A New Split Worlds Short Story from Emma Newman
Today, as an extra special just because it’s Thursday treat, please enjoy a guest post from Emma Newman
In 2013 the marvellous Angry Robot books will be publishing three Split Worlds novels, the first is out in March and is called “Between Two Thorns”. This story is part of a crazy thing I decided to do before I got the book deal and was forging ahead with the project on my own: releasing a new story every week for a year and a day, hosted on a different site every time, all set in the Split Worlds. I wanted to give readers a taste of my kind of urban fantasy and have the opportunity to build in secrets and extra tit-bits for those people who, like me, love the tiny details. It’s also been a major part of my world-building work alongside writing the novels.
This is the thirty-seventh tale in the year and a day of weekly short stories set in The Split Worlds. If you would like me to read it to you instead, you can listen here. You can find links to all the other stories, and the new ones as they are released here. You can also sign up to get the stories delivered to your inbox, one per week for a year and a day.
A Fair Exchange
She looked up at her mother standing in the doorway to the living room, hair tied under a scarf and covered in dust.
“What?” she said, turning back to the television.
“Turn that thing off.”
She sighed heavily and pressed the remote.
“Look what I found in the loft.”
She held out a figurine of a fairy on her palm, even more dusty than she was.
“Isn’t it pretty? I’ve never seen one so nice. I’m going to clean it up, I want you to take it to the pawnbrokers.”
“Aw Mum,” she moaned. “I’m knackered. Can’t Jack do it?”
“He’ll only break it,” she said, heading off to the kitchen. “Stop being such a lazy bugger and do something for your poor old Mum for a change.”
“It won’t be worth anything,” she said when it was placed in her hand, sparkling clean and brightly coloured. “They want gold and jewellery and stuff, not tat like this.”
“It’s not tat! Look at it, she’s beautiful.”
“Whatever. Give us a quid for the bus then.”
On the way into town, she sank low in her seat at the back and inspected the fairy. She couldn’t deny it was well-made. Its tiny features were perfectly described and the sparkling red petals forming her dress looked like they could have been plucked from a rose. Certainly none of the figurines at her late grandmother’s house looked like this. She shook her head, smirking at the thought of her stupid mother rooting about in the loft, hoping to find a lost masterpiece like on Cash in the Attic. She knew the pawnbroker would offer a fiver at the most, if he even wanted it. After the bus fare back home again, they’d be three quid up.
That’s what her time was worth; three quid an hour. She scowled at the shoppers walking past in their fancy clothes and designer shoes. Life sucked.
Mickey first noticed the man when she got off the bus, mostly because he was dressed like a prat. He wore a dark red jacket that was tragically old-fashioned and looked like it was from a pantomime.
She saw him a second time when she was crossing the street, striding along the pavement, using his large umbrella like a walking cane. He had long dark hair tied back in a ponytail, a huge nose and stank of money.
Mickey trudged towards the pawnbrokers, glowering at the Saturday afternoon shoppers out with their screaming kids and depressed husbands. It felt like every old person in London had chosen exactly the same time to walk in the same street, conspiring to walk in front as slowly as possible and tag each other in as she dodged them. She was so busy tutting at an old man she didn’t see the fancy-dressed prat until he was standing right in front of her, blocking the way into the pawnbrokers.
“Excuse me,” he said, his smile revealing perfect white teeth. “Forgive my intrusion, but may I ask whether you intend to take that statuette into this establishment?”
“Eh?” Mickey asked, confused by the man’s words. They sounded like English, but they didn’t make much sense.
“Are you planning to sell that?” the man said, pointing at the figurine.
“Yeah, what’s it to you?”
The man smiled and reached into his pocket. “The pawnbroker will not offer you a substantial amount of money for it, I can assure you of that. May I offer an alternative?”
Mickey frowned, not liking the way the man spoke. It made her head feel woolly, reminding her of English Literature class. She hated English Lit. “D’you wanna buy it?”
The man smiled again, Mickey felt light-headed. “I’d like to offer you these in exchange for the statuette.” He held out a pouch made of the same red velvet as the man’s jacket. He even wore a matching pin in his weird tie with a tiny red rose sparkling against silk. “They’re marbles, but unlike any marbles you’ve seen or played with before.”
“Marbles?” Mickey snorted. “My Mum won’t want marbles.”
“No, you don’t understand,” the man said, leaning closer as the neck of the pouch seemed to open itself. He plucked a marble out and Mickey couldn’t stop herself from gasping in amazement. It was the same red as the fairy’s dress, sparkling with such depth that she could stare into it all day. “These are magical marbles. Roll one towards something you want, and the object of your desire will be yours to keep.”
Mickey couldn’t take her eyes off it. The wool between her ears thickened. Magic marbles? Yeah, they sounded a whole world better than some poxy fairy.
“You’re on,” she grinned and held out the figurine.
The man dropped the marble back into the pouch. “What’s your name?”
“Mickey.” When he raised an eyebrow she added; “Short for Michaela. But everyone calls me Mickey.”
The man held the open pouch up to his lips and whispered; “Hear me now, these are Mickey’s Marvellous Magical Marbles.” He blew into the bag and it closed and tied itself, making Mickey blink in surprise.
The fairy was plucked from her hand and replaced by the pouch. It was heavier than she thought it would be. “So I just roll these towards whatever I want, and then it’s mine?”
The man nodded, wrapping the fairy in a silk handkerchief pulled from his pocket. “Indeed.”
“Anything I want?”
“Anything you want. Good day to you, young lady.”
The man gave her a curt nod and strode off down the street at a fair clip, the Saturday crowds posing no problem as they parted in front of him.
Mickey looked down at the pouch and grinned. She knew exactly what she wanted first. She just had to find it.
To be continued…
Thanks for hosting, Paul!
You’re welcome Emma. I’m looking forward to Between Two Thorns already