About ogresan

Richard Parks' stories have have appeared in Asimov's SF, Realms of Fantasy, Fantasy Magazine, Weird Tales, and numerous anthologies, including several Year's Bests. His first story collection, THE OGRE'S WIFE, was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award. He is the author of the Yamada Monogatari series from Prime Books.

Tired of Winning Yet?

Well, maybe it’s time to take stock after nearly four years. Let’s see…global pandemic, cities on fire, forty million new unemployed, deep recession if not depression on its way, and the White House has turned out all the lights and pretended no one’s home while our President hides in a bunker.

I can’t say I’m feeling all that confident. Now, I’ll grant you Trump didn’t actually cause most of this. Systemic racism, the ridiculous militarization of the police, a dysfunctional and insanely expensive healthcare system, vast economic inequality, and a polarized society were all in place before he showed up. And yet he has managed, in somewhat less than four years, to make every single one of these problems far worse. I mean, seriously. Did this guy ever see a bad decision he didn’t like? Get rid of our pandemic response team? Cut funding for the WHO in the middle of a global pandemic? Go to court with the DOJ behind him to throw millions of people off health insurance? Confiscate and hoard desperately needed PPE when he wasn’t sending it to China and North Korea? Stoking fear and encouraging violence? Around the world people aren’t looking to the US for leadership now. They’re looking at us with disgust, or worse, pity.

As for Putin, he’s laughing his ass off.

I don’t know. Maybe it had to happen. Across the world, people have been asking why Americans weren’t marching in the streets already. Well, we are now. Late, but better late than never. Most of it is righteous and very justified anger. Some is the usual suspects trying to co-opt and aggravate the situation for their own delusional fantasies of a “white” world, encouraged and abetted by the Enabler-in-Chief. I hope the righteous anger and focus prevails and we come out of this with a clear vision and positive way forward. As I said, I’m not feeling confident. But I can hope. At least I can still do that. Not to mention whatever else is in my power to do.

Just like everyone else.

MS Word is a Tool

In the Realm of Legend

Oh, the joys. After moaning and complaining ever since MS Word announced my version was no longer supported, I’ve been dreading this day. I know I could go with what I had for the foreseeable future, but not forever, and sometimes you just want to get something you know is going to be unpleasant over and done with.

So today I upgraded to MS 365.

Short version? Not as bad as I’d feared. Some new features might even be useful. Still miffed about it, though. Why? Because—and I don’t think I’m unique about this among writers and even otherwise normal folk—I am a creature of habit. When I sit down to (attempt) to write something, the last thing I want to have to think about is the tool I’m using to do it. And new software forces you, at least for a while, to do exactly that. Can I format a paragraph like I always do? Underlining, italics, bold? How about shifting the margins? Headers? Widows and orphans? Of course I care about widows and orphans…oh, that’s the spacing issue. No. I don’t care about that at all, and I especially don’t care in a rough draft. And yes, I know you don’t know what a rough draft is. And for pity’s sake stop lecturing me about standard usage. Standard usage is the last thing I want. When I use a word or phrase it’s my word or phrase, and it’ll do what I darn well tell it to.

Ahem. Where was I?

Yeah, complaining. Hell, I’m still pissed about having to drop WordPerfect years ago, knowing there are still a few folk around still mad about WordStar. Yes, I know George R.R. Martin supposedly still uses it. Which sorta makes my point. Creatures of habit. I liked WP. It did what I wanted and otherwise got out of the way. But file exports to Word weren’t so great, and the editors by then had all switched to MS Word, mostly because of corporate dictates. So here we are. I’ve learned not to hate MS Word, and most of my best stuff was written on it. Once I get used to the new version, I’m sure it’ll be fine.

That is, until the next version.

I know it’s a tool. But does it have to be such a tool?

The Changeling, Part 2

As promised/threatened last week, here’s the second part of The Changeling flash narrative. Not the second part of the story, necessarily, since part 1 stood on its own. But rather “what happened next.”

There’s always something next, regardless of the story, unless of course everybody dies, then it’s simply someone else’s story. Nothing complicated about it.

 

 

 

The Changeling, Part 2

When I finally got up the courage and the means to leave, I was an old woman.

My sister was waiting for me, sitting on a park bench, looking the way I thought I looked, until she handed me a mirror.

That is, my changeling sister. She’s the one they left in my place when the fae took me. I was angry, at first. She was still young, and what had she lost, compared to me? I yelled. I screamed at her. She just waited until I wore myself out.

“Feel better?” she asked.

“No.”

That was all either of us said for a while. I thought of leaving, but I was tired and had nowhere to go. “When did you find out?” I asked finally.

“Probably about the same time you did. Our lives are parallels in so many ways.”

“And how do you figure that? Look at me!”

“I’m just as old as you are,” she said. “And I can’t go back either.”

“What do you mean? Of course you can go back, and I am back.”

She sighed. “Are you? You don’t know how to live in the human world any more than I know how to live under the hill. You don’t know what it means to be human. And me? My family threw me away like old clothes! Now tell me what ferry crosses either of those rivers.”

“You were waiting for me. All this time you knew where I was!”

She nodded. “True, but I couldn’t reach you. I just hoped you’d find a way out.”

That stopped me. “You’re one of the fae. What do you mean, you couldn’t reach me?”

“I was raised human, remember? The way under the hill is secret, and hardly anyone comes out now. I would have seen them. How did you find it?”

“An old fae took pity….”

She shook her head. “We both know the fae don’t feel pity. If they told you, there was another reason.”

Time to face the truth. “He was the one I thought was my father. He was just tired of me.”

She looked thoughtful. “Why did they do it? I’ve always wondered.”

“Because, among the fae, having children is a rare privilege which brings great honor. I think they were afraid of losing it.”

“So instead they robbed us both,” she said.

“Both?! My life was a lie, and my true life ends before it even begins! You’ll go on—“

She nodded again. “Yes. And on and on. Not belonging anywhere, with anyone. Tell me again who got the worst of that deal.”

I didn’t have an answer for her, only a question. “What happens now?”

“If you want, we can belong together for a little while.”

“And then?”

She smiled a sad smile. “And then I’ll remember you.”

I’d just met my sister, but in that moment I knew I both loved and pitied her.

Which was as close to human as I was going to get.

-The End-

 

©2020 by Richard Parks. All Rights Reserved.

The Changeling, Part 1

I’m a bit under it right now (the gun, not the virus), so I’m posting another piece of flash fiction. When I posted this part to the flash group, several people demanded I tell them what happened next, so next week I’ll post part 2. I like to keep my readers happy. Even if it sometimes takes a while.

 

 

 

 

The Changeling

I’m a changeling. I always suspected.

The odd thing is I wasn’t supposed to live at all. Exchange a sickly fairy child for a healthy human baby, isn’t that the story? The changeling tragically dies, the human is raised under the hill and no one the wiser.

If all that’s true—and I have no way of knowing—my people have a lot to learn about empathy. I know, human concept, but I digress. Needless to say, I fooled them and got stronger instead. Something in formulae, maybe. I wouldn’t know about human milk.

It started when I was about seven and my grandfather died. I looked it up online and the folklore says a fairy laughs at funerals and cries at births. Well, I didn’t laugh. Even at seven I could read the room better than that. But I couldn’t stop smiling the whole time. Why? Because all through the service there was the old man himself, standing beside his coffin, grinning, enjoying the show. I liked the guy, he’d been in a lot of pain, and now he wasn’t. It didn’t take long to realize I was the only one who saw him. My mother, on the other hand, saw me.

After that she kept watching me when she thought I didn’t notice, all through High School. The people I knew in school were a little quicker on the uptake. Most boys were all over me—or at least wanted to be. Most girls hated my guts. My mother? For a long time she was merely suspicious, maybe in denial, but I knew by then. Mother loved to sew, and I didn’t. Took me a while, but I figured it out. It was an antique scissors in her sewing basket that belonged to her great-grandmother. It made me sick anytime I came near it.

Cold iron.

She tried to love me, despite that, despite the suspicions, despite her worries. I wonder what would have happened if things had turned out differently, but there’s no point. Mother was sewing masks on the kitchen table, part of a community project to ease the pandemic supply problem. On her way back to her sewing room she dropped those damn scissors.

”Get those for me, will you Dear? Got my hands full.”

I don’t know if she did it on purpose. Maybe, maybe not. I’ll never know. What I do know is I looked at her and said, “I can’t. You know I can’t.”

And that was it, over. We both knew.

I’d read the stories of what happens next, but I never thought it would. I flew out the window of my room. I don’t know how I did that. All I know is, at the moment, I couldn’t do anything else.

I was raised human, but I don’t belong there. It occurs to me that somewhere, under some fairy hill, I have an adopted sister who doesn’t belong either. Maybe I can find her.

Maybe we can not belong together.

-The End-

©2020 by Richard Parks. All Rights Reserved.

Stuck in a Groove

Totally AWOL last week and still concentrating elsewhere, for good or ill. So for this Monday it’s another piece of flash fiction. The only context is this was for the Flash Fiction group, the trigger word was “Toll,” and I was feeling a bit fey. So here is:

 

Another Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there was a good-natured boy named David who didn’t listen.

“You lazy, good for nothing dolt!” Which was his mother’s standard morning greeting, What he heard was: “Good morning, My Blessing.”

“Mother, I’ve decided to go out into the world to seek our fortune.”

“Our fortune? You couldn’t find your arse with a torch!”

What he heard was: “I will miss you. Please be careful.”

“I will, and I love you too.”

She just shook her head. “Mark my words, you will have a heavy toll to pay.”

Having bid his wonderful mother goodbye, David hoisted his pack and left. In five minutes his mother had his room cleared out and advertised for renters.

As happens in such journeys, David hadn’t gone more than a few miles when he met a magical cat sitting beside the road. “Here comes another bungler,” the cat mumbled.

“Did you say you were hungry? Have some cheese.”

David gladly shared what he had. When they were done, the cat sighed. “According to the rules I must help you now. Look under that fallen tree.”

Now the cat may have been magical, but he was also ill-tempered and ungrateful. He fully expected the lad to uncover a nest of hornets and be stung within an inch of his life. Instead David came back with a small bag of gold and the cat just stared.

“I could have sworn I hid that better.”

What David heard was: “This will make your journey better.”

David thanked the cat and continued on his way. The cat stared after him.

“No way this ends well,” the cat said. “I must follow and see.”

So he followed David unseen until the lad came to a river bridge, which the cat knew fully well was the home of a voracious troll. “I will enjoy this,” the cat said to himself.

As David approached the bridge, the troll appeared and roared at him. “I shall make you my dinner!”

What David heard was, “Please make me some dinner.”

“I can’t do that,” David said. “There’s barely enough in my pack now to feed a mouse. But I know what it is to be poor. Maybe I can help you.”

“No tricks,” growled the troll. “No BS about your brother coming and he’s fatter than you. Been there, done that.”

What David heard was: “I’d appreciate anything you can do, and that’s that.”

“Buy yourself a nice lunch.”

He tossed the bag of gold to the troll who opened it and could only stare, dumbfounded, at the treasure, so David crossed the bridge and went on his merry way. Soon he met the same cat again.

“How did you know that would work?” the cat demanded. “That troll should have eaten you!”

“Well, did you see him? He was twenty-five stone if he was one.”

“And what has that to do with anything?!”

“I simply heeded my good mother’s warning. She did say I’d have to pay a heavy troll.”

-The End-

©2020 Richard Parks.  All Rights Reserved.