by A. Merc Rustad
read by Curtis C. Chen
First published in Issue 49 of InterGalactic Medicine Show in February 2016.
The raven’s ghost follows first. It’s not a surprise, if I’m honest. I killed a raven once–intentional, cruel–some time ago. (I don’t remember why.) At first I saw it in the distance while I prowled the ruins of the once-majestic forest, hunting the men who robbed me. Yet the ghost never approached until now.
It perches on a petrified tree stump. The light from the campfire shimmers against its glossy feathers, blood etching razor-edged plumage. It should be indistinguishable in the night, banked in shadow. I only know it’s a ghost from the hollows of its missing eyes, how its shape bends in unnatural directions at the corners of my sight.
“I’ve naught for you.” I say it to the knives laid out on oiled canvas before me.
The raven’s ghost makes no sound. Its unnatural muteness tightens the muscles in my neck. Ghosts are never silent. Death is neither gentle nor kind.
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A. Merc Rustad is a non-binary writer who lives in the Midwest United States. Favorite things include: robots, dinosaurs, monsters, and tea. Their stories have appeared in Lightspeed, Fireside Fiction, Apex, Escape Pod, Shimmer, Cicada, with reprints included in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015, Wilde Stories 2016, and Transcendent 2016. Merc likes to play video games, watch movies, read comics, and wear awesome hats. You can find Merc on Twitter @Merc_Rustad or their website: amercrustad.com.
Once a Silicon Valley software engineer, CURTIS C. CHEN now writes speculative fiction and runs puzzle games near Portland, Oregon. His debut novel WAYPOINT KANGAROO is a science fiction spy thriller about a super-powered secret agent facing his toughest mission yet: vacation. The sequel, KANGAROO TOO, will be out in June of 2017.
Curtis’ short stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, MISSION: TOMORROW, and the 2016 YOUNG EXPLORER’S ADVENTURE GUIDE. He is a graduate of the Clarion West and Viable Paradise writers’ workshops. You can find Curtis at Puzzled Pint Portland on the second Tuesday of most every month.