Hello! And welcome to Tuesday. We find ourselves in the 15th of March, and we are almost halfway through our month-long promotional campaign for CHROMOPHOBIA. We’ve showcased quite a few stories, so far, but if you’ve missed any, then check out the links at the bottom of this article. We’ve got you covered.
Now, as you may be aware, today is the “Ides of March” and, historically, that’s a call for celebration (regardless of what media may have taught you). And what we are celebrating today is a new story by a bestselling author:
“The Copper Lady”
by Jaye Wells
Lantern flames burn green when she returns from the hunt. She’s always careful to arrive before dawn.
In my small cellar bed, I pull the blankets up to my chin and listen. Her steps on the ceiling are the rhythm of terror: The sharp rap of hoof and the dull metallic scrape of copper.
Rule Number One: Always keep a shiny penny in your pocket.
When I rise after dawn to begin my chores, the house is still and quiet, but the stink of copper remains.
I use the mop to scrub the hall until the bucket’s water turns red. After that, my day is free. She never eats food, of course, and I’m not allowed in her private rooms. Mama says I should never go near them, especially alone.
Most afternoons, I sit outside in the sun and read. I daydream that one day I will go on great adventures. Maybe I’ll have a life worth writing about instead of this daydream-and-nightmare existence.
Sometimes I wonder how I came to live here. The one I call “Mama” is not my real mother. I know this deep in my bones, but I have no idea how I know it or why she insists on pretending. If I think about it too hard I get migraines, so I don’t think about it at all.
I’m not totally alone. Sometimes, a black dog visits me. She only has three legs—two in front and one in back—but she manages to hop around pretty well. She must belong to someone because she wears a collar with a tag engraved “Fidelity”. It’s a serious name for such a sweet girl, so I just call her “Honey”.
We’ve spent many afternoons together sitting under the willow tree on the edge of the stream. She never stays past sundown and I’m never sure when she’ll show up or where she goes when she leaves. I assume she lives nearby, but, just in case, I leave out food and water for her. It’s never been touched.
Something wakes me from sleep in the middle of the night, a bad dream perhaps or a strange noise, I think, but an ache deep in my tummy explains the disturbance. Even though Mama told me to never leave my room at night, I am confused in the liminal space between nightmare and consciousness. I stumble up the cellar stairs in search of water.
Isn’t it curious how much we thirst in the night?
This story unfolds like a mystery, letting you discover its secrets right along with the young protagonist. There is a simple enough premise here, but it is turned, cleverly, on its head. Characters and settings are given vivid description, and the author quickly whips up a very rich, dangerous world. A wonderful foray into dark, horror fantasy.
Jaye Wells has more than a dozen books to her name. She’s a USA Today bestselling author for the Sabina Kane series and the Prospero’s War series. You can (and should!) check out her website HERE.
Want to read the previous CHROMOPHOBIA showcases? Click a title:
Pre-order the special hardcover edition of CHROMOPHOBIA HERE.
Check out part two of editor Sara Tantlinger’s CHROMOPHOBIA roundtable HERE.