Warren Rochelle has a new queer SFF anthology out: To Bring Him Home and Other Tales. And there’s a giveaway!
We all need a place to call home, a place where we belong, and are safe, and loved. For the lovers in these stories, finding home is easier said than done. Quests must be taken; dragons must be slain. Rocket launchers need to be dodged. Sometimes one might have to outrun the Wild Hunt, and sometimes they have to reimagine and recreate home. But these lovers do find homes, homes in each other’s hearts.
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He found his mother in her bathroom, lying on the bathmat by the tub, like a discarded hotel towel, white and crumpled. Fletcher knelt down and touched her bruised face, tenderly traced the hand prints on her skin. Cold. He then pressed his fingers against the veins in her neck. No pulse. Wishing he could cry for her, he put the same fingers under her nose. No breath, Dead. Emptied. He picked up her arm and it flopped as if boneless, She was wearing her bathrobe. He pulled it close, to hide her body.
Fletcher knew where to look, upstairs, behind the locked attic door. Through the door he could hear what he had come to call Paul’s favorite music, soft, far away, with harps and wind chimes, and what sounded like the wind, and the rain, storms. and voices singing in a strange language he had never been able to identify. The music sort of reminded him of the wind chimes on Sam’s porch. Of course.
He tried the knob. This time the door was unlocked.
“Fletcher. You’re awake. I knew you’d come up here,” his stepfather said in his cold and dark voice. He sat at a desk facing a door frame standing in the middle of the attic. Inside the door frame: darkness. Around it, Fletcher could see the rest of the attic: the shelves, the file cabinets, the odd boxes. The skylight was open, mid-day sun streamed in. Even so, the room was cold, a cold that was coming through the door, as if blown by some faraway wind. Paul’s black staff leaned against the door frame. He closed a little carved box on his desk and the music stopped.
“What did you do with Sam? Where is he? Where are his parents?” Fletcher asked, shivering and hugging himself against the cold.
“Where they belong,” Paul said, leaning back in his chair. “The dreams have escaped for millennia—even before Her Majesty came to power—into human minds. Fairy tales, myths, story upon story. A few times, the different peoples and creatures slipped through—what was it your hero said?—‘there were many chinks or chasms between worlds in old times’?—yes, I’ve read all those stories, too; they were useful to me. That was before Her Majesty. So, there are people like you and your mother, fey-touched, gifted with Sight that lets you see through glamour. Very useful to people like me.”
Fletcher swallowed the scream in his throat, knowing he had to listen, to understand, not to let this man get to him, break him into tears. “Where is Sam? What kind of a person are you?”
“I told you: There. You can call it Narnia if you like, or what did Tolkien call it? Never mind. The Celts came up with many other names, such as Tir n’Og, the Blessed Isles. Words and sounds can be dreamt, too; echoes can linger. She can’t stop the dreams of what once was, of once upon a time—slow them down, but not stop them. But Her Majesty can and must stop those who escape her winter,” Paul said, as he sorted what looked like rolls of parchment, stuffing some back into tubes, into different parts of his desk. “I am a bounty hunter, a tracker, and you, my dear Fletcher, and your mother, are my canaries.”
My dreams. I dreamed of the neighbor, I dreamed of Sam. Now I know where his music comes from.
“They hadn’t planned on Sam falling in love and having sex quite just yet, which shattered the weak child’s glamour—and I smelled him on you, his magic,” Paul said, his words dripping disdain and scorn.
Paul shrugged and Fletcher hated him for it. “I needed her energy to open the gate—I was running a little low. A few days from now, no problem. You want him back?”
Fletcher slowly and carefully nodded his head.
“You think you’re in love. Fletcher! What do you know about love—who have you ever loved or who’s loved you? And when he asked for you, at the moment of peril, you pulled back. Don’t be a fool: you’re not in love.”
“My father loved me; I loved him. My mother—before you used her for food. Sam loves me.”
“Then go get him. Into Faerie. No happy elves, no dancing fauns, no chatty mice, no heroes with magic swords. No performing Lion, just Her Majesty’s winter. No English
children. Your boyfriend’s there, Fletcher. Or you could stay here and help me—starting with finding that sanctuary. Do you know how old I am? Her Majesty rewards her faithful: I am two hundred and thirteen of your years old. I have anything I want.”
I want Sam. “Live that long, be like you? No. I love Sam.”
“You’ve known him a week and you’re in love. That really is a fairy tale. You just think you do,” Paul said, dismissing Fletcher’s feelings with a flip of his hand. “You can have any boy you want, any way you want—like I said, Her Majesty rewards her faithful. Besides, you’re a coward,” Paul added, laughing.
Fletcher knew that Paul would never understand, could never understand, that even the uncertainty was enough, that the brightness in his heart, the geodes in his pocket, were enough, even if the week had been just the promise of what would come. Could have come. Might come. Maybe he was a coward. He certainly was afraid, and very good at being afraid. But life had found him, and being afraid didn’t mean he couldn’t go through that dark gate.
“Find yourself another canary,” Fletcher said and before Paul could stop him, ran across the room, through the door frame, into the dark, into the fairy tale.
Warren Rochelle lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, and has just retired from teaching English at the University of Mary Washington. His short fiction and poetry have been published in such journals and anthologies as Icarus, North Carolina Literary Review, Forbidden Lines, Aboriginal Science Fiction, Collective Fallout, Queer Fish 2, Empty Oaks, Quantum Fairy Tales, Migration, The Silver Gryphon, Jaelle Her Book, Colonnades, and Graffiti, as well as the Asheville Poetry Review, GW Magazine, Crucible, The Charlotte Poetry Review, Romance and Beyond, Migration, and Innovation.
Rochelle is the author of four novels: The Wild Boy (2001), Harvest of Changelings (2007), and The Called (2010), all published by Golden Gryphon Press, and The Werewolf and His Boy, published by Samhain Publishing in September 2016. The Werewolf and His Boy was re-released from JMS Books in August 2020. His first short story collection, The Wicked Stepbrother and Other Stories, was published by JMS Books in September 2020.
Both The Werewolf and His Boy and The Wicked Stepbrother and Other Stories, received strong reviews from blog tours in November 2020.
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