by Jamie Killen
GENRE: Dark Fantasy
On a summer night in a sunbaked desert city, the wandering land appears. A fairytale village nestled in dense forest, it is a place of ruined castles, abandoned treasures, and strange creatures living in the shadows. Brought together by this impossible place are five visitors: failed painter Eli; art professor Amal; young lovers Darcy and Wes; and mysterious, haunted Coyote. Together they explore their own secret village, an entire world hidden in plain sight.
But there is darkness beneath the magic, a force pulling the visitors deeper and deeper into the place’s mysteries. As the boundaries between the secret land and the outside world begin to collapse, each of the visitors is confronted with visions of an otherworldly child, a child whose existence holds the key to understanding everything about the place that has drawn them together.
Who is this child? Why did she choose them? And will she ever let them go?
Movement between the grape vines caught Amal’s eye, bringing her out of her reverie. She squinted, thinking at first that it must be a bird or a rabbit. Then it seemed to grow, rising up above the tops of the vines. It was a deer, and the second she saw it Amal knew it was Eli’s deer. The size, the antlers, the way it stared at her, it couldn’t possibly be one of the skinny little deer roaming the Sonoita landscape.
Val came back with her glass. “I like this one. Maybe we should get a bottle to take home.”
“Do you see that deer?” Amal asked, taking the glass from her.
“Where?” Val shielded her eyes from the sun and peered out at the hills.
“Behind that first row.” Even though she knew there was no way Val could have missed it.
“Nope, don’t see it.”
Amal forced herself to shrug. “Maybe just a rabbit. It’s gone now.”
“Huh. I’m gonna go take a look at the rest of their stuff.”
“Ok. I’ll be there in a minute.”
Amal maintained eye contact with the deer as she tasted the Merlot. Val was right; it was good. She shook her head at the deer once, a firm back off, before she turned away.
Jamie Killen’s short stories have appeared in numerous speculative fiction magazines and anthologies. She is also the writer and producer of the acclaimed audio drama SPINES. She is currently developing a new supernatural audio drama called The Six Disappearances of Ella McCray.
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