Copyright © 2006 – All authors hold copyright
to their respective stories. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in
the United States by Double Dragon eBooks, a division of Double Dragon Publishing Inc., Markham, Ontario Canada. No part of
this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying,
recording, taping, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the permission in writing from Double Dragon
Publishing. This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination
or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Published by Double Dragon Publishing, Inc. ISBN: 1-55404-339-5
A DDP First Edition April 18, 2006
It is said that variety is the spice of life. If that ragged,
worn out statement is true, then here, in TWISTED TAILS, you are going to encounter one of the tastiest literary meals you
have ever ingested. Most anthologies are built around a theme, and this one is no exception, other than that its theme has
nothing to do with genre, time of the year, specific holiday, style, or voice. You will find sweet, sour, bitter, tangy, titillating,
tantalizing, torturous, terrifying, humorous, and horrifying in a blend designed to satisfy your every taste. You may even
find some flavors you have never savored that are sure to please.
So, what is the theme of this anthology that sets it apart
from all others? Each of the authors represented here was chosen for his or her unique voice and style, that is true, but,
more importantly, each has an uncanny ability to do something that few writers can handle well. All of them are wondrous weavers
of tale tapestries, as you will soon see, but they are more than that—much more. It is their twisted way of looking
at their worlds askew that forms the foundation of this collection. They will entertain you, make you laugh, cause chills
to course through you in places where chills have never gone before, bring tears to your eyes, and force you to grit your
teeth. Then, when the timing is just right, they will most gently, lovingly, throw you into the path of an oncoming train.
K. L. Nappier
Ms. Nappier is not a short-order cook. Likewise, and by her
own admission, she does...not...write...short. Not that she can’t write little stories, as you are about to discover,
but that she is, in her words, "...a bit long-winded." That means, we may consider Veil to be a fragment found in the river
of her other, longer works—a tiny gem discovered near the bank at a bend upstream where the feed waters run quietly.
Veil is a precious shard from a gifted wordworker. Chew with care—this is a tasty little morsel, but there may be bones.
Lift the veil—if you dare.
K. L. Nappier
The mere sight of the troll as he lumbered down the road
scattered the villagers. Children were scooped up, doors were barred and windows shuttered, so certain was everyone of terror.
Hideous to look upon, was he, with skin green as scum water,
as scarred as Satan’s soul, pockmarked and oozing with the stench of the dying’s last breath. Hearing him shuffle
past their houses was enough to kill several villagers then and there.
Well into the settlement, the troll at last stopped and turned
toward the door of two newlyweds. He beat twice on the door with his great, gnarled staff and called in a booming voice, "Open
and face me, or die!"
But the newlyweds remembered the fearsome warnings of their
families, and just the sound of the troll’s staff against their door killed them where they sat, coiled around each
other in desperation. The troll moved on.
The next house he chose hid an entire family. The troll beat
twice on the door with his gnarled staff and called, "Open and face me, or die!"
Now the husband and wife had survived the troll’s village
treks before. They had clamped their hands over their ears and balled up in the farthest corner from their door and he had
not stopped, but passed by. But this time, he was at their threshold and they wondered if they should heed his words. The
husband left his wife with their children and crept not to the door, but to the window beside it, thinking this to be the
safer measure. But when he parted the curtain, the sight of the troll’s fetid profile was enough to shrivel his heart.
He fell dead where he stood, the mere sight of his terror killing his wife and children along with him. The troll moved on.
The next house chosen hid a young widow with many children.
The troll beat twice on the door with his great, gnarled staff and called, "Open and face me, or die!" The woman’s fear
was like a cold, damp fog on her heart and at first she could not move, clinging to as many of her terrified children as she
She thought of her little ones and how best to protect them.
She told them, "The troll is hideous to see. Even to hear or smell. When I open the door and face him, watch me. Watch only
me, because you are still children. Watching me may save your lives."
The troll beat twice upon the door again and bellowed all
the more loudly, "Open and face me, or die!"
The thought of exposing her children to the troll was almost
enough to kill the woman then and there. Nevertheless, she rose and walked directly to the door, pushing her foggy fear to
either side. She opened the door and looked fully upon the face of the troll.
Now others before her had made it this far, only to collapse
in death at the sight of him. When she looked into his eyes, a deep cold gripped her chest. It was a cold like the cold of
wet shoes in snow. A cold like the cold of deep winter wind howling from without when there is no food within. A cold like
the cold of life lived without love.
The troll growled, "Invite me."
The woman’s mouth went dry with terror. Yet even though
she was almost voiceless, she managed to rasp, "Please. Won’t you come in?"
The troll ducked his great, misshapen head and stepped through
the door. He looked at the children, whose eyes were fixed obediently, if fearfully, upon their mother.
He returned his horrible gaze to the woman and said, "Touch
Now, there had been those before the woman who had survived
even this far. Yet in spite of their courage, the thought of touching the troll’s reeking, suppurating flesh had at
last shriveled their hearts, and they had dropped dead at his feet.
But the woman drew in her breath and, reaching out, laid
her palm full upon the troll’s cheek.
And in that moment, the woman’s soul was infused with
warmth. A warmth like the warmth of fresh laundry lifting on a spring breeze. Like the warmth of shared laughter around a
brimming stew pot on the hearth fire. Like the warmth of a beloved’s hand pressed gentle and firm over your heart.
And, in that moment, the woman realized her own hand was
no longer pressed against the flesh of the troll, but the cheek of an angel, smooth and sweetly fragrant, who smiled now upon
her and her children.