For her heresy, Reft climbed up to the House of the Pale Daughters. The law dictated that she take the penitent’s path, so she stood barefoot and bleeding in the front courtyard, picking thorns and slivers of glass from her feet.
Reft held a crab on a leash, a juvenile almost up to her waist in height. Its shell was fresh after a recent moult, streaked with blue and orange. Like the other crabbers, Reft had fastened a platform to its back, drilling deep into the hardening shell. From now on, as the crab grew, the platform would grow, and by adulthood it would have entire buildings bristling from its back.
The inner door to the House opened, a thick slab of stone that turned easily on a pivot hinge. One old woman pushed it open with the tips of her fingers. She was like a piece of driftwood in a robe, flinty eyes buried in a maze of scars.
“Reft the heretic,” she said. “You have come.”
Reft fussed nervously about the crab, unpacking the trunks and crates that she’d lashed firmly to its back. With the tip of a coral knife, she parted the wax seal around the lid of an amphora.
It was honey, gold and thick, filled right up to the brim.
“What does this get me?” Reft asked.
“Death,” the crone said.
This is the opening passage to my new story “By the Laws of Crab and Woman”, which is now available at the Review of Australian Fiction. I share this issue with the amazingly talented Laura E Goodin, and her story Regent of the Tiny Queen is a joy to read! Check the issue out via the following link: http://