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Constellations Orion's Belt Orion's Bow Lovers Star-Crossed Romance Gay Fantasy

Fall 2023

The wind will call me over land, coast and sea

A fantastical short story about a hen party on a magical island by JM Cyrus

The villa's front door opened onto a large, open-plan room. Wide glass doors formed two walls; fine, chiffon-like curtains billowed in the warm salt scented breeze, providing tantalising glimpses of beyond. The left side revealed a terrace, complete with deck chairs and a balustraded edge with treetop glimpses. The other wall of doors at the far end, revealed an infinity pool and a sparkling ocean. The sky and water were only distinguishable through tiny iridescent glitters on the water's surface, and a few token puffy, intangible clouds in the blue expansive sky.

The six women dropped their bags in astonishment.

"Oh. My. Goodness!"

"This is amazing!"

"I want to go swimming!"

"I want a nap!"

Etta held a curtain and watched the treetops over the terrace's lip be tousled by the breeze.

She could hear songbirds and the beach waves. She could smell things she couldn’t quite place in the fresh sea air; another country’s soil, unfamiliar plants and delicious cooking odours drifting in the breeze. A welcome change.

"What do you want to do first?" The voice of her friend Princess made Etta face the
group, all gathered around the large, pale yellow sofas.

Princess's dark eyes sparkled as she continued, "You're the hen couple! You should choose! This trip is all about you!"

Josephine looked at Iris, adoring love filling the young woman's face. "What do you
think, dove?"

Iris rubbed her eyes in mock exhaustion. "I meant it! I want a nap!"

"Iris! Let's get right into hen fun!" said Jayeon.

Iris laughed and muttered, "I should have a special broiler weekend… Too old to be a

"Hush, dove!" said Josephine, kissing the older woman's hand.

"It's true! Quite what you thought when you said yes to marry an old harpy like me I'll never know!"

"That's not the attitude of someone ready to party!" sang Jayeon as she looked through cupboards in the open plan kitchen.

"Come on, what to do first?" asked Yumi, her voice gentle. "Would you like a snack?"

Iris pursed her lips. Josephine rubbed her fiancee’s leg and took over.

"I think we should take some time to settle, recover from the journey. Then, a vote?"

Iris squeezed her fiancee’s hand in gratitude.

They spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon lingering in the villa, sunbathing, doing laps in the infinity pool and eating Yumi's packed snacks. Jayeon made cocktails, and Princess read passages from her fantasy romance novel aloud.

Josephine had been insistent this hen party was not to follow the cliche, hetero- route of garish costumes, mini veils and male genitalia on everything; but instead was to be a celebration of them as a group of friends.

"Anyway," she had said, "Both brides-to-be will be here, so there's no point in any of
those games. Let's just have a fun holiday."

"I'm going for a wal," announced Etta, the tantalising glimpses of empty sand below
from her infinity pool laps beckoning. "Would anyone like to join me?"

Grunts and waving hands answered her, everyone was comfortable here, thank you.

"Make sure you're back in time for dinner! We're going to the place at the bottom of the hill!" called Yumi.

"Bring me back a boyfriend!" shouted Jayeon.

"Watch out for mermaids!" laughed Princess.

Etta descended the hill, navigating the small path beside a restaurant, chairs on tables and insides dim. Kitchen and radio sounds came from an open door. Etta thought she could hear cheering from a sports game.

The sun was hot on her arms. Her skin felt vulnerable from her home's colder climate, a baby bird in the daylight. It burned away the claustrophobic journey, the sea breeze blowing worries into vapour.

She tried not to think about her ended relationship, a wound before she left. She breathed in the fluttering air, and muttered to herself, "A fresh start."

She emerged from the small path and dense bushes onto a wide expanse of spacious,
deserted beach.

The island was a paradise. Trees swayed and seabirds called over a jewel ocean that glittered to a clean horizon, a bell jar of sky, and yellow-gold sand. Etta squatted and felt the sand. It was warm, but not too hot. She unbuckled her sandals and breathed in the sea's smell.

The first footsteps, feeling the undulating temperatures in the sand's layers and the uneven, textured surface beneath her toes, felt glorious.

With sandals dangling from one hand, she walked to the right, following the beach’s curve. She watched birds swoop and dive and heard noises carrying from the hermit of villas nestled in the hill's pocket.

She reached some rocks emerging from the sand, taller than her and smoothed by water. Their shadows were still damp from the receding tide.

Some smaller rocks could act as steps, and she clambered, scuffing one knee on a
clinging barnacle.

Peeping over the rocks, she saw a route. She navigated into a collection of rock pools, freshly filled from the morning's high tide. The hill was more abrupt here, an almost vertical wall to her right, providing shade.

The coastline ahead was rocky to the point of being untraversable, and she sat and took a breath.

She watched the waves caress the rocks, the sea closer here. She tried not to think of the woman who had not come with her, and all the beaches they would not see together. She sighed self-indulgently, and was interrupted by the sound of laughter.

She turned, but saw no one.

She heard giggling and splashing from around a bend, and stood to look. But when she went round the corner she saw only more rockpools, the largest bath size. A few had radiating circles in the water, but no visible culprit.

With a frown, she decided to head back.

She climbed back over the rocks onto the soft sand, and aimed for the restaurant’s rust-coloured roof.

Dinner was at the restaurant Etta had passed. Its terrace extended onto the beach, the
wooden slats blurring into the small, golden dunes.

Lamps lit the space with a warm glow, candles in coloured glass jars were on every table, festively highlighting each dinnerguest’s face. Lively music played, and all the restaurant's patrons seemed to be having a wonderful time.

The food was delicious; plenty of garlic, oil and salt. The white wine was dry and sharp, and the cocktails were made of crushed ice and fruit; almost too thick for drinking through straws.

Conversation was teasing and good humoured.

"You walked down the beach earlier, Etta?" asked Josephine.

Etta nodded. "I found some rock pools and watched the birds."

"I bet Etta looked out to sea and got all contemplative and moody," teased Princess.

"Oh, ha ha." Etta tried to muster indignation, but her smile gave her away.

"So, you didn't think about Layla at all?" interjected Yumi.

Etta glared.

"I never liked her," said Iris. "What?!" She said to Josephine's look. "It's true! I never did like her. Etta can do much better."

"Do you think you'll look this holiday, Etta?" asked Jayeon.

Etta played with her fork. "Maybe? I think I should." The brave words tasted bittersweet.

"Boy or girl this time?" asked Princess.

Etta shrugged. "I choose the person, not the equipment."

After the mains were finished, and the generous desserts were half eaten, the six friends with glowing cheeks and giggles aplenty, Josephine got everybody's attention.

"Attention everybody! Attention! Thank you. Thank you, all of you, our closest friends, for coming to our celebration of imminent marriage! Not a hen party, but a pre-wedding honeymoon with invaders!"

Everybody laughed.

"Does this mean we get to come to the real one too?" shouted Jayeon, her cheeks rosy.

"Definitely not!" Quipped Iris, smiling, "That destination is even more secretive." She winked.

"How did you find this place?" Princess gestured at the beautiful beach, sparkling ocean in the sunset light.

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Iris tapped her nose, eyebrows raised with jolly secrets.

"Misspent youth," she answered.

"Alright, thank you!" interrupted Josephine. "As I was saying! Thank you all for coming. I hope we have a great time. Of course, I want to thank Iris for choosing the location, organising our journeys, and for asking me to marry her in the first place. Iris, my dove, you're . . . wonderful."

She finished with smiling, hitched tears; and the women kissed in drunken joy. The others egged them on, making encouraging comments such as "Use more tongue!" and "Grab her boobs!"

Etta found herself giggling so hard she choked, and had to gulp icy cocktail to calm

"You alright there, Etta?" said Yumi.

"All good!" Etta managed.

"I also want to say something!" said Iris, beaming, tapping her glass's edge. "Thank you, firstly, to my Josephine for saying yes. My morning breeze, my nested home, you're my everything. And thank you all for welcoming me, this old lady, into your friendships."

"Stop it!" shouted the other women, laughing, "You're not old!"

Iris held up her hands, "I'm at least 15 years older than you, so yes I'm old! But as I was saying, thank you for welcoming me, and for giving me enlightening and nourishing friendships in the 5 years since I met you."

"You were more nervous than when you met my parents!" giggled Josephine.

"I was indeed! So thank you, ladies, for being my friends too. Who wants another

The ladies cheered and cried in joy and celebration.

A pamphlet was left on the table with the after dinner coffees.

"Folk tales and cave whispers’? ‘Local sites of exciting interest’? Iris, do you know
these?" Jayeon asked.

Iris scanned the list.

"Yes. Look at the map on the back."

Jayeon turned the leaflet and Etta leaned in.

"Those are the rock pools I saw earlier! It's called Sereia's bathhouse. ‘Renowned for its contemplative view and stories of sirens bathing. Make a wish and hope not to meet a siren who will trap you forever.’ Huh."

"What's that?" Leaning over, Princess pointed one long cerulean nail at another map mark.

"’Cavern of wind’." read Etta.

"What, like, farts?" laughed Jayeon.

Etta giggle-snorted, and Princess took the pamphlet from Jayeon.

"'A seaside bar with a local tale of being hollowed out by wind spirits. Rejuvenating pool and delicious cocktails. Open late.' This is more like an advert!" she exclaimed.

"Shall we go?" said Yumi.

Iris exchanged a meaningful look with Josephine.

"I'm up for it," said Iris.

So they navigated their tipsy selves out of the restaurant and down the beach.

The walk down the beach was hilarious. They giggled at everything: themselves, each other, their feet, the sea breeze, and the music carrying over the dunes. The celebratory atmosphere, saline air, cocktails and wine, all concocted in their systems.

Rounding a bend, the women encountered an open door in the mountainside.

Lanterns hung above, illuminating with a red glow ("Red? Is it a brothel, Iris?" asked
Yumi, indignant), and it was flanked by two pedestals. Each mounted a six foot tall horse in polished brass, standing in an elegant show pose of three legs straight and the inner front lifted and bent. The heads faced each other, eyes shining with reflections, leading the women inside.

The interior was dark, but music of a deep rhythmic beat echoed.

"You first!" giggled Princess, shoving Etta ahead.

"Nonsense!" said Iris. "I’ll lead the way. My lady?" She bowed and offered her hand to Josephine, who curtsied.

Once inside, the glow from small fairy lights lit a dim corridor into the rock of the
mountain. The women followed the music, giggles stifled by the unusual setting.

The tunnel opened onto a large cavern, hollowed out of the mountain itself. The ceiling had a large hole in its centre, through which they could see the darkening sky, the first glittering stars.

There was a pool to the far right, letting out the scent of seawater. People dangled their feet or sat in the uplit, glowing water.

Along the left side was a wooden cocktail bar, the shelves behind containing a forest of bottles. Busy bartenders made drinks.

There was a DJ in a corner, commanding a small dance floor, with rhythmic music not loud enough to envelop chatter.

Wicker chairs were dotted around, and stone benches lined the remaining walls.

People stood and sat chatting.

The whole place was lit with strung bauble lights along the walls, the uplights from the pool and periodic hanging lanterns from the ceiling.

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Iris marched in, instantly comfortable, and the other women gaped.

"I want a drink!" said Jayeon, inserting herself between Etta and Yumi and pushing them towards the bar. Princess followed, laughing. When Etta turned to Iris and Josephine, she saw Iris talking to a tall woman, from her gestures it was obvious she was introducing her fiancee.

With a confused frown, her friends reclaimed her attention, as they flirted with a
bartender with a slim moustache and a tank top.

The man showed large, white teeth as he enjoyed the female attention.

"I want one of thoooooose!" exclaimed Yumi, pointing at another bartender constructing a cocktail in rainbow stripes.

Etta looked at the other patrons. They were all beautiful. All the women were striking, with expertly done makeup, shining hair and skin. The men were all handsome, with confident eyes. There were all body types on display, a plethora of races and identities, all wearing their beauty with ease.

"I want one of those," Jayeon whispered to Etta, indicating a pair of young men talking a little way away.

Yumi overheard and gave an appreciative slurping sip from her drink.

"I agree. Yes, please."

"Want to be my wing lady?" asked Jayeon.

Yumi grimaced. "I don't know if I feel brave enough. Maybe after a few more!" She held up her drink.

"I’ll go with you," said Princess.

Etta watched her friends, noticing the flirting, open body language of Jaeyon and

"I'm glad Princess looks comfortable," Yumi muttered.

"I agree," answered Etta, "It can't be easy realising you're ace in adulthood."

Yumi waved at Jayeon. Jayeon and Princess beckoned.

Etta, Yumi, as well as Iris and Josephine, approached, and the group expanded to include other bar patrons.

"Apparently everyone knows each other?" Princess muttered to Etta as they settled into the expanded group.

They split, selecting and re-selecting chatting partners. Jayeon stayed with the original man she approached. Etta found herself with a man, alone in the chaos.

She could see Iris was comfortable with whomever she spoke to, introducing Josephine and laughing in familiarity.

"So." Etta's companion looked at her. "What do you think of the island?"

"Magical," said Etta.


"A welcome change from desks and responsibilities."

"You're not here long?"

"No, only a few days."

"Well, we'd better hope they're good ones." He took a sip, and Etta watched his profile in the sparkling cavern light.

"They're going well so far." She flirted. "Sorry, I didn't catch your name?"

"Archer. Yours?"


"Lovely to meet you, Etta."

"And you. What do you do?"

Their eyes met. Etta realised his were light grey, unusual in his dark olive skin.

"I work with the night sky," he said, enigmatically.

She laughed, but wasn't sure why.

"These are your friends?" She asked, indicating the group. She saw her own friends laughing, flirting and engaged in deep conversation. Her eyes met Iris', who lifted her glass in salutation.

Etta saw Archer smile at Iris.

"Wait, you know Iris?" she asked.

"Everyone knows Iris!"

"Well, the woman beside her is her fiancee, Josephine. We're on their hen party."

"I bet you're all being suitably raucous," he flirted.

"Yes. It started off well," Etta muttered, conspiratorial.

He smirked, the laughter lines by his eyes making his eyes glitter.

"This cavern is amazing," Etta commented, breaking their gaze to look around.

"Have you had a chance to explore?" Archer asked.

She shook her head, feeling her hair brush her bare shoulders.

"Would you like me to show you?" he asked, a smile stretching his plump cupid's bow.

Etta relished the moment. It felt transient and pivotal, full of delicious choices.

She could return home with treasured memories of indiscretions and braveries, or she could luxuriate in what could have been. Oh, if I had followed him.

She caught Princess's eyes, who winked at her, then resumed teasing her companion; a tall woman with a broad frame and shoulder muscles to be envied by anybody.

As Etta faced Archer, opening her mouth to reply, there was a loud clang! from the
cavern's centre.

The DJ stopped, and chatting ceased as everybody turned. A small anchor had landed, attached to a rope from the cavern ceiling's mouth.

A tall figure deftly swung over the lip and down the rope, singing all the way at the top of their voice.

"Oh, the wind my lovely,
The wind, the wind,
Oh, the wind my lovely
Shall carry me to thee
Though it may carry me away
Over land, coast and sea
It'll only be a moment
For the wind, the wind
Oh, the wind my lovely
Will always return me to thee."

The voice was rich and imperfect. This was someone who sang not out of talent but out of enjoyment.

Etta looked at everyone exchanging glances or staring at the acrobatic abseiler, grins of recognition amongst the regulars.

Etta saw Iris's face. Iris had a gigantic smile, incredulous and disbelieving.

The figure reached the bottom with a flourishing jump, operatically embellishing the
song's last few words.

"Good evening my fine-figured friends and friendly figures! Did you really think I
would miss this! Our dear Iris is getting married!" The last word was a hooted, howling shout, arms and mouth wide.

"Zee! You old chestnut! You grey wind!" Iris shouted as she ran to him and they hugged.

The music resumed. Several people approached this Zee, and Zee wandered through the guests.

Etta watched the new man's ease and charisma. Objectively she knew he wasn't
handsome, but his confidence and swagger made him magnetic.

The group shifted again, and she and Archer were reabsorbed into the larger group. Their flirtations and his question were forgotten.

Whilst half-involved in the insubstantial drunken conversation, Etta watched Zee mingle. He bought drinks, including one in a voluptuous glass with an umbrella for Iris; said something with expansive gestures to the DJ; and danced with several women and men. He also embraced a particular person more delicately, sharing a gentle kiss that seemed almost too private for this space.

He spoke to Iris and Josephine, and Iris gestured towards the group. Etta watched the pantomime and tried to maintain the conversation with her group; but probably failed.

Iris brought Zee over. The locals greeted him in laughing, familiar acknowledgement.

"Quite an entrance you made!" laughed Princess when Zee joined her and Etta.

"Always." Zee winked.

He tilted his head at the women.

"I hope you're having a lovely time, ladies?"

"Oh, definitely!" said Princess, then was distracted again by the tall woman, leaving Zee with Etta.

"Etta, was it?" he asked.
"Yes. Is Zee short for anything?"

"It is." He did not elaborate.

"Are you going to tell me?" Etta said, laughing.

“Maybe later.” He winked. “For now, though, would you like a drink? In fact,” At this he raised his voice, shouting in a song, “Would anybody like another drink?”

There were cheers, and the bartenders brought out bottles and glasses, and served a
strong, honey-sweet liquor. The party blurred.

The boisterous music thrummed through bodies, the strong drinks took effect, and the cavern lights sparkled.

The event became coruscating moments strung together like pearls in hindsight.

The starlight, baubles, lanterns and lights beneath the water illuminated with a glow that only became more magical with inebriation.

Rhythms were found in hips and feet, and Etta laughed at her friends’ intentional bad dancing. She saw Iris and Josephine laugh, she exchanged loud opinions with the engaged couple, she flirted with the bartender, she told her friends how much she loved them, and she danced closely with Archer. They maybe even kissed to a song's crescendo, their mouths smiling into each other.

The music eventually slowed, and party goers began to sit; chatting, napping and waiting for sunrise. Someone mentioned the bar might serve snacks soon.

Josephine and Iris danced together to a slower song, necks and hands entwined, bodies close and rocking together.

Etta sat on the poolside, Yumi napping on her lap. Their feet dangled in the cool water, shoes carefully lined up beside them. Etta felt her sobriety begin to return, clarity returning to her vision. She watched her feet misshape and reshape beneath the rippling water’s surface, lit from below.

She heard a scuffing sound, and Zee sat beside her.

“You’re welcome.” He laughed a low burble.

“What should I be welcome for?” she asked.

“Well, I’ve heard the party hadn’t properly started before I arrived. So, you’re welcome for everybody’s enjoyment!”

Etta laughed at his ridiculousness, and looked for her friends. Jayeon was enrobed in her gentleman, Princess and the tall woman were still engaged in active discussion to one side of the room, and Yumi slept peacefully, spent.

“It's been quite a party,” she agreed.

They sat for a quiet moment. Zee took his shoes off. As he put his feet in the water, Etta asked, “So, will you tell me?”

“Tell you what?”

“What Zee is short for?”

He laughed, an exhaled smile.

"You're a curious woman." He looked appreciative, even pleased by the discovery.

"I suppose."

He looked about, as if preparing for secrets.

"Would you like to know this cavern's history?" he whispered loudly.

"Sure." Etta's curiosity bubbled and simmered. She tried to maintain a blank expression and nonchalance, but could not stop smiling at his charm.

“Hi folks.” Iris interrupted the moment, sitting on Yumi's other side.

“Oh, that’s a marvellous idea,” whispered Josephine, putting her feet in the water. She snuggled up to Iris, eyes closed and breathing deepening within moments.

“What are you two talking about?” asked Iris, her smile teasing.

“Top secret details, my lady.” Laughed Zee. Etta giggled.

“Zee is of the opinion that it’s thanks to him this evening has been such fun.” Etta told Iris.

“Is he?” Iris raised her eyebrows.

“I am. And I can make it even better,” Zee said.

“I have no doubt you can, Zee," answered Iris.

“I was about to tell your lovely friend, Etta here, the story of this cavern.”

“Go ahead.” Iris wore a strange expression.

Etta turned away from Iris at movement, and saw awake party attendees come closer,
having overheard the potential of a tale.

Those who had been in the water swam closer, others approached the edges, and sat beside Josephine or Zee, and the edge filled, some sitting in a row behind. Even the bartenders came, silent, ready to listen.

Zee looked appreciatively at his audience, at the high cavern and its glimpse of starry

Etta watched the attendees' faces shift in the water's uplit reflections, the alcoholic
residue in her helping her luxuriate in the warm island air and the knowledge that happy memories were being made.

Zee took a dramatic breath, and began.

“There was once a siren who loved a man of the wind. Xhe watched him caress the waves, and revelled in his speeding joy, dragging thermals in his wake. Xhe wished to be with him. He enjoyed xer, but though he promised he loved xer, he always had somewhere else to be than stay for long.

“Xhe wanted somewhere xhe could hold him for longer. Xhe catalogued caves along the shores, finding this cavern in xer explorations.

“Xhe coaxed him through the cave tunnels, and kept him for a little while.

“They were happy. He whistled through and bounced off walls, carving them into voluptuous shapes for them to enjoy together. But though he loved xer, he was drawn to wide open spaces, an expansive sky, and the changing land and sea. The world beyond this cavern.

“One day he left, shouting on the breeze 'I will return, my love, I will return.'

"But it was a long time. This siren pined, for he didn’t love xer the same way. Xhe
wanted someone to stay. But the winds love all things.

"One day, xhe sat in the starlit shallows waiting for him, and cried about how xhe wished for constancy.

"A woman in the stars, mother and sister to constellations, heard xer, and wished to comfort xer. She had seen our siren and wished for friendship and perhaps something more. She wanted xer to be happy.

“So she spoke in starlight to our siren, inviting friendship and companionship. She puffed the clouds into cocktail shapes they could drink together, and played a tune in the sparkling of the stars.

“The siren was comforted by this kindred spirit, someone who would always be there, constant as the stars.

“Our star spirit sent a message to her other friends on land. She asked a woodland spirit and a mountain god to put a hole in the top of this cavern, so the star woman could shine into the pool and keep the siren company.

"Where the starlight hits the water, friendships can be made.

"And it worked. Our star spirit joined the siren, and they were happy. They extended the invitation to other friends. The star brought woodland dryads to tend the bar, a bird spirit for the music, mountain gods for the heavy lifting, fire sprites for light and power, and eddying breeze nymphs for the entertainment.

"The siren was distracted.

“Xhe was able to move on, and loved anew. When xhe next trapped the wind spirit, xhe didn't mind he had to leave so soon.

"This cavern is a place for love, for friendship, and for us to be ourselves and face the
future with pleasant company."

He finished. There was a small applause, and some sighs, the crowd whispered. Zee
looked round the audience, locking eyes with the person he had kissed earlier, as xhe sat in the warm water. They shared an old smile.

"A happy ending?" said Etta.

"Don't you like it?" he asked.

"These kind of stories don't usually have happy endings," said Etta. "Pining and couples from different worlds."

"Oh, happy endings are definitely possible, my dear." He winked.

Etta smiled and looked back to the undulating water.

"Would you like to see something cool?" said Zee, taking a swig from a hip flask.

Etta smiled. "Always!"

"Zee?" Iris’s voice was steady, not a warning, but not an encouragement. A reminder.

"I won’t show her for long!" said Zee to Iris, waving his hands dismissively. "It'll
definitely be cool!" he said to Etta, more warmly.

"Zee." Iris’s voice was a little harder, a touch of warning.

"Where’s your sense of adventure, Iris?" Zee dunked his hands in the water, scratching at the rocks with his nails.

Etta watched as he took his wet, glistening hands out, a hint of black glitter on his fingertips. He rubbed his hands together, turned to her and flicked water in her face.

The effect was immediate.

Etta laughed, and reached to wipe. She saw the world change.

She noticed Zee first. His edges seemed to blur, his limbs hazy and appearing to vibrate. His hair hung longer, changed to a shade of stormcloud grey-black from dark black. It hovered, as if he were underwater, or caught in a slow wind tunnel.

The figures in the water's shallows, who had been sitting in swimming costumes or underwear, instead flicked long, scaled tails, gills lining their necks, and their skin in slippery blues and greens. The recipient of Zee's kiss waved at Etta with a webbed hand, xer eyes pure black, no longer any white.

The bartenders, as Etta turned in amazement to look about the room, had brown skin
covered in darker brown whorls and loops. Green hair with curls of leaves, tendrils and coiled vines. The one who had served the first cocktail had red berries hanging beside one ear.

The DJ was a resplendent mohicanned figure, with a spiking line of feathers in blacks and pinks all the way down his back; and a nose a little too large and curved to be just a large nose.

Etta was astonished as she scanned the room. Everybody, save herself and her friends, had more than a touch of the otherworldly and the fantasy about them.

She saw figures with lion's manes and paws, others with skull faces, ram horns or large doe eyes. There were feathers on arms, fur on legs or hooves for feet. She saw flicking tails, animal ears atop heads, spines and butterfly wings. She saw sparkling skin and flickering flames. So many wondrous sights, just beyond the veil of stone dust in her eye.

Her eyes met Archer's, his hair glittering with starlight, his eyes luminous and
cheekbones shining. His skin was black like the night sky and his wrist bracer shone with wear and magic. He winked, his skin opalescent in the pool's reflections, his wide smile hypnotic. Etta felt her pulse in her fingertips and her lips, remembering his touch not all that long ago.

Etta's mouth hung open in astonishment as she faced Iris, who looked back at her with large grey eyes and her brown-grey hair replaced with large wide feathers, her arms scaled in soft scales like the legs of a bird, nails black and holding Josephine's hand so gently.

She smiled at Etta, as Etta's vision began to return to normal, her view behind the
glamours dissolving as her eyes washed the grit from the pool.

Etta gasped a whisper, mouthed a sigh, and exhaled a "What?" in disbelief, in hope, in amazement.

"You didn't think I was joking when I said I was just an old harpy, did you?" said Iris.

JM Cyrus is a speculative fiction writer living in London, England. She writes whenever there is a chance, and reads even when there isn’t one. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in over a dozen places, including an anthology from Improbable Press, the magazines Flint, Utopia Science Fiction and All Worlds Wayfarer, and online on AntipodeanSF and Medusa's Kitchen.  A full list is available on her site Say hello at jmcyrus.writer [at]

Copyright © 2023 by JM Cyrus
Published by Orion's Beau
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