Excerpt from "Las Benditas," a YA, magic realism short story centered on two young girls learning about the past of their town, and the mystical creatures that come with it.

The dead could come back to life in San Jolén.

Death was only a comma in the small town. It was a pause—a short breath held in until a witch, una malvada, banished it. Katarina Cruz was one of these witches, although she preferred to call herself their old name, una bendita, a blessed one. When she was five, Katarina had found a baby bird dead by a tree. Its mother was jittering around it, chirping loudly in a panic. She remembered crying, pressing her hand against its body, and asking for it to come back. Within moments, a tingle shot down Katarina’s arm and collected in her fingertips. She stopped crying when she felt it flutter against her, chirping in response to its mother.

Although death was malleable to Katarina and the other witches in her town, they weren’t supposed to raise the dead in San Jolén.

She was well aware of this as her hands touched her girlfriend’s cold, still chest. Her fingers were slowly shrouded in a black mist, the smoke flowing like a looped current around her hands. Katarina’s eyes were dry as she stared at Daniela’s chest, trying her best to avoid looking up at her face. She was so pale and so far away for only having been found two days ago.

Her mother was inconsolable as she wailed to Katarina’s mother, who was urging Katarina to head back into their home. It had been an accident, Daniela slipping by one of the many rivers nearby and hitting her head hard before falling into the water. Katarina’s mother had begged her not to interfere, and part of her almost listened. Now she was shivering in a morgue, trying her best to find a trace of warmth in the frigid void Daniela had slipped away into.

A sudden gasp pulled her out of her thoughts, and she looked up to see that Daniela’s eyes were open, staring up at the ceiling. The undead girl suddenly pushed herself up, holding onto Katarina’s shoulders for support. She watched as Daniela’s brown eyes were swallowed by white, and gulped. Death left none unmarked.

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Excerpt from "Saints of Another Kind," an urban fantasy short story told from the point of a view of a woman whose wife has just gone missing, and the forest beyond their home proves to be more helpful than police and friends in finding her.

Hannah Ivers went missing on March 15, 2009.

The memory of flashing red and blue lights of police cars perched like vultures on her yard was branded into the mind of her girlfriend, Celia Alfaro. The police, along with volunteers from the small town they lived in, had been searching for Hannah for the better half of a day. Celia was clutching onto a note left behind in their bedroom, written in Hannah’s whimsical handwriting, waiting for a speck of news in their kitchen.

I’m sorry, it read, the ‘y’ curving and dipping easily into the bittersweet words beneath it, I love you.

“Not to be disrespectful, but have you considered she might have left of her own will?”

Celia turned to glare at the officer who spoke, the note crinkling in her grasp as her hands tensed.

“She wouldn’t just go, she wouldn’t just leave me.”

The officer, whom Celia didn’t care about remembering his name, frowned.

“We’ll keep looking, ma’am. Let you know if we find anything.”

Celia shifted away from him when he was done speaking, pressing the message against her chest. She leaned against the kitchen counter and stared out of the window above the sink at the body of uniforms and good samaritans massed together in front of her home. She could see the woods just beyond them, framing the length of the opposite side of the road.

Over the next few weeks, the woods became a haunting constant. Celia found herself staring at them from her kitchen window during the morning, and closing the blinds in her bedroom at night in order not to. She was unsure if she was keeping herself from looking, or keeping the daunting trees from gazing into the disarray her life had easily slipped into.

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Excerpt from "Strange Devotions," a short story about mortality with supernatural undertones centered on a woman disillusioned with her mediocre life, the sarcastic spirit that follows her, and a stranger she meets.

Aurora killed herself in the eleventh grade. Or at least, tried to.

However, a version of herself did die that night. A more compassionate, understanding version of Aurora faded away with her consciousness as the mix of pills took effect, blending into the harsh shadows of the afterlife. When she opened her eyes again, the foreign, fluorescent hospital lights baptized her, and she was reborn. For weeks, even months after she returned to school, people continued to ask her what happened, even if she was glad to be alive. But Aurora knew what they were really asking.

Did Aurora want to be alive?

The truth was she had never felt more alive. The most sincere version of herself had come to be when she shed her hospital gowns, released back into the wild after her nurse disconnected her I.V like a plastic umbilical cord.

Aurora had never been more Aurora.

Previous misconceptions she held about life, about herself and what others thought of her, had all washed away. What mattered now was that she was alive, and she didn’t care. She had tasted death and found she wasn’t particularly fond of the flavor, but the fear her friends and family had of tasting it, of swallowing it for an eternity, had vanished. Why care about how you lived when you weren’t scared to die?

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