PC026: Black Ribbon

By Dawn Albright.
Read by Heather Welliver.
Introduction by Rachel Swirsky.
First appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine.

The woman measured three drops of poison into the milk and then poured the milk into the first baby’s bottle. She picked up the first baby, the twin wearing the black ribbon.

“Hush, sweetheart, hush,” she said, as she fed the baby girl the poisoned milk. The baby made a face at first, like she wanted to spit the cloth nipple out, but then she tasted the milk and drank everything in the bowl.

The woman gave the baby one of the last kisses she would ever feel and then she picked up the sister, the baby wearing the red ribbon, and fed her pure milk. The nurse wore no gloves, but in a few weeks she couldn’t touch the black-ribboned baby without protection.

Rated R. Contains poison and prostitutes. May not be suitable for the young or immature.

Intro Links:

Chasing the Bard by Phillipa Ballentine
Heather Welliver’s band The Shillas

Please visit the thread on this story in our forums.

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16 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Old Man Parker said,

    September 24, 2008 @ 2:56 am

    Bad. The idea of a “Poision Ivy” character is old. Yes, it’s a fun character, but nothing new. This story didn’t add anything with it’s murky motivated ending.

  2. 2

    podakayne said,

    September 24, 2008 @ 3:18 pm

    sorry to have to agree with Old Man parker…oh BTW loved the warning line, but dont you think it should have had an additional warning.

    Rated R. Contains poison and prostitutes and infected babies. May not be suitable for the young or immature.

  3. 3

    J said,

    September 24, 2008 @ 3:56 pm

    Anyone else notice that the story seemed to only be coming through on the left speaker? the intro and outro were fine, but the story gave me this wierd feeling of some woman standing over my shoulder and speaking into my ear.

  4. 4

    Hyperion said,

    September 27, 2008 @ 3:03 am

    Every story, no matter how original, has probably been told in some form a billion or so times. I don’t mind treading old ground. It’s not the story, it’s the way it’s told.

    And BLACK RIBBON is certainly told uniquely. It took a while to figure out what was going on. Actually, I never did exactly figure out everything going on. Maybe that was the point. Or maybe that’s a weakness. I can’t decide.

    I noticed J’s observation of the sound quality, too. I wondered if that was aesthetic, perhaps to augment part of the story? (If so, something like that should be mentioned, as it is distracting.)

    I hate being critical of something, especially if it’s my lack of understanding. That said, BLACK RIBBON just felt a little incomplete. I enjoyed what I heard, and maybe I should be happy with that, but I needed more. Or, maybe less. Perhaps it could have been tightened just a touch and been a great Minature.

    While this story may not have been my favorite, I am looking forward to what Dawn Albright comes up with next. I like her dark mind. I just wish I knew more of it.

  5. 5

    scatterbrain said,

    September 28, 2008 @ 4:41 pm

    Mah; a bit higher than meh but not that much. What’s the point of breeding a poison women? The story made no sense whatsoever.

  6. 6

    Abbie said,

    September 28, 2008 @ 11:16 pm

    Spoilers ahead! Warning!

    I thought this was a good story. It made me a little sick, but I think it was supposed to. A lot of people seemed confused by the plot. I thought it was fairly clear, although it was delivered piecemeal: An ancient, violent cult (involving the very common element of temple prostitutes and perhaps child sacrifice) has been over-turned and then outlawed by an invading culture. The old temple degenerates into a common brothel. The ancient priestesses retaliate by separating two twins at birth, making one mysteriously alluring and the other poisonous. They tempt a leader of the new grime into a liaison and send the poison girl. As an added twist, she will almost certainly be sacrificed in the process, since she cannot live without the poison and no arrangements have been made for her to return to her carefully constructed existence.

    The author makes the whole thing interesting by getting instead of the tortured head of the poisoned twin. The story is a bit brief, but poignant.

  7. 7

    Abbie said,

    September 28, 2008 @ 11:17 pm

    Oops. No way to edit these posts. Instead = inside.

  8. 8

    LittleLotus said,

    September 29, 2008 @ 1:01 pm

    I liked this story, more or less. Although my head called out for a history of the purpose of the poinson girl my heart new that the author had a reason for keeping us in the dark. The details of the story are what drew me in, the suptious fabrics hiding the filth of truth. The characters were what I would expect except for the poison twin, I couldn’t wrap my head around her lack of remorse toward the end. So, I kinda agree, “Mah”.

  9. 9

    WriterDan said,

    September 29, 2008 @ 5:57 pm

    Decent. I didn’t really feel like we got into the main character (black) very well though. When her decision to change came, it felt out of character because I didn’t know what fueled that change. There was no progression from horror at killing to wantonly killing. I liked the idea though and the feeling of the piece, if not the way it was pulled off.

  10. 10

    Blaine Boy said,

    October 6, 2008 @ 12:23 am

    I agree that the main character’s development was overlooked. But it reminded me of an evil version of This, My Body. I agree with Hyperion that it probably should have been a miniature. Well read and I think that the left-speaker issue adds to the telling of the story so if it was purposeful, nice work. If not, you got lucky. 😛

    Yours faithfully,
    the Blaine Boy

  11. 11

    LaShawn said,

    October 6, 2008 @ 12:47 pm

    I too was a little confused by Black’s motivations towards the end. Her turn at the end came all too sudden, like she decided to go utterly mad just for the heck of it. It’s a nice brooding story but wished it made more sense.

  12. 12

    Brave Space Monkey said,

    October 7, 2008 @ 6:15 pm

    Left channel only? after reading the comment I’m not along in having the body of the story only through the left channel.

  13. 13

    Audita Sum said,

    October 12, 2008 @ 9:20 am

    Cool story.

    I disagree with LaShawn. Black’s a teenage girl who’s had little human contact, and I can identify with the bitterness of being an outsider. I remember wanting to kill everyone. Sort of. Not really. But still.

  14. 14

    Spork said,

    October 14, 2008 @ 8:35 pm

    Ten-mile long introduction? Check.

    Lousy audio quality? Check.

    Lame, uninspired, and cliched character? Check.

  15. 15

    The Fix | From the Podosphere: September 2008 said,

    October 16, 2008 @ 8:34 am

    […] Dawn Albright’s “Black Ribbon,” fantastical toxicology facilitates murder in a brothel. A neat idea, but leadenly […]

  16. 16

    Lessons Learned | Nicolette Jinks said,

    November 16, 2013 @ 12:12 pm

    […] Dragon, a tale of amazing magic which inspired my own start of an “illuminated” story; Black Ribbon, a tale of a baby reared into being a poison-laced assassin; Magnificent Pigs, a tale of child […]

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