Deceptive, alluring, dangerous, these monsters thrive in the dark corners where dreams die.
A faery of folk legend leads restless Bryn to a revelation. But the fae are notorious tricksters…
When Noah Rose discovers the secret of a fabled island, he learns the true price of his heart’s desire.
As a scientist, Dr. Anja Karem wants to save lives. Her own. Her team’s. The strange new species she’s found. When those goals clash, hard choices must be made. And there’s no going back.
In these three tales, you’ll meet new incarnations of old legends—the will o’ the wisp, the siren, the water sprite—and the humans who learn what it means to cross the path of a modern monster.
© Copyright 2019 Alyce Black
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The city shines as darkness rises from the slow, silent death of the day. Shines, sparkles, glitters. A galaxy of individual lights, drowned by the fierce sun, their quiet beauty only revealed with the relentless turn of the planet away from its star.
Bryn loves this in-between time, here on the little hill on the outskirts of the city. This ephemeral moment holds a magic found nowhere—nowhen—else.
“I’m cold. Can we go back now?”
Bryn stifles a smile. Poor Foster. He’s the indoorsiest of indoor people, yet for some reason he likes to follow Bryn on their sunset nature walks. It’s sweet, really.
“You can go back if you want,” Bryn says. “I’m staying for a while.”
Foster sighs. Bryn glances at him—skinny jeans, shiny fall of black hair over heavy-lidded eyes, mouth downward-bowed in a frown. He frowns too much. But he has a way of looking right into you. Seeing things you aren’t sure you want him to see. Which Bryn finds both repellent and irresistibly alluring.
“Fine. Stay.” Foster rises to his feet with his usual wounded grace, taking care to keep his expensive distressed sneakers well clear of the mud beneath the ancient bench. “I’ll tell Becky and Lars you’ll be late. Again.” He shoves his long, delicate artist’s hands into the pockets of the denim jacket that isn’t warm at all but they’re back in style right now for the tragically hip young creative type, so here he is shivering in it anyway. He peers at Bryn, thoughtful. “Jemma said you’d stay.”
Thinking of Jemma gives Bryn a cozy glow inside. Should’ve asked them to come instead of letting Foster tag along. Jemma would’ve understood. Would’ve stayed, even, maybe. Leaned against Bryn’s shoulder, warm and fragrant and hugely present in spite of their physical slightness, black curls tickling Bryn’s neck, palm on Bryn’s thigh in a soothing circular caress. Soft laughter blending with the music of birds and insects in the dusk.
On further thought, Bryn figures that’s why Jemma isn’t here. Because, bone deep, Bryn wants to be alone.
It’s not the first time. Jemma will get it, even if nobody else does.
Bryn is surprised when Foster steps over, bends, and plants a soft kiss on their lips. He rarely shows such affection when he’s pouting, and Bryn can’t help kissing back, just for a few seconds, touching his stubble-rough cheek. They’ve never been able to resist Foster when he’s being vulnerable. It’s a curse.
The kiss breaks. Foster straightens, a person-shaped negative space against the growing cluster of lights. “Be careful, okay?”
A beetle crawls over Bryn’s ankle. Moths flutter at the edge of their vision.
Not alone. Never never never alone. Not as long as insects fill the magic night, Bryn’s companions for longer than they can remember.
“I’m fine.” Bryn feels Foster’s worry, and smiles. “I’ve been coming here at night since forever, Foster. I’m fine. I promise.” Bryn reaches up, smacks Foster’s admittedly fine ass. “Go tell everybody I’m communing with nature and I’ll see them later.”
Is the sticky wet sound of Foster’s eyes rolling real, or imagined? Who can know?
He snickers, and that other, less pleasant sound fades. “Okay. See you later, then. Love you.”
“Yeah. Love you.”
Bryn watches him for a moment as he trudges down the hill toward the city, toward the cramped little place they share with Becky and Lars and Jemma. It’ll take him maybe ten, fifteen minutes to walk home. The others will ask about Bryn. Foster will tell them, and they’ll murmur whatever they think they’re supposed to say—except Jemma, who’ll hide a secretive smile and think joyful thoughts at Bryn. The four of them will drink shitty beer and smoke good weed and play the thumping techno music Lars likes, too loud, pounding like a heart, like a hard fuck, like a machine mindlessly churning away after all the people die. They’ll pile into the giant bed, naked, drunk, high, and make slow, sweet, blurry love. Smiling, laughing, hands clumsy sometimes but loving and gentle and knowing, knowing so much after all this time together.
The blended memories of years—the touches, the laughter and love, the tears and the hard times and all the endless, boundless joy—bring a smile to Bryn’s face. Is it strange, that such a disparate group can know and love one another so completely? That a bed of five—men, women, genderfluid—can create a home?
Bryn doesn’t think it strange. It’s been a full and beautiful life for a dozen years. Not perfect—what is?—but they’ve made a home together. A family.
Which is why Bryn finds this recent gut-deep restlessness puzzling. Sure, Bryn has always been drawn to the hills outside the city. Ever since childhood. Pulled to the quiet, to the ever-changing song of the wind through the grass, the drone of bees and crickets, grasshoppers and beetles and dragonflies, the tiny click of spider mandibles, the whisper of butterfly wings…
Yes. Pulled like a magnet, all their life. But lately, it’s become an obsession. And Bryn doesn’t understand why.
An enormous luna moth swoops in front of Bryn’s face, a ghostly brush of pastel green wings on skin. The delighted laughter dies on Bryn’s lips when the moth flutters away and Bryn focuses on the dense woodlands beyond, at the foot of the hills.
There, in the gel-thick blackness between the pines, a light flickers.
Not a flashlight, Bryn determines at once. No, this is fire. A torch, maybe. Small, fluttery, orange-gold, illuminating nothing.
Bryn rises, quick and silent, gaze glued to the tiny bright spark in the endless darkness of the forest. What is that, shadowy and vague behind the amber glow? Skin, eyes? Teeth?
Angry, wondering, deep-down scared, Bryn shakes their head. “Uh-uh. Nope.” The spark bobs, weaves, moves deeper into the woods with a swift motion of something trailing it like smoke, and Bryn’s fear multiplies tenfold.
Fear, they realize, not of the thing itself. But of never learning what it is before it vanishes forever.
Mouth dry, heart galloping, Bryn scrambles up and races down the hill, toward the forest. The little firefly glow pauses, as if waiting.
Come on, friend! It throbs in time to Bryn’s pulse, radiating its silent thought. Follow follow follow me!
Faint laughter brushes Bryn’s ear, bells on a breeze, and their feet move faster, running, leaving the hill and the grass and the open sky, following the spark. Drawn by the flare in the chest that promises adventure and fun and, and and…
…and maybe, maybe, new things…sights no one else has seen, truths no one else knows…wonderful, awful, glorious things…
…and such dark sweet knowledge burns and destroys, of course it does, but, oh, we would gouge out our eyes and slice off our tongues to be the One Who Knows…