Pen Name & Published!

Just a quick note to flag that I have updated my pen name! The author formerly known as S. Z. Fletcher is now known as S. Z. Meriläinen. I am excited to post more under this name for everyone to see!

On a similar note, I am officially being published in a short story anthology! It’s a pair of collections of queer stories around the theme of masquerades. She Wears the Midnight Crown and He Bears the Cape of Stars for wlw and mlm focus respectively. My story, Carved of Ice and Snow, is a story of a hermit witch, the unseasonal blizzard that strikes her home, and the stranger that collapses at her door. 

Available as an e-book through DuckPrintsPress soon!

Please enjoy this snippet as a taster and a treat!

The blizzard was relentless. But so was Siofra. And, unlike the storm, she belonged.

She threw herself back out into the fury of the ice and the snow. The cold was almost a living creature, sinking greedy claws into her flesh and nibbling at her extremities. Ignoring the ice crackling beneath her feet, the snow clinging to her clothes, and the wind pushing at her body, she lurched in the direction her heart knew her cabin was, even if her eyes said differently. Each breath she drew chilled her from the inside out, pain crystallising in her chest wherever the frozen air reached. Just like her trees, she was being snapfrozen; even the figure she fought to haul through the snow felt colder in her hands.

Wincing, panting, and swearing beneath her breath, she plunged forward. Trusting her heart. Trusting her feet, too, which knew the forest floor even when it was buried beneath unseasonable snow. Trusting them step after step, through the cold, through the fear, until one last footfall plunged her forward and she fell hard—

—against her cabin door.


#VSS365 February 2021

#VSS365 is a daily prompt based on Twitter. VSS stands for Very Short Story and the challenge is to get the story to fit into a single tweet. 

I am currently publishing the daily stories on twitter, but am also working through the backlog! Most of these were posted live as the month went on, though I did miss a few in the middle and doubled up on others! Please enjoy.

Food is running low. Our stomachs growl and snarl. For lunch today, we tear thin strips of jerky and chew painfully slowly. Describe aloud thick, juicy steaks. Slathered in rich jus. A side of thick cut chips.

Subtly eyeing the scant meat of each other’s limbs.

It’s the heat death of the universe. The collapse of all matter into nothing. Finally. I’ve been waiting forever. I curl around the burnt out remnants of existence and soothe the frazzled edges.

Soon it will expand again. A whole new infinity. Just for me.

I’ve heard it often: ‘The sweet embrace of death’. Nihilistic teens mostly, joking about the troubles that life deals them.

I do my best to be true to the saying. When I come to take someone away, to draw their soul from their body, I try to always greet them with a hug.

I soar lazily across space, draped in a shawl of night dusted with glittering stars. The Sun is reluctant too release his hold, lingering at the edge of the horizon as I fill the sky.

Below, billions of dreams glitter and glow, embers in the darkness. Mirroring my path.

They went by Friend. An inscrutable smile and kind, warm eyes. Their hands were quick, clever and gnarled.

Ancient and ageless, they guided those who were lost and tended those who were harmed.

A guardian of the forest were they, and they had truly earned their name.

A witch can use any sort of tools. Wands, crystals, tarot or scrying bones. The first thing a young witch is taught is that it doesn’t really matter what tool they are drawn to, their magic comes from belief in their power.

I, myself, am partial to the electric guitar.

Contrary to popular belief, dragons don’t lay eggs. Their young are formed, slowly from the dreams of children and stories passed down through the years. Sadly, the space between births is getting longer.

If you would like to help the dragons, you just need to believe.

You find yourself in a room. You can’t remember how you got here. There is no door that you could have entered through, nor any way to exit. You tap your fingers on the walls trying to find one. Eventually, you fall asleep.

When you awake, yo ufind yourself in a room.

A ball of fluff lives beneath my bed. Resisting the pull of the vacuum and sweep of the brush. At first this was hugely annoying, until I realised the shadow that haunted my dreams was missing. That it hadn’t shown up in weeks.

Floofles has very sharp teeth after all.

I gather the fluff by lint rolling the couch, carpet and my favourite flannel PJs. I gather it all into a soft pile and sort through the colours.

This done, I turn to my task. Painstaking and arduous.

I have needle felted you a hat, Mr Whiskers. I hope you like it.

They lay in a bed of pine needles, warmed by dappled sunshine and the soft touches of their bodies. Alone, the forest was frightening, but together it became a place of tender unions.

They didn’t know that the trees protected them. Such hopeless romantics, those elms.

The river of stardust flowed through space. Catching the light of dying stars, pulled by their inexorable gravity into gentle curves, it trickled ever onward.

As it passed, it sprinkled cast of powder on planets, seeding the elements of life on the barren rock below.

It had been storming for days. Heavy rain pelting the city below relentlessly. Drowning it slowly.

When the river burst its banks and hungrily swallowed the streets, those on higher floors opened their homes to shelter those lower down.

Humanity surviving together.

A single mistake. His foot slipped as he ducked beneath the boom and he was swept into the stormy sea.

Three years later, his yacht was eventually found. Empty and decayed with no clue to his fate.

He became a nautical mystery: the subject of many conspiracy theories.

Pain surges up my leg. I stumble and fall to the ground, tears running down my cheeks as I clutch my foot. A thousand hornets have descended upon me, stingers dripping with venom.

I will never recover from the agony of stubbing my toe on the corner of the table.

She had been thrown overboard. Slowly, she’d sank to the bottom of the ocean and become the current and tide.

When she finally found the pirates who had killed her, she became a storm. Her voice the shrieking winds, her fury the tossing waves.

More souls lost at sea.

The collapse of a red giant. The surface of the star roils with whirling storms of flame. Cool spots form sinks of darkness as the fuel at the heart is used up. Eventually, the mass crushes into a singularity, time stretching oddly around in the stars final goodbye.

The side effects are truly random. Perhaps you’ll grow another head, perhaps you’ll have a mild case of the sniffles. The risks are innumerable and need to be carefully considered.

How much would you give for the chance of immortality?

We have come to a decision. It was taken to a vote and has passed through a rigorous democratic process. The journey may be hard, but we will persevere to victory.

Step one: curtail time indoors.

Step two: buy seeds from Bunnings.

Step three: get this garden started.

The cabin is ramshakled. Logs stacked unevenly, all askew. Shoddy craftsmanship, think most. It’ll fall apart in a year.

I’ve been living here a while now. The walls are strong, the gaps well insulated, and the derelict appearance keeps naysayers away. It’s all mine.

We assigned points to memories, for actions and touches. At the end of the month we averaged our or scores and the highest won. As time went on, the scores trended slowly down.

In the end, our relationship came to mean zero.

The stars shift in their usual positions. Slightly at first, barely noticeable, then quicker and by a greater degree. NASA goes silent, home astronomers stare through their telescopes in horror.

The Milky Way steadily scrambles itself, and the fallout is still pending.

The screen is bright and colourful. My cursor scrolls over the start menu, hovering for a long moment on ‘Load Co-op Game’. In the end, I click ‘New Game’ and play through the adventure alone. Your ghost remains in the other save file, waiting for me to hit the button.

My skeleton army is held together with tendons, ligaments and wrathful magic. Their bones clatter and rattle as their jaws chatter wordlessly. I stare out over them as they bump blindly together and wonder if I should have maybe created an undead infantry with eyes.

The rollercoaster dips and turns, horrifying plunges and soaring heights combined with dizzying loops. Breathless and ever so slightly nauseous, I stand in the line and hold your hand. Looking down at your excited grin and sparkling eyes makes the experience worth it.

They hid in the shadows of those who had revealed themselves. Beauty and strength and power. Temperd by imperfection and humility. Emerging over millennia.

Faced with the complex facets of humanity, the gods and goddesses could do nothing but cower and be forgotten.

It starts as an itch between my shoulder blades. Just where I can’t reach. I strain and stretch and finally scratch and grab at the spot. I find a thread. Thin and tenuous. It goes forever: I try to pull it free. Before I can stop myself, I have unravelled.

I sew darts into my clothing as I grow, spaces in the fabric free to expand into, providing curve and shape where before there was none.

Plus they’re convenient sheathes for my collection of tiny knives.

You folded me a paper crane for our wedding. Lined notepaper torn into a precise square. Beneath one wing, if I tilt it just so, I can read the word ‘love’.

It’s been three years now. One day, I’ll be strong enough to unfold the origami and read the letter inside.

I wear dark sunglasses, rendered blind in the evening gloom. My date approaches, a shadow. Shining sequins catch my eye, lining her gown.

“Is this okay?” she asks, leaning close.

Feeling the pattering of her snake hair kissing my cheeks, I smile and say, “Of course.”

This planet’s rotation is markedly different from Earth’s. I can watch the stars move in the sky, count the minutes as the sun crosses from horizon to horizon. It should be dizzying, but it’s almost meditative. Watching time tick by, beneath this firmament.