Ekaterina Fawl was born is Siberia and currently lives in Manchester. While her background is in Economics, Finance and Computing, writing has been her life-long passion. She’s been a member of Manchester Speculative Fiction writing group almost since its conception. Her short stories were published in Daily Science Fiction Year Two Anthology and Revolutions Anthology.
From the Forest anthology piece “Petr, Husband of Fevronia”
The heart of the forest, Marfa had said: through black brush and dead trees into the quiet place where the birds wouldn’t sing, the air wouldn’t move. She went there herself, years ago, to ask the forest witch for a child.
Another time Petr would have berated her: dealing with witches was a grave sin. Now, worn down by pain and fever, he hadn’t the strength to be righteous.
“But that didn’t work,” he only said. Marfa had been married to his brother for a decade now. They’d all given up hope.
“The price was too much. You have to ask, at least.”
He left his horse at the edge of the forest and went on foot, and soon couldn’t find a path. He crashed through dry undergrowth, and thin branches whipped his face bloody and ripped his boils open. On each step a pulling ache flared through his insides, deep and shameful.
He stumbled over nothing; the pain of the fall stunned him. He lay still, too weak even to scream, and his broken skin leaked pus into the wet moss.
There was a soft sound in the perfect silence. He opened his eyes, almost hoping for a wolf, for a quicker end.
A hare stared at him sideways with an eye dark and round like a ripe plum. It caught Petr’s glance and flexed its shoulders, ready to bolt.
“I won’t hurt you. Couldn’t harm a fly right now.”
The hare sank down on its haunches, taking Petr at his word.
“The witch,” Petr told the hare. Sickness churned his mind, and this seemed like the thing to do. “Fevronia. Where is she?”
The hare turned and jumped through the branches in a long graceful arc.
Petr crawled after it, dragging himself on his elbows. For a while he thought he saw a twitching tail through the mess of undergrowth. When he lost sight of it he kept going without direction, muttering jumbled prayers.
The forest shrank back a little, and he was in a clearing. In the middle of it, quiet and pale as the birches around her, stood a young woman: barefoot and bareheaded, with only a short shift to cover her.
He pushed to his knees and drew his sword.
“You’re under my protection,” he told her. A half-naked girl, alone in the woods – he didn’t need to ask what had happened. “Are they still around? I’ll fight them off, I’ll take you home. You won’t be hurt again, I promise.”
Her eyes were very bright, the hungry green shade of spring grass. The hare hopped around her feet, nosed at her ankles. She wasn’t scared, or hurt, or lost. She was home.
She tilted her head to a side, as a bird would.
“Help me,” he begged. The boils on his face were huge now, pulsing. He felt them shift as he spoke.
She touched his cheek. Her fingers were cold like river pebbles and his pain trickled between them, melted away.
“Serpent’s blood,” she said. “What happened?”
He hid his face against her hand and told her everything.
From short story “Endless Days”
Late morning, when the sun was near zenith, another house on Gornaya Street fell apart.
There was a low groan first, as if the building cried out in pain. Anna and Savane put down their loot and turned to watch.
The western side of Gornaya Street had been built up in the 1960s with squat, long five-storied blocks of flats. Their sides were tiled in jaunty stripes: two columns of windows were set on mustard yellow background, the next three on duck egg blue. There used to be eight of these houses, stacked close together like dominoes. Number fourteen, the last in line, had lain in ruins for weeks. Now gravity was coming for the next one.
Dark cracks that spidered up number twelve’s south-facing wall shifted a little, widened, bleeding streams of grey sand, and then the whole wall slowly tilted outward. Steel cables at the roof and corner joints screeched as they ripped through concrete, but the panels that made up the front of the building held together. The wall crashed down as one solid stone slab, obliterating the small playground with its metal swing and a slide, and whipped a thick cloud of dust into the warm summer air.
The innards of the house stood exposed, like a dead beehive. Anna could see straight into fifty empty flats, each a dollhouse section decorated by a different hand. These houses had stood without heating for months now. They had been frozen through and thawed out again, and most of the wallpaper was peeling off the walls. The soft furnishings had to be rotting and covered in moss, but most kitchens looked just like the people must had left them back in February: the appliances intact, the worktops unnaturally tidy, bare.
“Hey, look, I used to have a sofa just like that,” Savane said. “There, that green one on the fourth floor.”
“Yes, I remember. It’s not been that long, you know.”
They’d ended up on that sofa after their first date, after a restaurant meal she’d barely tasted because she’d been dizzy with excitement. That was last August, only ten months ago. They’d cuddled against the green cushions, kissing and talking in hushed voices until dawn, which that time of year was at three in the morning. Then Savane had walked her home through the empty streets. In that eerie dead time between the third and the first shifts at the mines nobody was out, only them and the sun. They’d held hands all the way, brazenly, bravely. Anna had felt young, strong and free, beautiful, as if her dowdy fifty-year-old body was just a protective shell, a clever disguise. The town, a home to tens of thousands people back then, had seemed deserted, a post-apocalyptic ruin, an abandoned film set, and Anna had felt like they were the only two people truly alive in it.
She’d never wanted that night to end. Funny how that worked out.