Story Title: Riders in the Sky
Author: V. F. LeSann
Equine Combatant’s Name (if known): Peregrine
Species: Damned soul
They will be moving on to compete in future rounds, but not right away. Starting tomorrow our combatants will be:
A Mother Unicorn’s Advice to Her Daughter by J.J. Roth vs. To Ride a Steel Horse by Stephanie Cain
Excerpt from “Stars, Wings, and Knitting Things” by J.G. Formato:
I didn’t tell him the news until I’d placed the last raisin in my oatmeal. The wise and wrinkled happy face I’d created was quite encouraging. “Marcus,” I said, waiting for acknowledgement and eye contact. His eyes were still mostly contacting the Wall Street Journal, so I cleared my throat and dinged my spoon on his mug. Announcement style.
He emerged from the paper and frowned at the ripples in his coffee. “Why’d you do that? I was reading.”
“Were you?” I asked, genuinely curious. I always thought his morning paper was like an adult security blanket. But instead of making him feel safe and loved, it made him feel all grown-up and professional. Ready to join the Rat Race. Reading it for fun was a totally different story and not nearly as endearing.
“Of course I was, Annie. Now, what were you going to say?”
“I think the house is haunted.”
“You think the house is haunted?
“Because I saw a ghost.” Why else would I think the house was haunted?
“In the backyard. It was kind of swooshing all around by the swing set.”
“So, really, you think the backyard is haunted.” He looked very pleased with himself, like he scored a point or something. All those years of law school must have really paid off.
“Okay, fair enough. If you want to pick nits, I think the backyard is haunted.”
“What did it look like? Your ghost?”
“It was white, of course. And shimmery. Oh, and it had wings.”
“Like an angel?”
“No, not like an angel. Angels don’t haunt people’s backyards.”
“Of course.” He smacked his forehead—but in a smartassy way, not an oh, duh kind of way.
Excerpt from “Above the Silver Sky” by Daniel Koboldt:
“What do you want for your birthday, Neshka?” father asked.
There was nothing I truly needed. The rain that fed our valley gave us grain and berries and dew squash. We had sheep and hogs for meat, goats for milk. Bees for honey, and a never-ending stream of cool clean water. But mostly, we lived on the mushrooms. Soon my father would begin to teach me the arts of mushroom-tending, and one day I’d take over for him. I watched a trickle of rainwater as it meandered down a stepladder of red-and-white toadstools, each one just shorter than the next, and told myself it would not be so bad. But my lips betrayed my heart to him, and I said, “I want to see the horses.”
“Neshka,” my father said, in his sternest voice. “You know better than to ask for that.”
“Please, father? I only want to look.”
“That’s exactly what your mother said. She only wanted to look, and then the horses took her away from us. Is that what you want? To leave?”
“Of course not.” My voice sounded as small as I felt.
A pool of vague sadness welled up in me, for I’d meant to fight harder to see the horses. He would say no, then I’d throw a fit, and we’d meet somewhere in the middle. Maybe that was creeping up to the edge of the prairie-lands to watch them from a distance. Maybe it was simply hearing the story once more about my mother and the time she rode one. But the hurt in his voice took me aback, and his accusation stilled the arguments upon my lips.
Not that it mattered anyway, because at that moment, the rain stopped.
The gentle patter of raindrops faded into silence, a numbness against my ears. The trickle of water on those red-and-white toadstools slowed, then died. My father and I looked at each other, then up at the silver sky in askance.
“Has this ever happened before?” I asked.
He frowned up at the sky. “No.”