friends when I first met them, or possibly cousins. Twice removed, if cousins. They were that different. People expected Lark-Louise to be the wild one by her name, but she was slow and quiet as ripples in a pond. Dark-haired Rose was the fiend. The thorns in the forest had nothing on her for sharpness. Both of the sisters lived alone with their mother — I said that, didn’t I? — in a rambler at the edge of the trees. The house had four beds in it. Two twin beds in a shared room for the girls, an air mattress in the basement, and a queen bed that used to hold two. I know all this because I’ve slept in two of those beds. There was no father because a beast ate him. The girls don’t know, but he was trying to cut down the locusts behind the house to make the forest less ugly. It was easy for the beast to reach him from the snarl of thorns. When Rose and Lark-Louise’s mother found him, their father had a twelve foot spear run through him long-wise, and one of the beast’s pronged feet buried into his chest. Their father had managed to cut it off, you see, but the foot was still alive and angry and digging.

The beast was the most frightening thing you could imagine. keep reading…

Bear

It was bones cracking.

The nightmare.

But waking up gave him no outlet to scream, for his throat could only whimper and roar. His tongue pressed against sharp teeth, yellowed and stained as though he’d spent a lifetime swallowing rabbits and deer-livers. He had no lips to form words, but sometimes in that moment before consciousness, he remembered language.

What he’d say: the snap and pop of fire makes me remember what it was like to change.

One of the sisters always heard him, slipping out of their loft on silent bare feet. Her shawl reminded him of something blue he used to know, and her silky white hair curled like the rapids in the river beside his…

She touched his muzzle unafraid, hissing little reassurances and digging her fingers into the thick ruff behind his ears.

The other sister came shortly, always aware of the first’s absence. Her lips were red and her eyes darker than… another thing he used to know. Together they teased him, tugging his fur or blowing lightly in his ears. The dark one painted pink on his claws. The quiet one tied glass beads into his fur.

***

It was a woman’s hands.

The dream.

Caressing his face, his smooth human skin. He could never see a thing, but only feel her fingers fluttering his lashes, drawing a line down his nose, tracing the corner of his mouth. There was no need to remember language then.

Those were the mornings he woke quietly, the banked fire pushing gentle warmth at his back. He heaved up onto his paws and trundled to the door a few steps before settling back into this monster’s shape.

And remembering he couldn’t turn the handle. If he wanted through the door, out of the cottage, he’d have to break through. Easy, with his bulk. But then the winter would rush in.

***

The world outside was built of diamonds. Snow and ice glaring the sun back at him, but the sisters ran ahead, leaving shadowed footprints for him to follow. Sometimes he did, vaguely knowing it was a game, a game he’d played before, hunting… hunting deer on the back of a horse with gray muddled eyes. Named…

He didn’t know his own name.

Just Bear.

Maybe his memory would blossom with the flowers.

***

It was easier to sleep.

 

 

Today’s story based on the common prompt: Snow White and Rose Red
image by Roxnstix via flickr CC

 

Blood Red Rose

Bianca, my sister says. She says it three times, like the charm in a story. Soft, deliberate.

“I’m awake,” I say, before I even really know if it’s the truth.

Her voice is careful in the dark, like she’s afraid she’ll startle me, breathing the words instead of speaking them. “There’s someone at the door.”

The way she leans over me is careful too, like she’s trying to keep me calm. It’s silly, though. Of the two of us, I’m the one who’s never loud. I’m the one who keeps still and doesn’t make a fuss.

Outside, the night is strangely pale. Snow has collected on all the window ledges and made its way up the glass, shutting us in like a tomb. In the clear space above the little drifts, it just keeps falling.

roses

Then, without warning, the pounding comes again, echoing from downstairs, booming through the front hall.

“Wait here,” she says, taking her cardigan from the back of the desk chair and after a second, the heavy wooden bat.

She leaves, and the whole house is as dark and still as the dead. The power’s been out since this afternoon. After a second, I reach for the Coleman lantern beside the bed and turn it on. Then I throw back the covers and follow her.

The lantern casts a dim circle of light, making shadows in all the corners. At the top of the stairs, I stand and listen.

Her feet are light, almost soundless on the floor runner. Then I hear her voice, loud and ferocious, speaking close to the door. “Who are you and what do you want?”

The answer is muffled, low. A man’s. “Please, my car went off the road. About a half a mile up Ashbury Drive. It’s stuck in the ditch and there’s nothing around. Please, if you don’t let me in, I’ll die out here.”

The door distorts most of the sound, but I can still hear the way his voice catches on the last part. Outside, the snow is falling in huge, silent washes, drifting up the sides of the house. It collects in deep hummocks, heavy, soundless, and by morning, we might be buried completely.

“Coral,” I say, because if we leave him there on the front steps, he’ll freeze. “You have to let him in.” keep reading…

The Emperor’s Son

“Is there even the grossest possibility this process could be more efficient?” I asked. “I’m supposed to be in about fourteen different places right now.”

The bearded tech assistant gave a little laugh. “Well,” he said, “If I don’t do this right, you will be in fourteen different places.”

It was the laugh that annoyed me, actually. It wasn’t a laugh that indicated any particular deference or uncertainty. It was a — dare I say it? — yes, chuckle. It was the sort of gentle chuckle that bearded young men tended to give when they were around other bearded young men of the same social status and educational background. It was a chuckle that said we all know what’s going on here, man, and it’s that we’re getting the shaft by fate, so let’s have a beer and let it work itself out.

Only I was not a similarly statused bearded young man. I was August Mowbray, son of Justice Mowbray, who, for all intents and purposes, was the closest thing to fate this assistant would ever touch. And I had, as I mentioned before, fourteen other places to be besides this gymnasium-sized greenhouse full of corn. The entire room smelled like chemicals, modified soil, and, beneath it all, possibly, plants.

“I would laugh,” I said, “But the intricacies of elevator humor escape me.”

“Elevator!” the assistant said. “If this was just an elevator, you’d be out of here and I’d be kicking back, man.”

Using every bit of my personal fortitude, I managed to avoid wincing at the word ‘man.’ “Enlighten me.” My father has an incredible fondness for technology and gadgets and, as County Principal, he was always looking for new ways to implement them in his benevolent rule. As his son, he’s exhorted me to show some interest.

This was me, showing interest.

The bearded tech assistant chuckled again. I could see it, the word, ‘chuckle.’ He said, “This greenhouse is forty-seven miles away from the building you came from. When you got into that ‘elevator’ back in the library, your molecules were dis-assembled, transmitted across the hi-4 wires your dad was so nice to lay out here to Meadville, and then put back together in the same configuration that you like ‘em in. Then the doors opened and you got out to look at some corn.”
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True, Truest

I told the king the truth before I’d grown old enough to understand lying.

Since, he’s come to rely on me. I sit at his knee on a three-legged stool, my ankles together, hair oiled and braided into as much of a crown as I’ll ever receive, in a plain but finely made dress there’s no question everyone can see. From there I observe his court, and when the king asks what I see, I tell him. For my eleventh birthday he bestowed upon my mother a small retirement cottage outside the city, and my uncle who helped raise me a stipend to open his own clock shop. When I turned fifteen I was granted the title Truth Sayer, and a tiny sapphire and emerald ring with the king’s seal. I’ve always striven to serve His Majesty well, never skimping on the truths I see or sparing anyone. My word has led to executions and revelry, to the king’s fury, consternation, and eternal gratitude.

Tonight will be the last time.

The moon hangs low and orange over the garden. I stare at it, listening to the voices from this afternoon echo in my chamber. Three hundred and seventeen dead, Violet. His priorities are changed. You know this is the truth. You always do. Three hundred and seventeen. Do you have to tell their mothers why they died?

My heart pinches, cutting off the memories. I shudder and stand, taking up the dagger from the windowsill. Its jasper hilt is cold in my palm and slippery. I slide it into my skirt pocket, through the thin slit. There’s a hilt strapped to my thigh, an assassin’s tool.

Bennett waits for me in the hallway, his fine jacket gathering dust for how still he stands. Like a shadow he peels away from the wall and holds out his hand. I ignore it, for the truth is I won’t accept any comfort for what I’m about to do.
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