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Wednesday, April 10, 2024 | Books, Exclusives


Author Carina Bissett.

In her powerful debut, Bram Stoker Awards Nominee Carina Bissett explores the liminal spaces between the magical and the mundane, horror and humor, fairy tales and fabulism: A young woman discovers apotheosis at the intersection of her cross-cultural heritage. A simulacrum rebels against her coding to create a new universe of her own making. A poison assassin tears the world apart in the relentless pursuit of her true love –the one person alive who can destroy her. DEAD GIRL, DRIVING AND OTHER DEVASTATIONS erases expectations, forging new trails on the map of contemporary fiction.

With an introduction by Julie C. Day, author of Uncommon Miracles and The Rampant, DEAD GIRL, DRIVING AND OTHER DEVASTATIONS is now available from Trepidatio Publishing.

RUE MORGUE is honored to exclusively present a peek inside the collection with an excerpt from one of the stories, “The Gravity of Grace.”  

“The Gravity of Grace” (excerpt)

The first feather sprouted from her scalp on a fine spring morning when Grace, on a dare, defied gravity. She pushed her swing to its highest arc before taking the leap that would prove she was as brave as any boy on the playground—that included Billy, who watched from the swing on her left. 

Grace pretended to ignore him, concentrating instead on the feel of the heavy metal links sweating under her grasp. She rocked her feet back and forth, shifting her weight with exaggerated motions. The whole playground spread out around her—the shiny silver equipment, the fresh blue paint, the combed white sand. But behind the bright and cheery exterior, it was just like every other elementary school Grace had ever been to. And she’d been to plenty. 

The chains bit into her palms and the cold morning air blew straight up her skirt. As she soared, her long pigtails flared like outstretched wings eager to fly. And then there was a pause before she fell backwards. Her pigtails dropped, coiling around her neck like silky snakes. Feathers and scales. Always feathers and scales, but Grace didn’t wear either of them. She hoped she never would. She was just like any other child out there, or so she told herself, even as the boys hooted and hollered, incensed by her dark olive skin only made darker by the modest white skirt rucked up around her bony hips. 

Grace was pretty sure all the kids in fourth grade were watching. Maybe the fifth graders too. Her skirt flapped like broken wings as she kicked higher. Let them look. Soon she was so high, she was sure that just one more thrust would propel her straight up and over that metal bar. 

“Do it!” Billy shouted as he passed her on the downswing. At the highest point, her arch nemesis took the leap, stocky limbs flailing in the air, arms pinwheeling as he tried to keep upright through the fall. He landed with a wild whoop and looked back at her with a smirk. 

“Did you see that?” His golden hair glinted in the early morning light. Billy made a face, taunting her as he stretched his skin at the temples with fingers as pale as the moon. “Or did your mom pull your hair too tight?” 

Grace grimaced, but then immediately let her face relax. Any smile, any frown, any expression whatsoever only enhanced the slant of her eyes, a “gift” from her mother. Grace knew she should ignore Billy, keep her momentum in an easy rocking of legs flung forward, bent back. But what was the point of that? All the girls did that. She had no interest in being one of those bubble-headed girls so popular in the cartoons she was forbidden to watch. She could pretend to have the demure dignity her mother demanded, or she could take the chance to beat the boy at his own game. Grace considered her options as she swung backwards again, pigtails fluttering against her exposed neck. 

“I knew she couldn’t do it.” Billy elbowed his buddy in the ribs. “Little bitch.” 

Grace knew her father would have been amused at the boy’s attempt at cursing, especially since it didn’t involve him. He might have even given Billy a few pointers. Martin Estrella was a million times meaner than any living person. She didn’t need the police to verify the fact with their papers and promises. Her father had written his own commandments on the skins of his daughters. She had the scars to prove it. 

But Martin Estrella had disappeared the day her sister died. He’d sacrificed Ava in the hopes that his daughter’s blood would seal his desire to become a living god. When it didn’t work, he’d fled, and Grace hadn’t seen him since. Martin couldn’t hurt her. Not anymore. She gritted her teeth and jumped. 

Grace curled her fingers into claws. She leaned forward, stretching out her slim ten-year-old frame in an effort to reach the bully and his friends. She would crush them, all of them, destroy them where they stood. In her sudden rage, she could almost taste their blood in her mouth. But she couldn’t fly; all she could do was fall. 

In that one frantic moment, Grace attempted to reconnect with the swing. Her arms pinwheeled. Her legs kicked. And then, she crashed to earth, just inches from Billy’s feet. 

“Holy shit!” Billy stared. 

“Run,” said the lanky kid next to him. “We gotta get outta here.” 

The soles of scuffed tennis shoes, skinny jean-clad legs, and a cloud of dust were the only evidence of the boys’ retreat. The other kids, who’d gathered to poke fun at the new girl, retreated as well, but Grace hardly noticed. She was too busy trying to catch her breath. 

After what seemed like forever, Grace rolled to her side with a groan and forced herself upright into a sitting position. Blood rolled down her knees in thin branching streams, staining the neat white folds of her socks. Sand stuck to exposed skin. Torn lace drooped from her skirt’s hem. 

“No, no, no.” Grace tried to press the lace back together, desperate to hide the evidence of her fall. Smeared red stains competed with the dirt smudged on her wrinkled skirt. Grace let go. Her fingers flitted nervously to her sides, and she sat there for a few moments, almost wishing her father was still around so she wouldn’t have to face her mother’s disappointment. Back when they’d been a family neither Grace nor Ava existed as far as their mother was concerned, and right now that would have been just fine. 

The first bell rang, but Grace ignored it. Resolutely, she assessed the damage and began to pick the coarser bits of gravel out of her scraped palms. She was interrupted in her ministrations by a sharp pain lancing her scalp. Stupid pigtails, she thought, wishing she could gnash her teeth. It sounded so ferocious, like something Martin would do. But she was only a girl, not some wild thing, or so her mother said. 

Grace reached up and tugged on the elastic bands confining her hair. Defiantly, she pulled them out, one by one, and braced herself for the discomfort that always came when she let her hair down. The tingling sensation was so intense it almost burned, but this time it felt different. Not like a concussion though; not like the times Martin had left her so rattled she’d been unable to stand for hours. She might have been bruised and bleeding, but her thoughts stayed clear. No double vision. No dizziness. No nausea. 

Grace ran her fingers through the thick black curls, hoping to shake the odd sensation, but stopped when the silky fan of a feather brushed her fingertips. Grace froze with the feather resting between her thumb and forefinger. She tugged, but it stayed put. She tugged harder and winced, trying not to think about the last time her hair had been pulled. Even so, she could almost feel Martin’s fist curled around her scalp as though it was an egg he could easily crush. Grace braced herself, then yanked the feather good and hard, right where the shaft protruded from the skin. 

The slender plume lay cradled in the cup of her skinned palm. She marveled at the deep crimson color. A voice of reason, her mother’s, urged her to throw it away, but she couldn’t bear the thought of anyone else picking it up. It was hers, not something shed by a dirty bird. It made her think of the fearsome mask favored by her father, but even that wasn’t enough to dissuade her. This feather was as red as the blood smeared across her abraded knees, not the iridescent black crowning Martin Estrella’s wicked winged mask on display in her mother’s living room. 

Grace curled her fingers around it. 

Memories of Martin whispering to her in the dark urged her to hide the feather, proof of her monstrous heritage. Her mother would take it away, destroy it. Purification by fire. Grace tucked it in the bodice of her stupidly old-fashioned dress and stood up. The slender red feather belonged to her, and she wasn’t going to let anyone take it away—not ever. 

Lindy Ryan
An award-winning author, editor, professor, and short-film director, Lindy Ryan was recently named one of horror’s six most masterful anthology curators, alongside Ellen Datlow and Christopher Golden, for her work in UNDER HER SKIN, a women-in-horror poetry showcase, and INTO THE FOREST: TALES OF THE BABA YAGA, a forthcoming women-in-horror anthology from Black Spot Books and Blackstone Audio. A 2020 Publishers Weekly Star Watch Honoree and previous board member for the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), Lindy is a long-time advocate for women-in-horror and an active member of the HWA and ITW. She is the current chair of the Horror Writers Association’s Women in Horror Month. The author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, Lindy’s work has been adapted for film. Her debut horror-thriller novel, BLESS YOUR HEART, is forthcoming from St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books.