Black Friday is here and we’re discussing the season with Jamie Wyman’s Catherine Sharp from Wild Card.
It was bad enough that gods gambled with human souls, but Catherine Sharp’s soul just had to be won by the Greek goddess of Discord, Eris. As if working a dead-end tech support job didn’t suck the life out of her as it was. Now, Cat finds herself performing random tasks for the goddess in her free time.
But when Coyote, the Native American trickster himself, claims to have won her own soul in Mayhem’s weekly poker game, Cat wants in on the action. With five sneaky gods upping the ante, Cat needs to find a way to collect the winning chips that could save her soul.
Marius, a handsome yet irritating satyr with his own debt to Eris, might finally come in handy for something. If they play their cards right and work together, Cat and Marius may just get their freedom back. If they don’t kill each other or fall in love first.
Make sure you stick around to the end. We’ll be giving away a Think Geek giftcard and custom poker chips.
Jewel of the Aisle
Sin City never sleeps. Between the lights and glitter, the games and the onslaught of possibility, the tourists mainline energy drinks just to take in all the city has to offer. I, like most locals, built up calluses to this long ago. Still, it’s nothing new to be outside on the streets of Las Vegas in the pre-dawn hours. Usually, though, I’m not standing outside a Wal-Mart shivering my ass off.
I’ve been waiting for…shit, I’ve lost track of exactly how long I’ve been out on this concrete path to the mouth of Hell. All I know is that since the Christmas music started, enough time has passed that I’ve heard three versions of Jingle Bells, the obligatory Manheim Steamroller song, and if I have to listen to one more member of the Rat Pack cover anything I will slaughter all eight tiny reindeer with my bare hands.
All around me—under the insistent, arsenic-laced Holiday Cheer—paper rustles and voices drone in a sea of groggy conversations. There are people in lawn chairs, people in tents. Directly in front of me are two hefty women, squatting over the pavement. Newspaper ads are spread out before them like maps on a warlord’s table. They jab at the newsprint, plotting their attack. Once the doors open, these two women will singled-handedly meet their enemies on the sea, in the air, on the beaches and they shall never surrender until they’ve found the ultimate in Black Friday deals.
Yes. This stomach-churning madness swirls around me like a dark maelstrom of greed and I’m smack dab in the middle of it. Or I’m being melodramatic because I’m tired and I’d rather be in a turkey-induced coma. And I would be if my boss hadn’t sent me here on a sadistic errand.
This is what happens when a trickster deity owns your soul, kids.
I grumble to myself, cursing a streak bluer than a Smurf’s taint. One of the battle-ready women in front of me turns to pass me a glare. She even looks like Churchill! Rather than a distinguished cigar that never seems to ash, a cigarette dangles from her lower lip.
“You say something?” she rasps.
With a roll of my eyes I shake my head. The woman’s stare lingers over me, her dark eyes sizing me up. Am I competition? Or am I just another shopper she’ll trample to get whatever Tickle-Me-Satan she’s here to score? When she makes her decision, she nods. Her chins give a confident wobble and she goes back to her planning.
For a surly moment, I wish I was pyrokinetic rather than a technomage. If we were in the store where I could tap into all of the electricity, I could zap her, I ponder wickedly. Out here, though, the most I can do reliably is turn off her cell phone. Big deal.
I shove my hands deep into my pockets and shiver bit more vigorously, hoping for a little more warmth. Teeth chattering, I exhale a plume of mist. My anger and loathing boil, but even that isn’t enough to make me breathe fire.
I simmer there for another iteration or four of Let It Snow—which it won’t because we’re in the desert, asshole—until finally a series of red and green lights begin to spin around the entrance to the store. Klaxons begin to squeal and even the weariest of those waiting is on his or her feet. Adrenaline lingers on the air with an acrid tang and the crush begins. I’m swept up by a wave of avarice behind me and pushed into Dame Churchill and her cohort. The doors open and shoppers flood the aisles in a violent frenzy.
My mission is specific: my boss wants the super shiny, sleek tablet that will be outdated in another month or two. Why? Hell if I know. It’s not my job to ask and the whims of deities are strange things.
While my fight-or-flight instincts beg me to get the hell out of this skeevy scrum, I use the defenses of the short-statured. I thrust out my elbows and jab my way through the crowd. I have one thing to do and dammit, I mean to do it quickly. Like some tomb raider, I’ll grab the golden idol and take my cold ass home to a warm bed.
The electronics section is expectedly bursting with people. Even though I’m shoving through the throng as forcefully as I can, I make it to the designated aisle just in time to see the last box pulled off the shelf. I spit a curse. There’s nothing left in the aisle but demo models.
But the demo model is still there.
As the idea strikes me, my senses blare a warning. I look up and lock eyes with Churchill. She stands at the other end of the aisle, her eyes narrowing on me. Her gaze flashes to the tablet. I hear a clang—like a gauntlet, or the bell at high noon. We squint at one another. My hand twitches.
With a jerk, her bulk lurches forward. I shoot into the aisle. Maybe I’m slower than I think. Or maybe her arms are just freakishly long beneath her coat. For whatever reason, we reach the tablet at the same time, our fingers gripping it with equal relish and ferocity.
“It’s mine,” Churchill gripes.
“Nope. I saw it first.”
“Bullshit,” she spits. Her nicotine-soaked breath splashes over my face and I rock backward. Her stench is enough that I almost let go, but then I remember my boss’s hard stare. I somehow doubt this lady’s soul is in hock to a vengeful deity, so I tighten my grip on the tablet.
“I’ll be leaving with this,” I say with a threatening growl.
“Can I help you ladies?” asks a chipper voice between us. A blue-shirted employee stands there, a smile glued to his face. An electric hum strokes my other senses, the ones that key in on tech and give me special powers. Zeroing in on the source, I look to see the salesman stroke the side of a stun gun, primed and ready.
For a moment, I just stare at him. His face is all helpful, rosy-cheeked smiles. But something glitters in his too-blue eyes. Malicious glee? Mischief? Whatever it is, the dude is unsettling. He doesn’t want to be here anymore than I do—I see in his arctic stare—but if he must put up with the dregs of humanity on Black Friday, he’ll at least have his fun. His smile widens as if he’s begging for a reason to use the stun gun.
With my sweetest voice I say, “I need this floor model.”
“I had it first,” Churchill argues.
“I don’t think so.”
We scuffle, each of us jerking at the tablet. The icons on the touch screen shift and flash under our thumbs. As my frustration mounts, I try to will the tablet to me. The icons tumble across the screen and pool on my side.
The glimmer of an idea starts to form in my tired, frozen, pissed off mind.
“Back off, Copper Top,” she says, her voice a phlegmy gargle.
Harnessing that extra sense, I draw on my odd magic. I send my will into the tablet, seeking the power source. It gleams like a lithium jewel, burning a picture in my mind. Follow the star, I whisper to myself. In nanoseconds, I make contact with the battery and choke it. The screen goes blank and the map in my head goes dark. The tablet is a dead piece of tech in our hands.
The bloodlust in Churchill’s eyes dims, dampened by confusion. She gapes at the tablet. “The hell?”
“Weird,” I mutter.
I keep my focus, pinching off the power to the unit. I don’t know how long I can hold on, but it doesn’t matter. The woman lets go with a rueful snort.
“You’re welcome to keep it,” she sneers.
With a self-satisfied smile, she turns and waddles down the aisle into the press of bodies. I release my mental grip and let the power flood into the device. The tablet’s screen blazes to life once more.
The salesman gasps and jumps back, hand to his stun gun. His stare flickers from the tablet to my face, the feral gleam still dancing in his arctic eyes.
With another whisper of my will, I find the lock keeping the tablet on the shelf and pop it open. Handing the fresh-faced sadist the shiny device, I ask, “Do you gift wrap?”
Meet Jamie Wyman!
After a misspent adulthood pursuing a Music Education degree, JAMIE WYMAN fostered several interests before discovering that being an author means never having to get out of pajamas. (However, she can eat/spin fire, tell you a lot about auditioning to be a Blue Man, and read/write in Circular Gallifreyan.) As an author, Jamie’s favorite playgrounds are urban fantasy, horror and creepy carnival settings. When she’s not traipsing about with her imaginary friends, she lives in Phoenix with two hobbits and two cats. She is proud to say she has a deeply disturbed following at her blog.
Jamie’s debut novel, Wild Card, will be coming to an e-reader near you November 2013 thanks to Entangled Publishing. You can also find her short story “The Clever One” in the anthology When the Hero Comes Home: 2 (Dragon Moon Press, August ’13).
Please help spread the word: Tweet: #BlackFriday is here. Celebrate the chaos with #holiday #stories and #contests by 26 authors (Nov29-Dec24) http://wp.me/p3SIUp-atz
Thank you Jamie for taking part in Literary Escapism’s Black Friday!
Here’s the a Rafflecopter widget for the $25 giftcard giveaway.