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The Dead Moon

The Dead Moon
By Jennifer Loring

The twelve princesses dance because they will never be married. They dance because their father wanted boys and got all girls, in defiance of the demands he made on their mother. They dance in the darkness of the new moon, amongst trees whose branches snap and whip like tentacles in the windless night. They dance to avenge their mother, who danced here too before their father burned her at the stake for being a witch. They sing incantations to the dead moon and to the Mighty Mother, the Lord of the Wood. They dance for the true and unspeakable King who will ascend to his rightful throne.

Their father sends a knight to follow them from the castle on one of their nightly excursions. He is a terrible spy who laughs and asks them why they wear masks when it’s obvious who they are. They fling his laughter back at him, feed him to the devouring trees, and shout spells over his gurgling screams. Mother had read to them long ago the great black book full of strange symbols and arcane languages they have since mastered. Mother said they would need it one day, that it would save them, and she was right as witches always are.

The next night their father himself comes for them, saying he should’ve known; he’s always known. He is but one man, no match for his twelve enchantresses whose sweet looks and voices have led many a man to his doom. Soon the earth is soft with blood drunk by cloven-hooved roots, blood that squishes against the princesses’ worn-out shoes and in between their toes. 

Too clever for their own good, the king had said one autumn day, red and orange tree leaves burning like intuition in the dying sunlight, and decided he must to exterminate the people who had cured his illnesses and predicted his successes in battle. The priests had demanded strong action.

Mother went first, for he needed to set a good example.

Why are they all women? the princesses asked.

You know how women are, said the king. Made in the image of sin. Corrupted, and easily corruptible.

They knew then that the time had come. Now they await her rebirth. They await the coming of the Lord. Ïa! they sing. E hu shub niggurath n gaa ryula neb shoggoth!

The stars are, finally, almost right. So close. So very close.

* * *

Jennifer Loring’s short fiction has been published widely, including two volumes of Tales from the Lake, Nightscript IV, Dim Shores Presents, and the Bram Stoker Award-nominated anthologies Not All Monsters and Arterial Bloom. She holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction with a concentration in horror fiction and is currently a PhD candidate in Interdisciplinary Studies - Humanities & Culture. Jenn lives in Philadelphia, PA, where she and her husband are owned by a turtle and two basset hounds.

Where do you get the ideas for your stories?

I get my ideas from literally everything! Dreams, music, folklore and fairy tales, other writers, movies, video games, traveling, random experiences around the city…

I have writing journals packed with ideas I’ll never have enough time to write, but that doesn’t stop my brain from coming up with them.