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Series: Full Flight Gripping Stories; Paperback: 32 pages; Publisher: Badger Publishing (October 31, ); ISBN ; ISBN
Table of contents

Alex Conall. Jose J Clavell. Jonathan Hurley. Nat Bauer. Harold Stein. Theresa Morris. Mary Alice Wuerz. Lesley Moore. Dana Katz. Sakari Lindhen. Sebastian Thorne. Joshua Smift. Purchasable with gift card. Under The Gripping Beast Bested Bin There, Dun That Oops Flatten The Grass Wild Rose Ask Smithsonian. Photos Submit to Our Contest.

Photo of the Day. Video Ingenuity Awards. Smithsonian Channel. Video Contest. Games Daily Sudoku. Universal Crossword. Daily Word Search. Mah Jong Quest. Magazine Current Issue. Give a Gift. Subscribe Top Menu Current Issue. Like this article? Comment on this Story. First Name. It was the color—or a color—of raw flesh, like an open whip wound or a knife slash.

It trembled, because she was trembling, but it was cold to the touch, as cold and hard as glass or stone. From the star-arms, red dust wafted like glamour. She covered herself hastily, as though what was not seen might disappear. The next day, it felt bigger. The day after, she looked again, in the half-light, and saw that the mark was spreading.

It had pushed out ruddy veins into the tired white flesh, threading sponge with crystal. It winked. It was many reds, from ochre to scarlet, from garnet to cinnabar. She was half tempted to insert a fingernail under the veins and chip them off. There were puckered weals where flesh met what appeared to be stone.

What was stone—what else was it? One day, she found a cluster of greenish-white crystals sprouting in her armpit. These she tried to prize away, and failed. They were attached deep within; she felt their stony roots stirring under the skin surface, pulling at her muscles. Jagged flakes of silica and nodes of basalt pushed her breasts upward and flourished under the fall of flesh, making her clothes crackle and rustle.

Slowly, slowly, day by quick day, her torso was wrapped in a stony encrustation, like a corselet. She could feel that under the stones her compressed inwards were still fluid and soft, responsive to pain and pressure.

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She was surprised at the fatalism with which she had resigned herself to her transformation. It was as though her thoughts and feelings, too, had slowed to stone-speed, nerveless and stolid. There were, increasingly, days when curiosity jostled her horror. One day, one of the blue veins on her inner thigh erupted into a line of rubious spinels, and she thought of jewels before she thought of pustules. Her legs now chinked together when she moved. The first apparition of the stony crust outside her clothing was strange and beautiful.

She observed its beginnings in the mirror one morning, while brushing her hair: a necklace of veiled swellings above her collarbone, which broke slowly through the skin like eyes from closed lids, and became opal—fire opal, black opal, geyserite, and hydrophane, full of watery light. She found herself preening in the mirror.

ISBN 13: 9781849262699

She dismissed, with no real hesitation, the idea of consulting the surgeon, or any other doctor. It was, of course, theoretically possible that she was deluded, that the winking gemstones and heaped flakes of her new crust were feverish sparks of her anesthetized brain and grieving spirit. Johnson had refuted Bishop Berkeley, by tapping on stone and hearing the scrape and chink of stone responding. No, what was happening was, it appeared, a unique transformation. She assumed that it would end with the petrifaction of her vital functions.

But, for the moment, she had grown no more than a carapace. Her joints obeyed her, light went from retina to brain, her budded tongue tasted the food that she still ate. She saw dikes of dolerites, in graduated sills, now invading her inner arms. But it took weeks of patient watching before, by dint of glancing in rapid saccades, she surprised a bubble of rosy barite crystals breaking through a vein of fluorspar, and opening into the form known as a desert rose, bunched with the ore flowers of blue john. Her metamorphosis obeyed no known laws of physics or chemistry: ultramafic black rocks and ghostly Iceland spar formed in succession and clung together.

One dark Sunday, when the midday sky was thick and gray as granite, when sullen thunder rumbled and the odd flash of lightning made human stomachs queasy, Ines was overcome with a need to be out in the weather. She put on wide trousers and a tunic, and over them a shapeless hooded raincoat. She pushed her knobby feet into fur boots, and her clay-pale hands, with their veins of azurmalachite, into sheepskin mittens, and set off down the stairs and into the street.

She had wondered how her tendons and musculature would function. She thought she could feel the roll of polished stone in stony cup as she moved her pelvis and hips, raised her knees, and swung her rigid arms. There was a delicious smoothness to these motions, a surprise after the accommodations she was used to making for the crumbling calcium of arthritic joints.

She strode along, aimlessly at first, trying to get away from people. She noticed that her sense of smell had grown sharper. She could smell the rain in the thick cloud blanket. She could smell the sulfur dioxide in the car exhausts and the rainbow-colored minerals in puddles of petrol. These scents were pleasurable.

She came to the remains of a street market, and was assailed by the stink of organic decay, deliquescent fruit mush, rotting cabbage, old burned oil on greasy newspapers. She strode past all this, retching a little, feeling acid bile churning in a stomach sac made by now of what? She came to a park—a tamed, urban park, with rose beds and rubbish bins, doggy lavatories and a concrete fountain.

The water fell on the cement with a new, intricate music.

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The smell of a rain squall blew away the wafting warmth of dog shit. She pulled off her hood. Her cheeks were beginning to sprout silica flakes and dendrite fibres, but from a distance she just looked, she thought, like a lumpy old woman. There were droplets of alabaster and peridot clustering in her gray hair like the eggs of some mythic stony louse.

She shook her hair free and turned her face up to the branches and the clouds as the rain began. Big drops splashed on her sharp nose; she licked them from stiffening lips between crystalline teeth, with a still-flexible tongue tip, and tasted skywater, mineral and delicious. The lightning came in sheets of metal sheen. The thunder crashed in the sky, and the surface of the woman crackled and creaked in sympathy. She thought, I need to find a place where I can stand when I am completely solid. I should find a place outside , in the weather. When would she be, so to speak, dead?

When her plump flesh heart stopped pumping the blue blood along the veins of her shifting shape? When the gray and clammy matter of her brain became limestone or graphite? When her brain stem became a column of rutilated quartz? When her eyes became—what? She was inclined to believe that her watching eyes would be the last thing. The phrase came into her head: Those are pearls that were his eyes. A song of grief made fantastic by a sea change. Would her eyes cloud over and become pearls?

Full Flight Gripping Stories - eBook PDF CD Number of Titles: 10

Pearls were interesting. They were a substance in which the organic met the inorganic, like moss agate. She had had the idea that the mineral world was one of perfect, inanimate forms, with an unchanging mathematical order of crystals and molecules beneath its sprouts and flows and branches. In the beginning, she had thought of her own transfiguration as something profoundly unnatural, a move from a world of warm change and decay to a world of cold permanence.

But as she became mineral, and looked into the idea of minerals, she saw that there were reciprocities, both physical and figurative. The minds of stone-lovers had colonized stones with organic metaphors, like lichens clinging to them with golden or gray-green florid stains. Words came from flesh and hair and plants. Reniform, mammillated, botryoidal, dendrite, hematite. The earth itself is made in part of bones, shells, and diatoms. She preferred the parts of her body that were now volcanic glasses, not bony chalk: chabazite, from the Greek for hailstone; obsidian, which, like analcime and garnet, has the perfect icositetrahedral shape.

She visited city squares, and stood experimentally by the rims of fountains and in the entrances of grottoes. She had read of the hidden wildernesses of nineteenth-century graveyards, and it came to her that there, among weeping angels and grieving cherubs, she might find a quiet resting place. So, on a gray day in late winter, she set out on foot, hooded and booted, with her new, indefatigable rolling pace, marble joint in marble socket. As specks of half rain and half snow spat in the fitful wind, she strode in through a wrought-iron gate in a high wall. What she saw was a flat stony city, house after house under humped ripples of earth, marked by flat stones, standing stones, canted stones, fallen stones, soot-stained, dropping-stained, scum-stained, crumbled, carved, repeating, repeating.

She walked along the silent pathways, past dripping yews and leafless birches and speckled laurels, looking for stone women. They stood there—or, occasionally, lay fallen there—on the rich earth. There were many of them, but they resembled one another with more than a family resemblance.

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There were the sweetly regretful lady angels, one arm pointing upward, one turned down to scatter an arrested fall of stony flowers. There were the child angels, wearing simple embroidered stone tunics over chubby stone knees, also holding drooping flowers. Some busy mason had turned them out to order, one after the other, their sweetly arched lips and apple cheeks well-practiced tricks of the trade.

There was no other living person in that place, though there was a great deal of energetic organic life—long, snaking brambles thrust between the stones for a place in the light; tombstones and angels alike wore bushy coats of gripping ivy. Ines looked at the stone people. Several had lost their hands, and lifted blind stumps to the gray air. These were less upsetting than those who were returning to formlessness, whose fists seemed rotted by leprosy.

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Someone had come and sliced the heads from the necks of several cherubs—it had been done recently; the severed edges were still an even white. The stony representations of floating things—feathered wings, blossoms, and petals—made Ines feel queasy, for they were inert and weighed down; they were pulled toward the earth and what was under it.

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  8. Around the edges of the vast field of stones, within the spiky confines of the wall, was a shrubbery, with narrow paths and a few stone benches and compost bins. As she went into the bushes, she heard a sound, the chink of hammer on stone. She stood still. She heard it again. Thinking to surprise a vandal, she turned a corner and came upon a rough group of huts and a stack of stony rubble. One of the huts was a long open shelter, wooden-walled and tile-roofed. He was a big muscular man, with a curly golden beard, tanned skin, and huge hands.

    Behind him stood a gaggle of stone women, in various states of disrepair—lipless, fingerless, green-stained, soot-streaked. He made a gesture as if to cover up what he was doing, which appeared, from the milky sheen of the marble, to be new work, rather than restoration. Ines sidled up. She had almost given up speech, for her voice scratched and whistled oddly in her petrifying larynx. She shopped with gestures, as though she were an Eastern woman, robed and veiled, too timid, or linguistically inept, to ask about things.

    The stonecutter looked up at her, then down at his work, and made one or two intent little chips at it. Ines felt the sharp blows in her own body. He looked across at her. She whispered—whispering was still possible and normal—that she would like to see what he was making. He shrugged, and then stood aside, so that she could look. What she saw was a loose-limbed child lying on a large carved cushion, its arms flung out, its legs at unexpected angles, its hair draggled across its smooth forehead, its eyes closed in sleep.

    No, Ines saw, not sleep. This child was a dead child; its limbs were relaxed in death. Because it was dead, its form intimated painfully that it had once been alive. Ines said what came into her stone head.

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    But I do my own work also. Ines laughed. The sound was pebbly. I have problems. He offered her a seat, which she refused, and a plastic cup of coffee from a thermos, which she accepted, though she was not thirsty, to oil her voice and to make an excuse for lingering. She whispered that she would like to see more of his work, of his own work. As if in answer to this, he brought out from under his bench various wrapped objects: a heavy sphere, a pyramid, a bag of small rattling things.

    He moved slowly and deliberately, laying out before her a stone angel head, a collection of hands and feet, large and small. All had originally been the typical funereal carvings of the place. But he had pierced and fretted and embellished them with forms of life that were alien and contradictory yet part of them. Fingers became prisms and serpents; minuscule faces peered between toes; and the tiny bodies of mice or marmosets gripped ankles or lay around wrists like Celtic dragons. But I take the lost ones—I look for the life in them.

    I work here in the winter, and go home in the summer, when the nights are bright. I show my work—my own work—in Iceland in the summer. A small thing, and, if you like to live with it, I will perhaps make you that monument. He held out to her a carved hand, which contained a basilisk and two mussel shells. When she took it from him, it chinked, stone on stone, against her awkward fingers. He heard the sound, and took hold of her knobby wrist through her garments.

    That evening, she understood that she might have been wrong about her immediate fate. She put the stone hand on her desk and went into the kitchen to make herself some bread and cheese. She was trembling with exertion and emotion, with fear of stony enclosure and complicated anxiety about the Icelander. As she struggled to cut the soft loaf, the bread knife slipped and sliced into her stone hand, between finger and thumb. She felt pain, which surprised her, and saw a spurt of hot blood from the wound whose depth she could not gauge. She watched the thick liquid run down the back of her hand, onto the bread, onto the table.

    It was ruddy-gold, dripping in long glassy strings, and where it touched the bread the bread went up in smoke, and where it touched the table it hissed and smoked and bored its hot way through the wood, then trickled, a duller red now, onto the plastic floor, which it singed in amber circles. Her veins were full of molten lava. She put out the tiny fires and threw away the burned bread.