The Unconquerable (37)
March 12, 2015
HiLoBooks is pleased to serialize Helen MacInnes’s 1944 novel The Unconquerable (later reissued as While We Still Live), an espionage adventure that pits an innocent English woman against both Nazis and resistance fighters in occupied Poland. MacInnes, it’s worth noting, was married to a British intelligence agent, which may explain what one hears is the amazing accuracy of her story’s details. Under the editorship of HILOBROW’s Joshua Glenn, the Save the Adventure book club will reissue The Unconquerable as an e-book for the first time ever. Enjoy!
He closed the door firmly behind him, shutting out the curious faces of Zona and Tomasz and Kati.
He looked at her gravely. “Men have been shot for less,” he said. His voice was serious, his face set. And then, as he watched her eyes widen, there was the beginning of a smile. He crossed over to her swiftly. His hands were leading her round the table. He pulled the red kerchief off her hair and rumpled its curls back into life.
“Sheila,” he said. “Sheila….”
She smiled with all her heart. She laughed. Life was simple and easy and wonderful once more. Now she could walk not only to the Russian border, she could find her way alone to Vladivostok.
Between kisses he was saying, “I told her to wait…. She said she would…. And then she left in the darkness…. Rebel.”
She struggled free to protest, “Adam, you know I didn’t want to go.”
He was serious again, and this time his face and voice were gentle. “Yes, I know.” He kissed her once more.
She suddenly noticed her hand as it touched his shoulder. She remembered her appearance.
“Oh, Adam!” And then as he looked at her in surprise, “I should have known you would come. You always see me when I’m…”
“When you are what, darling?” But he knew what she meant, for he was smiling now.
She had to smile too. “Why can’t you see me just once in my prettiest dress?” she asked ruefully, and unfastened the shawl from her waist.
He was laughing. He pointed to the stained peasant clothes which he now wore and said, “I don’t look much of a bargain in these things, do I?”
“Wading through ditches… milking goats ——” she went on, but he silenced her with his arms, holding her so tightly that there was no more breath left in her lungs, and the rest of her words became a gasp.
He searched for a scrap of handkerchief in his pocket. He cleaned her face gently. “Why did you leave the forest?”
“You know why, Adam.” Her eyes met his steadily.
He spoke very quietly now. “That was the only reason?”
“It was the only reason.”
He was wiping her hands. He kissed them each in turn.
“That was what I wanted to hear,” he said.
She tried to speak. I love you, I adore you, I love you, Adam. I never want to leave you, but if I must I shall wait for ever and ever. But all she did was to put her arms round his neck and kiss him.
“After I stopped cursing Olszak all I could think was that perhaps you…” His voice hesitated. He wasn’t sure of himself any more. He looked at her uncertainly, pleadingly. There was a sadness, a sincerity in his face which twisted her heart.
“You do love me, Adam,” she said gently.
“I more than love you, Sheila. You know that, too.”
“Yes. I know that.”
“As I know that you love me?”
“Yes. I love you, Adam.”
“That is all that matters.”
She nodded. It was all that mattered.
Kati entered, preceded by a timid knock, and then by a second, more urgent rap on the door. She looked apologetically towards Wisniewski. He and the fair-haired girl were standing so close together, talking so earnestly and sadly that she was afraid to speak.
“Yes?” the Chief asked impatiently without looking at her.
“Father Brys and the first of the men have got back from the burial,” Kati replied.
Zona, her neck straining to see past Kati, had tried to edge into the room too. But Kati’s broad shoulders and outstretched arm blocked the way.
“Father Brys wants to know where the meeting is to be,” Kati added.
“I see.” Adam turned to come slowly to the door, his arm still round Sheila. “In here, I suppose.” Zona was looking very impressed as she stood aside to let Sheila enter the hall.
“Tell the other men, as they arrive, to come here,” Adam said to the round-eyed village woman. “And we shall all need a hot meal before we leave again.” Zona nodded her head and bustled away, well pleased at having been given some commands to dole out. To Kati he said, “Tell Zygmunt I’ll come and see him before the meeting starts. If he isn’t asleep.”
“No, he’s been waiting for you to come, Captain ——” Kati was unexpectedly slow, hesitating. “Do you think you could have him back in camp, please?”
“He is badly injured.”
“That’s what he keeps saying: a one-legged man is no use for the camp. And he is lying there, just miserable, not caring whether he gets well or not.”
“I see.” There was a pause in which Kati’s unhappy, strained eyes watched Wisniewski’s face constantly. “We’ll find some job for him to do, out of camp. Perhaps as our key-man here. You would like that, wouldn’t you, Kati?”
“Yes. That’s what we used to talk about all the time — about having this war over and the Germans away and all of us living in the way we want to live, and Zygmunt and me here at the inn. And now he’s got the chance to be at the inn. And he doesn’t want it. He wants to go back to the camp. To finish his job, he says.”
“He could do an excellent job here, Kati, now that Zak and your mother and Peter have gone.”
Kati looked unhappily at Wisniewski. “Could you make that job seem important? And dangerous?”
“Yes.” He repressed a smile. “If that will help it will be very important and very dangerous.”
“Thank you, Captain.” Kati hurried along the hall with her news. Sheila watched her go.
“What is wrong, Sheila?”
“I was just wishing.”
“What were you wishing?”
“That you’d have a leg amputated.”
He kissed her quickly. “That’s the only way to silence you, my girl,” he said. “You don’t often say things like that, darling.” She felt more ashamed of her words than any reproof could have made her.
“No, don’t look like that, Sheila. God knows I’ve thought of enough mad things since I got back to the camp this dawn and Sierakowski told me you had left. Even before then, when we waited in the forest for the Germans to show up, I had thought of them.”
“Perhaps it would have been easier if we had never met here. I was becoming resigned to everything. Now I am all mixed up again,” she said sadly.
“No, Sheila, this way is best. This way we make our own decisions. We aren’t children to have them made for us. If we aren’t strong enough to make the right one, then we are dishonest — pretending what we want to do is what we ought to do.”
“You believe me, Sheila?” he asked anxiously.
“Yes.” She kissed him to silence his doubts. She tried to smile, to make her voice light. “I’m bad for you, Adam. I make you break too many rules.” She patted the gun in his pocket.
He smiled and said, “We came here for business, not for pleasure. If you hadn’t broken that rule yourself this visit would have been purely a business one.” In spite of his smile she saw that the journey he had made from the forest to this village must have been a nightmare.
As she looked at him she remembered the first time she had met him. Now his face was thinner, older; his eyes were more thoughtful, his lips tighter. It was a stronger face, the face of a man who had come to know himself. Everything had been taken from him. All he had left was his body, his brains, and his courage. These were the real man: not what he had owned in land, or in money, or in the prestige of a name. And he knew that, and he accepted it.
Adam Wisniewski watched the girl’s face looking at him so intently. What was she thinking? From the first time he had met her he had wondered about that. His memory of her as he had first seen her — leaning out of the window at the Korytów house, her eyes and lips laughing, fair hair falling to her shoulders, warmth and life in her face — had haunted him. Then later, when she came downstairs for that last dinner and his impatience had increased as he waited for her to appear, she had seemed another being. Still with the same fair hair, the same large brown eyes, the same smiling mouth. But she had become suddenly cold and remote; there was a challenge in the way she ignored him. He had watched her all through that dinner, and he had discovered two things. One was that she didn’t love Andrew Aleksander and never would. Somehow he had been relieved to know that. The other was that she was shy, and her coldness was a guard put up against a frightening world. He had been amazed that any girl with her beauty and charm should be shy, and his interest had quickened. Before he could talk to her, tease her, try to make her lose that self-control so that she would become as alive and warm as in the first moment of seeing her, events had crowded in. Personal thoughts and desires had to be forgotten. At the meeting in Korytowski’s flat he had been angry that she should have been there: she was being drawn into danger; he wanted her away. Safe. It was then he had realized the incongruous fact that he was in love with this girl: incongruous because he had at last found what he most wanted at a time when he, who had always got what he wanted, couldn’t even try to possess it. There was no forgetting her, either. There never would be. But there were other things to be done, and if he kept her near him she would always be in danger. The journey from the forest to this village, not knowing what had happened except that shots from the village had been heard, had been undiluted hell. But it had proved to him that she would have to leave. Not for Olszak’s reasons, not for all that damned talk about leadership. He was a captain with a job of fighting to do. He would fight as well with her as he had fought without her. But what would happen to her if he were killed? Or if she were taken hostage by the Germans? They’d soon know that she wasn’t Polish: they’d learn about Anna Braun. Did she know what danger she was in? Probably she did. But she wouldn’t go away if that were the only reason for not staying. He tightened his grasp round her waist. Not for Olszak’s reasons, then; but Olszak’s reasons would have to be used if he sent her away. These would be the only ones she would listen to.
They heard Kati clearing her throat more loudly than was necessary. They were back again in the inn at Dwór. Behind Kati was the white, furrowed face of Father Brys. He was watching them with his calm grey eyes. Sheila felt he understood everything. Without being told, he knew, and knowing, understood. Quickly she followed Kati out into the open.
In front of the inn there was a group of waiting men. Sheila knew the younger men, some seven or eight in number. They were from the camp. Adam had picked the toughest fighters, too, she thought, as she recognized them. They greeted her smilingly, with a sort of informal, vague salute.
“You cheated us out of a job, we’ve been hearing,” one called over to her as she passed, and the others grinned widely. Then they started moving into the inn with the older men from the village.
“What you need is a good scrub,” Kati said critically. “Tear-stains and all. You’re a beauty at this moment, I can tell you.” She led Sheila round to the side of the house where there was an open pump. “Go on, stick your head under that. Ill have to get you fresh clothes, anyway.”
“How’s your side, Kati?”
“All right. Zona bandaged me up. It doesn’t hurt. Not much.”
“Where are the women?”
“Cooking. The older children are pretending to work in the fields near the main road. They are keeping watch.”
“How did the men from the camp arrive?”
“When that old woman and her son got to the forest, they found the Chief setting out for the village. He had just heard you came here last night. They told him about the German spy and about the shots they had heard (that’s what made the old woman and her son go straight to the forest instead of waiting for night to come), and the Chief then chooses some men to come with him, and they come straight to the village. Not all together, you know. Not marching. Just the way they slip into places. But they all got here about the same time, just as the service was ending in the church. I was looking out of the hall-window to see if everything was all right. And what did I see? First the Chief and Ladislas, then little Jan, then Kasimierz and Julian, then Edmund, and then three men I didn’t know. What excitement there was in the square! The Chief was talking to Father Brys and Tomasz. They were telling him everything. And then I knew we were all safe.” Kati was happy; the village had been in danger, and the camp hadn’t forgotten it. The camp was taking charge. All was well.
“What happened to the — to the coffins?”
Kati stared at her. “You know nothing, do you? What in the wide world have you been talking about in there?” She nodded over her shoulder in the direction of the inn. “Nearly an hour, you were. And you know nothing.”
“The Chief’s a quick one. As soon as he knew what had been happening here he gave his orders. The” — only the slight hesitation, the drop in the girl’s voice as it spoke the next word, was there to remind them of Jadwiga — “the bodies must disappear so that the Germans wouldn’t find them. We are to tell the Szwaby that we burned them in case of typhus.” The sadness in her voice disappeared. She added, vindictively, “But we haven’t buried Ryng.”
Sheila, drying her face and scrubbing her arms with her apron, looked up in surprise.
“No,” Kati went on. “See that cart with logs in it? He’s under there. That cart is going to Nowe Miasto. Zona’s husband had orders from the Germans to bring in a load of his best wood before the end of this week. So he is going to-day. The Chief and his men will meet the cart at dusk just before it enters the little town. They will take the body, and when they raid Nowe Miasto to-night they’ll leave the body with a lot of bullets in it on the road behind them. It will be found after they’ve finished the raid.”
“Captain Wis —— the captain is going on a raid?” Sheila tried to keep her voice calm.
“Of course. He told Tomasz that if the Germans get enough to occupy them at Nowe Miasto they wouldn’t come here for a day or two. And if they found the spy’s body, then they wouldn’t start searching for him here. If we had buried him the Szwaby would have kept on looking and looking.”
“Dittmar met a raiding party and got killed….” Yes, that was the easiest solution. Strange how easy, how simple, things seemed — once some one had thought of them, that was.
Kati said, “He got killed all right.” She suddenly put out her strong, broad hand and gripped Sheila’s shoulder. “And you don’t look as if you could kill a mouse.”
Sheila laughed shortly. “I never have,” she said grimly.
Kati looked at her strangely. She slipped her arm round Sheila’s shoulders. “Come on,” she said with surprising gentleness. “You’ll need other clothes. You must brush your hair, and then we must prepare the food we have. We are giving the men a meal after the meeting is over. They are now making plans for the raid and for what the village is to do in the next few days. They’ll deserve the best meal we can cook for them. Come on.”
The little square was empty now. Four of the older men of the village were grouped outside the inn-door. They stood motionless, in the timeless way that peasants have; their pipes were in their mouths, their thumbs were tucked into their waistcoats’ high pockets. Far-seeing blue eyes, with the same distant look that you see in sailors’ eyes, were turned towards the main road. The brown, wrinkled faces were impassive. They were waiting for the first sign of warning from any of the boys down in the fields. From the open cottage-windows came the sound of pots and dishes; of women’s voices, sharpened by haste, telling children to keep out of their way. There was the smell of cooking food to remind Sheila that she was hungry. The white smoke of wood fires curled under the cold winter sky.
Kati looked at the blue-grey clouds overhead. “It will rain, but not before to-night, I hope,” she said. “Soon the snows will come.” She half sighed, as if she asked how many winters of snow would there be before this war was over, before women could look after peaceful kitchens and men could come home to their families in the evenings.
The old men’s high boots shuffled aside to let the two women enter the inn. Through the closed door of the front room came the murmur of voices. And then Adam’s voice was speaking.
“Come on,” Kati said with a smile, and pulled at Sheila’s arm. “You’ll be hearing him a good deal yet, if you ask me.”
The kitchen lay next door to the front room. It was square in shape like the bedroom. The difference in furniture was a larger table, a taller cupboard, an extra dresser with heavy dishes along its shelves, a bigger stove with an oven at the side of its wood fire.
Kati looked for a moment at the bed in the corner, at the bright checked apron hanging on its hook, at the spinning-wheel near the oven bench. Her emotions, which she had been able to hide under the stress of danger and worry and action, were now released. She looked at the baking-bowl on the table with its measure of rye flour. Jadwiga, Sheila guessed, must have been preparing to bake some bread this morning, when Dittmar had interrupted it. Kati’s face twisted like a child’s, and she burst into tears. She turned her back on Sheila.
“Next door,” she said at last. Her words were muffled by the apron which she held up to her face. “Next door you will see a carved chest. The clothes are there.”
When Sheila came back to the kitchen Kati was standing at the table. She was wearing the red-checked apron, and she was shaping the rough lumps of dough into smooth, round loaves. Her face was white, blotched violently with red spots. But her voice was calm and practical once more. She nodded in approval as she looked at Sheila.
“It’s too pretty,” Sheila said awkwardly, smoothing the silk apron over the wide black skirt banded with velvet. She fingered the lace edge of the thin white blouse and looked at the roses on the gaily embroidered jacket. She knew that Kati had only two dresses: the one she wore, and this special one. This very special one, kept for feast days, for funerals and weddings. It would be Kati’s own wedding dress. “Let’s wash my clothes. We can scrub the blood and mud out of them. They’ll dry before I leave to-night.”
“No,” Kati said determinedly.
“No!” Kati placed the loaves in the oven, lifted the lid off the large soup-pot. She seemed pleased with the result. “In that cupboard over there you’ll find shoes. Lowest shelf.”
Sheila searched unwillingly among old newspapers, stubs of candles, carefully rolled pieces of string. The shoes, wrapped in paper, lay beside a sewing-basket. Kati’s best shoes. Perhaps her only pair beside these long boots.
“I don’t need them, Kati.”
“You’ll walk barefoot?”
“Why not? You do.”
“And what would the Chief say to that?”
“Nothing,” Sheila lied.
“Well, I’d say plenty. The idea! Your feet are too soft. They’re not like mine.” She held up a proud bare foot to prove it. “If I have my boots for the bad weather I don’t need shoes. Put them on. Do they fit?”
“They are beautiful,” Sheila said, and a look of pleasure came into Kati’s eyes. “But really, Kati, I can wear the shoes I arrived in.”
“No. They’d spoil the look of the dress.”
“But, Kati ——”
“No! Now put on that working apron and cover your dress well, and you can help me. This is all the meat we have. Slice it thin, and it will go farther.” She handed Sheila a knife. “You are leaving to-night? Back to the forest?”
This time it was Sheila who said, “No.”
“That’s what Tomasz said you said,” Kati answered. She pretended to be examining the contents of the cupboard. “Why?”
“Because,” Sheila began, and then stopped. “Well, why did you try to get Zygmunt back to the camp when you wanted him to stay here?”
Kati looked at her. “But the Chief’s the boss. What he says, goes.”
“Yes. And because he’s the boss, Kati, he has got to obey the rules of the camp even more closely than the men. Don’t you see, Kati?”
“No, I don’t. Stuff and nonsense. If I were boss I’d be boss.”
“Yes, but being in command means you must also be in command of yourself. There’s no one to give you orders, so you have to give them to yourself.”
Kati pulled down the few jars of pickled mushrooms and cucumbers from the cupboard shelf. “Open these,” she said. “If we don’t eat them the Germans will. We’ll have one good last meal together.” She counted the jars with her fingers, nodded her head. “Enough,” she said in relief, before she suddenly remembered to rush over to the oven. She opened the square iron door carefully with an apron-covered hand. “All right so far,” she said. The smell of warm bread filled the kitchen and added to Sheila’s hunger. “He’s got queer ideas about it, too. You know, he doesn’t like being called Chief. We’ve got to say just ‘captain’ to his face. And yet he is the Chief all right. Who else?” Kati took one of the loaves and broke it slightly to see if it were baked. “I don’t understand these things very well. I’ve never been a boss, so I don’t know. But if you speak the truth, then I don’t want to be one. Ever.”
“You are the boss of this inn, Kati. You and I are so hungry that we could sit down at this table and eat all this meat right away. Why don’t you? You are the boss. It is your meat. It is your kitchen. But you don’t even touch one slice of meat; you want to prepare as good a dinner as you can, and you think of those others next door, who are just as hungry as we are. Do you see what I mean?”
Kati stared at her. Then she gave one of her old smiles. “I wouldn’t make a very good boss,” she said. “I tasted a piece of cucumber when you weren’t looking.”
They were both laughing when the door opened and Tomasz appeared.
“We’re finished. Are you ready?”
“Almost. Tell the other women they can start bringing their food over here.”
Tomasz nodded, and turned to go. “Pretty,” he said, looking at Sheila.
“Yes,” Kati said proudly. “Isn’t it?” And Sheila laughed again. Kati was pulling off the working-apron, preening the lace collar, pushing up the wide sleeves of the blouse so that it billowed out in all its starched whiteness. She stood back and surveyed her handiwork critically once more. “You’ll do,” she predicted.
“Agreed.” It was Adam, leaning against the door, smiling as he watched Sheila’s startled face. He stretched out a hand as he came forward to her. The meeting had been successful; the plan was well made. She knew that by his face. She took his hand with a smile.
“Too decorative,” she said. “The Russians won’t believe I can work for a living, I’m sure.”
Adam was laughing now. “Russians? What have they to do with this?” He was studying the dress approvingly.
“I thought the shortest way for me would be to try and reach the Russian occupation zone. They won’t arrest anyone British.”
He said slowly, “You mean that you were going to walk out in that dress and reach Russia?”
“Well, I’ve been trying to tell Kati that my old clothes would be better, bloodstains and all. They’d be a more successful entry permit, I think.”
“Sheila…” He seemed to forget about Kati, and Sheila forgot too.
“Sheila.” He was smiling again. He caught her suddenly round the waist. “Mad, quite mad. As crazy as they’re made,” he said, and kissed her unexpectedly on the nose. He began to laugh. “To Russia,” he said, “to Russia, by God. Just like that.” He laughed again and rumpled her hair. “Without papers, without a map, without anything except a pretty dress and a lovely face. Darling, at this moment I swear I shall love you for ever and ever.”
“What’s so funny, Adam?” Sheila asked, with stilted dignity. When he laughed his head was thrown back and his teeth were white against the deeply tanned skin. The worried lines had vanished from his face. It was infectious. She stopped trying to draw herself away and look dignified. She began to laugh too. Kati, the forgotten one, was smiling broadly in sympathy as she pulled the golden loaves out of the oven.
“Darling Sheila,” he said, “when a woman marries she is supposed to relax and let her man do the worrying.”
He pushed the hair back from her forehead and draped a curl over the edge of her brow. “Madame Récamier. Blonde, but still Madame Récamier,” he said. Then he was serious. “Let me do the worrying, darling. I’ll manage it, I think. It won’t be Olszak’s way. but even he will admit it is inevitable.”
A hot loaf dropped from Kati’s fingers. There was a half-stifled oath.
“Father Brys agrees. He’s waiting for us now,” Adam was saying. Then he turned to Kati. “You didn’t know the meal you were preparing was to be a wedding-breakfast, did you, Kati?”
To Sheila he said, “You’ll obey me, my girl, when you’re married. No more bright ideas. You’ll be safe from now on.”
“You’re equally mad Adam,” Sheila said. And then, with a catch in her voice, “I love you.”
Kati was staring openly now. There was no more pretence of ignoring them. The sad look had gone from her face, and for a moment it was blank of expression. Then excitement came to her eyes and approval softened her lips.
“Well, some one has got sense,” she said, and looked very pointedly at Sheila. “You and your slices of meat!” she added beneath her breath.
Tomasz looked round the half-open door. “We are all ready. We are waiting,” he said impatiently.
Kati said happily, “Tomasz, didn’t you know? Didn’t the Chief — the captain tell you? It’s a wedding.”
Tomasz said solemnly, “A wedding followed by a funeral is bad, but a funeral followed by a wedding is a good omen. We shall all be the happier for it.”
“And to hell with the long-nosed German swine,” Kati added emphatically. “This is one thing they don’t take away from us.” She was pulling off her working-apron. “I must tell Zygmunt.”
“The food, woman, the food!” Tomasz called after her.
“There’s no hurry,” she answered from the other end of the corridor. “They’ve got to go to church first, haven’t they?”
“You see,” Adam teased, “they won’t let you eat until you’ve been to church with me. Either you marry or you starve, my girl.”
In the small village square a sea of quiet, friendly faces waited for them. Sheila halted at the inn-door for a moment. She looked up at Adam, standing beside her. “This,” she said, “is the loveliest of weddings.”
Adam’s eyes held hers, as they had done when they had first met. He loves me, she thought, he loves me so very, very much. And it almost frightened her that she should have roused so much feeling and emotion in any man. Then he smiled, and she smiled too. She was so happy that she wanted to weep.
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SERIALIZED BY HILOBOOKS: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague | Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”) | Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt | H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook | Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins | William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land | J.D. Beresford’s Goslings | E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man | Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage | Muriel Jaeger’s The Man With Six Senses | Jack London’s “The Red One” | Philip Francis Nowlan’s Armageddon 2419 A.D. | Homer Eon Flint’s The Devolutionist | W.E.B. DuBois’s “The Comet” | Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Moon Men | Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland | Sax Rohmer’s “The Zayat Kiss” | Eimar O’Duffy’s King Goshawk and the Birds | Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Lost Prince | Morley Roberts’s The Fugitives | Helen MacInnes’s The Unconquerable |
Geoffrey Household’s Watcher in the Shadows | William Haggard’s The High Wire | Hammond Innes’s Air Bridge | James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen | John Buchan’s “No Man’s Land” | John Russell’s “The Fourth Man” | E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” | John Buchan’s Huntingtower | Arthur Conan Doyle’s When the World Screamed | Victor Bridges’ A Rogue By Compulsion | Jack London’s The Iron Heel | H. De Vere Stacpoole’s The Man Who Lost Himself | P.G. Wodehouse’s Leave It to Psmith | Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” | Houdini and Lovecraft’s “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs” | Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Sussex Vampire”.
ORIGINAL FICTION: HILOBROW has serialized three novels: James Parker’s The Ballad of Cocky The Fox (“a proof-of-concept that serialization can work on the Internet” — The Atlantic); Karinne Keithley Syers’s Linda Linda Linda (which includes original music); and Robert Waldron’s roman à clef The School on the Fens. We also publish original stories and comics. These include: Matthew Battles’s stories “Gita Nova“, “Makes the Man,” “Imago,” “Camera Lucida,” “A Simple Message”, “Children of the Volcano”, “The Gnomon”, “Billable Memories”, “For Provisional Description of Superficial Features”, “The Dogs in the Trees”, “The Sovereignties of Invention”, and “Survivor: The Island of Dr. Moreau”; several of these later appeared in the collection The Sovereignties of Invention | Peggy Nelson’s “Mood Indigo“, “Top Kill Fail“, and “Mercerism” | Annalee Newitz’s “The Great Oxygen Race” | Flourish Klink’s Star Trek fanfic “Conference Comms” | Charlie Mitchell’s “A Fantasy Land” | Charlie Mitchell’s “Sentinels” | Joshua Glenn’s “The Lawless One”, and the mashup story “Zarathustra vs. Swamp Thing” | Adam McGovern and Paolo Leandri’s Idoru Jones comics | John Holbo’s “Sugarplum Squeampunk” | “Another Corporate Death” (1) and “Another Corporate Death” (2) by Mike Fleisch | Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer and Frank Fiorentino’s graphic novel “The Song of Otto” (excerpt) | John Holbo’s graphic novel On Beyond Zarathustra (excerpt) | “Manoj” and “Josh” by Vijay Balakrishnan | “Verge” by Chris Rossi, and his audio novel Low Priority Hero | EPIC WINS: THE ILIAD (1.408-415) by Flourish Klink | EPIC WINS: THE KALEVALA (3.1-278) by James Parker | EPIC WINS: THE ARGONAUTICA (2.815-834) by Joshua Glenn | EPIC WINS: THE MYTH OF THE ELK by Matthew Battles | TROUBLED SUPERHUMAN CONTEST: Charles Pappas, “The Law” | CATASTROPHE CONTEST: Timothy Raymond, “Hem and the Flood” | TELEPATHY CONTEST: Rachel Ellis Adams, “Fatima, Can You Hear Me?” | OIL SPILL CONTEST: A.E. Smith, “Sound Thinking | LITTLE NEMO CAPTION CONTEST: Joe Lyons, “Necronomicon” | SPOOKY-KOOKY CONTEST: Tucker Cummings, “Well Marbled” | INVENT-A-HERO CONTEST: TG Gibbon, “The Firefly” | FANFICTION CONTEST: Lyette Mercier’s “Sex and the Single Superhero”