“The Replacement,” by Ron Collins, appears in Stolen by the Fae, the 6th volume in the anthology series A Procession of Faeries.
“Hello,” I say as I head toward the front. “You doing all right, ma’am?” I don’t get many put-together businesswomen in the store at 1:54 a.m. On their own, my eyes glance out the window to see if her car is parked at a bay, but there’s nothing there.
She turns then.
Her amethyst eyes make starlight of their own, but a starlight that cuts as much as it illuminates.
“Bron,” she says.
I stop, broom dangling from my hand, knowing things will never be the same again.
No one has called me by that name for a long time.
“Who are you?” I reply.
She smiles and I see heartache and pain as deep as anything I’ve ever felt.
A wind blows outside.
A discarded plastic bag tumbles past in the barren scape of the asphalt veldt.
“Adelaide,” she replies as if that says it all. “My name is Adelaide.”
Her voice is smooth and deep for a woman.
That’s when I notice the green breeches that finish off her outfit. They fit tight to her body, dropping just below the knee where they fall into a pair of dark boots laced on their outside with equally dark rawhide. The pants are the color of pine trees in winter, embroidered with a silky pattern of swirls and leafy outlines that seem to squirm and shift under the store’s stark light. Her scent arrives then, rich with woodsmoke and the outdoors.
“Welcome to Pick-Pack, Adelaide,” I say.
—from “The Replacement,” by Ron Collins, in Stolen by the Fae
Ron Collins is a best-selling Science Fiction and Dark Fantasy author who writes across the spectrum of speculative fiction. With his daughter, Brigid, he edited the anthology Face the Strange.
His short fiction has received a Writers of the Future prize. His short story “The White Game” was nominated for the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2016 Derringer Award.
He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering and has worked to develop avionics systems, electronics, and information technology before chucking it all to write full-time.