Offered exclusively for buyers of this bundle, Love and Other Poisons was originally published in limited quantities and is not available at any online retailer.
Love and Other Poisons collects several of Silvia Moreno-Garcia's (Mexican Gothic, Gods of Jade and Shadow) early short stories. Released in 2014 and currently out of print, this volume is offered exclusively in e-book format for buyers of this bundle.
A teenager becomes obsessed with a wax figure of Jack the Ripper, a woman is enthralled with a creature from the ocean's depths, one of Dracula's brides narrates her tale. Shape-shifters, witches and vampires inhabit the pages of this collection and reveal a world where love may be more dangerous than poison.
I have the feeling Silvia's going to become a household name any day now, with breakout novels like Gods of Jade and Shadows and this year's Mexican Gothic garnering both critical and commercial acclaim. Here, exclusively for the bundle, she collects some of her best stories. – Lavie Tidhar
"Mexican Gothic terrified and fascinated me. Silvia Moreno-Garcia proves once again that she's a genre-jumping wizard, one of the most exciting and necessary authors writing today."– Charlie Jane Anders, nationally bestselling author of The City in the Middle of the Night
"Silvia Moreno-Garcia's prose is like the best kind of fairytale - dark, enchanting, and makes you wish that you could live within its pages. Casiopea's journey belongs on every bookshelf"– Zoraida Córdova, award-winning author of Labyrinth Lost
"Readers will be floored by Moreno-Garcia's painstaking attention to detail, especially in her unforgettable descriptions of the emotionally charged interactions between realistic human characters and otherworldly gods, witches and demonic forces, as well as the fairy-tale and folktale aspects of the plot."– BookPage
THE SEA, LIKE GLASS UNBROKEN
Your absence chokesthe words, ties a knot around my heart, drives me mad with longing. When will I see you? When can I join you?
I walk by the seashore and look at the waves, waiting for a sign of your arrival. The town is full of echoes and empty of you. The seagulls cry a sad lament.
Oh, my love.
I will go down to the beach and cut my palm with an ivory knife. I will then place this message in a bottle, hoping it reaches you.
It has been so long and not a sign of you. And now I know why!
I went to town today. The people looked at me in an odd, sideways way. Avoiding my gaze and whispering between them when I walked by. I felt a tension in the air and I quickened my pace, fear striking inside me; a sharp, disharmonious note. I tried to stop, to quiet the dread in my heart, yet it grew with every step.
Sweat began to bead my forehead, for it was a hot day. Too hot. Too hot to fish, the nets tangled and the fishermen waiting in the shade and the sea like glass; a still mirror, unbreakable.
I stopped and removed my hat, fanning myself, and that's when I heard two women talking. They did not realize I listened to them, and listen intently I did.
They spoke of the lighthouse keeper's daughter. She is young and beautiful and wears pretty, white linen dresses and her eyes are the shade of the sky after a storm. The lighthouse keeper's daughter, with her beautiful voice that rises when we sign holy hymns. And her smile, which never fades, placid and pleasant.
They said she is to be your bride. She will marry you. She will wear seashells in her hair and a necklace of the finest gold, and she shall walk barefoot on the beach, while a retinue of a dozen girls make songs and music.
I've been cast aside.
I cannot believe. I shall not believe it. Three years ago I was promised to you.
They are wrong.
I shall speak to the priest.
Please, send a sign of your love.
The priest is an unpleasant, old man. He smells of rotten fish. His skin is a mottled grey. When I walked into church, he clasped my hand and the feel of his skin against mine was like sandpaper.
We spoke in his office, which is dark and stuffy and also has that annoying fish odour, though its coolness soothed me, for the long hot days extended one after the other. Each one warmer, each one more blistering. The nets and the boats lay abandoned, and even the seagulls seem to perch still, idle. Waiting.
The priest talked to me slowly and all the while I stared behind him, at the great mosaic that decorates the wall. It is a delightful picture of sea plants and fish and interwoven all around its edge is the symbol of the order.
The priest made small, slow motions with his hands until I boiled over, snapping, and asked him to get to the point of it.
The point is the women were right. The lighthouse keeper's daughter has caught your fancy.
You want her instead of me.
We cannot hope to understand the plans and designs of our Great Lord, the priest said, but I would listen no more and rushed out of the office with a hand pressed against my mouth.
When I returned home, I wept. I have been weeping for hours now, for I never desired anything more than to be your beloved and for you to be mine. I cannot understand.
What has happened? How has she enchanted you? I can only assume that she has wickedly tricked you. I can picture her on moonless nights, tossing precious chains and jewelled rings into the sea.
Witchery and deceit.
You must not listen to her! I love you dearly and will cherish you forever. She is a cruel liar who only wishes to curry favour from you and exalt her family. They are an ambitious lot, her people, and she always looks at us with her chin up high, her eyebrows arched, that tiny little smile staining her lips. As though she knows she is better than the rest of the townspeople and now she can prove it, for she is your bride-to-be.
Please, please do not betray your promise! Return to me!
I am slashing my palm thrice and tossing this letter into the sea, knowing it will reach you.
There was much unpleasantness last night but I refused to be cast as the guilty party, for I have done nothing wrong.
For the past few days there have been preparations for a great feast to announce the betrothal of the light keeper's daughter. I've seen people around town busy gathering wine and salted fish and sweet breads, and it is known far and wide that the lighthouse keeper has polished the silver candlesticks he inherited from his grandfather, and taken other precious trinkets out from the old trunks.
It would all be put on display for the town to see.
And so, as the sun sizzled and burnt, day after day, I burnt inside with anger, seeing them coo and prepare for the great event. Not a thought was spared for me. It was as though I had disappeared and did not exist. It was as though I had not been paraded in a similar fashion three years ago, wearing a veil made from fishermen's nets, a veil decorated with starfish and sea urchins.
It was as though you and I had never been.
My father said there is no shame in it, for we have been fairly compensated for our trouble. A few coins! That's how much a daughter's dignity costs. That's how much the priest thought of us.
Not only did he dare to toss those miserly scraps at my father, he hinted it was my fault.
The weather has been so hot and the fishing season has been bad, and perhaps I had been a poor choice from the start.
But you loved me! But you loved me so!
So when he said these things it was like a scorching dagger was thrust into my heart and it lay there, burning, as the sun went down. When night fell I rose and walked steadily, guided by the merry voices of the townspeople.
The feast had started. They were playing the drums and the pipes. They were chattering while the bonfire burnt. Everyone was in their best attire, wearing the finest masks they owned. The young people danced in circles, swirling, following the beat of the drums.
A very long table had been set upon the beach, complete with a tablecloth spanning the whole length. Fine porcelain dishes etched with blue scalloped designs were set at each place and the precious candlesticks were on display.
All the great townspeople were present. The mayor, the priest, the lighthouse keeper and, of course, the lighthouse keeper's daughter sat at the head of the table.
She wore a fine blue dress and a golden mask. Though I could not see her face, I could tell she was smiling.
I walked up to her, but she was talking to someone and did not see me.
The piping and the drumming ceased.
And then she turned her head, as if finally sensing me, and raised her masked face towards me.
And then I spit at her. Spit at that beautiful, golden, serene surface.
The beach was silent as I walked away.
Later, the priest and some others came to talk to my father and father slapped me very hard.
Dishonour, he said.
It is she who is dishonourable; they who have done me wrong.
For I have only loved you, loved you most intensely, fully, without wanting nothing but you. You captivated my senses and filled my soul, and I cannot see dishonour in my pain, nor my love.
I slash my palm five times and bid this letter reaches you.
It has been a week since the feast.
It rained yesterday. A strong, steady, rain. In the morning, the beach was spotted with many pink starfish which had been washed ashore. When the tide goes out, they shall all dry and die.
The fishermen kicked the starfish aside, boarded their boats and picked their nets. They set out to sea and hauled in their bounty. So many fish, a pile of silver, spilled from their nets. The women beheaded the fish and gutted them. They bled the fish, removing the gills and all blood vessels. They cut the fish, they split it or they left it whole if it was small. Then they began salting them.
I salted, too, though not fish. I dusted salt upon my body, from my hair to the soles of my feet. When I was done I walked to the beach.
I stand here now, with the waves tickling my toes.
I know you love me no longer. She is your love. She shall swim with you in the darkest depths, her pearly flesh resting against you, iridescent fish swimming in her hair. She shall lay upon a bed of anemones and bones.
I know this.
But despite it all, I wish to see you one last time. To behold your perfection. Perhaps, to be embraced, only for a moment, in your arms; the acid taste of your kiss upon my mouth.
I will slash my neck with this ivory knife.
I hope I reach you.