by Heather Shaw and Tim Pratt
I opened my freezer to get some ice for my first gimlet of the day and heard a tiny tapping sound coming from one of the ice trays. I thought about slamming the freezer door shut and running for my car in the driveway, tearing away to the southern hemisphere months early, but I still have some residual sense of responsibility, so I stood there and waited.
One of the ice cubes cracked, and a tiny bluish-gray hand broke through, grabbing the side of the tray. A creature about the size of a mouse but more-or-less human in form climbed out of the broken ice cube and flopped out to sprawl, panting, on top of a bag of frozen peaches I use to make blended drinks full of rum. “My queen,” it said. “You are needed.”
I sighed. “Why? The world has turned just fine without me lifting a finger for generations now.”
“The sun king.” The creature — you might call it an elf, some people do, or a sprite — rolled over and got to its feet, wobbling. “He… he…” Then the elf burst into tears. They’re delicate creatures in their way, my footmen and handmaidens, and they haven’t coped that well with unemployment. I hadn’t seen one in years, and I thought they’d all turned into snowflakes and icicles ages ago, but apparently a few of them were keeping the faith.
I picked the little beast up out of the freezer and put it down on the counter, then sat on a bar stool and pulled my light summer robe tighter around me, suddenly feeling a chill. I used to love chills, before I retired. Now I like it warmer. “Tell me,” I said.
About the Authors
Heather Shaw is a writer, editor, bookkeeper, sewist, and lindy hopper living in Berkeley, CA with her husband and 13-year-old son, River. She’s had short fiction published in Strange Horizons, The Year’s Best Fantasy, Escape Pod, PodCastle, and other nice places. She has been the fiction editor at the erotica zine Fishnet, the speculative fiction zine Flytrap, and the pro-SF zine, Persistent Visions. She is currently working on a one-act modern feminist adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, which will have a staged reading in San Francisco in November of 2021. She can be found online at https://www.facebook.com/hlshaw.
Tim Pratt is the author of more than 20 novels, most recently the Axiom space opera trilogy. His multiverse adventure novel Doors of Sleep, beginning a new series, is out in January 2021. He’s a Hugo Award winner for short fiction, and has been a finalist for Nebula, World Fantasy, Sturgeon, Mythopoeic, Stoker, and other awards. He tweets incessantly (@timpratt) and publishes a new story every month for patrons at www.patreon.com/timpratt.
About the Narrator
Christiana Ellis is an award-winning writer and podcaster, currently living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her podcast novel, Nina Kimberly the Merciless was both an inaugural nominee for the 2006 Parsec Award for Best Speculative Fiction: Long Form, as well as a finalist for a 2006 Podcast Peer Award. Nina Kimberly the Merciless is available in print from Dragon Moon Press. Christiana is also the writer, producer and star of Space Casey, a 10-part audiodrama miniseries which won the Gold Mark Time Award for Best Science Fiction Audio Production by the American Society for Science Fiction Audio and the 2008 Parsec Award for Best Science Fiction Audio Drama. In between major projects, Christiana is also the creator and talent of many other podcast productions including Talking About Survivor, Hey, Want to Watch a Movie?and Christiana’s Shallow Thoughts.