About the Book
Visit ancient Rome, lunar settlements, and alien worlds. Meet zombies and vampires, mermen, dragons, and demons. Experience nano technology and watch history happen from a time machine.
Barbara Davies explores the spectrum of speculative fiction in this collection of entertaining and thought-provoking stories.
Into the Yellow — Lone Wolf — Morris Dancing — Cordie and the Merman — Caverns of the Heart — Babalawo’’s Drum — High Flyer — Journey to Niskor — Time and the Maid — Throwback — A Question of Gender — The House on the Via Aurelia — Dog and Kat — The Creature in the Cut — Demonsbane
“While her style is unconventional and her voice singed by sarcasm, Davies plies the English language and tames it into submission. Her writing is vivid and clear, bringing the story into focus with bright colors and sharp images.” – Donna Watkins, Tangent Online
“Kesho . . . Kesho, where are you?” The familiar voice came drifting up the rise. “You promised to help me get ready for tonight.”
From her hiding place, Kesho watched Mother turn downslope and sighed with relief. She’d been cooped up for the last two days, but it had been drizzling anyway. Today the weather was fine and still, and the urge to escape from the endless preparations for her brother’s betrothal party had proved irresistible.
She had grabbed her knife and haversack as she left the cave, and now she strapped the knife belt on, and slung the sack from her shoulder. The base of her tail itched, and she twisted and nibbled the creamy skin until the irritation subsided. Decisions, decisions. Her best friend, Buki, would be cloudskimming–should she go down and join him? But there would also be a good view from the top today–maybe even as far as Batian Mountain. On an impulse she turned upslope.
A twinge of guilt at her desertion nagged Kesho. I’ll take back some glimmer-flies for the party, she decided. Buki liked them too, and there were usually plenty on the glacier—they thrived in the thin air. Her mind easier, she began to climb.
The higher she climbed, the hotter it became, and Kesho was having to pause often for breath. Morning sunlight had melted the night’s ice crystals but not yet baked the liquefied soil into a crust. This was the worst bit, she thought, stirring a mud puddle with her toes while she waited for her aching lungs to ease.
Sunlight glinted off the ribbon of ice above. A heat haze hung over the glacier, and Kesho knew it would be cooler up there. She took a deep breath and scrambled the remaining distance. The ice soothed her tired and overheated paws, but it wouldn’t be long before the pleasant coolness became a debilitating chill, in spite of the sun’s rays. She eased herself over to her favourite dirt patch and, now insulated from the cold, lay on her belly. Perfect.
In spite of the haze, the view was breathtaking. To the north, Batian Mountain’s distinctive double peak looked closer than ever.
Kesho flicked out her tongue and tasted the moisture-laden air. Not as pleasant as the stream by the cave, but not bad. She sighed with contentment, and basked in the sun. A shadow flitted over her and she looked up. It was only a bone-bird, cruising the rising air currents, looking for food. She watched its beady eyes assess and dismiss her, then turned back to the distant mountain, which jutted like an island above the yellow cloud sea. How far away was it really? And how high?
Today the Yellow was calm, with barely a billow or eddy. Kesho could just make out the moving dots of bone-birds diving as near to its surface as they dared. Only once had she and Buki seen one fly too low, and then it had been mere seconds before the choking cloud took effect. The bird’s carcass had floated for days before rotting and sinking from sight, a potent warning to foolhardy younglings. It didn’t stop Buki and the others from cloudskimming for long though.
An inquisitive glimmer-fly hovered in front of Kesho. She flicked out her tongue, reeled it in, and crunched it between her gums. Its sharp tang was delicious. As she spat out the fly’s inedible core, she remembered her earlier resolution. One eye scanned the glacier ahead while the other looked behind.
There. Iridescent insect bodies caught the sunlight as they batted to and fro. Kesho raised herself off the grit patch and inched closer to the shimmering cloud. She took a deep breath.
Snicker. Her tongue snagged the nearest glimmer-fly and in one practised movement banged it on the ice, crushing its tiny body like a bone-bird would a bone. Crack. She released the corpse and started again. Snicker. Crack . . . She had caught and killed twenty of the dull-witted insects before they realized their danger and vanished. A satisfying haul, she thought, stowing the catch in her haversack.