Authors: Cynthia Eden,Liz Kreger,Dale Mayer,Michelle Miles,Misty Evans, Edie Ramer,Jennifer Estep,Nancy Haddock,Lori Brighton,Michelle Diener,Allison Brennan
A Paranormal Anthology
Edited by Edie Ramer and Misty Evans
Compilation copyright 2011 by Edie Ramer and Misty Evans
Foreword copyright 2011 by Stacia Kane
All stories copyright 2011 by their authors
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only and may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author's work.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
The other day I got involved in an online conversation with some other writers about condoms. Specifically about condoms and their use in books, as in whether or not the characters we write use them. As with anything and everything online there was a diversity of opinions, from people who think it’s absolutely necessary to people who hate writing condoms and think if you’re old enough to be reading a book which includes a scene where condoms may be used, you’re old enough to understand that fiction isn’t real life.
Personally, I’ve been able to sidestep the issue in both of my series; in the first my hero is a demon, who can’t catch or carry human diseases and can’t impregnate the heroine (he tells her this while offering to wear one anyway). In the other—and this is the point of this little anecdote—the only reason to use a condom is to prevent pregnancy, because the totalitarian atheistic Church government embarked on an “eradication program” when it took over the world following a ghost apocalypse (this essentially amounted to a quarantine program, which isn’t particularly nice, no, but then the Church often isn’t particularly nice). Thus, the world’s population is much smaller, and there are no STDs.
In other words, I wanted to dispense with the stupid condoms, so I created a world where there were no STDs in order to do so. Once my heroine’s lack of fertility had been established, I was free to have my characters bare-backing all over the city; on kitchen counters, in cemeteries, tunnels underground, nightclub bathrooms, in the front seat of a muscle car, whatever I wanted.
In fiction we can change the rules however we want. We can eradicate any disease we want simply by typing in a few words and Making It So. When I’m writing a book and I don’t want a character to get breast cancer, it’s easy. I just make sure I don’t write a scene where they’re diagnosed with breast cancer. If for some reason I do happen to accidentally write such a scene—hey, when you mix alcohol, painkillers, and “Television for Women” at two in the morning, you never know what will pop out—I can just go ahead and cut it. A click-and-drag of the mouse, a Delete key press, and it’s all gone.
I can avoid it. I can pretend it doesn’t happen—I can
it not happen. I can cure it easily and instantly, if I want. I can protect everyone I love from it; I can keep families intact. I can make sure mothers get to watch their children grow up. I can make sure no one has an empty seat at the dinner table, an empty space in their hearts.
This is why fiction is often so much better than real life.
In real life I can’t just delete the scene in the Doctor’s office. In real life I can’t just decide that medical science took a great leap forward and cancer is totally curable now. In real life I can’t just pretend breast cancer doesn’t exist. Neither can any of us. I wish we could, but we can’t.
What we can do, though, is hope. We can hope that one day our children or our grandchildren will be able to think of breast cancer the way we think of illnesses like typhoid fever, that once killed thousands but are now essentially eradicated and/or curable. There are doctors and scientists and really scarily smart people out there working hard to try to make that so, to re-write our world so “breast cancer” becomes maybe a little more serious than a cold, but with the same prognosis: Yeah, you might feel kind of tired for a couple of days, but you’re totally going to be fine after that.
We can hope that happens. And we can do our part to Make it So; you’ve done it, just by buying this book, because in doing so you’ve contributed much-needed funds to the
Breast Cancer Research Foundation
, which funds those doctors and scientists and scary-smart people—in fact, more than ninety cents of every dollar they get goes to fund those people, and to awareness programs. They’ve been doing it since 1992 and they’ll keep on doing it until we’ve managed to write breast cancer—and hopefully every other cancer—out of our world.
That can’t happen soon enough.
I’m honored to be invited to participate in this anthology, and honored to dedicate that participation to the memory of Elizabeth Chang, the sister of one of my closest friends, who left behind two young children, a mother, a father, and a brother, all of whom loved her very much. If I was writing the world, she would definitely still be in it.
Stacia Kane is the author of the gritty dystopian urban fantasy Downside series starring Chess Putnam and featuring ghosts, human sacrifice, drugs, witchcraft, punk rock, and a badass ’69 Chevelle. She bleaches her hair and wears a lot of black.
“Don’t you think we’re a little old for trick or treating?”
Daphne Cruz, my best friend, looked in the mirror and opened up a tube of lip gloss. “Are you kidding? Absolutely not. Halloween’s one of my favorite holidays.”
I arched an eyebrow. “And why is that?”
“Because,” Daphne said, putting some pale pink gloss on her lips, “we get to dress up, get free candy, and get to stay out late. What’s not to like?”
It was a little after six, and the two of us were in my dorm room at Mythos Academy. Even though it was a school night, it was also Halloween, and Daphne was determined to drag me out trick or treating with her, even though I would have been just as happy staying in my room reading comic books the rest of the night.
Daphne had meant what she said about loving Halloween because she’d gone all out with her costume. My friend wore a gorgeous pink flapper dress covered with fringe and hundreds of tiny crystals, along with matching high heels. Several strings of real pearls hung from her neck, adding even more shine to her costume. Her blond hair was curled into flat waves against her head, and her subtle makeup made her amber skin look absolutely flawless.
Daphne dropped her lip gloss into a small beaded purse, causing princess pink sparks of magic to shoot out of her fingertips. The sparks matched the flash of the crystals on her dress before winking out a few second later. The magic sparks were one of the things that made Daphne a Valkyrie, along with her superstrength.
Finally satisfied with her appearance, Daphne turned to look at me. “Aren’t you going to change? Where’s your costume?”
Her black eyes flicked over my sneakers, jeans, T-shirt, and gray hoodie. “That’s not a costume. That’s just what you wear every day—every
It was true. Jeans and hoodies were pretty much my outfit of choice, and I looked rather plain standing next to Daphne in her shimmering costume. I hadn’t even done anything different with my hair tonight, although the loose brown waves seemed to bring out my pale skin and violet eyes a little more than usual. Or maybe that was just my own wishful thinking.
“Seriously, Gwen, aren’t you going to change into something else?” Daphne asked. “Some sort of costume?”
“Ah, but this
a costume.” I held my hands out wide. “Right now, I’m just Gwen Frost, that weird Gypsy girl who touches stuff and see things.”
I walked over to my desk, picked up a black leather scabbard that held a sword, and brandished the weapon at Daphne. “But now, I’m Gwen Frost, Gypsy girl, Nike’s Champion, and warrior in training. See the difference?”
Daphne snorted. “The only thing I see is how impossible you are. Tell me again why we’re friends?”
“Because I hooked you up with your dream guy.”
“Oh, yeah. That.” Daphne’s voice was sarcastic, but a smile creased her face.
“I agree with Gwen,” a voice with an English accent piped up. “This is all utter nonsense if you ask me.”
I looked down at the sword, which was where the voice had come from. Instead of being plain and featureless, the sword’s hilt was shaped like half of a man’s face, complete with an ear, a nose, a mouth, and one round, bulging eye that wasn’t quite purple but wasn’t really gray either. The weapon had been given to me by Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, when she’d chosen me to be her Champion, the girl who helped her fight Reapers of Chaos here in the mortal realm. Vic was the sword’s name, and I’d quickly learned that he had opinions and attitude to spare, along with his cool, slightly snooty English accent.
“Halloween. It’s quite ridiculous if you ask me.” Vic sniffed. “Putting on silly costumes, asking strangers for candy, and trying to scare each other to death in the meantime. There are enough real monsters in the world, you know. You warriors don’t have to dress up like them too.”
Yeah, Daphne and I knew all about the monsters in the world, nasty things like Nemean prowlers that could rip a person to pieces. That’s why we were here at Mythos Academy in the first place. From the outside, the academy looked like just another fancy boarding school, some place that rich parents sent their spoiled kids to so they could get a proper education and make all the right connections before going off to an Ivy League college. But really, Mythos was a school for the descendants of ancient warriors like Valkyries, Amazons, Spartans, and more.
Daphne, me, and all the other warrior whiz kids were here at Mythos learning how to use our magic and training with weapons so we could fight Reapers of Chaos, some bad guys who wanted to free the evil god Loki from his mythological prison and plunge the world into a second Chaos War.
“Well, I happen to like Halloween,” Daphne said, putting her hands on her hips and glaring at the sword.
“Hmph. I’d rather eat Reaper blood than chocolate bars any day,” Vic said.
I winced at his words. I knew that Vic was a sword, but still, it always surprised me how totally bloodthirsty he was. Vic was always talking about fighting Reapers, cutting them to pieces, and munching on their bones. I’d barely survived going up against Jasmine Ashton, a Reaper who’d tried to kill me recently. I had no desire to run into another Reaper anytime soon or one of the Nemean prowlers they used as oversize, kitty-cat assassins.
Daphne and Vic glared at each other a few more seconds before the Valkyrie looked at me again.
“Come on, Gypsy girl,” Daphne said, linking her arm through mine. “Let’s go have some fun.”
Carson Callahan, Daphne’s boyfriend, was waiting downstairs in the common area of Styx Hall, my dorm. Carson had dressed up in a dapper black suit complete with glossy wingtips and a black fedora that covered his brown hair. The pink ribbon around the base of his hat matched Daphne’s flapper costume. Together, the two of them looked like they’d just stepped out of some movie about the Roaring Twenties. Carson’s brown eyes lit up at the sight of the pretty Valkyrie.