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Martin Harry Greenberg, Jean Rabe, Timothy Zahn, Christopher T. Pierson, Louise Marley, Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, Michael A. Stackpole, John Helfers, Linda P. Baker, Jane Lindskold, A. M. Strout, Belle Holder, Nancy Holder, Judi Rohrig, Donald J. Bingle, Joe Masdon, Yvonne Coats, Peter Schweighofer, Kelly Swails, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Elizabeth A. Vaughan, Sarah Zettel

Pandora's Closet

© 2007

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Introduction copyright © 2007 by Jean Rabe

“The Ring,” copyright © 2007 by Timothy Zahn

“What Quig Found,” copyright © 2007 by Christopher T. Pierson

“Technicolor,” copyright © 2007 by Louise Marley

“Loincloth,” copyright © 2007 by Wordfire, Inc.

“Seamless,” copyright © 2007 by Michael A. Stackpole

“Ancestral Armor,” copyright © 2007 by John Helfers

“The Opposite of Solid,” copyright © 2007 by Linda P. Baker

“The Travails of Princess Stephen,” copyright © 2007 by Obsidian Tiger, Inc.

“The Lady in Red,” copyright © 2007 by A. M. Strout

“Another Exciting Adventure of Lightning Merriemouse-Jones: A Touching Ghost Story,” copyright © 2007 by Belle Holder and Nancy Holder

“Revolution: Number 9,” copyright © 2007 by Judi Rohrig

“Cursory Review,” copyright © 2007 by Donald J. Bingle

“Jack’s Mantle,” copyright © 2007 by Joe Masdon

“Irresistible,” copyright © 2007 by Yvonne Coats

“Seebohm’s Cap,” copyright © 2007 by Peter Schweighofer

“Cake and Candy,” copyright © 2007 by Kelly Swails

“A Clean Getaway,” copyright © 2007 by Keith R.A. DeCandido

“Off the Rack,” copyright © 2007 by Elizabeth A. Vaughan

“The Red Shoes,” copyright © 2007 by Sarah Zettel

INTRODUCTION

If the shoe fits… there’s a story in this anthology about it.

Garments and accoutrements have played key roles in fact and fiction throughout the ages-Cinderella’s glass slipper, Superman’s cape, Abe Lincoln’s top hat, Sherlock Holmes’ coat and pipe-none of which you’ll find here, but I use these as examples. I’ve no intention of spilling any proverbial beans and ruining the authors’ surprises in this simple introduction.

What you will find tucked inside the following pages is an incredible collection of stories featuring clothes, shoes, jewelry, and more… things that you might discover in some fantastical closet hidden away in the minds of our tale-spinners. Some stories are linked to history, some to beloved fables, and some spring from the authors’ own worlds. All of them should either bring a smile or send a shiver.

Hmmmmm… just what did Quig find?

And what is the opposite of solid?

The collection of talent is amazing-from Hugowinning veterans to promising newcomers who reached into Pandora’s closet and pulled out something that turned into their first professional sales.

The stories are worth rereading. All nineteen of them.

That’s quite a few tales for one anthology, and it’s due in part to the calculator I pulled out of the closet in my office.

I dutifully jotted down the word count of each story as it came in and double-checked it with Microsoft Word’s wonderful word tallier. Next, I added all of the individual stories’ word counts with… that calculator from my closet. Horrors! I was short on content. So rather than use Word’s wonderful word tallier, as I hadn’t yet started stringing the stories together, I contacted more authors to see if they had something interesting in their closets that they might write about.

And I used… that calculator… again.

Still short.

One more author.

One more…

Before I started putting them all together for the publisher and returning to Word’s word tallier.

Uh-oh, I guess I wasn’t as short as I first thought.

Now, I’m not saying the calculator out of my closet didn’t work properly. I well and truly could have hit the wrong buttons every time I used it. I have been known to unbalance a checkbook. But I tried it again a moment ago and got the same result. So that malfunctioning calculator (or my defective finger) is responsible for you holding a slightly thicker book in your hands and getting to read so many great stories.

I’d prefer to think that Pandora had a hand in putting this collection together.

Enjoy,

Jean

THE RING by Timothy Zahn

It had been the fifth free-fall day in a row on Wall Street, the kind of day that grinds all the anger and frustration out of an investor and leaves him feeling nothing at all, unless it’s a weary desire for rest or death, and either would be fine with him.

Which was why Nick Powell, department store floor manager and formerly hopeful stock market investor, walked completely past the small curio shop on his way home from work before the exotic gold ring sitting on its black velvet pad in the window finally registered.

Even then, he almost didn’t stop. His modest and carefully nurtured portfolio had been nearly wiped out in the bloodletting, and there was no place for impulse purchases in a budget that included food and clothing and a Manhattan rent.

But his girlfriend Lydia loved odd jewelry, and a week’s worth of preoccupation with the markets had turned their permanent simmering disagreement about money first into a shouting argument and then into a cold and deadly silence. A suitable peace offering might help patch things up.

And who knew? In a little shop like this the ring might even be reasonably priced. Retracing his steps, Nick went inside.

“Afternoon,” the shopkeeper greeted him. He was an old man, tall and thin, with wrinkled skin and a few gray hairs still holding tenaciously to his pale skull. But his blue eyes were sharp enough, and there was a sardonic twist to the corners of his mouth. “What can I do for you?”

“That ring in the window,” Nick said. “I wonder if I might look at it.”

The old man’s eyes seemed to flash. “Very discerning,” he said as he left the counter and crossed to the window. Nick winced as he passed, something about the air that brushed across his face sending a tingle up his back. “Antique German,” the shopkeeper went on as he turned around again, the ring nestled in the palm of his hand. “Here-don’t be afraid. Come and see.”

Don’t be afraid? Frowning at the odd comment, Nick leaned over to look.

Sitting behind a dusty window in the fading sunlight, the ring had been impressive. Pressed against human flesh in a bright, clean light, it was dazzling.

It was gold, of course, but somehow it seemed like a brighter, clearer, more vibrant gold than anything Nick had ever seen before. The design itself was equally striking: a meshed filigree of long, thin leaves intertwined with six slender human arms, each complete with a tiny but delicately shaped hand. “It’s beautiful,” he managed, the words catching oddly in his throat. “German, you say?”

“Very old German,” the shopkeeper said. “Tell me, are you rich?”

Nick grimaced. So much for any peace offering to Lydia. It probably would just have earned him a lecture on extravagance anyway. “Hardly,” he said, taking a step toward the door. “Thanks for-”

“Would you like to be rich?”

Nick frowned. There was an unpleasant gleam in the old man’s eyes. “Of course,” Nick said. “Who wouldn’t?”

“How badly?”

The standing disagreement with Lydia flashed through his mind. “Badly enough, I’m told,” he muttered.

“Good.” The old man thrust his hand toward Nick. “Here. Take it. Put it on.”

Slowly, Nick reached over and took the ring. The old man’s skin felt cold and scaly. “What?”

“Put it on,” the old man repeated.

“No, it’s not for me-it’s for a lady friend,” Nick said.

     

 

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