New Story, “Purging Cocytus,” in Next Issue of Black Gate

I actually sold “Purging Cocytus” to Black Gate Magazine several years ago. They’ve been so backlogged that only now is it coming out.

I’ve quite the soft-spot for Black Gate. After all, they bought the first short story I ever sold: my Beowulf-retelling, “The Hand that Binds” (though my first story to appear in print was the piece that shortly thereafter won Writers of the Future, “The Keeper Alone”). As any writer will tell you, that first sale is quite special.

Clearly, the publisher and editor of Black Gate, John O’Neill, has good taste. 😉 Sure enough, I’ve quite enjoyed reading (and supporting) the magazine over the years. They print a lot of terrific Fantasy fiction, with high production values. Their artwork is always top-notch.

Here, for instance, is the awesome bit of artwork that will accompany my piece:

Original Artwork for "Purging Cocytus," by Kent Burles

Original Artwork for "Purging Cocytus," by Kent Burles

Awesome, isn’t it? The artist is Kent Burles, and the massive creature he has depicted, if you don’t recognize it, is Dante’s Satan: my story, which is honestly a bit more horror than fantasy, combines a look at cryogenics through the lens of Canto 34 of Dante’s Inferno.

Seriously.

You can read all about it in the next issue of Black Gate (coming, I’m told, around February), but here’s a teaser snippet:

-x-x-

Io non mori’ e non rimasi vivo:
pensa oggimai per te, s’hai fior d’ingegno,
qual io divenni, d’uno e d’altro privo.
— Dante Alighieri, Inferno XXXIV.25-27
[“I did not die and I did not remain alive: think now for yourself, if you have wit at all, what I became, deprived of both.” — trans. Robert M. Durling]

The key pieces of Danny’s dream were no different than they had been before. There was the great plain of ice with its resident horrors. There was the old man, his ever-present guide on these forays. And there was the wind, the terrible constant roar of frosted breath that whipped his clothes into torn and tattered banners that tugged and pulled at him like phantom hands intent on pulling them back, back away from the depths of the abyss. These pieces of the dream were the same. It was only the specifics that were changing, that shifted each night as the dream unfolded the next stage of their nightmare journey.

On this night, the old man at his side was leaning heavily into the fury, his finger pointing forward through the flurries of fog and snow and his voice rising above the gale: “Vexilla regis prodeunt inferni!” The words momentarily shifted and swung in the boy’s mind as they defused and molded into understanding: “The standards of the King of Hell go forth!”

Danny peered through the thick air, trying to discern something there. The biting wind stung his eyes, and they began to water. With numb fingers he tried to wipe away the tears before they froze upon his cheeks.

There. Up ahead. There was . . . something.

His eyes hurt, but he had come so far — and had seen so much — to gain this place that the pain mattered very little to him now. His hands shook and his eyes throbbed in their sockets, but still he stared into the fierce wind. And slowly, foot by foot, the storm melted back and shapes formed out of the gloom.

Danny remembered having seen a windmill on one of the family’s trips to a farm. He remembered how the massive blades turned in the easy breeze of an Indian Summer; he remembered how lazily they cut the air and how their purposeful movement at once haunted and fascinated him. The same image met his eyes now at the edge of the sinister fog: great sweeping shapes turning under unseen volition, slicing through the mists.

Danny shivered from the touch of something colder than the wind and moved to stand behind the old man again. Only then, relatively protected from the harsh elements, did he close his eyes and let the tears come.

The old man stayed still for a time, his body solid as a rock promontory beaten and railed against by waves of fury. He let Danny take a few moments to catch his breath before he placed a bony hand upon the little boy’s shoulder to tell him that it was time to go.

Danny nodded and wiped at his half-frozen cheeks. The press of his fingers against his flesh caused a dull pain beneath the skin, and he wondered if he would ever again feel truly warm. But there was no time to contemplate the pain of the journey. His doubts and his fears, he pushed them to the back of his mind even as he stepped out from behind his guide to stand once more against the full force of the gale. He had no time for such things. After all, the Devil was waiting.

-x-x-

To read the rest, buy the magazine!

9 Comments

  1. Awesome that it’s finally coming out.

  2. I hope King Soopers carries the magazine! Seriously we will need to find out where to buy a copy as your snipet is interesting.

  3. Hi Michael – That artwork by Kent Burles is absolutely amazing! He definitely captured “a bit more horror than fantasy” and I’m sure fit your piece perfectly. I will have to find that Feb. issue of Black Gate. Was the choice of artist made by Black Gate or were you able to have a say?

  4. @ Andrew Kinsey That’s a great question, Andrew. Authors typically have no say in the choice of artwork, which is probably a very good thing. I didn’t know who Kent Burles was, for instance, so I could never have arranged such a magnificent piece of work!

  5. Great book! I only heard about it a month ago from a friend, and I just finished it. One more fan to the group 🙂

  6. Wow – that artwork is really something! Off to grab the book now …

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