Rated R for cross-species connubial arrangements.
Sun’s East, Moon’s West
by Merrie Haskell
I shot the sparrow because I was starving. Though truthfully, I was aiming at a pheasant; the silver snow and the silver birches played tricks with the light, and as if by magic, pheasant turned into sparrow.
When I saw what my arrow had done, I cried with empty eyes, too dry to make tears. The sparrow wouldn’t amount to a mouthful of grotty bones–and even a starving woman knows songbirds are sacred to at least one goddess.
My knees plowed into the snow beside the small creature. “How, how, how?” I fretted. “How did you become a sparrow, pheasant?” The bird did not answer, but when I reached to remove the arrow piercing its body, the accusatory glare of a beadish eye stopped me. A trickle of blood slid from its nares, and the bright eye closed.
“Do not be dead!” I cried. “I would give anything for you not to be dead.”
And while the breath-mist of this rash statement still hung in the air, a bear-god waddled out of the forest, lumbering and large.
The bear-god said: “The sparrow will not die, if you live as my wife for a year and a day.”
I licked my lips, tasting the clear, salty snot that comes of crying, and said, “I already have a husband.”
The bear-god regarded me with placid eyes. “And I already have a wife.”
I stared at him, the dying sparrow lying in a bloody lump between us, struggling to breathe.
“Yes,” I said. “Yes, anything.”
About the Author
Merrie Haskell writes for all ages. Her first book, THE PRINCESS CURSE, was a Junior Library Guild Selection in 2011, and was nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature in 2013. Her second MG novel, HANDBOOK FOR DRAGON SLAYERS, won the Schneider Family Book Award (Middle Grades) in 2014. THE CASTLE BEHIND THORNS, also a Junior Library Guild Selection, released in June 2014. Merrie’s short fiction for adults has appeared in NATURE, ASIMOV’S and so forth.
About the Narrator
M.K. Hobson recently decided to follow a time-honored authorial tradition and become a bitter recluse. She swore off all social media and left her website to go to seed. At the moment, she exists only as a voice on short fiction podcasts such as Podcastle and Cast of Wonders. She leavens the tedium of her vastly expanded free time with misanthropy, paranoia, and weight lifting.