Deep Magic - August 2017
DEEP MAGIC is an electronic magazine that publishes clean short fiction in the fantasy and science fiction genres (epic, paranormal, steampunk, etc). Our issues are also filled with author interviews, art features, book reviews and tips for writers.
This month, we have five amazing short stories, including Mongrel by New York Times bestselling author, Maria V. Snyder! We also have an interview for all those interested in the Hollywood side of publishing with Matt Sugarman. As always, we found great novel excerpts for you to check out as well, including Tricia Levenseller’s lastest book, Daughter of a Pirate King, and our friend, Emily King’s next installment in her One Hundredth Queen series!
– What He Offered the River by Aimee Ogden
– If a Man Falls in the Forest by Tyler Young
– The Most Reasonable House in Faerie by Dafydd Mckimm
– Levi’s Problem by Brendon Taylor
– Mongrel by NYT bestselling author, Maria V. Snyder
– Interview with Hollywood Attorney, Matt Sugarman
– Novel excerpt of Daughter of a Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
– Novel excerpt of The Fire Queen by breakout bestselling debut author, Emily King
Release date: August 8, 2017
Print pages: 154
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Deep Magic - August 2017
by Maria V. Snyder
They call me Mongrel. I don’t mind. It’s true. My blood is mixed like vegetables in a soup. I’ve lived in so many different places and I never belonged to any of them. But the other homeless don’t know that when they tease me. Say I waste food on my mutts. That I reek of dog.
So what? I like the smell of dog. Better than people. Better than the others I hang with. Not that I enjoy their company, but they’re useful at times. Warned me about the police raid a few months back, let me know when the soup kitchen opened and the women’s shelter—not that I would live there without my pups, but a hot shower is a hot shower.
As long as no one messes with my stuff, I don’t care what they say. It’s mid-January and I need everything I’ve scrounged to survive. My spot is near perfect. I sleep under the railroad bridge and I share my blanket with five dogs. The term hot dog has a whole new meaning for me.
The others huddle around a campfire on the broken concrete slabs of the abandoned parking lot. We’re all trespassing on railroad property, but the owners only send the police about once a year to chase us away. So far, never in the winter. Nice of them. (Yeah, I’m being sarcastic).
That night, snarls and growls wake me. Animals are up on the bridge fighting. My lot is awake with their tails tucked under and their bodies hunched low. A yelp stabs me in the chest and I’m running toward the sound. Something rolls down the side of bridge, crashes into the brush, and lays still. Something large.
A wounded animal can be dangerous, but I’m next to him before my brain can catch up with my body. It’s the biggest dog I’ve ever seen. He lifts his head, but the fight is gone. He’s panting and bleeding from lots of cuts. I yank off my gloves and run my hands along his legs, searching for broken bones.
He’s all black except for the tips of his hair. They shine with silver like he’d been brushed with liquid moonlight. No broken bones, but a knife is buried in his shoulder. Up to the hilt.
I spin around and scan the bridge. Sure enough a figure is standing there, looking down at me. My pups catch the stranger’s scent and start barking and baying. I don’t hush them, and soon the person leaves.
The noise brings the others. They tsk over the injured dog, but will only help me drag him to my spot after I give them cigarettes and booze as payment. They laugh and lay odds on how long the dog will live. People disgust me.
When the others go back to the fire, I open up the good stuff—eighty proof. By now the big brute is shaking and I grab the handle of the knife. He’s either going to live or die quicker without it in him. I tug it out, scraping bone. The dog shudders once then stills as blood pours.
Staunching the wound, I use the eighty proof to clean it before stitching him up. He doesn’t make a sound as the needle pierces his skin. I count them as I tie the string. Fifteen stitches in all. When I’m done, I lay beside him with the pups nestled around us and cover us all with the blanket.
He’s still alive in the morning so I make my daily rounds, searching for food, checking dumpsters, and my usual haunts. Wearing layers of grimy clothes, I’m invisible to the normals. Slush covers the city’s sidewalks and cars zip by, spraying water without care.
A couple businesses are aware of me, and once in a while, they’ll add a few extra leftovers to their trash cans. I chuckle as I score a dozen hamburgers still wrapped up like presents in the dumpster behind Vinny’s Burger Joint.
Vinny doesn’t like me, wouldn’t help me if I was starving to death on his sidewalk, but he’s got a soft spot for dogs. People are funny like that.
I don’t linger long—Vinny doesn’t like that, but I spy a small terrier crouched next to the dumpster. Almost missed the little rat. She is trembling and wet. Dirt stains her white coat gray. I lure her with a bit of burger and have her in my arms in no time.
Back at my spot, I’m greeted with wagging tails and excited mutts that are all happy to see me. Can’t get that from people. Not for long. Eventually they ignore you or abuse you, then leave you.
I spilt the burgers among my pups, counting heads. I got to be careful not to keep too many pups and the ones I keep are the littles who have no homes. The big brute eats half a burger—a good sign. I think he’s one of those Irish Wolfhounds or Scottish Deerhounds I’ve read about.
The new pup isn’t sure what to make of the pack. Doesn’t matter. She’s wearing a collar and won’t be here long. I inspect my trash bags, arranged just so. Funny that foster kids use garbage bags to carry their stuff, too. I don’t have much—a few clothes, some toiletries, a propane stove that’s a life saver, and cigarettes and booze for paying for favors. Nothing’s missing.
Most of the others won’t leave anything behind, pushing their belongings around in stolen shopping carts instead. We’re not a trustworthy bunch. But no one’s stole from me since I’ve been sharing my spot with the mutts. I just smile when I sees one of the others limping around with bite marks on his ankles. Serves him right.
However, if the hound recovers, I’m gonna need more food than I can scrounge. So I grab my nicest clothes and head to the women’s shelter for a shower.
The lady who answers the door is nervous. She keeps the chain on and looks at me like she wants to call the police.
I hold up the white dog. “Found your dog, Ma’am.”
And there it is. The woman’s face changes as if a button is pressed inside her head. Joy beams from her and I soak in it.
She flings the door wide and presses the pup to her chest, kissing and hugging the little squirming rat. “Thank you so much! We’ve been so worried. My kids will be thrilled.”
She goes on, but I don’t listen. It’s always the same. What’s not the same is what happens next. I’m polite and not demanding as I ask about the reward money. Just a gentle reminder. “Your flyer at the grocery store offered fifty bucks?”
The joy dies and she eyes my best clothes with scorn and suspicion. I smooth my pink sweater and tuck a strand of long brown hair behind an ear.
“Where did you find Sugar?” she asks.
“Behind Vinny’s on Sixth Street.”
“That’s over two miles away. Sugar would never go that far. You took her from our back yard, hoping for reward money. That’s why the gate was still locked.”
“No, Ma’am. I—”
She slams the door in my face. No surprise just disappointment. Sometimes I’ll get the money. Not often.
I hurry away before the cops arrive. Since I wore my best clothes, the library staff won’t bother me. Pulling my favorite book, The Complete Dog Encyclopedia from the shelf, I flip through the pages until I reach the hounds. The big brute is thick in the body and tall legged like the Irish Wolfhound, but his long face doesn’t match. I scan the various breeds. The Siberian Husky has similar eyes and muzzle, but not quite. I guess he’s a mongrel like me.
On my way home, I do a sweep of the flyers hanging in the vet’s waiting rooms, grocery stores, and churches. Looking at the pictures of lost dogs, I think they’re easier to find than missing children.
Halfway home, I remember the knife and rush to get it. The dogs press near me, hoping for supper. I shoo them away, explaining about the ungrateful woman. Yes, I know they don’t understand me. I’m not stupid nor am I crazy. It’s just nice to talk sometimes. And the big Wolfhound (better than calling him a brute) peers at me with his intelligent gray eyes as if he does understand. He’s sitting up—another good sign he’ll be on his feet soon.
I find the knife, clean the blood off and hurry to the pawn shop before it closes.
“Stolen?” Max asks, examining the weapon. The silver blade gleams in the fluorescent light. The pawn shop smells of engine oil and mold.
“Found it,” I say.
“Uh huh.” Max sucks his teeth while he thinks, making slurping sounds that crawl over my skin like lice. “Cheap metal, imitation leather handle...I’ll give you ten for it.”
Never accept the first offer. It’s crap.
“It does have a nice design...how about fifteen,” Max says.
“That blade’s got silver in it. A hundred bucks at least.”
He gasps and pretends to be horrified. It’s all an act and all I want is to go back to my pups. In the end, Max gives me sixty dollars. Enough for a fifty pound bag of Science Diet and a couple packs of ground beef. I carry the bag over my shoulder. It’s getting dark and I’m almost home when I figure I’ve been followed.
A quick check confirms a man is trailing me, but I keep going. Not that the others will help me. They’ll disappear as fast as the ground beef in my bag. Not like this hasn’t happened before. I might be invisible to most people. And despite the smell of dog and layers of grim, the strays of society still find me. At eighteen, I’m young for a street person, and high school boys, college boys, and even foster fathers can’t resist. My scent attracts them just like a female dog in heat.
The curse of developing early and curvy. My foster father called me beautiful. He named the dog Beauty, but never bothered her the way he did me. Lucky dog.
I reach my spot and my pups. Too bad the big Wolfhound is too weak to stand. Dropping the bag, I grab the metal baseball bat a kid left at the park and wait for the stranger. As long as the guy isn’t armed, me and my lot’ll do just fine.
Wearing khaki pants, brown loafers and a long wool coat, the guy resembles a lost professor. As he nears, the Wolfhound pokes his head out from under the blanket and growls deep in his chest.
The man takes his hands from his pockets. “Hello?” he calls all friendly like.
But my pups’ hackles are up.
“I was hoping you could help me,” he says, stepping closer. “I’m looking for my dog. Someone reported seeing him in this area.”
Bull. I wait as his gaze scans the mutts and lingers on the baseball bat in my hands.
He tries a smile. “He’s quite large.”
“Haven’t seen him,” I say. “Go away.”
“Are you sure?” He keeps coming.
I raise the bat. “Yep.” By now all the dogs are growling.
He is unconcerned. “Settle your dogs.”
He is close enough to see the Wolfhound. They exchange a glance and it reminds me of two competitors acting nice until the game starts.
“Settle them or I will.” His right hand dips into a pocket and pulls out a gun. He aims it at me.
A bone chilling cold seizes my heart. “Quiet,” I order. They’re familiar with this command. It’s the first thing I teach a new pup. They sit down on all fours and wait without making a sound.
“Drop the bat,” he says.
I let it clang to the ground.
The man tries to comfort me. “I’m just here for my dog.”
Yet the Wolfhound doesn’t seem happy to see him. Go figure. Now the guy is under the bridge and the hound lurches to his feet. The dog’s massive jaws are level with my chest. The blanket remains on his back like a superhero’s cloak.
The man shakes his head as if he’s amazed. “How many near misses, Logan? Four? Five? Only you would find some homeless person to nurse you back to health. Too bad I found you first.”
And people call me the crazy dog lady.
He turns to me and says, “His injuries are too extensive, I’ll have to put him down.” He aims the gun at the Wolfhound.
The urge to protect one of mine is instant and hot. “Wait,” I say. “Can you take the blanket off him? It’s my only one and I don’t want it full of holes and blood.”
The man laughs. “I see your charm with the ladies remains the same,” he says to the Wolfhound. He’s careful to keep the gun out of the dog’s reach as he pulls the cover off.
My pups are well trained. And while being quiet is important, I’ve taught them protecting my stuff is essential. They hop to their feet and attack his ankles and calves with their pointy little teeth. He yells. I scoop up my bat and slam it down on the man’s arms. The gun fires, but no yelps so I swing again and again until he drops the gun. Until he rolls on the ground, shielding his body from my bat.
I taste the desire to pound him until he’s a pile of broken bones and bloody meat. Coming here and thinking he can just take what he wants. Just like my foster father sneaking into my bedroom. But this stranger isn’t him, so I pull myself together and call my dogs off.
“Go away,” I say to the man.
The man staggers to his feet, but his gaze is on the Wolfhound. Odd, considering I’m the one holding the bat.
“Next time I won’t come alone,” he says to the Wolfhound before limping away.
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