Posts Tagged ‘Marguerite Kenner’

Episode 68: Mercurial Skin by Raechel Henderson


Mercurial Skin

by Raechel Henderson

Jodi kneels on the floor taking inventory of musty, used books when she feels someone approach and tower over her.  She doesn’t mind the interruption because the books are starting to whisper to her again. When she looks up she bares her neck to the customer.  “Your Lucy complex is showing again,” Victor, the shop owner and her boss, says from where he’s building new shelves into the ceiling. Jodi pays him as much attention as the books. 

For an instant Jodi and the customer, a boy of sixteen or seventeen, take stock of each other, looking for indicators they might be people who share common interests.

The boy wears standard neo-goth attire–lots of black and dripping in chains–but his costume can’t hide his white-bread good looks.  He’d be better suited to a band or school or fast food uniform. Like her, he is an imposter. She imagines the two of them riding a train through the Carpathians under a full moon.  He mumbles something to her, more of a long sigh than communication.

“Excuse me?” 

He speaks louder but the words still stick together as if he can’t take the time to pronounce each one.

She stands up, brushing her hands on the sides of her jeans.  “Say that one more time, slowly.” She smiles at him to let him know the misunderstanding is all her fault.

“Mercurial Skin,” he says at last.

Her smile fades when she sees the girl behind him, his dark twin although hers isn’t a costume: from her black hair and black lips to the spider web patterned fishnet stockings and scuffed boots she is the Real Thing. The girl watches with a gorgeous smirk and Jodi knows she’s been caught desiring someone else’s property.  When her smile dismisses Jodi as a threat, Jodi becomes all business.

“Do you know where it is?” he asks.  

“What kind of book is it?”

“A novel.”

“Who’s the author?” Jodi asks.  The pair exchange glances and their attitudes change.  He doesn’t seem interested anymore.

“Uh, I dunno . . .”  He glances at his twin, confused looks all around.

“Deezler maybe?” she suggests.  “It starts with a ‘D.’”

“Well then you could try literature,” Jodi says.

“Yeah . . . it’s fiction.”

Jodi pushes past them to show the way.  She swerves around cardboard boxes and stacks of books, steps lightly over the uneven tile and dodges the heating duct that juts out of the wall.  If she closed her eyes she could find her way back to literature by the smell alone: the antique section smells of old leather, the spiritual and occult sections of incense, the histories of gunpowder and musk.  And under it all is the lingering stench of mold as countless overlooked books disintegrate.

She walks briskly around the corner.  Most times she keeps her pace slow for bewildered customers so not to lose them amongst the twisting aisles.  When she looks back and sees they aren’t behind her she lets out an annoyed sigh and doubles back for them.

She searches the bookstore twice before concluding they’ve disappeared.  Her annoyance is eclipsed by her puzzlement. She forgets the inventory as she mulls over the encounter.  At one point, as the afternoon bleeds into early evening, she searches Literature and Books in Print for Mercurial Skin but doesn’t find it.  Victor would probably know the book, but he’s busy dusting in the shelves.  It’s a detailed task: he removes each book and runs a soft dust cloth over the top and spine before returning it and moving to the next book.  Sometimes she thinks he whispers back to the books. 

Only at the end of the day, as she closes the store does it occur to her it might have been a test.  “Mercurial Skin.” A password? What would have happened if she’d recognized the words? What exclusive circle would she have been invited into?

She frowns at her reflection in the display window.  Brown hair and a chubby face frown back at her. She’d look ridiculous in goth attire; even so, she considers dying her hair black. 


Jodi believes everyone has to become something.  Most people just turn into older versions of themselves, but others run into the weird and wonderful who recognize a kindred spirit.  Those lucky souls are initiated, nurtured, cocooned, and burst free, a different entity all together. Vampires, werewolves, witches, charismatics, they’re all the same at the start.  They find where they fit in and it changes them into someone more interesting, exotic, better.

Jodi spends her days trying to figure out the riddle of Mercurial Skin.

She makes lists of possible responses: Fickle Heart, Deceitful Tongue, Mother Tongue?

She tries anagrams: Numerical risk, Reclaim Ski Urn, Miracle In Rusk.

She lingers in the puzzles section, reading through books on code breaking, not listening to their whisperings.  Victor told her on her first day to ignore them. “They’re like beggars. Once they got your attention they won’t shut up for nothing.  I’ve lost more’n one employee to the books.” She takes it to mean they’ve quit rather than listen to the constant mutterings.

Without admitting to it, Jodi keeps looking for the neo-goth boy.  Her imagination is dominated by scenes of the two of them together.  She imagines they are spies hunting down trained assassins in Bangkok.  It doesn’t matter that she’s never travelled; doesn’t even have a passport.  At first she glances up whenever the door chimes. Soon she turns corners, moves through the stacks, or checks the reading nooks expecting to see him.  Even outside the bookstore, on the street, while glancing out her window, or at the grocery store, she anticipates his sudden materialization. The certainty she has of seeing him any moment short-circuits her internal clock.  She lives five seconds in the future and moves more slowly to compensate; to give him time to find her. The constant accompanying disappointment weakens her defenses.

The paperback romances twitter at her when she flips through them, pretending to straighten the shelves.  The poetry folios recite love sonnets when she passes. The self-help books guarantee she only needs to lose weight, learn how to apply make-up, or believe in herself to get her man.  Those books she leaves to Victor’s care.

She watches customers wander through the aisles, running their fingers over the books.  After a year of working the store she can tell those who can hear the books from those who can’t.  Those who can browse with their heads tilted slightly. They fondle the books and take their time in choosing.  Those who can’t snatch books up, skim the first few pages, and make their decisions in seconds. She’s heeded Victor’s advice so far, just the fact that she can hear the books tells Jodi she’s in the right place to find what she’s looking for.  Jodi scratches her neck and the sound is like the rustling of pages.


Jodi thinks about getting a tattoo.  Something small, maybe on her hip or some place else she could cover up.  But that would mean having to disrobe for a stranger and she’s afraid of the needle’s sting.


She can’t fit her usual fantasies to neo-goth boy anymore.  Her mind refuses to focus on dreams of adventure and discovery.  Instead she’s subconsciously set up house with him: Sunday brunches, sharing yard work, snuggling before the television on work nights.  She tries to tell herself it’s all so pathetically banal, but she can’t exorcise the thoughts from her head, nor can she bend them to a more suitable vision.  Sure she could have that if that’s what she wanted: some ordinary life with an ordinary guy. But she’d always be dissatisfied, always looking for something more fulfilling.

Afraid she’ll have lost her one and only chance, Jodi turns to the books.

“Mercurial Skin,” she whispers to the tatty and broken spines.

“Mercurial Skin,” they sigh back to her, sounding almost like the neo-goth boy.  Jodi looks around but she’s alone.

“What is it?” she asks the books.

The books whisper to her about dashed hopes and painfully drawn out terminal illnesses, the lives of the Indians of the Amazon interior, folk songs of the lower Slavic peoples, the heresies prevalent in 17th century Germany, of a hundred other tangled and convoluted subjects.  At first, she thinks they’re trying to help her and she strains to understand what they say.

After a day or two she wonders if they aren’t just a mirror of her own inner turmoil.  The main emotional content of their messages are of longing and disappointment.  

This isn’t a conversation, she realizes at last.  This is a monologue issued by hundreds of actors, each trying to be heard over the others.  This is why she ignored the books in the first place, Jodi remembers. Now it’s too late. She opened her ears to them and there’s no stoppering them up.


Even when she’s alone in her apartment she can hear the mediocre, prosaic, characterless stories.  It’s an indictment of her own life that she only hears the boring plots. Or maybe it’s a portent of her own future: the books are telling her she’s destined for a wearisome, humdrum experience.  She finds her own fantasies weighted down by ponderous verbiage and melodrama. She goes out Saturday night to escape her stilted thoughts.

She stands against the back wall of the club, nursing a vodka tonic as the factions move around each other in an unchoreagraphed minuet.  She watches the vampires, too unsure of herself to consider approaching them. The waifs sway, arms stretched above their heads, under the pulsing neon lights.  The Baron is trolling the crowds for a playmate, a length of gleaming white nylon rope looped over his shoulder. He’s never once looked at her. She rubs her wrist where the skin has became tough, leathery.

Jodi considers joining the vamps.  She watches them lounging in one of the alcoves.  They wear black leather corsets and velvet fishtail skirts.  Some of them can be called voluptuous. Some are just fat, their breast spilling over their corsets in pale, flabby mounds.  Even so, they’re surrounded every Saturday night by admirers. Men and women buy the vamps drinks, whisper in their ears and sneak off with one or another to dark corners.  Jodi thinks she’d look good as a vamp with the neo-goth leaning against her. But she can’t afford even a cheap corset, and the weird and wonderful have a strict dress policy.

The ice has melted and diluted her drink.  Jodi looks down at her body, expecting to see she has gone invisible.  But no, as she casts her gaze down she sees her pigeon chest, thrift-shop dress, dimpled knees and low-heeled shoes.  Her clothing and personality are so bland she blends into her surroundings. She slinks home with the sort of fatal wounds only self-recrimination can inflict.


Jodi’s closed up shop but she hasn’t left.  She sits, huddled against the books, weeping.  She doesn’t want to go out on the street where neo-goth won’t/always will be.  She’s tried everything she can think of but nothing’s brought her closer to the answer.  Maybe she’s not meant to be anybody else. Maybe this is all she’s meant for.

No.  She rejects that thought.  Why would she have gotten this job if this isn’t where she’s going to find where she belongs?  It can’t be only because Victor needed someone to work the evening shift. She’ll never admit to having taken the job because she needed money, and it seemed like easy work.  

The books’ whisperings are comforting tonight.  She leans closer, rubs her wet cheeks against cloth and paper bindings.  She strokes their spines and feels their pleasure at her touch.

Being a book wouldn’t be so bad.  Here among the forgotten and unwanted she wouldn’t be judged, even by her cover.  

The books make her an offer: she could join them.  What does she have to lose? Her lonely life? Her emptiness?  At least on the shelves she would have companions, others who know what it’s like to be over looked.  And there is the promise of being picked up one day, taken home, read and enjoyed.

Jodi thinks about the books in the back, the ones riddled with bugs, damp pages fused together, now unreadable.  How long do obscure books pine for a reader before they go mad, or give up and fall silent forever? She walks back to the furthest corner and runs her fingers down the spongy spines, listening for a response.  Maybe their voices are too faint, or maybe they refuse to speak to her.  

A panicky flutter beats against her ribcage.  What is she thinking? There’s always tomorrow.  She could try a new club, walk a new route home, she could look for a new job.  Away from the moldy books, where there are people, where there is life.  

The books pull at her, they whisper soothing words, they are warm under her hands and against her cheek.  It’s so comfortable here. You’ll have us, they tell her.

All she has to do is abandon her hope of finding anything else, of belonging anywhere else.  There’s no romance in giving up, Jodi knows this. But romance can’t stand against the empty ache in her chest.

“Yes.”  Her answer comes out as a whisper.  Already her body is dissolving. It reforms and she is aware of her new shape, knows how many pages her life takes up, where her covering is frayed, the nature of her odor–dry, as if twenty-two-years’ worth of dust are pressed into her paper.  Her pulpy heart leaps when she recognizes her title.


Jodi is lifted from the shelf.  She recognizes his hands even though she’s never felt them: soft, gentle but firm.  The neo-goth boy traces her slightly embossed title. Another snatches her from him: quick fingers with black-lacquered nails manicured into cruel points.  

“What’s this?”  The girlfriend reads Jodi’s back jacket copy.  “Girl in a bookstore? Jesus, John, do you really want to read this crap?”  She’s tossed back onto the shelf. “I’m going to see if they have any Dead Girls.”

John, picks her back up, his fingertips are moth wings on her dust jacket.  They are moonbeams, soft rain, warm and intimate. He tucks her under his arm and goes in search of the register.

That night he reads her life.  He reads every word of her story, rereads some passages two, three times even.  He empathizes with her life and loneliness. The veneer of fiction allows her to finally speak to him and for him to hear her.  For the first time Jodi feels understood, accepted, loved. And she reads him. She sees his own desire to belong, his discomfort with the costume but his unwillingness to give it up . . . yet.  When he’s finished, as amber dawn drives away the darkness, both are exhausted. He gives a satisfied sigh before closing her. As he sleeps, Jodi nestled next to him, she whispers to him. She’ll get him back to the bookstore and show him the way.  Already she’s dreaming of the two of them on the shelf, side-by-side, moldering away. Together. 

Episode 59: Once There Was A Hero… by Jenny Moore


Once There Was A Hero…

by Jenny Moore

*Text to Come*

Episode 45: Finding the Blue Door by L. Lambert Lawson

Show Notes

Today we present Finding the Blue Door by L. Lambert Lawson. L. Lambert Lawson writes from his library in Southern California. From 2005-2007, he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine. He is the publisher of Kazka Press, an independent SFF press with a monthly flash fiction contest. He can be found online or on Twitter.

Theme music is “Appeal To Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.


Narrated by Marguerite Kenner

Listen above or download here.

Show Notes

Today we present Finding the Blue Door by L. Lambert Lawson. L. Lambert Lawson writes from his library in Southern California. From 2005-2007, he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine. He is the publisher of Kazka Press, an independent SFF press with a monthly flash fiction contest. He can be found online or on Twitter.

Theme music is “Appeal To Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.

Episode 39: Living Clay by Lucy Oliver

Show Notes

Today we present Living Clay by Lucy Oliver. Lucy has had short stories published in Take a Break, Fiction Feast, and Stories for Children magazines. She also has work in numerous anthologies and won the Stylist magazine Microfiction competition. Currently working on an historical novel, she lives with her husband and young children who provide inspiration for her work.

You can read a short interview with Lucy from just a few days ago.

Your narrator is the ever-stupendous Marguerite Kenner.

Due to our website crash in April 2014, we are in the process of reconstructing our back catalog. Please enjoy listening to the episode – we’ll have the show notes up as soon as we can!

Theme music is “Appeal To Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.


Narrated by Marguerite Kenner

Listen above or download here.

Show Notes

Today we present Living Clay by Lucy Oliver. Lucy has had short stories published in Take a Break, Fiction Feast, and Stories for Children magazines. She also has work in numerous anthologies and won the Stylist magazine Microfiction competition. Currently working on an historical novel, she lives with her husband and young children who provide inspiration for her work.

You can read a short interview with Lucy from just a few days ago.

Your narrator is the ever-stupendous Marguerite Kenner.

Due to our website crash in April 2014, we are in the process of reconstructing our back catalog. Please enjoy listening to the episode – we’ll have the show notes up as soon as we can!

Theme music is “Appeal To Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.

Episode 32: Flash Collection I by Rose Blackthorn

Show Notes

Today we present a series of flash fiction stories by Rose Blackthorn. Rose lives in the high mountain desert of Eastern Utah with her boyfriend. She also has a two-year old Australian Shepherd nicknamed Boo, and a Yorkie puppy fittingly named Shadow. She spends her time writing, reading, photographing the surrounding wilderness, and doting on the aforementioned fur-kids. She is a member of the Horror Writer’s Association and has been published in several magazines both print and online. She contributed to the zombie anthology New Dawn Fades released in Nov 2011 and the Necon E-Books flash anthology released in Mar 2012. She suffers from an overactive imagination, but rather than complaining… she just goes with it. You can find out more about Rose at her site.

Theme music is “Appeal To Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.


Narrated by Graeme Dunlop and Marguerite Kenner

Listen above or download here.

Show Notes

Today we present a series of flash fiction stories by Rose Blackthorn. Rose lives in the high mountain desert of Eastern Utah with her boyfriend. She also has a two-year old Australian Shepherd nicknamed Boo, and a Yorkie puppy fittingly named Shadow. She spends her time writing, reading, photographing the surrounding wilderness, and doting on the aforementioned fur-kids. She is a member of the Horror Writer’s Association and has been published in several magazines both print and online. She contributed to the zombie anthology New Dawn Fades released in Nov 2011 and the Necon E-Books flash anthology released in Mar 2012. She suffers from an overactive imagination, but rather than complaining… she just goes with it. You can find out more about Rose at her site.

Theme music is “Appeal To Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.

Episode 26: Fearing The Invasion (Part 2) by Eric Del Carlo

Show Notes

Today we present Part 2 of Fearing The Invasion by Eric Del Carlo.

Theme music is “Appeal To Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.


Narrated by Marguerite Kenner

Listen above or download here.

Show Notes

Today we present Part 2 of Fearing The Invasion by Eric Del Carlo.

Theme music is “Appeal To Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.

Episode 25: Fearing The Invasion (Part 1) by Eric Del Carlo

Show Notes

Today we present Fearing The Invasion by Eric Del Carlo. Eric, who lives in California, has been writing since his early twenties. He knew the late Robert Aspirin well and collaborated with him on two novels. His work has appeared in many publications including Asimov’s, Sybil’s Garage, Necrotic Tissue and Everyday Fiction, amongst many, many others. You can find several of his books on Amazon and you can find out more about Eric himself here.

Your narrator is Marguerite Kenner, the crime-fightin’, rock-climbin’, cymbal-bangin’ “Girl Friday Extraordinaire”!

Theme music is “Appeal To Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.


Narrated by Marguerite Kenner

Listen above or download here.

Show Notes

Today we present Fearing The Invasion by Eric Del Carlo. Eric, who lives in California, has been writing since his early twenties. He knew the late Robert Aspirin well and collaborated with him on two novels. His work has appeared in many publications including Asimov’s, Sybil’s Garage, Necrotic Tissue and Everyday Fiction, amongst many, many others. You can find several of his books on Amazon and you can find out more about Eric himself here.

Your narrator is Marguerite Kenner, the crime-fightin’, rock-climbin’, cymbal-bangin’ “Girl Friday Extraordinaire”!

Theme music is “Appeal To Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.

Episode 19: Cockatrice Girl Meets Statue Boy (Part 2) by Willow Fagan

Show Notes

Today we present Part 2 of Cockatrice Girl Meets Statue Boy by Willow Fagan.

Theme music is “Appeal To Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.


Episode 19: Cockatrice Girl Meets Statue Boy (Part 2) by Willow Fagan

Narrated by Marguerite Kenner and Alasdair Stuart

Listen above or download here.

Show Notes

Today we present Part 2 of Cockatrice Girl Meets Statue Boy by Willow Fagan.

Theme music is “Appeal To Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.

Episode 18: Cockatrice Girl Meets Statue Boy (Part 1) by Willow Fagan

Show Notes

Today we present Part 1 of Cockatrice Girl Meets Statue Boy by Willow Fagan. Willow lives in Portland, Oregon. They’re genderqueer, which for them means that they feel more like a pirate princess than like a man or a woman. Their fiction has appeared in Fantasy Magazine, Behind the Wainscot, and The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2011. To read more about their writing and adventures, go to their blog.

Theme music is “Appeal To Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.


Narrated by Marguerite Kenner and Alasdair Stuart

Listen above or download here.

Show Notes

Today we present Part 1 of Cockatrice Girl Meets Statue Boy by Willow Fagan. Willow lives in Portland, Oregon. They’re genderqueer, which for them means that they feel more like a pirate princess than like a man or a woman. Their fiction has appeared in Fantasy Magazine, Behind the Wainscot, and The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2011. To read more about their writing and adventures, go to their blog.

Theme music is “Appeal To Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.

Episode 14: Bad Kitty by Jason Dextradeur


Narrated by Marguerite Kenner and Alasdair Stuart

Listen above or download here.

Show Notes

Today we present Bad Kitty by Jason Dextraduer. He lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia. If, like me, you know little about the US, Virginia Beach is the largest city in the state of Virginia; Virginia is on the West Coast. He works as a courier to pay the bills, and writes to keep the stories in his head from driving him crazy. Should he happen to have free time, he likes to spend it with friends, or outdoors letting the wind blow through him, or with a good story. Some of his other stories have appeared in The Hogglepot Online Fantasy Journal, The Absent Willow Review, and 5923 Quarterly.

Your narrators this week are the “Girl Friday Extraordinaire” Marguerite Kenner, who is becoming a welcome regular ‘round these here parts, and The Dark King of podcasting, Alasdair Stuart. Alasdair is a writer and journalist from a small island in the middle of the Irish Sea protected, the legends say, by a wizard who rolled wheels of fire down the central hill to dissuade invaders. Also it rained a lot, and he’s pretty sure that helped too.

Theme music is “Appeal To Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.

Episode 10: Mrs. Jai by Wendy Bradley

Show Notes

Today we present Mrs. Jai by Wendy Bradley. Wendy was the TV critic for Interzone magazine for a time. She edited and published Farthing magazine, described by Ursula le Guin as “cooler than Asimov’s.” She went to the Clarion West writers’ workshop in 2003. She has been a hotel receptionist, bookseller, drama teacher, secretary and Civil Servant. Wendy lives in Yorkshire and works in London. She can be found on Twitter as wendybradley (check the show notes) where apparently she is “influential about football, business and drugs”. And she’s not sure what drugs they mean!

Your narrators this week include Marguerite Kenner, who narrated The Unicorn Tree in Episode 2, and Danielle Daly who narrated A Proof of Unicorns in Episode 6.

Theme music is “Appeal To Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.


Narrated by Graeme Dunlop, Marguerite Kenner and Dani Daly

Listen above or download here.

Show Notes

Today we present Mrs. Jai by Wendy Bradley. Wendy was the TV critic for Interzone magazine for a time. She edited and published Farthing magazine, described by Ursula le Guin as “cooler than Asimov’s.” She went to the Clarion West writers’ workshop in 2003. She has been a hotel receptionist, bookseller, drama teacher, secretary and Civil Servant. Wendy lives in Yorkshire and works in London. She can be found on Twitter as wendybradley (check the show notes) where apparently she is “influential about football, business and drugs”. And she’s not sure what drugs they mean!

Your narrators this week include Marguerite Kenner, who narrated The Unicorn Tree in Episode 2, and Danielle Daly who narrated A Proof of Unicorns in Episode 6.

Theme music is “Appeal To Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.

Episode 2: The Unicorn Tree by Alethea Kontis

Show Notes

Today we present The Unicorn Tree by Alethea Kontis. Alethea is an author and editor who lives in Ashburn, Virginia. She is the author of AlphaOops!: The Day Z Went First, described as “an alphabet book with attitude”, and many other books and short stories. You can find out more about Alethea and her work — for example, the fact that she’s half French and half Greek — at her website.

It’s narrated by Marguerite Kenner. “By day” Marguerite is an executive admin. for a large intellectual property law firm. By night, she’s an avenging hero with superpowers such as rock climbing, aikido, music (she is a classical percussionist), gaming, sewing costumes, and reading anything and everything. You can find out what’s on her mind here.

Theme music is “Appeal To Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.


Narrated by Marguerite Kenner

Listen above or download here.

Show Notes

Today we present The Unicorn Tree by Alethea Kontis. Alethea is an author and editor who lives in Ashburn, Virginia. She is the author of AlphaOops!: The Day Z Went First, described as “an alphabet book with attitude”, and many other books and short stories. You can find out more about Alethea and her work — for example, the fact that she’s half French and half Greek — at her website.

It’s narrated by Marguerite Kenner. “By day” Marguerite is an executive admin. for a large intellectual property law firm. By night, she’s an avenging hero with superpowers such as rock climbing, aikido, music (she is a classical percussionist), gaming, sewing costumes, and reading anything and everything. You can find out what’s on her mind here.

Theme music is “Appeal To Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.