Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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Issue 58
Oba Oyinbo
by Jonathan Edelstein
The Best of the Three
by Camila Fernandes
The Kids in Town
by David Williams
In the Woods, My Voice
by Rati Mehrotra
IGMS Audio
In the Woods, My Voice
Read by Alethea Kontis
InterGalactic Medicine Show Interviews
Vintage Fiction
The Shoulders of Giants
by Robert J. Sawyer

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In the Woods, My Voice
    by Rati Mehrotra
    Read by Alethea Kontis

  Listen to the audio version

When Grandma died, she left her two most precious possessions to my sisters. To my older sister Jeet--the plain and clever one--went the magical flute that could charm any listener. To my younger sister Jamila--the pretty and brave one--went the protective stick that could fight off unsuitable admirers and monsters alike.

And to me, Jerri, the graceless middle one?

"To you, best beloved," said Grandma, "I give my voice." She pushed a small velvet box into my hands. "And now, since it is exactly midnight, I shall die." She fell back on her bed with a huge sigh, closed her eyes, and pretended to be dead.

All three of us stared at the clock on the wall, and then back at her. She was still breathing, but none of us dared point that out. At last, after fifteen minutes of ferocious pretence, Grandma succeeded in dying. Her face, so grim and formidable in life, relaxed into a peaceful smile. That's how we knew she was really dead.

We buried her in the backyard as she had instructed, under a silver crescent moon. The next morning, my sisters left our crooked little house in the valley of Carou, as they were meant to. Jeet went off with her flute to the Court of Kings in the capital, and established herself as the foremost musician in the land. Armed with the protective stick, Jamila fought her way through the infested woods beyond our fields and arrived at a neighboring kingdom. She married a duke and became a high society lady, famous for her tournaments.

But I don't want to talk about them. Can you imagine how I felt when they left me alone with nothing but Grandma's buried corpse for company? We didn't even have a cat. "Too stereotypical," Grandma had said when I asked why we couldn't have one.

If you haven't guessed by now that Grandma was a witch, you haven't been paying attention. Or you don't know your stories, which is even worse. Anyway, I'm telling you now, she was a witch--a gifted one. She kept the whole valley in a healthy state of fear. We never had to buy anything; farmers left vegetables on our doorstep, the chicken woman brought eggs, and the baker's boy came by with fresh buns every Monday. Never a wedding, birth or funeral went by that Grandma wasn't invited to. Her presence guaranteed that nothing worse than ordinary bad things would happen. Her spells kept the nastiest of the wood creatures away from homes and fields, including our mother. That's what she claimed anyway, and who was going to be stupid enough to ask for proof?

Grandma had been getting old, even for a witch. In her last few months she told everyone who was unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity the exact day she would die, what she would be wearing, and how she would be buried. People got used to it after a while. I suppose they all assumed one of her three granddaughters would take her place. Only one problem with that: none of us had her gift. Not even me, the middle child--not that I could remember. It didn't drive Grandma as crazy as you might think, and she never pushed us. She'd learned her lesson with Mother, I suppose.

One morning, soon after my sisters left without so much as a backward glance, the baker's boy came huffing up the lane to our cottage. One look at his expression confirmed my fears: it wasn't buns he was carrying, it was bad news. And hadn't I been expecting it ever since Grandma died?

Sure enough, as soon as he was within earshot, he blurted out, "Miss Jerri, she's here. Eating the bailiff."

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