THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS
He was a bat, and his name was Needle,and when he came back home to the little bat-bed I made for him long ago with Mama’s help,he was barely recognizable as anything but a drowned rat with wings.
He didn’t talk long. Needle died. My familiar winged in through my open window at night, and expired by sunrise. I howled, and tore at my face with my own claws. But not for long.
It was a far, circuitous way Needle flew, ensorcellment or none. Far, through the Gate before it was closed, and sideways, zig-zag, whiplash through the mirror in my little room, the one that never exactly stays in place.
The journey was too much for him. I buried him in consecrated earth, and howled a dirge for him that Mama had taught me, from the Old Country. From England. Where I was, in return, very, very swiftly bound. Let that cocaine-crazed fop pick on someone his own size, no poor rodent who gave his life for the Family…
Do you know what it is like to be forever seventeen? The immediacy things gain, the sharpness, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul?
It feels like it’s always been like this. Especially after my wings sprouted, and the other changes began, the very agonies of Blake’s Dragon Christ in this high, lonely castle where only physicians doctors are defrocked monks in the blackest of black robes.
Black as the smoke of the fires on Sire’s lands, the heads on pikes, the mad old days he used to whisper in my ear when talking, talking, talking me to sleep, spinning webs of story when I was really this young and ‘Papa’, dear Papa, was my only consistent companion besides Needle, and all my familiars that came before Needle. My dearest pets, the latest one of whom went away off to War and lay down his life for their stupid Game.
In the world where England lies, the Illusion-World, I care nothing for the workings of the Unpronounceables, never did. The King in Yellow, the Goat With A Thousand Young, That Which Is Not Dead… Bullshit. Authority. Don’t need their Authority, those which are merely fantastically old men to me, muttering in their nacreous beards about the head-games they inflict upon the young and even such as me, the doubly-young, the doubly cursed.
I care nothing for their Game. Only Family. Only to preserve our Family upon the earth. And a slap to one of us is a slap to all.
Damn YOU, murdering bastard, DAMN You and your pig-headed human adherence to what you think is Order! If I really were this young, I might join that foolish Game, but not this year. I have no desire to give away all my power, with favors hanging from me like chains by the time I lurch and flap to the Finish line.
Your English poet John Milton tells us that it is better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.
There is only one piece I will take, Sherlock Holmes.
I will take you.
I will miss this place. Here on Papa’s holdings in the Middle-World, the Dream-world,on the River Skai, it is easier to live, plainly and simply. Matters of realpolitik are not so complicated. Being a half-blood prince means something here. People respect me.
In the Waking-world,on my own father’s lands in the Carpathians, I would be hunted down and dismembered. Or I would become a common immigrant anywhere I landed, an outsider among their century and those who are still fully people.
So thinking, I sprinkle the powder and close my eyes. I have the address written on my left hand. 221B Baker St.
The galvanic charge grows in my teeth, and the air smells suddenly of lightning and the sea. The Game, as the English say, is afoot.
I permit the green baize door in front of me to open with a cold breath. Papa told me I would know the night I fully ascended to my power. I never imagined it would come with this much additional agony. I suck it up, choke back the sweet taste of blood, and fold my wings.
He’s right there. Sitting across the room, staring out the window. Lost in thought. I move too fast to determine the thin man’s reaction,whether we’re alone, anything..There’s no time. No time, except to strike.
“My name is Felix Dracul,” I tell the Great Detective, “You killed my Sire. Prepare to die. Very slowly— UHHHK—“
Dr. Watson’s wooden letter-opener from the Far East pierces my back, yet distracts not the lunge as I unhinge my jaw and lurch forward to circumnavigate Holmes’ throat. Papa, I will avenge you. I—
(then flames, and smoke, and words no more)
For Roger and Trent.
Edward says: “Big D, Little D” was written specifically for this issue.When Mike asked me if I had anything to contribute,I didn’t…for one reason. I heard the audio recording of A Night in the Lonesome October, and couldn’t finish it because it made me weep. I don’t know when it was recorded,but it sounded like it was close to the end for Roger. He was whispery,and struggling for breath. All the worse because it was such a great story. But when Mike approached me about the tribute,I bit the bullet and read the whole book.And I am so glad I did. “Big D, Little D” is an hypothetical epilogue to the work. Without giving away the joke outright, I will say that A Night in the Lonesome October spoke to one particular archetype that’s very, very dear to my heart, and I answered it the only way I could. I dedicated it to the two Zelaznys who have imparted the incalculable, but there is another dedication between the lines. One who had wings. Like a bat… <3
Edward Morris bio: I am a 2011 nominee for the Pushcart Prize in Literature, also nominated for the 2009 Rhysling Award and the 2005 British Science Fiction Award. Presently, I am Online Weekly Fiction editor for PHANTASMAGORIUM magazine. My short fiction has appeared most recently in Joseph Pulver’s A SEASON IN CARCOSA, Trent Zelazny’s MIRAGES and (forthcoming) the Red Penny Papers’ SUPERPOW! anthology. My science-fiction/horror series THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN, rebooted in serial form, will be out next year from Mercury Retrograde Press (Joseph Pulver, ed.; Nick Gucker to draw).
Story illustration by Dominic Black.