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    Volume 6, Issue 1 February 28, 2011
    Message from the Editors
 The Untold Story of an Executioner by Dawn Lloyd
 End User by A.L. Sirois
 Birth of a New Day by Fredrick Obermeyer
 What Eats You by Sara Kate Ellis
 Touch of Poison by Jaelithe Ingold
 Special Feature: Author Interview with Mario Acevedo
 Editors Corner Getting Lucky by Lesley L. Smith


Birth of a New Day

Fredrick Obermeyer

         As Evanar Zacadwahi raced his horse up the sand dune, the pain in his daywomb worsened. He moaned, stopped at the dune's crest, looked back and saw his village's birthhunters chasing him in the distance. Their silhouettes stood out in the light of the two blue moons overlooking the Ganzanar Kingdom.
         "Move!" Evanar said, snapping the reins.
         The horse cried out and galloped down the dune. Near the bottom, another pain stabbed Evanar's side. He cried out and slumped forward in the saddle. Between his chafed thighs and the birth pains, his body felt like a raw nerve seared in a stone oven.
         Though it was blasphemy, Evanar cursed the god Mazendua for giving him this day to birth. Why couldn't he give birth to nights like women? Supposedly they hurt far less than days. And why did he have to be chosen for this day? Why did life have to hurt so much? Why?
         The day thrashed inside Evanar and stretched the dayslit on the left side of his body. He screamed, tumbled off his horse and crashed face first into the sand. Weeping, he staggered up and tried to chase after his horse. But the infernal beast galloped off into the night.
         Too tired to chase the animal, Evanar collapsed on the sand, pain ripping through his side. He reached under his beige robes and tried to pull the sides of the dayslit open wider, so he could push it all out. But no matter how much he pushed and pulled, it would not come out.
         The rumble of approaching hooves filled the air. Terror became a sandstorm in his mind, scouring away any last vestige of courage that he possessed. He imagined Tull Kacadah and the other birthhunters capturing him, straddling him, taking out their knives and cutting the day out of him. Enduring pain, horrible pain. Pain beyond the measure of the word.
         Nor would they care about giving him anesthetic or letting him try to push the day out by himself. Tull and all the other villagers hated him. Surely nothing would give him and the birthhunters greater pleasure than to slice the day out of Evanar's womb and leave him to bleed out on the sands.
         Shaking with fear, Evanar crawled over to the edge of the dune and shoveled away handfuls of sand. He dug and dug and dug until finally he managed to create a small hole and crawl into it. Inside his small space, he pushed the sand over himself and lay still.
         Underneath all that weight, though, he could hardly breathe. Fine granules got into his eyes and stung like firewasps. The bitter taste of salt and sand made him sick to his stomach.
         He reached down and took a knife from his boot. Another contraction hit him and he gritted his teeth. He touched his dayslit and his hand came back sticky with blood and birthing fluid.
         Above him, hooves thundered over the dune. Evanar cowered in his hiding place as the horses galloped past him. One set of hooves slammed down in the dune mere inches from his face. He bit his lip and prayed to Mazendua to spare his life.
         The horses raced past him and continued chasing his mount. Evanar waited several seconds. Once they saw the riderless horse, they would turn back.
         Evanar peeked out through a small hole in the sand. The two moons were already sinking towards the western horizon. If he didn't give birth to the day, then the world would slow down to a crawl. Mazendua would then become angry and bring about the end of the world, or so the Book of Lek prophesized.
         I must get this day out of me, Evanar thought.
         As he slid the knife down to his dayslit, he hesitated. He would have let the midwives cut the day out of him, but nobody in his village liked or trusted him. He was always Evanar, the outcast, the fool, the one with the lumpy, misshapen face and the buck teeth and the occasional stutter. Always good for a laugh when they left a snake in his tent or smeared his robes with camel dung.
         When his parents died from the night sleep, Evanar was left to the mercy of his village. Left to be humiliated and spat on and called lumpface and dungwearer behind his back and even at times to his face. Though in times of strife they had taught him the ways of the blade and the desert, they had never once shown him a moment's love. And without that need fulfilled, he felt truly lost in this world.
         He bit his lip, hot tears spilling down his cheeks. If he went to the midwives, then they would kill him cutting it out. They were always looking for an excuse to get rid of him, and no one would shed a tear when he was gone. So when he first learned he was pregnant with the next day, he told his only friend, Mahalei, then ran off into the night. But Mahalei must have talked or had the secret beaten from him.
         And they sent Tull to cut the day out of him.
         With trembling hands, he placed the knife against the dayslit and tried to cut. However, the pain was too much. He bit into his keffiyeh and tried to dig the knife deeper, but he couldn't do it.
         He dropped the knife and lay weeping. The villagers were right. He was weak and foolish. If he were any sort of real man, then he'd call out to Tull and have him finish the job. Yet he feared death too much to do so. He wanted to live to see the sun and feel its warmth caress his face. He wanted to eat figs and dried strips of lamb with curry. But most of all, he wanted people to respect him. He wanted them to look at his face and treat him like a man rather than a monster.
         Weeping, he pushed his head deeper into the sand.
         Perhaps I should let the world end, Evanar thought. I might be better off.
         But he knew better. The Book of Lek said that anyone who didn't give birth to the next day or night would be damned for eternity.
         He wriggled out of his hiding place, dusted the sand off his robes and looked across the desert. Tull and his party were closing in on Evanar's horse.
         Evanar scrambled back over the dune in the direction that he had come. At the crest, he looked back. They caught up with his horse and stopped it.
         He had to flee. But where? Perhaps somewhere a daybringer was present. He closed his eyes and prayed to Mazendua for some sign, anything. A direction.
         He opened his eyes. No sign appeared.
         Distraught, he bowed his head and staggered westward across the sand, heading towards the two moons, hoping that someone could help him get this day out of his body.


         Time drifted as the desert's coldness seared his already tender flesh.
         Every few seconds another contraction would rip through his side. By now Tull would had to have found his footsteps. All around him he could feel the world slowing as the moons reached the horizon's edge.
         In the distance, he saw a tent made out of goatskins near an oasis. Camels and goats were tethered to the ground next to the tent. Someone had a fire going and smoke drifted into the night.
         Amidst the agony, Evanar smiled.
         Please, Mazendua, grant me mercy, Evanar thought. Let this humble servant of yours be a daybringer who will save me. If you do so, then I will forever be in your debt.
         Hope drove him across the sands. As he closed in on the tent, his legs gave out and he collapsed on the ground. A figure in a long tan burqa emerged from the tent and rushed over to his side. Evanar moaned and tried to crawl towards the figure.
         "Please, help me," Evanar said, his dry mouth barely managing to make the words.
         The figure grabbed him with surprisingly strong arms and carried him over to the tent. Inside, the figure laid him by the fire, then took out a waterskin and pressed it against his lips. Though the water was lukewarm and slightly salty, it was still the best drink that he had ever tasted.
         He coughed and said, "Mazendua praise you."
         "Do not praise me," the figure said, the voice feminine and harsh. "For I am damned."
         Evanar blinked and looked up. Looking uncertain, the figure turned away. "I am sorry. What is your name?"
         He tried to stand but the day hit him again and he collapsed. Azenyka turned back to him, rushed to his side and lifted up his robe.
         "You are pregnant with the next day," she said.
         "Yes, please, get it out of me before it is too late. I beg you."
         Azenyka looked around for a moment, then ran over to the other side of the tent, grabbed a copper pot and ran outside. Moments later, she put water over the fire to boil, stuck a knife into the water and knelt by him.
         She reached into his slit and Evanar cried out in pain. A second later, she gasped and withdrew her hand. A small cut stood on her brown flesh. "This day is sharp and hard. I am not sure that I can get it out of you without killing you."
         "Please, get it out! I beg you!"
         "I can promise nothing, but I will do what I can."
         She wrapped a cloth around her hand, grabbed the knife from the now boiling pot and reached down. Before she began, she took a small chunk of lead from another copper pot and stuck it in his mouth.
         "Bite down on this," Azenyka said.
         Evanar did so. Azenyka knelt close to his side, pulled aside his robe and stuck the knife tip into his slit. She cut the slit open a little and blood gushed out. Evanar screamed and bit down on the metal, the pain unbearable.
         "Push, Evanar."
         While biting down on the metal, he pushed as hard as he could. For a moment, he blacked out. When he awoke, the pain was still there.
         "Did it come out?" Evanar said soon after he awakened.
         Before Azenyka could answer, the pain in his body answered. No, it was still stuck.
         "I am sorry, but I cannot remove the day without cutting into your daywomb."
         "No." Evanar looked away and wept. "I can't die." Though humiliated, he turned back to her, tears stinging his eyes. "Please, find a way."
         Azenyka collapsed next to him and sighed. "I cannot. I am sorry."
         Evanar laid his head back, shaking. Death scared him more than anything else. He was only seventeen years old and now he would die. Rage bubbled in him. Only ten other men in the history of the tribe had trouble birthing days and only one had died, not even knowing he was pregnant with a day till night was almost over.
         Self pity arose inside him. He spat the lead out, covered his face and sobbed.
         "I don't deserve this," Evanar said, and lowered his hands from his face.
         "And you think I deserve this?" Azenyka said, her voice bitter.
         "Deserve what?" Evanar said.
         Azenyka took off the hood of her burqa and Evanar gasped in horror.
         Most of Azenyka's nose had been cut off. Her head had been shaved and part of it had been burned. The symbol for defilement had been branded into her forehead and cheek and she had several deep knife scars on her face. Her right eye was cloudy.
         Suddenly Evanar felt disgusted at his self-pity.
         "Do you think you are the only one who has suffered in this life?"
         "No. But I did not know of your pain."
         Azenyka bowed her head. "My brothers would often beat me and, and have their way with me." Her voice hitched. "And then my father cast me out into the night because I was impure. But not before the villagers left me with this." She touched the scars on her face. Her lips trembled and she wept.
         Despite the pain, Evanar reached for her. He tried to put his right hand on hers, but she slapped it away.
         "So do not speak to me of what you deserve," Azenyka said.
         "Forgive me," Evanar said.
         "I suppose you will wish to leave now, seeing my disgrace."
         Evanar looked at her. Mazendua spoke of not looking at women who were disgraced. But at that moment, he felt a kinship with this woman. Like him, she had been defiled and dumped into the desert. He should have left, but he didn't want to. He wanted to be with one like him. Mazendua be damned; he would not go. Evanar held out his hand to her. She turned back to him, sniffed and gripped his hand.
         She glanced out of the tent entrance, laughed bitterly and waved towards the desert. "I buried the child they forced upon me out there in the sands and tried to build a life of my own out here. I met an old lady like me. Unwanted and alone. She saved me from dying of thirst.
         "But then she died from a sickness two seasons ago and now I'm alone. I just don't want to be by myself anymore. I want someone who does not care that I am maimed and defiled."
         "You're not alone anymore, Azenyka. I am here. And I will stay here no matter what. I do not care what you look like or what others believe. I will stay with you."
         Evanar slid close and hugged her, despite the pain in his side. She hugged him back.
         For the first time in his life, he didn't feel fear or loathing. He brushed his face across her branded, scarred face. Seeing her pain gave him the strength to take his.
         "Cut me open," Evanar said.
         "I can't," Azenyka said.
         "Do it. Please."
         Frowning, she picked up the knife and crept close to him. Evanar grabbed the lead and bit into it again. Azenyka hesitated a moment, then slit the blade into his side and began slicing. Evanar bucked in pain and bit down on the lead. But as Azenyka started to cut deeper, the sound of hooves filled the air.
         Tull had come.
         "Who is it?" Azenyka said.
         Evanar spat the metal out of his mouth and said, "It is Tull and the other birthhunters from my village. Quick, you must cut the day out of me."
         "But I can't!"
         "They will kill me anyway. Please, cut it out."
         "All right."
         She pressed the knife into his side and cut. But she had barely sliced an inch when Tull burst inside the tent with his men. Tull had on white and beige robes, his keffiyeh covering his tanned face. His men grabbed Azenyka and yanked her back from Evanar. She kicked and screamed, but they held her and dragged her out of the tent.
         "Tull, I was wrong to flee," Evanar said. "Just cut the day out of me and let her be."
         He knelt by his side. "Shut up, dungwearer!" He kicked Evanar in the left thigh and pain burned through the meat there. He tried to kick Tull back, but the blows were too weak. Tull reached down to his scabbard and pulled out a large scimitar. The blade shone like a star in the light of the nearby fire.
         Tull pressed one foot against Evanar's right leg, slid the blade into his dayslit and cut slowly. Evanar screamed and tried to move away, but Tull's leg held him down. Outside he could hear screams coming from Azenyka.
         "Stop them!" Evanar said.
         Tull cut deeper and agony exploded in Evanar's side. He howled and looked to his left. Azenyka's knife lay on the ground nearby.
         Moaning, he grabbed the knife and jammed it down into Tull's right foot. Tull screamed, dropped the sword and collapsed on the sand.
         Gasping, Evanar lurched up and picked up the scimitar. One of Tull's men entered just in time for Evanar to slash the man's abdomen and disembowel him. He yelped, gripped his slipping guts and collapsed onto the tent floor, the sand greedily drinking up the blood that gushed from the wound.
         Fueled by pain, rage and madness, Evanar staggered from the tent. Two of the men held Azenyka down while a third was raping her. She was naked and one of the holders was poking the night slit on the right side of her body with his boot.
         The men gasped in horror as Evanar lurched at them. Before the first one could reach for his scimitar, Evanar swung the blade down and chopped half of his face off. He slumped to the ground. The second man screamed and ran off into the desert.
         Looking horrified, the third man pulled out of Azenyka, held his hand up and said, "Please, don't! Please!"
         What little strength Evanar had left disappeared as another contraction hit him. He stumbled back and collapsed. The third man started to reach for his sword, but Azenyka picked up one of the fallen men's blades and ran it through him. He screamed in mortal agony and Azenyka dropped him and the sword. She kicked the fallen rapist in the face and screamed and spat at him.
         A moment later, she seemed to come out of her fury and look at Evanar. Weeping, she ran over to him.
         "It hurts!" Evanar said.
         She started to run over to him but Tull limped out of the tent with the bloody knife still stuck in his foot and his keffiyeh undone, his face livid with pain. Azenyka picked another sword up with her bloody hands and pointed it at Tull.
         Tull took a few steps towards them, then he collapsed. His sweaty face glistened and tightened with pain. He screamed.
         She ran over to him and kicked him back down.
         "Don't! It just, it just started!" He threw his robe aside and revealed that his own dayslit was bulging slightly.
         "He's pregnant with a day too!" Azenyka said.
         "But how can that be?" Evanar said. "We can't both be."
         Tull cried out and pushed as hard as he could. Evanar watched in horror and amazement as Tull's dayslit bulged outward. Part of a smooth daysphere covered in blood and membrane popped out. He pushed harder and the daysphere plopped down onto the ground with a wet splash of blood and birthing fluid. After a moment, the daysphere disappeared beneath the sand.
         A ripple passed through the world as the night and the two moons disappeared. In the eastern horizon, the sun rose. Limping, Evanar stood up and watched with awe as he lived to see another day.
         His brief reverie faded, though, when his own side burned with pain. He fell back on the sand. It had to come out, whatever it was.
         Moaning, he grabbed the scimitar from Azenyka. Before she could stop him, Evanar plunged the blade into his dayslit and slashed down.
         "Evanar, no!" Azenyka said.
         She ran over to his side and held him. Though anguish burned him, he pushed. After a brief struggle, a second sphere came out of his dayslit.
         But this was not an ordinary day. Rather it was a bright, black sphere with shades of orange and red. It struck the ground and disappeared. In an instant, the sky darkened. The moons slid over the sun and eclipsed it.
         As Evanar's life blood dripped away, Azenyka reached down and held him.
         "You gave birth to night out of a day womb!" she said, her face stark with reverence.
         The two held each other as the whole world darkened. Tull screamed and cowered in the sand, but the pair stayed close together and faced the darkness openly.
         "You gave birth to the end of the world!" Tull said, covering his head with both hands.
         Just as Evanar faded away, a slight tingle trembled through his side. He looked down and saw his dayslit disappear. Azenyka grunted and looked down at her right side. Her nightslit disappeared. Tull's dayslit faded as well.
         Evanar closed his eyes, smiled and laughed. "No, not the end of the world. The beginning of a new one."

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