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Elwin's House
by John Borneman
From Keesa Renee DuPree of Tangent Online; "'Elwin's House' by John Borneman is a memorable story, for all its short length. The narrator comes to Elwin's house for the memories of her, his wife, Elwin's daughter. But the memories haunt both of them." Note: This story received an honorable mention in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2006 by Datlow, Grant, and Link.

Fantasy, 3 pages.
Originally Published in Andormeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine, 2006

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[Preview]

I sat in Elwin’s house and sighed.

Elwin studied me with a sad smile.

“Why are you here?” he asked.

“Memory,” I replied.

He nodded as if to say, ‘Ahh. That.’

“It’s unfair—” I began, but Elwin, with a slim finger at his mouth shushed me and I knew that if I let him he would say something like, ‘even humans have learned that not much is fair, for them, or for us.’

Elwin uncrossed his legs, grabbed the poker, and adjusted the fire. Smoke and glowing ashes erupted and raced up the chimney flue. Twilight peeked through uncovered windowpanes.

I sighed and spoke. “Sometimes I can’t even remember my breakfast.”

Elwin grunted—a mixture of scoff and laugh. He replaced the poker in its rack on the hearth, then spoke. “Nine hundred and forty three years ago, I ate scrowl eggs—raw, with a hard biscuit—it was the morning before the First Human War. One of the eggs was rotten.”

“Ah.” I replied. “I read about that war. But I never remember the key rivers captured and lost, or which general surrendered to whom.”

Elwin nodded. “Those rivers have shifted and been renamed. The generals are dead. It no longer matters.”

We sat. I, sipping cold creah tea, Elwin puffing and struggling to light his briar pipe—an award of some kind, for service of some type.

“I can’t remember her face.”

I couldn’t believe I’d said it aloud, to him of all people. My eyes filled with tears.

Elwin pointedly ignored me and puffed, his ears twitching slightly. We sat that way, until all light from the window failed. In the flickers of the firelight, our shadows leapt at each other, grappling on the wall behind our chairs.

Elwin took the pipe from his mouth. “Thirty years is as a heartbeat. Her face never leaves me.”

He reached inside his tunic, pulled out a spare pipe, and thrust it at me. My hand twitched, but I took the pipe and applied myself to the lighting process. A few puffs and several applications of the cinder resulted in success. We sat back and filled his -- [End of Preview.]